Month 11:20, Week 3:5 (Chamashee/Teruah), Year 5935:307 AM|
Gregorian Calendar: Sunday 12 February 2012
Beware of Radical Religious Agendas
Continued from Part 1
Athiest and ex-catholic writer Susan Jacoby calls celibacy "a self-inflicted wound" and judging by all the dysfunction that has resulted historically from this practice, artifically putting God's imprimatur on it has simply made it worse. The Catholic Church's rampant pedophilia, secret (and sometimes not-so-secret) sexual liasons between the clergy and women, and the concommitant secret abortions that have often followed, all add testimony to the unnaturallness of this estate. Commenting on the Vatican's justification for imposing celibacy on its priests, Jacoby writes:
"And Yahweh-Elohim said, 'It is not good that man should be alone'" (Gen.2:18, NKJV).
I agree with her conclusion in this regard, even if I obviously disagree with her atheistic premises and probably most of the rest of her belief system. A minister must have experienced marriage to be qualified to give counsel on it and there is no doubt from the Pauline epistles that congregational leaders (bishops, overseers/pastors, elders and deacons) in New Testament times had to be married to qualify for that kind of service, as also their feminine counterparts.
"One of the most ridiculous rationales for priestly celibacy used by the [Roman Catholic] church has always been the notion that the celibacy requirement is not just about sex but about the need for a priest to be fully free to devote himself to the spiritual needs of his parishoners. The notion that a priest somehow becomes better attuned to the needs of his...flock by forgoing intimate human love is so illogical that it needs no further comment" .
Celibacy for adults is unnatural and celibacy for ministers is a contradiction in terms. In searching through the Bible I have only been able to find one 100% certain example of someone who was called into celibacy by Yahweh, namely, the prophet Jeremiah, because the mission he was called to perform would not have given him the possibility to raise a family. He is the only divinely-manadated celibate that I know of in the Tanakh (Old Testament).
In the Messianic Scriptures (New Testament) there is a strong case for John the Baptist being celibate but that cannot be proved and in my view is unlikely. As a Levite of the priestly line, it would have been most unusual for him to have been single. That he was a prophet like Jeremiah is not denied, of course, for he is described as the greatest prophet since Moses after Messiah Himself. Virtually all prophets were married. But was he a cohen or priest as well? Yes, he had to have been, because he performed baptisms (mikveh) which priests alone were authorised to do. And priests had to be married.
A Levite had the special calling of serving in the temple. He was to be available for this service at all times. He was considered a set-apart of holy vessel, a condition that was never regarded as incompatible with marriage, as marriage was never regarded as either impure or 'lesser' to some mystical celibate estate. Indeed, cohenim had to be married to qualify for priestly service. Priestly aestheticism is wholly foreign to the Bible even if it has found its way into Catholic and Orthodox monastries. For a Levite, then, lineage was important - a family line to establish his worthiness to serve, and obviously to have a family, you cannot be celibate.
This does not, of course, mean that Yahweh could not have called John the Baptist to be a celibate as He undeniably did Jeremiah, but it would make him an exceptional exception in an already exceptional calling.
Where, then, was Mrs. John-the-Baptist? As with Paul, whom we know had to have been married to have occupied his earlier position in Judaism, John was either a divorcee or a widower, or his wife was at home while he ministered in the wilderness (as was, we presume, Peter's while he travelled as an apostle, unless she did not convert to Messiah and they lived apart).
What of the claim that Yah'shua (Jesus) Himself argued strongly for radical celibacy for those capable of it, even going as far as suggesting that these super-talmidim (disciples) should go ahead and castrate themselves? This passage in Matthew 19 is, of course, the rationale for Catholic claims for a celibate priesthood and once castrating boys in the Vatican choirs, and had the words Yah'shua (Jesus) spoke in nearly all our English translations been His actual ones, we would both have been forced to conceed the point as well as be forced to explain how Yahweh had suddenly switched from the radical pro-marriage line of the Torah to a new, apparently contradictory one. Fortunately, we are not forced into that impossible situation, which would accuse the Most High of doing a U-turn, if we accept that the Greek translators of the Hebraic original simply made an understandable mistake. I explained this in my last study of the subject:
With there now being no contradiction between Old and New Testament scriptures, we are forced to reject the radical Catholic notion that celibacy is in some way more 'spiritual' or 'superior' to marriage. Marriage is so central to everything in the Bible that the whole Besorah (Gospel) is described as an allegory of the marriage estate, with Yah'shua (Jesus) our 'Bridegroom' and saved, purified believers His uniplural 'Bride'. Even Yahweh describes Himself as being allegorically 'married' (and polygamously at that) to Judah and Israel (Ephraim)! If Yahweh had wanted to emphasise celibacy, both He and His Son would have chosen different allegories.
