Christian History Project. This site contains the text of 12 volumes on the history of mankind over the last 2,000 years written from a 'collectively-denominational' Christian perspective.

Christianity and Marriage |
When Christianity breaks a marriage

Christianity and Marriage is drawn from Chapter Three, beginning on page 89, of Volume Two, A Pinch of Incense of the twelve-volume historical series The Christians: Their First Two Thousand Years. If you would like to order this book please visit

Christ had warned it sometimes would and in this case a teacher lost his life

Christianity and Marriage - When Christianity breaks a marriage

Christianity and Marriage - When Christianity breaks a marriage

People believed he had come to bring peace on Earth, said Jesus Christ, but in fact he would not bring peace, but division, splitting even families and households (Luke 12:51—53). That prophecy would be fulfilled all over the world for the next two thousand years, as in the case of one well-born Roman woman in the mid-second century.

In his work called the Second Apology, Justin tells her story without identifying her. She and her husband had lived dissolute lives, he says, until she “came to the knowledge of the teachings of Christ,” gave up drunken orgies and promiscuity with the household servants, pleaded with her husband to do the same, and warned him of the “punishment and eternal fire that will come upon those who do not live temperately and conform to right reason.”

Ignoring her pleas, the husband persisted in his degenerate conduct until the woman concluded it was wrong to continue living with such a man. Her Christian friends objected, saying she should stay with him in the hope he would change. Soon after, however, he left for Alexandria, where his reputation grew even worse, and the woman gave him a bill of divorcement and left him. She feared, says Justin, that “by continuing in wedlock and by sharing his board and bed, she might become a partaker in his lawlessness and impiety.” Furious, the husband returned and publicly, formally declared her a Christian, a capital offense. The wife petitioned the emperor for time to set her affairs in order before answering the charge. He agreed.

For the moment thwarted, the husband turned his anger upon her Christian teacher, one Ptolemaeus (pronounced Tol-e-MAY-us), already in jail for reasons undisclosed. The husband knew a centurion at the prison who confronted the teacher with the fatal question: “Christianus es?” (“Are you a Christian?”) As “a lover of truth and not of a deceitful or false disposition,” according to Justin, who doubtless knew him, Ptolemaeus thereupon confessed. His sentence was prolonged until he could finally appear before the city prefect Urbicius, who again posed the question and gained the same answer. He was promptly handed over for execution.

However, this peremptory procedure exasperated Lucius, another Christian who had watched the hearing. “Why have you punished this man?” shouted Lucius. “He is not an adulterer, nor a fornicator, nor a murderer, nor a thief, nor a robber, nor has he been convicted of committing any crime at all. He has simply confessed to the name Christian.” What a far cry from the policy of the tolerant Emperor Antoninus Pius, he said. What of Caesar’s tradition of justice? What of “the sacred Senate?”

Thereupon Urbicius put the same fateful question to Lucius, who replied affirmatively and was ordered executed with Ptolemaeus. Lucius thanked the prefect. Now, he said, he would be “liberated from such wicked rulers and go to the good Father and King.” A third Christian suffered the same fate.

Justin cited the case in a formal petition to the emperor, protesting a miscarriage of Roman justice and predicting he, too, would suffer the same fate. A few years later he did. No reply to his petition is known. Neither is the fate of the Christian woman. n

This is the end of the Christianity and Marriage category article drawn from Chapter Three, beginning on page 89, of Volume Two, A Pinch of Incense. To continue reading more about Christianity and Marriage from The Christians, Their First Two Thousand Years we suggest experiencing the rest of the book, complete with hundreds of magnificent illustrations, by ordering it at