HE SPIRIT SPEAKETH expressly, that in the latter times, some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron; FORBIDDING TO MARRY..." (1 Tim. 4:1-3).
In this passage, Paul warned that a departure from the true faith would occur in later or latter times. "This does not necessarily imply the last ages of the world", writes Adam Clarke in his noted commentary, "but any times consequent to those in which the Church then lived."1 Actually, this departure from the faith, as those who know history understand, took place back in the early centuries.
The first Christians recognized the worship of pagan gods as the worship of devils (1 Cor. 10:19, 21). It follows, then, that Paul's warning about "doctrines of devils" could certainly refer to the teachings of the pagan mysteries. He made special mention of the doctrine of "forbidding to marry." In the mystery religion, this doctrine did not apply to all people. It was, instead, a doctrine of priestly celibacy. Such unmarried priests, Hislop points out, were members of the higher orders of the priesthood of the queen Semiramis. "Strange as it may seem, yet the voice of antiquity assigns to the abandoned queen the invention of clerical celibacy, and that in its most stringent form."2
Not all nations to which the mystery religion spread required priestly celibacy, as in Egypt where priests were allowed to marry. But, "every scholar knows that when the worship of Cybele, the Babylonian Goddess, was introduced into Pagan Rome, it was introduced in its primitive form, with its celibate clergy."3 Instead of the doctrine of "forbidding to marry" promoting purity, however, the excesses committed by the celibate priests of pagan Rome were so bad that the Senate felt they should be expelled from the
Roman republic. Later, after priestly celibacy became established in papal Rome, similar problems developed. "When Pope Paul V sought the suppression of the licensed brothels in the 'Holy City', the Roman Senate petitioned against his carrying his design into effect, on the ground that the existence of such places was the only means of hindering the priests from seducing their wives and daughters."4
Rome, in those days, was a "holy city" in name only. Reports estimate that there were about 6,000 prostitutes in this city with a population not exceeding 100,000.5 Historians tell us that "all the ecclesiastics had mistresses, and all the convents of the Capitol were houses of bad fame."6 A fish pond at Rome which was situated near a convent was drained by order of Pope Gregory. At the bottom were found over 6,000 infant skulls.
Cardinal Peter D'Ailly said he dared not describe the immorality of the nunneries, and that "taking the veil" was simply another mode of becoming a public prostitute. Violations were so bad in the ninth century that St. Theodore Studita forbade even female animals on monastery property! In the year 1477, night dances and orgies were held in the Catholic cloister at Kercheim that are described in history as being worse than those to be seen in the public houses of prostitution.7 Priests came to be known as "the husbands of all the women." Albert the Magnificent, Archbishop of Hamburg, exhorted his priests: "Si non caste, tamen caute" (If you can't be chaste, at least be careful). Another German bishop began to charge the priests in his district a tax for each female they kept and each child that was born. He discovered there were eleven thousand women kept by the clergymen of his diocese.8
The Catholic Encyclopedia says the tendency of some to rake these scandals together and exaggerate details "is at least as marked as the tendency on the part of the Church's apologists to ignore these uncomfortable pages of history altogether"!9 As with so many things, we'do not doubt that extremes have existed on both sides. We realize also that with reports of immoral conduct there is the possibility of exaggeration. But even allowing for this, the problems that have accompanied the doctrine of "forbidding to marry" are too obvious to be ignored. The Catholic Encyclopedia, though seeking to explain and justify celibacy, admits there have been many abuses. "We have no wish to deny or to palliate the very low level of morality to which at different periods of the world's history, and in different countries calling themselves Christian, the Catholic priesthood has occasionally sunk...corruption was widespread...How could it be otherwise when there were intruded into bishoprics on every side men of brutal nature and unbridled passions, who gave the very worst example to the clergy over whom they ruled?...A large number of the clergy, not only priests but bishops, openly took wives, and begot children to whom they transmitted their benefices."10
There is no rule in the Bible that requires a minister to be unmarried. The apostles were married (1 Cor. 9:5) and a bishop was to be "the husband of one wife" (1 Tim. 3:2). Even The Catholic Encyclopedia says, "We do not find in the New Testament any indication of celibacy being made compulsory either upon the apostles or those whom they ordained."11 The doctrine of "forbidding to marry" developed only gradually within the Catholic church. When the celibacy doctrine first began to be taught, many of the priests were married men. There was some question, though, if a priest whose wife died should marry again. A rule established at the Council of Neo-Caesarea in 315 "absolutely forbids a priest to contract a new marriage under the pain of desposition." Later, "at a Roman council held by Pope Siricius in 386 an edict was passed forbidding priests and deacons to have conjugal intercourse with their wives and the pope took steps to have the decree enforced in Spain and other parts of Christendom."12 In these statements from The Catholic Encyclopedia the careful reader will notice the words "forbid" and "forbidding." The word "forbidding" is the same word the Bible uses when warning about "forbidding to marry"—but in exactly the opposite sense! The Bible terms forbidding to marry a "doctrine of devils."
