And Joseph Knew Her Not: A Case for the Perpetual Virginity of Mary

Joys and Sorrows of St. Joseph
Palmira Laguéns, The Sorrows and Joys of St. Joseph: The First Sorrow (20th c., Sanctuary of Torreciudad)

The Calvinist theologian Peter Leithart has a fascinating (but incorrect) article on the perpetual virginity over at First Things. There is much to praise about the short piece. First, he’s asking the right question. As the article’s teaser puts it, “why didn’t Joseph have sex with Mary during her pregnancy?” So many Protestants focus on the fact that they believe St. Joseph and the Virgin Mary did have sex after Christmas that they ignore the explicit Biblical evidence that they didn’t have sex before (Matthew 1:25). Second, much of Leithart’s answer is correct, and points to the radical Biblical truth about the Virgin Mary. Finally, even when Leithart’s argument goes off the rails, he shows his work, so it’s easy enough to see how he goes wrong.

I want to really unpack his short article. In doing so, I’m going to make two side-points: one on St. Joseph and “the Numinous,” and one on the Abomination of Desolation. For brevity’s sake, feel free to skip these points. I find them interesting, but they’re not critical to the argument. You can also skip section IV, since it’s responding to a sort of throwaway argument on Leithart’s part, that saying Joseph and Mary didn’t have sex “until” the birth of Christ, St. Matthew is implying that they did afterwards. I responded at greater length simply because it’s one of the most common arguments against Mary’s perpetual virginity.

I.

Joseph did not know his wife until she gave birth to a Son (Matthew 1:25). Why not?

In Matthew’s account, the conception of Jesus is attributed to the “Holy Spirit” (1:20), and Luke makes it explicit that the one conceived by the Holy Spirit is Himself holy: “the holy thing begotten shall be called the Son of God” (Luke 1:35).

So far, so good. This might all seem like obvious so far, but again: how often do we see Protestant theologians even asking this question?

II.

Joseph might have reasoned: Since Mary was inhabited by the Spirit, and by the Holy One conceived by the Spirit, she was, or at least her womb was, holy space. If she is holy space, he cannot have sex with her, since by the rules of Torah sex defiled both the man and the woman (Leviticus 15:18). Having sex with Mary during her pregnancy would have been like a leper or a menstruant entering the temple of God. It would have been like having sex in the temple court itself.

This is a great point, tainted by an inaccurate understanding of how the Jews understood sex. So let’s leave that bit about “defiling” to one side for now, and focus on what he does well.

We Catholics often focus on the fact that Mary seems to have taken some vow of perpetual virginity prior to her encounter with the angel Gabriel. Hence her odd question to the angel, in which she boggled at the possibility of pregnancy by asking, “How shall this be, seeing I know not a man?” (Luke 1:34 KJV).

Let me say a few words on that before returning to Leithart’s argument, and what I think it adds to the discussion. Luke 1:34 is a passage that many Christians misunderstand. They assume that Mary and Joseph couldn’t have had sex at the time of the Annunciation, because they were only “betrothed.” But the Jewish kiddushin was quite different from an American engagement. As Dr. Lynn Cohick (a Protsetant professor of the New Testament at Wheaton College and Northern Seminary) explains in Christianity Today:

Mary was betrothed to Joseph, which was a legally binding arrangement in the Jewish culture. All that awaited the couple was the wedding. If they engaged in sexual intercourse with each other, that was not seen as a violation of any cultural norm. Later rabbinic writings allowed that a future groom who had sexual relations with his bride-to-be at her father’s house was not guilty of immoral behavior.

The Bible agrees with this, which is why Matthew 1:19 already refers to Joseph as her “husband,” and says that he contemplated “divorce.” You’ll note that Mary was also regularly in the Temple (Luke 2:22-27, 41-52), which would have been impossible if she were (or was believed to be) a fornicator.

So Mary and Joseph could have been having sex and yet weren’t. Why not? Leithart’s argument doesn’t really give a good answer (and virtually any good answer would point to Mary’s perpetual virginity). But he does add another reason for her perpetual virginity: “holy” means “set apart,” and there are certain objects, places, and even people who are set aside for God as holy. To have sex with her, to treat her like she wasn’t set apart specifically for God, would literally profane her (a term coming from the Latin profanus, meaning “outside the temple, not sacred”).

The Bible also agrees with this. Luke describes Mary using the language of the Ark of the Covenant (compare Luke 1:39-56 and 2 Samuel 6:2-14) and the Temple (compare Luke 1:26-33 and 2 Sam. 7:11-16; the Church Fathers also saw Ezekiel 44:1-2 as referring to Mary as the Temple Gate), and in the span of two verses, the Book of Revelation refers to the Ark, the Temple, and the Mother of God (Revelation 11:19-12:1).

Sidebar: St. Joseph and the Numinous

Leithart’s explanation explains a strange thing that the angel says to St. Joseph. When people encounter angels or the glorified Christ, they often are depicted as experiencing a particular kind of fear. For example, Mark describes St. Peter’s reaction to the Transfiguration by saying “he did not know what to say, for they were exceedingly afraid” (Mark 9:6). And the Apostles’ reaction to the Resurrection: “they went out and fled from the tomb; for trembling and astonishment had come upon them; and they said nothing to any one, for they were afraid” (Mark 16:8). C.S. Lewis uses the term “Numinous” to describe this sort of awe-filled fear:

Suppose you were told there was a tiger in the next room: you would know that you were in danger and would probably feel fear. But if you were told “There is a ghost in the next room,” and believed it, you would feel, indeed, what is often called fear, but of a different kind. It would not be based on the knowledge of danger, for no one is primarily afraid of what a ghost may do to him, but of the mere fact that it is a ghost. It is “uncanny” rather than dangerous, and the special kind of fear it excites may be called Dread. With the Uncanny one has reached the fringes of the Numinous. Now suppose that you were told simply “There is a mighty spirit in the room,” and believed it. Your feelings would then be even less like the mere fear of danger: but the disturbance would be profound. You would feel wonder and a certain shrinking—a sense of inadequacy to cope with such a visitant and of prostration before it—an emotion which might be expressed in Shakespeare’s words “Under it my genius is rebuked.” This feeling may be described as awe, and the object which excites it as the Numinous.

