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Why is the perpetual virginity of Mary so important to Catholics? [Ecumenical Vanity]
Reaganaut | 3/17/12 | Reaganaut

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.

Douay-Rheims Bible

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?


TOPICS: Catholic; Ecumenism; History; Theology
KEYWORDS: catholic
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I posted this as an Ecumenical thread, because I do not want to turn this into a Catholic/Protestant flame war. This topic came up the other day on another thread and it got me thinking that I understand the academics and apologetics of the topic, but as a Protestant, I don't get why Catholics hold it so close.

I am honestly seeking some insight from modern-day Catholics on the WHY of the doctrine being so important.

I have discussed this with the Religion Mod (about making it Ecumenical) and he is aware that I am posting it as Ecumenical. No antagonism is allowed.

Hopefully, I can gain some insight.

1 posted on 03/17/2012 2:30:07 PM PDT by reaganaut
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To: reaganaut

Because Jesus is so important to Catholics.


2 posted on 03/17/2012 2:31:58 PM PDT by vladimir998
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To: vladimir998

And He is just as important to Protestants. That doesn’t answer my question in the least.


3 posted on 03/17/2012 2:33:09 PM PDT by reaganaut ("I once was lost, but now am found, was blind but now I see")
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To: Salvation

I think this might be down your alley...


4 posted on 03/17/2012 2:33:09 PM PDT by freedumb2003 (Spoiler Alert! The secret to Terra Nova: THEY ARE ALL DEAD!!!)
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To: freedumb2003; Salvation

Sal is the one that gave me the idea in the first place.


5 posted on 03/17/2012 2:34:23 PM PDT by reaganaut ("I once was lost, but now am found, was blind but now I see")
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To: reaganaut

Luther, Calvin and Zwingli thought that the perpetual virginity of the Blessed Virgin Mary was important too.

Google it.


6 posted on 03/17/2012 2:35:11 PM PDT by Salvation ("With God all things are possible." Matthew 19:26)
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To: reaganaut

While waiting for those more versed, let me take a shot at it.

Jesus was born pure and that could only have happened with Mary being pure.

You can’t extract the Virgin Birth without extracting the Life of Christ — they are the same and inextricably linked.


7 posted on 03/17/2012 2:35:59 PM PDT by freedumb2003 (Spoiler Alert! The secret to Terra Nova: THEY ARE ALL DEAD!!!)
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To: freedumb2003; reaganaut

I’m on my way to run an errand, will get back to you later.


8 posted on 03/17/2012 2:37:09 PM PDT by Salvation ("With God all things are possible." Matthew 19:26)
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To: reaganaut; Salvation

>>Sal is the one that gave me the idea in the first place.<<

Good to know GMTA (and have the same fine contacts)...


9 posted on 03/17/2012 2:37:27 PM PDT by freedumb2003 (Spoiler Alert! The secret to Terra Nova: THEY ARE ALL DEAD!!!)
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To: vladimir998

Jesus is important because He is Jesus, not because of anything His earthly parents did or didn’t do.


10 posted on 03/17/2012 2:40:50 PM PDT by skr (May God confound the enemy)
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To: Salvation

But WHY?

When I was in Catholic school, we were discussing this doctrine, and I asked Sr. Josephine why when the Bibles we were using stated otherwise (again Matthew 1:25). She simply stated it was because it was dogma. That wasn’t enough of an answer then.

If it is simply a matter of dogma, then that is fine. I’m just curious.

Like we talked about the other day, I can go on for HOURS (and have) on the development of the doctrine and how it went through cycles of popularity in the Middle Ages.

I do not see it as an ‘essential doctrine’ and am wondering why Catholics do.


11 posted on 03/17/2012 2:45:23 PM PDT by reaganaut ("I once was lost, but now am found, was blind but now I see")
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To: freedumb2003

Jesus was born pure and that could only have happened with Mary being pure.

