Did St. Joseph Suspect the Virgin Mary of Adultery?

Carravagio, Annunciation (1608)

The Gospel at tonight’s Christmas Vigil Mass begins (Matthew 1:18-19):

This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about. When his mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found with child through the Holy Spirit.  

Joseph her husband, since he was a righteous man, yet unwilling to expose her to shame, decided to divorce her quietly.

These two verses are chock full of misunderstood information. Let me propose three major points of inquiry for careful reflection:

  1. What is the marital status of Mary and Joseph? Are they betrothed? Or is Joseph already her husband?
  2. What is the connection between Joseph’s justice and his unwillingness to expose Mary to shame?
  3. What is the connection between Joseph’s justice and his decision to quietly divorce the Virgin Mary? (Why does Matthew choose to include this detail here?)

These are questions that Christians often get incorrect. For example, to the first question, the Douay-Rheims  version of Matthew 1:18 says that “Mary was espoused to Joseph,” while the New International Version of the same passage says that “Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph.” That’s not a slight difference: is Mary an unwed mother or not?

As for the second question, there is another significant translation difference. The Douay version of v. 19 describes Joseph as “being a just man, and not willing publicly to expose her” (Mt. 1:19 DRA), while the NAB describes him as “a righteous man, yet unwilling to expose her to shame” (Mt. 1:19 NAB). Again, that’s a significant difference. The NIV splits the difference, putting “was a righteous man yet” in the text, with a footnote that says “Or was a righteous man and.

Again, this is a significant difference. If the NAB is right, Joseph’s justice appears to be in tension with his goodness: he wants to do what is right, but he also wants to be gracious towards Mary. A seeming conflict emerges: will Joseph violate the Law or his conscience? In the DRA, there’s no such tension: he wants to do the right thing and the gracious thing.

Finally, what’s the connection between Joseph’s justice, and his plan to quietly divorce the Virgin Mary? John Piper, a prominent Evangelical leader, has a generally-good position paper on divorce and remarriage that includes this line:

But most important of all, Matthew says that Joseph was “just” in making the decision to divorce Mary, presumably on account of her porneia, fornication.

This is also the assumption that the NAB footnotes makes, and that I imagine most readers make: that Joseph the Just suspected the Virgin Mary of fornication, and decided to divorce her instead of confronting her about it.

Using Verbum Plus Library to Resolve All Three Questions
Michelino da Besozzo, The Marriage of the Virgin (1430)

A few weeks ago, Aric Nesheim at Logos Bible Software gave me a review copy of the new Verbum Plus Libraries to play with. It struck me that a good way of testing out the software would be to tackle these sort of questions, giving me the chance to simultaneously review this cool software and clear up some confusions about the Nativity account.

Since the reading in question is from tonight’s Gospel, I typed “today” into the lectionary search bar: it let me choose whether I meant the Mass in the morning or tonight’s Vigil, and then which reading I want. This is a quick way of finding the passage, if you heard something in Mass, but can’t remember the chapter and verse. Of course, you can also start the search by looking up a specific chapter and verse or doctrine (e.g., looking up everything about baptism).

Once I chose the Gospel for the Vigil, Matthew 1:18-25, four things came up: the Scriptural text (in RSV:CE, my preferred translation); the relevant passage of “A Catholic Commentary on Holy Scripture,” a “cited by” window listing places in which this passage has been referenced, and an “explorer” bar tying the events mentioned in the passage with similar events from Scripture (like the birth of the Old Testament Patriarchs, etc.).

The Scriptural commentary that came up, “A Catholic Commentary on Holy Scripture,” happened to have quick answers to all three questions. The section begins:

Betrothal (qiddûšîn) in Jewish law conferred the status of husband and wife (hence the terms of 19 f.). A child conceived during this period was regarded as legitimate unless disowned, but the marriage was regarded as incomplete until the husband formally ‘took possession’ (the niśśû’în) of his bride by taking her to his home. This he was free to do at any time, 2 Kg 3:14; cf. Edersheim, I, 353–5.

A few years ago, when I explored this question for the first time (after hearing about it in a homily), I eventually discovered this. But it took quite a bit of research on Jewish wedding practices, and I had a hard time finding anything directly addressing the question of whether sexual intercourse was permitted after qiddûšîn, or how children born during this interim period were treated. Here, I have the answer almost instantly, and more thoroughly than I had achieved on my own.

Robert la Longe, Saint Joseph (17th c.)

In the program, most of the citations are hyperlinked, so if you want to read the people your sources are quoting, you can, very easily. In this case, the citation is to a two-volume work, The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, by Rev. Alfred Edersheim. It doesn’t come standard, but I got a preview, and the option to buy. If it were a capstone project, I could easily see this tool coming in handy (even if it meant paying for a few additional sources).

The answers to the latter two questions came just as easily, from the same commentary:

That denunciation was a legal duty in the circumstances cannot be proved; nor does the text suggest that Joseph sacrificed legal scruples (‘and’—not ‘but’—‘not willing to make her case public’). It suggests rather (Lagrange) that precisely because Joseph was ‘just’ (i.e. aware of duties to God and neighbour and, in this case, to Mary) he did not place the matter before the village-court. Such a course, though not necessarily involving condemnation (a woman might be pronounced blameless in such cases, Deut 23:25 f.) meant publicity for Mary, unwelcome and evidently incompatible with Joseph’s ‘justness’. 