The glorified Jesus and the angels respond to this by telling people not to be afraid. So, for example, the angels at the Empty Tomb begin their proclamation of Easter by telling the women, “Do not be afraid” (Matthew 28:5). Jesus begins the exact same way in Matthew 28:10.

Gabriel says it when he appears to Zechariah in Luke 1:13, and (after saluting her as “full of grace”) says it to Mary in Luke 1:30. The angels say when they appear to the shepherds in Luke 2:10. Jesus says it when He appears to St. Paul in a vision (Acts 18:9), as does the angel in Acts 27:24. That’s the general pattern. But there’s a fascinating partial-exception. When the angel appears to St. Joseph in a dream, he says (Matthew 1:20-21), “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary your wife, for 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.”

You might expect the angel to calm St. Joseph’s numinous fear towards being in the presence of an angel of the Lord. But Joseph’s numinous fear is towards…. having Mary as a wife. I’d suggest that there’s something of a parallel between this and Luke 5, when Peter catches a glimpse of Who Jesus Is, and is suddenly terrified (Luke 5:8-10):

But when Simon Peter saw it [the miraculous catch of fish], he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.” For he was astonished, and all that were with him, at the catch of fish which they had taken; and so also were James and John, sons of Zeb′edee, who were partners with Simon. And Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid; henceforth you will be catching men.”

St. Peter wanted to send Jesus away, because Peter was aware of his own unworthiness. That, not suspicion of adultery, seems to be why Joseph wanted to send Mary away. As a good Jew, Joseph would have known that a Virgin birth was possible (Isaiah 7:14). What we’re seeing isn’t mistrust of Mary, but a holy fear, like that of the prophet Isaiah in Isaiah 6:6: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!” Joseph wants to send her away because he knows he’s sinful, and thus, he’s not worthy of being married to the Mother of God, and it’s that fear that the angel comforts.

III.

[the rules of Torah sex defiled both the man and the woman (Leviticus 15:18)…]

(In the new covenant, we are all inhabited by the Spirit, all “saints.” Does this mean that sex is forbidden? No: Sex no longer defiles, since all have been purified by Jesus’ once-for-all sacrifice.)

Leithart’s argument starts to go badly awry here, and for two reasons. First, he seems to be conflating ritual uncleanliness with sin. Jesus warns against the conflation in Mark 7. The chapter opens with the scribes and Pharisees shocked after they “saw that some of his disciples ate with hands defiled, that is, unwashed” (Mark 7:1-2). Jesus ultimately responds by saying that  “there is nothing outside a man which by going into him can defile him; but the things which come out of a man are what defile him. […] For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, fornication, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a man” (Mark 7:15, 21-23). And Mark tells us in Mark 7:19 that in this way, “he declared all foods clean,” even before His once-for-all sacrifice.

But ritual uncleanliness is different from sin, including the sin of profanation. Being a leper isn’t in the same category as having sex in the Temple. St. Paul makes this clear in 1 Corinthians 6:13b-20 by using the fact that our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit to argue against spiritual defilement.

Second, Leithart is making a false equivalency. Jesus is the Son of God, and we are sons (and daughters) of God, but in different ways. What’s fitting to Jesus as Son of God (e.g., divine worship) isn’t necessarily fitting to us as sons of God. Likewise, Mary is the Temple of the Holy Spirit and had Jesus Christ dwelling with her, and we do, but in different ways. Leithart’s own argument betrays this false equivalency. Mary prior to the Annunciation is already a holy woman. The angel Gabriel greets her by saying “Hail, full of grace” (Luke 1:28), and she’s not even pregnant yet. So Mary, prior to the Annunciation is already a temple of the Holy Spirit in the sense of being holy. Something radically different and more happens to her at the Annunciation.

Logically, there are two implications of Leithart’s argument: (a) that prior to Good Friday, it would be unholy to have sex with a Saint, since he or she is filled with the Holy Spirit; and (b) that after Good Friday, it would be morally permissible to have sex in the Temple. Both of these are obviously false.

IV.

If this is the reasoning, it sheds some light on the question of perpetual virginity. Matthew’s phrasing implies that Joseph did have sex with Mary after Jesus was born, and the reasoning above would imply the same.

The first problem with this grammatical argument is that it assumes that the connotations of the English “until” are the exact same as the Greek ἕως (heōs). In English, saying that something didn’t happen “until X” generally means that it happened at X. That’s not always true, even in English. For example, if I say that someone kept his good spirits “right up until the end of his life,” I might mean that he lost those good spirits at the end of his life, but I might mean the opposite. But generally, I say “I didn’t eat until 7,” I mean that I ate at 7.

That can’t be the case for Matthew 1:25. It says that Joseph “knew her not until she had borne a son.” Taken in the normal way we take “until,” this would mean that Joseph and Mary had sex on Christmas. Jerome points out that  “there was no place suitable for married intercourse in the inn.” More importantly, we know that Mary observed the traditional 40-day Jewish period of ritual purification after giving birth to a son (Leviticus 12:2-4; Luke 2:22). So it’s just not possible that she “knew” St. Joseph immediately after giving birth.

So both Protestants and Catholics should start from the admission that Matthew 1:25 can’t mean what it appears to mean at our first glance of the English. Otherwise, as St. Jerome points out, we’d have to conclude that Mary and St. Joseph consummated their marriage in a barn on Christmas, meaning that “the mother must go unpurged from her child-bed taint, and the wailing infant be attended to by the midwives, while the husband clasps his exhausted wife.” But even this isn’t possible: that there was no midwife is clear from the fact that Mary swaddled the Christ Child herself (Luke 2:7). Besides, Mary and Joseph were quickly joined by the shepherds (Luke 2:16).

Significantly, the Greek heōs is more flexible than the English “until.” When Jesus says to the Disciples in the Garden of Gethsemane in Matthew 26:36, “Sit here, while I go yonder and pray,” guess which Greek term is being translated as “while”? If you guessed anything other than heōs, you’re a surprisingly bad guesser. And notice that Jesus isn’t saying “sit here until I go and prayer, and then fall asleep.” When the Disciples do fall asleep, He rebukes them for it (Mt. 26: 41, 44-45). So perhaps it’s not surprising that the modern Protestant argument that heōs means that Mary and Joseph had sex after the birth of Christ didn’t impress the early Christians who actually spoke Greek.

