Skip to comments.Why is the perpetual virginity of Mary so important to Catholics? [Ecumenical Vanity]
Posted on 03/17/2012 2:30:01 PM PDT by reaganaut
I understand the history of the doctrine of the perpetual virginity of Mary (ἀειπαρθένος). I know it was taught as early as the 4th century, and I understand the development of "Spritual Marriages" in the Early Middle ages. That isn't what I am asking.
I have a good grasp of the history, doctrine and Biblical texts. I have done a lot of research on the topic. I grew up in Catholic school and Matthew 1:25 always got me in trouble during Catechism class.
And he knew her not till she brought forth her firstborn son: and he called his name JESUS. (Matthew 1:25).
"Know" is a very common idiom for sex in Judaism of the period of writing. Again, I don't want to debate the text or history.
Protestants have no issue with Joseph and Mary having a normal marriage and having sexual relations AFTER the birth of Jesus (not before for obvious reasons) and having other children.
What I am curious about is the WHY the doctrine is important to MODERN Catholics (Medieval Catholics I get). Why does matter if Mary was ever-virgin (after the birth of Christ) or not?
Because it’s the truth.
Did Paul not tell unmarried Christians that they were best off remaining celebate for the desire of the kingdom, allowing sex and marriage only because people couldn’t control their desires? Well, Catholics believe Mary was sinless, so if anyone should be chaste, should it not be Mary?
Some ancients, particularly in the East supposed that Jesus’ “brothers” were half-brothers, children of Joseph from before he married Mary. But no-where in antiquity had anyone ever challenged the claim that Mary was “ever-virgin.” Because those who knew Greek understood that “until” such and such did not mean necessarily that any status changed after such and such. And they understood that “firstborn” was a title that did not imply subsequent births. (How could it? The law refers to what must be done to firstborns; If “firstborn” necessarily meant that there were later births, how could one ever know that someone was firstborn, and not only born?)
They understood the wording, “Here is THE son of you” which Jesus told Mary about John.
But it’s also important because it establishes that nearness to God is a more glorious joy than sexual gratification, that such gratification is merely an earthly metaphor for closeness to God, an echo of the spiritual realm translated into the physical realm.
Pope St. Siricius said that God the Father reserved the womb of the Blessed Mother solely for his only-begotten Son.
St. Ambrose and St. Thomas Aquinas assigned a spiritual meaning to Ezekiel 44:2: This gate is to remain closed; it is not to be opened for anyone to enter by it; since the Lord, the God of Israel, has entered by it, it shall remain closed. Mary is the gate, and Jesus was the only one to enter it.
This was to emphasize that Jesus Christ was uniquely the Word Incarnate/Son of God.
Catholics refer to the Blessed Virgin as "Daughter of the Father, Mother of the Son and Permanent Bride of the Holy Spirit." If Mary is the "permanent Bride of the Holy Spirit," it doesn't seem likely that she would also have been a bride in the merely carnal sense.
“all I’m saying is that just because Mary and he asked basically the same question...”
Read the text over again. Before you decide that Mary and Zachariah asked the same question, look at the answers they were given. The same question should get the same answer. Basically the same question - as you put it - should get basically the same answer. Did they get the same answer?
“For whoever does the will of God, he is My brother and sister and mother. - Mark 3:35 Amen Brother!
>> Use of the word “cult” was not meant to imply “worship” of Mary, but prayer to Her or any Saints for intercession with God.<<
Well, I am glad I gave you the opportunity to clarify so you can explain to any “silent seethers” out there (as well as I).
Thanks for providing that.
Well, Catholics believe Mary was sinless, so if anyone should be chaste, should it not be Mary?
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But sex is not a sin, so it wouldn’t apply.
While I disagree with your interpretation, thank you for responding where you are coming from. I do appreciate it.
“Mary and Zacharia didnt ask the same questions, and one showed faith, the other doubt.”
Is that all that happened? I think you need to think about the responses given by Gabriel.
“That still doesnt support your claim.”
The text does.
“However, again, this is not a debate thread and you still did not answer my question but that is ok.”
Yes, it is okay.
