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The Ever Virginity of Mary

Discussion in 'Christianity in General DIR' started by James the Persian, Oct 11, 2005.

  1. James the Persian

    James the Persian Dreptcredincios Crestin

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    In the thread on the Epistle of James, amidst a discussion of his parentage, it became apparent that one poster was using arguments against the ever-virginity of the Theotokos (Mary) as an argument for her being the mother of James. It would have been going off topic to continue down this route and it was suggested that we should have a thread to discuss this, so here it is. I'm interested in knowing if other Christians agree or disagree with the idea that Mary remained a virgin after giving birth to Christ, not in whether or not she was a virgin when she gave birth to Christ. Whatever your belief on this matter, is it important to you? If so, why? And what evidence would you use to back up your view?

    To kick things off, I do believe that the Theotokos was ever virgin, though I don't see this as a particularly important belief on the grand scale of things - I don't think it will affect anyone's salvation. My main evidence for this belief would be that it is a part of Holy Tradition, the writings and oral teachings that have been handed down to us since the beginning of the Church. Coupled with this, I would suggest that there is absolutely no evidence in Scripture to contradict the claims of Holy Tradition, so I'm perfectly happy that Mary had no further children after Christ and remained a virgin until her death, but I'd like to see what others think.

    To finish up, I'd offer this verse from Ezekiel (44:2), that is generally believed in the Orthodox Church (and the RCC?) to be a prophecy of Mary's ever virginity:

    Looking forward to a good (and hopefully good natured) discussion.

    James
     
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  2. Scott1

    Scott1 Well-Known Member

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    Prophecy? Hmmm, not sure about that. I would prefer to look at it as typology, but we both agree about what the text leads us to.

    The first early Church father I've found today to speak about this was Origen:
    "The Book [the Protoevangelium] of James [records] that the brethren of Jesus were sons of Joseph by a former wife, whom he married before Mary. Now those who say so wish to preserve the honor of Mary in virginity to the end, so that body of hers which was appointed to minister to the Word . . . might not know intercourse with a man after the Holy Spirit came into her and the power from on high overshadowed her. And I think it in harmony with reason that Jesus was the firstfruit among men of the purity which consists in [perpetual] chastity, and Mary was among women. For it were not pious to ascribe to any other than to her the firstfruit of virginity" (Commentary on Matthew 2:17 [A.D. 248]).

    I've never actually read the Protoevangelium of James, does this book hold any water in the Orthodox methodology?
     
  3. Terrywoodenpic

    Terrywoodenpic Oldest Heretic

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    Not surpriseingly I do not have a firm view on this.
    If Mary remained a virgin during her time as Josephs wife, or if she did not, is more important as a mystical belief than as a reality.
    It is certainy important To those who hold it as part of their Faith.

    If she did not remain a vergin, it would not lessen my respect for her as a Saint and Virgin Mother of Christ.

    It would seem strange though, had she not been a full wife to Joseph. And if that had resulted in other children... Amen.

    Terry__________________________---
    Amen! Truly I say to you: Gather in my name. I am with you.
     
  4. James the Persian

    James the Persian Dreptcredincios Crestin

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    Actually, typology would be a better description of the way we view it also, it's just that I was having one of those mental blanks when I wrote the opening post and prophecy was the closest word I could come up with. Sorry for the confusion.
    I haven't read the Protoevangelium of James either, but it is generally pretty well regarded in the Orthodox Church as are Origen's words in this respect (though we wouldn't call him a Church Father as such - do you? - given some of his condemned heretical doctrines). I have read others' comments on the Protoevangelium, however, and little if any has been negative - I probably really ought to read it some day. I did refer to this view that Christ's siblings were Joseph's children from a previous marriage in the thread on James, as it's what I believe personally to be true, but I didn't bring up the Protoevangelium. Obviously, I know that for RCs, the ever virginity of the Theotokos is as important as it is to us, but what I'm not sure of is whether it is a Marian dogma, like say the Immaculate Conception, or merely a pious belief. Either way, it's a belief I share.

