Married priests: how to explain 1 Timothy 3:2

1 Timothy 3:2 reads -

“Now a bishop (priest) must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, temperate, sensible, dignified, hospitable, etc, etc…”

Now, I believe and defend the Roman Catholic’s teaching on priests not getting married, however, how should we explain this one to “Sola scriptura” lovers??

Actually, my understanding is that the Church position that Priests not be married is not part of the Deposit of Faith or alleged to be a scriptural prohibition, but rather is a tradition which the Church has determined allows the Priest’s attention not to be divided and is based, in part, on Paul’s asserted preference for the life of celibacy.

So - (i) the Church position could change in the future (though not likely) without being a change in a doctrine of faith and (ii) the Church is not saying that married priests are not permitted as a matter of scripture (in fact, there is a procedure in the Church for exception and indeed several Anglican Priests who have crossed the Tiber while married have been ordained as Priests, although married).

Blessings,

Brian

One is the maximum number of wives the Bishop should have; it’s not a strict requirement that he be married.

Remember, St. Paul was a Bishop, and so was Timothy, but as far as I know, neither of them were ever married. So, if St. Paul was requiring St. Timothy only to ordain married men, then what happens to Timothy himself, for not being married - or to St. Paul? Do we excommunicate them? :shrug: :stuck_out_tongue:

The discipline of the Church later changed in favour of celibacy for various different very good reasons, some of which haven’t gone away. I expect we will continue to see a majority celibate priesthood throughout our own lifetimes.

It is a discipline, following Paul’s example. He said ‘Do I not have the right to marry like the other Apostles’ But he remained celibate for the sake of the Church, for He said a married man will be divided, first how he may please his wife, then how he may work for the church. We acknowledge that the Eastern Orthadox churches have valid ordination and permit a married man to become a priest, It is possible for the Church to change this discipline, just not likely.

Well, if they did marry, the wife better have her own money!

Just imagine if the parish had to support a few priest wives. Food, clothing, a place to live. Think about that. I sure would do my just share to support the parish. Would everyone? You tell me. Putting a dollar bill in the plate on Sunday is not going to cut it.

If there were several priests in the parish, would you expect all six to live together, with there children. Thats three homes. All furnished.

Don’t forget the kids. They need to be fed and clothed in a proper fashion. Books, toys, the whole nine yards. All the money will have to come out of the plate.

How is that going to work? Whats your opinion.

If I was talking to a “Sola scriptura” who was challenging my Catholicism with this passage, I would at some point pose a couple of questions to them:

  1. Do you have bishops in your denomination?
  2. If their answer is “No”, then I would ask “Why not”? (since the office is established in Scripture)
  3. If their answer is “Yes”, then I would ask if they obey Paul’s directive that bishops can be married only once (no remarriage after becoming a widower, or after a divorce.)

After all, they are the ones who preach sola scriptura, not Catholics.

Nita

“Actually, my understanding is that the Church position that Priests not be married is not part of the Deposit of Faith or alleged to be a scriptural prohibition, but rather is a tradition which the Church has determined allows the Priest’s attention not to be divided and is based, in part, on Paul’s asserted preference for the life of celibacy.” -Brian (sorry, I haven’t figured out how to quote things)

Hi Brian,

I really liked your opinion on this matter and it will help a lot in the future. I only have one question/thing to say, I’ve read places where Sola Scriptura “lovers” use the verse Matthew 15:1-9 to say that Jesus was against traditions of man, and I know that if I use your opinion to help, I’m just going to get that verse thrown in my face. So how would I defend myself against that verse?

Thank you,

Zach

“Husband of one wife” means polygamy is forbidden. He cannot be the husband of multiple wives. Catholics agree that polygamy is forbidden under the New Covenant.

We do not believe the verse requires marriage — only that it forbids polygamy. As St. Paul himself was single, it’s illogical to assume he was requiring clergy to marry.

If your friends think this verse means marriage is mandatory for the clergy, ask whether Rev. Billy Graham should have quit preaching the day his poor wife died a couple of years back, since at the moment she died, he no longer was the “husband of one wife.” That’s absurd.

In Matthew 15 Jesus is talking about the tradition of the elders which is the body of detailed, unwritten, human laws regarded by the scribes and Pharisees to have the same binding force as that of the Mosaic law. This is not the same as Holy Tradition which is the oral teachings that were passed on to us by Christ. Take a look at 2 Thessalonians 2:15, “Therefore, brothers, stand firm and hold fast to the traditions that you were taught, either by an oral statement or by a letter of ours.

