Perp Virginity supported by EARLY fathers?


#1

My friend is entering the Church this Easter, but now is having serious concerns after reading “Whatever Happened to Mary” by Mary E. Hines. Apparently the book asserts that all of the traditional Marian beliefs are a product of 4th century or later cultural factors, and are not really handed down from the apostles.

She now asks what EARLY church fathers support Mary’s perpetual virginity, assumption, and immaculate conception. The only thing I have found is the protoevangelium of James, which does not necessarily seem that reliable. After that the only early references to Mary are concerning her role as the New Eve.

Can you cite any early Fathers that support these doctrines? Is there a book or articles that I can provide for her to read that will help? The little I read of the Hines book makes me think she is very heterodox and would reject most or all of the church’s supernatural claims – does anyone here know anything about Hines?


#2

For Mary’s perpetual virginity:

The Early Church Fathers on
Mary’s Perpetual Virginity

The Early Church Fathers believed that Mary remained a virgin her entire life.

Origen

The Book [the Protoevangelium] of James [records] that the brethren of Jesus were sons of Joseph by a former wife, whom he married before Mary. Now those who say so wish to preserve the honor of Mary in virginity to the end, so that body of hers which was appointed to minister to the Word . . . might not know intercourse with a man after the Holy Spirit came into her and the power from on high overshadowed her. And I think it in harmony with reason that Jesus was the first fruit among men of the purity which consists in [perpetual] chastity, and Mary was among women. For it were not pious to ascribe to any other than to her the first fruit of virginity (Commentary on Matthew 2:17 [A.D. 248]).

Hilary of Poitiers

If they [the brethren of the Lord] had been Mary’s sons and not those taken from Joseph’s former marriage, she would never have been given over in the moment of the passion [crucifixion] to the apostle John as his mother, the Lord saying to each, “Woman, behold your son,” and to John, “Behold your mother” [John 19:26-27], as he bequeathed filial love to a disciple as a consolation to the one desolate (Commentary on Matthew 1:4 [A.D. 354]).

Athanasius

Let those, therefore, who deny that the Son is by nature from the Father and proper to his essence deny also that He took true human flesh from the ever-virgin Mary (Discourses against the Arians 2:70 [A.D. 360]).

Epiphanius

We believe in one God, the Father almighty, maker of all things, both visible and invisible; and in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God . . . who for us men and for our salvation came down and took flesh, that is, was born perfectly of the holy ever-virgin Mary by the Holy Spirit (The Man Well-Anchored 120 [A.D. 374]).

Jerome

But as regards Victorinus, I assert what has already been proven from the gospel—that he [Victorinus] spoke of the brethren of the Lord not as being sons of Mary but brethren in the sense I have explained, that is to say, brethren in point of kinship, not by nature. (Against Helvidius: The Perpetual Virginity of Mary 19 [A.D. 383]).

Didymus the Blind

It helps us to understand the terms “firstborn” and “only begotten” when the Evangelist tells that Mary remained a virgin “until she brought forth her firstborn son” [Matt. 1:25]; for neither did Mary, who is to be honored and praised above all others, marry anyone else, nor did she ever become the mother of anyone else, but even after childbirth she remained always and forever an immaculate virgin" (The Trinity 3:4 [A.D. 386]).

Ambrose of Milan

Imitate her [Mary], holy mothers, who in her only dearly beloved Son set forth so great an example of maternal virtue; for neither have you sweeter children [than Jesus], nor did the virgin seek the consolation of being able to bear another son (Letters 63:111 [A.D. 388])

Pope Siricius I

You had good reason to be horrified at the thought that another birth might issue from the same virginal womb from which Christ was born according to the Flesh. For the Lord Jesus would never have chosen to be born of a virgin if he had ever judged that she would be so incontinent as to contaminate with the seed of human intercourse the birthplace of the Lord’s body, chat court of the eternal King (Letter to Bishop Anysius [A.D. 392]).

Augustine

In being born of a virgin who chose to remain a virgin even before she knew who was to be born other, Christ wanted to approve virginity rather than to impose it. And he wanted virginity to be of free choice even in that woman in whom he took upon himself the form of a slave (Holy Virginity 4:4 [A.D. 401]).

Leporius

We confess, therefore, that our Lord and God, Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, born of the Father before the ages, and in times most recent, made man of the Holy Spirit and the ever-virgin Mary (Document of Amendment 3 [A.D. 426]).

Cyril of Alexandria

The Word himself, coming into the Blessed Virgin herself, assumed for himself his own temple from the substance of the Virgin and came forth from her a man in all that could be externally discerned, while interiorly He was true God. Therefore he kept his Mother a virgin even after her childbearing (Against Those Who Do Not Wish to Confess That the Holy Virgin is the Mother of God 4 [A.D. 430]).