In other words, the Douay-Rheims translation is superior to the NAB on this score, and there is no basis to conclude that Joseph’s justness was incompatible with the mercy he showed his wife. Under the law, Joseph had three options: divorce Mary publicly, accusing her of adultery; divorce her quietly, before two witnesses; or acknowledge the child as his own. The first of these options doesn’t just seem unkind, but unjust. Particularly if Joseph has reason to believe that Mary is a Virgin, it would be unjust to publicly denounce her. This gets to the third question, showing why Piper’s interpretation is erroneous:

Why incompatible? Presumably because ignorance of the facts coupled with knowledge of Mary’s character made of mere publicity an injustice. St Joseph’s attitude is to be observed: there is no word of complaint or even of inquiry. The evangelist leaves us with the impression of a patient instrument of God. […] His delicacy is admirable—communicated to him, no doubt, from his knowledge of Mary. He cannot believe her blameworthy; he knows nothing of the Annunciation (Mary had been silent and absent for three months, Lk 1:39 ff.); he can think only of some unknown cause, perhaps supernatural, certainly consistent with Mary’s character.

In Piper’s explanation of the text, Joseph doesn’t assume that Mary was the prophesied Virgin of Isaiah 7:14, or even that she might be an innocent rape victim. Rather, without consulting her, he assumes the worst: that she has cheated on her new husband. And for this, Piper tells us, “Matthew says that Joseph was ‘just’.” This explanation manages to besmirch the reputations of both Mary and Joseph, despite the clear Biblical evidence that both of them were holy and devout believers.

The explanation that Jones gives in the commentary that I’ve been quoting does a much better job of accounting for the evidence, and the character of the individuals involved.

Nevertheless, this is just a single source. So what else can we pull from the Verbum Libraries?

Anton Raphael Mengs, The Dream of St. Joseph (1774)

Well, if you hover over the Scriptural passages, it tells us what the Greek word being translated is. You can then go from there to a Strong’s lexicon. In this way, we quickly find out that the word in question in v. 18 is μνηστεύω: “mnēsteuō; from 3415 (in the sense of to court a bride); to espouse, betroth.” And the word in question in v. 19 is καί, a conjunctive generally meaning “and, even, also,” and only translated as “yet” nine ties in the NASB (compared to 535 times that it was translated as “even”). This supports our earlier conclusions.

But let’s go even deeper: what do the Church Fathers say? The “cited by” window brings up 23 results in 18 separate places in 13 resources for Matthew 1:18, and about half that many for Matthew 1:19. Most of these are general references to the Virgin Birth, but there is some fruit. For example, St. Jerome’s treatise The Perpetual Virginity of Blessed Mary, Against Helvidius, lists a couple other areas in Scripture in which a betrothed spouse is called a wife (Deut. 20:7; Deut. 22:23-25).

The most helpful resource for Patristic opinions turned out to be the Catena by St. Thomas Aquinas, which contains Fathers arguing both sides of the question. Many of the Fathers, including Augustine and Chyrsostom, read the passage as Joseph suspecting Mary, and wanting to handle it quietly to preserve her reputation (or even her life). But Jerome proposed an alternative reading, that “this may be considered a testimony to Mary, that Joseph, confident in her purity, and wondering at what had happened, covered in silence that mystery which he could not explain.” Rabanus likewise says that Joseph:

beheld her to be with child, whom he knew to be chaste; and because he had read, There shall come a Rod out of the stem of Jesse, (Is. 11:1.) of which he knew that Mary was come, and had also read, Behold, a virgin shall conceive, (Is. 7:14.) he did not doubt that this prophecy should be fulfilled in her.

And Origen asked:

But if he had no suspicion of her, how could he be a just man, and yet seek to put her away, being immaculate? He sought, to put her away, because he saw in her a great sacrament, to approach which he thought himself unworthy.

All of this also explains why Matthew tells us that Mary and Joseph didn’t consummate the marriage throughout her pregnancy, even after they moved in together, the second stage of the wedding (niśśû’în; see Mt. 1:24-25).

Hovering over any of the names tells us who these men were. For example, “Rabanus refers to Rabanus Maurus, Archbishop of Mayence, A.D. 847. The program also offers helpful doctrinal connections with a Catholic Topical Index, so I can explore how these verses are related to conception, Trinity, the Holy Spirit, Joseph, and a range of other topics. It also tipped me off to a wealth of Magisterial assistance, like Blessed John Paul II’s encyclical Redemptoris Custos, which is all about St. Joseph. This encyclical has a whole chapter dedicated to how Joseph is a just man.

Conclusions

For the three questions proposed, we can safely conclude first that Mary and Joseph had undergone the first of the two stages of a Jewish wedding (qiddûšîn), and were husband and wife in the eyes of the Law, capable of having intercourse and bearing legitimate children. That they weren’t having intercourse is ascribable to Mary’s perpetual Virginity.

Second, we can conclude that Joseph’s justness isn’t incompatible with his desire to protect Mary’s reputation, but consistent with it. This is particularly true if he is aware (given her character and perpetual virginity) that her conception couldn’t have been the result of fornication. These conclusions are supported by some of the Church Fathers, and do a far better job accounting for the whole of the Scriptural evidence than the alternate interpretation.

