How do you interpret/explain this

Just started reading the New Testament through and my bible (NRSV) translates Matthew 1:24 and 1:25 as ‘he took her as his wife, and had no marital relations with her until she had borne a son’.
On first read that seemed a clear indication that Mary did not remain a virgin after Jesus birth. Can you help me out with this?

In English, when we say something did not happen until… we imply that it did happen afterward. This is not the case in Greek. The passage is affirming that Mary and Joseph did not have sexual relations before Jesus was born, but not implying that they did so afterwards. The purpose of the passage is to affirm the Virgin Birth, not to inform us about what happened later.

It’s actually kinda hard to construct an English sentence that says this without implying something else. I’ve just spent a couple of minutes trying to come up with such a sentence and I came up empty (without getting ridiculously verbose).

It’s like someone saying that someone was a wonderful person until their dying day. Does this mean that after they died they became a horrible person? Not at all, just a way of saying that something never changed.

Luther explains it this way:

Now this refutes also the false interpretation which some have drawn from the words of Matthew, where he says, “Before they came together she was found to be with child.” They interpret this as though the evangelist meant to say, “Later she came together with Joseph like any other wife and lay with him, but before this occurred she was with child apart from Joseph,” etc. Again, when he says, “And Joseph knew her not until she brought forth her first-born son” [Matt. 1:25], they interpret it as though the evangelist meant to say that he knew her, but not before she had brought forth her first-born son. This was the view of Helvidius which was refuted by Jerome. Such carnal interpretations miss the meaning and purpose of the evangelist. As we have said, the evangelist, like the prophet Isaiah [cf. Isaiah 7:14], wishes to set before our eyes this mighty wonder, and point out what an unheard-of thing it is for a maiden to be with child before her husband brings her home and lies with her; and further, that he does not know her carnally until she first has a son, which she should have had after first having been known by him. Thus, the words of the evangelist do not refer to anything that occurred after the birth, but only to what took place before it. For the prophet and the evangelist, and St. Paul as well, do not treat of this virgin beyond the point where they have from her that fruit for whose sake she is a virgin and everything else. After the child is born they dismiss the mother and speak not about her, what became of her, but only about her offspring. Therefore, one cannot from these words [Matt. 1:18, 25] conclude that Mary, after the birth of Christ, became a wife in the usual sense; it is therefore neither to be asserted nor believed. All the words are merely indicative of the marvelous fact that she was with child and gave birth before she had lain with a man. The form of expression used by Matthew is the common idiom, as if I were to say, “Pharaoh believed not Moses, until he was drowned in the Red Sea.” Here it does not follow that Pharaoh believed later, after he had drowned; on the contrary, it means that he never did believe. Similarly when Matthew [1:25] says that Joseph did not know Mary carnally until she had brought forth her son, it does not follow that he knew her subsequently; on the contrary, it means that he never did know her. Again, the Red Sea overwhelmed Pharaoh before he got across. Here too it does not follow that Pharaoh got across later, after the Red Sea had overwhelmed him, but rather that he did not get across at all. In like manner, when Matthew [1:18] says, “She was found to be with child before they came together,” it does not follow that Mary subsequently lay with Joseph, but rather that she did not lie with him.


When King David brought the Ark of the Covenant back to Jerusalem, he celebrated by dancing before it with all his might. His wife Michal (Saul’s daughter, which may have been part of the cause of her pique) criticized him and said that he had made a fool out of himself. The Bible relates that that she “had no children until the day of her death.”

Does that mean that she started bearing children after she died?


Extend and apply to Joseph and Mary.

If you have read the rest of the bible you would know that when a man has intercourse with a women it is spelled out, almost graphically. They did not imply these things, they spelled it out.

Fort something as important as this, it would have been clearly said. The phrase they are using here simply means to tell you that Joseph was NOT the biological Father.

We must take into account the understanding of people at this time concerning how procreation worked. They believed that the man deposited the baby into the women. They had no concept of female eggs.

So to translate this passage more explicitly, they are saying: Joseph did not deposit any babies into Mary before Jesus was born.

OK, thanks folks i just wanted to get it clear in my head in case any one asks me in the future.

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