Need a little help - "until" Matthew 1 and 5


In a discussion with a Protestant, and I noticed something that would make a good apologetic argument, but I have to solidify it first without going off half-ready.

So there is much debate about “until”, specifically how it relates to the virginity of Mary.

Matthew 1:25 But he did not consummate their marriage **until **she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.

Many Protestants argue that obviously she and Joseph had relations after the birth of Jesus. Catholics say that “until” doesn’t always mean a change in status.

Well in arguing about Purgatory with him, I cited the verse from Matthew and Luke:

Matthew 5:26 Truly I tell you, you will not get out** until **you have paid the last penny.

Luke 12:59 I tell you, you will not get out **until **you have paid the last penny."

So in these verses, it’s obvious that Jesus is talking about something spiritual here, because He’s not just giving self-help advice. The Protestant argued that there is only Heaven, earth and hell, and no such thing as Purgatory. So I demanded he explain where this punishment described by Jesus is happening. It obviously isn’t earth, as we noted earlier, and it can’t be Heaven. So he was left with the only option of saying it must be hell. I asked him about what happens after you “pay the last penny”. You don’t get out of hell. So his argument was that you never finish paying the penalty and there is no change in status.

At this point I pounced and demanded he state definitively if the word “until” demands a change in status or not. He refused to answer, because he saw the problem he just opened up. He realized that if he says that “until” doesn’t demand a change in status, then Catholics are right about the “until” in relation to Mary. If he says “until” does require a change in status, then his claim about Purgatory is false and Catholics are right. Either way, one of his doctrines is wrong. He quickly stopped responding and has remained quiet since.

But I wanted to do some extra homework and bring this here.

Any resident experts on here who can speak about the three passages here, and the words used in the original language, and if they are the same, have same meaning, etc? I want to make sure I’m not on the wrong track and get proven wrong at a later date.

Thanks in advance.


When does “until” not mean a change of status? That’s the very definition of that word. It means ‘up to a point in time’. It isn’t necessary to use “until” if the status doesn’t change.

For example, you wouldn’t say, “I didn’t drink alcohol until I was 21. And I didn’t drink it when I turned 21 or anytime after that.” That sounds very confusing. You would just say, “I never drank alcohol”.


2 Samuel 6:23: And Michal the daughter of Saul had no child to (until) the day of her death.

(Does this mean she had children after she died?)

1 Timothy 4:13: Until I come, attend to the public reading of scripture, to preaching, to teaching.

(Does this mean Timothy should stop teaching after Paul comes?)

1 Corinthians 15:25: For he (Christ) must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet.

(Does this mean Christ’s reign will end? By no means! Luke 1:33 says, “he will reign over the house of Jacob forever and of his kingdom there shall be no end.”)


To use a non-Scriptural example: “Until the day he died, my father never touched alcohol.” No one would ever take this statement to mean that my father started drinking on his deathbed. It’s just another sense of how the word “until” works.


Or when our LORD said, “I am with you **until **the end of the age”…

…are we to understand that we will lose Him once that has taken place???



The use of “until” in statements involving death as described above don’t really make sense. We use them colloquially, and we understand what is meant, but when parsed out they sound absurd.

As for Timothy, it sounds like he is supposed to stop or change what he is doing when Paul comes. That is how I read that.

I have no idea what the “Christ’s reign” statement means.


This is an incorrect colloquial use of the word “until”. As you point out, when parsed out, the statement makes no sense.


I have no idea what this statement is supposed to mean.


There seems like an easy way to solve this. What is the definition of the word “until”?


In English?

Scripture wasn’t written in English.



I’m reading it in English and we’re arguing over an English translation. If it’s a poor translation, that’s a whole different story.


I’m asking for some more info from those who know better about the original language and original Greek, so that I can see if this is a good apologetical argument.


I’ve heard them talk about it on Catholic Answers Live but I can’t remember if they talked about what the original Greek wording is.

I’m not saying that the Catholic interpretation of those passages are necessarily wrong about the author’s original intent. But if that’s the correct meaning, then I don’t think “until” is the correct English correlate to the original version.


up to (the point in time or the event mentioned) no it does not indicate a change no it is not an incorrect colloquial to say “Until the day he died, my father never touched alcohol.” It is correctly used as it refers to particular time that is the time before his death. It is because people assume they understand the meaning that it is used incorrectly. It leads to strange conclusions that make no sense.

As to the OP, you are right he is using two different meanings and you caught him.

Matthew 5:26 Truly I tell you, you will not get out until you have paid the last penny.

Luke 12:59 I tell you, you will not get out until you have paid the last penny."

The definition says up to the time. Why would Jesus say that you won’t get out if there was no way of getting out and that it could never be paid. Doesn’t make sense but then they had to say something. The fact they have not answered is an answer.


I don’t think holding on to 1 single meaning to “heos” is wise. If one interpretation upholds until to mean no necessary change in status, it may fails the other verses. In reality, both interpretations can be found. Then proper context must be the guide rather than a wooden approach.

For Mary’s Perpetual Virginity, “until” does not necessarily mean a change in status. Since it is only a possibility, it is not a 100% argument that anti-PV proponents can rely on. Scholars have beaten this to death and consensus is “non-conclusive”.

For the last penny case, it is clear by common usage that one’s debt is not cleared until everything is paid off, which imply a change of indebtedness to non-debt.

Let me research this a bit more and see what comes up.

It is also dangerous to extrapolate what a word mean in one place must mean exactly the same in another. It is always guided by the context (content and intention).


It’s not that “it’s a poor translation,” it’s that translating prepositions is difficult between just about pair of source and target languages. The shades of meaning that may be present in one language’s preposition may not be found in another’s – or, a particular shade of meaning might be found in one preposition in one language but in another preposition in the target language.

In Matthew 1:25 we see ἕως οὗ being translated as ‘until’ (the two words literally mean “until that”).

In Matthew 5:26, we have ἕως ἂν. The particle ἂν is used to create the notion of a conditional (which is further picked up by the mood of the verb ‘pay’ – here, it’s subjunctive, not indicative). So, your argument doesn’t work well with Mt 5:26.

All is not lost, though: in Luke 12:56, he doesn’t use the same phrasing: he simply says ἕως (‘until’), even though the verb continues to be * ἀποδῷς* (‘you shall have paid’ or ‘you might have paid’). So, I think you could ask your question reasonably, if you were pointing at the passage in Luke. He might point out that in Mt 1, there’s the particle οὗ, but that’s an argument that says that “until that” and “until” take different meanings. :shrug:


Oh I don’t hold to only one meaning of “heos”. But the for many with Protestant theology it does require that. I think it is shown here that either their doctrine on Mary’s un-perpetual virginity or their doctrine of no such thing as Purgatory, one of those MUST be wrong.

And if you can prove even one of their doctrines as wrong, it opens them up to consider other areas where the Church is right.


Thank you, that’s just what I was looking for!



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