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Matthew 19:10-12 – Celibacy

MT19:10 Now the disciples of Jesus asked him, “If this is the case with a husband and his wife – it should be recommended not to marry at all!”[1] MT19:11 Jesus told them, “Everyone cannot make room for what you are suggesting,[2] but only those who have the gift.[3] MT19:12 For there are eunuchs[4] born so from their mother’s womb;[5] and there are eunuchs made eunuchs[6] by humans; and, there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs[7] because of the Realm of Heaven.[8] Let the person who is able to make room for it, make room for it.”[9]

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[1] It should be recommended not to marry at all: Or, KJV: it is not good to marry; NEB: it is better to refrain from marriage; ASV: not expedient to marry; KNX: better not to marry at all; WMS: there is no advantage in getting married; PME: not worth getting married; NW: it is not advisable to marry. We smile at the suggestion of these Jewish disciples of Jesus: if a man cannot divorce his wife for any reason it is just better not to get married. Perhaps we see that ingrained “hardness of heart” present in the Israelite men?

[2] For what you are suggesting: Or, KJV: all men cannot receive the saying; RHM: not all find room for the word; KNX: that conclusion cannot be taken in by everybody; RIEU: accept the ruling; BER: not all people understand this saying; WMS: it is not every man who has the capacity to carry out this saying; MOF: this truth is not practicable for everyone. The disciples may have alluded to rabbinical sayings: “Among those whose life is not life is the man ruled by his wife.” “If a man has a bad wife, it is his religious duty to divorce her.”

[3] Those who have the gift: Or, KJV: those to whom it is given; KNX: only by those who have the gift; RIEU: only those that hear the call; WMS: to whom the capacity has been gift; WEY: upon whom the grace has been bestowed. Some persons are born with either the desire for sex or intimate relationships. Some by observation have judged that there is little in marriage to recommend it over a life of celibate liberty. Others have developed the “gift” by rigorous control of themselves.

[4] Eunuchs: The Greek is EUNOUCHOI and refers to a castrated male. The word is formed by “bed” + “have/hold” and is rooted in a castrated male guardian over a harem (Esther 2:3, 12-15; 4:4-6, 9). A eunuch was not allowed under the Law (Deuteronomy 23:1). However, consider Acts 8:26-39 as possibly the fulfillment of Isaiah 56:4, 5.

[5] Born so from their mother’s womb: Or NOR: some men have always been unsuited for marriage, having been born that way; NEB: incapable of marriage; TCNT: disabled for marriage. Though this could mean some physical disability modern science has probably established that some DNA tends to have much less sex-drive.

[6] Eunuchs made eunuchs: It is interesting that here it is eunuchs who make other eunuchs – likely because they were in charge of such castration. One wonders if such men had a choice in these matters?

[7] Have made themselves eunuchs: A literal reading of this has caused men such as Origen to castrate themselves.

[8] Because of the Realm of Heaven: It is the view of most that Jesus here encourages celibacy for those who have the gift and for the right reasons: service related to the Church. Paul recommends celibacy for those who have control (1 Corinthians 7:32, 38). Marriage is not forbidden save by apostates (1 Timothy 4:3). However, Paul clearly encourages Christians not to be driven by sexual impulses: “When their sexual impulses have come between them and the Christ, they want to marry, having a judgment because they have disregarded their first [expression of] faith.” (1 Timothy 5:11, 12 NW) Note how he continues: “I desire the younger widows to marry, to bear children, to manage a household.” (1 Timothy 5:14 NW)

[9] Let the person who is able to make room for it, make room for it: Or, KJV: he that is able to receive it, let him receive it; KNX: take this in, you whose hearts are large enough for it; RIEU let him that can, obey the call; BER: whoever is able to get practical hold of it, let him get hold; MOF: let anyone practice it for whom it is practicable. Note these words are directed to men who are willing to give up marriage and children for their service within the Realm of Heaven.

Those considering marriage do well to think the matter out soberly. In the Western world over half of all marriages fail and half of the “successful” are locked into a life of lovelessness and serious dissatisfaction.

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Preceding

Matthew 19:1-2 – The Nazarene’s Commentary: From Galilee to Judah

Matthew 19:3-9 – The Nazarene’s Commentary: Grounds for Divorce

Matthew 19:3-9 – The Nazarene’s Commentary: Grounds for Divorce – additional verses

Comments on: "Matthew 19:10-12 – The Nazarene’s Commentary: Celibacy" (7)

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