Thanks ziapueblo! :slight_smile:

“I wish that all men were as I am, to be married is good but to be unmarried is better.”-St. Paul

St. Paul also said…

**Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which you have learned; and avoid them. (Romans 16:17)

Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you withdraw yourselves from every brother that walks disorderly, and not after the* tradition* which he received of us.(2Thess.3:6)**

**“Hold firmly that our faith is identical with that of the ancients. Deny this, and you dissolve the unity of the Church.” -Saint Thomas Aquinas **

Hi Simon,

What exactly are you trying to say with your second post, cause I’m a bit confused :confused:

Simon, I couldn’t find your first quote in Paul’s epistles (“I wish that all men were as I am, to be married is good but to be unmarried is better.”-St. Paul), but I think it paraphrases another that does appear in 1 Corinthians:

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. (1Corinthians (RSV) 7)

Thanks to all for your replies. :thumbsup:
Gamera, yours - taking into account the others - was especially enlightening!

We do not believe the verse requires marriage — only that it forbids polygamy. As St. Paul himself was single, it’s illogical to assume he was requiring clergy to marry.

This is not the traditional interpretation by the Church. Here is the commentary from the Geo Haydock Bible:
Ver. 2. A bishop (the same name then comprehended priest) to be blameless, as to life and conversation, adorned, (says St. Chrysostom) with all virtues. See also St. Jerome in his letter to Oceanus. — The [1] husband of one wife. It does not signify, that to be a bishop or priest he must be a married man; nor that he must be a man who has but one wife at a time; but that he must be a man who has never been married but once, or to one wife: because to be married more than once, was looked upon as a mark of too great an inclination to sensual pleasures. It is true, at that time he was to live with her as with a sister. This St. Jerome testifies as to the discipline of the Latin Church. (Witham) — The meaning is not that every bishop should have a wife, (for St. Paul himself had none) but that no one should be admitted to the holy orders of bishop, priest, or deacon, who had been married more than once. (Challoner) — Sober.[2] The Greek rather signifies watchful. — Chaste.[3] There is nothing for this in the Greek text at present, unless in some few manuscripts. Perhaps the ancient Latin interpreter added it, as being signified and comprehended in the words. — Teacher: a doctor, as the Greek signifies. (Witham)

The prohibition of polygamy did not apply to bishops only; it was not allowed for anyone, ever, in Christianity.

Nita

For I would that all men were even as I myself. But every man hath his proper gift of God, one after this manner, and another after that.-1 cor7:7

But I would have you without carefulness. He that is unmarried careth for the things that belong to the Lord, how he may please the Lord:-7:32

And this I speak for your own profit; not that I may cast a snare upon you, but for that which is comely, and that ye may attend upon the Lord without distraction…-7:35
So then he that giveth [her] in marriage doeth well; but he that giveth [her] not in marriage doeth better. "-7:38

Correct. The prohibition of polygamy did not apply to bishops only; it was not allowed for anyone, ever, in Christianity. I’m glad we agree.

Drunkenness was not allowed for anyone, ever, in Christianity, yet 1 Tim 3:3 prohibits selection of a “drunkard” as a bishop.

Intemperance was not allowed for anyone, ever, in Christianity, yet 1 Tim 3:2 requires a candidate for bishop to be “temperate.”

Greed was not allowed for anyone, ever, in Christianity, yet 1 Tim 3:3 forbids a bishop from being a lover of money.

Polygamy was not allowed for anyone, ever, in Christianity. Yet 1 Tim 3:3 forbids selection of a polygamist as bishop.

Your argument that 1 Tim 3:3 cannot be meant to prohibit polygamy, since polygmany was not allowed for anyone, ever, in Christianity, utterly ignores the rest of the text, which forbids to bishops other bad things that also are forbidden to everyone.

[INDENT]"[T]he minister of the Church represents Christ the bridegroom to the Church his bride. In this sense, the priest must be «the husband of one wife»; but that one wife, his bride, is the Church…"

"The Biblical Foundation of Priestly Celibacy"
by Ignace de la Potterie, SJ
[/INDENT]

Matthew 19:12

For there are many reasons why men cannot marry: some because they were born that way;

other’s because men made them that way;
And other’s do not marry for the sake of the kingdom of heaven."

I don’t understand why so many people have a problem with clerical celibacy.

What should we make of Canon 3 of the First Council of Nicaea:
“The great Council has stringently forbidden any bishop, priest, deacon, or any of the clergy, to have a woman living with him, except a mother, sister, aunt, or some such person who is beyond all suspicion.”

Now this clearly causes no problem for the Latin Rite view, and has often been cited as a defense of it. But why do Eastern Christians allow married priests? I’m not trying to “challenge” them because, after all, the Catholic Church fully allows them to. It’s just a question I have.

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