#3

You might want to consider making a gift of this book: Mary and the Fathers of the Church: The Blessed Virgin Mary in Patristic Thought - Luigi Gambero;


#4

Read the Protevangelium of James at New Advent. Here’s a link. It was written by James, not an Apostle, but possibly one of the “bretheren of the Lord”. This could have been one of Christ’s step-brothers or close cousins.

newadvent.org/fathers/0847.htm


#5

[left]Here’s some:[/left]
[left]Justin Martyr
[/left]
[left][Jesus] became man by the Virgin so that the course that was taken by disobedience in the beginning through the agency of the serpent might be also the very course by which it would be put down. Eve, a virgin and undefiled, conceived the word of the serpent and bore disobedience and death. But the Virgin Mary received faith and joy when the angel Gabriel announced to her the glad tidings that the Spirit of the Lord would come upon her and the power of the Most High would overshadow her, for which reason the Holy One being born of her is the Son of God. And she replied, “Be it done unto me according to your word” (Luke 1:38) (Dialogue with Trypho 100 A.D. 155]).
[/left]
**[left]Irenaeus

[/left]
**[left]Consequently, then, Mary the Virgin is found to be obedient, saying, “Behold, 0 Lord, your handmaid; be it done to me according to your word.” Eve . . . who was then still a virgin although she had Adam for a husband — for in paradise they were both naked but were not ashamed; for, having been created only a short time, they had no understanding of the procreation of children . . . having become disobedient [sin], was made the cause of death for herself and for the whole human race; so also Mary, betrothed to a man but nevertheless still a virgin, being obedient [no sin], was made the cause of salvation for herself and for the whole human race. . . . Thus, the knot of Eve’s disobedience was loosed by the obedience of Mary. What the virgin Eve had bound in unbelief, the Virgin Mary loosed through faith (Against Heresies 3:22:24 A.D. 189]).
[/left]
**[left]Origen
[/left]
[left]This Virgin Mother of the Only-begotten of God is called Mary, worthy of God, immaculate of the immaculate, one of the one (Homily 1 A.D. 244]).

[/left]
[left]Hippolytus
[/left]
**[left]
[/left]
[left]He [Jesus] was the ark formed of incorruptible wood. For by this is signified that His tabernacle [Mary] was exempt from defilement and corruption (*Orat. In Illud, Dominus pascit me, in Gallandi, Bibl. Patrum, II, 496 *ante A.D. 235]).

[/left]
**[left]Ephraim the Syrian
[/left]
**[left]
[/left]
[left]You alone and your Mother are more beautiful than any others, for there is neither blemish in you nor any stains upon your Mother. Who of my children can compare in beauty to these? (Nisibene Hymns 27:8 A. D. 361]).
[/left]
**[left]Ambrose of Milan
[/left]
**[left]Come, then, and search out your sheep, not through your servants or hired men, but do it yourself. Lift me up bodily and in the flesh, which is fallen in Adam. Lift me up not from Sarah but from Mary, a Virgin not only undefiled but a Virgin whom grace had made inviolate, free of every stain of sin (Commentary on Psalm 118:22-30 A.D. 387]).
[/left]
**[left]Gregory Nazianzen
[/left]
**[left]
[/left]
[left]He was conceived by the virgin, who had been first purified by the Spirit in soul and body; for, as it was fitting that childbearing should receive its share of honor, so it was necessary that virginity should receive even greater honor (Sermon 38 [d. **A.D. 390]).
[/left]
**[left]
[/left]
[left]Augustine
[/left]
**[left]
[/left]
[left]We must except the Holy Virgin Mary, concerning whom I wish to raise no question when it touches the subject of sins, out of honor to the Lord; for from Him we know what abundance of grace for overcoming sin in every particular was conferred upon her who had the merit to conceive and bear Him who undoubtedly had no sin (Nature and Grace 36:42 A.D. 415]).
[/left]
**[left]Theodotus of Ancrya
[/left]
**[left]A virgin, innocent, spotless, free of all defect, untouched, unsullied, holy in soul and body, like a lily sprouting among thorns (Homily 6:11[ante **A.D. 446]).
[/left]
**[left]Proclus of Constantinople
[/left]
[left]
[/left]
**[left]As He formed her without any stain of her own, so He proceeded from her contracting no stain (Homily 1[ante **A.D. 446]).
[/left]
**[left]Jacob of Sarug
[/left]
[left]
[/left]
**[left][T]he very fact that God has elected her proves that none was ever holier than Mary, if any stain had disfigured her soul, if any other virgin had been purer and holier, God would have selected her and rejected Mary[ante **A.D. 521].
[/left]
**[left]Romanos the Melodist
[/left]
**[left]Then the tribes of Israel heard that Anna had conceived the immaculate one. So everyone took part in the rejoicing. Joachim gave a banquet, and great was the merriment in the garden. He invited the priests and Levites to prayer; then he called Mary into the center of the crowd, that she might be magnified (*On the Birth of Mary *1 [d. ca **A.D. 560]).[/left]
[left] [/left]
[left]Pio[/left]


