Perpetual Virginity and Common Sense


#1

Hello all;

I was thinking about some common protestant objections to the doctrine of Mary’s perpetual virginity - e.g. “Why wouldn’t Joseph and Mary have marital relations after Jesus birth since, after all, they were married.”

I was trying to come up with a common sense response to include with other, more theological and scriptural apologetic arguments. What do you think about the following? (Note: I do not mean to be crass, so I apologize if I offend anyone’s sensitivities.)

For a man - there are certain physical requirements that are necesary to perform the marital act. Psychological, physical, and emotional barriers can impede that physical requirement. Hence modern medicine developed Viagra and the like to assist men in acheiving the appropriate physical condition required for the act. But, of cource, Viagra did not exist at the time of Christ’s birth.

My thinking is this… As a practical matter, gentlemen, if your wife was the Mother of the Lord Jesus Christ - God Incarnate, the Second person of the Trinity capable of speaking all of creation into and out of existence - how physically capable would you be of performing the marital act with her? Given the enormity of her role as the Mother to Jesus, isn’t it just common sense to conclude that the marriage of Joseph and Mary was simply not a typical marriage in the conjugal sense?

Peace,


#2

Not just the psychological, but Joseph was a good Jewish man. People died who touched the ark which carried God’s word. Mary carried the Word incarnate. I think Joseph would have been aware of this.


#3

[quote=Robert in SD]Hello all;

I was thinking about some common protestant objections to the doctrine of Mary’s perpetual virginity - e.g. “Why wouldn’t Joseph and Mary have marital relations after Jesus birth since, after all, they were married.”

I was trying to come up with a common sense response to include with other, more theological and scriptural apologetic arguments. What do you think about the following? (Note: I do not mean to be crass, so I apologize if I offend anyone’s sensitivities.)

For a man - there are certain physical requirements that are necesary to perform the marital act. Psychological, physical, and emotional barriers can impede that physical requirement. Hence modern medicine developed Viagra and the like to assist men in acheiving the appropriate physical condition required for the act. But, of cource, Viagra did not exist at the time of Christ’s birth.

My thinking is this… As a practical matter, gentlemen, if your wife was the Mother of the Lord Jesus Christ - God Incarnate, the Second person of the Trinity capable of speaking all of creation into and out of existence - how physically capable would you be of performing the marital act with her? Given the enormity of her role as the Mother to Jesus, isn’t it just common sense to conclude that the marriage of Joseph and Mary was simply not a typical marriage in the conjugal sense?

Peace,
[/quote]

I’m very curious as to why Protestants do not believe in Mary’s perpetual viginity. By doing so they are rejecting the teaching of the Protestants founders!
Church Militant had a good post on this referring to the beliefs of the “Three Pillars of Protestantism”:

The Perpetual Virginity of Mary:

Martin Luther: “ It is an article of faith that Mary is Mother of the Lord and still a virgin… Christ, we believe, came forth from a womb left perfectly intact.” ( Works of Luther, Vol. 11, pages 319-320; Vol. 6, page 510.)

John Calvin: “ There have been certain folk who have wished to suggest from this passage [Matthew 1:25] that the Virgin Mary had other children than the Son of God, and that Joseph had then dwelt with her later; but what folly this is! For the gospel writer did not wish to record what happened afterwards; he simply wished to make clear Joseph’s obedience and to show that Joseph had been well and truly assured that it was God who had sent His angel to Mary. He had therefore never dwelt with her nor had he shared her company… And beside this Our Lord Jesus Christ is called the first-born. This is not because there was a second or a third, but because the gospel writer is paying regard to the precedence. Scripture speaks thus of naming the first-born whether or no there was any question of the second.” (Sermon on Matthew 1:22-25. Published in 1562.)

Ulrich Zwingli: “I firmly believe that Mary, according to the words of the gospel, as a pure Virgin brought forth for us the Son of God and in childbirth and after childbirth forever remained a pure, intact Virgin.” ( Zwingli Opera, Vol. 1, page 424.)

You should ask any Protestant who does not believe in Mary’s perpetual virginity why they don’t believe when their founders believed that.


