Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Mary's Perpetual Virginity

I have recently watched an old remastered debate here (thanks Rich).  A debate between Protestant James White and Roman Catholic Gerry Matatics.  A debate that I have heard and appreciated  way-back-when as well.

I would like to respond to some stuff Gerry said around the 1:22 mark.  I have covered some of that historical qualification of the word "until" before (and James White did a fine job there), yet would like to address some of Gerry's other arguments.  Not because Mary's Perpetual Virginity is a fundamental issue- but because this Catholic dogma (yes, dogma) leads to a massive slandering of sex.  A slandering which is and was hugely detrimental to spousal intimacy.  Detrimental to folks who idolize Joseph and Mary's alleged lack of intimacy.  

Now, in that debate, Gerry Matatics desperately pulls on the sympathy card.  Gerry tries to qualify the definition of marriage.  Gerry insists that, 'we would not deny being married if our spouse was for some reason injured and unable to have sex during our marriage'.  True enough, Gerry.  Not a very functional marriage.  Not a very intimate marriage. Certainly not a marriage that passionate people would enter into, but a marriage nonetheless.

The suggestion of course being- that Mary was in effect 'injured' by The Holy Spirit upon insemination.  A permanent injury that left Mary without recourse to an intimate sex life or any more children.  A serious injury that may have left Mary without any yearning for the above.

Yet, I suspect that Joseph decided to enter this marriage knowing that Mary was certainly NOT injured.  That by all accounts and visions- she certainly was capable of child-bearing.  Indeed, Joseph believed that she would have a child supernaturally- and in all likelihood Joseph believed that she was able to have his children naturally. At the very least, that Mary would have natural yearning for him as well.

Now, it seems highly unlikely that Joseph was only interested in finding a babysitter for 'his children from a previous marriage' (Joses, James, Jude, Simon and some girls- Mark 6:3)  as Rome would suggest here.  That would be incredibly onerous on the young virgin Mary, and not something that any self-respecting man would wish on his daughter or fiancee.  After all, we read that Joseph was a "righteous man".  And in all likelihood he was not unfamiliar with the agrarian axiom of 'being yoked equally' (2 Cor. 6:14 ESV).  Of balancing the burden and blessing of children.

And this was not likely 'some other Mary who had these children' either, as Gerry suggests.  The Matthean passage (Matt. 12:46-50) strongly suggests the immediate family of Jesus rather than the relative family of Jesus.  Those skeptics weren't making mere relative associations.  Mere guilt by affinity.  They were clearly making allegations of consanguinity.  Insisting that Jesus had a filial obligation to speak with his folks.
And that "other Mary" that Gerry mentions with sons of similar names in Matthew 27:56?
Well, she is the very same Mary- the very mother of Jesus.  And despite the fact that Joseph is called "Joses" in some ancient manuscripts (and Mary is called "Mariam" in some) he is still the very brother of Jesus.  Still named after daddy Joseph.   Still Joseph Jr. (possibly  Joseph's firstborn).  And Joses is a perfectly good nick for less formal purposes.

Regardless, the fact that Matthew calls Mary "the mother of James and Joseph" rather than the 'mother of Jesus' at the cross- actually aids identification  rather than detracting from her identification.  Matthew aids her identification by adding those parameters.  Adding those parameters as he did in that Matthew 13:55 verse.

Now it just so happens, that I was considering those things a few weeks ago when I was preparing my lesson on James 1.  When I was giving a bit of history to the genealogy of James (see outline here).
At that time, I was wondering if Mary wasn't so busy nursing James (when they were traveling  in the Grand Caravan- Luke 2:44) that they left Jesus Home Alone (so to speak) in His Father's House.  I was wondering if Father Joseph wasn't so busy with the other five kids to overlook one kid.  That Father Joseph may have been thinking that Jesus (as a 12 year-old) was a rather independent and low-maintenance concern... until a fearful Mary freaked.

So why weren't those alleged 'pre-existing' children babysitting Jesus, we might ask? Why weren't they making sure that such a precocious youth as  Jesus wasn't getting into trouble? That he wasn't getting left behind?  Seems natural to think that those alleged affinal children weren't old  enough for that.  Not babysitting age yet, Gerry... because they were younger siblings rather than older siblings.

Anyways, let's deal with Gerry's suggestion of The Holy Spirit injuring Mary.  A blasphemous  suggestion.  A suggestion attributing evil to God.

