De pudicitia - chapter by chapter

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I was able to read De pudicitia during lunchtimes while out on contract, and I ended up making some notes on the argument of each chapter.  They are hardly learned, but may be of interest to someone else so here they are.

Ch.1

Doing the right thing sexually is almost impossible throughout one's life. It is possible, however, to make a good stab at it. The current age is rotten with vice, so much so that it is moderation, rather than abstinence, which is praised as 'chastity'. But never mind them and their ideas - what's happening now is that the church is sliding into the same morass. Serial marriages are now allowed, because human nature cannot remain single.

I could have pretended not to notice, but now a pompous bishop has had the insolence to announce that adultery and fornication can now ranked among sins that can be forgiven (sins that do not lead to death, as the scripture puts it) among church members on application to him and 'proper' penance. No doubt this wonderful edict will be posted where it will be most useful - in the red light district, and over the doors of brothels!

Following the scripture, both church and Montanists exclude from the fellowship people guilty of some sins - those that lead to death. Now the church is saying it does not regard extra-marital sex as a sin of this nature. No wonder some of us have separated from these people, and thank God that I went with the few who love truth rather than the many who love convenience.

Ch. 2

The psychics talk about God's mercifulness, in a way that is more effeminate than merciful, and demand that no-one should judge. Obviously I could match them scripture for scripture with verses about his justice and severity. And while I will "forgive him that sins against me", this should not be swollen into a license to set scripture against scripture by stretching the balance in one direction. Each has its context, which limits its applicability. Scripture sets its own limits, without contradiction. Repentance is available on conditions.

We agree that the causes of repentance are sins. These we divide into two sorts: some will be remissible, some irremissible; some deserve chastisement, some condemnation. Every sin is dischargeable either by pardon or else by penalty: by pardon as the result of chastisement, by penalty as the result of condemnation.

Ch. 3

Some have objected that this means there is no point for us to repent of sins which are unforgiveable. But let's remember that we are talking about forgiving people and readmitting them to the church. God can still forgive these people. Let them remain outside the visible body of the church, and beg God for mercy. Their example will be helpful to others, and will not be without fruit.

Ch.4

Any sex act outside of marriage is adultery. The charge will still be applicable, even if an attempt is made to cover it by later marriage.

Ch.5

Adultery comes between idolatry and murder in the 10 commandments, and not infrequently in real life too. Think of how many temples are run as brothels, how many murders because of a wronged husband.

Ch.6

In the OT, adultery and fornication seems to be tolerated by God, as with King David, or so it is argued, in favour of admitting repentant adulterers to communion. But doesn't the same argument apply to murderers, and from the same examples? The OT also contains examples of God punishing fornication most severely. And we see that Christ preached not to commit these sins even by thought, let alone in deed. Are we now trying to go back to these days described in the OT? - We learn from scripture not to go back from the current revelation to a previous one.

Others say that the law against adultery was part of the Law, which Christ has made obsolete. But in fact this is not part of the "burden" of the Law, which was until John, but part of the moral law, which is eternal.

Ch. 7

Some use the parables of the lost sheep and lost coin here. We would point out that a parable must be used in context, to discuss the subject which called it forth, not wrested to justify something else entirely. The context shows the Lord was talking about the lost heathen, not the erring Christian, as He justified Himself to the Pharisees. To suggest otherwise is to make the Lord a quibbler, ignoring the question asked in favour of some future issue, irrelevant to the audience. In each case the 'flock' and the 'house' are the whole world, not just the Christian.

But let's suppose for a moment that the parable does refer to a Christian. The point made is that the believer has strayed, not that he has perished. A minor sin may be a straying, from which he could and should be recalled. But sins like adultery and fornication kill the soul; does anyone deny that such people are dead in sin? So even this interpretation cannot support the weight placed upon it.

Ch. 8

The parable of the prodigal son is also invoked, with the Jewish people as the elder brother and the Christians as the younger. But this does not work, if we look at the parable in detail, and reminds one of how the heretics use the parables, applying this and ignoring whichever bits don't fit their ideology.

