Bastardy in the Renaissance

The Bible and Holy Scriptures, i.e. the Geneva Bible, trans. William Whittingham, Anthony Gilby, Thomas Sampson (Geneva, 1560):

A bastard shal not entre into the Congregacion of the Lord: euen to his tenth generacion shal he not entre into the Congregacion of the Lord. (Deut., 23.2)

And ye haue forgotten the consolation, whi che speaketh vnto you as vnto chyldren: My sonne, despise not the chastenyng of the Lorde, nether faint when thou art rebuked of hym. For whome the Lord loueth, he chasteneth and he scourgeth euerie sonne that he receiueth. If ye endure chastenyng, God offreth hym self vnto you as vnto sonnes: for what sonne is it whome the father chasteneth not? If therefore ye be without correction, wher of all are partakers, then are ye bastardes, and not sonnes. (Hebrews, 12.5-8)

Then Gileád begate Iphtáh, and Iphtáh the Gileadite was a valiant man, but the sonne of an harlot. And Gileads wife bare him sonnes, & when the womans chyldren were come to age, they thrust out Iphtáh, and said vnto him, Thou shalt not inherit in our fathers house for thou art the sonne of a strange woman. (Judges, 11.1-2)

Peter Martyr, “Of Bastards, and Children Vnlawfullie Borne,” in The Common Places (1576), trans.. Anthony Marten (London: Henry Denham and Henry Middleton, 1583):

Whie would not God haue a bastard to come into the congregation? Not bicause he had béene the woorse man, so that he had liued well; but that the people might know, that God detesteth whooredome…. So then it was not lawfull for bastards to execute the office, either of a tribune, or pretor, or magistrate, or priest…. If Christ vouchsafed that bastards be reckoned in his genealogie, why shall not we then admit them to the ministerie, &c?... After these canons, which be more fauourable vnto bastards, is brought a strong argument on the contrarie part. Whoormongers (saie they) doo séeme to powre in a certeine force into the séed, which passeth also into the children; whereof followe euill inclinations: and thereby are they iudged to be woorse than other, especiallie when they be not corrected in their childhood. Wherefore, if they be promoted vnto the holie ministerie, the church shall be indamaged…. But thou wilt saie, that in the old lawe bastards were excluded from the ministerie. I grant it: neuertheles, we are not now bound to that law; & it was made onlie for the detestation of adulterie. Yet now, if they be able to profit the church greatlie, their election must not be forbidden…. Howbeit, if another borne legitimate, were a suter togither for the same, he should be preferred before the bastard. So thinke I that we must doo in the church; that if anie man be as good, and as apt for the ministerie, being a legitimate borne; let consideration be had to him, before the bastard, who must giue place in that case vnto him that is legitimate. (475-78)