    James
     
  5. michel

    michel Administrator Emeritus
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    I tend to agree, Terry; I think the 'virginity' itself is unimportant; the idea of it is more important than the fact - the demonstration that she was 'pure' paints a 'rosy' picture on the subject.;)
     
  6. James the Persian

    James the Persian Dreptcredincios Crestin

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    Michel and Terry,

    That's about what I would expect from many Christians, certainly those in churches that do not adhere to Holy Tradition. Some people here clearly have strong views on the subject, though, or they wouldn't have been arguing with me about James' parentage in the other thread. I hope that at least one of them will pop in here to discuss it as I'm genuinely interested in what others think. When I was a Protestant I can't honestly say I thought about the issue at all, so I guess I would have been in your camp and, as I said, I don't think holding to this belief or not will have any bearing on anybody's salvation, but nowadays it is pretty important to me on a personal level.

    What I can't understand is the wish to adamantly assert that Mary did not remain virgin. As I said, I don't believe that there is any evidence for this view in Scripture and as the people who make such assertions are almost always sola scriptura Protestants, I can't understand why they'd accept extra-Biblical teachings on this matter. The only way I can see to explain this is that they have a desperate wish to believe that Mary was merely a woman like any other rather than the perfect example of Christian obedience to be glorified above the angels. That's not just extra-Scriptural but contra-Scriptural, which slightly disturbs me. Maybe, though, someone who does hold to the opposing view might be able to come up with a reason that makes more sense and seems less disrespectful. At least I hope so.

    James
     
  7. Scott1

    Scott1 Well-Known Member

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    I don't believe this is an "official" description... we use "Doctor of the Church" for those whose teachings hold great significance.... I use Church Father to describe any of the members in the first 3 or 4 centuries of the Church... I guess I should be a little bit more clear.

    I do pray for the likes of Arius and Origen... great minds gone astray.:(
    You keep getting me to think in Eastern terms... :) and I've begun to question my definitions about what dogma means to me. Maybe another time we'll start a thread about "pious belief vs. dogma" and you can help.
     
  8. James the Persian

    James the Persian Dreptcredincios Crestin

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    OK. For us Church Fathers don't include people like Origen or Tertullian (and certainly not Arius!) and so it sounds like what you would refer to as a Doctor of the Church. This would explain why on so many forums I've seen RCs post quotes from Chutrch Fathers only to have Orthodox point out that Origen isn't a father, this usually being met with surprise. I think I've said to you before that sometimes we use similar sounding terms with different meanings which cause confusion - this seems to be one such term. Good to know.
    As do I. I pray that everyone will be saved, which perhaps takes me a little close to Origenism, but rather that than the reverse.
    I'd be happy to contribute to such a thread. Often one of the things we object to about Roman Catholicism is the dogmatisation of what we consider pious beliefs, but I'm not sure if this is a real difference or another confusion of terminiology. It would be interesting to find out.

    James
     
  9. Draka

    Draka Wonder Woman

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    Quick question, why would there need to be scriptures concerning Mary and Joseph's sex life? They were husband and wife weren't they? Were marriages not consumated then? Granted they may not have consumated their marriage once they learned of her state...which bears to question how soon after they were married did they learn of the pregnancy? But why would it have been such a far cry to believe that, as a loving married couple, that they made love during their marriage? And since there was no such thing as contraception or birth control then, that children resulted from the two of them? These would be the brothers and sisters of Jesus...starting their own families and in effect...these decendents would essentially be related to Jesus. Or is that too much to possibly believe?
     
  10. Quiddity

    Quiddity UndertheInfluenceofGiants

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    "And behold, an angel of the Lord stood by [St. Anne], saying, ‘Anne! Anne! The Lord has heard your prayer, and you shall conceive and shall bring forth, and your seed shall be spoken of in all the world.’ And Anne said, ‘As the Lord my God lives, if I beget either male or female, I will bring it as a gift to the Lord my God, and it shall minister to him in the holy things all the days of its life.’ . . . And [from the time she was three] Mary was in the temple of the Lord as if she were a dove that dwelt there" (Protoevangelium of James 4, 7 [A.D. 120]).

    "Let those, therefore, who deny that the Son is by nature from the Father and proper to his essence deny also that he took true human flesh from the ever-virgin Mary" (Discourses Against the Arians 2:70 [A.D. 360]).