Third, Joseph’s desire for a quiet divorce is probably because he recognizes Mary as the Virgin Mother of the Messiah prophesied in Scripture, and a sort of “Great Sacrament,” as Origen tells us. Anyone familiar with the Ark of the Covenant (so holy that it could not be touched) would have been justly frightened to be married to Mary, the Ark of the New Covenant.

Final Notes on Verbum Plus Library

Having put Verbum Plus Library, what are my reactions to it as software? Well, it’s a large program running a lot of operations at once, and I was concerned about it working on my laptop (I bought the cheapest one that Best Buy sells), but it actually ran fairly well — and it wasn’t the only program running at the time, either.

I mentioned that it runs a lot of operations at once: this takes some getting used to. It has a large library that it downloads the first time you use it, and it periodically updates, indexes, etc. When you first use it, the whole experience can seem overwhelming: there are five windows, and each of these have multiple tabs you can flip through. After a while, it starts to feel more intuitive, once you know what you’re trying to do with it. Still, I only scratched the surface of the available tools: there’s everything from a Sentence Diagram tool to an image search feature.

All that said, this software isn’t cheap. It’s $934.95, although it’s 10% off during Christmastime. Logos claims that the software has a print value of over $10,000, although I’m not overly persuaded by that figure. After all, if I weren’t using Verbum, I wouldn’t be buying $10,000 in books. I’d either be using online resources, or at a library. And many of the Patristic and Magisterial documents are freely available online (although the same isn’t true of many of the modern resources that Verbum has). Still, they do boast a wealth of resources that are hard to find anywhere else, so I view the chief trade-off as time vs. money. With enough time and expertise, you could probably replicate Verbum’s results without spending any money. It’s just quicker and easier with Verbum. It’s like going to the mechanic’s instead of fixing the car yourself. 

So I enjoyed it, but I can’t in good conscience tell everyone reading this to go spend a thousand dollars on a piece of software (even a very helpful piece of software). But I don’t think it’s intended for everyone. Rather, I think it’s for universities, professors, theologians, grad students, apologists, perhaps seminarians and some undergrads. And in those cases, I think it’s certainly worth the consideration.


Merry Christmas!

45 Comments

  1. If you want all of that functionality for free with just a liiiiiiiiiiitle bit of extra work you need 5 things:

    1) The Aquinas Study Bible. It has a multitude of commentaries (the most Lapide commentaries in English on the net), indexes of scriptural citations in the Fathers, various other commentaries (Josephus, the Catena, Bede, you name it). If the verse in question has Lapide, start there!

    2) Using newadvent.org/fathers in conjunction with the “site” command on google. So for example, if I vaguely remember that Irenaeus said something about the gifts that the wise men brought, i would google: irenaeus gold frankincense and myrrh site:newadvent.org/fathers

    3) http://biblehub.com/ is excellent for its features, but it’s hard for me to navigate. The three best features that it has is an Interlinear Bible (the New Testament has parsing, which makes it better than any other I’ve found!), the interlinear transcribes the actual words, not just the word roots, and this has the best interlinear LXX that’s on the internet (but Protestant canon only). It has Strong’s, Thayer’s, and Gesenius’s Lexicon but it’s hard for me to navigate to.

    4) http://www.blbclassic.org/ (I find this view easier than the new version). I put it on KJV and search for my verse or my search terms (advanced options is easy to use too) check the little box toward the right that says show Strong’s, and it displays the Strong’s numbering and it’s hyperlinked. Click the link and it pulls up Strong’s Lexicon, an etymology, an audio pronunciation, and the best part for me is the Gesenius and Thayer’s Lexicon in a format is easy for me to read.

    5) Sometimes it’s helpful to look up topics in the Jewish Encyclopedia. http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com

    So for example, what do Jews think about purgatory? http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/12446-purgatory

  2. I agree with St. Jerome and Fr. Origen. Further, however, I assume that Mary, being an honest woman, would have informed her husband what had transpired with the angel.

    What would have been his reaction to such an announcement? Remember that Mary’s encounter with the angel does not include any role for St. Joseph. She has been chosen by God and he apparently, stands in the way of God’s will. She is the spouse of the Holy Spirit and he, Joseph, is the interloper. He needed to get out of God’s way. He needed to get our of her way. And he needed to do it quietly, so as not to stain her reputation.

    Some might say, “Well, the Angel insinuated that St. Joseph suspected her of adultery when he said, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit;”.

    But I say, that could easily be understood in this manner, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary your wife, simply because that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit, she will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”

    In other words, the Angel informed St. Joseph, that indeed, he was to play a role in this new thing which God was doing.

    Sincerely,

    De Maria

  3. Another possibility, which I think may match Jerome’s reading, is that Joseph didn’t know quite what to believe and, being just, realized that in cases of doubt, the benefit must be given to innocence. The angel cleared up what was going on, at least.

  4. Joe, great post!
    I’ve been struggling with some of the details ever since reading your earlier post on Mary the Unwed Mother? Very exciting to see a follow up post.
    By the way, my new Ignatius Study Bible (NT) has some interesting footnotes on this issue but not nearly as complete as your analysis.

