Thank you for the book review by Fr Peter Murphy on Stefan Heid's Celibacy in the Early Church in the December-January issue of AD2000. In the April 2003 issue of Homiletic & Pastoral Review there was an excellent well-researched article by Hugh Ballantyne about the origin of priestly celibacy.
He writes that in 1878-79 a German historian - Gustave Bickell - published a thesis stating that the obligation of priestly celibacy dates from the time of the Apostles; and that when a married man was ordained, he was required to remain celibate thereafter within the marriage. In 1879-80 another German historian - Franz Funk - replied, stating that such a rule dated only from the fourth century and was not Apostolic.
From the latest studies it appears that Bickell was right. But Funk won the argument and his view became the opinio communis of the Church, and today it is still the most widely accepted interpretation. Cardinal Alfons Stickler showed through his studies on the matter that when married men were ordained to the diaconate in the early Church, they also were vowed to perpetual continence from then on.
FR ADRIAN HEAD