We have made some surface observations about Mr Abraham Hamilton’s claim that the family was the first institution ordained by God, prior to the Church, prophets, etc. We will try to go into a little more detail now, looking at what some of the great and holy teachers of the Church have said about this, focusing primarily on St John Chrysostom.
The first Holy Father we will quote however is St Athanasius the Great (+373) of Alexandria in Africa. What he says poses a tremendous problem for Mr Hamilton’s theory:
The original intention of God was for us to generate not by marriage and corruption. But the transgression of the commandment introduced marriage on account of the lawless act of Adam, that is, the rejection of the law given him by God. Therefore all of those born of Adam are “conceived in iniquities,” having fallen under the condemnation of the forefather.
--Quoted in Archpriest Josiah Trenham, Marriage and Virginity According to St. John Chrysostom, St. Herman of Alaska Brotherhood, 2013, p. 69
Marriage and family as we know them, in other words, did not exist until after the Fall. But some sort of institutions surely existed prior to that event, or else disorder would have reigned over God’s creation. What were they then?
Before the Fall, man existed in a state of holiness, kindred with the angels. This state is life in the Church. Fr Josiah writes of it:
In describing the essential human condition in Paradise, Chrysostom sets forth an anthropology that is normative for all of his commentary on the topic of virginity. At its core, his anthropology posits that Adam was designed and crafted by God to be a terrestrial angel. Man is an unusual type of angel, but an angel nonetheless. In solidarity with the bodiless hosts, mankind in Paradise was in communion with God through the Holy Spirit. Man moved in the energies of God and radiated the light of the Godhead in a manner brighter than the noonday sun. In Eden, man worshipped God in union with the angels. The devil’s envy was especially incensed by the fact that Adam lived an angel in a body. . . . Man possessed a life in no way inferior to the angels, but enjoyed in the body the angelic “immunity from suffering”.
--Ibid., pgs. 86-7
In this worship of God, Adam’s role as priest of the creation, as mediator between the visible and invisible worlds (Ibid., p. 87, note 17), is present, as he offers the creation to God in thanksgiving and receives it back with God’s blessing. This is tied in with his role as king, which we will now look at.
Fr Josiah says,
According to St. John, God created man as the pinnacle of the physical universe and as a king with the divine commission to rule, as a sort of vice-regent, over all the created realm. “The human being is the creature more important than all other visible beings, and for this being all the others were produced—sky, earth, sea, sun, moon, stars, the reptiles, the cattle, all the brute beasts.” Man served as the vital link between the vast angelic realms and the sensible universe. Man labored in Paradise without sweat and served as the conduit of divine grace to the material world. The divine life flowed into him, nurturing him, and radiating from him to the entire cosmos [part of the priestly office-W.G.]. “For humanity alone and for no other reason did He create everything, intending a little later to place them like some king and ruler over other things created by Him.” . . .
God Himself bids all creatures to come under man’s authority and guardianship. While numerous explanations had been proffered by earlier Church Fathers of the nature of the image of God in man, Chrysostom taught that man’s divinely delegated control or rule of creation is the whole sum of meaning found in the description of man as God’s “image [a teaching echoed by St Basil the Great (+379) and other Holy Fathers: Ibid, p. 94, note 59; and On the Human Condition, St Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 2005, pgs. 36-7-W.G].” . . . In the beginning the beasts were in “fear” and “trembling,” and responded to man’s directions. . . .
--Fr Josiah, Marriage and Virginity, pgs. 92-4
Connected with man’s interaction with the animals is the prophetic office:
In his pristine state of illumination, Adam lived under the immediate inspiration of the Holy Spirit, much as did the later prophets who directly received the word of God. This prophetic nature is evident in Adam’s extensive knowledge, which Chrysostom highlights in his commentary on the opening chapters of the book of Genesis. Though God Himself had administered some type of divine anesthesia to Adam in order to preserve him from any pain associated with the removal of one of his ribs to fashion Eve, Adam was fully aware of the mode of her creation from his side. Chrysostom suggests that Adam’s exclamation that Eve was now “bone of my bone, and flesh of my flesh” makes manifest that Adam lived in the inspiration of the Spirit, Who revealed to him things that he could not possibly have known through his own experience. Adam demonstrated knowledge of an incredible magnitude, evidencing that he was under the influence of prophetic grace and the inspiration of instruction by the Holy Spirit. Adam saw “everything through the eyes of the Spirit”. It was a sign of God’s great care for Adam that He honored him with prophecy.
By creation God also endowed Adam with magnificent intelligence and unspeakable wisdom. This intelligence was demonstrated when God brought before Adam all of the animals for naming. Whatever name Adam gave the animal, that was its name. This act of naming demonstrated not only Adam’s “unrivaled authority” and “lordly dominance” over the animal kingdom, but also his exceeding intellect.
