Priestly Celibacy

Priestly Celibacy

By Matt1618

In this paper I will write on the issue of Priestly celibacy. I will take a biblical and historical look at the issue. Here I will address Scriptural passages used on both sides of this discussion, including those Scriptures most often used against priestly celibacy. That will be the first part of this paper. The second part of this paper I will address the issue of how celibacy is a tradition that is apostolic, not merely an invention of the Church. Now it is true that the Eastern rite of the Catholic Church allows married priests. The same goes for the Orthodox Church. Even there though, one can not newly marry after being ordained. Thus, in the Orthodox Church, if one is ordained as a celibate, he must remain a celibate priest. Married priests also can not be elevated to Bishops in either tradition. It is also true that technically, this is a tradition that can be changed to allow married priests. However, this is a tradition that has apostolic roots and most likely will endure as long as the Church exists. When discussing celibacy one will often hear the argument that 'this is a development from way after the apostles, an unbiblical tradition, contrary to Matthew 15 and 1 Tim. 3.’ In this paper, I will address not only the Biblical arguments, but relying on Church Fathers and Councils found in research put forth mostly by Christian Colchini, in his book, The Apostolic Origins of Priestly Celibacy, will argue that priestly celibacy is of apostolic origin, and was not a development centuries after Christ. I will thus look at both Church Fathers and early Councils, that address this issue. I will not put forth all the arguments for priestly celibacy, there are other articles that give the philosophic and other reasons that give an important foundation for it, but here I will focus on the direct Scriptural and historical support for it from a Catholic perspective. No doubt this presentation will be somewhat incomplete but I hope to be thorough in the study of these aspects of the issue. At the end I will give recommendations for further study on the issue of priestly celibacy. Because of the breadth of this study, if you want to look at a more concise paper, retaining all the elements of this paper, but with less analysis and documentation you can visit here:

Celibacy Prior to the New Testament
Jesus’ Teaching on Celibacy
Paul’s Teaching on Celibacy and Marriage
The Early Church and Celibacy
The Eastern Church

Celibacy Prior to the New Testament

Part of the biblical basis for celibacy is Jesus’ own example and words. It is not based on the Old Testament. Jesus’ teaching on the issue as we will see, was definitely something new. However, the Catholic Church does not say that the New Testament can contradict the Old Testament. The Levites ordained themselves as priests in Exodus 32:29 when they slew the idolaters who worshipped the golden calf. The Levites were priests that performed all the rituals that God through Moses commanded in the Old Testament. The requirement was that in order for there to be a passing on of the priesthood, the Levites had to marry and have children. Obviously celibacy was not required nor could it be even optional if the Levitical priesthood was to be passed on by descent. Nonetheless there are some hints of celibacy at specific points in the Old Testament, which can be pointed to as precedents for the discipline that would become evident in the New Covenant.

Moses sets an example. Rabbinic literature shows this:

"Judaism saw nothing wrong in portraying as celibate the great primordial prophet, seer, and lawgiver Moses (though only after the Lord had begun to speak to him). We see this interpretation already beginning to develop in Philo in the 1st century A.D. What is more surprising is that this idea is also reflected in various rabbinic passages. The gist of the tradition is an a fortiori argument. If the Israelites at Sinai had to abstain from women temporarily to prepare for God's brief, once-and- for-all address to them, how much more should Moses be permanently chaste, since God spoke regularly to him (see, e.g., b. Yabb. 87a). The same tradition, but from the viewpoint of the deprived wife, is related in the Sipre on Numbers 12.1 (99). Since the rabbis in general were unsympathetic--not to say hostile--to religious celibacy, the survival of this Moses tradition even in later rabbinic writings argues that the tradition was long-lived and widespread by the time of the rabbis. [1]
Jewish rabbinic literature elsewhere confirms this in its reading of Scripture as well. A Jewish web site that discusses this issue says this:
He separated himself from his wife, because, said R. Simeon b. Yochai, Moses thus reasoned to himself: 'If in connection with Mount Sinai, which was hallowed only for the occasion [of Revelation], we were told: Come not near a woman (Exodus 19:15), then how much more must I, to whom He speaks at all times, separate myself from my wife?'

R. Akiva said: [No!] it was God Himself who told him [to separate himself from his wife], for it says, With him do I speak mouth to mouth (Numbers 12:8)

R. Judah also said that it was told him directly by God. For Moses too was included in the injunction, ' Come not near a woman,' thus all were forbidden; and when He afterwards said: 'Return you to your tents' (Deuteronomy 5:27) He permitted them [to their husbands]. Moses then asked: ' Am I included in them?' and God replied: ‘No; but As for you, stand here by Me' (Exodus 33:28).

Another inference which Moses deduced was this: ‘If God did not speak to me even on Sinai, which was hallowed only for the occasion, prior to calling me,' as it says, And the Lord called to him out of the mountain, saying... (Exodus 19:3), ‘then assuredly He will also call me when He wishes to speak to me from the Tent of Meeting.' [2]

There is no hint in the Old Testament that after Moses was called to service by God, that he ever was intimate with his wife again, and she in fact is rarely mentioned after Exodus 3 at all. There is no mention of new children of Moses that would have generated after his encounter with God. Jewish tradition thus saw Moses as celibate after his encounter with God. We also see in Exodus 19:15 Moses commanding temporary continence of married people (continence is termed for though being lawful to have sex with a wife, they give it up for the sake of God).

We see temporary continence when David and his young men who are on his journey wanted to get food on their journey.

1 Sam. 21:3-6:

3: Now then, what have you at hand? Give me five loaves of bread, or whatever is here." 4: And the priest answered David, "I have no common bread at hand, but there is holy bread; if only the young men have kept themselves from women." 5: And David answered the priest, "Of a truth women have been kept from us as always when I go on an expedition; the vessels of the young men are holy, even when it is a common journey; how much more today will their vessels be holy?" 6: So the priest gave him the holy bread; for there was no bread there but the bread of the Presence, which is removed from before the LORD, to be replaced by hot bread on the day it is taken away.
In fact, Jesus makes a reference to this passage (Mt. 12:1-8), not dealing directly with this issue, as it is dealing with David’s men being hungry and being able to eat that bread which was generally meant for the priests. Jesus emphasized that the letter of the ceremonial law did not always have priority. However, in relevance to this issue, we see here that though David and others were married, they were only allowed to eat the holy bread, if they had refrained from intimacy with their lawful wives. Thus, a basic requirement for consuming bread at least in the immediate sense was to refrain from sex prior to eating the holy bread. This condition that was given to David obviously was relevant to the priests themselves. It is assumed that at some point prior to consuming holy bread some form of continence was required. Of course this would only be temporary continence. Now, if this abstinence from sex prior to the consumption of holy bread was required, why would at least it not point towards something more permanent when the true bread from heaven comes down?

John 6:50-52: .

50 This is the bread which comes down from heaven, that a man may eat of it and not die. 51 I am the living bread which came down from heaven; if any one eats of this bread, he will live for ever; and the bread which I shall give for the life of the world is my flesh."
If the case here is that at least for a short period of time, abstinence from sex was required even for those who are married, why would at least some abstinence not be in the New Covenant, when Jesus gives us the true bread (His Flesh), of much more significance than the ‘holy bread’ of the Old Testament? As Jesus himself says, He is the true living bread, which is His flesh.

Another example of celibacy in the Old Testament is the prophet Jeremiah:

Jeremiah 16:1-2:

1: The word of the LORD came to me: 2: "You shall not take a wife, nor shall you have sons or daughters in this place.
Here Jeremiah is mandated to not take a wife. This command from the Lord was because of Israel’s faithlessness. The Lord was to punish Israel for their unfaithfulness to God. Those who were married would have their children die of deadly diseases , vv. 3-4. Here it is not necessarily put in a positive light, but it does set a precedent. The celibate Jeremiah will be blessed by God if he utters ‘what is precious, and not what is worthless, you shall be as my mouth,’ Jer. 15:19’

Jewish tradition also sees the prophet Elijah and Elisha as celibate:

Elijah and Elisha were celibate all their lives (Zohar Hadash 2:1; Midrash Mishlei 30, 105, Pirke Rabbi Eliezer 33). When for the sake of the Torah (i.e., intense study in it), a rabbi would abstain from relations with his wife, it was deemed permissible, for he was then cohabiting with the Shekinah (the "Divine Presence") in the Torah (Zohar re Gn 1:27; 13:3 and Psalm 85:14 in the Discourse of Rabbi Phineas to Rabbis Jose, Judah, and Hiya). [3]

It is also well known that the Essene community encouraged celibacy. It is often thought that John the Baptist, himself an unmarried and celibate prophet, had contact with the Essene community. What was the Essene community?:

members of a small Jewish religious order, originating in the 2d cent. B.C. The chief sources of information about the Essenes are Pliny the Elder, Philo's Quod omnius probus liber, Josephus' Jewish War and Antiquities of the Jews, and (possibly) the Dead Sea Scrolls. The sect consisted of adult males and celibacy was encouraged…most strict observance of the Sabbath. The Essenes believed in the immortality of the soul. Their practice, common among many Jewish groups, of purification through ritual immersion may have been a significant influence on the development of the rite of baptism in the early Christian church. [4]
Pliny the Younger writes in Natural History 5:18:73 that:
By the western shores [of the Dead Sea], but away from their harmful effects, live a solitary people, the Essenes, wonderful besides all others in the world, being without any women and renouncing all sexual desire, having no money, and with only palm trees as companions. Their assembly is born again day by day from the multitudes, tired of life and the vicissitudes of fortune, that crowd thither for their manner of living. So, for thousands of ages—strange to say—a people, in which no one is born, is eternal, so fruitful for them is the repentance of others for their life! Lying below (infra) these was the town of En Gedi, once second only to Jerusalem in fertility and groves of palm trees, but now like the other, a ruin. After that (inde), Masada, a castle on a crag, itself not far from the Dead Sea, is the end of Judaea.[5]
We thus see that in the immediate preceding years of the time of Christ there was an Essene community that did stress celibacy. Now this specific group is apparently responsible for the Dead Sea Scrolls, which has helped to reveal much about biblical manuscripts among other things.

