St. Jerome, the Puritan.

In his post Obeying Your Double Helix Pastor Doug Wilson recommends the book The Worldly Saints by Leland Ryken.  This is a book I read when I originally wrote about Courtly Love back in December of 2016.  At the time I decided not to post on the book because Ryken muddies the waters by attributing a quote from St Jerome to a Puritan.  Ryken does this while explaining that Puritans believed that married sex was dirty unless consecrated by romantic love (emphasis mine):

If the main purpose of married sex is the expression of mutual love and companionship, it is a perversion of sex to reduce it to a merely physical act. “How can two…become one flesh lawfully,” asked Cleaver, “when as there wanteth the union and conjunction of the heart, the true and natural mother of all marriage duties?” 60 Perkins had something similar in mind when he wrote, “Nothing is more shameless than to love a wife as though she were a strumpet.” 61 And Milton wrote,

Although copulation be considered among the ends of marriage, yet the act thereof in a right esteem can no longer be matrimonial than it is an effect of conjugal love. When love… vanishes,… the fleshly act indeed may continue, but not holy, not pure, not beseeming the sacred bond of marriage, being at best an animal excretion.62

I can’t find an online reference at the moment, but the work from Perkins that Ryken quotes* is actually Perkins quoting St Jerome**.  Here is an alternate translation of the same quote from Against Jovinianus (Book I), with a bit more context:

Hence Xystus in his Sentences tells us that “He who too ardently loves his own wife is an adulterer.” It is disgraceful to love another man’s wife at all, or one’s own too much. A wise man ought to love his wife with judgment, not with passion. Let a man govern his voluptuous impulses, and not rush headlong into intercourse. There is nothing blacker than to love a wife as if she were an adulteress.

In the same piece Jerome offers his striking interpretation of 1 Cor 7:1, explaining that Paul is saying sex in marriage is evil, albeit a lesser evil than sex outside of marriage (all emphasis mine).

“It is good,” he says, “for a man not to touch a woman.” If it is good not to touch a woman, it is bad to touch one: for there is no opposite to goodness but badness. But if it be bad and the evil is pardoned, the reason for the concession is to prevent worse evil. But surely a thing which is only allowed because there may be something worse has only a slight degree of goodness.

At any rate, I believe that Ryken is right in general;  Puritans (falsely) believed that romantic love was required to sanctify married sex.  After all, the quote from Milton is correct, even though Ryken failed to note that Milton made the argument in an essay arguing for the adoption of no fault divorce!

What is striking is that Ryken’s error in mistaking Jerome for a Puritan is an understandable error.  Both viewed married sex as something dirty.  The only difference is the Puritans decided that married sex could be made clean, sanctified, through feelings of romantic love, an idea that doesn’t come from the Bible.

*Ryken’s note for this says “61 A Godly and Learned Exposition of Christ’s Sermon in the Mount [Schnucker, p. 360]”.  When writing this post I found an online version of the text:   A GODLY AND LEARNED EXPOSITION of CHRISTS Sermon in the Mount, but cannot find the quote in question.  If you find the quote please let me know in the comments.

**See my post St. Jerome on marriage for more detail.

Advertisements
This entry was posted in Chivalry, Courtly Love, New Morality, Pastor Doug Wilson, Romantic Love, St. Jerome. Bookmark the permalink.

32 Responses to St. Jerome, the Puritan.

  1. Pingback: St. Jerome, the Puritan. | @the_arv

  2. Gary Eden says:

    It sounds an aweful lot like they’re talking about the two kinds of sex Rollo recently wrote about; spiritualizing the one (they do get) while making the other (they can’t get) sinful.

  3. Mycroft Jones says:

    Do you have a source for Milton viewing sex without love as dirty? Milton had excellent personal and Biblical reasons when he argued for divorce and polygamy. The traditional Christian views of divorce and polygamy put him in a situation akin to being castrated by society, without justice, without recourse, without cause.

    Milton was a Puritan, we claim him as one of our own. Whatever his views in the beginning, he matured as he grew, as did all the Puritans. It is the Puritan way. You don’t condemn an infant for soiling his diaper, and you don’t kick a man when he is down.