And let's let Martin Luther deal with that suggestion.  Martin Luther addressed the topic of an injured spouse in his treatise  The Estate of Marriage.
Now, this treatise was written a couple years before Luther got married at the age of 41.  Yet this treatise is still comprehensive and profound (though not quite as bombastic as his later Bondage of the Will).  A treatise which many would do well to read before they get married.

In this treatise Luther asks,

   What about a situation where one's wife is an invalid and has therefore become incapable of fulfilling the conjugal duty? May he not take another to wife? By no means. Let him serve the Lord in the person of the invalid and await His good pleasure. Consider that in this invalid God has provided your household with a healing balm by which you are to gain heaven. Blessed and twice blessed are you when you recognise such a gift of grace and therefore serve your invalid wife for God's sake.
But you may say: I am unable to remain continent. That is a lie. If you will earnestly serve your invalid wife, recognise that God has placed this burden upon you, and give thanks to him, then you may leave matters in his care. He will surely grant you grace, that you will not have to bear more than you are able. He is far too faithful to deprive you of your wife through illness without at the same time subduing your carnal desire, if you will but faithfully serve your invalid wife. 

Here Luther may have been considering that  Bloody Woman that we considered here.
A woman bloodied by childbirth.  Yet I doubt that Mary had those bloody issues.  I doubt that Mary was unable or unwilling to be that intimate.  Indeed, Jesus would have healed those bloody issues and sentiments rather than caused them.

Luther also deals strongly with the husband who was unable or unwilling to be to be intimate, in Part One (first category) of that treatise.   Telling him to 'do right by his wife whether he likes it or not'.  Granting the wife the Third Case for divorce (in Part Two) if he deprives her.
This would also be a direct violation of the angel's orders "Do not be afraid [of intimacy]- Matt 1:20.  Orders which Joseph apparently followed- Matt. 1:24.

Also makes me wonder, 'Why didn't the angel inform Joseph that his intended was now an invalid', Gerry? Inform Joseph that his "carnal desires" would not be validated by Mary?  Or that Joseph's desires would be "subdued" (possibly by a 'holy fear" of Mary's tabernacle)?

Joseph would look a whole lot more righteous- if he were to agree to such unflattering terms of marriage.  Yet there is no textual expansion of that nature in Joseph's account (though some manuscripts add the term "firstborn").  No flattery and no warts to be seen in Joseph's account.  And I don't believe that Joseph's desires would be "subdued" all that much either.  Luther may have been considering 1 Cor. 10:13 there- yet this carnal desire is a 'temptation that is common to nearly all men'.

Not only that, but an injured Mary doesn't fit biblical priestly typology either.  After all, Mary is considered a mediatrix by Rome. A mediator between man and Christ.  A priest of enormous import.
Yet we know that those who were neutered were not permitted to be priests (Deut. 23:1).  Were not permitted to be mediators.  And if Mary were neutered she would be unable to identify with the common man (or natural woman).  Unable to identify with ordained conjugal duties or desires.
She would be a mediator with severely compromised identification.  A mediator lacking in empathy .  A mediator who did not know temptation.  Did not know temptation like Jesus 'who was tempted in all ways'- Heb. 4:15.

Rather, allow me to suggest a more historical typology of blessed Mary.  That Mary was a type of Hannah, a woman also called blessed. That Mary was not unlike Hannah (1 Samuel 2:21) who was blessed with more sons and daughters after she granted God her firstborn (1 Samuel 1:11).  Hannah who received her remedy and gave us a worship song.  A worship song not unlike Mary's Magnificat. 

Finally, allow me to suggest that our end-times with God will not be one of Perpetual Virginity (as Gerry suggests around the 1:50 mark).  Will NOT be one of always yearning- yet never learning.  But rather of yearning and being satisfied.  Eternally satisfied with the source of our yearning.  Satisfied with someone better than Elkanah. Satisfied with someone who is much "better than ten sons", as Elkanah suggested- 1 Samuel 1:8.

Satisfied with Elohim.
Satisfied in Christ.



  1. Hey Ron, thanks for the encouraging note at Beggar's All.

    I think John 20:16 is about Mary Magdalene, not Jesus' mom. Read from John 20:1 on down. Look at verse 18. (smile)

    That debate vs. Jerry Matatics is the first one I purchased a long time ago. Who is My Mother? by Eric Svendsen is also very good on the "until" (heos hou) issue in Matthew 1:25.

  2. Thanks Ken,

    I slipped there :) Should have reviewed my old Svendsen book.
    Have deleted that paragraph.