Friday, 24 May 2019
Przemysław Nehring: Navigating between stereotypes: Augustine on marriage and virginity
As we learn from Retractationes, two of Augustine’s treatises, De bono coniugali and De sancta virginitate, were aimed to present his own views in the polemic on the merits of marriage and virginity which is customarily associated with Jerome and Jovinian. The reasoning of those primary antagonists, though very often based on the very same biblical passages, brought them to completely different conclusions. They also employed a number of clichéd arguments, two of which were particularly prominent in their argumentation: on the one hand, there were the examples of married Old Testament prophets, who were invoked to emphasise the great value of the institution of marriage, and, on the other, the hackneyed stereotypes of the so-called “molestiae nuptiarum” (“ills of marriage”) that were customarily used to show married life in the worst possible light.Augustine’s position in the controversy was at a far remove from these extremities. The aim of my paper is to demonstrate the effective means he deftly developed to defuse the stereotype-laden debate and give substance to his own moderate position by using a number of biblical quotations as premises for his arguments built in accordance with the schemes known from the classical theory of rhetoric.