Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol IX:Early Church Fathers Index Previous Next
Origen's Commentary on the Gospel of Matthew.: Chapter XXII
22. The Marriage of Church Dignitaries.
But, while dealing with the passage, I would say that we will be able perhaps now to understand and clearly set forth a question which is hard to grasp and see into, with regard to the legislation of the Apostle concerning ecclesiastical matters; for Paul wishes no one of those of the church, who has attained to any eminence beyond the many, as is attained in the administration of the sacraments, to make trial of a second marriage. For laying down the law in regard to bishops in the first Epistle to Timothy, he says, “If a man seeketh the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work. The bishop, therefore, must be without reproach, the husbands of one wife, temperate, sober-minded,” 6216 etc.; and, in regard to deacons, “Let the deacons,” he says, “be the husbands of one wife, ruling their children and their own houses well,” 6217 etc. Yea, and also when appointing widows, he says, “Let there be no one as a widow under threescore years old, having been the wife of one man;” 6218 and after this he says the things superadded, as being second or third in importance to this. And, in the Epistle to Titus, “For this cause,” he says, “I left thee in Crete that thou shouldest set in order the things that were wanting, and appoint elders p. 510 in every city as I gave thee charge. If any one is blameless, the husband of one wife, having children, that believe” 6219 —of course—and so on. Now, when we saw that some who have been married twice may be much better than those who have been married once, we were perplexed why Paul does not at all permit those who have been twice married to be appointed to ecclesiastical dignities; for also it seemed to me that such a thing was worthy of examination, as it was possible that a man, who had been unfortunate in two marriages, and had lost his second wife while he was yet young, might have lived for the rest of his years up to old age in the greatest self-control and chastity. Who, then, would not naturally be perplexed why at all, when a ruler of the church is being sought for, we do not appoint such a man, though he has been twice married, because of the expressions about marriage, but lay hold of the man who has been once married as our ruler, even if he chance to have lived to old age with his wife, and sometimes may not have been disciplined in chastity and temperance? But, from what is said in the law about the bill of divorcement, I reflect whether, seeing that the bishop and the presbyter and the deacon are a symbol of things that truly exist in accordance with these names, he wished to appoint those who were figuratively once married, in order that he who is able to give attention to the matter, may find out from the spiritual law the one who was unworthy of ecclesiastical rule, whose soul did not find favour in the eyes of her husband because there had been found in her an unseemly thing, and she had become worthy of the bill of divorcement; for such a soul, having dwelt along with a second husband, and having been hated by such an one, can no longer, after the second bill of divorcement, return to her former husband. 6220 It is likely, therefore, also, that other arguments will be found by those who are wiser than we, and have more ability to see into such things, whether in the law about the bill of divorcement, or in the apostolic writings which prohibit those who have been twice married from ruling over the church or being preferred to preside over it. But, until something shall be found that is better and able by the excessive brilliancy of the light of knowledge to cast into the shade what we have uttered, we have said the things which have occurred to us in regard to the passages.
1 Tim. 3:1, 2.509:6217
1 Tim. iii. 12.509:6218
1 Tim. v. 9.510:6219
Titus 1:5, 6.510:6220
Cf. Deut. xxiv. 4.
Next: Chapter XXIII
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