Why Moses Remained Celibate.

This is from a Jewish website apparently no longer active. However, the Internet Archive has an archived version of the rest of this (very short) article which I’ve linked to below.

Ki Tissa: Why Moses Remained Celibate.

Moses did three things of his own accord, but which received the full approval of God.

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].

Jewishgates.com (archived version).

I find it rather interesting that the Rabbis should teach Moses abstained from relations with his wife, especially given this statement from the Jewish Encyclopedia:

“In post-Biblical literature Jewish opinion stands out clear and simple: marriage is a duty, and celibacy a sin.”

Jewish Encyclopedia entry on Celibacy:

“Celibacy is a sin?”

But that, of course, is the same thing the Reformers taught! Seems another curious parallel between Protestantism and Judaism.

Any thoughts?

wow even old Moses was celibate? Scary :eek:

Scary? No, not at all. But now this is scary!

To prohibit marriage, and to burden the divine order of priests with perpetual celibacy, they have had neither authority nor right [they have done out of malice, without any honest reason], but have acted like antichristian, tyrannical, desperate scoundrels [have performed the work of antichrist, of tyrants and the worst knaves], and have thereby caused all kinds of horrible, abominable, innumerable sins of unchastity [depraved lusts], in which they still wallow. …

Therefore we are unwilling to assent to their abominable celibacy, nor will we [even] tolerate it

And this:

The Smalcald Articles

Priests, mend your life
And leave your foul sensuality
And vile stinking chastity…

From a 16th century Scottish Reformation ballad.


Wow! Sounds like some folks are madder than a wet hen! :wink: Wonder what the celibate Moses (or for that matter, the celibates Paul andTimothy) would’ve thought of such inane ravings?


Accordsing to Exodus, he was married, and had sons. That is not celibacy.

*]Celibacy = not marrying
*]Continence = refraining from sexual activity, whether or not engaged in previously
*]Chastity = the virtue of temperance as applied to sexual behaviour
*]Virginity = unbroken abstinence from all sexual behaviour
[/LIST] So
*]Celibacy does not exclude e.g., fornication; it does exclude marriage
*]Chastity excludes fornication - but does not exclude sexual intercourse within marriage
*]Continence is compatible with preceding loss of virginity & with preceding sexual activity, but not with continuing sexual activity
[/LIST]So - clerics of the Roman Rite are not required to be celibate; they are required to be chaste by way of being continent.

As for Jewish practice in the 1st century CE, there is a very interesting essay on the subject by Pieter W. van der Horst in his book Japheth in the Tents of Shem, pages 191-201, with the title “Celibacy in Early Judaism”. He concludes that the unmarried status of Jesus may have been rather less unusual than is sometimes supposed.

Moses was also a murderer in the bible.

I think the sons may have been born before he met the Lord on Sinai.

I would have killed the Egyptian too if I was a 40 year old virgin :):):slight_smile:

If Moses ever really existed most of the stories handed down are mythological folklore. I strongly doubt any ancient leader of a nomadic people would have remained celibate (unless he was physically unable to have sex).

Merriam-Webster defines celibacy this way:

  1. the state of not being married

  2. a. abstention from sexual intercourse b. abstention by vow from marriage

So it would seem that, technically, anyone who simply abstains from sexual intercourse would be considered celibate.

Wikipedia on Clerical Celibacy (section: Celibacy, continence and chastity):

The meanings of the words celibacy, continence and chastity in this context differ from the more or less synonymous meanings sometimes attributed to them in common speech. Celibate here means renouncing marriage. Continent means refraining from any form of sexual intercourse. Chaste means conforming to sexual morality. Thus a married man having sex with his wife is chaste, but not celibate or continent. And an unmarried man having sex with anyone is celibate, but is neither continent nor chaste.