The fourth century Church Father St. Jerome (fluent in Latin, Greek, and Hebrew) gives several Biblical counter-examples from both the Hebrew and Greek Scriptures in which the Biblical authors use a measure of time without suggesting that it’s a hard limit. For example,

  1. In Isaiah 46:4, God says, “even to your old age I am He, and to gray hairs I will carry you. I have made, and I will bear; I will carry and will save.” But of course, God remains God even after that.
  2. In Matthew 28:20, Jesus says, ” I am with you always, to the close of the age.” Jerome comments, “Will the Lord then after the end of the world has come forsake His disciples, and at the very time when seated on twelve thrones they are to judge the twelve tribes of Israel will they be bereft of the company of their Lord?”
  3. In 1 Corinthians 15:25, St. Paul says that Christ “must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet.” But He doesn’t stop reigning then. As Revelation 11:15 shows, that’s just the beginning: “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign for ever and ever.
  4. Psalm 123:2 says that “our eyes look to the Lord our God, till he have mercy upon us.” But of course, we don’t stop looking to Him when He’s merciful towards us.
  5. Deuteronomy 34:5-6 says that Moses was buried “in the land of Moab opposite Beth-pe′or; but no man knows the place of his burial to this day. ” And we still don’t know where Moses is buried.

V.

Temples are holy only when the Holy One inhabits them. Once Yahweh abandoned the temple, it was an empty shell for demolition and burning. If Mary was holy because the Holy One lived in her, then His birth exodus from her body would have ended her temporary holiness. She would have reverted to normal “common” status. And Joseph would have known her as his wife.

Joseph refrained from sex with Mary because she was the ark, bearing the glory; but only for nine months.

This is the most important part of Leithart’s whole argument. You might have been wondering, “if Leithart recognizes that the Virgin Mary’s womb was a sacred space in which the Incarnation of Christ occurred, and Mary was herself the Temple of the Holy Spirit, how could he possibly disbelieve in Mary’s perpetual virginity?” It’s because he thinks that the Temple was only holy when the Holy of Holies was present, and was otherwise an “empty shell” fit for “demolition and burning.”

As I said, credit to Leithart for showing his work. Many Protestants seem to assume this, but few say it so explicitly. As it happens, this assumption is totally false.

Due to the Israelites’ sin, the Glory of the LORD did depart the First Temple shortly before its destruction. This is recounted in Ezekiel 10, and v. 18 says that “the glory of the Lord went forth from the threshold of the house.” And yet the Temple continues to be referred to as “the house of the Lord” (for example, in Ez. 11:1). In fact, even after the First Temple is entirely destroyed, the Jews continue to offer sacrifices at the Temple site and to speak of the Temple as though it exists: both Jeremiah 41:4-5 and Baruch 1:10 bear witness to this fact. At no point did the Jews just treat the site as a garbage dump, and it would have been a profanation for them to do so.

Likewise, in 2 Kings 13:21, we hear of a dead man brought back to life simply from touching the prophet Elisha’s bones. These sort of relics are impossible in Protestantism: by Leithart’s logic, whatever holiness was attached to Elisha should have dissipated upon his death, leaving his body as an empty shell for demolition and burning.

In his reply to Helvidius, St. Jerome shows how implausible it is that St. Joseph would have treated Mary like an empty an unholy shell after she gave birth to Our Lord:

We are to believe then that the same man who gave so much credit to a dream that he did not dare to touch his wife, yet afterwards, when he had learned from the shepherds that the angel of the Lord had come from heaven and said to them, “Be not afraid: for behold I bring you good tidings of great joy which shall be to all people, for there is born to you this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord;” and when the heavenly host had joined with him in the chorus [Luke 2:14] “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men of good will;” and when he had seen just Simeon embrace the infant and exclaim, “Now let your servant depart, O Lord, according to your word in peace: for my eyes have seen your salvation;” and when he had seen Anna the prophetess, the Magi, the Star, Herod, the angels; Helvidius, I say, would have us believe that Joseph, though well acquainted with such surprising wonders, dared to touch the temple of God, the abode of the Holy Ghost, the mother of his Lord?

Leithart has, bafflingly, treated the Nativity of Christ like the Lord abandoning the Temple in Ezekiel 10. The abandonment of the Temple happened because of the gross sinfulness of the people; the birth of Our Lord was nothing like that. But even in the case of Ezekiel 10, the Temple didn’t stop being the house of the Lord. Even when it was destroyed, the site stayed holy.

Sidebar: The Abomination of Desolation

Finally, consider the “abomination of desolation” in Daniel 9:27. The initial fulfillment of this passage occurred in 167 B.C., when Antiochus Epiphanies built an altar to Zeus on the altar of burnt offerings (an event recounted in 1 Maccabees 1:54). In Matthew 24:15, Jesus applies this verse to refer to the destruction of the Second Temple (Mt. 24:2) and also apparently the end of the world (Mt. 24:3). Christ’s connection between the desolating sacrifice and the destruction of Jerusalem is clearer in light of the parallel passage in Luke 21:20, “But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation has come near.

But here’s the thing: the Temple was in disuse when the first abomination of desolation happened in 167 B.C., and the glory of the Lord departed before the Temple was destroyed in 70 A.D. The Jewish historian Josephus records the departure of the Glory of the Lord in a remarkable passage in Book VI of Of the War:

[O]n the one and twentieth day of the month Artemisius, [Jyar,] a certain prodigious and incredible phenomenon appeared: I suppose the account of it would seem to be a fable; were it not related by those that saw it; and were not the events that followed it of so considerable a nature as to deserve such signals. For, before sun setting, chariots and troops of soldiers in their armour were seen running about among the clouds, and surrounding of cities. Moreover, at that feast which we call Pentecost; as the priests were going by night into the inner [court of the] temple, as their custom was, to perform their sacred ministrations, they said, that in the first place they felt a quaking, and heard a great noise: and after that they heard a sound, as of a multitude, saying, “Let us remove hence.”

That is, shortly before the Romans entered, the Glory of the Lord departed the Temple, in what seems to have been a direct fulfillment of Christ’s prophecies. Only after this do the Romans enter and desecrate the Temple:

And now the Romans, upon the flight of the seditious into the city, and upon the burning of the holy house itself, and of all the buildings round about it, brought their ensigns to the temple, and set them over-against its eastern gate. And there did they offer sacrifices to them: and there did they make Titus Imperator with the greatest acclamations of joy.

