“We Are Called to Monogamy”: Marriage, Virginity, and the Resurrection of the Fleshly Body in Tertullian of Carthage


  • Carly Daniel-Hughes Concordia University


Tertullian’s four writings on marriage (two letters “To His Wife,” “Exhortation to Chastity,” and “On Monogamy”) have often disturbed his modern readers. In them, he does not applaud marital monogamy, but suggests that sexual intercourse and childbearing are ungodly, potentially damning enterprises. This paper aims to situate these treatises in conversation with his soteriology. It shows how these writings register tensions that emerge in his claim that the fleshly body will endure in the resurrection, but sexual desire will not. Sexual difference, it argues, is at once central to his soteriological equation, and yet one that exceeds his attempts to define it. Tracing Tertullian’s view of salvation of the flesh, this paper in particular illustrates how his persistent coding of the flesh as feminine works to retain sexual difference, and leads to his promotion of “monogamy,” and not as we might expect, virginity, as the figure of the resurrected life. The paper reveals that when early Christian theorizing about the resurrected body not only had to negotiate the complexities that the sexually differentiated body implied, but also had potentially broad implications to authorize or undermine particular conceptions of gender roles as well as social and familial arrangements. 

Author Biography

Carly Daniel-Hughes, Concordia University

Carly Daniel-Hughes is associate professor of religion at Concordia University. She is author of The Salvation of the Flesh in Tertullian of Carthage: Dressing for the Resurrection (Palgrave Macmillan, 2011); coeditor of Dressing Judeans and Christians in Antiquity, with Kristi Upson-Saia and Alicia Batten (Ashgate, 2014), and The Bloomsbury Reader in Religion, Gender and Sexuality, with Donald Boisvert (Bloomsbury, 2016). Her current research examines responses to death, grief, and violence in the Roman Empire and contemporary contexts.





Section III: Identity Formation and the Return from Death