In the case of the Latin Church, the specific obligation of the clergy is continence. Celibacy is a consequence of this obligation. The Code of Canon Law states:

Clerics are obliged to observe perfect and perpetual continence for the sake of the kingdom of heaven and therefore are bound to celibacy which is a special gift of God by which sacred ministers can adhere more easily to Christ with an undivided heart and are able to dedicate themselves more freely to the service of God and humanity.[1] 


clerics of the Roman Rite are not required to be celibate; they are required to be chaste by way of being continent.

I’m not sure, but I think you meant RiteLatin rather than [ RiteRoman](“http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roman Rite”). In any event, Catholic priests in the Western Church are, with some exceptions, indeed expected to take a vow of celibacy.

Again, quoting from the above Clerical celibacy article:

“In Latin Rite Catholicism, all priests must be celibate men, unless given special permission; but in most Orthodox traditions and in some Eastern Catholic Churches men who are already married may be ordained priests, but priests may not marry, whether for the first or second time, while bishops must be unmarried men or widowers.”

As for Jewish practice in the 1st century CE, there is a very interesting essay on the subject by Pieter W. van der Horst in his book Japheth in the Tents of Shem, pages 191-201, with the title “Celibacy in Early Judaism”. He concludes that the unmarried status of Jesus may have been rather less unusual than is sometimes supposed.

Interesting. You know, I’ve often wondered why Scripture never records even a single instance of the Jews criticizing Christ for being celibate! Nor do we find anything in the sacred writings about the Jews speaking out against the celibacy of SS. Paul and Timothy!

It occurs to me that John the Baptist was also celibate.

Yes of course! So in the New dispensation we have Christ himself, his blessed mother, St. Joseph, the apostles, the “proto-nuns” about which St. Paul speaks … and heaven knows how many others, all practicing celibacy!

Perhaps God is trying to tell us something.

Here’s an interesting article touching the history of Jewish celibacy.


Some highlights:

For when the angel revealed to him that Mary was truly the spouse of the Holy Spirit, Joseph could take Mary, his betrothed, into his house as a wife, but he could never have intercourse with her because according to the Law she was forbidden to him for all time…

She was now prohibited to him for all time, and for the sake of the Child and Mary he could only live with her in an absolutely chaste relationship. Living a celibate life within marriage was not unknown in Jewish tradition.It was told that Moses, who was married, remained continent the rest of his life after the command to abstain from sexual intercourse (Ex 19:15) given in preparation the seventy elders abstained thereafter from their wives after their call, and so did Eldad and Medad when the spirit of prophecy came upon them…

Elijah and Elisha were celibate al 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…

Rabbinic scholar Simeon ben Azzai (early second century A.D.) was extraordinary in his learning: “with the passing of Ben Azzai diligent scholars passed from the earth” (Sotah 9:15). He never married and was celibate all his life so as not to be distracted from his studies, and because he considered the Torah his wife, for who he always yearned with all his soul (Yebamoth 63b)…

Jewish tradition also mentions the celibate Zenu’im (lit. “chaste ones”) to whom the secret of the Name of God was entrusted, for they were able to preserve the Holy Name in “perfect purity”…

For “the chaste are rewarded by receiving illumination from the concealed heavenly light” (Zohar 11. 229b-230a). Because “if the understanding is safe and unimpaired, free from the oppression of the iniquities or passions… it will gaze clearly on all that is worthy of contemplation” (Philo, Sob. 1.5). Conversely, “the understanding of the pleasure-loving man is blind and unable to see those things that are worth seeing… the sight of which is wonderful to behold and desirable” (Philo, Q. Gen. IV.245)…

Jewish tradition mentions that, although the people had to abstain from sexual relations with their wives for only three days prior to the revelation at Mount Sinai (Ex 19:15), Moses chose to remain continent the rest of his life with the full approval of God. The rabbis explained that this was so because Moses knew that he was appointed to personally commune with God, not only at Mount Sinai but in general throughout the forty years of sojourning in the wilderness. For this reason Moses kept himself “apart from woman,” remaining in the sanctity of separation to be at the beck and call of God at all times.

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