And when Jesus entered Peter’s house, he saw his mother-in-law lying sick with a fever. 15He touched her hand, and the fever left her, and she rose and began to serve him.
Mother in law, jokes aside we all know what the title means – the mother of your husband or in this case your wife. Jesus came to Peter’s house and found that Peter’s wife’s mother was sick. Jesus took pity on her and healed her. She responded by getting up and serving them. It is a great passage all on its own, but have we thought about the significance of that one little word in greek, penthera which pretty much everyone agrees means mother in law.
Why is this important? Well, put simply:
Peter is said to be the first Pope. He is also said to have been the first Bishop of Rome. The Pope can never be married per that faith. Bishops and often those who minister in some “orthodox” faiths called priests can never be married. Celibacy and being unmarried is celebrated and made a requirement on the men and women who serve God.
Yet, the Bible says that Peter was married. Clearly, unmistakably with no mention that he was abandoned or was somehow a widower. Paul also references other apostles at that time being married in 1 Corinthians:
Do we not have the right to take along a believing wife, as do the other apostles and the brothers of the Lord and Cephas (Peter)?
1 Corinthians 9:5
If you look at Paul’s list of requirements for those who would serve as bishops in a church, it also contains a further curious resume points – that one who wants to be a bishop be husband of one wife and take care of their families well. They are not required to be married and have kids certainly, but if they are they must be faithful and be a godly father.
This list was laid out to Timothy as he was in the process of forming churches and appointing leadership in those churches. Paul is laying out to his protege how to pick out leaders for the churches that have been formed.
This is a faithful saying: If a man desires the position of a bishop,[a] he desires a good work. 2 A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, temperate, sober-minded, of good behavior, hospitable, able to teach; 3 not given to wine, not violent, not greedy for money,[b] but gentle, not quarrelsome, not covetous; 4 one who rules his own house well, having his children in submission with all reverence 5 (for if a man does not know how to rule his own house, how will he take care of the church of God?);
1 Timothy 3:1-5
So a bishop must be faithful to his wife and manage his family well. Did you notice the implication from the last line? It seems that ruling over ones house relates to or is good training for working in a church? If you are not good at one, you will not be good at the other.
Curious isn’t it – a bishop is required to treat his wife well and take care of his kids and yet we are told by churches that a bishop cannot be married and must remain celibate.
You may be saying, “Hey, that is completely contradictory!” Yes, yes it is.
How do we resolve the conflict?
What this really comes down to is a conflict between two authorities, church tradition and the Bible. Churc tradition says that the pope and bishops cannot be married and serve God. The Bible says that Peter and at least some of the Apostles were married and that bishops should be good husbands and fathers.
Which of the two are we going to listen to?
This choice dictates a lot about what your life in Christ looks like and who is your ultimate authority.
As for Peter, it was not a church structure that forgave him after he failed. It wasn’t a tradition that pulled him out of the waves when his faith failed and he began to drown.
It was Jesus, just Jesus!
12 thoughts on “Peter was Married – Well that is Curious?”
VERY GOOD LESSON!!!
Thanks Jonathan and thanks for taking the time to comment!
MY PLEASURE…AND BLESSING!
Celibacy of clergy is a discipline, neither a doctrine nor Tradition, that was introduced the Western Church later. In the past there were married priests, bishops and even popes. For example Pope Hormisdas, who reigned from 514 AD to 523 AD was married – his son became Pope Silverius. In Eastern Church, both Catholic and Orthodox, married men can be ordained priests to this day, though bishops are celibate. 1 Tim 3:1-5 mentioned married bishops to one wife and with children (plural) – if you interpret this to be a doctrine to mean that a bishop is under obligation to marry, then married priests but childless or with only one child cannot become bishop. Again celibacy is just Church discipline – it may change in the future.
Thanks for the commment! Yes, understand about the history and frankly a church is free to do as it wills but when you make it a requirement on your “ministers” when the Bible specifically contradicts said requirement it is a problem. If God does not have a problem with Peter and the Apostles being married and as you say there has been married popes and popes a person should ask what the deal is.
As for it being a discipline, as soon as you make it a requirement for a position set out by the Lord it is more than a discipline.
Christ never requires all his followers to get married, just read Matthew 19:12, especially the last part. There is no contradiction between celibacy and the Bible.
Hi vivator – The contradiction is:
1 – The Bible states very clearly that men can be married and have children and be bishops/elders/presbyters. Peter and some of the Apostles were married so we have very clear examples of this practice in the Bible. As you say, prior priests and popes were married as well.
2 – Churches, including the Roman Catholic Church and some orthodox churches say that men who are married cannot be priests (RC), bishops (RC + Orthodox) and popes.
I was not saying people must be married as that also would contradict what the Bible says.
Reply to no 1 – The bible says men can marry but it NEVER says they are under obligation to marry.
Reply to no 2 – married men can become priests in Eastern Catholic Church. Even Western Catholic Church allows some MARRIED clergies from Anglican and Lutheran churches to become married Catholic priests when they convert to Catholicism.
One thing to consider is that the eastern world doesn’t view rules as having the same rigid inflexibility that the eastern world does. I was reading a book about a pastor who went to a pastor’s conference. He looked over the crowd and noticed that there were some women in the seats. He went to the organizer and asked about it: “I thought that pastors could only be men!” He said. To which the organizer replied: “Yes, and most of them are.” To him, it didn’t make sense that a church population that included both men and women didn’t have both male and female pastors. Every rule had it’s exceptions. Which is how that passage translates: “If anyone (man or woman) wants to be a leader in the church, that’s great! They must be a faithful spouse (if married) and a good parent (if they have kids) …” Which explains why the early church had women like Grapte teaching alongside Clement, why deaconesses were brought before Pliny the Younger, and how women like Marcella were tasked with teaching elders tricky theology.
For us, when we set up a rule: “no littering” we expect everyone to abide by it as it applies to everyone. We would never think that rules have exceptions.So when we read these verses, we see a lot of things certain people can’t do.
Hi Jaime – Well, we again agree to disagree. Have a blessed evening!
Catholic priests can be married to this day if they were married previously as a Protestant and converted or an already married man can be ordained with his wife’s consent as long as they both promise to be celibate from that point.
The Church was given the authority to determine practices when Jesus made His appearances in the upper room after His resurrection. The stipulation is that no practice may contradict the Ten Commandments or Scripture. Not permitting a man to be married after he has been ordained is not contrary to either of these.
Hi, thanks for the comment.
How is it not contrary –
The Bible assumes that a candidate for bishop would be married, though it is not required and says that the man must be a good father and husband. The Apostles were married.
The church says that candidates for bishop cannot be married – it is forbidden.
So Bible and Jesus say it is ok, church says not ok.
Who is the head of the Church?
As for celibacy as a requirement for previously married folks that just makes no sense at all.