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Luther, Calvin, and Other Early Protestants on the Perpetual Virginity of Mary
Biblical Evidence for Catholicism website ^ | Unknown | Dave Armstrong

Posted on 04/13/2003 8:43:41 AM PDT by Conservative til I die

Luther, Calvin, and Other Early Protestants on the Perpetual Virginity of Mary

All of the early Protestant Founders accepted the truth of the Perpetual Virginity of Mary. How could this be, if it is merely "tradition" with no scriptural basis? Why was its supposed violation of Scripture not so obvious to them, as it is to the Protestants of the last 150 years or so (since the onset of theological liberalism) who have ditched this previously-held opinion? Yet it has become fashionable to believe that Jesus had blood brothers (I suspect, because this contradicts Catholic teaching), contrary to the original consensus of the early Protestants.

Let's see what the Founders of Protestantism taught about this doctrine. If Catholics are so entrenched in what has been described as "silly," "desperate," "obviously false," "unbiblical tradition" here, then so are many Protestant luminaries such as Luther, Calvin, and Wesley. Strangely enough, however, current-day Protestant critics of Catholicism rarely aim criticism at them. I guess the same "errors" are egregious to a different degree, depending on who accepts and promulgates them -- sort of like the Orwellian proverb from Animal Farm: "all people are equal, but some are more equal than others."


Whatever may be the position theologically that one may take today on the subject of Mariology, one is not able to call to one's aid 'reformed tradition' unless one does it with the greatest care . . . the Marian doctrine of the Reformers is consonant with the great tradition of the Church in all the essentials and with that of the Fathers of the first centuries in particular . . . . . In regard to the Marian doctrine of the Reformers, we have already seen how unanimous they are in all that concerns Mary's holiness and perpetual virginity . . .

{Max Thurian (Protestant), Mary: Mother of all Christians, tr. Neville B. Cryer, NY: Herder & Herder, 1963 (orig. 1962), pp. 77, 197} The title 'Ever Virgin' (aeiparthenos, semper virgo) arose early in Christianity . . . It was a stock phrase in the Middle Ages and continued to be used in Protestant confessional writings (Luther, Calvin, Zwingli, Andrewes; Book of Concord [1580], Schmalkaldic Articles [1537]). {Raymond E. Brown et al, ed., Mary in the New Testament, Phil.: Fortress Press / NY: Paulist Press, 1978, p.65 (a joint Catholic-Protestant effort) } Mary was formally separated from Protestant worship and prayer in the 16th century; in the 20th century the divorce is complete. Even the singing of the 'Magnificat' caused the Puritans to have scruples, and if they gave up the Apostles' Creed, it was not only because of the offensive adjective 'Catholic', but also because of the mention of the Virgin . . . [But] Calvin, like Luther and Zwingli, taught the perpetual virginity of Mary. The early Reformers even applied, though with some reticence, the title Theotokos to Mary . . . Calvin called on his followers to venerate and praise her as the teacher who instructs them in her Son's commands.

{J.A. Ross MacKenzie (Protestant), in Stacpoole, Alberic, ed., Mary's Place in Christian Dialogue, Wilton, Conn.: Morehouse-Barlow, 1982, pp.35-6}

Martin Luther

Christ, our Savior, was the real and natural fruit of Mary's virginal womb . . . This was without the cooperation of a man, and she remained a virgin after that. {Luther's Works, eds. Jaroslav Pelikan (vols. 1-30) & Helmut T. Lehmann (vols. 31-55), St. Louis: Concordia Pub. House (vols. 1-30); Philadelphia: Fortress Press (vols. 31-55), 1955, v.22:23 / Sermons on John, chaps. 1-4 (1539) } Christ . . . was the only Son of Mary, and the Virgin Mary bore no children besides Him . . . I am inclined to agree with those who declare that 'brothers' really mean 'cousins' here, for Holy Writ and the Jews always call cousins brothers. {Pelikan, ibid., v.22:214-15 / Sermons on John, chaps. 1-4 (1539) } A new lie about me is being circulated. I am supposed to have preached and written that Mary, the mother of God, was not a virgin either before or after the birth of Christ . . . {Pelikan, ibid.,v.45:199 / That Jesus Christ was Born a Jew (1523) } Scripture does not say or indicate that she later lost her virginity . . . When Matthew [1:25] says that Joseph did not know Mary carnally until she had brought forth her son, it does not follow that he knew her subsequently; on the contrary, it means that he never did know her . . . This babble . . . is without justification . . . he has neither noticed nor paid any attention to either Scripture or the common idiom.