    It is rather comforting to know that EO believe that Mary remained a virgin. Although It seems we differ on the importance. A pious belief can never develop into a doctrine or a dogma in RC theology. I am unsure if this is the case in EO theology. In the RC we hold the perpetual virginity as a dogma. Perhaps I am misunderstanding the concept of "pious belief" within EO theology.

    ~Victor
     
  11. Scott1

    Scott1 Well-Known Member

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  12. glasgowchick

    glasgowchick Gives Glory to God !!!

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    I believe that, for a woman to remain a virgin while being married to her husband would be considered a sin by God's standards. God created marriage. The two become one flesh and the bed is undefiled in marriage. Mary and Joseph were married in every sense of the word. Joseph took Mary to be his wife, Had she remained a virgin her entire married life, this would have been very dysfunctional. It would have displeased her husband and the Lord. So who are the brothers and sisters if they are not Jesus half brothers and sisters ?..There is no mention of Joseph being married and divorced to have had other children, [ none that I know of ]..

    Are there any scriptures that state Mary remained a virgin ?
    Are there any scriptures that state Joseph remained celibate since he apparently didn't have sex with his wife..

    If Mary was to remain a virgin, why did she have to marry in the first place.
     
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  13. Quiddity

    Quiddity UndertheInfluenceofGiants

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    There doesn’t need to be. As Catholics we don’t go by what’s written alone. Holy Tradition is another tool that guides us.

    They were consummated. But you can have a valid marriage without consummation.

    Consecrated virginity was not a common practice with in Judaism but it did exist. Protoevangelium of James is a document that talks about Mary’s vow of virginity. Joseph came into the picture as a male guardian to Mary only to respect and not violate Mosaic Laws. For example, Mary couldn’t dwell in the temple because of her monthly cycles and moving in with a male guardian (Joseph) would also violate Mosaic Law. So be wedding Joseph was the best thing for Mary’s situation.

    I don’t think it would be an outcry. Making love within a marriage is a beautiful thing and completely natural. But Mary’s situation was far from common and natural. Not many people I know or read about give birth to the Second Person of the Trinity.;)

    It’s not too much at all. It’s reasonable to think that. But Catholic Tradition/History doesn’t agree with such a conclusion.


    Hope this helps.


    Peace in Christ

    ~Victor
     
  14. Quiddity

    Quiddity UndertheInfluenceofGiants

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    Glasgowchick, I am only going to address this one because I think your other comments can be answered on my previous post. I'm going to copy and paste from catholic answers on this one. Hope you don't mind.

    Catholic Answers

    True, ordinarily. But even in the Old Testament God asked married couples to refrain from intercourse for various reasons. For example, the priests of the temple had to refrain from intimacy with their wives during the time of their service. Likewise, Moses had the Israelites abstain from intercourse as he ascended Mount Sinai (Ex. 20:15). There is a theme here of refraining from marital rights because of the presence of something very holy.

    The Church Fathers knew that there was something greater than the temple in Mary’s womb, comparing it to the Eastern Gate mentioned in Ezekiel 44: "This gate shall remain shut; it shall not be opened, and no one shall enter by it; for the Lord, the God of Israel, has entered by it; therefore it shall remain shut." Mary had become the dwelling place of the Almighty, like the Ark of the Covenant in the Old Testament.

    Now, if Uzzah was struck dead for touching the Ark (2 Sam. 6:6–8), should it be surprising that Joseph understood that Mary was a vessel consecrated to God alone? The idea that Joseph assumed normal marital relations with Mary after the birth of Christ was an irreverence that even the Protestant reformers rejected.

    Interestingly, according to Jewish law, if a man was betrothed to a woman and she became pregnant from another, he could never have relations with her. The man had to put her away privately or condemn her in public and put her to death. Joseph chose the more merciful option.

    Then, the angel told him to lead her into the house as a wife (paralambano gunaika), but the language that describes marital relations is not used here. It was used, however, in Luke 1:35: "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you." To "overshadow" a woman was a euphemism for having a marital relationship, as was the phrase "to lay one’s power" over a woman. The Holy Spirit had espoused Mary, and she had been consecrated, set apart for God.

    Also, it appears that Mary had made a vow of virginity. When the angel said that she would conceive and bear a son, she asked, "How can this be, since I do not know man?" She knew how babies were made, and she was about to be married. "How can this be?" would seem like a pretty silly question unless she had made a prior vow of virginity.