#4

[quote=thistle]You should ask any Protestant who does not believe in Mary’s perpetual virginity why they don’t believe when their founders believed that.
[/quote]

To quote my former self prior to investigating Catholicism - “Because I don’t particularly agree with Luther and Calvin as much as my college does!” (I grew up in a Holiness Tradition church - other than John Wesley - we don’t have too many people we look up to - I used to get rather aggrivated at my college because of their beliefs in predestination/Calvinism and other things I disagreed with - and just flat out their love of Luther and Calvin - I never saw anything about either of them that made me want to admire them… Its kind of interesting because one of the things that “let” me first start investigating Catholicism was the fact that Catholics believe in free will and don’t believe in either predestination nor OSAS! It was actually the first question about Catholicism I asked my Catholic friend it was such an important issue to me!)

And - for that matter I am not positive that one of the branches of the Holiness tradition that merged into my church I grew up in (in fact the branch that the church my mother grew up in was originally) traces back to any particular Protestant leader - I think they were pretty independant!

I think theres this assumption that Protestants love the Reformers - but its not necessarily true…

To us it really was Sola Scriptura - if the Bible didn’t say it - why believe it? (except that wasn’t entirely true - they were against drinking, dancing, and “supporting hollywood” lol)

This is still one of the hardest doctrines for me to accept for some reason - even though I really have what would seem like less theological oppositions to it - but since I have managed to change my mind on the big things (the Eucharist mainly - and praying to Mary and the Saints, and Purgatory, and Tradition/Authority) I have come to the conclusion that I believe in Tradition and the Authority of the Church enough NOW that I will accept Mary’s Perpetual Virginity and Immaculate Conception, even those are my two last doctrines that I’m just not so sure about…


#5

[quote=AmISearching?]To quote my former self prior to investigating Catholicism - “Because I don’t particularly agree with Luther and Calvin as much as my college does!” (I grew up in a Holiness Tradition church - other than John Wesley - we don’t have too many people we look up to - I used to get rather aggrivated at my college because of their beliefs in predestination/Calvinism and other things I disagreed with - and just flat out their love of Luther and Calvin - I never saw anything about either of them that made me want to admire them… Its kind of interesting because one of the things that “let” me first start investigating Catholicism was the fact that Catholics believe in free will and don’t believe in either predestination nor OSAS! It was actually the first question about Catholicism I asked my Catholic friend it was such an important issue to me!)

And - for that matter I am not positive that one of the branches of the Holiness tradition that merged into my church I grew up in (in fact the branch that the church my mother grew up in was originally) traces back to any particular Protestant leader - I think they were pretty independant!

I think theres this assumption that Protestants love the Reformers - but its not necessarily true…

To us it really was Sola Scriptura - if the Bible didn’t say it - why believe it? (except that wasn’t entirely true - they were against drinking, dancing, and “supporting hollywood” lol)

This is still one of the hardest doctrines for me to accept for some reason - even though I really have what would seem like less theological oppositions to it - but since I have managed to change my mind on the big things (the Eucharist mainly - and praying to Mary and the Saints, and Purgatory, and Tradition/Authority) I have come to the conclusion that I believe in Tradition and the Authority of the Church enough NOW that I will accept Mary’s Perpetual Virginity and Immaculate Conception, even those are my two last doctrines that I’m just not so sure about…
[/quote]

I was a Methodist before becoming a Catholic but in those days to be honest I can’t even remember the subject of Mary’s perpetual virginity ever came up.
I accept the Church’s position that Mary was ever virgin, even though people point to Matthew where it states she had no marital relations until Jesus was born. “Until” could imply a normal married life thereafter, but this is something that cannot be proved. Either way the virgin birth of Jesus is not affected and neither is my faith.


#6

Let me first state that I am not passing my opinion off as the theology of my church. In all honesty it really isn’t much of an issue one way or the other for me as I doubt it is for many Protestants and Anabaptists. We believe that Mary was a holy and honored woman but do not hold that she was perfect. Obviously she was chosen by God for her piety but she was human and as the verse says, “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” If there is an exception in there for Mary and others pleas enlighten me on it but as I stated before I’m not speaking for my church, just for what I understand of a part that really isn’t too much of an issue.