Josephus concludes “And thus was Jerusalem taken, in the second year of the reign of Vespasian, on the eighth day of the month Gorpeius [Elul] [A.D. 70]. It had been taken five times before: though this was the second time of its desolation.

Why do I bring this up? Because if Leithart was right, then then the Romans didn’t desecrate the Temple, since the Glory of the LORD had already departed. It was just “an empty shell for demolition and burning,” and that’s exactly how the Romans treated it. But of course, that’s not how the Jews understood the holiness of the Temple at all; and more importantly, it’s not how Jesus Christ describes the holiness of the Temple.

Conclusion

At heart, Leithart’s making three arguments:

  1. Mary’s body became a “holy space” in bearing the Incarnate Christ;
  2. As such, it would have been a profanation for St. Joseph to have sex with her; and
  3. This holiness only continued until the birth of Christ.

The first of this is true, although it ignores the way that Mary was already “full of grace” prior to the Incarnation. The second is true, and a good insight. The third is wrong, and clearly so. It’s a bad way of viewing Mary’s dignity, particularly her maternal dignity, and a bad way of understanding holiness or consecration in general. Once you account for this error, Leithart’s actually presented quite a case for Mary’s perpetual virginity.

39 Comments

  1. I am not particularly concerned about the doctrine of Mary’s perpetual virginity, though I would happily concede it was the view of almost all the fathers and early reformers.

    That being said, Matt 1:25 is an interesting passage in that if the word “until” (with the necessary implications) was not mean, then what was? Here is a list of the term “heos'” usage throughout the NT. http://biblehub.com/greek/eo_s_2193.htm

    Clearly the word “while,” or “to” was not meant, but until.

    Every time the word is rendered until, due to context, it is obvious that when the time of the event is passed, that a change occurs afterwards. For example:

    Now when they had gone, behold, an angel of the Lord *appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Get up! Take the Child and His mother and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is going to search for the Child to destroy Him.” (Matt 2:13–Obviously, Joseph and company left Egypt.)

    But I will remain in Ephesus until Pentecost (1 Cor 16:8–Obviously, Paul left after Pentecost, though not necessarily the same day.)

    The above passage reveals just how tortured the exegesis in the above article is. To be fair, as Joe admits, he is merely repeating what Jerome said–that it would be ridiculous to presume that Joseph had marital sex with Mary right there in the manger. Joe’s point, that Mary would wait until her time of purification is over, is also a fair point. However, if Matthew writes that Joseph did not know Mary until Christ was born, to state the obvious (that the clear and necessary implication is that Joseph knew Mary afterwards) does not bear out that such an interpretation requires that Joseph slept with Mary the next possible opportunity anymore than 1 Cor 16:8 would mean that Paul got the first ticket out of Ephesus on Pentecost.

    Presuming Joseph waited 40 days or so after Christ’s birth to consummate his marriage physically with Mary, in the grand scheme of Mary’s pregnancy and her betrothal to Joseph, this would not affect the natural reading of Joseph not knowing her until Christ was born.

    Just to make my point even more obvious, because my detractors are so quick to jump at anything not put abundantly clear, if I were to say I did not drink alcohol until I went to college, would anyone here seriously argue what I meant was that I had a beer in my hand the very second I was there? Let’s pretend I did not drink until I was a Sophomore. A whole year would have passed, but the statement “Craig did not drink until he went to college” would be no less accurate, and not in the least misleading.

    For fun, let me quibble with Jerome:

    In Isaiah 46:4, God says, “even to your old age I am He, and to gray hairs I will carry you. I have made, and I will bear; I will carry and will save.” But of course, God remains God even after that.

    Jerome, obviously God is saying that He remains the same your whole life. He is not saying that the moment after you die, He changes. The implication, seemingly clear in Matt 1:25, does not exist here.

    In Matthew 28:20, Jesus says, ” I am with you always, to the close of the age.” Jerome comments, “Will the Lord then after the end of the world has come forsake His disciples, and at the very time when seated on twelve thrones they are to judge the twelve tribes of Israel will they be bereft of the company of their Lord?”

    Jerome, the issue here is figurative language. Technically, Christ is physically resurrected at God’s right hand. He’s not here on Earth, but His Spirit is. So, the sense Christ is with us is not literal. So, I would ask you, in what non-literal sense did Joseph not know Mary until Christ was born? What can possibly make sense?

    In 1 Corinthians 15:25, St. Paul says that Christ “must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet.” But He doesn’t stop reigning then. As Revelation 11:15 shows, that’s just the beginning: “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign for ever and ever.”

    Jerome, the reference is that all things are put under Christ, and then Christ gives these to the Father–” When all things are subjected to Him, then the Son Himself also will be subjected to the One who subjected all things to Him, so that God may be all in all.” (1 Cor 15:28)

    Psalm 123:2 says that “our eyes look to the Lord our God, till he have mercy upon us.” But of course, we don’t stop looking to Him when He’s merciful towards us.

    Some people do. But, thats not the point. Rather, we look to God hoping for something until that hope is fulfilled. After that, the way we look may be different. This is typical of all believers, who in time of trouble typically cling to God tighter.

    Deuteronomy 34:5-6 says that Moses was buried “in the land of Moab opposite Beth-pe′or; but no man knows the place of his burial to this day. ” And we still don’t know where Moses is buried.

    The author of the passage was speaking of his own day, and the inference here is the word “until” is not meant. Does the word “to” work in Matt 1:25, Mr. Jerome?

    1. I didn’t mention this in the post, but it bears mention. There’s a clear reason Matthew has the “until” clause. He’s showing how both halves of Isaiah 7:14 are fulfilled: that a Virgin conceived AND a Virgin bore a Son. He’s not saying anything one way or the other about the sexual relationship (or lack thereof) between Mary and Joseph afterwards.

        1. If Mary was a virgin when Jesus was conceived, but then had sex with Joseph, she would no longer be a virgin when Jesus was born.

          Isaiah 7:14 reads:

          “Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and *bear* a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.”

          Had Joseph and Mary had had sexual relations prior to Jesus’ birth, then the second portion of Isaiah’s prophecy would not have come to fruition.