Ch. 9

The parables must not be transferred to other ends from those they were originally designed for. Forced interpretations based upon minor points must be avoided.

The parable of the prodigal shows us the Jew and the Heathen - the heathen becoming a believer, and receiving the ring of salvation, whereas the elder brother symbolises the upright Jew who envies the return of the heathen.

Crimes are either capital, or remissable. And who would deny that adultery and fornication are in the former category? 

Ch. 10

[I can't understand the point at issue here].

A reference to the Shepherd of Hermas, which allows a single repentance (of adultery) after conversion, and also to councils of churches assessing whether a book deserves a place in the canon:

if the scripture of "the Shepherd," which is the only one which favours adulterers, had deserved to find a place in the Divine canon; if it had not been habitually judged by every council of Churches (even of your own) among apocryphal and false (writings);

There is a gap in my notes here.

Ch. 19

John's Revelation is mentioned.

Between apostles, there is a common agreement in rules of faith and of discipline. For, "Whether (it be) I," says (Paul), "or they, thus we preach." 

From 1 John (Sin unto death, and sin not unto death): There are some sins of daily committal, to which we all are liable: for who will be free from the accident of either being angry unjustly, and retaining his anger beyond sunset; or else even using manual violence or else carelessly speaking evil; or else rashly swearing; or else forfeiting his plighted word or else lying, from bashfulness or "necessity"? In businesses, in official duties, in trade, in food, in sight, in hearing, by how great temptations are we plied! So that, if there were no pardon for such sins as these, salvation would be unattainable to any. Of these, then, there will be pardon, through the successful Suppliant of the Father, Christ. But there are, too, the contraries of these; as the graver and destructive ones, such as are incapable of pardon-murder, idolatry, fraud, apostasy, blasphemy; (and), of course, too, adultery and fornication; and if there be any other "violation of the temple of God." For these Christ will no more be the successful Head: these will not at all be incurred by one who has been born of God, who will cease to be the son of God if he do incur them.

Ch. 20

In addition to the apostles, the same line is taken by Barnabas, the associate of Paul, in his letter to the Hebrews:

"For impossible it is that they who have once been illuminated, and have tasted the heavenly gift, and have participated in the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the word of God and found it sweet, when they shall-their age already setting-have fallen away, should be again recalled unto repentance, crucifying again for themselves the Son of God, and dishonouring Him." … He who learnt this from apostles, and taught it with apostles, never knew of any "second repentance" promised by apostles to the adulterer and fornicator.

Hebrews makes the analogy with of sin with leprosy. The law says that any house containing it when first found, it may be eradicated and become clean, but if after this leprosy is found again in the house, it is torn down and destroyed. Likewise with sin.

Notes

Hebrews is by Barnabas, the companion of Paul. And

For there is extant withal an Epistle to the Hebrews under the name of Barnabas-a man sufficiently accredited by God, as being one whom Paul has stationed next to himself in the uninterrupted observance of abstinence: "Or else, I alone and Barnabas, have not we the power of working?" And, of course, the Epistle of Barnabas is more generally received among the Churches than that apocryphal "Shepherd" of adulterers.

This must mean Hebrews, not the apocryphal work.

Ch 21

Difference between the teaching of the Apostles and their power to raise the dead, etc

Notes

The Spirit is God:

"Discipline governs a man, power sets a seal upon him; apart from the fact that power is the Spirit, but the Spirit is God."

Church is the assembly of spiritual men, not an assembly of bishops

 Ch. 22

A nominal imprisonment, as current, does not confer the right to forgive sins. And what real martyr would want to encourage this sleaze anyway? They talk about the flesh being weak - but there is no flesh stronger than that which crushes out the Spirit!

Notes

Christians were currently being subjected to nominal custody. This was leading to 'Martyrs' abusing the discipline of the church.

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