#6

[quote=Scott_Lafrance]Read the Protevangelium of James at New Advent. Here’s a link. It was written by James, not an Apostle, but possibly one of the “bretheren of the Lord”. This could have been one of Christ’s step-brothers or close cousins.

newadvent.org/fathers/0847.htm
[/quote]

Scott,

it was not written by James the Less (who is the Apostle and also the one who is related to Jesus and the son of Alphaeus). It was written by an unknown person claiming to be James. The document is dated somewhere between 120 and 150 A.D.

I still believe that one can argue the case by using the Scripture alone, that Mary did not have children, starting with the Scriptures that name those 4: James, Judas (the Apostles and sons of Alphaeus) Simon and Joset, who are the sons of the other Mary.

The other strong evidence is the handing of Mary over to the care of John the Evangelist.

MaggieOH


#7

[quote=MaggieOH]I still believe that one can argue the case by using the Scripture alone, that Mary did not have children, starting with the Scriptures that name those 4: James, Judas (the Apostles and sons of Alphaeus) Simon and Joset, who are the sons of the other Mary.

The other strong evidence is the handing of Mary over to the care of John the Evangelist.
[/quote]

But Maggie, the case in question is Mary’s perpetual virginity, not whether or not she had other offspring. Her cousin Elizabeth was certainly no virgin, yet she had no offspring until God miraculously intervened.


#8

I agree, and although this James is not James Boanerges (Son of Thunder, with his brother John), but rather a personal relative of Jesus, quite possibly Jesus’ step-brother (through Joseph), then it is very relavant that he is the author, as he would be extremely conversant in the story of Mary. Additionally, this James went on to become the leader of the Jerusalem congregation once the Apostles began to spread out and the Church became more centered in Antioch and then Rome (because of Peter). Though not canonical or inspired, this document is very important to the theology of the Church.

[quote=MaggieOH]Scott,

it was not written by James the Less (who is the Apostle and also the one who is related to Jesus and the son of Alphaeus). It was written by an unknown person claiming to be James. The document is dated somewhere between 120 and 150 A.D.

I still believe that one can argue the case by using the Scripture alone, that Mary did not have children, starting with the Scriptures that name those 4: James, Judas (the Apostles and sons of Alphaeus) Simon and Joset, who are the sons of the other Mary.

The other strong evidence is the handing of Mary over to the care of John the Evangelist.

MaggieOH
[/quote]


#9

[quote=Dan Blake]But Maggie, the case in question is Mary’s perpetual virginity, not whether or not she had other offspring. Her cousin Elizabeth was certainly no virgin, yet she had no offspring until God miraculously intervened.
[/quote]

Maggie’s point is still important. It’s true that a woman without children may not necessarily be a virgin. But it’s also true that it would be impossible for a woman to have children and remain a virgin (unless conceived the way Our Lord was, of course). I think it gets us more than halfway there. The odds are, since we know Mary was capable of conceiving, that relations with Joseph would have produced offspring.


#10

If you go into more depth with the sources cited above for the teaching of the Early Fathers, you will also find something that is often neglected in the discussion of Mary’s perpetual virginity–the reason, or one of them, why the doctrine is necessary. As always, doctrine about Mary is about Jesus, the full truth about his divine and human natures. The insistence on Mary’s perpetual virginity, that she remained virgo intacto during conception and delivery of her child, also protects against a heretical notion about her conceiving “of the Holy Spirit”. this notion was that it proved that Mary, like human women in pagan mythology who became mothers of demigods, was impregnated by a male deity with a penis, semen, the “natural route” used by a god (or demon). This heresy attacks the divine nature of God, confusion his masculine attributes of power, creativity, initiation of intimate relationship, and divine fatherhood, with “maleness”, the physical attributes of the male gender in humans and animals. Since it is one of the more dominant heresies present today, it is important to combat the confusion between “masculine” and “male” and between “feminine” and “female”. This heresy is a key part of the theologies of Islam and Mormonism, to cite two pervasive examples, as well as the neo-feminist influences in our own Church.


#11

[quote=callbr549]My friend is entering the Church this Easter, but now is having serious concerns after reading “Whatever Happened to Mary” by Mary E. Hines. Apparently the book asserts that all of the traditional Marian beliefs are a product of 4th century or later cultural factors, and are not really handed down from the apostles.

She now asks what EARLY church fathers support Mary’s perpetual virginity, assumption, and immaculate conception. The only thing I have found is the protoevangelium of James, which does not necessarily seem that reliable. After that the only early references to Mary are concerning her role as the New Eve.