How does all this relate to priestly celibacy? No doubt as a whole celibacy was not urged. Barrenness in the Old Testament was not seen as a blessing. In Genesis 1:28 God’s people were called to be fruitful and multiply. Nonetheless, as seen in both divine revelation and the history immediately preceding Christ, we see precedent that points to celibacy. First, we saw that Moses, by Jewish scholars and tradition, did not have sex with his wife after his first encounter with God. In order for him to have full intimacy with God, his abstinence from sex with his wife, was conducive for that. We also see in Scripture, Moses mandated that even those married could not go near a woman before they could even approach God. We also saw that people were to be temporarily continent before they could consume holy bread.

Jeremiah is also called in Scripture to dedicate himself exclusively to God and no one else. If mandated celibacy itself is not good, then God himself could not have mandated his celibacy, regardless of the circumstance. Jewish tradition also saw the prophets Elijah and Elijah, though not explicitly stated in Scripture, live celibate lives. Finally, we see an Essene community, in the years immediately preceding and through the time of Christ, practice celibacy as well. Thus, though it was not necessarily widely practiced, there was some precedent for what Christians would later do.

Jesus’ Teaching on Celibacy

The Da Vinci code alleges that Jesus married Mary Magdalene. Of course the Da Vinci code is a lie, but as Jesus was a full human being, and marriage in of itself is a blessing by God, if He would have married someone, there would have been no sin in that. If marriage is always to be preferred to celibacy for those ministers who can devote themselves to the flock, then Jesus should have married. What He is alleged to have done, was not sinful, but the problem of course with Dan Brown’s book and movie, is that this charge is false. He did not marry anybody. He devoted himself totally to His people. Jesus is the prime example of celibacy for all people who also choose celibacy. To those who say it is better to have married clergy, why was Jesus himself celibate? One of the prime ways that we teach is by example. Jesus taught his 12 disciples by His example. He understood that in order to be totally devoted to God and at the service of people, He did not need to be tied down with having a wife and raising children. Having a godly wife (Proverbs 31) and having children (Psalm 127:3-5) are wonderful blessings from God, but that gives responsibilities that very much limits how you can devote yourself to the spiritual nurturing of God’s people.

We know by Jesus’ example that celibacy is a preferable way that a spiritual leader can devote himself to the people. Now let us look at what Jesus spoke of on the issue of celibacy itself. In Matthew 19, Jesus speaks first of the indissolubility of marriage in Matthew 19:2-9. (To look at more of Jesus teaching on marriage and divorce please see this: Jesus On Divorce and Remarriage). The Jews had becoming very liberal in granting divorce and Jesus spoke against that. Jesus called them back to Genesis 1 & 2 to show that what God has joined, it shall never be put asunder (Mt. 19:5-6). After hearing from Jesus the very important dignity of marriage, the disciples, who had apparently been brought up on this easy divorce idea, makes a statement that Jesus responds to:

Matthew 19:10-12:

10 The disciples said to him, "If such is the case of a man with his wife, it is not expedient to marry." 11 But he said to them, "Not all men can receive this saying, but only those to whom it is given. 12 For there are eunuchs who have been so from birth, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by men, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. He who is able to receive this, let him receive it."
The context is that He was speaking about marriage. But here, Jesus is saying for those who do not get married there is another option for those who will serve the kingdom of heaven. Jesus here makes a radical statement. Although we have seen some precedent from the Old Testament for celibacy, Jesus specifically says here that in the new covenant, there are those who will make themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Now the eunuch is someone who is unable to have sex. There are some made that way by others. But here He says that there are those who will make themselves eunuchs, for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Thus, there are specific people, who by God’s grace who for the kingdom of heaven’s sake, become celibate. He says that only some are given this gift. He also says one must be able to choose on their own. This is a special gift that they will offer up to God, for God's service.

Father Thomas McGovern, in his book on the subject points to the fact that the call that Jesus makes here is radical. The Eunuch, either made so, or born that way, was an outcast to the Jews. He points to Old Testament Scripture:

Deut 23:1:

1: He whose testicles are crushed or whose male member is cut off shall not enter the assembly of the LORD.
Father McGovern then notes on Jesus’ comments in Matthew 19:12:
Christ goes further than merely show benevolence. He dares to portray eunuch as a freely chosen state, something unthinkable for Jews, who look on marriage and the procreation of children as a religious obligation, and who considered lack of descendants as one of the greatest misfortunes. In trying to explain why Jesus would use the pejorative word ‘eunuch’, some exegetes suggest that this was probably because Jesus’ enemies had used it about him and his disciples to chide them on their renunciation of marriage. Jewish tradition regarded a celibate as somebody less than a man.[6]
Who is Jesus talking about and to who? Is He himself not only setting the example to the disciples but also speaking directly to them? He knows that the people He is talking to, will be the leaders of His Church. He does not say that they themselves must be eunuchs, but isn’t the example He sets, the pattern for them to follow as well? He gave up marriage for the sake of the kingdom. Though He does not say that they all must be celibate as He is, who else is He speaking to but them? We will see this in the very same chapter, Matthew 19, later on.

Next, let us look at Peter’s very pertinent question to Jesus in 3 places, Mark 10:28-30, Luke 16:28-30 and Matthew 19:27-29. Mark & Luke’s rendition is fairly close so to not repeat, I will just give Luke’s account. I also will give Matthew’s account which follows the passage we just looked at. The reason why I put both of these passages forth is because putting them together gives us a fuller picture on this issue we are speaking of:

Luke 18:28-30:

28 And Peter said, "Lo, we have left our homes and followed you." 29 And he said to them, "Truly, I say to you, there is no man who has left house or wife or brothers or parents or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, 30 who will not receive manifold more in this time, and in the age to come eternal life."
Notice that here Peter says that the disciples have left their homes to follow Christ. Not Peter only, but ‘we’, signifying each of the disciples who followed Christ. Jesus’ answer is that those who have left even wives and children for the sake of the kingdom, will receive many more brethren in the kingdom of heaven both now and in the age to come. Jesus did not contest Peter’s saying that they have left everything to follow Him. Leaving everything thus includes even wives. It most likely doesn’t mean that if one is married, they leave them all by themselves and totally abandon them to their own prerogative. That is condemned in 1 Tim. 5:8. Several options remain, but they all pertain to celibacy/continence. It is possible that it means that per the wife’s consent, they do give up the conjugal life, he goes off on his own for service for the kingdom, and she is put in the hand of the Church for her support. Or it could be that the wife travels with them, but they now live only as brothers and sisters in Christ. Another alternative, and what seems to be most likely is that this means that they give up the right to have a wife and conjugal rights, and they live exactly as Jesus said, making themselves eunuchs for Christ, for the kingdom of heaven. Of course to some disciples it may apply one way and to others it applies another way. Regardless of how Jesus applies this to the apostles, He is not saying pie in the sky stuff. Jesus’ response to Peter pertains directly to the disciples, leaders of His church. However a Protestant spins this, one can not say that Jesus’ saying to the apostles that they leave wives has no relevance to the issue of the celibacy and the marital status of leaders of the Church.

Matthew 19:27-29:

27 Then Peter said in reply, "Lo, we have left everything and followed you. What then shall we have?" 28 Jesus said to them, "Truly, I say to you, in the new world, when the Son of man shall sit on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. 29 And every one who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for my name's sake, will receive a hundredfold, and inherit eternal life.
Here the context in Matthew 19 gives us a little more to draw from than the Luke and Mark passages. We’ve already seen it. Right after we have Jesus mention of the indissolubility of marriage in Matthew 19:1-9, we see Jesus say that not all can accept it, but there are some who will make themselves eunuchs for the kingdom, Mt. 19:10-12. It is not a coincidence that immediately after Jesus speaks about this, and after the encounter with the rich young man, (Mt. 19:16-22), (this part is also found in the Luke & Mark parallel passage) Matthew points us directly to Jesus interaction with Peter here. Notice the contrast, the rich young ruler refused to give up his possessions as he was attached to and unwilling to give them up. Peter says that we have left everything and followed you. Peter does not say ‘We have left everything except our wife & children, because they are coming along.’ Peter says we have left everything to follow you. This clearly shows, especially on the heels of the passage on those who make themselves eunuch for the sake for the sake of the kingdom, that the disciples made themselves eunuchs. Also, what is in this passage that is not noted in the Lucan and Mark texts given above, is that Peter says what then ‘shall we have.’ This is more than just saying what all the disciples did. Jesus’ response is to Peter’s specific question and what will be done for them. This applies to the disciples, who of course, will become the leaders of the Church. In reference to what Jesus specifically said about them, He says that all who do such, will receive many more blessings both now & in the future. Now to the issue of whether the apostles had wives and had sex with them and had children after their call, I will address that in our study of Paul’s writings, in the next section. This will also be discussed on the section on the early Church. Those who push for clergy to be married and have sex most often will quote 1 Cor. 9 and 1 Tim. 3:2, which I will address in the next section, but totally ignore Jesus’ very words in Mark 10, Luke 18, and Matthew 19 (the full background which we have gone over) that clearly speak to this issue.

Paul’ s Teaching on Celibacy and Marriage

Here I want to look at Paul’s teaching on both celibacy as well as his teaching on whether Christian leaders should be married and continue to have sex and children. I will first look at his mention of celibacy, but then take a look at the passages that are often used to say that Paul encourages not only married clergy, but clergy that will have sex with that wife after their ordination, and to be able to produce more children.

