Celibacy Was Not A Required Practice of the Apostles or Early Church

History of Early Christianity 


Although many act like they think otherwise, history and the Bible shows that there was no requirement for celibacy for bishops, presbyters, or other church leaders in the first or second centuries.

Actually, bishops and elders were supposed to have a wife and children to demonstrate they could handle a church as Paul wrote (Roman Catholic approved Rheims New Testament throughout except as otherwise noted):

1.FAITHFUL saying. If a man desire a Bishops office, he desireth a good work.
2. It behoveth therefore a Bishop to be irreprehensible, the husband of one wife,
sober, wise, comely, chaste, a man of hospitality, a teacher,
3. Not given to wine, no fighter, but modest, no quarreler, not covetous,
4. Well ruling his own house, chaving his children subject with all charity.
5. But if a man know not to rule his own house: how shall he have care of the Church of
God? (1 Timothy 3:1-5).

5. For this cause left I thee in Crete, that thou shouldest reform the things that are
wanting, and shouldst ordain priests by cities, as I also appointed thee:
6. If any be without crime, the husband of one wife, having faithful children, not in the
accusations of riot, or not obedient.
7. For a Bishop must be without crime, as the steward of God: not proud, not angry, nor
given to wine, no striker, nor covetous of filthy lucre (Titus 1:5-7).

Note that the term translated as priest in verse 4, presbyter, simply means elder. Also notice that the Bishop is also allowed to be married.

Perhaps I should mention that the Fuller Theological Seminary historian and scholar Nathan Feldmeth believes that since Paul stated that he was a Pharisee, and that Pharisees had to be married, that Paul probably was married once.

Paul specifically confirmed that the apostles had a wife and that he had a right to have a wife in the first century when he wrote:

4. Have not we power to eat and drink?
5. Have we not power to lead about a woman a sister, as also the rest of the Apostles, and our Lords brethren, and Cephas?
6. Or I only and Barnabas have not we power to do this? (1 Corinthians 9:4-6).

While Polycrates confirmed this for the second century when he wrote

Among these are Philip, one of the twelve apostles, who fell asleep in Hierapolis; and his two aged virgin daughters, and another daughter, who lived in the Holy Spirit and now rests at Ephesus…All these observed the fourteenth day of the passover according to the Gospel, deviating in no respect, but following the rule of faith. And I also, Polycrates, the least of you all, do according to the tradition of my relatives, some of whom I have closely followed. For seven of my relatives were bishops; and I am the eighth. And my relatives always observed the day when the people put away the leaven. I, therefore, brethren, who have lived sixty-five years in the Lord (Eusebius. Church History. Book V, Chapter 25).

Polycrates probably would not have been one of a line of bishops if all bishops and church leaders practiced celibacy. Note that since the Apostle Philip had at least three daughters, he could not have practiced celibacy.

Now everyone is aware that Peter had a wife (see Matthew 8:14), but did you know that even Judas had a wife (cf. Acts 1:20, Psalm 109:8-9)?

The Roman Hippolytus notes that in the third century, celibacy was not required for the clergy (and least not by his rival, Roman Bishop Callistus):

About the time of this man, bishops, priests, and deacons, who had been twice married, and thrice married, began to be allowed to retain their place among the clergy (Hippolytus. Refutation of All Heresies, Book IX, Chapter VII. Excerpted from Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume 5. Edited by Alexander Roberts & James Donaldson. American Edition, 1886. Online Edition Copyright © 2005 by K. Knight).

However, over time this changed with the Greco-Roman churches when many who seemed to have a problem with women (with Origen and Tertullian laying the foundation).  And still continues, especially with the Roman Catholic Church (although the Eastern Orthodox require celibacy for bishops, they do not require it for priests).

Articles of possibly related interest may include:

Was Celibacy Required for Early Bishops or Presbyters? Some religions suggest this, but what does the Bible teach? What was the practice of the early church?
The History of Early Christianity Are you aware that what most people believe is not what truly happened to the true Christian church? Do you know where the early church was based? Do you know what were the doctrines of the early church? Is your faith really based upon the truth or compromise?
Women and the New Testament Church Were women important in the New Testament Church? Which women and how were they involved?
Which Is Faithful: The Roman Catholic Church or the Living Church of God? Do you know that both groups shared a lot of the earliest teachings? Do you know which church changed? Do you know which group is most faithful to the teachings of the apostolic church? Which group best represents true Christianity? This documented article answers those questions.
Some Similarities and Differences Between the Orthodox Church and the Living Church of God Both groups have some amazing similarities and some major differences. Do you know what they are?

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