Christian views of marriage  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Christians typically regard marriage as instituted and ordained by God for the lifelong relationship between one man as husband and one woman as wife.

Early church fathers

First-century Christians did not value the family and saw celibacy and freedom from family ties as a preferable state.

Augustine believed that marriage was a sacrament because it was a symbol used by Paul to express Christ's love of the Church. Despite this for the Fathers of the Church with their hatred of sex, marriage could not be a true and valuable Christian vocation. Jerome wrote: "It is not disparaging wedlock to prefer virginity. No one can make a comparison between two things if one is good and the other evil." Tertullian argued that marriage "consists essentially in fornication" (An Exhortation to Chastity") Cyprian, Bishop of Carthage said that the first commandment given to men was to increase and multiply, but now that the earth was full there was no need to continue this process of multiplication. Augustine was clear that if everybody stopped marrying and having children that would be an admirable thing; it would mean that the Kingdom of God would return all the sooner and the world would come to an end.

This negative view of marriage was reflected in the lack of interest shown by the Church authorities. No special ceremonial was devised to celebrate Christian marriage—despite the fact that the Church quickly produced liturgies to celebrate the Eucharist, Baptism and Confirmation. It was not important for a couple to have their nuptials blessed by a priest. People could marry by mutual agreement in the presence of witnesses. This system, known as Spousals, persisted after the Reformation. At first, the old Roman pagan rite was used by Christians, although modified superficially. The first detailed account of a Christian wedding in the West dates from the 9th century and was identical to the old nuptial service of Ancient Rome.

See also




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