    In any event, a major question is whether or not sex was allowed between the kiddusin and the nissuin since that has some bearing on Joseph’s motivation for his divorce action.
    In your earlier post you said yes, and in this post you also say yes but I’m having difficulty seeing how you reached that conclusion based on the quoted text in this most recent post (below). A ‘child regarded as legitimate’ doesn’t seem the same as ‘sex is permitted by Jewish law.’

    From Joe’s Post above:
    Betrothal (qiddûšîn) in Jewish law conferred the status of husband and wife (hence the terms of 19 f.). A child conceived during this period was regarded as legitimate unless disowned, but the marriage was regarded as incomplete until the husband formally ‘took possession’ (the niśśû’în) of his bride by taking her to his home. This he was free to do at any time, 2 Kg 3:14; cf. Edersheim, I, 353–5.
    A few years ago, when I explored this question for the first time (after hearing about it in a homily), I eventually discovered this. But it took quite a bit of research on Jewish wedding practices, and I had a hard time finding anything directly addressing the question of whether sexual intercourse was permitted after qiddûšîn, or how children born during this interim period were treated. Here, I have the answer almost instantly, and more thoroughly than I had achieved on my own.

    Back to Tom:
    I also looked at this site:
    http://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/477321/jewish/Kiddushin-Betrothal.htm
    And found the following statement:
    “During the kiddushin stage the couple is married, with one minor caveat — they cannot physically express their union.”
    This seems to be a contradiction in your conclusion but I’m sure I’m just missing something.

    Again, thanks so much for sharing your wisdom, hard work and guidance.
    Blessings
    Tom

    1. Tom,

      From the link you provided:

      Kiddushin:

      According to Torah law, there are three ways to betroth a woman:1 a) A money transaction. The man gives to the woman money or any object of value. b) A document. The man gives the woman a marriage document which states his intention to marry her.2 c) Sexual intercourse with the intention that it consummates the marriage.

      The rabbis forbade betrothing though intercourse, making it a punishable offense.

      That’s a strong implication that sex was permissible before the Talmudic rabbis modified the tradition.

    2. Thanks Daniel,

      The practical difference between the Torah (e.g. Dt 22:23-27) regarding marriage and adultery and the tradition imposed by the Talmudic rabbis seems to be the key that I don’t understand.

      It still seems a bit puzzling that as you state there is a ‘strong implication’ that allows sexual union, yet on the other hand there is a specific statement in the chabad.org document that forbids it. Yes it would seem that from the Torah, that the third way (c) of starting a betrothal would imply that further sexual union would be permitted, but then why would the rabbis forbid it? If the Torah said OK and the rabbis said NO, would the potential of shame and stoning stem for the rabbi’s influence on common social practices and judgment rather than the Torah?

      Perhaps I am losing sight of the forest of the trees. (wouldn’t be the first time!) I’m really been focused on the motivation of Joseph’s reason for a quiet divorce. Of the three theories proposed (suspicion, perplexed, and humility) the first is often the one most people quickly jump to, however the humility theory now seems the most plausible. If the acceptance of post-betrothal sexual union could be established without ambiguity, then it would automatically eliminate the first option.

      Thanks for your response. The knowledge and insight provided by Joe, yourself, and others that comment is amazing!

      Blessings
      Tom

    3. Thank you for the kind words, Tom.

      I can only give you another example where the ‘Talmudic rabbis’ do the same thing, but unfortunately it has nothing to do with marriage or sex.

      Take cheesburgers, and how they aren’t kosher. The Bible says you can’t boil a young goat in his mother’s milk. (Exodus 23:19, 34:26, Deut 14:21).

      But the rabbis say not only can you not boil a young goat in his mother’s milk, but you can’t boil it in any milk. And it applies to calves and cows, not just goats. And it applies to mixing cheese from a cow with beef from a cow. And it applies to mixing cheese with beef from a steer!

      You don’t want cheese from steers, believe me. 😉

      So there’s a good assumption that if you are eating beef (which is from a steer, at least in the US) the cheese had nothing to do with that animal.

      But cheeseburgers are “unclean.”

    4. Uncle Si: They need to just move out to a talmudic colony and run around nekkid and not be with us reg’lar folks. Ain’t worth a spit of chiken milk if ya ask me…

    5. LifeRiderTomDecember 26, 2013 at 2:01 PM
      Thanks Daniel,

      The practical difference between the Torah (e.g. Dt 22:23-27) regarding marriage and adultery and the tradition imposed by the Talmudic rabbis seems to be the key that I don’t understand…..
      Perhaps I am losing sight of the forest of the trees. (wouldn’t be the first time!) I’m really been focused on the motivation of Joseph’s reason for a quiet divorce. ….
      Blessings
      Tom

      Well, the way I see it:
      1st assumption. St. Joseph was a just man.
      2nd assumption. St. Joseph was expecting the Messiah, born of a virgin.
      3rd. assumption. St. Joseph knew the baby in her womb wasn’t his.
      4th assumption. St. Joseph knew the baby in the womb was God’s.
      5th assumption. St. Joseph knows that God is a jealous God.

      My conclusion. St. Joseph knew all these things, but had not had a revelation about his role in the whole thing. So, he was getting out of the way and leaving it to God to set everything straight.