          1. *edit: sorry, my last sentence should read:

            Had Joseph and Mary had had sexual relations after Jesus was conceived but prior to Jesus’ birth, then the first portion of Isaiah’s prophecy would have been fulfilled, but not the second.

    2. I’m going to sit down and try to come up with an example of a “view of almost all the fathers” that I disagree with. Will report back.

    3. Related to “heos”, are you saying that in Matthew 18:22 Jesus is telling us to forgive until 70 x 7, then after that, we withhold forgiveness?

      1. Shane, I am sure you agree that the literal meaning of the verse is as you say. However, this example of Jewish hyperbole (as well as the symbolic numbering of sevens) is supposed to convey the point that there is no limit to forgiveness.

        This sort of hyperbole and symbolism appears unfounded in Matt 1:25, which appears to be a literal statement.

        1. Craig, I see your point and concede that it isn’t the most compelling example. However, Joe gave a better example in Mt. 26:36, and there are plenty of others, including Mt. 28:20, where heos is used to indicate a period of time and in no way connotes a change in behavior after the period of time has past. Jesus told them he would be with them until the end of the age. He would be with them even while he appeared to be gone, but clearly will continue to be with them even after the end of the age. There are many other examples of the word used in this manner. Keep studying and God bless.

    4. Craig,
      Have you ever left the house and said to your children “be good until I get back?” So are you saying that your kids should start being bad after you get back home? In Matthew 28:20, Jesus tells us that He is with us always, “until” the end of the age. Does that mean He won’t be with us in heaven after the end of our time here on earth?

      The Greek word used in Matthew 1:25 for until, ἕως (heōs), does not necessarily imply that Joseph knew her afterward. Another example Look at 2 Samuel 6:23. “Michal, the daughter of Saul, had no children UNTIL the day of her death.”. The same word ἕως (heōs) is being translated here as “until”, Michal obviously didn’t have any children after her death. Or, in Matthew 22:44, “Sit at my right UNTIL I make your enemies your footstool.” Again, the same word ἕως (heōs), translated as “until”, Is Jesus to sit on God’s left after his enemies are made his footstool?

      1. “Have you ever left the house and said to your children “be good until I get back?””

        I do not have any kids, but good point! I would say though, that the expression does imply an expectation that bad behavior is a real possibility. Saying “be good until I get back” is sort of like saying, “be good when I am gone, if there any issues when I get back we will deal with it then.”

        Which then begs the question, why Matthew included the detail of Joseph not sleeping with Mary until Jesus was born (Matt 1:25) and Mary and Joseph not “coming together” yet in Matt 1:18–both a obvious references to consummating the marriage. So, why add the detail if it has no relevance?

        1. Ah, but my point of saying “be good until I get back?” was not whether or not the possibility was ever there, with sinful children it’s always a possibility, but that I want them to behave while I’m away just as I would want them to behave when I am in their presence.

          The point of Matt 1:25 was not just to emphasize that had not had relations with Joseph, but to really drive home the fact that Mary was THE Virgin. The one told about in the old testament that would give birth to the savior.

          Let’s look at it this way. God could have brought Jesus into the world in any way he wanted. But, he chose to bring him into the world in a way that one can deduce, to emphasize that Jesus is the son of God. Had Mary not have been a consecrated virgin and had gone on to have a normal marital relationship with Joseph and had even had other children with him, then it would have called into doubt the virgin birth of Jesus. Think about it: Mary later having children with Joseph would have called into question the fact that Jesus was born of a virgin. It’s not just important that Mary was a virgin at the time of His birth, but that Mary WAS a consecrated virgin, vouched for by the priesthood and everyone knew it. In essence, it helps to safeguard the fact that Jesus is, in fact, divine and that it is right and proper that his mother remained a virgin, pure and undefiled by man. Had Mary had other children, then it is doubtful that anyone would have believed that Jesus was born of a virgin. And Joseph was an important part of God’s plan in that he was to maintain her protection, for had Mary conceived as a consecrated virgin and not had been in an arrangement to be married to Joseph, chances are that she would have been outcast by society and seen as a woman having a child out of wedlock. It makes complete sense for her to be a consecrated virgin, married to another consecrated virgin to be the family for the son of God. Also, It’s important to remember that consecrated means to be set aside for God, and once something is set aside and consecrated, it cannot be used for other purposes. (Hint: The site of the Temple in Jerusalem was and is still considered Holy ground, even long after it’s destruction.)

  2. Great article! My one question is how you reconcile Joseph being a “righteous man YET unwilling expose her to shame” with your reasoning regarding why he was afraid to take Mary into her home. At that time, a “righteous” man was one who followed the Torah law, and the Torah stated he should divorce his wife if she committed adultery. This seems to be a more logical, Scripturally sound interpretation

    1. The Perpetual Virginity of Mary and the Righteous Man

      Matthew 1:19
      19Because Joseph her husband was a righteous man and did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.

      Two interpretations attempt to explain why Joseph decided to separate from Mary. They give opposite answers to the question: Who did Joseph think was the unworthy partner in the betrothal?

      The Suspicion Theory

      This view holds that Joseph suspected Mary of adultery when he discovered that she was pregnant. The troubling news led him to seek a divorce in accordance with Deuteronomy 24:1-4, although he wished to do this secretly to avoid subjecting Mary to the rigorous law of Deuteronomy 22:23-24 which mandates capital punishment for adulterers. Joseph was a just man inasmuch as he resolved to act (to divorce) in accordance with the Mosaic law. This common interpretation suffers from a serious weakness: Joseph’s desire to follow the law for divorce does not square with his willingness to sidestep the law proscribed for adulterers. A truly righteous man would keep God’s law completely, not selectively.

      The Reverence Theory

      This view holds that Joseph, already informed of the divine miracle within Mary (Matthew 1:18), considered himself unworthy to be part of God’s work in this unusual situation (cf. Lk 5:8; 7:6). His resolve to separate quietly from Mary is thus seen as a reverent and discretionary measure to keep secret the mystery within her. Notably, the expression “to expose her to public disgrace” is weaker in Greek than in the translation: it means that Joseph did not wish to “exhibit” Mary in a public way. The angelic announcement in Matthew 1:20, then, directs Joseph to set aside pious fears that would lead him away from his vocation to be the legal father of the Davidic Messiah. This view more aptly aligns Joseph’s righteousness with his intentions. (Hahn, Scott and Curtis Mitch, The Gospel of Matthew, Ignatius Study Bible, 18).

