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Have you ever heard this popular saying? “According to the Bible, Adam and Eve's sin in the garden of Eden was having sexual intercourse.” Along that same line, there is the case of the young lady estranged from her husband who explained to her counselor that she had aversion to sex in her marriage because she'd been raised that sex was a dirty thing. Now where would they have heard such things? Would it have been some religious teacher? If you said, “Yes”, you would probably be right.
The Bible is clear that God created male and female for marriage. “Marriage is honourable in all, and the bed undefiled: but whoremongers and adulterers God will judge” (Hebrews 13:4, ERV).
There are sincere students that look for ancient manuscripts that would explain what the apostles meant about marriage in the church. However, this they are ignorant of: in the first century we know that there were false teachers very early in the church (e.g., 1 Timothy 1:7; Titus 1:10,11). Even some that had been close to Paul were already turning aside from the Lord, such as Phygellus and Hermogenes (2 Timothy 1:15).
It is interesting that their false teachings had to do with marriage, sex along with “idolatry” (i.e., Revelation 2:14,15; etc.). John in his epistles speaks of the false teachings of gnosticism. One of the offshoots of gnosticism in the church was asceticism. This contended that sin is inherent in the material substance of the body, and therefore the body must needs be punished in some way. Asceticism has appeared throughout the centuries not only in “Christian” religions, but also in Hinduism, Buddhism, etc.i “These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh” (Colossians 2:23, ESV2011).
Therefore, those that try and find “lost books” of first or second century Christians for guidance and understanding of marriage do err. We don't need to read writings from contemporaries who knew the apostles to know what the Bible “means.” In fact, they may have been the very enemies of the cross that attacked Paul.
It is interesting, although unfortunate, that the western factions of Christendom have selected the opinions of the oddest sorts to “explain” the teachings of the apostles on marriage. Especially is this true for the origin of the doctrine of "The indissolubility of the marriage contract."ii
One revered for his scholarship is the “Bishop” and “Saint” Augustine, of the fourth century (almost 400 years after the cross). According to “Father” Thomas Raush, Chair of Theological Studies, Loyola Marymount University, Augustine “has so impacted negatively with Christian tradition” and shaped “Christian views on sex, based on his own struggles to be 'chaste'. ” iii Augustine admitted that he had major problems with sex.
This man abandoned his wife (or 'mistress'; at any rate, it was treachery as defined in Malachi 2) and children and vowed to be celibate. There was a wrestling in his soul with what he saw as “wicked flesh”, flawed and sinful. He formulated the peculiar doctrine of “grace” in which man was so evil from the fall in the garden, he could not help himself unless God intervened. In other words, Augustine would put the responsibility of self-control on God. He maintained that prostitution was necessary in society and it may have been for him, a “divorcee” who freed himself from the shackles of his marriage responsibilities.
This is the man that affected the teachings of the western Catholic Church and of the “reformers” of the modern era. Augustine is the revered source of those that say that although divorce is permissible, there is never to be a remarriage (even after the other's death). It is from him that marriage became a “church sacrament”; i.e., a required religious ceremony of the Roman Church that as a consequence brought into the coffers much money.iv
He is quoted, “It never has been lawful, it is not now lawful, and it never will be lawful to divorce and remarry. To say and do otherwise is to worship and adopt the adulterous superstitions of a different God than the one to which we have to do.”v He is responsible for making the indissolubility of Christian marriage, even after adultery, the standard of the Western church.
The concept that sex was dirty, even in marriage, gave the Church power to levy indulgences (tax) for marrieds in order for them to receive forgiveness from indulging. At one time there was “the sex police” that governed “when and how often” of sex between married partners and whether they practiced the missionary position (in fact, at one time, a married couple could be burned at the stake if caught violating the correct position).vi
The Scriptures used by the synagogues and churches of the first century were in Greek. It is surprising then that the wise leaders of today, ignorantly prefer Augustine's interpretation of beliefs for sex, marriage, and divorce. Although Augustine lived closer to the first century than we do, he did not know Greek, failed it in school, and of course did not know English. But he did know Jerome's Latin Bible, a new translation of his time. He did not know what fornication meant, nor was he familiar with porneia of which Jesus talked about in Matthew 5 and 19. He did not know whether Jesus taught Moses or not. Yet he knew that sex was a natural of the body that had to be destroyed in order to make himself pure in God's sight. Marriage was something that was to be elevated above any needs of the flesh. Mary could not have had carnal relations with Joseph. It was awful and dirty to think such a thing.
To such a one as Augustine sex was something sinful that had to be satisfied in the red light district; then pay some money to the priest and get forgiveness. To him marriage was too holy for recreational sex, because of Ephesians 5:32, from whence the term "sacrament" was invented in the Latin Vulgate: "This is a great Sacrament. And I am speaking in Christ and in the Church." Of course if Augustine had known Greek and had the Greek epistle, he would have known the word was not "sacrament" but "mystery."
It is somewhat comforting to know that not all religious scholars of the past so disdained marriage. Gregory Nazianzen wrote, for example: "Marriage does not distance us from God; indeed it draws us near to him as it is God himself who urges us to it" (Moral Poems 1, 275). Likewise, John Chrysostom: "Those who find marriage an obstacle [to life with God], should know that it was not marriage but their free will that used marriage badly" (Homilia Hebr. 7, 4).
“He who finds a wife finds a good thing, and obtains [receives] favor (Greek: charis) from Jehovah” (Proverbs 18:22). Charis can be translated as "grace". So, marriage is a grace from God. Or, God designed it to be His gift to you.
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ii This attribute of marriage is assigned by St. Augustine to the blessing called Sacrament in the following passage: 'Sacrament signifies that the bond of wedlock shall never be broken, and that neither party, if separated, shall form a union with another, even for the sake of offspring' (St. Augustine: De Gen. ad Litt., L IX; ch VII; n 12.). Accessed 10/11/2014 via www.catholicapologetics.info/morality/family/divorce.htm#VIII. More precisely, what is the Catholic.