Against Jovinianus  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

Against Jovinianus (Epistola adversus Jovinianum) is a two-volume treatise by the Church Father Saint Jerome.

Chaucer's Pardoner's Tale, the Wife of Bath's Prologue, and the Franklin's Tale all draw frequent reference to Against Jovinianus.



The work is considered to be a prime example of medieval antifeminism. The term does not describe an opposition to the feminist movement, but instead a movement largely against women that was fairly common in antiquity.

The book influenced numerous later medieval writers, including Geoffrey Chaucer. Such can be seen particularly in The Wife of Bath's Prologue and Tale, as well as the tales of the other characters.

Jovinianus' propositions

Jovinianus, about whom little more is known than what is to be found in Jerome's treatise, published a Latin treatise outlining several opinions:

  1. That a virgin is no better, as such, than a wife in the sight of God.
  2. Abstinence is no better than a thankful partaking of food.
  3. A person baptized with the Spirit as well as with water cannot sin.
  4. All sins are equal.
  5. There is but one grade of punishment and one of reward in the future state.

In addition to this, he held the birth of Jesus Christ to have been by a "true parturition," and was thus refuting the orthodoxy of the time, according to which, the infant Jesus passed through the walls of the womb as his Resurrection body afterwards did, out of the tomb or through closed doors.

Response to Jovinianus

Pammachius, Jerome's friend, brought Jovinian's book to the notice of Siricius, bishop of Rome, and it was shortly afterwards condemned in synods at that city and at Milan about 390 CE.

He subsequently sent Jovinian's books to Jerome, who answered them in the present treatise in 393. Little is known of Jovinian, but it has been conjectured from Jerome's remark in the treatise against Vigilantius, where Jovinian is said to have "amidst pheasants and pork rather belched out than breathed out his life," and by a kind of transmigration to have transmitted his opinions into Vigilantius, that he had died before 409, the date of that work.

Outline of Against Jovinianus

The first book is wholly on the first proposition of Jovinianus, that relating to marriage and virginity. The first three chapters are introductory. The rest may be divided into three parts:

  • Chapters 4-13 - An exposition, in Jerome's sense, of St. Paul's teaching in I Cor. 7.
  • Chapters 14-39 - A statement of the teaching which Jerome derives from the various books of both the Old and the New Testaments.
  • A denunciation of Jovinianus (chapter 40), and the praises of virginity and of jingle marriages derived from examples in the heathen world.

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Against Jovinianus" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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