"The apparent disjunction [between the pro-marriage Torah-line and the radical castration agenda of Mt.19:12], however, is satisfactorily resolved in my mind in the Aramaic which offers an alternative explanation that fits in with the rest of the biblical corpus:
In other words. the Hebraic word anmyhm can mean either 'eunuch' OR 'believer/faithful one'. Since "believer" or "faithful one" is a better fit, I opt for the latter, thus negating any need to search for imaginary communities or sects.
"For there are faithful ones, which were so born from their mother's womb, and there are faithful ones which were made of man, and there are faithful ones which are self-made faithful ones from the Kingdom of Heaven's sake. Whoever can accept, let him accept" (Mt.19:12, HRV).
I do however understand the problem the Greek translator must have faced and how it is the alternative 'eunuch' version has been transmitted down to us today. As ever we must look at context, and the context is the laxity of the divorce laws. The gist was as follows: Yah'shua (Jesus) was completing Torah on marriage and saying that the easy divorce laws were on account of the hardness of men's hearts - now they are not to divorce a wife save for adultery (v.1-9). The disciples' response is, in essence: "If the divorce laws are so strict it's better not to get married at all!" (v.10, my paraphrase).
Then the confusion comes. For Yah'shua says: "all cannot accept this saying, but they to whom it is given" (v.11). Now this is the big question: is this a continuation of vv.1-9 or is it the start of a new teaching? The "But" at the beginning of v.11 explains what he means. Yah'shua (Jesus) is teaching that we are born with different dispositions, strengths and giftings depending on who we were before we were born. The topic is still divorce. Thus, in respect of divorce, there are:
This passage has nothing to do with emasculation, castration or anything so perverse. It's about faithfulness in marriage and resisting the temptation to divorce when the going gets tough. It is the very opposite of celibacy!" 
- 1. Those who were born faithful from the womb - to be faithful is natural to them;
- 2. Those who were made to be faithful by man, i.e. by being forced by peers and elders to be faithful to their wives; and
- 3. There are those who disciplined themselves who, in spite of the trials of marriage and the temptation to divorce, did not do so, by forcing themselves to keep the marriage together in spite of the escape route given to them by Moses.
This is not to deny that men and women are sometimes forced into celibacy by divorce, ill-health or death. Yahweh nowhere says we are obliged to marry again even if Torah does leave that door open. And young men and women are expected to be celibate until they are married. Yahweh can, and does, provide strength and shalom (peace) for both young people awaiting marriage and those who have suffered loss of partners during marriage. Neverthless, believers are called to be a "royal priesthood" (1 Pet.2:9, NKJV) and cohenim (priests) are expected to be married before they can serve in any ministerial capacity whether as shamashim (deacons) or zaqenim (elders). Only very special cases like Jeremiah are excepted, and then only because the circumstances were so radical as to preclude the possibility of raising a family. This too is what Paul meant when, because of the circumstances, he advised the Corinthians against marriage during times of sever persecution that would prevent married people from settling down and raising families. He was not, as Catholic theologians claim, laying out the conditions for celibate priestly service.
This radical Catholic agenda, which no doubt in part drew some of its inspiration from the radical Qumran sect which not only banned marriage but was so extremist as to even ban urinating and defacating on the sabbath, also gave birth to the notion in Christendom that Yah'shua (Jesus) was the quintessential "eunuch" for the "sake of the kingdom". But was He? Or is this yet another of those man-made Catholic theological edifices that must be dismantled before we come to the whole emet (truth) about our Saviour?
We shall not get into that question today for it is controversial and I do not wish to be seen to be in any way supporting the ungodly and historically twisted agenda of those occult-steered 'holy grailers' who promote the so-called Da Vinci Code. Nevertheless this is a question we must at some point return to as it connects to other important themes relating to divine tavnith. At this time of the "restoration of all things" (Ac.3:21, NKJV) we must be prepared to let go of our sacred cows and allow the unadulterated emet (truth) of Scripture speak for itself.
In the meantime, beware not only of the sexually promiscuous (who are legion) but also celibacy posing as some higher spiritual ideal. Celibacy has its legitimate functions before, within and after marriage but Scripture nowhere exalts it as some superior lifestyle. It isn't. Man was not made to be alone but for intimate companionship. That will always be the 'first principle' of biblically-sanctioned relationship estates with celibacy as occasional, temporary and sometimes necessary, times for life readjustments, meditation and prayer.
Celibacy is a gap, a preparation time, like the occasional Rosh Chodesh preparation day, a step toward something better and worthwhile. It is never an end in itself.
 Susan Jacoby, Priestly Celibacy: A Self-Inflicted Wound
 Biblical Celibacy: Resolving an Age-Old Conflict