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?
THAT is why it's so important.
Isaiah 7:14 “Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Emmanuel.” This Old Testament prophecy is quoted in the gospel of Matthew (Mt 1:23) and specifically applied to the virginal conception of Christ.
It HAD to be so because it was prophesized as such.
Agreed. Thank you for your measured and well thought out response.
Scott Hahn’s Hail Holy Queen is a very good suggestion. I realize that the doctrine of The Virgin Mary goes back into the Old Testament and has numerous explanations, which are too complex and lengthy to be discussed in posts. Jesus’ mother was simply a huge part of God’s Plan for Salvation. Ironically Martin Luther, the father of Protestants, was one of the biggest defenders of the Ever Virgin concept. It wouldn’t matter to me either way, I love all things associated with Jesus.
You're talking about the virgin birth and you're wrong, to the Biblical Christian it IS OF UTMOST IMPORTANCE. The original sin comes from Adam, through our fathers, thus the fact that Mary was a virgin at the time of Jesus' birth meant that He was sinless. It is only because He was sinless that He was the perfect sacrifice that attoned for all our sins. Without the virgin birth, Jesus would have been just one more Jew executed by the Romans, and we would be dead in our sins.
However, the perpetual virginity of Mary doesn't have any effect on anyone's salvation. And I don't care how many Church fathers wrote about it, God's Word does not say that she remained a virgin and that's good enough for me.
It is a hot button with Catholics and I think Reaganaut is simply asking why?
- - - -
BINGO! Thanks for understanding.
I believe a few other posters were thinking that, not necessarily you.
Rather than hijack, I will respond via freepmail my thoughts on this.
WRT purity and marital sexuality:
Based solely on publically available information, it is my opinion that Michelle Duggar is just as sexually pure as any life-long virgin.
Just curious: why "firstborn son" rather than just "son" or "child" if she had no other children later?
Another point I forgot to mention before. At the Annunciation, Mary says to the angel, "How can this be, since I know not man?" That question doesn't make sense from a young woman engaged to be married under normal circumstances. It only makes sense if Mary had already taken a vow of perpetual virginity.
Not sure if you’re disagreeing with something, but you are certainly welcome to expand on Whom Jesus is!
Not at all intended as such or to offend (although it obviously did). Use of the word "cult" was not meant to imply "worship" of Mary, but prayer to Her or any Saints for intercession with God. I believe that is still allowed and somewhat encouraged by the RCC and is a point of honest theological discussion between friends and brothers who agree on most but not on everything.
There is an emphasis upon “only son” wherever it applies in numerous passages within the Bible, in both Old and New Testaments, not only in the instance of the only begotten Son of God, so your question has merit.
Firstborn children are special under the Mosaic Law. Exodus 13:2 reads (God speaking), "Consecrate to Me all the firstborn, whatever opens the womb among the children of Israel, both of man and beast; it is Mine."
Thank you for the link, I will definitely check it out.
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.
- - - - -
The virgin birth covers this, not the perpetual virginity.
There are other reasons why Jesus would have said that to John other than the lack of half brothers, but that isn’t the topic of this thread.
Mary had many other children: Matthew 12:46 While Jesus was still talking to the crowd, his mother and brothers stood outside, wanting to speak to him. Acts 1:14 They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers. Mark 6:3
This is the builder, the son of Mary, and the brother of James, Joseph, Judas, and Simon, isn’t it? His sisters are here with us, aren’t they?” And they were offended by him. The meaning is clear: For neither did his brethren believe in him. At first they might take to him, and embrace him as the Messiah, and expect he would set up a temporal kingdom; in which they might hope, on account of their relation to him, according to the flesh to enjoy great honors and privileges; but finding that he was not inclined to anything of that nature, and talked in a quite different way, they grew sick of him, and rejected him, as the Messiah. The Bible mentions at least 6 children. Amen!
That is why the VIRGIN BIRTH is important, not the perpetual virginity.
The ancient Aramaic language had no word for cousin. Jesus had no brothers and sisters. The ancient Jews even used "brothers and sisters" for other people of their village and ALL cousins.
If Jesus had had brothers, He would have consigned His mother's care, speaking from the Cross, to one of His brothers, not to John. It would have made NO sense for Jesus to tell John to take care of Mary if there had been other children of Mary. She had no other children.
St. Paul wasn’t a Christian when he thought he was defending Judaism.
I'm thinking that it might be a “hot button” because it is connected to something that Catholics revere (Mary) but is often misstated in attacks on them. Clearly Catholics do not worship Mary in the same manner that they worship Christ. They revere her, and her relationship to Christ, but they get ready to be attacked at the mention of Mary.
As a Mormon, we have similar “hot button” topics. We don't worship Joseph Smith, but we revere him as the first prophet of the restoration. But as soon as the topic comes up, we get ready for the claim that we worship JS, and don't even talk about Christ.