      In plain language, St. Joseph, being a just man would not sleep with any other man’s wife. Much less, the spouse of the Holy Spirit.

      See also St. Joseph, man of silence and virtue

      Sincerely,

      De Maria

  5. Brandon Vogt notes:

    “Just FYI, Logos does offer different tiered packages. For example, the Verbum Basic+ packages comes with the Catechism, Summa, Catena, the complete Fathers, biblical commentaries, and much more–plus the powerful software itself, which is the most valuable part–and it’s roughly $230 (use 15% off coupon STEVE). It’s still a nice chunk of change, but far less than a single college course and equivalent to about 10-15 books.”

    Hope that helps!

    Joe

  6. Joe, good post! It shows some great work and a new tool for you to use in the Logos software. I am glad that you researched the Jewish wedding practices because that is the part that gets lost by many modern readers. So many have a tendency to read in a modern understanding of marriage (eisegete) instead of letting the text and the culture of the time add meaning to the text (exegete). My Greek prof loved sex and marriage rituals, so he often would stop with the pertinent Greek lecture for a discussion of Jewish sexual practices that could validate or invalidate the “betrothal” (and there were many ways that people could validate the marriage beyond the normal way). That was a wild class!

    I was a little curious about your conclusion though. You said “That they weren’t having intercourse is ascribable to Mary’s perpetual Virginity.” You realized that such a statement is a statement beyond the scope of your presentation and argument. I find that such a statement is a hasty conclusion to a great article. A valid conclusion would state “That they weren’t having intercourse substantiates Mary’s virginity at that time and could possibly provide for her perpetual virginity.” We simply do not know what happened with Mary after this. Clearly you believe that Mary was a perpetual virgin. Why is her perpetual virginity such a big deal to the Roman church? Does it lower Christ at all if Mary had natural human relations with Joseph after Jesus was born? For me, Christ is still Christ regardless of Mary’s relations after he was born. There are too many jokes and not enough time, so I will end it here and not offend anyone more. Grace and Peace to you!

  7. Okay… I’m going to put my Classical Education to some use here:

    The word in question isn’t actually “μνηστεύω” it is “μνηστευθείσης” it’s the same word, just a different form.

    “μνηστεύω” is the first person singular, and it translates to “I court/seek marriage”

    “μνηστευθείσης” is (I’m not just making up the following words…) I think the following: third person, singular, aorist, feminine, (I’m missing a couple more I think, but that gives the gist…) which could be translated as “She was being courted by…”

    When one translates Greek and Latin for 4-8 hours a day for class, that sort of thing can mean the difference between passing the upcoming test, and being the center of the following scenario:

    My professor jokingly pointed at a Crucifix and said: “See that? Back in the good ol’ days that’s what we did to students who didn’t study their Greek and Latin! Sadly, ever since Constantine the First banned that form of punishment, society has been going downhill ever since.”

  8. Why is her perpetual virginity such a big deal to the Roman church?

    Because of the integrity of our tradition, regarding just how ‘special’ her womb was and that she was perpetually a virgin.

    “For the pure One openeed purely that pure womb that regenerates men unto God. For He Himself made it pure.” Irenaeus c. AD 180

    “As it appears, many even down to our own time regard Mary, on account of the birth of her child, as having been in the puerperal state, although she was not. For some say that, after she brought forth, she was found, when examined, to still be a virgin.” Clement of Alexandria c. AD 195

    For perpetual virginity, http://www.catholic.com/tracts/mary-ever-virgin has quotes from 8 different ECF’s that all precede the canonization of the New Testament (and incidently Old Testament, but I’m trying to be inclusive here…) at carthage in AD 397.

    1. “she was found, when examined, to still be a virgin.” WHAT!!!!! Who examined her? Why did they want to touch, poke, prod, or generally view her for virginity? How did they examine her? I hope that he is speaking of a spiritual examination, but then a spiritual examination of her virginity would only validate a spiritual virginity. The Roman church seems to make a claim for a physical virginity of Mary and not a spiritual one. Ergo, this quote from Clement is either creepy beyond words (addressing the physical virginity) or not addressing the real issue (physical virginity). I have immense respect for the ECF and am very encouraged by Patristics, but this might be one quote that needs to stay in late second century. I seriously doubt that such a quote will help current American pilgrims along the faith journey. Pope Francis’ words and actions of love will help many people, but this quote will not help the multitudes.

      Daniel, you are right about Martin Luther’s love for Mary and view of her perpetual virginity. You still have not answered the most important question: is Jesus still Lord if Mary had natural human relations after Jesus was born? (does the perpetual virginity of Mary lower Christ or lift up Christ at all?)

    2. Rev. Dark HansDecember 27, 2013 at 9:50 AM
      “she was found, when examined, to still be a virgin.” WHAT!!!!! Who examined her?….

      Whoa! Settle down, Rev.

      According to the Gospel of St.James, an apocryphal writing, the virgin was examined by a midwife upon the unbloody birth of the child. No blood, no afterbirth. This was something new.

      Sincerely,

      De Maria

    3. is Jesus still Lord if Mary had natural human relations after Jesus was born? (does the perpetual virginity of Mary lower Christ or lift up Christ at all?)

      Jesus would still be Lord.

      But, that’s not how it happened in history according to traditions earlier and better attested than the canon of the New Testament. So I’ll stick with history.

