Jesus Creed

Jesus Creed


Do you believe in Mary’s perpetual virginity? 2

posted by xscot mcknight

Yesterday’s post provided a smattering of evidence, and drew some good response (especially from Dennis Martin and Jim Martin — no relations!) that anticipates where we have to go in this series, but the evidence is clear: there was an early and widespread belief in Mary’s perpetual virginity. Not only that she conceived as a virgin but that she remained a virgin after the birth of Jesus. There are three historic views in this issue, and I wish today to look at each:
First, Helvidius, a Roman teacher who got nothing but heat from Jerome for his view, argued what has become the standard Protestant view. He argued that Mary conceived as a virgin, but after the birth of Jesus engaged in normal sexual relations with Joseph and they had children — names are listed in Mark 6:3. In a day or two we’ll look at Jerome’s remonstration with Helvidius.
Second, Jerome’s view (called the Hieronymian view) is found in some Roman Catholic scholars. This view is that the “brothers and sisters” of Jesus were actually “cousins.” Again, we’ll look at this view in a day or two when we look at Jerome and Helvidius.
Third, the Epiphanian view contends that Joseph was married previously, had children with another wife, that wife died, and then he married Mary, and that Jesus’ “brothers and sisters” are therefore “step brothers and sisters.” Notice, they are not in this view “half-brothers and sisters” for Joseph was not the blood-father of Jesus and Mary was not the blood-mother of Joseph’s previous children. In this view, Mary may have been perpetually virgin, and may not have been.
This view has recently been revived by none other than one of England’s finest scholars, Richard Bauckham. You can find his piece in Catholic Biblical Quarterly 56 (1994): 686-700. He criticizes the Roman Catholic scholar, J.P. Meier, for not being careful enough in his view of Epiphanius.
Now here’s the major contribution of this article: when “son of Mary” is used in Mark 6:3, Bauckham contends that calling Jesus by his mother’s name (a metronymic) indicates that locally there was knowledge that Jesus was to be distinguished from his “step brothers and sisters” because the locals knew these kids had different mothers.
Bauckham cites OT geneaologies where sons are “sons of a woman” and those texts indicate more than one mother and those texts are discerning within a family. Let be up front: I have published on Mark 6:3 and I have argued, with many others, that this “son of Mary” is a slur indicating that locals thought Jesus was a mamzer (“illegitimate child”). I still adhere to that local knowledge and to Jesus’ having been perceived in his world as illegitimate (though I believe in the virginal conception; that doesn’t mean Mary’s contemporaries believed her story).
Bauckham cites:
Hur the firstborn of Ephrath (1 Chron 2:50; 4:4)
Adonijah son of Haggith (1 Kgs 1:5, 11; 2:13; cf. 2 Sam 3:2-5; 1 Chron 3:1-9)
Other sons of David in rabbinic texts: b. Bat. 109b; b. Ketub. 62b
Philo, Fug. 73.
Joseph and Aseneth 22:11
What about Joab, Asahel and Abishai as the “sons of Zeruiah” (1 Sam 26:6 often)
What he is suggesting is that Epiphanius may have been onto something.
Now he actually goes further. Already in the 2d Century, there are three texts that assume the Epiphanian view, and these three texts are not connected to one another and may well preserve an old tradition that Joseph was previously married. Bauckham does not think these are solid texts, does not think they are always credible, but he does think they may preserve an older tradition that just might be reliable:
Protevangelium of James 9:2; 17:1-2; 18:1
Gospel of Peter (acc. to Origen, Comm. on Matt. 10:17)
Infancy Gospel of Thomas 16:1-2.
Now, where are we? Well, we have to reckon with some good argument, some possible evidence, and an abundance of Christian scholarship that is widespread and early that Joseph was previously married and that the “brothers and sisters” might not be blood-brothers and sisters (we’ll get to this issue soon but not today), and that Mary may have been perpetually virgin.
Now what do I think? I’m not sure. I tend to favor the Protestant view, but I want to be fair to this evidence. What do you think?