On the part of common sense, I would think it harder to rationalize that Mary and Joseph lived as brother and sister during their marriage. Before Mary conceived Jesus she was engaged so obviously there was love between the two. The natural progression of the relationship would be to be engaged, married, and then to have a family. This would obviously involve marital relations between the two. Well we know that a typical life was not to be the case (lucky for us sinners) but that does not mean that Mary and Josephs feelings for each other necessarily diminished. On the contrary I think the God would not want his son to come into a family where the father and mother lived as sister and brother.

[quote=Robert in SD]My thinking is this… As a practical matter, gentlemen, if your wife was the Mother of the Lord Jesus Christ - God Incarnate, the Second person of the Trinity capable of speaking all of creation into and out of existence - how physically capable would you be of performing the marital act with her? Given the enormity of her role as the Mother to Jesus, isn’t it just common sense to conclude that the marriage of Joseph and Mary was simply not a typical marriage in the conjugal sense?
[/quote]

Nobody will argue that the life of Mary and Joseph was nothing less than supernatural. I do think however that they didn’t know the full scope of the plans of God until later in life. We really don’t read much about Jesus during his young life and early adulthood. I’m sure the events of Christ’s birth filled them with awe but claiming that it made Joseph “Gun shy” is gong a bit too far. If anything going through such a supernatural experience would bring them closer together, making the possibility of performance anxiety less of an issue.

I think my biggest problem with the idea that Mary remained a virgin is the idea that being intimate with her husband would somehow make her unclean. God created sex for procreation and to strengthen and sustain the marital bond. The idea that the Mary was too holy to be intimate with her husband is repugnant to me. I remember at my wedding my wide offered up a prayer to Mary to ask her to help her be a good wife. How is this possible if Mary was never fully a wife to Joseph? I’m not saying sex is the end all and be all of a relationship but it is a vital part of a marriage. I just don’t see it as logical that God would put his son in a home that was not complete.

Again I’m not passing my beliefs off as those of my church, I am just giving an honest response.


#7

Are you saying the Mother of God did not know that she was carrying the Son of God and how important that would have been? Look at it this way… when the angel Gabriel came to announce to Mary that she was going to conceive, he told Mary that she was “full of grace”. what is grace? it’s the opposite of sin and Mary was “full of it”. Mary was the new eve predicted in Genesis when God said “I will put emnity between thy seed and her seed.” Mary is the new Eve and Christ the new Adam - the redemption of mankind. Mary had to be sinless to carry the Word incarnate, if not, the Word incarnate would have had original sin, and to suggest that would be more than heretical - it would make you non-Christian. Think of it this way, Mary was the first Christian because she was the first to be saved by Christ and bear the Word incarnate. She was also given a special status as the mother of the Ark. Eve sinned, but Mary just carried God’s will the WHOLE WAY THROUGH, she was the only one who was capable to do that throughout her life. I’m sure she had impulses to sin, but if you don’t have the stain of original sin, it is a lot easier to avoid it. Mary just lived up to her promises to God to do His will when she accepted the Word into her womb. Plus, it never shows us in scripture that Mary ever did sin, so assuming that she did goes against sola scriptura doesn’t it? I never could wrap my head around that one.


#8

[quote=Shlemele]Obviously she was chosen by God for her piety but she was human and as the verse says, “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” If there is an exception in there for Mary and others pleas enlighten me on it …

On the part of common sense, I would think it harder to rationalize that Mary and Joseph lived as brother and sister during their marriage. Before Mary conceived Jesus she was engaged so obviously there was love between the two. The natural progression of the relationship would be to be engaged, married, and then to have a family. This would obviously involve marital relations between the two…

Nobody will argue that the life of Mary and Joseph was nothing less than supernatural.
Again I’m not passing my beliefs off as those of my church, I am just giving an honest response.
[/quote]

Hi Sclemele,

When the bible says “all have sinned”, there are exceptions. Right off the bat you can’t possibly include Jesus in the “all”.

Consider this, if I stand up at a high school rally, and I say, “everyone” must come to the football game on Friday. This is most definately not going to mean everyone in the whole world, rather just the group I am speaking to.

Secondly as for normal marital relations, well, I just don’t see it. When I was in the presence of the Holy Spirit, for an extended amount of time, the thought of marital relations, was nowhere in my mind. I am not saying that it was wrong, I am just saying there is no need for it. Consider that Mary, had, God in her womb, and after that held him and nurtured him throughout his childhood. You can’t get any closer to God than that can you? If you are truly in his presence, then what need is there for sex?