You can’t extract the Virgin Birth without extracting the Life of Christ — they are the same and inextricably linked.

- - - -
I agree completely. However that doesn’t answer the question as to why she MUST have remained a Virgin AFTER the birth of Christ.


12 posted on 03/17/2012 2:46:50 PM PDT by reaganaut ("I once was lost, but now am found, was blind but now I see")
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To: skr

You wrote:

“Jesus is important because He is Jesus, not because of anything His earthly parents did or didn’t do.”

Jesus is important, first, because He is the Son of God, and the Second Person of the Trinity. Second, because He redeemed all men.


13 posted on 03/17/2012 2:47:21 PM PDT by vladimir998
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To: Salvation

Ok, stay safe and we will catch up later.


14 posted on 03/17/2012 2:47:50 PM PDT by reaganaut ("I once was lost, but now am found, was blind but now I see")
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To: freedumb2003

Mary’s virginity was only required one time.


15 posted on 03/17/2012 2:49:12 PM PDT by skr (May God confound the enemy)
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To: vladimir998; skr

Jesus is important, first, because He is the Son of God, and the Second Person of the Trinity. Second, because He redeemed all men.

- - - - -
I am in NO WAY questioning the Virgin Birth, I believe that.

What I am wondering is why Mary had to remain a virgin her entire life?

Jesus was born of a Virgin, even if she and Joseph had a normal marriage after the birth of Jesus.


16 posted on 03/17/2012 2:50:36 PM PDT by reaganaut ("I once was lost, but now am found, was blind but now I see")
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To: reaganaut
It really makes no difference to me as a Catholic. But I know that many have coverted to Christianity because of apparitions from the Virgin who basically reminds us to "Listen to her Son". my friend converted from Jehovahs Witness after her 5 year old daughter the Blessed Mother several times. She decided to make a pilgrimage to Lourdes, France where a little girl also had visions In the 1800's. The only reason the church validated her appararitions is because the woman (Blessed Mother) told her that her name was "the Immaculate Conception". That concept was something only the Vatican knew about and they were considering accepting that doctrine.

http://www.lourdes-france.org/index.php?goto_centre=ru&contexte=en&id=417&id_rubrique=417

My friend also saw the virgin in Lourdes, and experienced personal miracles.

Her newly found deep faith and devotion to Jesus and Mary puts my cradle Catholic faith to shame. The church has a long history of Marianic visitations like the Virgen of Guadalupe, all around the world and she continues to evangelize. Only those who have some idea of the real version of our long church history understand most concepts. Most Catholics, like myself just understand things intuitively.

17 posted on 03/17/2012 2:55:10 PM PDT by mgist
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To: reaganaut

You wrote:

“I am in NO WAY questioning the Virgin Birth, I believe that.”

I didn’t say you questioned it.

“What I am wondering is why Mary had to remain a virgin her entire life?”

Had to? First, get your vocabulary right. Mary chose to be a virgin. Also, once Mary gave herself over to God will, what God fearing man like Joseph would ever be anything but a guardian to her?

“Jesus was born of a Virgin, even if she and Joseph had a normal marriage after the birth of Jesus.”

They never had a conjugal marriage, nor was she ever planning on one either.


18 posted on 03/17/2012 3:01:00 PM PDT by vladimir998
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Comment #19 Removed by Moderator

To: mgist

For me, as a Protestant Evangelical, the Immaculate conception (regarding original sin) I can see having an impact on theology. The Virgin Birth, obviously is important. But I don’t grasp the theological implications of the perpetual virginity of Mary being necessary.

My PhD is in Medieval History (Church history) and I’ve read the Catechism books, websites, apologetic sites ad nauseum.

Academically I understand the differences in the three doctrines but I still don’t see why Mary STAYING a Virgin is that important, even theologically. It doesn’t (IMO) change the person, work or nature of Christ in the least, since I fully believe Mary was a virgin when she conceived and bore Jesus.