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Jamie Arpin-Ricci

posted June 13, 2006 at 7:51 am


I would still hold to the Protestant view. While I would not lose any sleep if I was wrong, I think I would be somewhat disappointed. This kind of perpetuity of abstinence seems remeniscent of the ascetics, which seems to pull marry out of relatability to the rest of human (and thus womanhood). That is, in part, why I would prefer if it were true, but I’d like to wait for the evidence too.
Scot, did you reply to John’s comment about Matthew 1:24-25 and Greek word ‘heos’ as until? This seems to be a fair indicate her that Joseph didn’t “know her” UNTIL after Jesus was born. What are your thoughts? Or did I miss them already.
Peace,
Jamie



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Scot McKnight

posted June 13, 2006 at 7:54 am


Jamie,
It is contrary to my “approach” but I wanted to get the scholarship on the table so when we get to the texts it will be clear what others have said about these texts. I’ll be getting to them later this week or early next week.



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saint

posted June 13, 2006 at 8:15 am


Same as Jamie.
Questions: could Mary have been a faithful Jew (and every indication is that she was, as was Joseph) and remain a virgin after Jesus’ birth, while married (yeah I know many think Joseph must have died sometime during Jesus earthly life). What would the precedent be there?



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Scot McKnight

posted June 13, 2006 at 8:46 am


Saint,
In short, yes. Celibacy was clearly an option, however rare.
Think of Banus (from Josephus), John the Baptist, Jesus.
Think of Paul: 1 Cor 7:1, 7, 8.
Think of the Essenes, for whom there seems to be a community of celibates.



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Mike Swalm

posted June 13, 2006 at 9:06 am


Scot,
i can’t think of Banus (don’t know about him), but weren’t all the others single? obviously singles could choose celibacy, but i think what saint was asking is whether there is precedent for a perpetual state of celibacy among married people. I know Paul’s injunction about not “withholding” or “depriving” one another…does this have bearing on mary?



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saint

posted June 13, 2006 at 9:11 am


What Mike said! :-)



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Scot McKnight

posted June 13, 2006 at 9:33 am


Saint and Mike,
Thanks for clarifying. All I saw was the was it possible to be a faithful Jew and not participate in intercourse as a married person.
First, Paul clearly teaches in 1 Cor 7 that there are legitimate reasons for temporary celibacy (7:5). That is clearly temporary.
Second, it could be extended to the time agreed upon by the married couple, which (so it has been argued) may have been what Joseph and Mary agreed on.



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Phil

posted June 13, 2006 at 9:55 am


The three mid-second century works that you mentioned have little to no historical value (IMO). Does the tradition go back to the time of Jesus and Mary? We can’t know that. Jerome held a different view, so there were obviously multiple traditions. (Unless Jerome was taking a stand against tradition.)
The NT infancy narratives (Matthew 1-2; Luke 1-2) do not mention any older stepbrothers of Jesus.
I agree that Mark 6:3 is probably a slur.



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chad

posted June 13, 2006 at 10:38 am


even if the reference to Jesus’ “brothers and sisters” is a reference to people that are not his blood brothers and sisters, is it logical to believe Mary and Joseph did not have sexual relations after the birth of Jesus? i’m not so interested in whether Mary had other biological children, but whether we have information or arguments such as those you’ve provided that suggest Mary and Joseph never had intercourse.



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RJS

posted June 13, 2006 at 10:53 am


I agree that the Protevangelium of James, the Gospel of Peter and the Infancy Gospel of Thomas have no real bearing on this. Frankly they strike me as simply bizarre – and gnostic. In the Protoevangelium the infant Jesus appears in clouds of radiance and bright light – he isn’t even born in a normal sense. There is an agenda behind these documents – and it isn’t consonant with the four gospels of the new testament.



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Kent

posted June 13, 2006 at 11:53 am


This is an interesting conversation but I am a little vague about why this is an important issue. I readily admit to being on the pragmatic side. What make this question something we need to explore? I am serious, and not being petulant. I also readily admit to not paying Mary too much attention. How does the of Mary question impact the ministry I have here?



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Rick

posted June 13, 2006 at 12:16 pm


It is worth asking whether there is a motive for upholding the perpetual virginity of Mary and whether there is (or was) a motive for abandoning the doctrine.
Certainly in the church’s history there were times when the simple acceptance of a doctrine by Rome was reason enough for Protestants to reject it. I do not feel bound to follow them, but neither do I feel obligated to embrace a doctrine that does not yet appear to me to be taught in the gospels, the motives for which are unclear to me.