1 Corinthians 7:5-9:

5 Do not refuse one another except perhaps by agreement for a season, that you may devote yourselves to prayer; but then come together again, lest Satan tempt you through lack of self-control. 6 I say this by way of concession, not of command. 7 I wish that all were as I myself am. But each has his own special gift from God, one of one kind and one of another. 8 To the unmarried and the widows I say that it is well for them to remain single as I do. 9 But if they cannot exercise self-control, they should marry. For it is better to marry than to be aflame with passion.
The first part is about how husbands should come together with his wife, except for the time of prayer. Satan can tempt through the lack of self control among those who are married. Paul then specifically says that some have a special gift from God to remain single, and thus celibate. He has that gift, to be able to remain single as he does. He even says he wishes all were like him, v. 8. He does not mandate that anybody should have this gift of celibacy, but there are only some who have this gift. He seems to say that those who can not exercise self control should marry. In v. 8 he says those who are single and unmarried should stay that way, just as those who are married should stay that way. Here, those people who are stronger in the faith are those who are able to devote themselves to God fully by being celibate, as Paul is. Those who are stronger in the faith can in effect make themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of God. This is exactly what Jesus was speaking about in Matthew 19:12, 27-29. Although in some sense on a superficial level, Paul does seem to downgrade marriage, it is obviously not his meaning because he even writes that to be married is also a gift, v. 7.

Now, the other fact is that for the sake of prayer, one will by agreement with the spouse give up sex though granted in the text itself it only speaks of a short time. Now, the priest in the Church is in constant prayer with the living God. In the Church he offers the Eucharist on a constant basis. If someone is wholly devoted to God, if someone is married, at the time of Paul’s writing, could not those who had the gift of marriage, not be called to the gift of celibacy that he writes about in verse 7? Why would it be impossible for someone who got married, with the gift of the Holy Spirit, to be able to give up sex with the wife permanently, just so he can totally devote himself to God and his flock? We saw that in the example of Moses.

This outlook will help to understand when Paul writes later about who can be the clergy in 1 Timothy 3.

1 Cor. 7:32-35

32 I want you to be free from anxieties. The unmarried man is anxious about the affairs of the Lord, how to please the Lord; 33 but the married man is anxious about worldly affairs, how to please his wife, 34 and his interests are divided. And the unmarried woman or girl is anxious about the affairs of the Lord, how to be holy in body and spirit; but the married woman is anxious about worldly affairs, how to please her husband. 35 I say this for your own benefit, not to lay any restraint upon you, but to promote good order and to secure your undivided devotion to the Lord.
Although not specifically saying that this is about pastors, the implication is clear. The question that Paul answers here is this: Who do we want as pastors to the flock of Christ? Do we want leaders who are most able to please the Lord, or those whose interests are divided? According to Paul those who most have the ability to be anxious about the affairs of the Lord are those that are unmarried. Those who are married are anxious about worldly affairs. The married man is most anxious to please his wife. Of course Paul writes in Ephesus the obligation of a man to his wife:

Ephesians 5:23-30:

23 For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. 24 As the church is subject to Christ, so let wives also be subject in everything to their husbands. 28 Even so husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 For no man ever hates his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, as Christ does the church, 30 because we are members of his body.
We see here that a good husband needs to love his wife as his own body and nourish and cherish her. See how much Christ gave to His body the Church. He gave everything he had for us, the Church. The sacrifice that He gave for His church, was His very own self. That is the model that Christ gives to us husbands. This is a tall order to fill. If she is upset, the husband must comfort her. Of course then, the rules of how to raise a child are of a tall order as well. Fathers must train up a child in the way he should go, so that when he gets older he will not depart from it, Prov. 22:6. He must discipline his child/children. Now if someone is a leader of his local church, what must happen if someone from his flock has an urgent problem that requires a pastor’s assistance? If the person is in need of spiritual advice/assistance, that need needs to be met. Yes, but his wife also has an urgent need. Well, if I must cherish and nourish my wife, how can I at the same time nourish and cherish the flock? This is what Paul means. Those who are married, their interests are divided. My kid has to be taken to school. To be a good father, I have to make sure he gets his homework done. If my wife has to do everything for my son, I am not assuming the role of a good father, and the wife is neglected. If one has the gift of celibacy that both Jesus refers us to in Matthew 19:12, and Paul writes of in 1 Corinthians 7:7, then the leader can totally devote himself to the work of the flock of Christ. What kind of leader is needed for the church? The kind that Paul and Jesus speak of, when one can totally devote themselves to Christ and His Church, and not having to care for his wife and children.

1 Tim. 3:1-5

1 The saying is sure: If any one aspires to the office of bishop, he desires a noble task. 2 Now a bishop must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, temperate, sensible, dignified, hospitable, an apt teacher, 3 no drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, and no lover of money. 4 He must manage his own household well, keeping his children submissive and respectful in every way; 5 for if a man does not know how to manage his own household, how can he care for God's church?
Here Paul on a superficial look at this passage does seem to indicate one needs to be married, and have children in order to be a ‘bishop’. Of course the idea that this mandates that one must be married would of course do away with his indication that it is best to have those whose focus is undivided, as seen in 1 Cor. 7. Of course Paul can not mean that one has to be married or else not only would he contradict what he said in 1 Corinthians 7, but it would exclude himself from the role of clergy as well. Now, often one will hear a Catholic say, ‘well sexual abstinence was a later development as a requirement from the Church and the Church has the right to make this rule, even if it seems to contradict this passage’. That is granting too much to the Protestant assumption on this text. It just says he is the husband of one wife, so he can’t have more than one wife. It doesn’t say he continues to have sex with her and continues to have new children. That is the Protestant assumption behind the text. Well, the fact is, this Scripture as interpreted by the early Church of the first few centuries, never was understood to give a license to go on having children and continue to engage in sex with one’s wife after ordination. Those closest to the time of Christ, those closest to the early Church that Christ himself established, never gave the slightest hint of the idea that this granted the rights to bishops to continue to have sex and continue to have children after their call. The understanding was that yes there are those who are married that became clergy, but there was a consensus that one can not continue to have children and continue to engage in sex with his wife. They were called to continence. The passage does not indicate that one continues to have sex with his wife and continue to produce children, nor does it imply that. This passage was understood to be that if one is married, that did not stop him from being ordained to the priesthood. Also, a Christian clergy could not remarry if his wife died. All the church understood that if one was married, then one would have to give up sex, of course this has be in agreement with the wife, in line with 1 Cor. 7. This would be for the good of the Church. Now does the passage itself say one must give up sex with his wife? No it does not, however, the fact that early Christians interpreted it this way gives us a much more valid interpretation of 1 Tim. 3 than one totally removed from Paul’s time 1500 to 2000 years after.

Here is St. Ambrose’ take on this passage:

61. And so the Apostle has given a pattern, saying that a bishop must be blameless, (1 Tim. iii.2) and in another place: “A bishop must be without offence, as a steward of God, not proud, not soon angry, not given to wine, not a striker, not greedy of filthy lucre.”(Tit. i. 7). For how can the compassion of a dispenser of alms and the avarice of a covetous man agree together?
62. I have set down these things which I have been told are to be avoided, but the Apostle is the Master of virtues, and he teaches that gainsayers are to be convicted with patience, (Tit. i. 9). who lays down that one should be the husband of a single wife, (Tit. i. 6) not in order to exclude him from the right of marriage (for this is beyond the force of the precept), but that by conjugal chastity he may preserve the grace of his baptismal washing; nor again that he may be induced by the Apostle’s authority to beget children in the priesthood; for he speaks of having children, not of begetting them, or marrying again.
We see here that according to St. Ambrose, even in order to preserve his baptismal grace he must be chaste, which is abstinence from sex. He has already had sex before his ordination, in order to produce children, no doubt. Those who have already had sex, who already had children, as of the time of Paul’s writing, are allowed in the clergy. However, that sex is in the past, not going forward. That is Ambrose’ understanding. If they have sex after the call, they will not preserve the baptismal grace, and is a renunciation of that continence that they are called to. Even if they are married.

St. Jerome takes a look at this passage as well:

For he does not say: Let a bishop be chosen who marries one wife and begets children; but who marries one wife, and (1 Tim. iii. 2, 4; Tit. i. 6) has his children in subjection and well disciplined. You surely admit that he is no bishop who during his episcopate begets children. The reverse is the case—if he be discovered, he will not be bound by the ordinary obligations of a husband, but will be condemned as an adulterer. Either permit Sacerdotes: that is, bishops. priests to perform the work of marriage with the result that virginity and marriage are on a par: or if it is unlawful for priests to touch their wives, they are so far holy in that they imitate virgin chastity. But something more follows. A layman, or any believer, cannot pray unless he abstain from sexual intercourse. Now a priest must always offer sacrifices for the people: he must therefore always pray. And if he must always pray, he must always be released from the duties of marriage. [8]
We can see how Jerome interprets 1 Tim 3 & Titus 1 as even his opponent must admit that the bishop, even if he is married, must not going forward, beget children. Thus, if he is to have sex, he is basically to be an adulterer, even though he is married. They must imitate virgins, even if they are not so. As noted earlier in the passage in 1 Corinthians one must set aside sex for prayer. Even for the married priest, it is a permanent set aside. He is relieved of his duties of marriage. Thus, even the married clergy are called to continence.

