According to Isidore of Seville’s etymology Et. 10,33, castus is the term indicating those qui perpetuam libidinis abstinentiam pollicebantur. The virtue of chastity is not exclusive to a particular state of life, but is an element of every state: virginity, marriage, celibacy. Its value was appreciated in the ancient Greco-Roman world which knew virgins and celibates: the Vestals, the priests of Eastern religions in Asia Minor, philosophers dedicated to the study of wisdom, in Buddhism and in ancient Judaism the Essenes were celibate, according to Philo, Josephus and Pliny the Younger. Tokyo Subway Map The NT teaching Mt 19:11-12: chastity for the kingdom of heaven and Pauline preaching chastity as an undivided heart to please God, 1 Cor 7:34 made chastity a significantly attractive force in the first centuries of Christianity, distinguishing it from the concept held by the highest moral philosophy. In the 2nd c. the invitation to a radical chastity was present in ecclesiastical preaching and in Encratism and gnosis, though the latter were in danger of abandoning St. Paul’s balance between flesh and spirit, between marriage, virginity and celibacy. Athenagoras’s A Plea for the Christians presents virginity as one of the finest realities of the Christian life There are many men and women who have grown old without marrying in the hope of belonging more to God, 33, and marriage as the place of the reproduction and defense of life Suppl. 35, being so convinced of its indissolubility that remarriage is a respectable adultery Suppl. 33. Clement of Alexandria defends marriage against the gnostics, elevating it beyond sexual union and procreation to a spiritual and religious union between husband and wife, who are united by God Strom. III, 10,68. To overcome the passions, Origen asks for perpetual mortification of the flesh and renunciation of marriage, though he does not reject it entirely In Num. hom. 24,2. Novatian, proclaiming the benefits of chastity De bono pudicitiae, states that whoever practices it has restored his own freedom 11. Tertullian, influenced by Montanism, seems to consider marriage as a legitimate vice against which he exalts virginity and continence.
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