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Van S

posted June 13, 2006 at 1:51 pm


I tend towards the Protestant view. I think it is perhaps impossible to know definitively through Scripture whether or not Jesus and his siblings were siblings by blood or merely by law. However, I find the idea of being married to a woman without ever sleeping with her to be a fundamentally strange idea. I think I also have a gutteral reaction to anything that seeks to elevate Mary above the ranks of mere mortals. That is, I believe, why most Protestants reject the notion of Mary being the Ever-Virgin. This reaction is the reason why such a conversation is necessary. If Protestants are at least willing to say that Mary’s perpetual virginity isn’t a deal-breaker, then it brings us that much closer to meaningful dialogue between Protestants and Catholics.



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Jennifer

posted June 13, 2006 at 2:05 pm


While I don’t have a problem with the idea that perpetual virginity is logically possible for Mary, it does seem to expose an interesting view about women being both holy and sexual. Why should the birth of Jesus make Mary uninterested in sex for the rest of her life? If we strip away her sexuality, aren’t we making her a bit 2-dimensional…as if holiness and sexuality couldn’t possibly reside in the same woman?



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Dana Ames

posted June 13, 2006 at 2:43 pm


Jennifer,
just because a person is celibate does not mean s/he has no sexuality, only that it is not expressed in intercourse.
One of the things this discussion exposes is the misconceptions people have about sexuality and its meaning, and I believe all sectors of the church have a mixed record WRT our ability to speak meaningfully and theologically about it.
Dana



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Jennifer

posted June 13, 2006 at 3:05 pm


Dana,
I fully agree with you that even celibate people have sexuality. What I have a hard time understanding is why there would be something about being the mother of Jesus that would make normal marital expression of that sexuality unappealing to Mary. Why should anything about that very holy task make her want to supress the married expression of her sexuality?



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John Frye

posted June 13, 2006 at 3:43 pm


Dana,
Somewhere someone pointed out that part of the reasoning for Mary’s perpetual virginity had to do with JOSEPH’s reluctance to want to touch the one who bore the very Son of God. It wasn’t sex being unappealing to Mary or Mary’s suppression of her sexuality.



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John Frye

posted June 13, 2006 at 3:45 pm


OOPS! The comment above should have addressed JENNIFER.
Sorry, Dana.



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Jennifer

posted June 13, 2006 at 3:49 pm


John,
I really do appreciate the desire to treat Mary with respect and honor. Her position and role are special.
But I’m still having trouble understanding why Mary can’t be both the mother of Jesus and enjoy a full expression and enjoyment of sexuality in marriage. Would that make her impure in some way? Would being Jesus’ mother take away her God-given interest in sex?



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Jennifer

posted June 13, 2006 at 3:52 pm


John,
I suppose the same questions apply to Joseph…why should Mary’s task make her any less sexually appealing to him? She is called to an amazing ministry, but why would that make her undesirable to her husband?



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Rob Van Engen

posted June 13, 2006 at 4:28 pm


Let me propose a view from Torah living. As Scot has indicated both Mary and Joseph were obedient to the Torah and lived accordingly (The Jesus Creed). Then the covenant given to Abraham (and passed from generation to generation) would have been understood and followed completely. Part of that covenant was to “be fruitful and multiply” which obviously meant to procreate. Understood in that reproducing is that sexual relations would take place. So can a conclusion be drawn that Mary and Joseph would or would not have continued to live out this covenant in their married life? I think they would have.



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Scot McKnight

posted June 13, 2006 at 4:49 pm


OK, lots of comments today, and I’ve been out to lunch with a local pastor (HT: John Glover) and been reading and writing most of the day.
First, to Phil: there was some diversity early. That can’t be denied. There is not much evidence but there is diversity there.
Second, to more than one: Provevang James overall is a myth-making or story-telling, even if quite pious at times; most would assent to that. However, at the logical level, that does not mean “everything it says” is nonsense. We can’t operate that with our wits about us if we want to be fair to those texts.
Third, Chad, you are right: though most in the Epiphanian tradition think Mary was perp virginal, that view can be used to say that the children were step-siblings and have nothing to do with post-birth of Jesus sexual relations.
Fourth, Kent, on its importance: it has to do with (1) purity of Mary in a special vocation, not necessarily an anti-sex direction; (2) Joseph’s utter reverence for Jesus and therefore his mother; (3) the role of Mary in God’s plan of redemption.
Fifth, Rick, on motive: yes, there are always motives. We want to do our best to get to the texts to see what we can make of them, regardless of what we want them to say.
Sixth, Van, good thoughts. Reconciliing ones too.
Seventh, Jennifer, this is a point that keeps coming up for me and for others: we have to be careful to give the texts and early Christians a break. By claiming PV they were not claiming sex was bad, though I’m sure some had less than good ideas about the body and about sex. The theology itself, however, of PV can well come from an otherwise wholesome affirmation of marriage and sexuality. There are vocations, say Jeremiah’s and even some married couples in 1 Cor 7 (for a time), to refrain for their piety and vocation.
Eighth, Rob, I have to disagree here. In general the Law is for all, but sometimes God calls to special vocations with special exceptions: Jeremiah was not disobedient. Nor were other “eunuchs.” So, a general law in the Bible might have extraordinary circumstances.