  3. I think it’s actually a good argument in the opposite direction. After all, St. Matthew is the one calling St. Joseph “just” (or “righteous,” Mt. 1:19). He’s not a legalist who thinks justice is through blind observance of the letter of the Law. He knows (as he tells us in Matthew 18:15) that Jesus teaches something more radical about true righteousness: “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. ” So the idea that Joseph would treat his bride with less respect than an erring neighbour – divorcing her without even finding out how she got pregnant – isn’t “justice” or “righteousness.” (After all, even had he not been considering the possibility of the Isaiah prophecy coming true, that still wouldn’t discount the possibility of rape, so he still wouldn’t be justified in just assuming adultery).

    On the other hand, the righteous man DOES have a Numinous fear. Sirach 32:16, “Those who fear the Lord will form true judgments, and like a light they will kindle righteous deeds.” So a truly just man would be aware of his own sinfulness and faults (Proverbs 24:16) and his unworthiness to be foster father to Our Lord or husband to the Mother of God.

  4. This goes along with the belief of sone denominations who do practice communion that God is no longer present in the elements once the service is over.

  5. I feel the same way that Craig feels, in that I am not concerned with the teaching on the perpetual virginity. Yes, the early reformers and church fathers accepted this teaching. It should not be a cause for division within the Body of Christ.

    I am not sure it even warrants the title of doctrine. It is hard to pin down how many doctrines there are in the Roman church and what separates a doctrine from a church teaching. Is there even a separation?

    1. I agree that the Perpetual Virginity of Mary “should not be a cause for division within the Body of Christ”. Unfortunately, those who deny it (despite the overwhelming testimony of the ECF’s and the early Reformers) have made it a source of division.

      Every doctrine about Mary tells us something about Christ or something about ourselves or the Church. Mary’s perpetual virginity demonstrates her purity of heart and total love for God. In 388, St. Ambrose of Milan wrote that Mary’s virginity was “so great an example of material virtue” because it demonstrated her total devotion to Jesus. In Mary, we see an example of the purity our own hearts must have in total dedication to God. Her virginity also tells us something about the Church, which, like Mary, is both mother to the faithful and “pure bride to her one husband” (2 Cor. 11:2).

      In addition, the Perpetual Virginity of Mary preserves the doctrine of the Virgin Birth of Jesus, and hence, indirectly, the Incarnation. If Mary had other children in the usual way, then everyone would know that she had conceived children by natural means, and the potential would exist to deny that Jesus’ birth was supernatural. Her perpetual virginity underscores the extraordinary miracle of Jesus’ conception.

  6. Our Lady is Wisdom, magnificent and perfect, created so in order to be His Mother. Her honor and glory surpasses all the angels and saints combined, and yet here we engage the protestants in their blasphemous heresy. And for what? To what end? To show them their error? Did not St. Paul clearly teach on the superiority of virginity? Would our Lord then have anything less for HIS VERY MOTHER? Would her precious womb, the first tabernacle, the only living tabernacle, be defiled by man? This is a logical impossibility! If nothing could touch the Ark of the Old Covenant, then nothing can touch the Ark of the New because God cannot contradict.

    Protestants will never know truth because they have not the sacraments of the Church. They begin in error and therefore they end in error. Only the grace of the sacraments can open the eyes to a truth such as this. Without that, they will remain in darkness until the end. Therefore, Catholics must never engage on topics such as this. It is better to leave them in their ignorance and pray for them.

    Our Lady did not have a sex life. St. Joseph was also a virgin, which is why he was called to the temple in the first place. Both consecrated their virginity to God (the superior gift offered to God by His superior saints). This is the Church’s teaching. End of story, no further discussion is needed.

    If Catholics were more protective of Our Lady, we might show them (the protestors) by example her magnificence. Instead, we make her common (exactly what they want) by daring to discuss her blasphemous and non-existent “sex life.”

    Ave Maria, Virgo Fidelis! Semper. Semper.

    1. “Did not St. Paul clearly teach on the superiority of virginity? Would our Lord then have anything less for HIS VERY MOTHER?”

      Sorry, don’t believe in St. Paul on this at all. Or your interpretation. Or either one of them. On an evolutionary perspective, a sexless life is useless. On a cultural perspective, it might be useful, but no better than other vocations.

      1. It matters not one iota what you think. And even less what I think. It is not a question of interpretation, as everyone has one. It is a question of authority. Who has it? Not you and not I. There is only one with any such authority: the Church which Christ established, the Catholic Church.

        And this is her teaching: Virginity is the highest state and after that marriage.

        Are all called to virginity? Of course not, “Be fruitful and multiply!” But to those who are called, it is as St. Paul teaches the highest state.

        Stop believing what you think. What we think is usually wrong. In humility submit to the authority and God will show you everything.

        So, back to the point: would Our Lord have anything less than the highest state for His mother? It’s a question of logic.

        1. “Stop believing what you think.”

          No, until I have a brain, I’ll believe what I think, and think about what I believe. In that order.

  7. The argument seems to go on and on for the joy of argument.

    Has anyone ever consider the fact that both, Joseph and Mary were living in the presence of God? Should we be fortunate to enter heaven and be in the presence of God are we going to be desiring sex?

  8. The case for the perpetual virginity of Mary should be easily demonstrated after the demolition of sola scriptura and, as a bonus, after the description of opinion of the early Church fathers and the earlh Protestant leaders.

    Otherwise, if you get into the discussion, just as Rev. Hans and Mr Truglia said, “it doesn’t concern them much”. Just like “sola scriptura” “shouldn’t concern Catholics much”. Brush it aside.

    a) Did 99,99% of Christians believe (or didn’t care about) it until 1517 and b) is it true are two different questions, though.

    Does it make sense? Perhaps. Is it true? In a sense, yes. [No way to know for sure.] Did it happen? No way to know at all.