Ambrosiaster takes a look at the part which speaks of having children:

Deacons must not have married more than once. . .” (1 Tim 3:12-13) St. Paul comments now on what he had briefly said before with regard to the ordination of deacons. He shows that deacons must also be husbands of only wives, so that one may choose for the service of God those who did not go beyond the limits set by God. For man, God wanted only one woman with whom he would be blessed: no one, if he has a second wife, receives the blessing. If they have raised their children properly and taken good care of their households, I.e., of their slaves or servants, they will become worthy of the priesthood and have assurance in God’s presence; let them know that they will obtain what they ask if they abstain also from the use of marriage…

If the Apostle directs laymen to abstain temporarily from conjugal union in order to attend to prayer, how much more would it be fitting for deacons and priests, who must pray day and night for the people entrusted to them? Therefore they must be purer than the others, because they are God’s representatives. [9]

Ambrosiaster commenting on the same text writes that one can only be married once. If they have children they must be ‘raised properly.’ Most relevant to this study he writes they must abstain from the use of conjugal rights. Also, if they were already married, and their wife dies, his commitment to celibacy must be proved by not marrying again. Since the deacons and priests must pray day and night for their flock, they must be permanently continent

This interpretation of 1 Tim. 3 among St. Ambrose, St. Jerome, and Ambrosiaster, is that it was a call to continence, and did not give license to have sex and produce children. We will see this interpretation of 1 Tim. 3 validated not only by a Pope, but even of Eastern bishops who are venerated Church Fathers.

1 Tim. 4:1-3

1 Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by giving heed to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons, 2 through the pretensions of liars whose consciences are seared, 3 who forbid marriage and enjoin abstinence from foods which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth. 4 For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving;
This passage is often used to say that the practice of celibacy is a doctrine of demons. Also, Protestants will see the Catholic practice of not eating meat on Friday (it is still required although there is a dispensation from that, if one gives up something else on Friday) in conjunction with the practice of mandated celibacy for priests as being of the doctrine of demons. Now here Paul is addressing the Gnostic heresy which condemned both marriage and eating certain foods. Here RJ Foster elaborates:
‘Forbidding others to marry’ behind these prohibitions there may lie the dualistic principles which were already apparent in Asia Minor when this epistle was written and which were part of the Gnostic heresy. St. Paul objects to these prohibitions when they are the outcome of false principles which would regard marriage and certain foods as impure, but he has no objection to abstaining from marriage or to fasting when properly understood and based on sound principles; cf. 1 Cor 7:8 ff.; 2 Cor 6:5; 11:27, 1 Cor 9:27. When the Church bids us fast and abstain she does so, not because she regards certain foods as evil, but to help us to mortify our appetites, to conquer self and so too make spiritual progress.[10]
Unlike the Gnostic heresy that Paul combats here, the Catholic Church does not force anybody into celibacy. The Catholic Church forces nobody to choose to become a priest. It is only mandatory on those who accept the call to service to Christ and his church. Besides that, as noted above, there are instances where Jesus (Mt. 19:12) and Paul (1 Cor. 7:7) call people to celibacy, and they definitely do not teach doctrine of demons. They both teach that this would only be for those who can accept it. We see in the Council of Acts 15, the apostles mandating that one could not eat certain foods. If one was a follower of Christ, they were to abstain from meat offered to idols as well as from blood (Acts 15:29). If the Church can in Scripture mandate people refrain from certain foods, why could the Church not have the same power to do the same with celibacy for priests?

Another interesting passage in this very same letter of Paul to Timothy shows in an infancy stage a specific order of women who are called to and make pledges of celibacy:

1 Tim. 5:4-13:

4 If a widow has children or grandchildren, let them first learn their religious duty to their own family and make some return to their parents; for this is acceptable in the sight of God. 5 She who is a real widow, and is left all alone, has set her hope on God and continues in supplications and prayers night and day; 6 whereas she who is self-indulgent is dead even while she lives. 7 Command this, so that they may be without reproach. 8 If any one does not provide for his relatives, and especially for his own family, he has disowned the faith and is worse than an unbeliever. 9 Let a widow be enrolled if she is not less than sixty years of age, having been the wife of one husband; 10 and she must be well attested for her good deeds, as one who has brought up children, shown hospitality, washed the feet of the saints, relieved the afflicted, and devoted herself to doing good in every way. 11 But refuse to enroll younger widows; for when they grow wanton against Christ they desire to marry, 12 and so they incur condemnation for having violated their first pledge. 13 Besides that, they learn to be idlers, gadding about from house to house, and not only idlers but gossips and busybodies, saying what they should not.
Here Paul discusses different types of widows. Notice from verse 9 forward Paul focuses on a specific subset of widows who are over 60 years of age who are enrolled. Enrolled in what? Enrolled obviously in an order of women who pledge to celibacy and to not marry. The younger ones are more likely to marry so they should not be enrolled. Paul obviously is not speaking of all young widows not being able to enroll, but those most likely prone to remarriage. After all Paul had written in 1 Cor. 7:8, 34-35, 37 that it would be better for the unmarried to stay unmarried. Verse 12 elaborates that they violate the pledge when they marry. Thus, the pledge is obviously celibacy and they live doing what Paul wrote in verse 5. They continue in supplication and prayer night and day, and do good deeds (v. 5, 10). Most likely they assist in care for the poor as well. This passage refutes the idea that the 1 Tim. 4:3 passage excludes making vows of celibacy. Paul writes here of a pledge to not marry as being a requirement of these women. He would not contradict himself within one chapter.

1 Cor. 9:3-6:

3 This is my defense to those who would examine me. 4 Do we not have the right to our food and drink? 5 Do we not have the right to be accompanied by a wife, as the other apostles and the brothers of the Lord and Cephas? 6 Or is it only Barnabas and I who have no right to refrain from working for a living?
This is another passage often used to say that the Church contradicts Scripture. Paul argues that he has the right to take a ‘wife’ as do the apostles. However, let us look at the context. Before he mentions wife, he also mentions do we not have the right to our food and drink? In other words the immediate context is about eating and drinking. And the emphasis on how the apostles are given support, while Paul and Barnababus are eschewing that. What does that have to do with anything? Well, this is speaking about the type of woman who is termed ‘wife’. This ’wife’ helps to provide food and drink. She is an assistant to the Church, not anything about sex being involved at all. Yes, the word ‘wife’ generally means wife, but the context and other translations gives us more information in helping to interpret this passage.

There is a word not translated in the above verse that apparently is in the New Testament, not given in the Revised Standard Version:

King James:
Have we not power to lead about a sister, a wife, as well as other apostles, and as the brethren of the Lord, and Cephas?

Young’s Literal:
5 have we not authority a sister -- a wife -- to lead about, as also the other apostles, and the brethren of the Lord, and Cephas?

Douay Rheims:
Have we not power to lead about a sister, a wife, as well as other apostles, and as the brethren of the Lord, and Cephas?

The Catholic Douay Rheims translation as well as the King James Version as well as the Young ’s Literal translation gives us the word ‘sister’ as immediately preceding the word wife here. The Catholic Douay Rheims Bible translates the above passage exactly as the King James Version as well. The word adelphe, sister precedes the word wife. It might indeed tell us that it is not a wife that we are talking about, but a woman who is as a sister to the apostles. We see that even more by seeing the prior verse, which says that they have the right to food and drink. Apparently these sisters/wives were those who accompanied the apostles and helped them by providing food and drink for them.

Another reasonable alternative is that these were indeed wives, but these wives lived as sisters, adelphe, with them. They acted to help provide for the need for the apostles in food and drink, again, v. 4. Although they were actual wives, they lived as sisters to them. They had renounced the right to sex for the sake of the church. Notice there is no notice of new children coming through the apostles. No mention of children as well, which would be strange, if they did have children, Paul should have insisted that the church had the necessity to support any new children coming from the apostles. Paul does not say, ‘well, do we not have the power to take a wife with us, have sex and produce new children’ with them?' There is absolutely no hint in the gospels, nor in Acts that there are wives who are intimate with the apostles, and they produce new children which hang around.

This is Tertullian’s understanding of the passage:

The rest, while I do not find them married, I must of necessity understand to have been either eunuchs or continent. Nor indeed, if, among the Greeks, in accordance with the carelessness of custom, women and wives are classed under a common name--however, there is a name proper to wives--shall we therefore so interpret Paul as if he demonstrates the apostles to have had wives? For if he were disputing about marriages, as he does in the sequel, where the apostle could better have named some particular example, it would appear right for him to say, "For have we not the power of leading about wives, like the other apostles and Cephas?" But when he subjoins those (expressions) which show his abstinence from (insisting on) the supply of maintenance, saying, "For have we not the power of eating and drinking?" he does not demonstrate that "wives" were led about by the apostles, whom even such as have not still have the power of eating and drinking; but simply "women," who used to minister to them in the same way (as they did) when accompanying the Lord.[11]
This interpretation is that these women only ministered to the apostles in providing food and drink for them, in concert with verse 4.

Another early writer, Clement of Alexandria saw this passage as teaching that these were indeed wives but these women lived as sisters. Now Clement was the only Father who believed Paul was married (I don‘t see how he squares that with 1 Cor. 7, but that is another issue), but that Paul treated her as a sister, not as one who had relations with her.

Even Paul did not hesitate in one letter to address his consort. The only reason why he did not take her about with him was that it would have been an inconvenience for his ministry. Accordingly he says in a letter: "Have we not a right to take about with us a wife that is a sister like the other apostles?" But the latter, in accordance with their particular ministry, devoted themselves to preaching without any distraction, and took their wives with them not as women with whom they had marriage relations, but as sisters, that they might be their fellow-ministers in dealing with housewives.[12]
Clement of Alexandria indicates that these are wives indeed, but they live only as sisters who do not have conjugal rights. Elsewhere he argues that all the apostles except John had wives, but these wives only lived as sisters. He applies the understanding we gave in analyzing Matthew 19:27-29 and Luke 18:28-30, with two interpetations I gave. 1) They had wives who they left, but put them in the care of the Church. 2) They traveled with them, but lived as brothers and sisters. In either case, they did not have sex with them or produce children. The wives helped the church, but did not live as husbands and wives normally do. The apostles were allowed to preach without any distraction the kingdom of God. Thus, there was abstinence from sex even while they were still married. In effect the apostles and their sister/wives were able to still lives as eunuchs for the kingdom of God and devoted themselves to the flock of Christ, not to each other.

