Perpetual Virginity and Annunciation


#1

Hey everybody.

I was speaking to a relative about the perpetual virginity of Mary. I brought up the strange reply given from Mary to the angel in today’s reading (Luke 1). Namely, why would Mary (a betrothed woman) feel the need to ask how it was possible that she would conceive a son?

My relative replied that perhaps Mary interpreted the angel’s pronouncement as something pertaining to the short-term future. That is, since she was in the betrothal period prior to the “fetching of the bride”, she’d have seen no way to conceive the child within the immediate, short-term future. Say… a few weeks. And that’s how she understood the angel’s announcement.

I couldn’t see why this is not a reasonable reading. It involves a certain assumption, but I didn’t think it was completely bizarre. Can anyone think of a reason why this wouldn’t be the case?

Thanks.

Note: The preceding question is posed by a Catholic trying to better formulate an argument for Catholic teaching. It should not be interpreted as an attack on said teaching.


#2

This is certainly a possibility, A second possibility was that Mary was a consecrated perpetual virgin, and that Joseph was her caretaker, a much older widower. Therefore they had no intention of having sexual relations.

This view is found in the Protoevangelium of James, a non canonical but very old work (written in first century or early second century)


#3

In the days of Jesus, the temple virgins finished their duties to the temple at age 14 when they were married.


#4

That’s an interesting assertion. It seems more eisegesis than exegesis, though – what in the text would lead a person to presume that’s what’s going on? The verb is clearly in the future tense. Of all the tenses in Koine Greek, the future tense is the one most strongly an assertion of time rather than aspect. If there were any other uses of this verb in the Bible, in which a ‘near future’ is implied rather than a ‘generic future’, then she’d have a basis from which to make this assertion… but this verse is the only one in which this verb (συλλαμβάνω) is used in the future tense. If there were Scriptural examples in which a future tense verb was used in a manner that implied ‘near future’ and excluded any other possible future (purely through the use of the verb, without any other contextual clues), then she could make that argument, but I’m guessing that’s not what she’s saying.

Rather, it seems simply that she’s asserting this interpretation without anything upon which to base it, other than “well… it’s possible, isn’t it?”. That dog just don’t hunt. :wink:

I couldn’t see why this is not a reasonable reading. It involves a certain assumption, but I didn’t think it was completely bizarre. Can anyone think of a reason why this wouldn’t be the case?

Because that’s not the way that Koine Greek works? :shrug:

If I wanted to play devil’s advocate, I might attempt to suggest that, if Gabriel meant it as a prophecy (i.e., happening in indefinite time), Luke would have used the “futuristic present” (συλλαμβάνω, rather than the συλλήμψῃ that appears here). But, that only demonstrates indefinite future, not middle- or far-future, and it doesn’t rule out near-future.

I think that, if this is the assertion she’s trying to present, then it falls to her to provide an example that works that way in the Greek NT. Short of such a demonstration, it really boils down to a simple “I want it to mean this”, and that’s just indefensible. :shrug:


#5

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