Was the Apostle Paul Single or Widowed?
Did Paul Have a Wife?
There is no Scripture reference to Paul ever having been married. We know that Paul was born at Tarsus of Cilicia. (Acts 9:11; 21:39; 22:3). We know that he was of the tribe of Benjamin (Philippians 3:5). In Romans 16:7-11 Paul salutes three persons as his kinsmen, two of whom were said to have been “of note among the apostles,” and to have become Christians before him. Acts 23:16 refers to “Paul’s sister’s son.” It seems that if Paul had been married, there would have been some mention of his wife in the Scriptures.
Call to Celibacy
Concerning I Corinthians 7-8, we need to define celibacy. Celibacy is the ability of an individual to live without conjugal relationships. It is a spiritual gift which Paul possessed which enabled him to live the single life with contentment (see Philippians 4:11). Often, as in the case of Paul, there is a need for men and women to give themselves wholly and completely in service for the things of the Lord, as stated by Paul in I Corinthians 7:32: “…He that is unmarried careth for the things that belong to the Lord, how he may please the Lord.” Celibacy may be bestowed upon individuals by God for varying periods of time and for a myriad of reasons.
Most Bible scholars allude to the thought that Paul was single. However, some feel he was widowed. H. A. Ironside, in his commentary on 1 Corinthians, says: “…Paul says, ‘I would that all men were even as I myself.’ For the gospel’s sake he chose to remain unmarried, and in circumstances such as many were passing through, the single state was to be preferred…”
F. W. Grosheide, in “”The New International Commentary on the Testament, concerning I Corinthians 7:7, says the following:
“This verse states Paul’s real desire in this matter and explains why he could speak by “way of concession. By writing ‘I would that all me, were even as I myself’ Paul implies that all Corinthians knew who and what he was (cf. 6:5). They knew that Paul was married but also that, through a special gift of the Lord, it was not necessary for him to marry and that he nevertheless did not need to fear that he might fall a victim to fornication. ‘Even as I myself’ receives much emphasis. It implies the possession of the same gift Paul had. Paul distinguishes himself from the Corinthians. He is able to do what they cannot do. This verse offers the key to the entire periscope. In the new dispensation God gives special gifts, charismata, gifts of the Holy Spirit (see chapters 12-14), meant for the propagation of the kingdom of God (12:4-11)…There is a difference of gifts and everyone must be content with what God gave him. He that received the gift of continence should not boast as if he were more than somebody else. He that does not possess it should marry. (The New International Commentary of the New Testament, The First Epistle to the Corinthians, F. W. Grosheide, pp. 158, 159).”
The Liberty Bible Commentary says concerning verses 6-7 as follows:
“I speak this by permission … not of commandment.’ The apostle does not take sides with the extreme Jewish view that held that it was sin if a man reached twenty years of age without being married. Instead, he regards the matter as optional. ‘Even as myself.’ Content, not necessarily single. As to Paul’s marital status, he was probably a widower (cf. Vincent, Word Studies in the New Testament, Vol. 2, p. 217), but that is not the point here. The point is that every man hath his proper gift of God (cf. vs. 17, 20, 24, and 27). Both marriage and celibacy are considered as gifts of the Holy Spirit. (Liberty Bible Commentary, Vol. II, p. 432).”