[This translation from the German by Christopher S. Doerr originally appeared in the Wisconsin Lutheran Quarterly, Vol. 109, No. 1 (Winter 2012) Walther’s original appeared in Lehre und Wehre V. 10 pp. 97-100 129-134]

XXIV. About the Household Ranks (Marriage Portion)

1. The household ranks are the nursery for the ecclesiastical and civic ranks. (Gerhard)

2. There are three distinct relationships found in the household ranks: 1) that of the married couple, which is called the matrimonial relationship; 2) that of the parents and children, which is the paternal relationship; and 3) that of the master and servants, which is the seigniorial relationship. (Gerhard)

3. Although marriage is not properly called a sacrament, it is a rank established by God and therefore a matter of conscience that depends on God’s institution and on laws that have been made known by God. (Gerhard)

4. The church’s ministers, as those entrusted with the care of souls and consciences, cannot by any means be refused admittance when it comes to judging marital matters. (Gerhard)

5. No marriage is consummated on earth before it has been considered in heaven. (Gerhard)

6. The effective cause of marriage is lawful consent or the marriage compact. (Chemnitz)

7. That which makes a marriage a marriage is a commitment arising from lawful consent. (Chemnitz)

8. It appears to be not only useful but also necessary that the wedding be preceded by betrothal, so that during the interim they can try to find out if there might be anything that would impede the consummation of the marriage. (Gerhard)

9. Betrothals should not be entered into secretly, but in the presence of honorable witnesses. (Gerhard)

10.Witnesses are not the essence, but the evidence, of a betrothal. (Deyling)

11. For consent to be lawful requires capacity to make judgments and freedom of choice. (Gerhard)

12. Run away if you can, lest it seem like you have given your consent. (Dedekennus)[1]

13. A forced betrothal is no betrothal. (Kromayer)

14. The parents’ consent is required not only as a matter of honor, but also as something necessary. (Gerhard)

15. The consent of guardians, trustees, blood-relatives, and in-laws is not a matter of necessity, but of godliness and honor, unless somewhere the law says otherwise. (Deyling)

16. A public betrothal that has been entered into with the parents’ consent, is valid, even if the parents were not present to witness it. But a clandestine betrothal, when the parents’ consent is lacking, is not valid,[2] even if a thousand other people were present to witness the act of plighting troth and even if the children have bound themselves with an oath to be true to one another. (Deyling)

17. Without consent on the part of the parents, entering into the marriage contract is not lawful, complete, or right. (Gerhard)

18. Marriages concluded without the parents’ knowledge or against their will are not lawful and valid. (Gerhard)

19. An oath to do what is not righteous is not binding.

20. If the parents want to hold their ground and insist strictly upon their rights, then a betrothal that has been entered into without their knowledge or against their will can be dissolved if they require it, even if it was a sworn betrothal. (Gerhard)

21. A clandestine betrothal, even if it has been consummated through concubitus,[3] is on its own merits null and void. (Deyling)

22. If, after a clandestine betrothal, the parents’ consent is obtained, it is not as though what the children did against God’s commandment is now confirmed and made valid retroactively; rather, through the parents’ authority a completely new contract is entered into, by which a lawful union is consummated according to the procedure prescribed by God. (Gerhard)

23. A betrothal that is not entered into unconditionally, but with an honorable and realistic condition attached, puts into effect no marital ties before that condition is met. (Chemnitz)

24. When that which meets the condition is rendered, then the betrothal is valid: if it isn’t, it is then as if the whole thing never happened. (L. Hartmann)

25. A conditional betrothal becomes, through copulation, a marriage. (Gerhard)

26. A clandestine betrothal is superseded by a public one. (Gerhard)

27. With duplicate public betrothals, the latter yield to the former.[4] (Kromayer)

28. It is impermissible to move on to another betrothal before it is settled whether or not the conditions of the first one are met. (Gerhard)

29. Not the concubitus but the consent makes the marriage. (Wittenberg faculty, found in Dedekennus)

30. If the father insists on his rights, as confirmed by the express divine law in Ex. 22:16,[5] he cannot be forced to give his daughter in marriage to him who violated her. (Gerhard)

