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Bibil Identifier bibil:144967
Publication Type Article of book
Title (English, Long) Tertullian on Flesh, Spirit, and Wives
Author Conybeare, Catherine
Edited book Severan Culture
Year (Reference) 2007
Language English
Pages 430-439 Pages
Genre Original
Abstract Catherine Conybeare takes up the theme of marriage in Tertullian’s To his Wife. Tertullian’s misogyny is vigorously debated. Conybeare’s aim, however, is to put the work in its intellectual tradition. A ‘dialectic of flesh and spirit’ underpins Tertullian’s arguments, a dialectic according with the powerful dualist trend of contemporary philosophy and also entrenched in traditional, Stoic-Pythagorean aconomic material on marriage (such as the Severan-period Sentences of Sextus) . For Tertullian, marriage allowed the flesh to indulge itself. Although he speaks to his wife of’one flesh in two bodies that flesh needs undergo a ‘spiritual circumcision’ to attain ‘self-control’. Tertullian’s marriage rejects sex; moreover, as Conybeare acutely observes, ‘there are no children, no family, and no friends’: Tertullian dwells in asociability. The construction of a superior spirit sooner or later is deployed, she argues, to police female flesh. Tertullian’s emphasis on the potentially richer wife is particularly significant. Parents, who feature in the Pythagorean oeconomica, get no look in here. In all this Conybeare steers aside from the question of marriage and towards the question of society, asking why Tertullian bothers to address his wife when all circumstances pertaining to her are elided. She goes on to chastise the churchman for failing to think what his wife would have said to him. In his comparable letter to Marcella, Porphyry would adopt the position that Marcella will be a witness to, and test of, his ethical achievements. We see here the central focus of the culture of mutual inspection that regulated the society ofthis time: the husband’s arrangment of his own virtue in the mirror of his family. Thus Tertullian’s paean to the united Christian spouses at the end of To his Wife emerges as hollow, at least as far as the wife is concerned. (S. Swain, Introd., p. 20)
Keywords Thesaurus BiBIL : Ancient Christianity : Ancient Christian Literature : Texts and Authors (Church Fathers) : Texts and Authors : Tertullian
Thesaurus BiBIL : Ancient Christianity : Themes : Marriage
Thesaurus BiBIL : Ancient Christianity : Themes : Woman
Thesaurus BiBIL : Ancient Christianity : Themes : Asceticism
Last modification 2017-10-27