20 posted on 03/17/2012 3:03:22 PM PDT by reaganaut ("I once was lost, but now am found, was blind but now I see")
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To: reaganaut

First, I don’t want to take the time starting an argument or getting bogged down in one in the religion forum.

So, I’ll just note that Catholics obviously don’t interpret Matthew 1:25 as necessarily meaning that Mary knew Joseph after the birth of Jesus. Someone else with the time or the will to do so could give a better explanation if they wish.

Also, are you asking why Catholics hold to the perpetual virginity of Mary or why the perpetual virginity of Mary is important to Catholics? If it’s the latter, then Matthew 1:25 and whether the doctrine is true or not is not really relevant to the question. But since you mentioned it, I’m guessing that you would like some explanation as to why Catholics believe in the perpetual virginity of Mary, not just why it is important to Catholics.


21 posted on 03/17/2012 3:04:07 PM PDT by WPaCon
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To: reaganaut

>>However that doesn’t answer the question as to why she MUST have remained a Virgin AFTER the birth of Christ.<<

Again, purity. The Virgin Birth is one of last times we see God’s hand directly. It is critical He be seen in the event, which included her staying a virgin through and, more importantly, after.

And that about exhausts what I can assemble from my years as a Catholic way back when...


22 posted on 03/17/2012 3:05:12 PM PDT by freedumb2003 (Spoiler Alert! The secret to Terra Nova: THEY ARE ALL DEAD!!!)
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To: mgist
her name was "the Immaculate Conception"

The Immaculate Conception is a dogma of the Catholic Church maintaining that Mary was kept free of original sin from her moment of conception and is not to be confused with the virginity of Mary or the virgin birth of Jesus.

23 posted on 03/17/2012 3:06:10 PM PDT by Former Fetus (Saved by grace through faith)
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To: Venturer

Totally agree with you! Reality is that we live in a world hostile to Christianity, and we do have to learn how to defend ourselved. Even from other Christians, who like St. Paul, believed persecuting Christians was a noble cause. Acts 9:4


24 posted on 03/17/2012 3:06:30 PM PDT by mgist
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To: vladimir998

First, I know there is often confusion between the Virgin Birth and Perpetual Virginity of Mary and I was seeing some confusion, hence my clarification.

The Bible never says she chose to remain a virgin or that they did not have a conjugal marriage. My vocab choice was fine.

However, thank you for your statement and I see perhaps a glimmer of why even though not directly addressed.


25 posted on 03/17/2012 3:06:37 PM PDT by reaganaut ("I once was lost, but now am found, was blind but now I see")
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To: vladimir998

They never had a conjugal marriage, nor was she ever planning on one either.

- - - - -
Interesting statement. Could you source that please? I am sincerely interested.


26 posted on 03/17/2012 3:07:44 PM PDT by reaganaut ("I once was lost, but now am found, was blind but now I see")
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To: Venturer

Why does anyone who doesn’t believe it—Care.

- - - - -
Because I am trying to understand why it is such a hot button.

I posted this as Ecumenical because I wasn’t starting a fight. I want to understand why it is important.


27 posted on 03/17/2012 3:09:27 PM PDT by reaganaut ("I once was lost, but now am found, was blind but now I see")
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To: reaganaut

You wrote:

“The Bible never says she chose to remain a virgin or that they did not have a conjugal marriage.”

So say you. Ask yourself why Mary went unpunished for putting a question to Gabriel when Zachariah was struck mute.

“My vocab choice was fine.”

Not for a Christian.


28 posted on 03/17/2012 3:09:58 PM PDT by vladimir998
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To: freedumb2003

Jesus is God. Nothing can make Him “impure”.


29 posted on 03/17/2012 3:13:06 PM PDT by Politicalmom (Lazamataz for president!! NO MORE RINOS!!)
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To: WPaCon

But since you mentioned it, I’m guessing that you would like some explanation as to why Catholics believe in the perpetual virginity of Mary, not just why it is important to Catholics.