St. Jerome and Isidore also treated this passage similarly.[13] What the women did who were attached to the apostles was similar to those noted in the gospels. They assisted the apostles just as they assisted Jesus and the apostles in the gospels.

Lk 8:1-3:

1 Soon afterward he went on through cities and villages, preaching and bringing the good news of the kingdom of God. And the twelve were with him, 2 and also some women who had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities: Mary, called Mag'dalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, 3 and Joan'na, the wife of Chuza, Herod's steward, and Susanna, and many others, who provided for them out of their means.
Women traveled with Jesus and the apostles from the time of Christ. It shows that women traveled with the apostles with absolutely no idea of sex involved at any time. As faithful Christians we do not believe the Mary Magdalene married Christ and had children by him tale. Just as during the time of Christ the fact that women traveled with the apostles, did not indicate that Jesus had sex with Mary Magdalene, neither does the fact that there were helpers, seen as sister/wives, indicate that the apostles had sex with them.

Another important passage in Scripture that was directly neither Jesus nor Pauline but yet New Testament is this:

Revelation 14:3-5:

3 and they sing a new song before the throne and before the four living creatures and before the elders. No one could learn that song except the hundred and forty-four thousand who had been redeemed from the earth. 4 It is these who have not defiled themselves with women, for they are chaste; it is these who follow the Lamb wherever he goes; these have been redeemed from mankind as first fruits for God and the Lamb, 5 and in their mouth no lie was found, for they are spotless.
Here we see the vision of the apostle John. Here he speaks of 144,000 no doubt a symbolic number. But here there are those who have not defiled themselves with women and they are chaste. They do not go over to idolatry. Of course, God sees his whole church as his spouse. In symbolic language throughout the Old Testament, God portrays himself as in a covenant with his people and when the people go back on them, they are seen as committing adultery. No doubt a sense of this is about people being faithful to God as spotless. Hoseah gives us an image of the people’s faithlessness as committing adultery. The contrast in Revelation is this:
In many Old Testament texts (Hos 2:14-21; Jer. 2:2,3,32; Zeph 3:9-13), virginity is a metaphor for fidelity to God; idolatry is associated with prostitution (2:14; Ez 16:23). Babylon is a whole (v.8; 17:4-6) but the Church is the spouse of the Lamb (19:7; 21:2-9). [14]
So we will not say that Revelation 14:4 speaks exclusively of those who are virgins, but it does specifically speak of those who are redeemed from the earth. It does give specific language that involves abstinence from sex. It says that those who have not ‘defiled themselves with women’. Well, if one was married, and he was speaking about general faithfulness to God, one having sex with his wife would not be ‘defiling themselves with women’. That is because it is a blessing and a great thing when the two become one, (Gen. 2:24, Mk. 10:7) and having sex with a married woman is not defiling. A defiling is a sign of unfaithfulness (Heb. 13:4) between husband and wife. However, if it is speaking about virgins, it is also speaking of those who are chaste, who have never touched a woman. This definitively speaks to unmarried virgins faithful to God. If one has taken a vow of celibacy, and turned his back on that vow, that is the defiling. These are those who have not been defiled. This fits a vow of celibacy taken by priests. They are those have been spotless. This is best interpreted both literally and figuratively, as Scripture can have more than one sense, but the primary sense here is of people who have been on the earth, who have not touched a woman, and who have been faithful to the Lamb. This speaks to us of those who have devoted themselves totally to God, and have made themselves eunuchs for the Kingdom of heaven (Mt. 19:12, 1 Cor. 7:34).

The Early Church and Celibacy

Often one hears the argument that the Early Church did not mandate that married priests refrain from having sex with their wives, the Eastern Church has the correct, ‘biblical’ tradition,. The first example often given is Peter, as he specifically is shown as married as there is a mother-in-law mentioned in the Bible. We see her referred to here

Mk 1:30-31:

30 Now Simon's mother-in-law lay sick with a fever, and immediately they told him of her. 31 And he came and took her by the hand and lifted her up, and the fever left her; and she served them.
Look, they say Peter has a mother-in-law and that means he is married!!! Sure, no doubt it infers that Peter had been married. Nonetheless one thing in this reference is strangely silent: There is no mention at all of the wife. If she was still around and alive, traveling with Jesus, and being intimate with Peter, her absence is quite strange to say the least. One thing that is missing is how in the world where the mother in law was just healed from a bad fever, is this same mother-in-law the very one who is serving the apostles, if her own daughter was actually there? If the unnamed wife is still alive, kicking, traveling with the apostles, and having sex with Peter, why does she also not take the time to help serve the apostles? Would she not tell her mother to rest and recover? There is no mention of a wife of Peter anywhere in Peter’s writings, in the Acts of the Apostles which chronicled Peter‘s activities especially from Acts 1-11, and 15. We have already examined Paul’s reference to Peter in 1 Corinthians, which is talking about women who most likely are helpers, just as they were helpers to Jesus in Luke 8:3. What I find most likely is Jerome’s take on the issue:
For the Gospel had no being before the crucifixion of Christ—it was consecrated by His passion and by His blood. In accordance with this rule Peter and the other Apostles (I must give Jovinianus something now and then out of my abundance) had indeed wives, but those which they had taken before they knew the Gospel. But once they were received into the Apostolate, they forsook the offices of marriage. For when Peter, representing the Apostles, says to the Lord: Matt. xix. 27. “Lo we have left all and followed thee,” the Lord answered him, Luke xviii. 29, 30. “Verily I say unto you, there is no man that hath left house or wife, or brethren, or parents, or children for the kingdom of God’s sake, who shall not receive manifold more in this time, and in the world to come eternal life.” But we might say concerning Peter, that he had a mother-in-law when he believed, and no longer had a wife. [15]
We see here that Jerome say that he believed that when Jesus called Peter, Peter’s wife was no longer alive. Another tradition has Clement of Alexandria saying that Peter saw his wife carried away to death in martyrdom[16] Regardless of which was correct, how was Peter’s proclamation that we left everything to follow him and Jesus’ response that to Peter that those who left even wives, give anybody the idea that Peter was going around having sex with this wife who nowhere happens to be mentioned in Scripture? In any case, Jesus pointedly said to Peter every one who has left their wives in order to follow Him will receive many more blessings not only now in the ages to come. If Scripture means anything, then this points to Peter not living a normal conjugal life with an unnamed wife. We have seen that the interpretation of 1 Cor. 9 did not mean that they continued to have sex after, and if they hung around at all, the women were treated as sisters.

There are no doubt varying traditions about what the apostles did as far as wives are concerned. Some say that only Peter had a wife and all others were single, whereas others say only the apostle John never married. There are also some that say the apostles had married before they began to follow Jesus. Only a few said that they had children, but that was all before they began to follow Christ. Christian Colchini did a detailed study of the apostles and their marriages/lack of marriages [17] and there is one thing that his study found that was unanimous:

With the exception of Peter, whose matrimonial status is confirmed by the Synoptics, nothing certain can be said about the apostles. The variety of patristic testimonies confirms that there was no oral tradition of a sufficiently general and constant nature to support that one had had a wife and children while another had been single. There are two exceptions, though: the case of the Apostle John, whom a quasi-unanimous majority recognized as having been a virgin; and that of Paul, of whom a majority of Fathers say that he had never been married or in any case was a widower.

On the other hand if the scriptural texts themselves do not enable us to know what kind of lives the apostles led after their call, the Fathers on their part, are unanimous in declaring that those who might have been married then gave up their marital lives and practiced perfect continence. On this point their common opinion constitutes an authoritative hermeneutics of the scriptural texts in which reference is made to the detachment practiced by Christ’s disciples, especially Mt. 19:27 and Lk. 18:23-30. This opinion echoes the official preaching of the early centuries in the great Christian centers (as early as the end of the 2d century and the beginning of the 3d in Alexandria with Clement, for instance, and in Africa with Tertuillian). As such it is the expression of the collective memory of the apostolic Churches with regard to the example left by the apostles for future generations. It is, to be sure, an argument from Tradition that cannot be overlooked. [18]

So we can see that even though there may have been varying traditions on whether there were wives, there is a unanimous consensus that the apostles who never married started and remained celibate once they followed Jesus. Those who were married, once they followed Jesus did not have sex with them and at the most lived only as brothers and sisters with them .

Now according to tradition, it seems the two James and John never married at all. Simon, Thomas, Thaddeus, Jude Thaddeus, Matthias, there are no mentions of them having any wives at all. Peter seems to have had a wife and a child, as well as Phillip had a wife and children. There only allusions with no hint of authoritativeness that refer to possibly Bartholomew, Matthew and Simon as being married, but if so, were continent. No children are attributed to any of these apostles.

Colchini gives us a record of the married priests and whatever that could be found by ecclesiastical history in the first centuries. There was no doubt some failures as far as continence was concerned, but if there was children by priests after their commitment to the priesthood, there would be scandal. Some married, had children, but when they became ordained priests, as a condition of continuing to be practicing priests, they had to give up sex and a normal conjugal life to serve Christ’s flock.

