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Here is an institution which goes right to the heart of the problem of religious history.

It was and is a Christian sacrament; it is the centre of all that is fashionable in social history today; much of the political history of the Middle Ages turned on dynastic schemes and marriages.

They are more likely perhaps to be interested; but it is fundamental to the modern study of religious history that it has been fruitfully pursued by folk of every faith and none.

This means that the Christian faith is a constant inspiration to an historian; but it does not mean that believing Christians have any necessary advantage in the study of religious history, nor of Christian origins.

Just as in the nineteenth century it was historical relativism rather than scientific discovery that induced intellectual doubts about religious claims (it was the realisation that the evidences and structures of Christianity and its Jewish foundations were very like other religious systems found in widely varying societies), so in the twentieth century it has been the analysis of the non-religious reasons for which people hold to religious practice and belief that has dissolved away the priority of 'ecclesiastical' over 'religious' history.

I am myself a medievalist and have spent much time in recent years studying the history of marriage. A Christian who meditates deeply on his faith must be concerned with history in some sense and some degree; for Christianity is an historical religion, inescapably tied to the events of Jesus' life – not to particular interpretations of particular moments in it, nor to a particular theological interpretation of the Incarnation or the Atonement – but, as I once heard a schoolmaster put it to his class, when speaking of the events of Christmas, reverently, hut firmly, 'no baby, no Church'. Christopher Brooke A wider and a deeper interest in other faiths and in comparative religion is one of the happiest developments of modern scholarship, but my own studies have their centre in the Christian Church.Men and women married for money and aggrandisement and security and comfort, and out of gratitude and love.We can even catch some glimpses of the way in which these very different attitudes were brought together in the liturgy and theology of the sacrament.

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Divorce in the modern sense was forbidden by the Church's laws.

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