- - - - —
I understand the text, interpretation, etc. But I don’t get why there is hostility to the idea that she wasn’t.

This is an Ecumenical thread specifically because I DID NOT want to start a fight. In my work, I am constantly asking “why?” and this was one area where I didn’t understand the why.


30 posted on 03/17/2012 3:13:13 PM PDT by reaganaut ("I once was lost, but now am found, was blind but now I see")
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To: reaganaut
Here's just an example of the types of interpretations of Matthew 1:25 that I was referring to and I am sure that you have seen before.

http://www.askacatholic.com/_webpostings/answers/2000_08AUG/2000AugUsageOfUntil.cfm

31 posted on 03/17/2012 3:13:24 PM PDT by WPaCon
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To: reaganaut

If Joseph and Mary never had sexual intercourse, then their marriage was never consummated. Therefore, the marriage was invalid. On that basis, Joseph would not be Jesus’ stepfather and was just a friend.


32 posted on 03/17/2012 3:14:11 PM PDT by reg45 (Barack 0bama: Implementing class warfare by having no class!)
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To: reaganaut

My thought has always been that Middle Eastern cultures put a great emphasis on virginity (look at how nowadays they actually have operations to “recreate” it, as if a physical hymen actually is that important).

To the Biblical Christian this is not important in the least. The important point for us is that Jesus was born of God, who is Spirit. A spirit does not take a woman’s virginity, but He was born of the Holy Spirit who “overshadowed” Mary. Thus Jesus is divine. Other than that, Mary remaining “perpetually” virgin has always smacked of the thought that sex is unclean and unholy, whether in or out of marriage.

I know our Catholic brethren disagree with this. It seems very obvious to me, and is one of the reasons I am not Catholic.

Mormons believe God impregnated Mary as a physical being. I obviously have great issues with this.

I hate to “hit and run” but I won’t be around for the flames for awhile, I’ll check in later for the fires!

I’ve always believed small philosophical ideas have great impact on cultures. IMHO, this is one of those “small, huge, ideas”.


33 posted on 03/17/2012 3:14:11 PM PDT by I still care (I miss my friends, bagels, and the NYC skyline - but not the taxes. I love the South.)
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To: freedumb2003

That theory implies an infinite regression i.e. Mary could not be “pure” without Mary’s mother being “pure”.

I believe Mary gave birth to Jesus as a virgin because that arrangement fulfilled prophecy.


34 posted on 03/17/2012 3:14:39 PM PDT by anathemized (cursed by some, blessed in Jesus)
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To: freedumb2003

It is critical He be seen in the event, which included her staying a virgin through and, more importantly, after.

- - - -
Thank you for your honest response and that does make quite a bit of sense, even if I don’t see Mary remaining a virgin her whole life detracting from her purity, I can see where you are going with this.

Thanks again. That helps alot


35 posted on 03/17/2012 3:15:15 PM PDT by reaganaut ("I once was lost, but now am found, was blind but now I see")
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To: reaganaut
It strikes me as a case of a lot of scholars pondering the nature of God requiring perfection in human form and just how that might be possible, extending that to Mary, and over centuries of layer upon layer of elaboration, creating doctrine of this speculation despite there being no presence of such claims in scripture.

The problem with this perfecting of Mary, the ever-virgin, the sinless, the bodily assumed, outside of the lack of scriptural validation, is that a perfect, sinless Mary would have had the same, physical issues as far as the inherited sin nature, as Jesus would have had, if all the learned and elaborate speculations and intellectualizations regarding His birth were actually the case.

Accepting that He was born of a virgin and that virgin was Mary, who was regarded as special and unique among women and therefore capable of bearing the Christ Child is as far as I'll go.