Now, the first council that reflects the celibacy/continency requirement for those priests who were married is found in the Council of Elvira in Spain, approximately 305 AD, canon 33:

It has seemed good absolutely to forbid the bishops, the priests and the deacons, I.e., all the clerics in the service of the ministry, to have sexual relations with their wives and procreate children; should anyone do so, let him be excluded from the honor of the clergy. [19]
19 bishops and 24 priests had attended this council from the Iberian peninsula. The Church historian Hefele suggests this Council was convened in approximately 305 AD. There is no new proclamation, or any long explanation of why this was. It is assuming that this is a longstanding practice: Even married priests are forbidden to have sex, and are required to have celibate lives. Any sexual relations excludes them from the clergy. There is no indication that anything here is new. There is also a similar canon in the Council of Arles in 314, canon 29, accepted by the bishops that represented Spain, Italy, Africa, Northern Europe. [20]

Council of Nicaea, 325 AD, 3rd canon:

The great Synod has stringently forbidden any bishop, presbyter, deacon, or any one of the clergy whatever, to have a subintroducta dwelling with him, except only a mother, or sister, or aunt, or such persons only as are beyond all suspicion.[21]
We see in the great Ecumenical Council of Nicea, that no clergy at all can have anybody living with one who one might suspect they have sexual relations with. This shows suspicion towards any one who might have sex with the clergy. Thus, sexual activity is not allowed.

Council of Neocaesarea, 304-315 AD, says in canon I:

If a priest marries, he will be excluded from the ranks of the clergy; if he commits fornication or adultery, he will in addition be excommunicated and subject to penance.[22]
This canon speaks of anybody who is already a priest, can not newly marry anybody. This is still even the practice of the Eastern Church, which says that any priest who is unmarried, after ordination can not marry.

The Council of Carthage, 390 AD, canon 3:

Epigonius, Bishop of the Royal Region of Bulla, says: The rule of continence and chastity had been discussed in a previous council. Let it now be taught with more emphasis what are the three ranks that, by virtue of their consecrations, are under the same obligation of chastity, I.e., the bishop the priest, and the deacons, and let them be instructed to keep their purity.

It is fitting that the holy bishops and priests of God as well as the Levites, i.e. those who are in the service of the divine sacraments, observe perfect continence, so that they may obtain in all simplicity what they are asking from God; what the Apostles taught and what antiquity itself observed, let us also endeavour to keep

The bishops declared unanimously: It pleases us all that bishop, priest and deacon, guardians of purity, abstain from conjugal intercourse with their wives, so that those who serve at the altar may keep a perfect chastity.[23]

Notice in all these references there is no idea that what the bishops agreed to was anything new. This is a unanimous decision as well. Bishops, priests, and deacons all had the obligation to chastity. The Carthage Council points us to a previous council, most likely Nicea, although we have given indications from other Councils where continence is demanded. Because they are consecrated, they are called to chastity. We see that because of the service of the divine sacraments as they serve at the altar, they are to abstain from conjugal intercourse. The Old Testament pointed us to temporary chastity. Here, since the priests are offering the sacrifice of the Eucharist on an ongoing basis, and in order for them to totally offer it up to God, they must observe perfect continence. This continence is mandatory not only for singles, but also for married priests. Notice that this is not a new teaching. They make a claim that this is what the Apostles taught and what had been observed from the beginning. Note that this is a unanimous declaration, just as all the other declarations were unanimous. This Council was confirmed by the later Council of Carthage headed by St. Augustine, with 227 bishops in 419 AD.
Of Continence.

Aurelius the bishop said: When at the past council the matter on continency and chastity was considered, those three grades, which by a sort of bond are joined to chastity by their consecration, to wit bishops, presbyters, (priests) and deacons, so it seemed that it was becoming that the sacred rulers and priests of God as well as the Levites, or those who served at the divine sacraments, should be continent altogether, by which they would be able with singleness of heart to ask what they sought from the Lord: so that what the apostles taught and antiquity kept, that we might also keep.[24]

Because they handle the Sacraments, all the bishops, priests and deacons had to be continent.

We also see Pope Siricius in 385 AD, noting that many had disobeyed the apostolic tradition. Some departing from apostolic tradition had sex and referred to the Old Testament Levites as having children, and that is why it was ok for them to disregard the apostolic teaching, and have sex. The Spanish bishop Himereius had written a request asking for the Pope’s judgment on this issue. Some priests and deacons did have sex with their wives and begat children. After noting temporary continence required by Old Testament priests, Pope Siricius wrote: 385 AD:

The Lord Jesus formally stipulated in the Gospel that he had not come to abolish the law, but to bring it to perfection; this is also why he wanted the beauty of the Church whose Bridegroom he is to shine with the splendor of chastity so that when he returns, on the Day of Judgment, he will find her without stain or wrinkle, as his Apostle taught. It is through the indissoluble law of these decisions that all of us, priests and deacons, are bound together from the day of our ordination, and [held to] put our hearts and our bodies to the service of sobriety and purity; may we be pleasing to our God in all things, in the sacrifice we offer daily.[25]
The above was a part of Pope Sircius’ response to the Spanish bishop. This was called the Directa decretal. Here, Pope Siricius proclaims that what he is teaching is an apostolic teaching, an indissoluble law.

Pope Siricius, then addresses a similar question a year later, in 386 AD:

Moreover as it is worthy chaste, and honest to do so, this is what we advise: let the priests and Levites have no intercourse with their wives, inasmuch as they are absorbed in the daily duties of their ministries. Paul, when writing to the Corinthians, told them: “Leave yourself free for prayer” (1 Cor. 7:5). If lay people are asked to be continent so that their prayers are granted, all the more so a priest who should be ready at any moment, thanks to an immaculate purity, and not fearing the obligation of offering the sacrifice or baptizing. Were he soiled by carnal concupiscence, what could he do? Would he excuse himself? With what shame, in what state of mind would he carry out his functions?

Perhaps does one believe that this is permitted because it is written: ‘He must not have been married more than once” 1 Tim. 3:2). But Paul was not talking about a man persisting in his desire to beget; he spoke about the continence that one should observe [propter continentiam futuram]. He did not accept those who were not beyond reproach in this matter, and he said: “He should like everyone to be like me” (1 Cor. 7:7). [26]

The above is a “cum in Unum” Decretal of Pope Siricius. Pope Siricius is noting Paul’s writing in 1 Corinthians that taught celibacy. Here there was a Roman synod that had a council of 80 bishops where Pope Siricus sent to the sees of various provinces. Here is the reading of 1 Tim. 3:2, that shows that this was a call for continence. This goes in line with the other Father's interpretation of 1 Tim. 3:2. The idea that this mandated bishops to marry and even gave them the option to have sex and to go on having children is the farthest thing from the mind from not only Pope Siricius, but also any of the bishops.

The Eastern Church

We have already seen St. Clement of Alexandria, although he believed that some of the apostles were married, saw them as accepting continence, and did not have the option to have sex while married. We have already seen that the Council of Nicea, of course accepted by the Eastern Church, forbade sex by priests even if they were married. The Eastern Church of course accepted the first Ecumenical Council. Thus, the Eastern Church as of that time, accepted continence. We have seen from the East, the Council of Neocaesarea, 304-315 AD, requiring continence. Another important reference to this is the Armenian Church:

If we remember that Caesarea was then in close communion with Rome, and that the Church of Armenia partook, through her intervention, as though her particular life, of the same “consanguinity of doctrine” with the see of Peter, we are normally let to ourselves whether the Armenian Akatholikos of the 4th century are not, from the historical viewpoint, privileged witnesses to the fact that there was then in the East a rule of continence identical to that which was observed, as we have seen, in certain Western Churches. [27]
Next we will see further witness of St. Epiphanius of the see of Constantia, bishop, 367-403. He wrote in Panarion Heresy 48,
And indeed, through a certain balance, the Word of God who said in the Gospel “if you want to be perfect“, condescending to the manner in which men were fashioned and to their frailty, assuredly rejoices with those who can manifest their piety by choosing to practice virginity, chastity, and continence, but [also] honors monogamy; and as if he prefigured precisely the charisms of the priesthood [by choice] of former monogamists practicing continence of men living continually in virginity, it is in the same way that the apostles regulated, with wisdom and sanctity, the ecclesiastical canon of the priesthood.[28]
We see from St. Epiphanius that those who were married had to practice continence, just the same as those unmarried. This according to St. Epiphanius is apostolic teaching.

St. John Chrystom, the great Bishop of Constantinople wrote in his commentary on Paul’s epistle to First Timothy, 393-397 AD:

“A Bishop then,” he says, “must be blameless, the husband of one wife.” This he does not lay down as a rule, as if he must not be without one, but as prohibiting his having more than one…

If then “he who is married cares for the things of the world” (1 Cor. vii. 33.), and a Bishop ought not to care for the things of the world, why does he say the husband of one wife? Some indeed think that he says this with reference to one who remains free. He seems to mean without a second marriage. See 1 Cor. vii. 27. An old Latin translation has this expressly. The reading is not quite certain. from a wife. But if otherwise, he that hath a wife may be as though he had none. (1 Cor. vii. 29.) For that liberty was then properly granted, as suited to the nature of the circumstances then existing. And it is very possible, if a man will, so to regulate his conduct. For as riches make it difficult to enter into the kingdom of Heaven, yet rich men have often entered in, so it is with marriage.[29]

Here is yet another interpretation of 1 Tim. 3:2 where the bishop is to live as though she is not his wife. None has the Protestant view that this allows for husbands to not only have normal married lives, but they continue to have sex and continue to produce children after their ordination. He must live as though he is no longer married.

