Mary's Perpetual Virginity


#1

I was chatting with a Jewish co-worker about faith. This gentleman mentioned that he had heard that it is a misconception that Mary was a perpetual virgin, because the word in the original language could be translated one of two ways, only one of which meant “virgin”.

I told him that as a Catholic, I believe in the perpetual virginity of Mary. I also mentioned that in addition to the bible, we have the writings of those who lived at or near the time of Jesus, and also knowledge of the oral tradition of the time.

I wanted to keep the discussion both casual and respectful. If this comes up again, how might I strengthen my argument?


#2

Here’s a page from ScriptureCatholic
scripturecatholic.com/blessed_virgin_mary.html#the_bvm-IV


#3

The Bible tells us that Mary is the Mother of God. At the Visitation, Elizabeth was inspired by the Holy Spirit to address Mary as “the Mother of my Lord.” (Luke 1:43) CCC #495

The Church always believed in Mary’s virginity. From apostolic times the Church has always professed that Mary conceived Christ only by the power of the Holy Spirit. CCC #496

Mary’s virginity was foretold in the Old Testament when God promised through the prophet Isaiah that “the virgin shall conceive and bear a son.” (Isaiah 7:14) CCC #497

Mary’s virginity is a historical fact as attested by St. Ignatius of Antioch (died 107 A.D.): “The virginity of Mary and giving birth, like the death of the Lord: three mysteries that were accomplished in the silence of God.” (Letter to the Ephesians, 19, 1) CCC #498

Mary’s perpetual virginity means that Mary was a virgin before she conceived Jesus, in giving Him birth, and after Jesus was born. CCC #499

Thanks to Fr. John Hardon S.J. for the above citations from “The Faith” - A Popular Guide Based on the Catechism of the Catholic Church

Tomster

May Fr. Hardon rest in peace. :signofcross:


#4

We don’t believe in Mary’s perpetual virginity because of some word in scripture. We believe it because it was taught (unambiguously, as was all revelation) to the Apostles and handed down from them.

Ask your Jewish friend when, in OT law, it would have been allowed for a woman to bear the children of two different fathers. When the first father died? But did God the Father die? When the first father abandons mother and child? But did God the Father abandon Mary and Jesus?

So even by Jewish law Mary had to remain a virgin after giving birth to Christ.


#5

To be fair, the OT doesn’t exactly endorse a woman’s being married to one party and bearing a child by a second party, whether she’s having sex with her legal husband or not! The fact that the Lord God of Hosts is one of the involved persons tends to obviate all precedents. There’d be no excuse for the goings-on in Joseph’s household, period, if God didn’t happen to be the father to Mary’s child.

However, this also weakens the argument for Mary’s perpetual virginity: Joseph didn’t “put Mary away” because the unique circumstances superseded ordinary marriage customs. Similarly, the uniqueness of Christ’s conception tends to render ordinary ideas of espousal, sexual possession, and marital appropriateness moot.


#6

I agree, direct encounters with God cause every analogy to fail at some point. But there is always some lesson about God and His plan to be found in those laws He has given us. I offered my comments in that light as food for thought rather than as any “proof”.


#7

Even more simply – by Jewish law (that is, here on earth), Jesus was almost certainly recognized as the son of Joseph by others, so from an earthly perspective, it might almost have been seen as abnormal for there to be no additional children.

I also must refute the point made in a link above that Mary would have taken a lifelong vow of celibacy. Such a vow typically required refraining from marriage. As Mary was espoused to Joseph (Luke 1:27), this would be unthinkable – married couples should, do, and did have sex. God gave this illustration as well – “for that reason shall a man leave his mother and father – and he and his wife shall become as one flesh”. Second – Mary’s objection was, “how can this be – I don’t know (sexually) a man” (Luke 1:34), not “how can this be – I have taken a vow of celibacy” or something similar.

Additionally, refuting the perpetual virginity of Mary can benefit from a simple reading of Matthew’s gospel. Matthew’s gospel specifically states that after the angel visited Joseph, Joseph took Mary as his wife, and contrary to what would be almost certainly assumed (that they had sex thereafter), specifically says that he knew her not until she had given birth to Jesus (Matthew 1:25).

The reason this is a strong evidence of disproof is that it specifies the timing as “until”. Until in English, and from what I can tell the Greek source is much the same, indicates a forthcoming qualification which much be completed before an action will take place. The specification of some such qualification is utterly useless in writing if indeed the event (Mary and Joseph having sexual relations) never took place. So at the least, Matthew felt it important to specifically not say that they never had sex (for that would have certainly been easier, and much clearer, to write), but rather that they didn’t have sex until Mary had given birth to Jesus.