    4. DanielDecember 27, 2013 at 10:42 AM

      But, that’s not how it happened in history according to traditions earlier and better attested than the canon of the New Testament. So I’ll stick with history.

      Huh? Better attested than the canon of the New Testament? ‘Splanation please.

    5. Rev. Dark HansDecember 27, 2013 at 9:50 AM

      …You still have not answered the most important question: is Jesus still Lord if Mary had natural human relations after Jesus was born?

      No. It is well known, that Mary is the spouse of the Holy Spirit. What is not as well-known is that Mary is also the bride of Christ. Mary is in the figure, the heavenly Jerusalem, which in another figure is the heavenly church.

      Therefore, it is not right that any man should have relations with the Bride of Christ, the Mother of God, the Spouse of the Holy Spirit.

      (does the perpetual virginity of Mary lower Christ or lift up Christ at all?)

      It lifts Christ.

      Ezekiel 44:2
      Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition (RSVCE)
      2 And he[a] said to me, “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.

      This gate is in a figure the Virgin Mary.

      Psalm 118:19-21
      Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition (RSVCE)
      19 Open to me the gates of righteousness,
      that I may enter through them
      and give thanks to the Lord.
      20 This is the gate of the Lord;
      the righteous shall enter through it.
      21 I thank thee that thou hast answered me
      and hast become my salvation.

      This is why the Virgin Mary is in a figure, the mother of all the righteous:

      Revelation 12:17
      Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition (RSVCE)
      17 Then the dragon was angry with the woman,[a] and went off to make war on the rest of her offspring, on those who keep the commandments of God and bear testimony to Jesus. And he stood[b] on the sand of the sea.

      St. Joseph, the righteous, is spiritually one of Mary’s children. Therefore, it is not appropriate for him to have sexual relations with his spiritual mother.

      Sincerely,

      De Maria

    6. De Maria, you have added some interesting layers to this when you say “No. It is well known, that Mary is the spouse of the Holy Spirit. What is not as well-known is that Mary is also the bride of Christ. Mary is in the figure, the heavenly Jerusalem, which in another figure is the heavenly church.

      Therefore, it is not right that any man should have relations with the Bride of Christ, the Mother of God, the Spouse of the Holy Spirit.” This statement goes against Joe’s post. Mary is married to her son and the Holy Spirit and to Joseph? So many jokes, but I will not start any because I do not want to offend anyone more.

      Also, it might not be very helpful to quote books that are not even accepted by the Council of Trent, which is Daniel’s point from above.

    7. There’s not a good tradition that the Protoevangelian is Scripture, but there is pretty good tradition that many of its claims are accurate. I don’t know where Clement of A was getting his information–I don’t dispute De Maria’s claim that it was recorded in an apocryphal Gospel.

      But anyway, the assertion of her post-birth virginal integrity and that she didn’t have future biological children is well attested, compared to other theological notions that we take their truth for granted.

    8. Well said, Daniel. The perpetual virginity of Mary may be helpful to many in the Roman church. I do not find it helpful, but it does not lower Christ. It also does not raise Christ either. I just find it fascinating how it is such a vital part of faith for some Christians. We will not know for sure on this side of the grave. We need a report from whom ever gets to heaven first. Grace and Peace to you all!

    9. Almost all Christians from the 3rd century until the 16th century, including Luther, Zwingli, Calvin, and later Wesley believed in it.

      Disregard of WELL ESTABLISHED HISTORICAL NORMS even for trivial matters is a big deal.

    10. DanielDecember 27, 2013 at 12:31 PM
      De Maria, until the very late 4th/early 5th centuries, there were different NT canons. Cyril and the Council of Laodicea leave out Revelation. The Apostolic Constitutions add 1 and 2 Clement. Eusebius lists Revelation as spurious and disputed. Etc. etc. etc. http://www.ntcanon.org/lists.shtml

      Not the point. You said that something was better attested. What is better attestation than the infallible testimony of the Catholic Church?

      Sincerely,

      De Maria

    11. Rev. Dark HansDecember 27, 2013 at 12:41 PM
      De Maria,

      This statement goes against Joe’s post.

      You’re wrong. Joe has proven himself a knowledgeable Catholic and everything that I have said is taught by the Catholic Church:

      Many Post-Reformation Protestants, however, seem to be suffering from collective amnesia on the question of Mary. Despite their ardent commitment to Scripture, the Fundamentalists have failed to see any Marian connection in Scripture. Nevertheless today Protestant and Catholic exegetes and theologians have rediscovered the Marian “mother lode” not just of the New but also of the Old Testament. Like the Fathers, the modern exegetes now see Mary as the Daughter of Zion, the embodiment of Nation Israel, as the Ark of the Covenant, as “transformed by grace”, as the New Eve, as the bride at the Messianic Wedding Banquet and as the Church. If this development in understanding was simply a modern fad we could legitimately call it into question. But it is actually a rediscovery of what the Christian community from the earliest times and the Scriptures themselves so obviously tell us about Mary. In this chapter on Mary in Scripture we will look first at Mary’s role as the link between the two Testaments, followed by a review of the Marian data in Luke 1-2, Genesis-Revelation and the rest Of the New Testament and finally an analysis of the seven splendors of Mary in Scripture. Anyone who comes to see the full spectrum of Marian material in the Bible will spontaneously see the fittingness of the titles and doctrines of Mary.