Isidore of Pelusium, called by Cyril of Alexandria his Father, writes:

As to those who have received the crown of the divine priesthood and who have truly deserved the presidency, if they still keep bodily chastity, they are the holiest of all. For as was the case in the Old Covenant, only the priests offered sacrifices, whereas at the time of Passover all were somehow honored [because each one immolated a lamb] such is the case in the New and perpetual [Covenant] when all who are permitted to offer it exercise in a special way the liturgy of the unbloody sacrifice. Each one is ordered priest of his own body, not in order to claim power over others, if he has not received the imposition of hands, but to transform his whole body-by mastering his passions-into a sanctuary or temple of chastity. [30]
In The Doctrine Aeddei (400), there is an apocryphal account which Jesus sent Thaddeus, one of the 72 as noted in Luke 10:1:
He has carefully prescribed [to his clerics] to keep their bodies in purity and sanctity, as befits men standing in the presence of God’s altar..All those who were devoted to the ecclesiastical service, men and women, were chaste, prudent, holy, and pure, because they lived separately [from one another] and [lived] chastely and without stain. [31]
Though no doubt this account is apocryphal, it still gives witness to the fact that priests/bishops are called to chastity. This is giving Jesus' authority to the chastity that he spoke of in Matthew 19:12. The East accepted this.

We can also see St. Jerome, calling on the carpet Vigilantius, who was in support of a party that would only ordain married people. Look at the language and St. Jerome’s focus on what the East’s tradition was on the issue:

Shameful to relate, there are bishops who are said to be associated with him in his wickedness—if at least they are to be called bishops—who ordain no deacons but such as have been previously married; who credit no celibate with chastity—nay, rather, who show clearly what measure of holiness of life they can claim by indulging in evil suspicions of all men, and, unless the candidates for ordination appear before them with pregnant wives, and infants wailing in the arms of their mothers, will not administer to them Christ’s ordinance. What are the Churches of the East to do? What is to become of the Egyptian Churches and those belonging to the Apostolic Seat, which accept for the ministry only men who are virgins, or those who practice continency, or, if married, abandon their conjugal rights? [32]
We see Jerome's witness that the Eastern churches would not accept any idea of priests being married and having sex. They would accept those were married but only if they abandon their conjugal rights. Jerome sees this mandate as Christ's ordinance. It is wickedness, according to Jerome's take on the Eastern tradition, to see otherwise.

Council of Carthage 419 AD:

CANON III. Of Continence. :

AURELIUS the bishop said: When at the past council the matter on continency and chastity was considered, those three grades, which by a sort of bond are joined to chastity by their consecration, to wit bishops, presbyters, and deacons, so it seemed that it was becoming that the sacred rulers and priests of God as well as the Levites, or those who served at the divine sacraments, should be continent altogether, by which they would be able with singleness of heart to ask what they sought from the Lord: so that what the apostles taught and antiquity kept, that we might also keep.

Of the different orders that should abstain from their wives.
FAUSTINUS, the bishop of the Potentine Church, in the province of Picenum, a legate of the Roman Church, said: It seems good that a bishop, a presbyter, and a deacon, or whoever perform the sacraments, should be keepers of modesty and should abstain from their wives.
By all the bishops it was said: It is right that all who serve the altar should keep pudicity from all women.

Concerning bishops and the lower orders who wait upon the most holy mysteries. It has seemed good that these abstain from their wives.

AURELIUS, the bishop, said: We add, most dear brethren, moreover, since we have heard of the incontinency of certain clerics, even of readers, towards their wives, it seemed good that what had been enacted in divers councils should be confirmed, to wit, that subdeacons who wait upon the holy mysteries, and deacons, and presbyters, as well as bishops according to former statutes, should contain from their wives, so that they should be as though they had them not and unless they so act, let them be removed from office. But the rest of the clergy are not to be compelled to this, unless they be of mature age. And by the whole council it was said: What your holiness has said is just, holy, and pleasing to God, and we confirm it.

What clerics should abstain from their wives.

MOREOVER since incontinence has been charged against some clergymen with regard to their own wives it has seemed good that bishops, presbyters, and deacons should according to the statutes already made abstain even from their own wives; and unless they do so that they should be removed from the clerical office. But the rest of the clergy shall not be forced to this but the custom of each church in this matter shall be followed. [33]

The Council of Carthage of 419 is the supposed precedent used by the Council of Quinisext in Trullo, canon XIII, in 692 AD, convoked by Eastern Bishops to rationalize the departure from the tradition which we have seen. The Council of Trullo partially quoted from the above Carthage of Carthage canons. However, I have given the full quotes from all the canons referred to in canon XIII . Canon III from Carthage shows that for all those clergy who touch the sacred mysteries, that they were to permanently practice continence. This is what the apostles and antiquity taught. Not temporarily, but permanently. Canon IV also says that all classes, deacons, priests and bishops are commanded to not have sex with their wives. If they are married, they are to refrain from sexual intimacy from their wives. Bishops and lower clergy are to refrain from their wives, canon XXV. Finally, canon LXX speaks of bishops, all deacons and priests, to refrain from intimacy with their wives but if they are not, they should be expelled from their office. That basically is what these canons of Carthage speak of. That is what the Fathers saw that the apostles and antiquity taught. Now, we will see what the Council of Trullo does with these canons to begin their own tradition of priests being able to not only marry, but after their ordination, continue to have sex and continue to have intimate relations with their wives. We have seen from the Fathers and Councils preceding Carthage and Carthage itself, that though having wives was not a bar from the ministry, once one was ordained, the apostolic tradition was that one can not have sexual intimacy with their wives any more..

The next quotation I will quote is from the Eastern Council of Quinisext in Trullo, 690 AD, canon XIII. There are other canons within Quinisext that deal with thes issue of priestly celibacy and marriage, but this is the one with a great difference between the East and Rome and the West. I will break it up into two parts. The first part is its introduction to the change in practice and its criticism of the Roman Church.

Canon XIII.

Since we know it to be handed down as a rule of the Roman Church that those who are deemed worthy to be advanced to the diaconate or presbyterate should promise no longer to cohabit with their wives, we, preserving the ancient rule and apostolic perfection and order, will that the lawful marriages of men who are in holy orders be from this time forward firm, by no means dissolving their union with their wives nor depriving them of their mutual intercourse at a convenient time. Wherefore, if anyone shall have been found worthy to be ordained subdeacon, or deacon, or presbyter, he is by no means to be prohibited from admittance to such a rank, even if he shall live with a lawful wife. Nor shall it be demanded of him at the time of his ordination that he promise to abstain from lawful intercourse with his wife: lest we should affect injuriously marriage constituted by God and blessed by his presence, as the Gospel saith: “What God hath joined together let no man put asunder;” and the Apostle saith, “Marriage is honourable and the bed undefiled;” and again, “Art thou bound to a wife? seek not to be loosed.”

Here we see that a departure from tradition, (while claiming to uphold tradition) that has not been started by Rome but upheld by Rome, that which had been accepted in the East as well as Western traditions. Trullo said the Roman church said that one could no longer cohabit with their wives. The Church just said that once ordained they could no longer have sex. The Church did not say that they would dissolve the union, but that they would only live as brother and sisters, just as the apostles taught and lived. The Council thus created a straw man by saying that the Roman church demanded divorce, which of course it did not.

Next, we continue in Canon XIII with the East’s innovation and claim to antiquity with that claim:

But we know, as they who assembled at Carthage (with a care for the honest life of the clergy) said, that subdeacons, who handle the Holy Mysteries, and deacons, and presbyters should abstain from their consorts according to their own course [of ministration]. So that what has been handed down through the Apostles and preserved by ancient custom, we too likewise maintain, knowing that there is a time for all things and especially for fasting and prayer. For it is meet that they who assist at the divine altar should be absolutely continent when they are handling holy things, in order that they may be able to obtain from God what they ask in sincerity.

If therefore anyone shall have dared, contrary to the Apostolic Canons, to deprive any of those who are in holy orders, presbyter, or deacon, or subdeacon of cohabitation and intercourse with his lawful wife, let him be deposed. In like manner also if any presbyter or deacon on pretence of piety has dismissed his wife, let him be excluded from communion; and if he persevere in this let him be deposed.[34]

In all of the 4 canons from Carthage, they said that not only deacons, priests, but also bishops, all of them claimed that the tradition from antiquity was that those who were married had to abstain from sex with their wives. Canon III from Carthage said because of the handling of the sacred mysteries they had to be continent altogether. Not only when they preside over the sacraments, but they were to be continent altogether. However, in Trullo’s rendition there are two major differences. First, there is a mention of the ministers only being continent when they handle the sacramental mysteries. Thus, only a temporary continence, basically the same as the Old Testament Levite only temporary continence. This instead of the permanent continence altogether as mentioned in Carthage and prior councils. Next, Trullo leaves out the word bishop. The East wanted to rationalize that deacons and presbyters could have sex, but that bishops could not have sex. The East, then and now say that bishops can not have sex. In Carthage, it speaks of bishops, deacons and priests (or presbyters). In Trullo, the bishops were specifically excluded from this rendition of the Carthage canon, with no explanation. That is because the Council did not want to note the difference that their demand of bishops is different from what was demanded of priests/deacons. That was not reflected in Carthage. Carthage made no distinctions, while Trullo made such distinctions. Then, after these huge changes, the Eastern bishops then claimed that it was only upholding the ancient tradition. Well, we have seen that any look at the Carthage and Trullo canons, shows that the East is the one who departed from tradition, not Rome.


In this paper I have demonstrated several things. The first half of this paper went over the Scriptural basis for celibacy. We saw in the Old Testament and pre New Testament times, continence from Moses after his encounter with God. Scripture spells out Jeremiah’s celibacy while Jewish tradition also recognized Elijah and Elisha’s celibacy. We also saw temporary continence from sex even for the Levitical priesthood, that could only be temporary because of the need for the Levitical tribe to pass on through descent priestly service. We also saw the Essenes encouraging celibacy among Jews.