  9. I responded to a comment of Joe’s on Facebook, which I think may be useful to an aspect of his research presented in the above article. Joe writes:

    They assume that Mary and Joseph couldn’t have had sex at the time of the Annunciation, because they were only “betrothed.” But the Jewish kiddushin was quite different from an American engagement. As Dr. Lynn Cohick (a Protsetant professor of the New Testament at Wheaton College and Northern Seminary) explains in Christianity Today:

    Mary was betrothed to Joseph, which was a legally binding arrangement in the Jewish culture. All that awaited the couple was the wedding. If they engaged in sexual intercourse with each other, that was not seen as a violation of any cultural norm. Later rabbinic writings allowed that a future groom who had sexual relations with his bride-to-be at her father’s house was not guilty of immoral behavior.

    It may be of some interest here that in first century Judaism, as indicated by Josephus, there was a profound difference between being betrothed/engaged and married. They were not the same thing. This stems from Judaism going all the way back to Moses, who wrote in Deut 20:7– “Has anyone become engaged to a woman but not yet married [“taken”] her? He should go back to his house, or he might die in the battle and another marry her” (NRSVCE). Obviously, if they were already married as Joe posits, the sentence does not make sense.

    The following are from Antiquities:

    As for that damsel which the king had betrothed to his brother Pheroras, but he had not taken [married] her, as I have before related, because he was enamored on his former wife (Book 16, Chap 7).

    As we can see, the term “taken” is a euphemism, when it pertains to marriage, for physical consummation as it is a reference to the groom taking the bride into his house (something that would be scandalous for an unmarried couple.) in the Catholic translation above, they simply translate the term as “marry.”

    he prayed that no such ill fortune would befall these who were their children, but that they might improve in virtue, and obtain what they justly deserved, and might make him amends for his care of their education. He also caused them to be betrothed against they should come to the proper age of marriage; the elder of Alexander’s sons to Pheroras’s daughter, and Antipater’s daughter to Aristobulus’s eldest son. (Book 17 Chap 1).

    Here, we see Josephus specifically say the betrothed couple is not yet married. Obviously, rabbinic and more modern Jewish customs were not the same as that in Josephus’ day–which was roughly contemporary with the birth of Jesus.

    So, the Protestant view vis a vis Joe (which i am not necessarily endorsing) that Mary was engaged and not married is actually the historical view presented in Deut 20:7 and Josephus. Sure, Joe quotes a modern Protestant and Jewish scholar alike–but they are all wrong.

    Joe follows up the point by adding:

    The Bible agrees with this, which is why Matthew 1:19 already refers to Joseph as her “husband,” and says that he contemplated “divorce.” You’ll note that Mary was also regularly in the Temple (Luke 2:22-27, 41-52), which would have been impossible if she were (or was believed to be) a fornicator.

    The above is wrong on three counts:

    1. Joe argues that St. Joe being a husband in Matt 1:19 means he s already married, and not a fiancee. However, Book 16 Chap 7 essentially calls the betrothed “damsel” a “wife.” So, engaged couples can be called husband/wife without being married. The Greek language also allowed for this, as the Greek word “gunaikos” meant both wife/woman. In Matt 1:19 the Greek term “aner” is used for the word “husband,” which can also be translated simply as “man.” (http://biblehub.com/greek/ane_r_435.htm)

    We have the same thing in English: “I pronounce you man and wife. You may kiss the bride.”

    2. Joe implies unmarried/betrothed people cannot get divorced in 1st century Jewish culture. This is incorrect. In Wars Book 1 Chap 28 par 2-3 Josephus writes:

    “And I pray God that he will join these children together in marriage, to the advantage of my kingdom, and of my posterity, and may he look down with eyes more serene upon them than he looked upon their fathers.” While he spake these words, he wept, and joined the childrens right hands together; after which he embraced them every one after an affectionate manner, and dismissed the assembly. Upon this, Antipater was in great disorder immediately, and lamented publicly at what was done;..So he resolved by all the ways possible to get these espousals dissolved.

    3. Joe believes Mary could have not been allowed in the temple given the circumstances, but this position is untenable on several counts. First, being that we do not know Mary and Joseph’s wedding day, they could have been legally married without fanfare as soon as Joseph had his first night alone with her before they left for Bethlehem (this was how Rebekah and Leah were married to their husbands after all.) This marriage would have not been physically consummated because of Mary being about to give birth, and again, the angel telling Joseph she was pregnant with God’s Son. Being that Mary was already showing by then, Joseph might have figured to weight even if they were married immediately afterwards.

    I find further speculation not to be all that useful, but I hope the above clears up some historical misconceptions, even if they are repeated by men with degrees.

    1. This entire post is a strawman. Joe, and the professor, claim that sexual relations were allowed while in the state of betrothal, which certainly was a distinct phase in the process, distinct from marriage. So you proved a point, just not one that is contrary to the point being made here.

      It’s good to see you allow that “gunaikos” can mean wife or woman. Which begs the question, and I know being honest with yourself is difficult, I’ve been there, but try. You searched hard, outside of scripture, to find an example that allowed for a plurality of meanings for the word, all to aid an argument you are making that you readily admit is contrary to the understanding of the ECFs. Yet, you argue against reading “adelphos” in a similar manner, even though there are biblical examples of a plurality of meaning for the word, which is supported by the historical record.

      Keep kicking against the goads my brother. It will just make the rest all the more sweeter when it comes.

      1. ” Joe, and the professor, claim that sexual relations were allowed while in the state of betrothal, which certainly was a distinct phase in the process, distinct from marriage.”

        The professor, and Joe, were arguing that the betrothed were properly married…which they are not. I am not sure how you missed this.

        This is a common misunderstanding among scholars, which Joe hitched his argument to. Gill’s commentary on Deut 20:7 repeats the same error:

        And what man is there that hath betrothed a wife, and hath not taken her?…. Home to his house and bedded with her; has only betrothed her, but is not properly married to her, the nuptials are not completed; this the Jews understand of anyone betrothed to him, whether a virgin or a widow, or the wife of a deceased brother (yea, they say, if his brother is dead in war, he returns and comes home), but not of a former wife divorced and received again

        In Josephus, the betrothed had not yet been “taken” into the groom’s house. So, your contention does not work.

        Plus, Joe’s comments on Joseph being called a “husband” and that betrothed people in Jewish culture cannot be properly divorced are incorrect. So, I feel my above comment is a positive contribution to those who want a correct view of history on the subject.

        But, then again, with comments like “I know being honest with yourself is difficult,” I somehow doubt that substance is something that you will be convinced by.