This is a Dogmatic belief of all of the Catholic faith, the Orthodox faith, many of the Lutheran and Anglican communities and has roots documented back to at least the second century Anno Domini.
Saint John Chrysostom defended perpetual virginity on a number of grounds, one of which was Jesus’ commands to his mother in Calvary: “Woman, behold your son!” and to his disciple “Behold, thy mother!” in John 19:26-27.
Since the second century these two statements of Jesus from the cross had been the basis of reasonings that Mary had no other children and “from that hour the disciple took her unto his own home” because after the deaths of Joseph and Jesus there was no one else to look after Mary, and she had to be entrusted to the disciple.
Luther, Zwingli and Bullinger all taught this as well as did John Wesley.
But to me I dont have to know aboutt Marys life. The Church tells me she was Virgin, we celebrate the feast of the Immaculate Conception, and I believe.
The Church tells me that Jesus suffered and died on the Cross , and rose on the third day.
I didnt see it, I do not expect to know how he arose, I do not question if he was in a coma for three days, I accept that he was dead and arose.
I dont ask questions I believe.
If it has to be explained to you , Your faith is weak IMO.
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Perhaps I should clarify, I am not, nor have I ever been Catholic in any way. I attended Catholic school as a child and study it academically, but have never been a member of the Catholic church.
My faith is not weak in the least. I am asking becuase the topic came up on another thread and I am interested in the Catholic mindset of the belief in the doctrine.
As an Evangelical Christian, I do not believe something because my pastor or church tells me to, however, I was a point in my life Mormon, and DID believe things because the Mormon church told me to so I do understand the concept even if I no longer do that.
Now, you seem to be saying you believe it simply because the Catholic church tells you to. Ok, that is an acceptable answer. I understand that in light of my studies in Catholic doctrine and that is what I was looking for in posting this thread.
Actually, in the Greek it DOES mean sibling exclusively. However, it is used, like in the verse you cited, as a ‘spiritual sibling’ which makes sense since believers are adopted sons and daughters of God through Christ.
I’ve read their defenses of the doctrine and it still doesn’t answer the question why.
Ok, I can understand that reasoning. Thank you for your response.
I guess that is why there are 40,000+ different Protestant denominations. Hard for Protestants to agree on much when the ONE source they have is a book which each person can interpret his own way.
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First, there aren’t that many, second you don’t seem to get that Catholics and Protestants we agree on the basics. For me this is not a doctrine of Salvation, however it does appear to be one for you, but you still haven’t told me why it is.
Protestants agree on much more than we disagree on and some things in the Bible are not clear and open to interpretation, which is also true of Catholic history and doctrine which has contradicted itself and changed many many times over the centuries. That is historical fact.
Yes, my source is strictly the Bible and that will not change. I’ve already done the ‘one true church on the face of the earth with continuing revelation’ bit (Mormonism) and found out they were lying to me. The “church” of Christ is the body of all believers, back to the Greek, the word for Church actually means ‘an assembly’ and was a political term. It is not limited to one organization, although I do know many Catholics believe that.
Sorry but text does not support your claim and I did review the responses of Gabriel. You are comparing apples and oranges here.
Why won’t you answer why it is important? Do you consider it a doctrine of salvation or merely dogma?
As I said above, I know the history of the teaching quite well and have done a lot of reading on it. I want to know why it is important theologically.
So you believe it simply because it is dogma? If so that is fine. That is what I am asking.
Thank you for the responses. I think I may have gotten the answer to my question. I appreciate those who gave me some insight as to why.
“I know the history of the doctrine probably better than most Catholics (Historian)...”
Hey reaganaut, as an aside from if it was right or wrong, who was the first guy to stop believing it?
I have tried to google this before, my google fu is weak. I recall that most of the original Reformers believed it, so when did it start and who did it? Who wrote about it not being true first?
Both were asking “how can such a thing happen?” The difference was in how did they say it, what did they mean. We know that Mary submitted herself to God’s will, but we don’t know about Zachariah. Was he telling the angel it could not happen? Was he demanding proof? I don’t know. All I’m saying is that whatever was in Zachariah’s heart can probably explain Gabriel’s reaction!
