Mary Was Only a Virgin UNTIL Jesus was Born.

This post is an added to and edited comment by Demetrios at Luther on the Perpetual Virginity of Mary

Q. Since, Matthew wrote about Joseph: ‘And knew her not until she had brought forth her son and He called His name Jesus.’ (Mt 1:25)it seems obvious that Joseph did “know” Mary after Jesus was born and that is why we hear about Jesus’ brothers and sisters in scripture..

A. That is certainly a legitimate assumption if one only relies on Scripture unhinged from the history and writings of the the Church from the earliest centuries until now. Especially when one starts with the conviction/bias that Mary had sex with Joseph and therefore had other children, which are named in Scripture. Please take a look at the writings of the –>Early Church Fathers where her perpetual virginity is taken for granted. Here are just two:

Hilary of Poitiers [A.D. 354]

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 ).

Athanasius [A.D. 360]

“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 ).

And, in order for you to be so sure that the Catholic Church is wrong and that Mary had children based on the use of the word until in the passage above; all scriptural uses of until would have to align with your hermenutic of interpretation and none could align with the Catholic Church’s interpretation. The Catholic interpretation is the same as the Reformer John Calvin’s:

“there have been certain folk who have wished to suggest from this passage (Mt 1:25) that the Virgin Mary had children other 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 also that Joseph had been well and truly assured that it was God who had sent His angel to Mary. He had therefore never.…And besides this our Lord Jesus Christ is called the firstborn. This is not because there was a second or 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 1562)

Your interpretation of the UNTIL in:

And knew her not until she had brought forth her son and He called His name Jesus.’

to mean that Joseph and Mary had children after Jesus was born; would then mean we  HAVE to interpret the following verses like this:

As to Michal daughter of Saul, she had no child until the day of her death.2 Samuel 6:23

Interpretation: Using your hermenutic this would have to mean that Michal DID HAVE A CHILD AFTER HER DEATH.

In His days shall shine forth righteousness and an abundance of peace, until the moon be taken away. Psalm 71:7

Interpretation: At the end of the world, the moon will be taken away and righteousness and peace will no longer shine forth.

For He must reign, until He has put all enemies under his feet. I Corinthians 15:25

Interpretation: Once Christ has defeated His enemies, He will no longer reign supreme.

Lo, I am with you always, even until the end of the world. Matthew 28:20

Interpretation: God is with us always, but at the end of the world He will no longer be with us.

I am sure you would agree that the Catholic way of interpreting until would be more appropriate in all of the above verses. And based on historical evidence the Catholic interpretation of until in Matthew 1:25 is also more appropriate.

Even if you accept Sola Scriptura, there isn’t a single passage of Holy Scripture that would cause one to reject the ever-virginity of the Theotokos (GOD Bearer). Every Scripture quoted by those who reject this teaching can be logically addressed interpreting Holy Scripture within the situational context and Middle Eastern culture in which the Bible was written. It all boils down to interpretation, because, contrary to Protestant claims, a plain reading of Scripture is not going to conclusively resolve the questions. Therefore,  you have to rely on a tradition…Protestant or Catholic.

This is such an important issue . It is about much more than just preserving Mary’s virtue or making false attempts to exalt her. It is about the very nature of who Christ was and what is truly meant by the Incarnation. Mary had a child from God the Holy Spirit. She conceived from the Holy Spirit. God literally dwelt within her body. If you think it through, it becomes highly unfitting to accept that Mary would have allowed herself to be touched, or that Joseph, a righteous and pious man, would have presumed to enter into the former sacred dwelling place of God in Mary’s womb, after she conceived a child from God and literally gave birth to God.

3 Responses

  1. This explanation of ” until ” is really bad and biased. The absolutely obvious meaning of verse 18 is to state that Mary was already pregnant before they had any intercourse or came together( in matrimonial cohabitation). And that is exactly the meaning to be further underlined i v 24.
    So , in this instance, when it is written that he” knew her not until she had brought forth ..” it is an absolutely inevitable corollary ,that he did it afterwards. There is no reasonable way to deny that.

    The point is nowhere to try to explain that they did not then, and ever after have intercourse.No, it implies clearly that they did it afterwards.

    If it was such a self evident truth ( as is implied from the author ) that they never ever considered sexual cohabitation, then these passages would have to be written very differently. Then it should be written for ex. ” and Joseph never knew his wife” or the sentence in verse18 could be left out.