    In Christ
    ~Victor
     
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  15. Katzpur

    Katzpur Not your average Mormon

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    No, I do not believe, nor does my Church teach, that Mary remained a virgin throughout her life. This belief is important to me for one reason only: I want to believe what is true, and not what is false. Whether she was or not, does not in and of itself matter in the slightest to me, at least not in terms of her value. I don't believe she remained a virgin after giving birth to Jesus Christ primarily because there is no reason whatsoever to make that assumption. No scripture tells us that she was and it is entirely reasonable to assume that a married woman wouldn't be.

    I believe that you and I are going to be having the same conversation that Scott and I just finished having. Therefore, before I respond to the point of view you have presented, let me ask you one thing: When you say that these Holy Traditions have been handed down to us "since the beginning of the Church," what is it you really mean? Do you mean "the beginning" or sometime within the first few hundred years? Would you please site the first instance you are aware of that this particular tradition was mentioned by the Church fathers.

    Are you saying that "the gate" referred to in this passage refers to Mary's virginity?

    Well, I certainly do intend to keep it that way! ;)

    Kathryn
     
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  16. Katzpur

    Katzpur Not your average Mormon

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    Well, to my way of thinking, someone who lived 10 generations following Jesus' birth isn't exactly what I would consider a reliable source of information on Mary's perpetual virginity, but then I don't suppose my opinion on this surprises you much, does it? ;)
     
  17. Quiddity

    Quiddity UndertheInfluenceofGiants

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    Katzpur, It seems you are going to do this with most all history. Not a debate forum, but thanks for sharing.

    ~Victor
     
  18. Steve

    Steve Active Member

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    I dont really see why this is an issue, Mary was a virgin when Christ was born. After that why wouldnt she have sex with her husband, God created sex for marriage. The bible even mentions Jesus' brothers, this is preety good reason to think Mary and Joseph had children later isnt it?
    Now Jesus' mother and brothers came to see him, but they were not able to get near him because of the crowd. Someone told him, "Your mother and brothers are standing outside, wanting to see you." Luke 8:19-20
    Why would this even be considered as somthing Mary shouldnt have done?
     
  19. James the Persian

    James the Persian Dreptcredincios Crestin

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    It isn't that I think that Mary would be any less if she hadn't remained a virgin, just that I believe that she did. As for the quote you have brought up, I have dealt with this elsewhere. There is nowhere in Scripture that states that Mary had children other than Christ. Holy Tradition, part of which is the Protoevangelium of James mentioned by Scott, states that the brothers and sisters of Christ were the children of Joseph by a previous marriage. Even if this were not true, and I believe it is, the use of terms like brother in New Testament times were not exclusively used for what we would consider siblings but also for more distant relatives such as cousins. There is evidence in Scripture that Mary did not have any children other than Christ. Had she done, she would have been expected to have been supported by them after the Crucifixion, but she was not. She was, rather, entrusted into the care of John who was no relative of hers. I'm afraid that the evidence of Scripture and Holy Tradition together argues forcibly for Mary's perpetual virginity.

    James
     
  20. James the Persian

    James the Persian Dreptcredincios Crestin

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    The Protoevangelium of James (early second century, note) does tell us that Mary remained a virgin. It is not much more recent than some of the books that made it into the canon and was widely regarded in the early Church. That's certainly good enough for me as we do not have the black and white Scripture/non-Scripture dichotomy of many Protestants. Actually, I find it odd, given that you use Scriptures other than the Bible, that you would argue against the ever-virginity of Mary because it isn't mentioned in the Bible. Like you, we do accept sources from outside of the canon. A work can be inspired, truthful and yet still not part of that canon, other examples being the Shepherd of Hermas or the Didache for instance.
    I think I just did. The earliest mention in the written portion of Holy Tradition of this belief is early second century - less than 100 years after the Crucifixion. I don't doubt that oral teachings on this existed some time previous as that is pretty much the pattern for all of Holy Tradition.
    No, it's a bit more 'earthy' than that. It refers to her womb, but the upshot of this is much the same.
    I'm glad. We've always managed to remain civil even in disagreement up to now, so I hope this continues.

    James
     
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