I want to start out by saying that I’ve already searched through the archives looking for an answer to this, and I at least didn’t see it previously, but I could be wrong and would appriciate even a link to a previous post. I have a rather specific question, that hopefully isn’t too redundant as I’ve noted that it’s a bit of a popular topic.
Is there any scriptural basis for believing that Mary was a virgin after Jesus was born, or more specifically that Mary and Joseph never consummated their marriage? The only answers I’ve seen to similar questions quote the catechism, not the bible.
So it’s true by omission? I’m not sure I buy that argument. There’s nowhere in the bible where it says Jesus ever had a bowel movement, but are we to believe that since it’s not written it didn’t happen? Actually, the line in Matthew that piqued my interest was not one pointing towards his “brothers”, as I am fully aware that they could be kin of any kind. Rather, Matthew 1:25: “[Joseph] had no relations with her until she bore a son, and he named him Jesus.”
First of all, although you ask for scripture only in this matter, Catholics don’t base all their beliefs in scripture only. Keep in mind that scripture can be vague and that is why we turn to the Church, which was founded by Christ (therefore it was around when Mary was around) for information. However, I will try to address the “until” issue. The word “until” as used in scripture does not necessarily mean the same thing as it does today. In other words, “until” often means “up until the time” without implying that an even occurred after. Here are some examples given by www.scripturecatholic.com :
Matt. 1:25 - this verse says Joseph knew her “not until (“heos”, in Greek)” she bore a son. Some Protestants argue that this proves Joseph had relations with Mary after she bore a son. This is an erroneous reading of the text because “not until” does not mean “did not…until after.” “Heos” references the past, never the future. Instead, “not until” she bore a son means “not up to the point that” she bore a son. This confirms that Mary was a virgin when she bore Jesus. Here are other texts that prove “not until” means “not up to the point that”:
Matt. 28:29 - I am with you “until the end of the world.” This does not mean Jesus is not with us after the end of the world.
Luke 1:80 - John was in the desert “up to the point of his manifestation to Israel.” Not John “was in the desert until after” his manifestation.
Luke 2:37 - Anna was a widow “up to the point that” she was eighty-four years old. She was not a widow after eighty-four years old.
Luke 20:43 - Jesus says, “take your seat at my hand until I have made your enemies your footstool.” Jesus is not going to require the apostles to sit at His left hand after their enemies are their footstool.
1 Tim. 4:13 - “up to the point that I come,” attend to teaching and preaching. It does not mean do nothing “until after” I come.
Gen. 8:7 - the raven flew back and forth “up to the point that” [until] the waters dried from the earth. The raven did not start flying after the waters dried.
Gen. 28:15 - the Lord won’t leave Jacob “up to the point that” he does His promise. This does not mean the Lord will leave Jacob afterward.
Deut. 34:6 - but “up to the point of today” no one knows Moses’ burial place. This does not mean that “they did not know place until today.”
2 Sam. 6:23 - Saul’s daughter Micah was childless “up to the point” [until] her death. She was not with child after her death.
1 Macc. 5:54 - not one was slain “up to the point that” they returned in peace. They were not slain after they returned in peace.
In other words, the whole point of the word until in this passage is not to say that Mary and Joseph had relations after the birth of Jesus. It doesn’t have anything to do with that. Rather, it is reaffirming that Jesus was born of a virgin as prophesied.
Hope this helps.
Thank you for the link. I have seen many of those references before, but most of them are ancillary references to a lack of siblings rather than a lack of consummation. I’m sure that Abraham and Sarah consummated their marriage many times before Issac was born, and yet Issac had no fully biological siblings either.
[quote=notes on Mathew 1:18-25 from deepinscripture.com]2 Samuel 6:23 we read that Michal, the daughter of Saul had no children until the day of her death. (I’m sure that she didn’t have any children after that day either)
Until I arrive, attend to reading, exhortation and teaching” (1 Tim 4:13): but Timothy did not give up these activities after Paul arrived.
Mathew 1:18 and 1:25 prove NOTHING against Mary’s perpetual virginity.
Also this might help: Q: The Bible clearly says that Jesus had brothers and sisters, but the Catholic Church teaches that Mary was a perpetual virgin…how can you reconcile those seemingly different positions?
I agree that “until” does not prove that it did happen after. That meaning really hasn’t changed in usage today. However, it also does not exclude the possibility that it did happen after. The problem with the “until” is that is offers no information at all about what happened after Jesus’ birth. Considering that Matthew made reference that she was a virgin when Jesus was born, would he not also mention that she would be ever-virgin as well? Even Isiah’s prophecy that the virgin will bear a son does not specifically forbid the woman from ever consummating a legal, and clearly allowable, marriage.
What I’m really asking about is if there is a passage somewhere else that tells Joseph that Mary is a holy vessel and he should not defile her, or something along those lines. Ezekiel 44:2 was mentioned a few times that stated that no man shall pass through the gate which the Lord enters, but given the context of that scene, I’m not sure if you can pull out that single line to justify another event without distorting it’s meaning.
Matthew 1:25 tells us that Joseph did not have relations with Mary before the birth of her Son. Why not? There was no ban on intercourse during pregnancy under the Jewish Law under normal circumstances, and if he was going to have intercourse with her after the pregnancy why not before?