Just my two cents worth.
Chip


#9

I find this topic a bit frustrating, because so often the answers amount to a condemnation of sex. :confused:

The Church tells me Mary is ever virgin, and I believe that.

But I don’t see how sex with Joseph would have made her “impure” and I don’t imagine Joseph had no desire to make love to her. Mary and Joseph were saints, but saints are people, and have the same wants as people do. Are you somehow saying, Robert, that Joseph would be turned off by Mary because she was so pure? Rather, he would desire physical unity with her more – there is nothing more attractive than purity.

I feel like too many people follow this logic: Dogma: “Mary was pure.” Assumption: “Sex is impure.” Conclusion: “Mary didn’t have sex.”

But that reasoning has a false assumption there. Sex is wonderful, and pure, and holy – and all the moreso if saints are having it! Certainly, there are many abuses of our sexual nature, but a married couple making love in a dignified way is not an abuse.

I must say, I do like Chip’s answer, though:

[quote=Chipper]Consider that Mary, had, God in her womb, and after that held him and nurtured him throughout his childhood. You can’t get any closer to God than that can you? If you are truly in his presence, then what need is there for sex?

[/quote]

Now **there ** is a real understanding of sex. It is an intimacy, and does not compare to the mystical intimacy of unity with God. I still don’t get why it couldn’t coexist with marital sexuality, but Chip certainly made a good point.


#10

I was thinking about the “all have sinned” passage just the other day. In addition to Jesus, obviously One who never sinned, I can think of several other exceptions. What about children who die before the age of reason? Can we say that a 2 year old child has sinned? Also, what about those who are severely metally handicapped? In my lifetime I have know a few beautiful people who were born with Down’s Syndrome and I can honestly say from my persepective that their understanding and intellect certainly has prohibited them from committing sin.

So. . .those are special population exceptions. As for the Blessed Mother, I would most definitely consider her to be a “special population” in and of herself, by God’s ordaining. One particularly good exlpanation that has helped my husband–a Southern Baptist convert to Catholicism–is that of Mary being the Arc of the New Covenant. Her very womb was the tabernacle which held the Word of God made flesh! When one considers all of the meticulous instructions that God set forth for the building of the Arc in the OT and its care, it only makes sense that if Mary was predestined from all eternity to bear the Son that God would have created her with all the graces and meticulous attention that is suitable for her special role.

Scruples, scruples, scruples. . .they are so hard to overcome!

Another passage along the lines of “all have sinned” is the passage: “There is none righteous, not even one.” Rom 3:10. Yet, we read in Scripture that several men throughout history have been deemed righteous before the Lord. For example: Noah (Gen. 6:9), Judah’s daughter-in-law Tamar (Gen.38:26), Abraham (Rom 4:3). Jesus himself recognizes that there have been many prophets and “righteous men” who have not witnessed the wonders that his disciples have (Matt. 13:17).

So. . .my point. There are almost always exceptions.


#11

The Holy Spirit who overshadowed Mary, was in a sense her spouse. So although Joseph was her legal spouse, Mary would have committed adultery to have marital relations. This also fits in with Tradition that says Mary was a consecrated virgin, who according to the ways of the time, were frequently married to older men who choose to forgo marital relations and protect these “brides of God”.


#12

I must be missing something… :confused: Where in the world does it say that Mary was a spouse of the Holy Spirit?


#13

Maria G;

You make a good point about the New Ark. I have heard that before and I see some merit to the position.

Thistle and AmIsearching?;

I’ve seen the quotes from Luther, Calvin and Zwingli before, and use them in my arguments as well. Again, those are good arguments, but I really want more feedback on the persuasiveness of the position I presented. Is it persuasive as well? AIS - I agree the doctrine can be hard for someone who has grown up in a faith tradition that denies the perpetual virginity of Mary.

Schlemele;

I think the Scriptures definitely support the proposition that Mary and Joseph knew full well the implications that come from raising the Son of God. Both were visited - Mary by the angel Gabriel and Joseph in a dream. Neither could have been ignorant of the implications of Jesus conception and birth.