Taking all of these things into consideration, we can see how Paul's prediction (1 Tim. 4:1-3) was fulfilled. Did a departure from the original faith come? Yes. Did people give heed to pagan doctrines, the doctrines of devils? Yes. Were priests forbidden to marry? Yes. And because of this forced celibacy, many of these priests ended up having their "consciences seared with a hot iron" and "spoke lies in hypocrisy" because of the immorality into which they fell.
History has shown the fulfillment of each part of this prophecy !
The doctrine of forbidding priests to marry met with other difficulties over the centuries because of the confessional. It is plain to see that the practice of girls and women confessing their moral weaknesses and desires to unmarried priests could easily result in many abuses. A former priest, Charles Chiniquy, who lived at the time of Abraham Lincoln and was personally acquainted with him, gives a full account of such corruption in connection with the confessional, along with actual cases, in his book The Priest, The Woman, and The Confessional. We are not suggesting that all priests should be judged by the mistakes or sins of some. We do not doubt that many priests have been very dedicated to the vows they have taken. Nevertheless, "the countless attacks" (to use the wording of The Catholic Encyclopedia) that have been made against the confessional were not, in many cases, without basis. -That the doctrine of confession has caused difficulties for the Romish church, in one way or another, seems implied by the wording of The Catholic Encyclopedia. After mentioning the "countless attacks," it says, "If at the Reformation or since the Church could have surrendered a doctrine or abandoned a practice for the sake of peace and to soften a 'hard saying', confession would have been the first to disappear"!13
In a carefully worded article, The Catholic Encyclopedia explains that the power to forgive sins belongs to God alone. Nevertheless, he exercises this power through the priests. A passage in John (20:22, 23) is interpreted to mean a priest can forgive or refuse to forgive sins. In order for him to make this decision, sins "specifically and in detail" (according to the Council of Trent) must be confessed to him. "How can a wise and prudent judgment be rendered if the priest be in ignorance of the cause on which judgment is pronounced? And how can he obtain the requisite knowledge unless it come from the spontaneous acknowledgment of the sinner?" Having given priests the authority to forgive sins, it is inconsistent to believe, says the article, that Christ "had intended to provide some other means of forgiveness such as confessing 'to God alone'." Confession to a priest for those who after baptism commit sins, is "necessary unto salvation."14
There is a type of confession that the Bible teaches, but it is not confession to an unmarried priest! The Bible says, "Confess your faults one to another" (James 5:16). If this verse could be used to support the Catholic idea of confession, then not only should people confess to priests, but priests should confess to the people! When Simon of Samaria sinned, after having been baptized, Peter did not tell him to confess to him. He did not tell him to say the "Hail Mary" for a given number of times a day. Peter told him to "pray to God" for forgiveness (Acts 8:22)! When Peter sinned, he confessed to God and was forgiven; when Judas sinned, he confessed to a group of priests and committed suicide! (Matt. 27:3-5).