    The Puritans had a very practical view of sex and marriage. If chivalry remained as an influence, it wasn’t universal among Puritans, nor was it any kind of cornerstone of Puritanism.

  4. American says:

    “What is striking is that Ryken’s error in mistaking Jerome for a Puritan is an understandable error. ”

    ^ Not really. Jerome lived in 347-420 AD. The Puritans weren’t even founded until after 1558 AD.

  5. Robert What? says:

    There were times that Paul said he was giving his own opinion rather than what God required. Saying that it was good not to touch a woman was I think one of those times. He also said that the marriage bed is undefiled and that husband and wife should not deny each other. So it seems pretty clear, at least to me, that sex for pleasure between a husband and wife is completely moral biblically.

  6. Pingback: St. Jerome, the Puritan. | Reaction Times

  7. Don Quixote says:

    Historian James A Brundage has written a book called ‘Law, Sex, and Christian Society in Medieval Europe’. This book is a fascinating read if you want some insight into what the church taught in regard to sex. Brundage makes no secret of the fact that he disdains Christianity, but the book is an excellent read.

  8. Hmm says:

    Jerome is guilty of a false dilemma. After all, Paul said a little further down in 1 Corinthians 7:38 : “So then, he who marries the virgin does right, but he who does not marry her does better.” To say something is good is not necessarily to say that its opposite is bad.

  9. Patrick says:

    Protestants conveniently ignore Paul’s admonition against marriage and Jerome’s affirmation that a single man is better able to devote his life to Christ. Catholics are criticized often for maintaining a celibate priesthood, however, they are simply acknowledging what Paul taught. Paul made an exception for men who just couldn’t adhere to Scripture but for Christians it should be the exception and not the rule.

  10. RichardP says:

    Paul is commonly thought to have died in 67 C.E. The Temple was laid waste and Jerusalem was scraped to the ground nd the population slaughtered just three years later – in 70 C.E. There had already been a number of significant skirmishes with Rome early in Paul’s ministry.

    If one would seriously study what was actually happening during the time that Paul was saying it was better to not be married, one might understand that his concern was less a spiritual one than a practical one. Jesus had already foretold the destruction of the Temple. God blinded Saul and turned him into Paul. It is not too much of a stretch to imagine that God was speaking through Paul to get his newly-formed church ready for the decimation that was coming, and did come, shortly after the end of Paul’s ministry.

    If looked at through the lens of the bloodshed that was about the descend on Jerusalem, much of what Paul says about the relation between men and women makes much more sense. There are all the reasons that God gave through the story of Adam and Eve and who was made for whom. Paul’s spiritual admonitions could not say something different than what God said in Genesis lest he run afoul of the admonition to not add to or take away from the scripture. But then there is the practicality of advising folks to not think long-term (get a wife and settle down; make lots of babies) a few short years before Roman soldiers were due to run spears through your darling newborns. Better that they be not born, right? For those about to need to flee to the mountains for safety, better to not be pregnant, right?

    Re-read Paul in light of the Roman sacking of Jersusalem (plus the early skirmishes), and assume that God was speaking through him to give a warning to his newly-formed church that what Jesus had fortold was about to happen. Paul should make much more sense if you do that.

    These two articles are a good place to start:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/First_Jewish%E2%80%93Roman_War
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Siege_of_Jerusalem_(70_CE)

  11. American says:

    Good post RichardP. Aside from that, Paul never had the opportunity to see what feminism would do to Western Civilization. Today, it’s better not to be married is true for many of us though for very different reasons ;).

  12. Mycroft Jones says:

    American: Feminism was alive and well in the Apostle Paul’s time too. RichardP: good post.

  13. Paul says:

    @Patrick: “Protestants conveniently ignore Paul’s admonition against marriage and Jerome’s affirmation that a single man is better able to devote his life to Christ.”

    Even St.Paul affirms it is better to stay single. Difference with Jerome is that what Paul writes is inspired Scriptures. Although we can safely ignore Jerome, we should always be willing to learn.