That is untrue, just as the statement that Catholics worship Mary in the same manner as God is untrue.
Doctrinally, I agree with you. There is nothing scriptural that seem to require Mary remaining a virgin after Christ's birth, but clearly Catholics teach that, and are sensitive when the topic comes up.
You asked a fair, legitimate question and you’ve obviously done your homework, so I’ll take a shot.
There are a lot of arguments folks can make in favor of the doctrine and probably none of them really get at the heart of what you are asking: WHY is it so important? Why MUST she have been perpetually a virgin?
Well, perhaps she mustn’t have after all.
Don’t get me wrong, I think it is most fitting that Our Lady was ever-virgin, but that is only my human sensibilities talking. Perhaps God could have arranged it some other way. I don’t know. I would not presume to limit Him in that way. So I think the theoretical arguments are useful only to a point.
In the end, we do not defend Mary’s ever-virginity because we think it must be theoretically true. We defend it because we believe it is historically true—that it is part of the deposit of the faith that was passed down through the Apostles to the early Church to us.
So I would ask you to strip away all the theorizing on both sides and just consider it as a historical question. Let’s suppose Mary was ever virgin as a fact. And suppose the Apostles knew that, and suppose they passed that fact down to us. It wouldn’t be quite as important *why* God chose to do it that way—we would just accept that like we accept the Resurrection or the miracles or anything else.
Also, I learned that Joseph accepted this and that Mary would remain a virgin. We don't know when Joseph died, but Joseph was NEVER mentioned again after Jesus' birth. Mary was mentioned again, but not Joseph. It's assumed that he didn't live too much longer. But, who knows really.
But Matthew was written in Greek and there is a word for cousin in the greek so that would have been used.
And, Jesus still could have consigned Mary to John because she was a spiritual mother, not because there were no physical brothers. Scripture states, Mary believed, but most (if not all) of his family did not. Why would he trust his mother to unbelievers?
Yet, I did not mistate it nor have I ever claimed that Catholics worship Mary. Also, in my research I have not seen this mistated in an attack on Catholicism either. Other things related to Mary, but not this.
Not going to get into LDS doctrine with you on this thread, you know where I stand on that.
However, thank you for your measured and polite response.
Tradition, right? Not Scriptural.
Finally! THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU!!!! That is exactly what I was searching for.
Your post helped greatly in my understanding of why.
Why do you assume that ancient Greek had the word for cousin?
Besides, why would the translator CHANGE a meaning from "brother" to "cousin," just because Greek had the word and Aramaic didn't? A translator would have held to what the speaker said: brother.
If Jesus had brothers the brothers wouldn't have let their mother travel around following Jesus. The brothers would have been taking care of her all along. The brothers would have been at the Cross with their mother and brother.
Jesus had no brothers.
Where does it say that Jesus' family were non-believers? His cousin John the Baptist and his parents believed.
From what I’ve learned Mary was consecrated to the Temple at her birth, that is, perpetual virginity. I believe that is what the consecration meant for baby girls.
- - - -
Source for this? Judaism never had a practice for this for women that I have ever come across so I am curious.
And Joseph is mentioned when Jesus was 12 so after his birth.
Joseph was NEVER mentioned again?
Are you sure? Look again, age 12 Jesus is supposedly (By the human understanding of His earthly parents) lost in the Temple. Who was looking for Him and extremely worried?
LOL....you’re very welcome. :)
I agree. Besides, where were the other physical brothers? It seems to me that, according to the Gospels, John was the only man at the foot of the cross. To whom else would Jesus consigned His mother?
But we (and I include myself here) are getting off the subject. The point in question is not the perpetual virginity, or lack of thereof, of Mary but WHY is it so important to Catholics?
Why do you assume that ancient Greek had the word for cousin?
- - - -
Because I am fluent in Koine Greek. It isn’t just an assumption. The word is anepsios and used in other places in the New Testament.
Early Church Fathers on Mary’s Perpetual Virginity - http://www.catholic.com/tracts/mary-ever-virgin
Pope Siricius I
“You had good reason to be horrified at the thought that another birth might issue from the same virginal womb from which Christ was born according to the flesh. For the Lord Jesus would never have chosen to be born of a virgin if he had ever judged that she would be so incontinent as to contaminate with the seed of human intercourse the birthplace of the Lords body, that court of the eternal king” (Letter to Bishop Anysius [A.D. 392]).
(see more church fathers at above link)
You can also check out:
Salza for more Church Fathers - http://www.scripturecatholic.com/blessed_virgin_mary.html#tradition-III
Hahn’s site for more - http://www.salvationhistory.com/search/results/81ef5793412e6baa02ab6980d5ddd051/
Hopefully that will keep you busy. :)
Besides, why would the translator CHANGE a meaning from “brother” to “cousin,” just because Greek had the word and Aramaic didn’t? A translator would have held to what the speaker said: brother.
