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Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. V:
On Marriage and Concupiscence.: Chapter 55

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Chapter 55 [XXXIII.]—Lust is a Disease; The Word “Passion” In the Ecclesiastical Sense.

He then passes on from those who are united in marriage to those who are born of it. It is in relation to these that we have to encounter the most laborious discussions with the new heretics in connection with our subject. Impelled by some hidden instinct from God, he makes avowals which go far to untie the whole knot. For in his desire to raise greater odium against us, because we had said that infants are born in sin even of lawful wedlock, he makes the following observation: “You assert that they, indeed, who have not been ever born might possibly have been good; those, however, who have peopled the world, and for whom Christ died, you decide to be the work of the devil, born in a disordered state, and guilty from the beginning. Therefore,” he continues, “I have shown that you are doing nothing else than denying that God is the Creator of the men who actually exist.” I beg to say, that I declare none but God to be the Creator of all men, however true it be that all are born in sin, and must perish unless born again. It was, indeed, the sinful corruption which had been sown in them by the devil’s persuasion that became the means of their being born in sin; not the created nature of which men are composed. Shameful lust, however, could not excite our members, except at our own will, if it were not a disease. Nor would even the lawful and honourable cohabiting of husband and wife raise a blush, with avoidance of any eye and desire of secrecy, if there were not a diseased condition about it. Moreover, the apostle would not prohibit the possession of wives in this disease, did not disease exist in it. The phrase in the Greek text, ν πάθει ἐπιθυμίας, is by some rendered in Latin, in morbo desiderii vel concupiscentiæ, in the disease of desire or of concupiscence; by others, however, in passione concupiscentiæ, in the passion of concupiscence; or however it is found otherwise in different copies: at any rate, the Latin equivalent passio (passion), especially in the ecclesiastical use, is usually understood as a term of censure.

Next: Chapter 56

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