31. Betrothal is marriage at its start. (Gerhard)

32. When two persons have, in a fitting and orderly way, promised to marry one another and publicly plighted their troth, they cannot and may not ex mutuo dissensu (because of mutual dislike) rescind or relinquish those marriage vows they made with one another, unless there is such cause as suffices even for divorce in a consummated marriage. (Wittenberg faculty, found in Dedekennus)

33. For consent to be lawful requires that it be permitted and not contrary to divine law or honorable human ordinances, enacted for good reasons. (Hartmann)

34. The marriage prohibitions included in Lev. 18 are not Jewish civil laws, but moral laws. (Wandalinus)[6]

35. You should not judge the rule by past examples, but judge past examples by the rule. (Gerhard)

36. The general rule is no one should draw near the flesh of those who are his flesh. (Gerhard)

37. As the children are all one flesh with their parents in the same way, they are themselves one flesh with one another, although not without a middleman: one flesh united in their parents. (Baier)

38. Man and wife are considered one flesh and one person. (Deyling)

39. The prohibitions do not apply only to the persons they expressly name, but to the degrees. (Gerhard)

40. Not only are marriages prohibited between the persons expressly named in Lev. 18, but between all who are the flesh of their flesh. (Hartmann)

41. You cannot enter into marriage with those with whom you are already one flesh. (Deyling)

42. In the prohibitions, under the names of father and mother you should understand the relatives immediately preceding them and under the names of sons and daughters their direct descendants. (Melchior Nicolai)[7]

43. A blood-relative is someone you are related to because one of you is the other’s descendant through physical birth. (Baier)

44. An in-law is someone you are related to because of a marriage. (Baier)

45. Whoever is one flesh with, that is a blood-relative, of one spouse, is consanguineously related to the other spouse too. (Baier)

46. Marriages between two people, where one is the direct ancestor or direct descendant of the other, are prohibited, no matter how many degrees you could count separating them. (Gerhard)

47. In a collateral line, all degrees of in-law relations are prohibited just the same as blood-relations, up to those twice removed (zum zweiten ungleicher Linie). (Hafenreffer)[8]

48. In whatever degree of relationship the blood-relatives are connected to the man, they are connected to his wife as in-laws in the same degree, and vice versa. (Hartmann)

49. Whatever degrees of blood-relationship are prohibited are also to be considered prohibited for in-law relationships. (Hartmann)

50. Whichever blood-relative you are prohibited from being connected to through marriage, you are also prohibited from being connected to that person’s spouse. (Haeberling)[9]

51. An actual in-law relationship is only produced between the man and the blood-relatives of his wife, as also between the wife and the blood-relatives of her husband. (Deyling)

52. A marriage between those raised together is not prohibited. (Deyling)

53. How can people be one in love, who are not one in faith? (Ambrose)

54. The prohibitions are reciprocal. (Chemnitz)

55. The prohibitions cover both types of relationship, whether they are descended from both parents or from one of the two parents. (Chemnitz)

56. The prohibitions are to be understood as being about relationships that may arise either through marriage or fornication. (Chemnitz)

57. There are many impediments at first, to entering marriage, that do not dissolve the marriage once it has been consummated. (Kromayer)

58. There is less required for an action to be valid than for it to be right. (Dannhauer)

59. For an action to be valid, all that is required is that the actors had a right to take that action. (Dannhauer)

60. What is lawfully consummated may not be countermanded, even though later something comes up on account of which it could not have been begun. (Gerhard)

61. No dispensation can be granted in the degrees that are prohibited by divine law. (Gerhard)

62. The prohibitions of Lev. 18 concerning degrees of direct ancestors or descendants, belong to the natural moral law, but those concerning other degrees, belong to the positive moral law.[10] (Wandalinus)

63. Natural law issues its commands absolutely and in an unqualified way: it is completely unalterable. But what is called natural law in view of, or on account of, something (else), is alterable. (Gerhard)

64. It seems that you must distinguish between marriages entered into in prohibited degrees: some must by all means be dissolved, others you can punish at will, but tolerate. (Baier)

65. Marriages that God (Lev. 20) has expressly issued the death penalty for, since they are so shameful and abominable that it would be an atrocity for the married people to stay in them, are to be dissolved. (Baier)

66. Marriages of blood-relatives and in-laws in a direct line, between such as are directly descended one from the other, and of bloodrelatives in the first degree in a collateral line, are to be torn asunder. (Baier)

