Orthodox: once married, always married

I’ve read recently that the Orthodox believe that once you are married, it is forever.

*]So, since canonically, the Orthodox will permit up to three marriages as a result of the divine economy, that would mean that if an Orthodox Christian is married to his second or third “wife”, his real wife is actually his first wife, and the subsequent marriages are permitted and tolerated out of mercy so the person doesn’t lead a life of loneliness and sexual depravity.

*]And also, the Orthodox therefore believe that once you are married you are married forever, consequently, when you go to heaven, the woman you “originally” married would be your wife in heaven.

Are these two points correct? I am particularly concerned with the second point, because doesn’t this fly in the face of Christ’s words to the Sadducees, when he said that in heaven “When the dead rise, they will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven.”

Which also begs the question: what if the “original” wife landed in hell? I guess the “heavenly” man would be single for eternity.

Please don’t consider this post of mine to flippant, I’m just trying to understand…

To a certain extent, the Fathers seemed to understand that the marital bond was not dissolved completely after death. This is why saints like St. Basil the Great penanced men who contracted a second marriage after the death of their first spouse with a two year excommunication, and men who contracted a third marriage with a five year excommunication (young women, however, were excused from this penance, because of St. Paul’s words that widows should be allowed to marry again by their own conscience). Whether that translates into marriage in heaven (in the same sense we know marriage), I am not so sure.

My husband is Orthodox and is from a country where Orthodoxy is the primary church. He hasn’t studied Orthodox theology all that much so I can’t opine on that. From a cultural perspective, the people in his country have the general belief that God gives a man one wife and people are generally not encouraged to marry again if a spouse dies. His country has been Christian since the days of the Apostles, and I would venture to say that their culture beliefs regarding marriage are influenced by Orthodoxy.

well the bible plainly says that marriage after a spouse has dies is ok so that rule ie bizarre. and i sure hope the part about the multiple wife isn’t true

oops sorry, i misread. permits up to 3 marriages. i’m guessing after the previous spouse has died right? and no, jesus did say there is no marriage in heaven

Where does the bible say that?

3 times even if the first spouse is still alive. And even if all three spouses were to die, a fourth marriage would be forbidden.

I think I have gone through this before and I am still not convinced. Anyway, if anybody can explain - what is the doctrinal basis of this ‘economy’?

Jesus never said there is no marriage in heaven. He states that they will neither marry (which is the act of marrying) nor be given in marriage (which is the act of marrying). There will be no new marriages, and there will be no replacement marriages. Jesus implied in Matthew 22 that the wife belonged to the first husband since God is the God of the living not the dead. The further espousals were for children and welfare of the wife, not unified bonded love.

From the beginning it was not meant to be multiple marriages through divorce and more importantly it was not meant to be multiple marriages through death of spouse. It was supposed to be Adam and Eve together forever with no death in the equation. That is God’s intention. So in heaven the first marriage is the correct one and it is binding.

I cannot for a moment think that a husband will see his wife and say “Hi”, she says “Hi”, he says “What’s up?”, she says “nothing really”, he says “well, see you then”, she says “later”. If it was really going to be like that I would have to have my brain blotted out.

The first “But …” that people usually raise to this is “What about the people who cant stand each other”. (Flesh thinking as it does). The answer is “Well I guess they have some serious reconciliation to do before they get there.”

This is not only Orthodox teaching (if I am understanding it correctly), I have heard it from Catholics too.

Of course Jesus said there is no marriage in heaven. Jesus words were to the Sadducees; He was responding to the very question, Whose wife is she? And He responds, “no one.” So here he is talking about someone who was married on earth, but then is not married in heaven, regardless of how many of the brothers she’s had been married to.

And I’m afraid you are misunderstanding the Catholic position; Catholics have an annulment system, so when they “re-marry” they are actually only marrying for the first time. And in Catholic thought, it’s “till death do you part” (hence the words), and each new marriage is valid and equal after the death of a spouse.

That is because you do not wish to understand. I have already quoted and explained the meaning of Canon 102 of Trullo for you multiple times in the past, as well as the canons of St. Basil which lay out the concept of oikonomia.

For the sake of everybody else, here are some relevant canons.