#8

so what you are saying,. PC master, is that when Jesus said that He will be with us until the end of the age, He meant that after the Parousia, He will abandon us, is that correct?

Or after Jesus conquered death, the Father would take away His position of "He sits at the Right Hand of the Father: Psalm 109 (110): The Lord said to my Lord: Sit thou at my right hand: Until I make thy enemies thy footstool. (see also Heb 1:13).

Your explanation contradicts the meaning of the above verses.


#9

I would focus on Her response to the Angel Gabriel.


#10

This is an assumption that cannot be verified. Surely there had to be other couples who never produced any more than one child.

I also must refute the point made in a link above that Mary would have taken a lifelong vow of celibacy. Such a vow typically required refraining from marriage. As Mary was espoused to Joseph (Luke 1:27), this would be unthinkable – married couples should, do, and did have sex. God gave this illustration as well – “for that reason shall a man leave his mother and father – and he and his wife shall become as one flesh”. Second – Mary’s objection was, “how can this be – I don’t know (sexually) a man” (Luke 1:34), not “how can this be – I have taken a vow of celibacy” or something similar.

I am not married to the vow of celibacy argument either, but not for the reasons you cited. I think Mary and Joseph were both open to God’s will for their lives, as we all ought to be. So, Mary’s confusion was very real. She probably thought she would marry and have children just as her mother and her mother’s mother before her. Until the Annunciation she may not have thought in terms of celibacy at all. But, the overshadowing of the Holy Spirit changed the direction both Mary and Joseph had thought their lives would go. This is not unprecedented in Scripture. God had called people away from their normal lives to ask things of them others were not–to fulfill a higher calling–and he is still calling people in this same way today.

Additionally, refuting the perpetual virginity of Mary can benefit from a simple reading of Matthew’s gospel. Matthew’s gospel specifically states that after the angel visited Joseph, Joseph took Mary as his wife, and contrary to what would be almost certainly assumed (that they had sex thereafter), specifically says that he knew her not until she had given birth to Jesus (Matthew 1:25).

There is no such thing as a “simple reading” of any of the writings of the Bible. Several things must be taken into consideration besides a bald reading of the words, such as the intent of the author, the context of the whole of revelation, the Sacred Tradition handed on to the Apostles, etc.

The reason this is a strong evidence of disproof is that it specifies the timing as “until”. Until in English, and from what I can tell the Greek source is much the same, indicates a forthcoming qualification which much be completed before an action will take place. The specification of some such qualification is utterly useless in writing if indeed the event (Mary and Joseph having sexual relations) never took place. So at the least, Matthew felt it important to specifically not say that they never had sex (for that would have certainly been easier, and much clearer, to write), but rather that they didn’t have sex until Mary had given birth to Jesus.

But Matthew wasn’t intending to tell us about the sexual life of Joseph and Mary but only that Mary was a virgin before, during and after Jesus’ birth. The after part being at least until she went through purification as demanded by the Law. What Joseph and Mary did about sex after that is not told to us in Scripture but it is in Sacred Tradition out of which the NT came. We cannot toss aside Sacred Tradition–the oral teachings of the Apostles and of the Church Fathers, without doing real damage to several core dogmas and doctrines of the Christian faith, such as the Trinity and the Nature of Christ and his Divinity, to name but a few.


#11

“I am the Lord’s servant – let it be done to me as you have said” (paraphrasing). What does that say regarding her virginal status after Jesus birth?

Not at all. The point I was making is that “X until Y” is usually in the form of correcting a standard assumption that is incorrect. In the case of Mary, it would surely be assumed that Joseph would have sex with her as soon as they were married, as this is what married couples do. Matthew uses a “he did not know her until” clause to clarify the portion of this assumption that was in error.

Likewise, here, Jesus was ascending into heaven. The apostles knew this, and knew they would see him again once they were there. They assumed also, however, that he would not be with them until then – this he was correcting by saying “I am with you even until the end of the earth”.

Simply put, there’s absolutely nothing scriptural to support the perpetual virginity of Mary, and nothing I’ve read in early church history in regards to it either. It, like the papacy, seems to have developed well afterward.

Or after Jesus conquered death, the Father would take away His position of "He sits at the Right Hand of the Father: Psalm 109 (110): The Lord said to my Lord: Sit thou at my right hand: Until I make thy enemies thy footstool. (see also Heb 1:13).

Please provide complete quotes as to what you’re referring to, as I’m unable to tell specifically where the “until” bit is in these passages. Thanks.