    @P:”Catholics are criticized often for maintaining a celibate priesthood, however, they are simply acknowledging what Paul taught.”

    Acknowledging the value of celibacy is completely separate from the concept of (mandatory) celibate priesthood. We even have warnings against forbidding marriage in Scripture 1 Tm 4 “The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons. [..] They forbid people to marry”. Even the apostle Peter was married.

    @P:”Paul made an exception for men who just couldn’t adhere to Scripture but for Christians it should be the exception and not the rule.”

    Are you talking here that marriage is the exception, if you cannot ‘adhere to Scripture’? Are you here promoting a similar view to Augustine’s view on sexuality (” For intercourse of marriage for the sake of begetting has not fault; but for the satisfying of lust, but yet with husband or wife, by reason of the faith of the bed, it has venial fault”)?

    It’s interesting to see that in the same treatise of Augustine (“Of the good of marriage”) he likens sex to food: “For what food is unto the conservation of the man, this sexual intercourse is unto the conservation of the race: and both are not without carnal delight”
    If we think of the same Scripture (1Tm4:3-5)

    “They forbid people to marry and order them to abstain from certain foods, which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and who know the truth. For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, because it is consecrated by the word of God and prayer.”

    We see here a similar link between legal sexuality and certain foods. At least we can say the foods are created to be received with thanksgiving, hence enjoyed, not only for nourishment, but also for the sensual pleasure we derive from it, which was also created by God. And it says ‘everything God created is good and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving.’ Human sexuality and the sensual pleasures involved are created by God, and are not to be rejected if received with thanksgiving, if we do not violate God’s commands.

    For Augustine all sensual pleasure quickly amounted to ‘lust’ and was condemned by him. I think he was in error here.

  14. Paul says:

    @RichardP: “If one would seriously study what was actually happening during the time that Paul was saying it was better to not be married, one might understand that his concern was less a spiritual one than a practical one.”

    It is always good to study historical context. Let’s see why Paul said it is better not to marry.

    1. Paul was writing his instruction to the Corinthians, who were far removed from Jerusalem, hence the pending destruction of Jerusalem, even if foreseen by Paul, would have no impact on his hearers.
    2. Paul is responding to a theological question, similar to early Gnostic thinking “is it good for a man not to touch a woman?”. The answer is likewise not restricted to time and place, but to universal truths: it is better to marry if you cannot control your passions, else stay single.
    3. Paul hints at this generality in v.17 “This is the rule I lay down in all the churches.”.
    4. Paul does warn about the worries of the world, but not restricted to location: “What I mean, brothers and sisters, is that the time is short.[..] For this world in its present form is passing away.”
    5. Paul explicitly explains why he think it is better not to marry: “I would like you to be free from concern. [..] But a married man is concerned about the affairs of this world—how he can please his wife— and his interests are divided. [..] I am saying this for your own good, not to restrict you, but that you may live in a right way in undivided devotion to the Lord.”

    @R: “Paul’s spiritual admonitions could not say something different than what God said in Genesis lest he run afoul of the admonition to not add to or take away from the scripture.”

    You allude here between the seeming contradiction to the command to be fruitful and multiply against Paul’s advice that it is better to marry.
    1. To be fruitful and multiply is not an individual command, else all singles would be sinning, and all infertile couples would be sinning too.
    2. Paul does not give a command NOT to marry, but say it is BETTER to stay single.

    I do agree that this shows we have no individual obligation to be fruitful and multiply, which is also attested by the lives of the apostle Paul and even the Lord Jesus Himself.

    Gal 4:27 “because more are the children of the desolate woman than of her who has a husband”

    I therefore conclude that the admonitions of Paul are universal and not inspired by the looming destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D.

  15. Paul says:

    typo: …against Paul’s advice that it is better NOT to marry…

  16. Paul says:

    Jerome : “A wise man ought to love his wife with judgment, not with passion. Let a man govern his voluptuous impulses, and not rush headlong into intercourse.”

    To me this goes STRAIGHT against the instructions that St.Paul gave, but seems unfortunately typical in the early church.