Canon 102 of Trullo: It behooves those who have received from God the power to loose and bind, to consider the quality of the sin and the readiness of the sinner for conversion, and to apply medicine suitable for the disease, lest if he is injudicious in each of these respects he should fail in regard to the healing of the sick man. For the disease of sin is not simple, but various and multiform, and it germinates many mischievous offshoots, from which much evil is diffused, and it proceeds further until it is checked by the power of the physician. Wherefore he who professes the science of spiritual medicine ought first of all to consider the disposition of him who has sinned, and to see whether he tends to health or (on the contrary) provokes to himself disease by his own behaviour, and to look how he can care for his manner of life during the interval. And if he does not resist the physician, and if the ulcer of the soul is increased by the application of the imposed medicaments, then let him mete out mercy to him according as he is worthy of it. For the whole account is between God and him to whom the pastoral rule has been delivered, to lead back the wandering sheep and to cure that which is wounded by the serpent; and that he may neither cast them down into the precipices of despair, nor loosen the bridle towards dissolution or contempt of life; but in some way or other, either by means of sternness and astringency, or by greater softness and mild medicines, to resist this sickness and exert himself for the healing of the ulcer, now examining the fruits of his repentance and wisely managing the man who is called to higher illumination. For we ought to know two things, to wit, the things which belong to strictness and those which belong to custom, and to follow the traditional form in the case of those who are not fitted for the highest things, as holy Basil teaches us.

Canon 4 of St. Basil In the case of trigamy and polygamy they laid down the same rule, in proportion, as in the case of digamy; namely one year for digamy (some authorities say two years); for trigamy men are separated for three and often for four years; but this is no longer described as marriage at all, but as polygamy; nay rather as limited fornication. It is for this reason that the Lord said to the woman of Samaria, who had five husbands, “he whom thou now hast is not your husband.” He does not reckon those who had exceeded the limits of a second marriage as worthy of the title of husband or wife. In cases of trigamy we have accepted a seclusion of five years, not by the canons, but following the precept of our predecessors. Such offenders ought not to be altogether prohibited from the privileges of the Church; they should be considered deserving of hearing after two or three years, and afterwards of being permitted to stand in their place; but they must be kept from the communion of the good gift, and only restored to the place of communion after showing some fruit of repentance.

Canon 50 of St. Basil: There is no law as to trigamy: a third marriage is not contracted by law. We look upon such things as the defilements of the Church. But we do not subject them to public condemnation, as being better than unrestrained fornication.

Canon 54 of St. Basil I know that I have already written to your reverence, so far as I can, on the distinctions to be observed in cases of involuntary homicide, and on this point I can say no more. It rests with your intelligence to increase or lessen the severity of the punishment as each individual case may require.

Canon 74 of St. Basil If, however, each man who has committed the former sins is made good, through penitence, he to whom is committed by the loving-kindness of God the power of loosing and binding will not be deserving of condemnation, if he become less severe, as he beholds the exceeding greatness of the penitence of the sinner, so as to lessen the period of punishment, for the history in the Scriptures informs us that all who exercise penitence with greater zeal quickly receive the loving-kindness of God.

Here are the canons of Trullo in full:

And here are the three Canonical Epistles of St. Basil:

The passage is in Matthew 22, I suggest you re-read it and look for the answer of Jesus where he responds “no-one”. He does not say that. He could easily have said that if that was what he meant. Though instead he takes the Sadducees on a thought process, a very important thought process that provides the ability for the Sadducees (and us) to deduce an understanding of the way God intended marriage and what interrupts it.

I believe the “till death do us part” is not referencing a contractual end, right thats over now I can move on with my life. It is referencing a fallen state of commitment, something that is not required in heaven when perfect.

I’m not deciding who a first marriage is. Marrying for the first time is still technically marrying for the first time.

Annulment is taken seriously and not just handed out whatever. She didnt fabric soften my socks. Annulment. He didnt put the toilet seat down. Annulment.

Thank you for your reply.

I do concede that he doesn’t exactly say “no one” (although that is how I interpret His answer). But at the very least, his answer is ambiguous, and I see nothing in his answer that overtly makes it “yes” OR “no”. (Though I think He implies no! :))

Thanks TheAdvocate, I admire your honesty. I got my information from Steve Ray’s Catholic Convert website. He has an interesting article on it.

Thanks. Could you provide a link? I am surprised that a Catholic writer would interpret it that way.

Sorry TheAdvocate, I cant get onto his site, I could two days ago so not sure whats going on.

I do however have this link as well so Steve Ray is not alone in his understanding


I would like to also raise the fact that God hates divorce, let not man put asunder, so is it really a case that God would divorce all entrants to heaven?

Thanks for that. Nonetheless, he presents this as a “possibility,” a particular “vision” one might have of the afterlife. And even here, he is presenting this in a homily, hardly a scholarly work.

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