Friday, January 13, 2023

Punishment For Adultery

One of the things that Europeans and Westerners consider the most shocking about Muslim countries is the fact that they often punish adultery quite harshly, including death penalty. Somehow we are taught to think that it's misogyny and oppression of women even though men are punished, too. 

Few of modern Christians appear to be aware of the fact that the Scriptures agree with Islam on this matter:


 And the man that committeth adultery with another man's wife, even he that committeth adultery with his neighbour's wife, the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death.

Notice how adultery is defined. Adultery is not a married man visiting prostitutes (that would be fornication), it's specifically a married woman lying with another man. 

Every culture on Earth used to have punishments for adultery including heathens like Greeks and Romans. At the very least it was divorce, in some cases the law allowed the husband/father to kill the lovers. 

Early Christian Church allowed civil punishments for adultery, as witnessed by early English law, for instance:

Clause 31, for example, reads "if a freeman lies with [another] free-man's wife, he shall pay [the husband] his wergeld and procure a second wife with his own money, and bring her to the other man's home".[3]: 206  The ninth-century Laws of Alfred of Wessex include similar provisions, including an explicit statement that it was legal for one man to attack another "if he finds another with his wedded wife, behind closed doors or under the same blanket; or [if he finds another man] with his legitimate daughter (or with his legitimate married sister); or with his mother, if she has been legally married to his father".[3]: 208 

 It also included the mutilation of adulterous women:

...the code specified fines in the case of an adulterous husband, or religious penance in cases viewed as minor (adultery with a slave), but also prescribed corporal mutilation for female adulterers—cutting off their nose and ears—as well as the forfeiture of all the woman's property to her husband.

Later, however, it changed as the prosecution for adultery shifted from secular authorities to the Church and common law which was established around 12th century didn't see adultery as a crime. And here, I believe something very important happened in Christian West. Adultery, a crime so heinous that the Bible calls for death penalty for it, essentially became legalised. Men, in some cases, still could kill the guy who seduced the wife, but women were simply let off. 

Predictably, that led to the lower morals overall, and it was, I believe, one of the reasons for Reformation. Here is What J. Calvin wrote on the matter:

11. Neither do I condemn thee. We are not told that Christ absolutely acquitted the woman, but that he allowed her to go at liberty. Nor is this wonderful, for he did not wish to undertake any thing that did not belong to his office. He bad been sent by the Father to gather the lost sheep, (Matthew 10:6) and, therefore, mindful of his calling, he exhorts the woman to repentance, and comforts her by a promise of grace. They who infer from this that adultery ought not to be punished with death, must, for the same reason, admit that inheritances ought not to be divided, because Christ refused to arbitrate in that matter between two brothers, (Luke 12:13.) Indeed, there will be no crime whatever that shall not be exempted from the penalties of the law, if adultery be not punished; for then the door will be thrown open for any kind of treachery, and for poisoning, and murder, and robbery...

Yet the Popish theology is, that in this passage Christ has brought to us the Law of grace, by which adulterers are freed from punishment. And though they endeavor, by every method, to efface from the minds of men the grace of God, such grace as is every where declared to us by the doctrine of the Gospel, yet in this passage alone they preach aloud the Law of grace... But let us remember that, while Christ forgives the sins of men, he does not overturn political order, or reverse the sentences and punishments appointed by the laws. 

I should add that Catholic Church strictly forbade divorce and annulment was practically impossible to get in that period so that the cuckolded husband had to basically s**k it up and accept any bastard into the family. Eastern Orthodox churches, on the other hand, always allowed divorce as a punishment for adultery and guilty party was prohibited from remarriage. That became the case in Protestant countries though harsher punishments sometimes were used:

Adultery was outlawed in secular statute law briefly under the Commonwealth of England in the 1650s. Following a long series of attempts to legislate against adultery in Parliament which failed to win the vote, the Rump Parliament passed the Commonwealth (Adultery) Act in May 1650, inter alia imposing the death penalty for adultery, that was defined as sexual intercourse between a married woman and a man other than her husband. Both partners would be liable for death sentence in such case. If a man (married or unmarried) had sex with an unmarried woman (including widow), that would be fornication, punishable only by three months for first offenders (applicable to both partners).