- - - - -
Have you done much translating? Honest question.
Part of the translation process is stating the text or in the case of idioms changing it to preserve meaning.
Most of those in the Aramic Middle East knew how to speak at least some Greek (rather than Latin which was less used). Why are you assuming that the speaker said cousins instead of brothers meaning literal siblings?
Yes, apostolic tradition.
As Jesus ascended into heaven, He didn't yell down: READ MY BOOK! There WAS no book. The apostles didn't write things down until later. Paul didn't write until after Jesus death either. Yet Jesus' Church grew, WITHOUT the written words, WITH the preaching of the Apostles and the 72 other disciples Jesus appointed. They didn't carry books and scrolls around with them. They preached according to the tradition taught to them by Jesus.
There were scrolls of the life of Jesus scattered throughout early Christiandom, but darn few and even fewer people read. Apostolic tradition was the way the Church grew for a LONG time. Remember that John said: "There are, however, many other things that Jesus did: but if every one of these should be written, not even the world itself, I think, could hold the books that would have to be written." (John, 21:25)
Jesus did much more during His life but they weren't written down. He left it to his Apostles to spead the Good News...thereby NOT relying on just a book.
If Jesus had brothers the brothers wouldn’t have let their mother travel around following Jesus. The brothers would have been taking care of her all along. The brothers would have been at the Cross with their mother and brother.
Jesus had no brothers. Where does it say that Jesus’ family were non-believers?
- - - - - - -
John 7 states that his brothers did not believe. And you are assuming without evidence that they would have taken care of Mary or would have been at the cross (esp if they didn’t believe) or wouldn’t let her travel.
Have you ever tried to convince a Jewish mother to do something she didn’t want to do or to prevent her from something she did?
Post #74 is an excellent answer as to why, IMO.
I’ve read all that, thank you very much for the links, but that is not what I was looking for.
I know the history of the doctrine probably better than most Catholics (Historian), what I am looking for is why it matters to Modern (not Medieval) Catholics.
Is it a theological hill to die on? If so, why?
But if it was such an important doctrine, why didn’t it make it into the New Testament? Many things did, that did not.
We don’t really hear about the doctrine until almost the 4th century through the Church fathers.
I wouldn’t be too sure it didn’t make it into the NT implicitly. I sure see it in Luke.
I sure see it in Luke.
- - - - -
Where? I don’t so I am curious.
I DON'T assume that the speaker said cousins instead of brother, meaning literal siblings. What I said was that "brothers and sisters" was a term used for cousins because the word "cousin" didn't exist in ancient Aramaic.
I learned my Bible from priests. They were taught in the seminary about what the Bible teaches. Protestants ARE allowed to interpret the Bible as they like. There is no dictum as to what anything means. So if you want to interprest the word brother for cousin you can because Protestants can. Catholics are taught doctrine/dogma and that is not up for interpretation. Priests will tell you the same thing I did. I didn't make it up or get MY OWN interpretation of the Bible. Catholics don't do that.
I HAVE done translating from Spanish-English and vice versa but only on a need-to basis for friends and family. I realized that idioms are impossible to translate. I translate both the exact text AND the actual meaning, which often differ A LOT. It's hysterically funny sometimes.
e.g. The word elbow in Spanish is "codo." When someone pats his elbow and is speaking of someone else, he REALLY means that the other person is a cheapskate, as "codo" can also mean skinflint. It's an idiom.
Also I don't assume that the ancient Aramaic speakers knew ANY Greek unless they were merchants of some sort, mechants who dealt with people who traded for farther away than the village in the next valley. Aramaic is STILL spoken on ONE town in Syria but it's NOT the same Aramaic that Jesus spoke...language changes after 2000 years. Aramaic sounds like Arabic in many ways.
Greek was the language of the Greek conquerors. Then the Romans came. Why would Jewish peasants speak EITHER Greek or Latin? Why wouldn't they speak only Aramaic? Most were illiterate anyway. Education wasn't for the poor.
For the same reason that her perpetual virginity was so important to Calvin, Luther and Zwingli amongst many other protestants.
I did not mean to be hostile, Sorry.
But to me I don’t have to know aboutt Mary’s 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 didn’t 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 don’t ask questions I believe.
If it has to be explained to you , Your faith is weak IMO.
I don’t mean that in a nasty way.
Neither does it mean sibling.
We know the Gospels to be inerrant so there must be an explanation other than sibling to explain the different fathers mentioned for each of Jesus' "brothers".
"For whoever does the will of God, he is My brother and sister and mother. - Mark 3:35