{Pelikan, ibid.,v.45:206,212-3 / That Jesus Christ was Born a Jew (1523) } Editor Jaroslav Pelikan (Lutheran) adds:

Luther . . . does not even consider the possibility that Mary might have had other children than Jesus. This is consistent with his lifelong acceptance of the idea of the perpetual virginity of Mary. {Pelikan, ibid.,v.22:214-5}

John Calvin

Helvidius displayed excessive ignorance in concluding that Mary must have had many sons, because Christ's 'brothers' are sometimes mentioned. {Harmony of Matthew, Mark & Luke, sec. 39 (Geneva, 1562), vol. 2 / From Calvin's Commentaries, tr. William Pringle, Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1949, p.215; on Matthew 13:55} [On Matt 1:25:] The inference he [Helvidius] drew from it was, that Mary remained a virgin no longer than till her first birth, and that afterwards she had other children by her husband . . . No just and well-grounded inference can be drawn from these words . . . as to what took place after the birth of Christ. He is called 'first-born'; but it is for the sole purpose of informing us that he was born of a virgin . . . What took place afterwards the historian does not inform us . . . No man will obstinately keep up the argument, except from an extreme fondness for disputation. {Pringle, ibid., vol. I, p. 107} Under the word 'brethren' the Hebrews include all cousins and other relations, whatever may be the degree of affinity. {Pringle, ibid., vol. I, p. 283 / Commentary on John, (7:3) }

Huldreich Zwingli

He turns, in September 1522, to a lyrical defense of the perpetual virginity of the mother of Christ . . . To deny that Mary remained 'inviolata' before, during and after the birth of her Son, was to doubt the omnipotence of God . . . and it was right and profitable to repeat the angelic greeting - not prayer - 'Hail Mary' . . . God esteemed Mary above all creatures, including the saints and angels - it was her purity, innocence and invincible faith that mankind must follow. Prayer, however, must be . . . to God alone . . . 'Fidei expositio,' the last pamphlet from his pen . . . There is a special insistence upon the perpetual virginity of Mary.

{G. R. Potter, Zwingli, London: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1976, pp.88-9,395 / The Perpetual Virginity of Mary . . ., Sep. 17, 1522} Zwingli had printed in 1524 a sermon on 'Mary, ever virgin, mother of God.' {Thurian, ibid., p.76} I have never thought, still less taught, or declared publicly, anything concerning the subject of the ever Virgin Mary, Mother of our salvation, which could be considered dishonourable, impious, unworthy or evil . . . I believe with all my heart according to the word of holy gospel that this pure virgin bore for us the Son of God and that she remained, in the birth and after it, a pure and unsullied virgin, for eternity. {Thurian, ibid., p.76 / same sermon} Heinrich Bullinger

Bullinger (d. 1575) . . . defends Mary's perpetual virginity . . . and inveighs against the false Christians who defraud her of her rightful praise: 'In Mary everything is extraordinary and all the more glorious as it has sprung from pure faith and burning love of God.' She is 'the most unique and the noblest member' of the Christian community . . . 'The Virgin Mary . . . completely sanctified by the grace and blood of her only Son and abundantly endowed by the gift of the Holy Spirit and preferred to all . . . now lives happily with Christ in heaven and is called and remains ever-Virgin and Mother of God.'

