Was Mary a virgin?

Discussion in 'The Gospels & Acts' started by Scott Shahan, Sep 25, 2006.

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  1. Scott Shahan

    Scott Shahan Puritan Board Sophomore

    Matthew 13:55-56 and Mark 6:3 indicate that Jesus had natural half-siblings (same mother). In the Old Testament when "brother" refers to someone in the wider clan, such as a cousin, the necessary information about the actual relationship is always given somewhere in the immediate context. In other words, "brother" means brother unless clues in the context point to a more distant kind of relationship. Neither Matthew 13 nor Mark 6 has any clue of that sort. These verses talk about Jesus' (legal) father Joseph, his mother Mary, and his brothers and sisters. That constitutes a nuclear family. Protestants read these verses in the natural sense.

    In Matthew 1:25 the preposition "until" by itself doesn't imply much, but taken in the context of the overall statement it does. Joseph did not know her (as a husband normally would do) "until" she brought forth a son. If what is expected did not happen "until" some point in time, the presumption is that the expected thing did begin to happen after that point. The verse teaches that Joseph and Mary remained virgins until after Jesus was born, then had a normal marriage. Matthew 13 and Mark 6 add that they had a family. Ever afterwards, the church spoke of Jesus as having "brothers" (e.g. Acts 1:14; 1 Corinthians 9:5).

    Between the 2nd and the 5th centuries certain sectors of the patristic church imbibed ascetic ideas from the religious environment of North Africa and became prudish about even marital sexuality. It was during those centuries that the legend developed about Mary remaining an ever-virgin.
  2. SRoper

    SRoper Puritan Board Graduate

    "While I agree with this general idea, I think it stretches the imagination to suggest that the use of the word 'until' would not be normally taken to mean that they did have a normal marriage after the birth of Christ."

    "'The Lord said to my Lord,
    Sit at my right hand,
    until I put your enemies under your feet'?"
    --Matt. 22:44

    So he is sitting at his right hand up until that point and afterwards he departs?
  3. satz

    satz Puritan Board Senior

    That's kind off apples and oranges though.There is a plain presumption in scripture that married couples should have sexual relations. With no evidence that it would be somehow wrong for Mary and Joseph to do so, I can't understand why we wouldn't assume that they did, regardless of how you construe the word 'until'.
  4. Cuirassier

    Cuirassier Puritan Board Freshman


    "regardless" - ouch ... like fingernails on the chalkboard .... Sorry - couldn't resist! :lol:

    I believe that if there indeed ends up being such a thing as purgatory, mine will be a room where people use "like" every 4th word, "supposably" and "regardless" at least once a minute, and pronunce nuclear as "nuke-uh-ler" ... :lol:

    On topic - Excellent point, Mark. In the absence of any Scriptural record to the contrary, presuming their marriage conformed to what God intended seems like a safer presumption than that theirs was a unique marriage in this respect.

    I'm still not convinced that the kin from the Matthew and Mark passages can be interpretted as other than step-brothers/sisters, though I respect my brothers whose opinions dissent on that point.

    I've flagellated the deceased equus sufficiently on this one!

    blessings to all,


    [Edited on 9-27-2006 by Cuirassier]
  5. CDM

    CDM Puritan Board Junior

    For those that argue Mary was perpetual virgin, you must also take the position that Mary, daily, was disobeying God's law to not withhold one's body from the other except on short agreed upon times.

    Mary would then be the perfect model of a disobedient wife, would she not?.
  6. ChristopherPaul

    ChristopherPaul Puritan Board Senior

    But she was commanded to for at least a time before the birth. Was she disobeying then?
  7. mgeoffriau

    mgeoffriau Puritan Board Freshman

    That should answer it.
  8. Puritan Sailor

    Puritan Sailor Puritan Board Doctor

    I agree. But as you say, it was temporary, which was allowed. The law forbids the withholding of due benevolence permanently. As upright folks they would obey the law would they not? We do not read of anything physically debilitating which would prevent normal and godly marital affection after the birth of Jesus. The fact of brothers and sisters in the picture would seem to imply that they did have an obedient marriage afterward. Otherwise we have to find loopholes in the law to allow Mary to remain a perpetual virgin and yet still legally married.
  9. Semper Fidelis

    Semper Fidelis 2 Timothy 2:24-25 Staff Member

    OK Matthew. Then, in the English, what would be a better translation of the text rather than until?

    Until implies something in the text in the English. What is a better word there that the translators should have considered.