The idea of confessing to a priest came not from the Bible, but from Babylon! Secret confession was required before complete initiation was granted into the Babylonian mysteries. Once such confession was made, the victim was bound hand and foot to the priesthood. There can be no doubt that confessions were made in Babylon, for it is from such recorded confessions—and only from these—that historians have been able to formulate conclusions about the Babylonian concepts of right and wrong.15
The Babylonian idea of confession was known in many parts of the world. Salverte wrote of this practice among the Greeks. "All the Greeks from Delphi to Thermopylae, were initiated in the mysteries of the temple of Delphi. Their silence in regard to everything they were commanded to keep secret was secured by the general confession exacted of the aspirants after initiation." Certain types of confession were also known in the religions of Medo-Persia, Egypt, and Rome —before the dawn of Christianity.16
Black is the distinctive color of the clergy garments worn by the priests of the Roman Catholic Church and some Protestant denominations also follow this custom. But why black? Can any of us picture Jesus and his apostles wearing black garments? Black has for centuries been linked with death. Hearses, traditionally, have been black, black is worn by mourners at funerals, etc. If any suggest that black should be worn in honor of the death of Christ, we would only point out that Christ is no longer dead!
On the other hand, the Bible mentions certain priests of Baal that dressed in black! God's message through Zephaniah was this: "I will cut off the remnant of Baal from this place, and the name of the chemarims with the priests"(Zeph. 1:4). The "chemarims" were priests who wore black garments.17 This same title is translated "idolatrous priests" in another passage about Baal worship (2 Kings 23:5). Adam Clarke says, "Probably they were an order made by the idolatrous kings of Judah, and called kemarim, from camar, which signifies to be...made dark, or black, because their business was constantly to attend sacrificial fires, and probably they wore black garments; hence the Jews in derision call Christian ministers kemarim, because of their black clothes and garments. Why we should imitate, in our sacerdotal dress, those priests of Baal, is strange to think and hard to tell"!18
Another practice of the Catholic church which was also known in ancient times and among non-Christian people is the tonsure. The Catholic Encyclopedia says the tonsure is "a sacred rite instituted by the Church by which...a Christian is received into the clerical order by shearing of his hair... Historically, the tonsure was not in use in the primitive Church...Even later St. Jerome (340-420) disapproved of clerics shaving their heads"!19 But by the sixth century the tonsure was quite common. The Council of Toledo made it a strict rule that all clerics must receive the tonsure, but today the custom is no longer practiced in many countries.
It is known and acknowledged that this custom was "not in use in the primitive Church." But it was known among pagan nations! Buddha shaved his head in obedience to a supposed divine command. The priests of Osiris in Egypt were distinguished by the shaving of their heads. The priests of Bacchus received the tonsure. In the Catholic church, the form of tonsure used in Britain was called the Celtic, with only a portion of hair being shaved from the front of the head. In Eastern form, the whole was shaved. But in the Roman form, called the tonsure of St. Peter, the round tonsure was used, leaving only hair
around the edges with the upper portion of the head bald. The Celtic tonsure of priests in Britain was ridiculed as being the tonsure of Simon Magus.20 But why did Rome insist on the round tonsure? We may not have the full answer, but we do know that such was "an old practice of the priests of Mithra, who in their tonsures imitated the solar disk. As the sun-god was the great lamented god, and had his hair cut in a circular form, and the priests who lamented him had their hair cut in a similar manner, so in different countries those who lamented the dead and cut off their hair in honor of them, cut it in a circular form"!21 That such was a very ancient custom—known even at the time of Moses-may be seen right within the Bible. Such was forbidden for priests: "They shall not make baldness upon their head" (Lev. 21:5). And that such "baldness" was the rounded tonsure seems implied from Leviticus 19:27: "Ye shall not round the corners of your head."
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