“All Im saying is that whatever was in Zachariahs heart can probably explain Gabriels reaction!”
I think I may have gotten the answer to my question.Good, can you share with us what you think that answer may be?
What is the difference to a catholic?
“firstborn son”. Exactly.
Also, “And he knew her not till”.
Since both Mary and Joseph knew that she was a virgin, why would that phrase even be there in the scriptures? KNEW HER NOT.......TILL?
And the ‘Mary born sinless’ invention; and her mother too?
Mary passed none of her blood into her child. The mother and child’s circulatory systems are completely separate, from conception through childbirth.
“What is the difference to a catholic?”
First, it’s Catholic, not “catholic”. Second, did you check the catechism or any other reputable published source?
IIRC, it was Johann Danhauer an early 17th century theologian. I would have to check some of my books to be sure though.
Sigh, I know the difference between doctrines of salvation and mere dogma. I also know the text and what it does and does not say.
You seem to think I want apologetic, I don’t. I don’t believe the doctrine and never will. But I DO care about the answer because I am interested in the mindset of modern Catholics regarding the doctrine. I know the Catholic teachings on it, I know the Catholic apologetics of it. That isn’t what I am asking.
But since you are being hostile and not answering the question, are not giving straight answers and this is an ECUMENICAL thread, please leave the thread.
“Firstborn” did not imply later children. All solitary sons were called the firstborn if they were the firstborn. They didn’t have to have siblings. Anyone who has ever actually read the Bible would know this. See Ex. 13:2, Ex. 34:20
“KNEW HER NOT.......TILL?”
Again, anyone who has actually read the Bible would know...2 Sam 6:23, 1 Cor 15:25 and 1 Tim 4:13
“And the Mary born sinless invention; and her mother too?”
No, not her mother, and it’s no invention.
“Sigh, I know the difference between doctrines of salvation and mere dogma.”
I don’t think you do.
“I also know the text and what it does and does not say.”
Again, I don’t think you do.
“You seem to think I want apologetic, I dont. I dont believe the doctrine and never will. But I DO care about the answer because I am interested in the mindset of modern Catholics regarding the doctrine.”
And now you’re back to “doctrine” and not “dogma”? See what I mean? I don’t think you know the difference.
“I know the Catholic teachings on it, I know the Catholic apologetics of it. That isnt what I am asking.”
If you know the “Catholic teachings on it”, then you would have to know what it is your asking about, right?
“But since you are being hostile and not answering the question, are not giving straight answers and this is an ECUMENICAL thread, please leave the thread.”
I am not being hostile. I am asking questions just as you are. Who is really the hostile one here then?
“IIRC, it was Johann Danhauer an early 17th century theologian. I would have to check some of my books to be sure though.”
If you mean Johann Conrad Dannhauer (please note correct spelling), I’m not positive about that. He said it didn’t really matter as an issue. I don’t know if he ever said it wasn’t true.
The angel tells Mary “you will conceive and bear a son” in the future tense. Mary is oddly puzzled about how this will happen—but she is betrothed though. Why wouldn’t she expect a future conception to happen in the normal way?
Unless there’s something to the tradition behind the mid-2nd century Protoevangelion, that Mary was a Temple virgin:
Thanks for your thoughtful question and also your desire for cordiality.
I wasnt going to respond after reading narses post to you. It was what I was going to say. I’d like to make it clear though, speaking for myself: This isn’t the “only” reason I believe Mary was a virgin for her entire life, but narses’ answer directly and I believe accurately answers your original question, that is, Why don’t Catholics change their mind on the issue? Why don’t we revisit it today? I would simply like to speak a bit more about that question, again to be sure the point I wanted to make would be clear.
Again, it’s Dogma, as narses said. For Catholics this is the equivalent of saying its a law of nature like gravity, or the spherical nature of the earth. So to ask, why don’t Catholics today at least look at the issue again, is the same as asking, why do t we reconsider whether or not the earth is round.