    ” But if they cannot control themselves, they should marry, for it is better to marry than to burn with passion.”

    If you COULD control your voluptuous impulses, and could love your (potential) wife WITHOUT passion, you should NOT marry! It is requiring an almost celibate approach to marriage, restricting sex to ‘breeding only’. We do not have such command from Scripture. As Christians we are not commanded to procreate.

  17. infowarrior1 says:

    @Paul

    Jerome and Augustine was influenced by the heresies at the time even when they had to repudiate those gnostic like heresies that they took the view that eros even within the marriage bed is lust.

    With the entirety of the Song of Solomon as a repudiation of that view which also celebrated the goodness of physical beauty in both spouses and the sexual attraction that it arouses,

  18. PokeSalad says:

    “And God blessed them: and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the heavens, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.”

  19. American says:

    @Mycroft Jones: Yes, it was. For example, the admonition of 1 Timothy 2:11 to “learn in quietness and full submission” is directed at women who, on the basis of the heretical teaching, became loud voices for ideas that upset the ordered contexts of congregational and home life. Describing them, Paul used an unusual Greek word to convey a negative sense of “grasping for” or “usurping authority.”

    However, this was the first century not the twenty-first century and both culture and law were unfavorable to what constitutes feminism today. In general, women had a low position both in society and in the family. The home was regarded as the primary sphere of expression and activity for a woman though men oversaw even that while the public arena was reserved for men. Paul was not writing in a civilization dominated by increasingly radical waves of feminism anything like we have before us today.

    It would be interesting to see what he had to say, if he had been.

  20. feeriker says:

    In his post Obeying Your Double Helix Pastor Doug Wilson recommends the book The Worldly Saints by Leland Ryken*.

    It never ceases to amaze me how pastorbators today so quickly and eagerly recommend some churchian Oprah-Book-of-the-Month-Club bestseller, but NEVER point anyone directly to Scripture for answers. Very, VERY telling.

  21. Damn Crackers says:

    @infowarrior

  22. Damn Crackers says:

    @infowarrior – Jerome and Augustine was influenced by the heresies at the time even when they had to repudiate those gnostic like heresies that they took the view that eros even within the marriage bed is lust.

    It wasn’t just Gnositicism, but also Greek Stoic philosophy that said sex in marriage is only worthwhile for procreation. Musonious Rufus advocated sex only for procreation. St. Augustine gets pilloried all the time for creating the anti-sex ideas in Christianity. Oddly enough, he was trying to find a middle path between the anti-sex Gnostics and Jerome and others. As stated before on this blog, he understood lust in marriage as a venial sin. But, it was a good on whole for the other spouse to give in to that lust as a sacrifice.

    Remember during the time of Jerome and Augustine, celibate married couples were celebrated by the early Church in the 4th and 5th centuries.

  23. RichardP says:

    @Paul – You quoted this from me:

    “If one would seriously study what was actually happening during the time that Paul was saying it was better to not be married, one might understand that his concern was less a spiritual one than a practical one.”

    The subject was “not be married”. My comment was about whether the concern about “not be married” was more a practical concern and less a spiritual concern.

    You then present a list of things – none of which I disagree with in the main.

    But you seem to be arguing that Paul’s admonition to not be married was motivated more from the spiritual side of things than the practical side of things. Is that truely the impression you wish to leave? That God was speaking through Paul, telling men and women that it was better that they not be married? God – who created Eve as a cure for Adam’s aloneness saying, “oops; never mind”?

    God had a one-on-one relationship with Adam. God fellowshiped with Adam and ministered to him. But then God says he saw that Adam was lonely / alone and that it was not good for Adam to be alone. That observation by God is God’s admission that he alone was not sufficient for Adam (God made Adam, so this fact was not a surprise to him). So God created a woman for Adam, to cure his aloneness. That was God’s plan. That was how God created things to be.

    So – we are left with this basic thing:

    1. God said it was not good for Adam to be alone, and so created a wife for him.
    2. You say “Even St.Paul affirms it is better to stay single.”