Next we saw that both Paul and Jesus lead by example in celibacy. Following upon the celibate John the Baptist, Jesus and Paul both taught by example that the most excellent way to lead is to be celibate. After pointing out the indissolubility of marriage Jesus specifically says that there are those who follow Him who will make themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of God (Mt. 19:12). This was a radical teaching and probably refers to the fact that Jesus and his disciples made themselves eunuchs. Immediately after Jesus spoke to the rich man who refused to give up his possessions in order to follow Christ, Peter declares that he left everything to follow Him. In other words they had made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven. Jesus then says that they will for reward inherit many things both now on earth and in the age to come (Mt. 19:26-29). In Luke’s rendition of Jesus’ response not only does it reflect Peter‘s declaration that he left everything to follow Him, but Jesus specifically said that every one who left even wives to follow Him, will receive many more blessings (Lk 18:28-30). This is what Jesus was looking for when He called for His disciples. Also we saw Paul’s commendation of celibacy. Who is the most able to serve Christ? Also, who by implication should lead the Church? Those who are thus stronger in the faith (1 Cor. 7:7-8) and whose interest can be devoted solely to the Lord, (1 Cor. 7:32-39). That is those whose interests are undivided are those that are unmarried and single. Now it is true that Paul wrote that a bishop could have a wife (1 Tim. 3:2), but we see that nowhere does Paul write that they continue to have relations with their wives and continue to procreate children after their ordination. We saw a unanimity of the early Church seeing this passage as teaching continence. The passage which speaks about the Apostles as having wives, looking at the passage in context (1 Cor. 9:4-6) showed that those termed wives, either were sisters in Christ who helped the apostles, or were actual wives who lived as brothers and sisters. The early Church saw it as unanimous that the apostles made themselves eunuchs, and either were single, or if they married, refrained from sexual intimacy so they could be undivided in service for their Lord. The Church in Scripture has the authority to make such decisions (Mt. 18:18, Acts 15:25-29).

The second half of this paper went into analysis of the early church on celibacy. The early Church worked hard to maintain the tradition of the apostles. That tradition was celibacy, either virginity and maintaining virginity, or if one was married before one was ordained, they were called to continence. Those who were married were expected to give up the conjugal life for the sake of the Church. We took from Christian’s Colchini references and the Schaff Nicene & Post Nicene Fathers writings of many Fathers and Councils which affirmed that teaching as apostolic.

Finally, we saw the East which would of course accept the teaching of Nicea which commanded continence for those in the clergy. We saw Eastern Fathers refer to this need to accept continence. We saw Pope Siricius’ interpretation of 1 Tim. 3 reflected also in the East by important Eastern Fathers such as St. Epiphanius and St. John Chyrsostem and Eastern Councils. Of course ultimately the Council of Trullo in the late 7th century departed from the teaching/tradition of the apostles while still claiming to follow that very tradition. It cited only parts of the Council of Carthage because all of the canons of Carthage dealing with the issue mandated permanent continence/celibacy for all, priests (sometimes termed presbyters), deacons and bishops with no distinctions while the East insisted on allowing priests and deacons for sexual intimacy while leaving out the mention of bishops. The East did retain the tradition of one not marrying after ordination and bishops not being able to have sex after their ordination.

The Church made the ultimate judgment in the 12th century that priests would be better off not being married at all. The Church eventually saw that there would be some stress on someone being married having to give up sex and was not easy on both parties. However, this teaching about having to be celibate was not a new man-made tradition, but a teaching that was founded on Scripture and apostolic teaching.

Recommendation for Further Reading


The following are books that I have read and can recommend on the issue:

Christian Cochini, S.J., Apostolic Origins of Priestly Celibacy, San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1990, 439 pages. I recommend this book most for this issue but as it is long you need to have time to digest this book. This gives a thoroughly historical look at this issue. He gives many references to both sides of the issue at the very beginning of the book for further research. He looks at Eastern and Western Church Fathers, takes a look at all the Councils, many of which I did not even refer to in this paper. He looks at what traditions there are about the apostles in reference to marriage, and gives a list of all the Clerics that were married from the first to the seventh centuries and what could be found about them in reference to this issue. He also gives the writings of many of the Fathers from the East and West. He also takes a look at all the Councils that deal with this issue from the 4th through 7th centuries. There is a library of information in this book and points one to even more exhaustive studies on this if one wants to.

Alfons Stickler, The Case for Clerical Celibacy: Its Historical Development and Theological Foundations , Ignatius Press, San Francisco, CA, 1995, 107 pages . I did not use this book for references basically because the references here are found in more depth in the Cochini book, but for someone who has much less time, this book is a smaller, but still thorough look at the issue. It gives an historical look at the issue, but is more concise. This is still a good guide, given that it is less comprehensive than Colchini’s book.

Thomas McGovern Priestly Celibacy Today Scepter Publishers, Princeton, NJ, 1998, 233 pages. This also looks at celibacy in a historical sense. It also gives the Scriptural foundations of celibacy in chapter 2 which gives more reasoning than the ones which I focused on in this paper, which spoke directly of celibacy. Here many biblical aspects of the part of celibacy that give a foundation for the teaching that I did not touch on here. He has chapters dealing with the theology of celibacy and anthological considerations as well as objections to celibacy.

Papal Encyclicals on the Issue

Pope Paul VI, SACERDOTALIS CAELIBATUS, The Celibacy of the Priest, June 24, 1967, available online at:

Pope Pius XI, AD CATHOLICI SACERDOTII, On the Catholic Priesthood December 30, 1935, available online at

John Paul II, PASTORES DABO VOBIS, I Will Give you Shepherds, March 25, 1992, online at:


[1] A Christian Think Tank Web site, Did Jesus lie about not being married

[2] Jewish, Gates to Jewish Heritage, Ki Tissa: Why Moses Remained Celibate

[3] EWTN site, THE PERPETUAL VIRGINITY OF MARY, Br. Anthony Opisso, M.D.

[4] Essenes. (n.d.). The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia. from website

[5] History and the Essenes.

[6] Thomas McGovern, Priestly Celibacy Today, Scepter Publishers, Princeton, , 1998, pp. 78-79.

[7] St. Ambrose, Letter LXIII, 61, 62, To the Church at Vercellć. . AD 393-395, Philip Schaff and Henry Wace, Nicene and Post Nicene Fathers, Second Series (Heretofore cited as NPNF2 for the 2nd series & NPNF1 for 1st series), Vol. 10, (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1953), p. 465, available here: referred to in the following book that I will be referencing, Christian Cochini, S.J., Apostolic Origins of Priestly Celibacy, (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1990), p. 234.

[8]St. Jerome, Against Jovinianus, I:34, 393 AD, Schaff , NPNF2, Vol. 6, pp. 371-372 available here: referred to in Cochini, pp. 294-295.

[9] Colchini, pp. 222-223, Ambrosiaster, Commentary on the 1st epistle to Timothy, 366-384 AD

[10] R.J. Foster, ‘The Pastoral Epistles, 1 Timothy’, Bernard Orchard, ed., The Catholic Commentary on Holy Scripture, Thomas Nelson & Sons, New York, 1953, pp, 1146-47

[11] Tertullian, On Monogamy, 8, 213 AD. Schaff , Anti Nicene Fathers, (hereto referred to as ANF) Vol. 4, p. 65, available here: referred to in Cochini, ibid., p. 80.

[12] St. Clement of Alexandria, Stromata 3:53, 202 AD, found in Schaff series is Latin Only, referred to in Cochini, ibid., p.80.

[13] Cochini, pp. 80-81, referring to St. Jerome, Against Jovianus, I:26, 393 AD, & Isidore of Pelusium, 435 AD, Ep III, 176.

[14] Raymond Brown, Joseph Fitzmyer, The Jerome Biblical Commentary, Prentice Hall, Inc., Englewood Cliffs, NJ, 1967, 177 p. 484.

[15] St. Jerome, Against Jovinianus, I:34,. 393 AD, Schaff , NPNF2, vol. 6, pp. 371-372, available here: referred to in Cochini, op. cit., p. 67.

[16] St. Clement of Alexandria, Stromata 3:11, 202 AD, Schaff, ANF, Vol. 2, p. 541 , found in : found in Colchini., p.80.

[17] Colchini, pp. 66-83.

[18] Colchini, p. 83.

[19] Colchini, p. 159, The canons of the Elvira Council available here: .

[20] Colchini, pp. 161-168, discussion of this canon and its validity.

[21] Council of Nicea. AD 325, Schaff, NPNF2, vol. 14, p. 11, also found online at referred to in Colchini, p. 185.

[22] The Council of Neocaesarea., circa AD 315, Schaff, NPNF2, vol. 14, p. 79, also found online at referred to in Colchini, p. 177.

[23] Colchini, p. 5.

[24] Council of Carthage, 419 AD, quoting Council of Carthage, 390 AD, Schaff, NPNF2, Vol. 14, p. 444, also available online at

[25] Colchini, p. 9.

[26] Colchini, p. 11.

[27] Colchini, p. 176.

[28] Colchini, p. 227.

[29] St. John Chrysostem, Homilies on Timothy, Homily X, Chap 11, , 392-397 AD Schaff, NPNF1, vol. 13, p. 439, found in : referred to in Colchini., p. 292.

[30] Colchini, p. 301.

[31] Colchini, pp. 312-313.

[32] St. Jerome, Against Vigiliantus, 2, 406 AD, Schaff, NPNFI, vol. 13, p. 418, found in : referred to in Colchini., p. 292.

[33] Council of Carthage, AD 419 AD, canons III, IV, XXV, and LXX, Schaff, NPNF2, vol. 14, pp. 444, 445, 451, 478, found in, referred to in Colchini, p. 407

[34] Quinisext, Council of Trullo, AD 692, canon XIII, Schaff, NPNF2, vol. 14, p. 371, found in, referred to in Colchini, p. 407

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