ABSTRACT

Central to the medieval and early modern debates surrounding the legitimacy and necessity of a celibate priesthood was the issue of whether the origins of clerical celibacy were to be found in the church of the apostles. The debate over the 'apostolic origins' of clerical celibacy does not limit the chronology and polemical geography of the controversy to the immediate post-Christian era. The universal nature of marriage in Jewish custom, the assertion in Genesis that it was not good for man to be alone and the command to be fruitful and multiply suggested that marriage and procreation were part of the divine plan. Marriage appears to have been deferred rather than disavowed in the community, although it is worthy of note that even if perpetual celibacy was not required, the postponement of marriage beyond the age of puberty was unusual. By the fourth century, the debate over the use of marriage by ordained priests was becoming rather more nuanced.