    If Point 2 is actually from God, that means that God said to Adam “It is not good for you to be alone”, and then to the New Testament Church God says “it is better for you to be alone”. God doesn’t contradict himself. But – assuming God actually said this through Paul (Point 2), then God is admitting that Adam would have been better off if God had not created Eve. (I know there are those who would argue that Adam would have been better off.) I don’t think God contradicts himself, and I don’t think Point 2 is quite the theological (as opposed to practical) point that many want it to be.
    ————–

    Paul, you said about my post “You allude here between the seeming contradiction to the command to be fruitful and multiply against Paul’s advice that it is better to marry.’

    Not at all. I’m not talking at all about whether to have children. I am referring to / alluding to the real contradiction between Points 1 and 2 above. Paul’s comments about it being better to not marry cannot be spoken from a generic spiritual / theological standpoint, applicable to all, because that would be changing what God himself said – and that’s a big no-no.

    Paul, you said: “Paul hints at this generality in v.17 “This is the rule I lay down in all the churches.”

    That rule would have only been laid down in the churches over which Paul had authority. Those churches were by no means anywhere close to being “all” of the churches at the time. Peter had authority over his group of churches, and others had authority over their group of churchs. Paul’s “rule” applied only to a subset of all of the churches – the ones over which he had authority. Because of this, this other statement made by you must be taken with a grain of salt, or discarded altogether: “The answer is likewise not restricted to time and place, but to universal truths:” That cannot be correct because the answer was restricted to those churches over which Paul had authority. He had no authority to impose his thinking on churches under the authority of Peter and others.

    3. Paul, you said: “… the pending destruction of Jerusalem, even if foreseen by Paul, would have no impact on his hearers.”

    Paul, you quote “this is the rule I lay down in ALL the churches”. I understand you to mean that applied to ALL churches in existence at the time, in contradiction to what I said above. If you are correct, then your statement quoted at Point 3 above is illogical. If what Paul spoke to the Corinthians was intended to be binding on ALL churches, then Paul certainly was speaking directly to all churches – including those around Jerusalem. You are basically saying that Paul indeed was talking to Jerusalem churches but that his words would have no impact on his hearers in Jerusalem. Either the first half or the second half of that sentence is not correct.

    Paul was a Roman citizen. Surely he paid attention to what Rome was doing. Plus, during the time of his ministry, there had been other Jewish fighting around Jerusalem that had been put down by Rome, with Jewish loss of life. Surely Paul knew of that. Perhaps witnessed it first-hand? Jesus had foretold the destruction of the Temple to his disciples, with whom Paul claimed an association. Plus, God spoke to Paul directly: Paul alludes to this by saying (paraphrased) “this is me talking, not the Lord” (which implies the other stuff was the Lord talking to him and through him). And there is the whole Saul into Paul thing. We have Biblical proof that God talked to and through Paul. I see no reason to doubt that God could have given Paul a clue about what was coming. There is more reason to believe that Paul was aware of the increasing unrest than to believe he was ignorant of it.

    The conversation Paul had about marriage is not as cut and dried as you and others like to make it. My comment was not meant to refute what the Bible says Paul’s ministry was. My intent was to provide additional information, to help with making a more coherent, scripturally-based distinction between Points 1 and 2 above in this particular post. Paul couldn’t have been using “God-breathed” words to contradict what God said, because that is a contridiction in terms (“God-breathed” words don’t contradict other “God-breathed words). So what other reason might there be for the seeming contradiction? I offered something legitimate to think about in my previous post.

    Finally – Paul himself refers to other letter he has written to other churches that we have no historical record of. So to presume we know all of what Paul thought and taught is foolish. We cannot be positively certain that Paul’s advice to remain single if possible, or childless if married, was NOT motivated by an understanding of what was coming in a few short years. He had the bloodshed that had already happened around Jerusalem to point to.

  24. Mycroft Jones says:

    The Jewish rebellions of 70AD and 135AD were empire wide; Rome didn’t just punish the Jewish Christians near Jerusalem. All over the empire, Jews and Christians were put under a heavy persecution. So Paul’s advice was very timely, and wasn’t just limited to Jerusalem.