{In Hilda Graef, Mary: A History of Doctrine and Devotion, combined ed. of vols. 1 & 2, London: Sheed & Ward, 1965, vol.2, pp.14-5} John Wesley (Founder of Methodism)

I believe... he [Jesus Christ] was born of the blessed Virgin, who, as well after as she brought him forth, continued a pure and unspotted virgin. {"Letter to a Roman Catholic," quoted in A. C. Coulter, John Wesley, New York: Oxford University Press, 1964, 495}

TOPICS: Catholic; Mainline Protestant; Religion & Culture
KEYWORDS: catholic; mary; protestant; virginity
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To: Joshua
When Jesus saw his mother 11 and the disciple there whom he loved, he said to his mother, "Woman, behold, your son."
Then he said to the disciple, "Behold, your mother." And from that hour the disciple took her into his home.

And the corresponding footnote:

11 [26-27] This scene has been interpreted literally, of Jesus' concern for his mother; and symbolically, e.g., in the light of the Cana story in John 2 (the presence of the mother of Jesus, the address woman, and the mention of the hour) and of the upper room in John 13 (the presence of the beloved disciple; the hour). Now that the hour has come (John 19:28), Mary (a symbol of the church?) is given a role as the mother of Christians (personified by the beloved disciple); or, as a representative of those seeking salvation, she is supported by the disciple who interprets Jesus' revelation; or Jewish and Gentile Christianity (or Israel and the Christian community) are reconciled.

I am puzzled why you say that John the evangelist must talk about Mary more. Most Protestants take the Bible literally.

Isn't this one mention of her enough for you? Funny because Protestants (maybe not you) but some Protestants I know have formed an entire belief on two words: "faith only" (And Luther added the word 'only'to the original text!!)

41 posted on 04/15/2003 4:51:03 PM PDT by Salvation ((†With God all things are possible.†))
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To: Joshua
And in the Magnificat spoken by Mary? What does your Bible say about that line?
42 posted on 04/15/2003 4:59:03 PM PDT by Salvation ((†With God all things are possible.†))
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To: Joshua
The name of the website contains evidences and references in the bible for numerous things. It does not contain references that could be ironclad proof that Mary was "ever virgin". That does not disqualify the name of the site. It contains lots of things. The bible does not prove the opposite contention at all except to English speakers who take the KJV or another English translation to be the only Inspired book and the original Greek as being uninspired and invalid. That would lacerate that old Christian Tradition that revelation is closed, that there is no new revelation since Christ. And were Luther et al wrong?
43 posted on 04/15/2003 6:15:13 PM PDT by arthurus
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To: Conservative til I die
"Feel free to skip the threads, jerk"

Well thought out response.

44 posted on 04/15/2003 7:37:32 PM PDT by Joshua
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To: Cleburne
well said and spot on.
45 posted on 04/30/2003 11:57:03 PM PDT by nickcarraway
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To: Cleburne; Salvation
Yes. Think of it this way. When Jesus ascended into Heaven there was no book or writings of his teachings. He- by His own Choice- passed on his teachings to various followers. Later those followers spread his teachings. Eventually, some of those teachings were written down. The act of recording those teachings didn't mean that Jesus' teachings that weren't recorded suddenly became invalid. Later, councils decided which writings should be included in Scripture. Those Scriptures were part of the ``Tradition'' that Christians recieved from Jesus Himself. Jesus himself was responsible for passing on his teachings to his followers in oral form. To claim that this ``Tradition'' is not satisfactory, is to claim that Jesus' ministry was itself deficient. No council has the authority to decide that some of Jesus' teachings can be shed. To recognize only the teachings of Jesus which were recorded in that form is to make the Council of Nicea superior to Christ himself.

But there are also many other things which Jesus did; were every one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written. (John 21:25)

46 posted on 05/01/2003 12:22:28 AM PDT by nickcarraway
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To: sigzero

BTTT for today.

47 posted on 05/31/2011 2:49:57 PM PDT by Salvation ("With God all things are possible." Matthew 19:26)
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To: Joshua

I agree that the statement that ALL the Protestant Founders believed in the perpetual virginity of Mary is probably an overstatement. However, he pointed out that several giants in the Reformation did believe in it. I had no idea so many of them did.

48 posted on 05/13/2017 9:45:37 AM PDT by rcofdayton (.)
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