36 posted on 03/17/2012 3:15:36 PM PDT by RegulatorCountry
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To: Former Fetus
The bible refers to Mary as the Virgin Luke 1:26. The concept of ever Virgin was written about ever since:

Great teachers of the Church from at least the fourth century spoke of Mary as having remained a virgin throughout her life:

Athanasius (Alexandria, 293 - 373)

Epiphanius (Palestine, 315? - 403)

Jerome (Stridon, present day Slovenia, 345? - 419)

Augustine (Numidia, now Algeria, 354 - 430)

Cyril (Alexandria, 376 - 444)

Martin Luther(lutheran church) was one of the biggest defenders of this concept.

37 posted on 03/17/2012 3:16:21 PM PDT by mgist
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Comment #38 Removed by Moderator

To: mgist; Venturer

Ummm...I’m a devout Christian who is not in any way hostile to Catholicism. I’m just trying to understand something that is foreign to me.

Not sure where Venturer got the idea I was hostile.


39 posted on 03/17/2012 3:18:46 PM PDT by reaganaut ("I once was lost, but now am found, was blind but now I see")
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To: reaganaut
This is an Ecumenical thread specifically because I DID NOT want to start a fight.

That's fine. I didn't mean to imply that you were trying to start a fight if that's what you think I was doing.

40 posted on 03/17/2012 3:19:02 PM PDT by WPaCon
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To: reaganaut

Not to hijack, but I never understood why the notion that Jesus may have sex, something along the lines of The Da Vinci Code, is equally abhorrent. How could this dimmish what he was/is?


41 posted on 03/17/2012 3:20:13 PM PDT by moehoward
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To: katana

>>Personally I think they see it as detracting from the Marian cult <<

I think responses framed with that sort of talk take away from the theological nature of the discussion and instead turn it into hot-button sideways Catholic-bashing.


42 posted on 03/17/2012 3:20:13 PM PDT by freedumb2003 (Spoiler Alert! The secret to Terra Nova: THEY ARE ALL DEAD!!!)
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To: vladimir998
Ask yourself why Mary went unpunished for putting a question to Gabriel when Zachariah was struck mute

Good question. I've wish I could hear the tone of their voices. Was Zachariah being sarcastic? Antagonistic? I'm a teacher and I can ask 2 students if they did their homework. One will politely answer "yes, I did" and the second one may be belligerent and stare at me while muttering "yes, I did". You don't think they both mean the same, do you? I'm NOT saying that Zachariah was ugly to Gabriel, all I'm saying is that just because Mary and he asked basically the same question it does not mean they both believed and submitted to God's will the same way!

43 posted on 03/17/2012 3:21:51 PM PDT by Former Fetus (Saved by grace through faith)
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To: vladimir998

This has nothing to do with my faith. Whether she chose to or must have remained a virgin isn’t important. I believe, as a Christian, that she was a virgin when she conceived and gave birth.

Mary and Zacharia didn’t ask the same questions, and one showed faith, the other doubt. That still doesn’t support your claim.

However, again, this is not a debate thread and you still did not answer my question but that is ok.


44 posted on 03/17/2012 3:22:08 PM PDT by reaganaut ("I once was lost, but now am found, was blind but now I see")
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To: moehoward

>>How could this dimmish what he was/is?<<

The whole business about conjecture of Jesus’ mortal life beyond what the Bible tells us starts down a path where we lose the point of His life.

Remember, Catholicism is not a buffet-style belief system. It is arguably the most researched, reasoned, debated and adjusted major religion. Part of that research and reason have led to Mary’s role — in the Church and in people’s lives. Included in that is the relevance of Jesus’ early life.

As was pointed out, it can be reasoned out and even argued, but in the end it is a matter of Faith.


45 posted on 03/17/2012 3:25:27 PM PDT by freedumb2003 (Spoiler Alert! The secret to Terra Nova: THEY ARE ALL DEAD!!!)
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To: WPaCon

Yeah, I’ve read all of that, but thank you for the link.

I am fluent in Greek and Hebrew and read in the original texts and have done quite a bit of MSS research so I am familiar with the differences in a couple of MSS.