 Funny enough, after Restoration the 1st thing which happened was the legalisation of adultery yet again. Somehow, European aristocracy really enjoyed sharing each other's wives:

  However, like all legislation passed by the Commonwealth, the act was repealed following the Restoration of the Monarchy in 1660.[6][5]: 205 [3]: 225

 Yet, the legacy of that period was such that it became possible to sue adulterers in a civil court:

A more lasting change during the early modern period was that it became possible to prosecute for adultery in English common law due to developments in the common-law concept of loss of consortium, which made it possible for a cuckold to bring a civil case against an adulterer under tort law.[3]: 216–21  'Consortium' in this context means "(the right of) association and fellowship between two married people";[7] 'loss of consortium' was an act that deprived one spouse (initially only the husband) of the services which the other spouse was expected to provide. In the 1619 case Guy v. Livesey, it is clear that precedent had been established by that time that exclusive access to sexual services was considered to fall within the concept of 'consortium', and that an adulterer might therefore be prosecuted for depriving a cuckold of exclusive access to the sexual services of his wife.

Law did expect married women to put out at that time. Predictably, it was finally abolished in 1970 when feminism won a decisive victory. 

In the USA, originally, adultery was a crime but the laws started changing in modern times. Even when those laws still exist they aren't used. In some situations in the past, the husband was basically allowed to kill an unfaithful wife and her lover caught in the act with little or no punishment and here I should add that it did often happen in predominantly Catholic countries so even though the Church was rather lenient the society wasn't:

Killing of wives due to adultery has been traditionally treated very leniently in Brazil, in court cases where husbands claimed the "legitimate defense of their honor" (legitima defesa da honra) as justification for the killing. Although this defense was not explicitly stipulated in the 20th-century Criminal Code, it has been successfully pleaded by lawyers throughout the 20th century, in particular in the countryside, though less so in the coastal big cities. In 1991 Brazil's Supreme Court explicitly rejected the "honor defense" as having no basis in Brazilian law.[31][32][33]

And France:

Prior to 1975, the French Penal Code of 1810 stated at article 324 that "in the case of adultery, provide for by article 336, murder committed upon the wife as well as upon her accomplice, at the moment when the husband shall have caught them in the fact, in the house where the husband and wife dwell, is excusable [meaning a punishment of 1 to 5 years, according to article 326].[37] In practice, however, many domestic violence crimes resulted in acquittal by the juries...

 In my opinion, there should be a punishment for adultery, though not necessarily by death. If you read the Wiki link above, you'll notice how feminist organisations specifically decry any law which seeks to restrict (female) sexual activity as "misogynist".

Actually, I'll go further and say that the fact that the civil authorities in the late medieval period refused to prosecute adultery and were supported in it by the Catholic Church (probably under pressure from the elites of these times) has contributed to the widespread acceptance of feminist doctrine in the West.



  1. But how often was some of this enforced? I've read studies years ago that analyzed church birth and marriage records. Quiet a few times something was cooking before marriage. Granted, this may have not been adultery, but it's clear a whole of illicit banging went on at times. I can't believe that entire medieval population was birthed by pure Christian virgins.

  2. As far as I understand in the early medieval period (prior to 10-11th century) it was a private matter for the husband/offended party, just as with murder when it was up to the family either to take wergeld or pursue death penalty. May be, it's also the best, at least in the adultery situation.

    Also, fornication (sex prior to marriage) was never seen much of a crime and it isn't, according to the Bible, though it's a mortal sin as well. Also in early Church period it was quite common I heard to first have a private wedding ceremony and only later go to the priest. Maybe because divorce was so difficult and they wanted to ensure fertility or simply because marriages were then still seen as private family affairs. They also still had slavery/serfdom at that time and that led to concubinage without formal marriage being practiced. The child wasn't considered a bastard though and could inherit.

    1. I've been slowly going through the History of English podcast for the last few months at work. Apparently, a bastard would do just fine for a future king if he was birthed from kingly seed and the official children of the married wife had died off for whatever reason.

  3. William the Conqueror was a bastard. His parents were never married and his mother was of a lower class. Vlad the Great was a son of a Viking prince and his slave. Later the inheritance rules were made much stricter.

  4. But basically an upper class man, especially of a royal line could take any woman he wished. It's understandable they were against criminalisation of adultery. So these complaints about alphas creating harems are simply ridiculous. I mean it's always been the case, so what has really changed?