67. If persons in an illegitimate union are separated, it is not so much the divorce of a marriage, as the announcement that such a union was not a marital union at all. (Baier)

68. The church which tolerates, or does not tear asunder, unlawful marriages, that God has not commanded be torn asunder, does not thereby grow slack concerning the laws that prohibit such marriages, but lets them still have their power and validity. (Baier)

69. Natural death, not civic death, dissolves the marriage bond.[11] (Gerhard)

70. Although, by its nature, marriage is indissoluble, since what God has joined together, man should not separate, in actuality it is dissolved through adultery and malicious desertion. (Melchior Nicolai)

71. When the government grants a divorce and undertakes to separate the innocent and adulterous parties, this is not what dissolves the marriage bond; rather it testifies that the bond was dissolved by the adultery. (Gerhard)

72. You do not say there was a separation where there never was a marriage. (Dannhauer)

73. The deserted one does not cause the divorce, but suffers it: the deserter causes it, but unjustly. (Dannhauer)

74. You should first of all consider him a deserter who in malice moves away from his spouse and will not allow himself to be induced to return. (Gerhard)

75. No one can be robbed of his rights because of someone else’s crime. (Dannhauer)

76. No one can judge his own suit. (Gerhard)

77. In a case of adultery, you can justly get a divorce, but indeed you are not always necessarily obliged to let it come to that. (Wandalinus)

78. When the innocent party grants forgiveness to the guilty, the marriage bond that was torn asunder is joined together again. (Gerhard)

79. The law of Moses sometimes allows something that is not good, in order to avoid a greater evil. (Kromayer)

80. You must sharply distinguish between divorce and refusing to share one’s table and bed, which tends to happen on account of a spouse’s infuriating behavior and deadly enmity for a certain time, but does not break the marriage bond, and then the tempers are appeased again. (Deyling)

81. Being unmarried is not a good work in and of itself. (Gerhard)

82. Being unmarried should be sanctioned only in those who have the gift for it. (Gerhard)

83. The vow of celibacy, having never been commanded by God, is a self-chosen way to worship God, yes, is godless and foolish. (Wandalinus)

84. What you sinned in vowing, you still sin in keeping. (Wandalinus)

85. The wife was not created out of the man’s feet, so that he should consider her only his footstool. She also was not created out of his head, so that it is not permitted her to have lordship over the man. Rather she was taken out of his side, that is, from the vicinity of his heart, so that the man would love her as a part of his body and as someone sharing in his nature. (Gerhard)

[1] The 1954 Lutheran Cyclopedia says Georg Dedekennus lived 1564-1628, was a pastor in Hamburg, and “wrote Thesaurus Consiliorum et Decisionum (4 vols., casuistics) and other theological works.”

[2] The German lacks a main verb for this part of the axiom about the clandestine betrothal: a typo?

[3] Here Walther substitutes the Latin term for sexual relations.

[4] Corrected from the original translation: “the later ones supersede the earlier”

[5] This actually seems to refer to Ex. 22:17, “If her father absolutely refuses to give her to him, he must still pay the bride-price for virgins.”

[6] The translator did not know who this was; “possibly Marcus Fridericus Wendelinus, professor of theology and philosophy at Anhalt, a Reformed theologian with whom the Lutherans interact.”

[7] McClintock and Strong say he was a eminent Lutheran theologian in Tübingen “near the beginning of the 17th century” and was an opponent of the kenoticists.

[8] The 1954 Lutheran Cyclopedia says Matthaeus Hafenreffer lived 1561-1619 and was “court preacher at Stuttgart; later professor at Tuebingen; a man of very extensive learning in the Old Testament, the Church Fathers, and also in natural sciences and mathematics; teacher and friend of the astronomer Kepler; best-known works: Loci Theologici and Templum Ezechielis.”

[9] The translator could not determine who this is.

[10] According to the online Catholic Encyclopedia article on Natural Law, “the Divine positive law . . . contains precepts not arising from the nature of things as God has constituted them by the creative act, but from the arbitrary will of God. This law we learn not through the unaided operation of reason, but through the light of supernatural revelation.”

[11] The translator notes: “I think this means human law cannot make an unscriptural divorce godly.”

Leave a Reply