Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
October 10, 1957

"Clerical Celibacy" And God's Word!

Luther W. Martin, St. James, Mo.

The expression "clerical celibacy" simply means "abstinence from marriage in accordance with religious vows," according to the Britannica World Language Dictionary.

However, since the Roman Catholic Church has seen fit to legislate where God has not, concerning this subject, we shall consider the Apostle Paul's writings on the matter. We should carefully consider his writings due to the fact that Catholicism (Roman, not Greek) attempts to use Paul as the basis for her laws against clerical marriage.

Paul To The Corinthians

"I suppose therefore that this is good for the present distress, I say, that it is good for a man so to be. Art thou bound unto a wife? seek not to be loosed. Art thou loosed from a wife? seek not a wife. ". . . But this I say, brethren, the time is short: it remaineth, that both they that have wives be as though they had none ... So then he that giveth her (his virgin daughter) in marriage doeth well; but he that giveth her not in marriage doeth better." (I Cor. 7:26,27,29, & 38.)

Before copying any more of Paul's expression "present distress" and his statement, "brethren, the time is short!" (1) What was the "present distress?" (2) What circumstances caused Paul to warn, "brethren, the time is short?" When you learn the answers to those TWO questions, then you will know WHY Paul remained a single man, and why he urged others to do similarly. "He that is unmarried careth for the things that belong to the Lord. how he may please the Lord: But he that is married careth for the things that are of the world. how he may please his wife." (I Cor. 7:32-33.) Paul also wrote: "But I speak this by permission, and not of commandment. For I would that all men were even as myself. But every man hath his proper gift of God. one after this manner, and another after that. I say therefore to the unmarried and widows, It is good for them if they abide even as I. But if they cannot contain, let them marry: for it is better to marry than to burn." (I Cor. 7:6-9.)

What Was The Present Distress? The Apostle Peter Was Married

"And Simon's wife's mother was taken with a great fever .. . "Luke 4:38. Also Matt. 8:14 and Mark 1:30.

Bishops Were Married Men

"A bishop then must be blameless, the husband one wife . . ." I Tim. 3:2. See also Titus 1:6.

Bishops were To Have Children and Households "One that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity; (For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?)." I Tim. 3:4-5, and Titus 1:6. There is no question whatsoever but what the New Testament Christians were free to decide for themselves, whether to marry or to remain single. We have submitted the above quotations in order to prove that some of the apostles and the bishops (elders, overseers, pastors) were of married men.

What conditions were then present, or would soon come to pass, that would make it more desirable for a person to remain single, rather than married? Christ's warnings to the inhabitants of Jerusalem and Judea and which came to pass in A. D. 70, with the fall of Jerusalem, urged that women not be 'with child,' and woe to them that 'give suck.' The flight; in wild desperation of the Jewish people from their homes was minutely foretold by Christ in Matt. 24th Chapter. They were to pray that their flight be not on the Sabbath Day, since such a condition would impede their progress and escape. We can only conclude that for the Corinthians, a persecution of similar nature was in store, and Paul was warning them in the same fashion as Christ had warned the inhabitants of Jerusalem. In fact, the word translated 'distress' — anagke, is used by Christ in Luke 21:23, wherein He states: " ... woe unto them that are with child, and to them that give suck, in those days! for there shall be great distress in the land, and wrath upon this people." Paul the Apostle, uses this word anagke again in I Thess. 3:7 .. ." ... brethren, we were comforted over you in all our affliction and distress by your faith." Thus, the word appears to carry a special meaning in regard to distress as brought on by persecution.

Paul is thought to have written the First Corinthian letter about 56-57 A. D., and the Neronian persecutions occurred between those dates and the end of Nero's reign, which terminated in 68 A.D These persecutions were not to be construed as Empire-wide bans against Christianity, but reflected the personal attitude and temperament of Nero toward Christians. For the first five years of Nero's rule, no abuse was tendered the Christians. But during the latter portion of his reign, he appeared to take personal delight in subjecting Christians to all manner of tortures. It is known that Nero even brought the torture of Christians to the various provinces of his Empire, as he went from city to city, engaging in the grossest immoralities. It is known that Corinth was one of the cities visited by Nero in this series of debaucheries.

Although it is an apocryphal writing, the first epistle of Clement of Rome to the Corinthians, bears out the persecution or persecutions which befell Corinth. The persecution of Christians by Nero occurred within a decade of Paul's First Corinthian Epistle. And, before the end of the first century, A. D., additional persecutions were heaped upon them by Emperor Domitian. Therefore, Paul was doubly accurate in stressing the fact that "Brethren, the time is short."

In view of the context of Paul's writings, the Roman Church is and has legislated where Paul did not legislate. She is guilty of using the circumstances during a period of distress and emergency, and attempting to apply them for all time to come.