[quote=Della]I am not married to the vow of celibacy argument either, but not for the reasons you cited. I think Mary and Joseph were both open to God’s will for their lives, as we all ought to be. So, Mary’s confusion was very real. She probably thought she would marry and have children just as her mother and her mother’s mother before her. Until the Annunciation she may not have thought in terms of celibacy at all. But, the overshadowing of the Holy Spirit changed the direction both Mary and Joseph had thought their lives would go. This is not unprecedented in Scripture. God had called people away from their normal lives to ask things of them others were not–to fulfill a higher calling–and he is still calling people in this same way today.
[/quote]

Perhaps, but where is there any indication in scripture that this new direction included perpetual virginity? Yes, God chose them to be the earthly parents of Jesus, but on the other hand, sex between a husband and wife is a God-ordained act. It’s not something unholy or dishonoring to God, so a righteous married couple, as parents of Jesus, would have no reason to abstain.

But Matthew wasn’t intending to tell us about the sexual life of Joseph and Mary but only that Mary was a virgin before, during and after Jesus’ birth. The after part being at least until she went through purification as demanded by the Law. What Joseph and Mary did about sex after that is not told to us in Scripture but it is in Sacred Tradition out of which the NT came. We cannot toss aside Sacred Tradition–the oral teachings of the Apostles and of the Church Fathers, without doing real damage to several core dogmas and doctrines of the Christian faith, such as the Trinity and the Nature of Christ and his Divinity, to name but a few.

Well, the after part we can only assume because it was Jewish law, and we (rightly) assume that Mary would have complied with that.

In regards to “Sacred Tradition”, would you care to show me where in pre-Romanized Christianity we find even a breath of the idea of perpetual virginity? Sure, “Sacred Tradition” of today says it, but if “Sacred Tradition” of tomorrow declared Mary to have been believed to be a deity throughout all church history, I have no doubt Roman Catholics would schism in droves. So, really, we need tradition that stems back to times before the first schisms in the church.


#12

The only pre-Romanized Christianity I know of is the Catholic Church. St Jerome (who was there when they were deciding what is in and not in the Bible) wrote an article newadvent.org/fathers/3007.htm answering all the questions that have been raised here. He wrote about AD 350-375. His writings were not taken as something new, but something we knew all along. That is: He was describing “Sacred Tradition” as know in the 300’s. Oral Tradition is the sine qua non of our Faith. It was around far before the NT. It was around long before the OT was written. It is how all teaching preceded till that invention by Gutenburg.


#13

I am referring to the following:
to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the house of David, and the virgin’s name was Mary. Luke 1:27

But Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I have no relations with a man?” Luke 1:34

By definition, betrothal is a relation. In fact, in Jewish custom, it was common for sexual relations to already be existing between the couple. It was only in the second stage of Marriage were the man actually brings her into her house.

There is so much you can draw about Mary and Joseph from the following:

Mary would not have deceived Joseph and agreed to a betrothal if She had not revealed her consecration to God in body and soul.

Joseph, being a just man, the heir to the throne of Israel, accepted this and knew that Mary was the virgin prephesized, the Ark of the Covenant. The only other option is that Mary was violated (raped) or She cheated on him.

Such was his intention when, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, "Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home. For it is through the holy Spirit that this child has been conceived in her. Matt. 1:20

The sentiment of a man who suspects either

  1. the violation of Mary
  2. the adultery of Mary
    would not be showing fear. St. Joseph, being a just man, knows his Scripture, was probably very familiar with with happened to any one touched the Ark of the Covenant, which explains his fear.

Without digressing to far into the life of St. Joseph, I think its fair to say that the only reasonable interpretation of why Mary asked that question to the Angel Gabriel is because if she were to interpret the words of the Angel in the normal sense, the sense of a non-consecrated person, the natural conclusion of would be that Mary and St. Joseph would have to have engage in the Marital Act (the Liturgy of the Body). But because Mary is wise and would like to keep her vow to God (her total consecration) she is prudent and asked the angel for clarification, lest she go back on her word.


#14

[quote=PC Master]Perhaps, but where is there any indication in scripture that this new direction included perpetual virginity? Yes, God chose them to be the earthly parents of Jesus, but on the other hand, sex between a husband and wife is a God-ordained act. It’s not something unholy or dishonoring to God, so a righteous married couple, as parents of Jesus, would have no reason to abstain.
[/quote]

Not since Mary was overshadowed by the Holy Spirit, setting her aside for God alone, as was the tabernacle/temple in the OT. If it was so important for the worship space that contained the Law with the Ark of the Covenant that was to pass away when Christ fulfilled prophecy, how much more important and sacred would be the person who conceived him in her womb and gave birth to him? Mary had now become the new Ark of the Covenant, conceiving within her womb and giving birth to the Word of God, not merely to an ordinary Jewish boy as her sisters of Israel were doing in her day.