    Why even mention sex at all? The text has already established that she became pregnant by the power of the Holy Spirit. It's already established that Joseph didn't know his wife prior to his discovery of her pregnancy.
  10. Semper Fidelis

    Semper Fidelis 2 Timothy 2:24-25 Staff Member

    I'm deriving the idea of the use of until from the English meaning of the phrase:

    Are you aware of another English usage of the word? What I would like to know from you is how should the translators have put the verse if the Greek does not imply the meaning that the English word "until" gives it.
  11. Puritan Sailor

    Puritan Sailor Puritan Board Doctor

    Would not Jewish couples have understood the command to "be fruitful and multiply" as more than a suggestion? Marriage brings with it obligations. I'm usre both Jospeh and Mary would have understood that. Paul states that abstinence was only allowed temporarily. What reason would Joseph have to continue abstaining after Jesus was born? She was his wife. In order for the normal conditions of marriage to continue to be altered for them after teh borth of Jesus there would have to be further light. God had already revealed what the obligations of marriage were. To argue that they did not keep those obligations requires more proof. :2cents:
  12. Semper Fidelis

    Semper Fidelis 2 Timothy 2:24-25 Staff Member

    Honestly you are being very obtuse. I don't know if you are intentionally doing so just to be argumentative.

    The "until" in that phrase is restraint: "You may not leave until Friday".

    The point of the word, however, is that it DOES imply a terminus. The point is that until means "up to the time of" or "before a certain time".

    The way it is used in the passage does not restrain Joseph in the same sense. The phrase is not: "Joseph was not permitted to know his wife until Jesus was born..." It is "that he didn't know her until Jesus was born..."

    In either case, until is still a terminating point. If it is used in restraining sense (as in you may not do something until) then the restraint ends when the goal is reached.

    So, again, what word would you suggest?

    Based on your argument as to what the verse implies it should read something like:

    He knew her not while she was pregnant.

    That would be acceptable because while does not imply a terminus like until clearly does.
  13. Scott Shahan

    Scott Shahan Puritan Board Sophomore


    Quick question; Does anyone know what the Greek Orthodox Church teaches concerning the virgin Mary?
    Mathew EXPLAIN THIS;
    Between the 2nd and the 5th centuries certain sectors of the patristic church imbibed ascetic ideas from the religious environment of North Africa and became prudish about even marital sexuality. It was during those centuries that the legend developed about Mary remaining an ever-virgin. :pilgrim:
  14. Semper Fidelis

    Semper Fidelis 2 Timothy 2:24-25 Staff Member

    I meant to say you were being stubborn by using obtuse.

    Are you suggesting I should have used another word?
  15. Semper Fidelis

    Semper Fidelis 2 Timothy 2:24-25 Staff Member

    I think you're being unduly obstinate in this case. :lol:
  16. BJClark

    BJClark Puritan Board Doctor

    Puritan Sailor,

    Some hold to the belief that Joseph was an elderly man who
    had been married previously and had other children, and because Mary was so young he wasn't expecting to consumate the marriage at all.

    What I don't understand though, is if that were true why it would have mattered to him IF she was a virgin when they married. I mean, if he wasn't planning on having sex with her, then it shouldn't have mattered, because they would not have proven her virginity one way or another.

    I mean, that was the tradition, IF a husband were to claim his wife was not a virgin the parents would have gone in and got the bed sheets to find out if their was blood on them or not.

    If it was proven she wasn't a virgin the husband had every right to divorce her at that point, and if he was found to be lying he couldn't divorce her.

    So IF they never had sex, how would He have known for sure she was still a virgin?

  17. bookslover

    bookslover Puritan Board Doctor

    I completely disagree brother - Scripture is amply clear on this erroneous Roman heresy. The use of the term "know" of Matt 1.25 is the same term used in reference to Adam in Genesis 4.1, 17, 25, I Samuel 1.19, etc. There is no other interpretation of "know" here other than sex.

    Even clearer evidence comes to us from Matt 27.56, Mark 6.3, Mark 15.40 - all of which name her other other sons (James, Joses, Judas, Simon and some unnamed sisters)...

    To assume she intended to remain a virgin is not only outlandish speculation, but contrary with the accounts of Christ's earthly family.

    Perpetual virginity is a popish heresy that clearly contradicts Scriptures and serves only to give Mary a pseudo-divine status rather than the Bible tells us she herself acknowledged - that He (Christ, her Saviour) had done great things for her - a fallen sinner (Luke 1.46).


    RZ's response (for some reason, the quote box thingee didn't kick in):

    Amen, brother. I believe the Scriptures are quite plain on this subject. Joseph and Mary abstained from sex until after Jesus was born, thus making sure readers understand that Jesus was conceived only by the Holy Spirit. After Jesus' birth, Joseph and Mary engaged in normal sexual relations, just like all the other married people they knew, just as the existence of our Lord's several half-brothers and sisters shows.

    Frankly, I'm surprised this discussion has made it to two pages!
  18. javacodeman

    javacodeman Inactive User

    Slightly off topic:

    Unless there was a supernatural birth that was not recorded in scripture, Joseph would have never "known" that she was a virgin even after consumation because the hymen would have been torn during delivery.

    Back on topic:
    I would add that it seems very plain from scripture that Mary had other children after Jesus. (It must have been very hard for them in their big brother's shadow.) I don't see use of any other method of fertilization other than the one humans have been using for centuries.
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