--Ibid., pgs. 96-7
. . . an intellect as we have just seen that was enlightened directly by the Holy Ghost.
We have seen now that in Paradise there was a Church, and a priest, king, and prophet. But nowhere have we seen marriage and the family. When do these appear? As was said at the beginning, they have their origin with the Fall:
Marriage, as we commonly understand it in our fallen condition, is a God-given concession to man’s weakness. It is a divine indulgence to man in his fallen condition, and thus had no relevance in Paradise. Therefore, St. John is careful neither to exalt it unduly (since it is for fallen man) nor to denigrate it (since it has a divine origin). However, just as there exists a paradisal virginity, so there exists a paradisal union of man and woman; and just as the substance of paradisal virginity differs greatly from that which exists outside of Paradise, the same may be said of the union of man and woman. Chrysostom uses the word “marriage” with reference to “earthly marriage,” and does not employ the word when he is describing the union of man and woman in Christ in Paradise, and in the coming Kingdom. The paradisal condition of Adam and Eve is a mysterious union of the first man with his unique and co-equal helpmate, divinely provided to him for conversation, consolation, and to “share the same being.” Eve was formed from the rib of “her man.” Their union did not involve the many aspects of earthly marriage commonly associated with that state in the fallen age.
When God had completed creating the entire cosmos, He fashioned man, for whom He had made everything. When man lived in Paradise “there was no need for marriage.” Chrysostom is clear that in Paradise mankind lived “as in heaven” and was without marriage. In fact, all of the classical by-products of marriage extolled through the ages in all great civilizations, such as large populations, developed cities, crafts, homes, etc., did not exist in Paradise, and yet this in no way diminished the happiness of that original state. These extolled realities are superfluous and ought not to be greatly valued by man as in any way belonging to the essence of true happiness.
What then is the origin of earthly marriage? Marriage itself is the offspring of death, and is a mortal and slavish garment. Since mortality and slavery did not exist in Paradise, marriage did not exist. St. John carries the thought of St. Paul further. St. Paul explained that where there is sin, there is death. St. John carries this further by stating, “Where death is, there is marriage”. The pattern is as follows: sin » death » marriage. Each of the main components of marriage—such as sexual intercourse, conception, labor, and childbirth—is a form of corruption.
--Ibid., pgs. 99-101
To help us better understand why St John says what he does about earthly marriage, it is well to look at the nature of mankind’s sexuality before and after the Fall:
The essence of virginity is not primarily a physical state. Physical virginity is an outworking of virginity of soul, and how this physical virginity is maintained in Paradise and outside Paradise are really quite different matters. Paradisal virginity is a state of being likened to the angels in which our first ancestors were created. It was a state of undefiled and unceasing communion with God. Paradisal man had silence ruling all within. His soul pursued no other activity but continual communion with God. He enjoyed an unspeakable depth of true pleasure. He reveled in a heavenly contemplation without cares. In this virginal ethos man lived and moved physically, with a physicality free of carnality. Man had a body, but this body (unlike ours) was clothed in light and overshadowed by the Holy Spirit. Man’s body was light, free from the necessities of fallen nature and carnal drives and impulses. St. John does not envision Adam and Eve as even contemplating the act of sexual intercourse (let alone performing it). It is clear, then, that if we are to understand what Chrysostom means when he speaks of virginity in Paradise, we must be prepared to define virginity in non-sexual terms. We cannot simply use popular contemporary concepts and project them back in time and space into the Garden. Chrysostom’s understanding of essential virginity is bound up intimately with his fundamental anthropology.
--Ibid., pgs. 112-3
There is no way around the conclusion: Earthly marriage and family were not first nor normative in God’s creative works. They are the result of the Fall. The Church, priest, prophet, and king all preceded them in the Garden. And the more Mr Hamilton, Mrs Meeke Addison, and others continue to push this innovation of theirs, the more they will mimic some of the Gnostic sects: They insisted on mandatory virginity (ibid., pgs. 23-4), while the Hamiltonians will inevitably come to insist on mandatory marriage.
Earthly marriage and family are very valuable. But praising a thing too much will lead to harm just as surely as praising it too little. We must keep our respect for the family balanced, as St John Chrysostom and the other Holy Fathers of the Church have. And we do that by honoring virginity, bodily and ghostly, the virginity exemplified by St John the Baptist, the Most Pure Mother of God, the Lord Jesus Christ Himself, and the thousands upon thousands of monks and nuns who have lived the angelic monastic life in imitation of them.
Holy Ælfred the Great, King of England, South Patron, pray for us sinners at the Souð, unworthy though we are!
Anathema to the Union!