      Mary is married to her son and the Holy Spirit and to Joseph? So many jokes, but I will not start any because I do not want to offend anyone more.

      If you began with vulgar jokes about spiritual matters than you would violate the Scriptural principle:

      Titus 1:15
      To the pure all things are pure, but to the corrupt and unbelieving nothing is pure; their very minds and consciences are corrupted.

      I’ve never thought of you as a man of corrupt conscience. But you can easily prove me wrong here.

      The fact is that these are all spiritual doctrines of which Scripture says:
      1 Corinthians 2:13
      And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who possess the Spirit.

      Also, it might not be very helpful to quote books that are not even accepted by the Council of Trent, which is Daniel’s point from above.

      You’re on a Catholic forum and I’m trying to teach you Catholicism. Apocryphal does not mean “false”. It means we don’t know the true author. The Catholic Church is the quintessential Church of Scripture. Scripture says:

      1 Thessalonians 5:21
      Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition (RSVCE)
      21 but test everything; hold fast what is good,

      When the Catholic Church discerned that the Gospel of St. James was not inspired, she did not throw the baby out with the bath water. She researched and found much good even in those apocryphal words.

      The Catholic Church is not superstitious nor does she live in fear. She proclaims the Wisdom of God to the world.

      Sincerely,

      De Maria

    12. DanielDecember 27, 2013 at 2:49 PM
      Infallible testimony of the Catholic Church (as defined by Vatican I) regarding the canon wasn’t given until the Council of Trent.

      DanielDecember 27, 2013 at 2:52 PM
      Correction: Council of Florence, I think.

      The Council of Trent speaks of the Latin Vulgate. And the Council of Trent confirmed the infallibility of the Church’s decision to adopt the Latin Vulgate in the 3rd/4th century:

      Council of Trent Session IV
      Decree Concerning The Canonical Scriptures

      Following, then, the examples of the orthodox Fathers, it receives and venerates with a feeling of piety and reverence all the books both of the Old and New Testaments, since one God is the author of both; also the traditions, whether they relate to faith or to morals, as having been dictated either orally by Christ or by the Holy Ghost, and preserved in the Catholic Church in unbroken succession….

      If anyone does not accept as sacred and canonical the aforesaid books in their entirety and with all their parts, as they have been accustomed to be read in the Catholic Church and as they are contained in the old Latin Vulgate Edition, and knowingly and deliberately rejects the aforesaid traditions, let him be anathema.

      I believe the Latin Vulgate was written in the late 3rd , early 4th century (i.e. 350 ad to 450). Therefore, 1100 year later, the Council of Trent confirmed that the Church made an infallible decision when she adopted St. Jerome’s Latin Vulgate.

      Sincerely,

      De Maria

    13. De Maria, it took over A THOUSAND YEARS for the Catholic Church to say with infallible certainty that the Carthage Canon was the correct one. It took only until Ephesus for an Ecumenical Council to call Mary ‘ever-virgin.’

      If you were around in AD 451 (to pick a random date in history), which is better attested–the canon or Mary being ever virgin? What about in 692? What about in 1000 AD?

    14. DanielDecember 27, 2013 at 4:28 PM
      De Maria, it took over A THOUSAND YEARS for the Catholic Church to say with infallible certainty that the Carthage Canon was the correct one.

      No, Daniel, it took over a THOUSAND YEARS for the Protestants to come around and challenge the infallible selection of the Canon of Scripture.

      The Canon was not seriously challenged until then.

      It took only until Ephesus for an Ecumenical Council to call Mary ‘ever-virgin.’

      I think that one declared her mother of God. But that is not the point. Both doctrines were infallible truths from the time that the Church began to teach them, without the necessity of being proclaimed such in an ecumenical council.

      If you were around in AD 451 (to pick a random date in history), which is better attested–the canon or Mary being ever virgin? What about in 692? What about in 1000 AD?

      Longer doesn’t mean better, does it? Are they both infallible doctrines? Or not?

      Sincerely,

      De Maria

    15. Not seriously challenged?! How about Apostolic Canon 85 adopted at Trullo? How about the canon of John Damascus? Cardinal Cajetan?

      That’s a fairytale view history, divorced from all reality.

    16. DanielDecember 27, 2013 at 6:17 PM
      Not seriously challenged?!

      Correct. Before we continue, I want to note that this is besides the point. The point is that both doctrines which we are discussing are and have been infallible doctrines of the Catholic Church from the moment they were pronounced and did not need an ecumenical council to make them so.

      How about Apostolic Canon 85 adopted at Trullo?

      Did this Apostolic Canon challenge the validity of the Latin Vulgate? When?

      How about the canon of John Damascus? Cardinal Cajetan?

      Both of the these chaps are devout and faithful Catholics. One, is a canonized Saint, John of Damascus. When did they mount a challenge to the Catholic Church’s endorsement and adoption of the Latin Vulgate?

      That’s a fairytale view history, divorced from all reality.

      We’ll see whose view is fairy tale divorced of reality in a few more exchanges.