I don’t agree with the argument that if Joseph had marital relations with Mary she would be “unclean.” If you implied that from my argument, then please know that is not what I intended to impart. Sexual relations between a man and woman in a marriage is holy and beautiful. My point was that the marriage of Joseph and Mary was simply not a normal marital relationship and because of that normal sexual relations between the two would have been very difficult if not entirely impossible - even from just a physical perspective.

The sinlessness of Mary is another topic.

Prodigal Son;

I did not mean to imply that sex is dirty, nor did I condemn sex. Sex is holy and beautiful and a gift of God to married couples. Sex should not be condemned but glorified. I did not mean to imply that sex between Joseph and Mary would be condemnable, only that it would be impractical - notwithstanding the fact that the two were married and therefore entitled to engage in the marital act.

Thanks for the comments. :thumbsup:


#14

In addition to all the logical evidence you have the understanding of the early Christian Church that believed that until Helvidius came up with the idea that she wasn’t ever virgin.
newadvent.org/fathers/3007.htm

As Catholics we believe that sex is a sacred act, something that should only be done in marriage. Sex is a beautiful thing, Yet being in the presence of God, how would you have any desire for sex as you have the most sacred, completeness right there.

That is how I get my head around it, in God’s presence He is all you need. There is nothing more sacred.

In addition to that if I was Joseph it would be pretty easy to be chaste around Mary since she was essentially given over to God, like a Nun. When I am around Nuns I am drawn toward God not to them.

God Bless
Scylla

God Bless
Scylla


#15

“The angel went on to say to her, ‘Do not fear, Mary. You have found favor with God. You shall conceive and bear a son and give him the name Jesus. Great will be his dignity and he will be called Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of David his father. He will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and his reign will be without end.

 Mary said to the angel, ‘How can this be, since I do not know man.?”  

 The angel answered her:  “The Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.  Hence, the holy offspring to be born will be called Son of God.’”  Luke 1:20-35

Mary said: “How can this be, since I do not know man?

Keep in mind, when the angel made this announcement, Mary was engaged to be married to Joseph. In the context of an upcoming marriage, the announcement of her impending motherhood would be startling only in the fact of being announced by an angel. Yet Mary said “How can this be, since I do not know man?

How does her reply make any sense except in the context of a vow of perpetual virginity?


#16

[quote=Singinbeauty]I must be missing something… :confused: Where in the world does it say that Mary was a spouse of the Holy Spirit?
[/quote]

:wave: Hi SB,

I didn’t say the Bible says she was the spouse, I said “in a sense”. The Holy Spirit “overshadowed” Mary. That is in the Bible. I am in no way implying any kind of actual sexual relations.

But those Biblical words, along with Tradition and historical texts telling us of her being a consecrated virgin, and most especially the foreshadowing in the Bible with the Ark show that Mary was ever virgin.

This Scripture is brought to you by scripturecatholic.com/blessed_virgin_mary.html#the_bvm-IV
Exodus 25:11-21 - the ark of the Old Covenant was made of the purest gold for God’s Word. Mary is the ark of the New Covenant and is the purest vessel for the Word of God made flesh.

2 Sam. 6:7 - the Ark is so holy and pure that when Uzzah touched it, the Lord slew him. This shows us that the Ark is undefiled. Mary the Ark of the New Covenant is even more immaculate and undefiled, spared by God from original sin so that she could bear His eternal Word in her womb.

1 Chron. 13:9-10 - this is another account of Uzzah and the Ark. For God to dwell within Mary the Ark, Mary had to be conceived without sin. For Protestants to argue otherwise would be to say that God would let the finger of Satan touch His Son made flesh. This is incomprehensible.

1 Chron. 15 and 16 - these verses show the awesome reverence the Jews had for the Ark - veneration, vestments, songs, harps, lyres, cymbals, trumpets.

Luke 1:39 / 2 Sam. 6:2 - Luke’s conspicuous comparison’s between Mary and the Ark described by Samuel underscores the reality of Mary as the undefiled and immaculate Ark of the New Covenant. In these verses, Mary (the Ark) arose and went / David arose and went to the Ark. There is a clear parallel between the Ark of the Old and the Ark of the New Covenant.