Sadly, I find some interpretations stretches based upon what the text in the Greek and use of vocab both in and out of cannon is.


46 posted on 03/17/2012 3:26:04 PM PDT by reaganaut ("I once was lost, but now am found, was blind but now I see")
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To: reg45

That is an interesting statement that I had not come across before. Thank you.


47 posted on 03/17/2012 3:27:07 PM PDT by reaganaut ("I once was lost, but now am found, was blind but now I see")
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To: reaganaut

I suggest you read Scott Hahn’s book for insight.

Here is the description from Amazon.
http://www.amazon.com/Hail-Holy-Queen-Mother-Word/dp/0385501692

Hail, Holy Queen: The Mother of God in the Word of God

A fresh and enlightening new perspective on Mary, Mother of God, and her central importance in the Christian faith, from the author of the highly successful The Lamb’s Supper.

In The Lamb’s Supper, Catholic scholar and apologist Scott Hahn explored the relationship between the Book of Revelation and the Roman Catholic Mass, deftly clarifying the most subtle of theological points with analogies and anecdotes from everyday life. In Hail, Holy Queen, he employs the same accessible, entertaining style to demonstrate Mary’s essential role in Christianity’s redemptive message.

Most Christians know that the life of Jesus is foreshadowed throughout the Old Testament. Through a close examination of the Bible, as well as the work of both Catholic and Protestant scholars and clergy, Hahn brings to light the small but significant details showing that just as Jesus is the “New Adam,” so Mary is the “New Eve.” He unveils the Marian mystery at the heart of the Book of Revelation and reveals how it is foretold in the very first pages of the Book of Genesis and in the story of King David’s monarchy, which speaks of a privileged place for the mother of the king.

Building on these scriptural and historical foundations, Hahn presents a new look at the Marian doctrines: Her Immaculate Conception, Perpetual Virginity, Assumption, and Coronation. As he guides modern-day readers through passages filled with mysteries and poetry, Hahn helps them rediscover the ancient art and science of reading the Scriptures and gain a more profound understanding of their truthfulness and relevance to faith and the practice of religion in the contemporary world.


48 posted on 03/17/2012 3:27:45 PM PDT by FatherofFive (Islam is evil and must be eradicated)
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To: reaganaut

Because there is something vestal about it?


49 posted on 03/17/2012 3:28:47 PM PDT by Jack Hydrazine (It's the end of the world as we know it and I feel fine!)
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To: reaganaut
We aren't really allowed to ditch portions of the faith we think "aren't important". And the Perpetual Virginity of Mary is certainly an ancient teaching of the church. St. Jerome condemned Helvidius in no uncertain terms for rejecting it back in the 5th Century, as did the Roman Pope of the time. All Catholics, Orthodox, and Oriental Orthodox Christians believe it.

Mary's Perpetual Virginity emphasizes the divinity and miraculous conception of Jesus. He was not an ordinary human child, and he was not biologically Joseph's child. Because of this, Mary was "off limits" to Joseph in sexual terms.

Remember for a moment that Mary is the Ark of the New Covenant, literally the vessel in which the flesh of the New Covenant was contained. What happened to Uzziah when he touched the ark of the old covenant without permission? He was instantly struck dead.

By the way, heos hou ("until") does not necessarily imply a reversal of the situation. Matthew is just emphasizing what happened before the birth of Jesus, because that's important to his discussion at that point.

We know that the Blessed Mother had no other biological children because Jesus consigned her to St. John's care before he died on the cross. Unless you want to take the (rather unlikely) view that Jesus had younger blood siblings who all died before he did, it would have been impossible and sinful for him to give Mary into St. John's care. It would have amounted to him doing exactly what he condemned the Pharisees for in Mt 15:5-6 -- absolving another Jew from his responsibility toward the commandments.

50 posted on 03/17/2012 3:30:00 PM PDT by Campion ("It is in the religion of ignorance that tyranny begins." -- Franklin)
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