Since we know that Christ was foreordained to come from all eternity, it is not a stretch, and can be backed up with Scripture, to show that he was meant to be truly man, a true Son of Israel and heir to the throne of David. It is also true then that God had Mary in mind from the beginning–one who would be set aside for this highest of callings for any human being, that of the Mother of Our Lord, as St. Elizabeth so properly put it, of God the Son.

The Holy Spirit had claimed Mary as his own, so Joseph didn’t want to step in as husband, but the Angel Gabriel instructed him to take Mary as his wife. Matthew tells us there was no sexual relationship between them, to reinforce the Virgin Birth.

The “until” does not demand the interpretation you put on it, but the perpetual virginity of Mary doesn’t rise or fall on this verse alone. It rests on Sacred Tradition found in the Early Church Fathers who were much closer to the time the NT was written and some of whom had sat at the feet of the Apostles. They understood why Mary remained a virgin because they lived within the context of the fulfillment of the Law and Prophets. In a word, it rests on the teachings of the Apostles and of Scripture–it’s a both/and kind of thing not an either/or situation.

The Bible does not stand on its own and was never meant to. Not until the reformation did anyone suggest that the canon of Scripture, compiled by the Church, should be the sole rule of faith and morals. That is a plain historical fact.


#15

This is from a thread a few years ago,
forums.catholic.com/showthread.php?t=11145


#16

Yes that word in Isaiah can be translated in one of two ways. Although there is actually some dispute as to whether the word ‘almah’ was the only one used in that passage. There are manuscripts that use another word that escapes me - one which does indeed mean virgin.

In any event Luke goes out of his way to make clear which meaning HE intends, and therefore which applied to Mary, by recording Mary’s own words - ‘I know not man’.


#17

The “other” translation means young woman. Kept in context there is only one possible meaning, and that is “virgin”. Scripture is making a point that this will be a remarkable sign. Exactly what would be remarkable about a young woman becomming pregnant? Absolutely nothing! Now a virgin becomming pregnant would be a remarkable sign. So in the context that this shall be a sign, only virgin fits.


#18

Mary’s perpetual virginity is clearly revealed to us in Scripture.

“How shall this be, seeing I know not a man?” {Luke 1:34}

Sacred Tradition has considered this biblical verse a reference to Mary’s vow to God of life-long virginity. Mariologist Rene Laurentin notes that "here we must recognize the present tense ‘I do not know’ as having to do with a condition rather than an instant of time. To give an example, if someone to whom a cigarette is offered replies, ‘I don’t smoke’, he is understood to mean ‘I never smoke’ and not ‘I am not smoking right now.’ " Mary does not tell the angel Gabriel, “How shall this be, seeing that I knew not a man?” And if she had planned to have future sexual relations with a husband, she would not have asked the angel Gabriel that question in 1:49 to begin with. She would have simply asserted that she will most likely get married and bear children. Mary speaks in the present tense because she knew she had no prior sexual relations with any man, and she wasn’t planning to either. Her parents had consecrated her to God as a first born child. This act of consecration entailed a vow of life-long chastity. As the first born child of Mary, Jesus was consecrated to God in the same way. We believe Jesus was a virgin, although agnostics and athiests claim he had sexual relations with Mary Magdalen. Finally, the people of Nazareth refer to Jesus as “the son of Mary”, not “a” son of Mary (Mark 6:3). :wink:

In a mystical sense, Mary was the spouse of God the Holy Spirit. The angel Gabriel answers her question of who this husband could possibly be:

“The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.” {Luke 1:35}

Mary’s perpetual virginity was a gift of the Holy Spirit. She initially received this gift at the time her parents consecrated their first born daughter to God in the temple. This gift was ratified and strengthened by the Holy Spirit in the Annunciation at the time she was “overshadowed by the power of the Most High.” In her virginity, Mary expressed perfect devotion, a living self-denial, and holiness. She is the Christian model of true spiritual integrity, of which her virginity is a mark. In the Annunciation Mary acknowledges that she is “the handmaid of the Lord”. She is fully aware that no other person could possibly ever touch her. She belonged to God and no man. The gate was to be kept closed:

He said to me, “This gate is to remain closed. Only the prince (Jesus, conceived in the womb of Mary) may sit down in it to eat his meal in the presence of the (Most High) Lord.” {Ezekiel 44:2}