Just as the earth’s spherical nature is established fact (except for a few nitjobs of course) and thus it’s foolish to “reopen” that debate, it is equally foolish for a Catholic to reopen the issue of Mary’s perpetual virginity, because that too is established fact. A dogma is established fact, a settled debate in the Church. So this is why, even though we aren’t living in the Middle Ages, we won’t reopen the issue. Besides, as a side note, her perpetual virginity wasn’t made dogmatic until the 19th century, I believe. I could be wrong about that though.
The point I wanted to make though is in answer to your question as to why we dont revisit the issue today. The most basic response to that is, “We can’t”.
Very simple. See Luke 1:20, "And, behold, thou shalt be dumb, and not able to speak, until the day that these things shall be performed, BECAUSE thou believest not my words, which shall be fulfilled in their season." Elizabeth prophetically said to Mary in Luke 1:45 "And blessed is she that BELIEVED: for there shall be a performance of those things which were told her from the Lord."
Faith is released through words as shown in 2 Cor 4:13, Rom 10:8-10, etc. Had Zachariah not been struck mute, his unbelief would have hindered the miracle of John's birth, just as the unbelief of those in Jesus' own country hindered his ability to perform miracles in Mark 6:6 and Mat 13:58.
“As an Evangelical Christian, I do not believe something because my pastor or church tells me to...”
That’s because your pastor dosen’t have apostolic succession. I resent the snide tone in your post; insinuating that Catholics are too stupid to think for themselves.
Thanks, I googled that name and found a few interesting discussions among Lutherans about the subject, heh it looks just like Catholics/Orthodox vs. most other sorts of Christians on FR. I had no idea that there were so many Lutherans who still believe it.
Well, there was that little trip to Egypt.
This is similar to the question of the Pope Infallibility:
Do you believe it?
Well, the question should be: “Do you believe in God?”
If the answer is yes, then there should be no doubt all the other minor miracles are also possible.
Besides, as a side note, her perpetual virginity wasnt made dogmatic until the 19th century, I believe. I could be wrong about that though.If I recall correctly, the 19th Century saw the Dogmatic Declaration "Ineffabilis Deus" (December 8, 1854), the dogma of the Immaculate Conception which states "that the most Blessed Virgin Mary, from the first moment of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege from Almighty God and in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, was kept free of every stain of original sin."
The Council of the Lateran, 649, says Mary conceived "without any detriment to her virginity, which remained inviolate even after his birth". That belief, extant from the earliest writings of the Church Fathers, has never - to my knowledge - been exclusively referred to as a separate Dogmatic declaration. It has, instead, been taught for so long that it is embedded in the very fiber of our common Faith.
So this is why, even though we arent living in the Middle Ages, we wont reopen the issue.And of course, until the last few centuries, no one even raised the issue. All of Christendom held the same view. The vast majority (Catholic + Orthodox + many Anglican and Lutheran faith communities) of us still do.
For many of the Catholics I have seen respond, it is because it is a historical teaching and/or a dogma. It is a traditional doctrine of the Catholic church.
And if that is the case that is fine. Like I said, the topic came up the other day on a thread, and I was curious not about the academics or apologetics, but the feelings and the importance in modern Catholic viewpoint.
I’m a historian, and as such I ask ‘why’ a lot. I do really appreciate those who gave me honest, straightforward answers.
This Religion Forum thread is labeled “Ecumenical” meaning no antagonism is allowed on this thread.
I typed the name from memory. But why do you care?
Thank you for answering the question rather than dodging it. You bring up an excellent point.
“It is a traditional doctrine of the Catholic church.”
And the Orthodox and ALL of Christendom until a few hundred years ago.
What is your faith tradition if I may ask?
Of course it is not true; the Bible even says that Jesus had other human brothers, such as James, who at first didnt believe in Him, but later came to faith in Jesus.
Thank you for your response.
Regarding revisiting doctrine/teachings/dogma, many doctrines in Catholicism have been reopend and even modified. Vatican II is an example of that, even if it is only clarification.
Catholics have modified and/or clarified dogma in the past, I would expect to happen again.
But I wasn’t even asking them to rethink it or address it formally, I was just curious.
It doesn’t require Mary to be “pure” which I think you mean sinless (she was not sinless).
That’s the thing God used sinful men and women to achieve His purposes at times, but they were all a foreshodow of the Sinless Messiah.