  25. Paul says:

    @RichardP: “Is that truely the impression you wish to leave? That God was speaking through Paul, telling men and women that it was better that they not be married?”

    Yes, if they can control their passion.

  26. Paul says:

    @RichardP: “God doesn’t contradict himself. But – assuming God actually said this through Paul (Point 2), then God is admitting that Adam would have been better off if God had not created Eve.”

    No, it is a different situation. The creation of Eve was before the Fall, and was intended to populate the earth. The situation in the NT is (as Paul explains) that if you stay single you can devote yourself more to pleasing the Lord, whereas as you marry you are divided. Given the situation Christians are more called to do the work of the Lord than to populate the earth. And with the promised indwelling (John 17:26 I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them), man is not alone anymore.

  27. Paul says:

    @RichardP: ” He had no authority to impose his thinking on churches under the authority of Peter and others.”

    I’m quite baffled by this. I’ve never heard a single church claim that they do not follow the writings of Paul because they are not authoritative.

  28. Paul says:

    @RichardP: “We cannot be positively certain that Paul’s advice to remain single if possible, or childless if married, was NOT motivated by an understanding of what was coming in a few short years.”

    We can keep guessing based on information we do not have, but we first acknowledge things based on the information we do have. And Paul clearly does nowhere hint that the looming destruction of Jerusalem was relevant to his hearers in Corinth (3000 km removed from Jerusalem). You claim it was relevant, but have not given conclusive proof. Therefore I reject your claim.

  29. Paul says:

    @MJ: “All over the empire, Jews and Christians were put under a heavy persecution. ”

    Christians were already being persecuted in the Roman Empire long before Jerusalem was destroyed. If Paul was really thinking about the destruction of Jerusalem, his advice came TOO LATE.

  30. feministhater says:

    God had a one-on-one relationship with Adam. God fellowshiped with Adam and ministered to him. But then God says he saw that Adam was lonely / alone and that it was not good for Adam to be alone. That observation by God is God’s admission that he alone was not sufficient for Adam (God made Adam, so this fact was not a surprise to him). So God created a woman for Adam, to cure his aloneness. That was God’s plan. That was how God created things to be.

    So – we are left with this basic thing:

    1. God said it was not good for Adam to be alone, and so created a wife for him.
    2. You say “Even St.Paul affirms it is better to stay single.”

    If Point 2 is actually from God, that means that God said to Adam “It is not good for you to be alone”, and then to the New Testament Church God says “it is better for you to be alone”. God doesn’t contradict himself. But – assuming God actually said this through Paul (Point 2), then God is admitting that Adam would have been better off if God had not created Eve. (I know there are those who would argue that Adam would have been better off.) I don’t think God contradicts himself, and I don’t think Point 2 is quite the theological (as opposed to practical) point that many want it to be.

    God created Eve to be a helpmeet to Adam, instead she drove Adam away from God, causing him to sin. It’s quite apparent, from that day to this, that women come between men and God.

    It’s not that Adam would have been better off without Eve, it’s that Adam would have been better off had he slapped the fruit out of Eve’s hand and hauled her out of Eden and shut her out.

  31. feministhater says:

    If Adam had refused to eat the fruit offered to him and instead rebuked Eve, God could have created a new helpmeet for him. Instead Adam chose to listen to her voice and not God’s, driving a wedge between man and God, i.e. sin.

    Jesus healed this wedge through his death and resurrection and Paul spells out the two paths a man can take. If he burns with sexual lust, he can marry but then his attention will be divided between his family and God. The second option, for those who can control their lust, it is better to remain single and serve God.

    God values both options. One repopulates the Earth, bringing glory to him, and the other serves God directly and brings glory to him.

    This isn’t something that should cause confusion.

  32. Mycroft Jones says:

    @Paul you keep ignoring the precedent set in the Old Testament. You want “definitive proof”? Just read the Old Testament. If Paul seems to contradict it, he is in error. Therefore, only an interpretation of Paul consistent with the Old Testament will do. Ergo, you must prove your Augustinian eunuch-case.

Please see the comment policy linked from the top menu.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

w

Connecting to %s