The traditional belief of the early Church was that Mary remained ever virgin. Even John Calvin believed in her perpetual virginity. Please read his ‘Sermon on Matthew’ (1562). Concerning Matthew 1:24:25, the author uses the word “until” to emphasize that Joseph and Mary had no sexual relations during their betrothal and to confirm the prophecy of the virgin birth. Other biblical verses contain the word “until” in the same way, for instance: …“and surely I am with you always until the end of time” (Mt 28:20). Surely this passage does not tell us that Jesus will no longer be with us after the end of the age.In the Old Testament we read, “No son was born to Michol, the daughter of Saul, until her dying day”( 2 Sam: 6:23). Let us not imagine that Michol gave birth to her son after she died. The word “until” shows that Matthew is primarily concerned with what happens before a specific event occurs - not after it has taken place. :wink:

Pax vobiscum
Good Fella :cool:


#19

Do you really believe that God would place someone pure and sinless (Jesus) in someone who was dirty and sinful?

Isn’t that like pouring water in a dirty glass?

Besides to be “full of grace” means to have no sin.Doesn’t it?

If you have a glass (Mary) and you say she is “full of grace” (full of clean water) there is no room in the glass for dirty water (sin)

And in the Old Testament did God tell Moses “Just grab any old box so that I might dwell on.”?

No! God gave specific instructions on how the Ark of the Covenant should be made.

The Ark of the Covenant contained The Stone Tablets, The Manna that God sent from heaven and Aaron’s rod.

The New Ark of the Covenant (Mary) contained The Word made flesh who is the Bread of Life that came from heaven and who rules His church.

God made Eve without sin, is Eve greater then Mary? Nothing is impossible for God.

There I got that off my chest. I just hope I made sense.:blush:


#20

Our Blessed Mother’s virginity during the birth of Jesus is an essential part of the dogmatic declaration of Pope Martin 1 at the Lateran Synod in 649 A.D. The Catechism of the Council of Trent ratifies that Mary gave birth without having labour pains. For labour pains are the effect of Eve’s disobedience, a curse brought about by original sin. The sinless Virgin and new Eve who was conceived preserved free from original sin could not possibly have experienced this curse. Just as Mary’s miraculous conception of Jesus was without any involvement of pain, so was the birth of the child who was miraculously conceived. St. Augustine stated, “It is not right that He who came to heal corruption should by His advent violate integrity.” St. Thomas Aquinas concurred, “As light passes through glass without harming the glass, so too Jesus left the womb of Mary in a miraculous manner without any opening of the womb and without any physical violation of her virginity.”

The Church understands Mary’s virginity during the birth of Christ as an absence of any injury or violation to her virginal seal ( ‘virginitus in partu’ ) set upon her by the Holy Spirit. Her overall and perfect virginity which encompassed her entire physical and spiritual being was protected by miraculous divine intervention. In his Apostolic Constitution, ‘Cum quorumdam hominum’, 7 August 1555, Pope Paul lV admonished all those who denied that the Blessed Virgin Mary “did not retain her virginity intact before the birth, in the birth, and perpetually after the birth.” The Second Vatican Council confirmed Mary’s virginity both before and during Jesus’ birth: “This union of the mother with the Son in the work of salvation is made manifest from the time of Christ’s virginal conception…then also at the birth of our Lord, who did not diminish his mother’s virginal integrity but sanctified it ( LG, 57).” That Mary was spared the effect of the curse of Eve at the birth of Jesus has been an infallible teaching of the Church since Pope Martin’s definitive proclamation. And his pronouncement has been repeatedly ratified by succeeding Councils.

If we juxtapose the following biblical passages and reflect on them for a minute or two, it should become clear how Mary could not possibly have experienced labour pains at the birth of Jesus:

The man had relations with his wife Eve, and she conceived and bore Cain, saying, “I have produced a man with the help of the Lord.” {Genesis 4:1}

He had no relations with her until she bore a son, and he named him Jesus. {Matthew 1:25}

The suffering Mary experienced from the moment of her Son’s birth to his death and burial was something in communion with him. As our co-Redemptrix, Mary suffered together with her Son, not because of him. Our Lord would never do anything in his power that would hurt his mother and violate her spiritual integrity bestowed on her as a gift from the Holy Spirit. The primary cause of Mary’s suffering on account of Jesus was her perfect love for him. After Mary had given birth to Jesus, they soon suffered together for the first time in their relationship when “there was no room for them in the inn.” Mary could care less where she would have to spend the night, but she was anxious about the wellbeing of her beloved child. A sword would eventually pierce her heart on account of her love for Jesus.

Pax vobiscum
Good Fella :cool:


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