      Sincerely,

      De Maria

    17. Dr Maria, please. I beg you for a more sober look at church history.

      If you picked up a vulgate, it might very well be an edition that has 4 Books of the Maccabees. And say you picked up the Glossa Ordinaria to go with it. There you would find an introduction saying none of the four were canonical!

      There was very little concensus of the entire Catholic Church up until Florence and even up until Trent that Carthage was correct and that the Damasus Decree was correct.

      But it is altogether naive to anachronistically think that the canon of today was the norm of the Church Universal.

    18. You haven’t understood my point, Daniel. To be blunt, my point is this, “history be damned.”

      Let me trace our conversation back to the beginning. You said to the good Reverend,

      “De MariaDecember 27, 2013 at 11:27 AM
      DanielDecember 27, 2013 at 10:42 AM

      But, that’s not how it happened in history according to traditions earlier and better attested than the canon of the New Testament. So I’ll stick with history.”

      I asked,

      “Huh? Better attested than the canon of the New Testament? ‘Splanation please.”

      Your explanation has amounted to producing a great deal of history and juxtaposing that against the infallible statements of the Church.

      The official canon of the Church was infallibly decreed when the Church adopted St. Jerome’s Latin Vulgate as the official Bible. And the Council of Trent did not hesitate to declare that this Bible has ever contained the true canon of the Church. All that history between those two events simply muddies the waters. Throughout all those squabbles and fights and political wrestling, there remained one infallible canon contained in the Latin Vulgate of the Catholic Church.

      In my opinion, that is the history which counts in this argument.

      Sincerely,

      De Maria

    19. A 15th and 16th century guarantee for a 5th century document is immaterial for those living during that thousand year period.

      I was simply stating that it is illogical to accept the historicity of the New Testament canon while rejecting other historical claims of dogma that are even better attested.

    20. DanielDecember 29, 2013 at 2:13 PM
      A 15th and 16th century guarantee for a 5th century document is immaterial for those living during that thousand year period.

      True. But the 5th century document remains infallible. That is my point.

      I was simply stating that it is illogical to accept the historicity of the New Testament canon while rejecting other historical claims of dogma that are even better attested.

      And that is what I didn’t understand.

      Ok. For the Rev., the infallibility of the Church is immaterial. Sorry to butt in. Carry on.

      Sincerely,

      De Maria

  9. For what it’s worth, I found this too. [I have a fondness for Pelikan, and this was written before he converted to Orthodoxy.]

    Martin Luther

    Christ, our Savior, was the real and natural fruit of Mary’s virginal womb . . . This was without the cooperation of a man, and she remained a virgin after that.
    {Luther’s Works, eds. Jaroslav Pelikan (vols. 1-30) & Helmut T. Lehmann (vols. 31-55), St. Louis: Concordia Pub. House (vols. 1-30); Philadelphia: Fortress Press (vols. 31-55), 1955, v.22:23 / Sermons on John, chaps. 1-4 (1539) }
    Christ . . . was the only Son of Mary, and the Virgin Mary bore no children besides Him . . . I am inclined to agree with those who declare that ‘brothers’ really mean ‘cousins’ here, for Holy Writ and the Jews always call cousins brothers.
    {Pelikan, ibid., v.22:214-15 / Sermons on John, chaps. 1-4 (1539) }
    A new lie about me is being circulated. I am supposed to have preached and written that Mary, the mother of God, was not a virgin either before or after the birth of Christ . . .
    {Pelikan, ibid.,v.45:199 / That Jesus Christ was Born a Jew (1523) }
    Scripture does not say or indicate that she later lost her virginity . . .
    When Matthew [1:25] says that Joseph did not know Mary carnally until she had brought forth her son, it does not follow that he knew her subsequently; on the contrary, it means that he never did know her . . . This babble . . . is without justification . . . he has neither noticed nor paid any attention to either Scripture or the common idiom.

    {Pelikan, ibid.,v.45:206,212-3 / That Jesus Christ was Born a Jew (1523) }
    Editor Jaroslav Pelikan (Lutheran) adds:

    Luther . . . does not even consider the possibility that Mary might have had other children than Jesus. This is consistent with his lifelong acceptance of the idea of the perpetual virginity of Mary.
    {Pelikan, ibid.,v.22:214-5}

  10. I agree with De Maria that Mary would have informed Joseph of her condition. As her betrothed, Joseph had the right to know of her pregnancy and the angel’s visitation. It would have been an injustice to Joseph to keep him in the dark. I believe that as soon as Mary emerged from her ecstacy and shock, she would have sought out Joseph and informed him. I also believe Joseph would have escorted Mary to Elizabeth’s house. No gentleman would have allowed his betrothed to travel alone in those days. Moreover, Joseph would have realised he needed to guard this new ark of the covenant. Is it any wonder he was fearful and needed the assurance of the angel to receive the ark into his home.

    God bless, Agnes

    1. Is it any wonder he was fearful and needed the assurance of the angel to receive the ark into his home.

      That is a beautiful way to put it.

      God’s blessing upon you as well,

      Sincerely,

      De Maria

  11. “Why is her perpetual virginity such a big deal to the Roman church?”

    It is a big deal to the Roman Church, the Greek Church, the Russian Church, the Lebanese Churches, the Armenian Church, the Egyptian Church, the Churches of the Far East….

    To what parts of ancient Christianity is it not a “big deal”?

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