Marriage in the Western Church: The Christianization of Marriage during the Patristic and Early Medieval Periods

Marriage in the Western Church: The Christianization of Marriage during the Patristic and Early Medieval Periods

Marriage in the Western Church: The Christianization of Marriage during the Patristic and Early Medieval Periods

Marriage in the Western Church: The Christianization of Marriage during the Patristic and Early Medieval Periods

Synopsis

Author Philip Reynolds examines how marriage acquired a specifically Christian identity in the Latin West during the first millennium after Christ. Beginning with Jesus, everything the Christians did, including getting married, began a process of differentiation. Christians did not invent marriage, but they did redefine it, thereby hoping to solve the inherent problem of reconciling secular, carnal sexual relations with a holy and sanctified state of being, one that would ultimately become a sacrament. This twofold aspect of the Christian marriage was a formative principle throughout the Middle Ages and beyond. Reynolds offers three themes for theological reflection and interpretation: Jesus teaching, Paul's Letter to the Ephesians, and Paul's justification of marriage as a solution to the problem of sexual desire. This book begins with the examination of Roman and Germanic law, followed by the turning from civil to ecclesiastical law. Then Reynolds presents Augustine's theology of marriage, and finally, the nuptial process. Reynolds insights into the Christainization of marriage makes this a valuable book at both the scholarly and the practical level. This publication has also been published in hardback, please click here for details."

Excerpt

This book examines the manner in which marriage acquired a specifically Christian identity in the Latin West during the first millennium after Christ. It is not concerned with the actual married life of Christians during this period (a matter about which we know very litde), but rather with the manner in which men of the Church understood and regulated marriage. Thus it deals with a Christian concept of marriage and with how bishops and theologians developed their own understanding of the nature and purpose of marriage in the light of the Gospel.

I shall treat some topics in the general area of early medieval marriage only very briefly or in passing or not at all. First, although we shall note the function and significance of the nuptial liturgy, this book does not contain a detailed account of this liturgy and its history. Second, we shall be concerned with the regulation of sexual behaviour only insofar as this pertains directly to the Christian understanding of the nature and purpose of marriage. Thus I have little to say here on the Church's attempts to suppress masturbation, homosexual acts, buggery, coitus a tergo, intercourse at improper times and in improper places, and so on. Third, the book refers only in passing to the Church's laws on impediments of relationship. Fourth, there is no extensive treatment of the Church's general response to the problems of sexual immorality, pre-marital sex and the prevalence of concubinage.

Korbinian Ritzer has surveyed the history of the nuptial liturgy in great
detail in his Formen, Riten und religiöses Brauchtum der Eheschliessung in den
christlichen Kirchen des ersten Jahrtausend
(1962) (translated as Le mariage dans
les églises chrétiennes du 1er au Xle siècle
[1970]).

On the regulation of sexual behaviour in the penitential literature,
see P. Payer, Sex and the Penitentials: the Development of a Sexual Code 550–
1150
(1983).

On this, see J. H. Lynch, Godparents and Kinship in Early Medieval Europe
(1986), and F. X. Wahl, The Matrimonial Impediments of Consanguinity and
Affinity
(1934). For summary accounts, see J. Goody, The Development of the
Family and Marriage in Europe
(1983), pp. 134–46 (on the prohibited de
grees of consanguinity and affinity), and pp. 194–204, passim (on the im
pediments of spiritual kinship arising from sponsorship at baptism).

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