It was because in Jewish culture this would have meant that Joseph acknowledged biological fatherhood over Jesus. Because he refused to do this he was saying in essence that he did not accept Jesus as his biological son though he would accept him as his legal son. By refusing to consummate his marriage with Mary he was in conformity with the Jewish Law. By not having intercourse with Mary before the birth of Jesus he is acknowledging in principle that he was also forbidden to have intercourse with her thereafter. A woman found to be with child that is not her husband’s is forbidden forever more to him and to the man who impregnated her. (In fact, a woman caught in adultery is likewise penalized.) Under Jewish, because Mary was found to be with child before she had consummated her marriage to Joseph she was forever forbidden to him. He could keep her as his wife but he was not allowed intimate relations with her. Had Mary born any children after Jesus she would have been stoned to death under the Law. Had Joseph claimed those children to be biologically his, he would have been stoned to death also.
There is no whole, explicit and frequent passage or passages from Scripture that prove perpetual virginity. Of course there are no whole, explicit and frequent passages that conclusively prove the Trinity, or other things like Bible as the sole rule of faith or even which books belong in it in the first place. I’ll go with Martin Luther and John Calvin on this; both defended perpetual virginity from the typical objections. Doubt about this teaching is a novelty.
Another powerful argument is that, IF Mary and Joseph had had children, on the death of Jesus, the care of Mary would have passed to one of those children; specifically to the (next) elder son after Jesus, or to the husband of the (next) elder daughter, etc. Jesus was 33 at the time of his death; should there have been further children, they would have been of age and thus able to assume that care. So. . .where were they? For all the messages of Christ’s “brethren” in the gospels, Jesus consigned the care of Mary to ST. JOHN. He would NEVER have done so if there had been biological child of Mary–a SISTER or BROTHER to CHRIST HIMSELF–to care for Mary. Such a thing would have been UNHEARD of, and there would have been most careful scriptural references as to WHY this was done, because the people first reading and hearing the gospel would have KNOWN, or known OF, these ‘brothers and sisters’, and would have known Jewish customs (indeed PAGANS would have considered children ‘responsible’ for the care of elderly parents, and did so), and would have not just wanted, but NEEDED, to know why Jesus ‘broke the rule’ in this case.
It seems to me that the teaching itself is merely a novelty. Whether Mary had sex with Joseph or anyone else is irrelevant - it has no bearing on my spiritual relationship with God or my life as a Christian.
:hmmm: Now see it has the opposite affect on me. Knowing that Mary and Joseph never had sex has brought me closer to God. How? Well it has to do with what I read once re: how the ECF viewed Mary as being the Ark of the New Covenant.
The Ark of the Covenant in the Old Testament became the dwelling place of the Almighty. 2 Sam. 6:6-8 tells us that that Uzzah was stuck dead for touching the Ark.
Jesus is God! Mary’s womb became the dwelling place of the Almighty. Mary became the Ark of the “New” Covenant. The Church Fathers compared Mary’s womb Eastern Gate mention in Ezekiel 44.
Joseph knew that Jesus was the Son of God, that Mary was pregnant thanks to God.
I can only imagine that Joseph had the same understanding of the Mary’s womb that the Church Fathers did. I can only imagine that Joseph saw Mary’s womb as the dwelling place of the Almighty. Now if Uzzah was struck dead because he touched the Ark, what do you think Joseph felt would happen to him if he had relations with Mary?
Frankly, I think that any man would not want to have relations with Mary, knowing that she carried the Son of God in her womb.
This understanding has just helped see how Christ is God. Knowing that Christ is God, has brought me closer to God.
I agree - however, that “Truth” as you call it may be an interesting concept but I still find it irrelevant in the grand scheme of things. I wouldn’t think of anything different or believe anything different about God if Mary and Joseph had constant sex or a dozen children (which they may have…).
There was an Orthodox statement on the subject that I quoted here a couple of weeks ago.
To argue against Mary’s perpetual virginity is to suggest something else that is greatly implausible, not to say unthinkable: that neither Mary nor her protector, Joseph, would have deemed it inappropriate to have sexual relations after the birth of God in the flesh. Leaving aside for a moment the complete uniqueness of the Incarnation of the Second Person of the Trinity, recall that it was the practice for devout Jews in the ancient world to refrain from sexual activity following any great manifestation of the Holy Spirit…
Mary became the vessel for the Lord of Glory Himself, and bore in the flesh Him whom heaven and earth cannot contain. Would this not have been grounds to consider her life, including her body, as consecrated to God and God alone? Or it more plausible that she would shrug it all off and get on with keeping house in the usual fashion?..
And then there is Joseph’s character to consider. Surely his wife’s miraculous conception and birthgiving (confirmed by the angel in dream-visions) and the sight of God incarnate in the face of the child Christ would have been enough to convince him that his marriage was set apart from the norm… If touching the ark of the covenant had cost Uzzah his life, and if even the scrolls containing the Law, the Psalms, and the Prophets were venerated, certainly Joseph, man of God that he was, would neither have dared nor desired to approach Mary, the chosen of Israel, the throne of God, to request his ‘conjugal rights’!