Can you cite any early Fathers that support these doctrines? Is there a book or articles that I can provide for her to read that will help? The little I read of the Hines book makes me think she is very heterodox and would reject most or all of the church’s supernatural claims – does anyone here know anything about Hines?
[/quote]

It will be difficult for you to find what you are looking for in the exact words you desire. That is to say that you will not find in the early centuries references to these dogmas as defined by Rome. A definition is always a clear statement of faith. For example, if you asked a Christian believer who God was in the first century, he would not answer “Trinity.” He may have answered that he believes in God the Father, and in the Son of God and in the Spirit of God. The word Trias (Greek) was first used by Theophilus in the late Second Century. He was followed by Tertullian with Trinitas (Latin). The Church slowly adapted the usage until it was accepted universally and was defined dogmatically centuries later.

You will find however, throughout all the early Christain writings references to Mary as “virgin,” “incorrupt,” “without stain,” etc. These titles were usually reserved for Mary and show that the early Christians had some knowledge of Mary’s privileges (perpetual virginity, bodily assumption, and immaculate conception). Their knowledge although elementary would become more detailed with time. I urge you to read the early Fathers on line and see how many times and how early on they used the titles for Mary. You will then need to ask yourself why are they using for example the title virgin if she then had other children or she never continued to be a virgin after Jesus’ birth. Surely to call Mary a virgin if she did not continue to be one would be an error. Yet in all the writings and at the various councils, she has always been designated as the Virgin.

Scripture in fact also does this. Isaiah 7:14 reads:

“Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold a virgin shall conceive and bear a son and shall call his name Immanuel.”

Note that the Holy Spirit says that a virgin will:

  1. Conceive
  2. Bear a son
  3. Name the child Immanuel

This therefore reveals that Mary was a virgin when she conceived (prior to conception), when she bore a son (during birth), and when she named the child (after the birth).

Scripture and the Fathers’ writings therefore reveal a lot more than what we think. All we have to do is pray, ask more questions and dig a little deeper.


#12

[quote=callbr549]Can you cite any early Fathers that support these doctrines? Is there a book or articles that I can provide for her to read that will help? The little I read of the Hines book makes me think she is very heterodox and would reject most or all of the church’s supernatural claims – does anyone here know anything about Hines?
[/quote]

You should probably refer your friend to Father Mateo’s work available through Catholic Answers entitled “Refuting the Attack on Mary.” Another very useful and informative book is “Biblical Mariology” by Stephano Manelli (I’m not sure about the spelling of the author’s name). The reason you will want to start with Scripture as opposed to the Fathers is that if it’s found in the New Testament it can’t get any more “Apostolic” than that. With this solid foundation, then move onto the Fathers.


#13

It appears to me that the use of a belief in an ever-Virgin Mary as an anathema evolved over the course of Church history. The Gospels make no mention of using Mary as an anathema. Although the ancient versions of what we now call the Apostle’s Creed mention Mary, they did not exclude the possiblity of her later having sex. The early Church document, “[font=MS Sans Serif]TWELVE TOPICS ON THE FAITH,” (Third Century?) which deal with anathemas, do not use the belief in an ever-Virgin mary as an anathema. But the [/font]Second Council of Constantinople (533) uses the term "ever-Virgin in an anathema.


#14

It appears to me that the use of a belief in an ever-Virgin Mary as an anathema evolved over the course of Church history. The Gospels make no mention of using Mary as an anathema. Although the ancient versions of what we now call the Apostle’s Creed mention Mary, they did not exclude the possiblity of her later having sex. The early Church document, “[font=MS Sans Serif]TWELVE TOPICS ON THE FAITH,” (Third Century?) which deal with anathemas, do not use the belief in an ever-Virgin mary as an anathema. But the [/font]Second Council of Constantinople (533) uses the term "ever-Virgin in an anathema.


#15

It appears to me that the use of a belief in an ever-Virgin Mary as an anathema evolved over the course of Church history. The Gospels make no mention of using Mary as an anathema. Although the ancient versions of what we now call the Apostle’s Creed mention Mary, they did not exclude the possiblity of her later having sex.

So you believe in that junk that the Blessed Mother have had sex just because the Apostle’s Creed did not exclude that possibility? I guess it’s your own interpretation of the Creed, because the Church doesn’t say that that’s the reason. In fact, the Church has it as an infallible dogma that Mary remained a Virgin all her life.

If Mary is the Spouse of the Holy Spirit, then I assume that Joseph, being a God-fearing man, didn’t even took a hint of having a sexual relationship with Mary. Both of them lived a life of chastity.

Secondly, Jesus is the ONLY Son of the Father, and follows that He is the ONLY Son of Mary.

Pio


#16

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.