Luke 1:41 / 2 Sam. 6:16 - John the Baptist / King David leap for joy before Mary / Ark. So should we leap for joy before Mary the immaculate Ark of the Word made flesh.

Luke 1:43 / 2 Sam. 6:9 - How can the Mother / Ark of the Lord come to me? It is a holy privilege. Our Mother wants to come to us and lead us to Jesus.

Luke 1:56 / 2 Sam. 6:11 and 1 Chron. 13:14 - Mary / the Ark remained in the house for about three months.

Rev 11:19 - at this point in history, the Ark of the Old Covenant was not seen for six centuries (see 2 Macc. 2:7), and now it is finally seen in heaven. The Jewish people would have been absolutely amazed at this. However, John immediately passes over this fact and describes the “woman” clothed with the sun in Rev. 12:1. John is emphasizing that Mary is the Ark of the New Covenant and who, like the Old ark, is now worthy of veneration and praise. Also remember that Rev. 11:19 and Rev. 12:1 are tied together because there was no chapter and verse at the time these texts were written.

Rev 12:1 - the “woman” that John is describing is Mary, the Ark of the New Covenant, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars. Just as the moon reflects the light of the sun, so Mary, with the moon under her feet, reflects the glory of the Sun of Justice, Jesus Christ.

Sorry if it confused you to call her even “in a sense” the Holy Spirit’s spouse.

God Bless,
Maria


#17

[quote=Robert in SD]My thinking is this… As a practical matter, gentlemen, if your wife was the Mother of the Lord Jesus Christ - God Incarnate, the Second person of the Trinity capable of speaking all of creation into and out of existence - how physically capable would you be of performing the marital act with her? Given the enormity of her role as the Mother to Jesus, isn’t it just common sense to conclude that the marriage of Joseph and Mary was simply not a typical marriage in the conjugal sense?
[/quote]

To be honest, I think that idea defies common sense. What was involved with Mary bearing the baby Jesus?

While Mary was with child, I imagine there would be sore feet involved, as well as sore back, nausea…

After the birth of Jesus there would be nursing and many changings of diapers…

I think any kind of divine awe of the situation would quickly wear off in favor of normal man’s love of his wive and family.


#18

Imagine it was not an angel, but a midwife who approached Mary and said “You will be with child and give birth to a son”. If a midwife said that Mary would assume the midwife meant the process was already set in motion. How else would the midwife know Mary would be with child? Mary’s question would be perfectly logical. “How can this be?”

Why should her first reaction be any different for an angel?


#19

[quote=Angainor]Imagine it was not an angel, but a midwife who approached Mary and said “You will be with child and give birth to a son”. If a midwife said that Mary would assume the midwife meant the process was already set in motion. How else would the midwife know Mary would be with child? Mary’s question would be perfectly logical. “How can this be?”

Why should her first reaction be any different for an angel?
[/quote]

You are Lutheran. Are you aware that Martin Luther believed in the perpetual virginity of the Blessed Mother?


#20

Robert

Sorry if I misunderstood. There is most definitely a gap in translation between the dogma of our two churches but we’ll get past it :slight_smile: . I think the attitude I don’t agree with was best described earlier with the “Mary was pure” and “sex is impure” thus “Mary was a virgin her entire life” breakdown. Again as for her being without sin, that is a topic for another thread, suffice to say I have a problem with anyone but Jesus being perfect and I’ll save the rest for another day.

I think the Scriptures definitely support the proposition that Mary and Joseph knew full well the implications that come from raising the Son of God. Both were visited - Mary by the angel Gabriel and Joseph in a dream. Neither could have been ignorant of the implications of Jesus conception and birth.

In one sense I totally agree. The life of Joseph and Mary was one that was far beyond extraordinary, the thing about life is that seldom do we stop to realize how very extraordinary it can be. The OT Israelites had the pillar of fire and manna and yet they strayed far from God. I’m not implying that Joseph and Mary strayed, only that we as humans tend to see even the extraordinary as ordinary after enough time. I’m sure they both knew Jesus was special, but they could have never known the end result. Even Jesus asked for the cup to be spared if possible in the garden, showing that his path was his choice and not written in stone from his birth. I don’t want to get off topic here so I’ll get back to the main topic. While I’m sure there were many times of awe the household that Jesus grew up in had to be a household and operate as such.


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