    Clearly this sentence in v18 must mean coming together in matrimonial cohabitation. What else ? Coming together for coffee or something on any occasion? If not , then it must mean their first meeting at all, before they were engaged.But that makes no sense, since they already was engaged when Mary became pregnant.

    The examples of other uses of ” until ” is also false. Take f.ex the citation about Michael who had no daughter until her death. If we change it a little, say: she didn´t have a child until she was 30, then you at the same time have implied very strongly that she actually had a baby by the age of 30.
    If you say something like this and actually meant that she didn´t have a baby even after she was 30, then you would normally be accused for misleading language, or being deceitful.

    Take also the example ” he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his foot”. This is a strong underlining of his activity a regent in this period of time ” This specific reign of Jesus will come to an end, when God himself puts Jesus in subjection to himself and becomes all in all. “This points to the ultimate goal of our salvation, when God is all in all, and Jesus don´t have to reign anymore the way he does now. So the activity he is upholding at the moment will stop, and another kind of activity of submission to God in a very special way will start. This is totally in line with the meaning of ” until ” with regard to Joseph: he kept his “activity of ” abstaining from marital cohabitation going ” until ” he changed this practice totally and started to” know his wife”.

  2. Dear Arne,
    Thank you for your opinion. But it is only clear to you and it is based only on your reading of scripture unhinged from 2000 years of Christian history. If you believe that you have more authority than anyone else in the History of Christianity no matter how scholarly then you will never be convinced by history. For me, I realized that biblical interpretation by all sorts of people was a very shaky foundation upon which to derive doctrine that will determine eternal destinies. I wanted to find out what the Christians believe who sat at the feet of Jesus and the apostles believed.

    They believed Catholic doctrine and for sure not Protestant doctrines.

    • it is not true that this is clear only to me. A lot of people reasons the same way. And I have proved to you that this is a reasonable way of thinking, in fact that this understanding is an untwisted understanding of plain statements. At least you will have to confess that this is a consistent and logically coherent way of understanding things , even though you do disagree.

      I do have a lot of sympathy with your capital consideration , that there should be oneness and unity. I think we all feel the present state not to be the way it should. On the other hand, I do think you have chosen a wrong solution to the problem. That is not to lessen your obvious insight in many questions and even the scriptures. I am impressed.

      But… I cannot accept interpretations that doesn´t seem to keep aligned with the plain meaning of the scripture. To accept that for the sake of unity, will have to prove disastrous. As you, I am also seeking the the “indigenous ” catholicity. But , contrary to you , I am not convinced that the RCC is the answer. Nor do the protestants, but they fought through the freedom of the individual , and freedom of thought and religion, for which I honour them immensely,and without which the light from the word of God would not have shone on anyone ( even though you describes conditions as a real mess , I think there are a lot of people who find their consolation and identity in the scriptures. That doesn´t mean they have to interpret it correctly in every detail – no one does ( not even the pope ) but it is a moral and spiritual force in their lives.

      I do have a general feeling that very much has been changed from the earliest times, and if you really want to be part oft he restoration , I think you have to check out these things.
      When you look at the acts f.ex you see them all the way keeping the sabbath, and even the other holy days of God. Where have this all gone? Have you studied the process that eventually gave us the sunday instead of the Sabbath?And have you paid any thought to the fact that people didn´t start keeping Christmas until the fourth century? Jesus didn´t even celebrate his own birthday!The first christians kept the passover at 14. Nisan.Then you had the quartodeciman disputes during the 2.century , ending up with the Roman church changeing the practice in line with the spring feast of Astarte. This so much that even in the King James Version passover, eventually came to be named Easter ( from Eostre/Astarte) From here you got the sunday resurrection myth with the fixed celebration of Christs death on friday. This was a determining factor for the changeing of sabbath keeping to sunday.Further we now celebrate his birthday on any day, but his death on a friday every year? Isn´t this something to ponder? And this sunday celebration ( and christmas ) may be found to be influenced , not to any minor degree from the fertility/sun cult from Babylon.

      So,contrary to you , I am convinced that there was a change in many doctrines during the first hundred years from the apostles. Another example is the trinity, a word actually unknown to the Bible, and unknown to anyone till the 3.century. God is no trinity, the first believers were unitarian monotheists.

      So basically I believe you do not get these changes. To hold that the RCC has the unchanged, original doctrine straight from the apostles is clearly false. And to cling to this notion blindly may give you some unity, but not the truth.

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