        1. “The professor, and Joe, were arguing that the betrothed were properly married…which they are not. I am not sure how you missed this.”

          The professor states, “All that awaited the couple was the wedding.” So he allows that their was an additional step that needed to be taken before they completed the process.

          So I missed it because that is not what they were arguing.

          God bless you and your journey to the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church.

          1. Perhaps I am conceptual issues here but the author wrote:

            “If they engaged in sexual intercourse with each other, that was not seen as a violation of any cultural norm. Later rabbinic writings allowed that a future groom who had sexual relations with his bride-to-be at her father’s house was not guilty of immoral behavior.”

            Josephus wrote:

            “As for that damsel which the king had betrothed to his brother Pheroras, but he had not taken [married] her, as I have before related, because he was enamored on his former wife” (Book 16, Chap 7).

            We already established that “taken” is a euphemism for having physically consummated the relationship by taking the woman into the grooms house.In the above, a woman is betrothed, but not taken into the grooms house, which puts the contentions of the scholar you are citing and Josephus at odds.

            Hopefully you interact with the evidence or if the above is incomprehensible, that I would realize it is so.

            God bless,
            Craig

    2. Craig,

      Your entire position (contrary every authority that I know of, and based apparently upon your reading sexual euphemisms into Josephus and Deuteronomy) is based upon this claim: “We already established that “taken” is a euphemism for having physically consummated the relationship by taking the woman into the grooms house.

      But that’s not “already established.” That’s your entire argument.

      My claim, and it’s a claim supported by the work of people like Dr. Lynn Cohick, is that “taken” is a reference to taking her into his house. That’s not a euphemism for consummating the relationship. That’s literally the second stage of the marriage, called the nisu’in. There’s a lot of Jewish literature that will support this point (nisu’in doesn’t mean “had sex,” it means that the bride went to live with her husband), but if you want to stick to the Bible, we can do that, too.

      1. Joseph is referred to as Mary’s husband after the kiddushin and before the nisu’in. Matthew 1:19.

      2. Joseph contemplated “divorce” after the kiddushin and before the nisu’in. Matthew 1:19 again.

      Those two points are pretty clear evidence that they were married, but the biggest argument against your position, and against reading “taken” as a sexual term is that it’s explicitly denied by Matthew 1:24-25:

      “When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took his wife, but knew her not until she had borne a son; and he called his name Jesus.”

      “Knowing” her is a sexual euphemism, and one we see frequently in the Scriptures (e.g., Genesis 4:1). So this is saying that Joseph took his wife, but didn’t have sex with her…. which would be impossible if your position were correct (since Matthew would be saying that Joseph had sex with her without having sex with her, which is a meaningless contradiction).

      1. Thanks for pointing out the flaw in Craig’s argument both scriptutally and through early writings and Jewish culture.

        I thought his argument was pretty strong as the word “taken” can be understood as a euphemism for sex but not in this context.

    3. Craig,

      One more point. You said in your #3 that Mary might have been allowed in the Temple because “we do not know Mary and Joseph’s wedding day.” This position makes no sense. Your own argument is that the Virgin Mary was “showing” before her wedding day. Such a woman wouldn’t have been allowed into the Temple, whether or not the father of the child was her eventual husband.

      I.X.,

      Joe

  10. “Joseph did not know his wife until she gave birth to a Son (Matthew 1:25). Why not?”

    Its obvious to us in the 2000s that a man can have sex with his pregnant wife at least for a certain amount of time without hurting the baby, but probably would not have been so obvious in pre-TV and pre-Internet days especially to the hyper-religious who would not be so knowledgeable in such things….that’s always seemed like the obvious answer to me.

  11. A very important point to understand in all of this is that the Blessed Virgin Mary understood her’s and St. Joseph’s vocation as caretakers and ‘protectors’ of the Son of God very well. From the time she and Joseph fled from King Herod to Egypt, and later also when they returned to Israel, they feared for Jesus’ safety, and so decided to settle in the small town of Nazareth in Galilee. Later, when Jesus remained in the Temple as a youth of 12 years old, Mary and Joseph were ‘sorrowing’ over their loss, even as if they had made a great error in their responsibilities as the parents and guardians of Jesus.

    Is it any wonder then why Joseph and Mary would remain chaste in their relationship? Would not a family filled with children risk exposing the identity of Jesus to others, as such a secret would be hard to keep from future brothers and sisters?

    Mary was well aware of God’s plans and was patient enough to wait for the right hour wherein Jesus might be made known publicly to the world. And indeed, it was Mary who herself introduced Him to the world in a public way, wherein Jesus turned water into wine at her bidding. Only a few weeks before, satan asked Him to do something similar, to turn stones into bread, but he refused, even though He was at such a point of starvation as to require the help of angels. But, He did ‘transubstantiate’ the water into wine at he simple request of His mother, even going against His own wisdom that his ‘hour’ had not yet arrived:

    “And Jesus saith to her: Woman, what is that to me and to thee? my hour is not yet come. His mother saith to the waiters: Whatsoever he shall say to you, do ye.”

    So, in fact, it is Mary that is saying to Him, that yes, His hour indeed has arrived. As she brought Him into this world in a very private way, now she pivoted from this past vocation and urged Him into His ‘new hour’ of missionary life, wonder-working, teaching and sacrificing Himself for the sake of mankind.

    In all of this we might note that even Jesus was careful to protect His own identity until this ‘hour’ had arrived. So, again, would many brothers and sisters in a small household be the wisest choice for Joseph and Mary, knowing that anyone of these children might irrevocably and immaturely usher in His ‘hour’ by merely talking about Him to other friends?

    This is a great motive for the chaste living of Joseph and Mary. They were merely faithful caretakers of their particular vocations, just as countless celibate priests, monks and nuns have been throughout 2000 years of Christianity. They were always there to keep Jesus hidden until the right time. And that is exactly what they did.

    So, what’s so surprising about the vocation of chastity of Mary and Joseph?

  12. In the book De Maria Nunquam Satis, Dr. Margaret A. Schatkin, a Lutheran professor of Classics at Boston College, proposes a gramatical emendation for the Greek “heōs” into something less ambiguous or confusion, in her belief that the term distinctly does not imply perpetual virginity, but the Patristic testimony to that belief is undeniable. Might be worth checking out. I haven’t read it myself.

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