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Georges Boujakly

posted June 13, 2006 at 5:10 pm


All,
This is the Eastern Orthodox perspective: http://www.goarch.org/en/ourfaith/biblical/
When Scot addresses the Greek of the passages concerned, perhaps some of the issues will become more focused.



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RJS

posted June 13, 2006 at 5:21 pm


The Protoevangelium of James clearly has an agenda – which appears to me to affirm the virginity and holiness of Mary. Thus it attests to the fact that this was an important issue at the time that the document was written – possibly as early as the second century, possibly later.
Beyond that, it doesn’t prove anything. It goes to great length to demonstrate in the story that Mary was still physically a virgin (i.e. “intact”) after the birth of Jesus (a miraculous c-section). The whole text seems to be a move from a human Mary and Jesus toward something else.



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Jennifer

posted June 13, 2006 at 5:23 pm


Scot,
Point taken about giving the early Christians a break. :-)
I’m still confused when you say, “The theology itself, however, of PV can well come from an otherwise wholesome affirmation of marriage and sexuality”. What is it in Mary/Joseph’s enjoyent of a sexual relationship that would be incompatable with her being the mother of Jesus – and so much so that it is a positive thing to avoid it?



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Scot McKnight

posted June 13, 2006 at 5:49 pm


Jennifer,
It would not spring from an unwholesome view of sex but from a conviction on the part of Joseph (this is argued by no less than Jerome) that she was too holy for him. Something on that.
That is how I think the PV view would see this.



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Jennifer

posted June 13, 2006 at 7:00 pm


I am open to the possibility that Joseph believed she was too holy for him and she remained a perpetual virgin. I suppose it’s a different question to ask if this was an error on Joseph’s part. I’m not sure human holiness should be negatively correlated with human sexuality since they are compatible. Sex in marriage is a holy thing.
Thanks for the conversation – I appreciate it and am learning much.



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Scot McKnight

posted June 13, 2006 at 7:02 pm


Jennifer,
And so can no sex be a holy thing, if that is one’s calling. The difficulty, and I see in Dwight Longenecker (no rel. to either Richard or Bruce) just that problem: he sees no sex as a higher state of purity.
Some callings are of that sort. That, I think, is the best view of what is being argued for in PV.



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Aimee

posted June 13, 2006 at 8:04 pm


Georges, thanks for the Eastern Orthodox view. It is very close to the Roman Catholic view.
I had been going to say something about Mary being considered the spouse of the Holy Spirit as a reason why Joseph never touched her, but I couldn’t explain it adequately. Then I found this link, written by a Cistercian hermit monk and Catholic convert from Judaism: http://www.cin.org/users/james/files/talmud.htm.
He explains that because of strict Jewish laws regarding adultery, once Joseph realized Mary was of child by the Holy Spirit, it meant he could not touch her without committing adultery, because Mary belonged to the Holy Spirit. He explains:
“His decision was made when an angel appeared to him in a dream, saying: “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as 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” (Mt. 1:20-21). The angel does not use the phrase for marital union: “go in unto” (as in Gn 30:3, 4, 16) or “come together” (Mt 1:18) but merely a word meaning leading her into the house as a wife (paralambano gunaika) but not cohabiting with her.
“For when the angel revealed to him that Mary was truly the spouse of the Holy Spirit, Joseph could take Mary, his betrothed, into his house as a wife, but he could never have intercourse with her because according to the Law she was forbidden to him for all time.”
He goes into it in much more depth. It’s an interesting read. And it means the issue is not that sex is bad or that virginity is better, but that adultery is bad.
Keep all this in the context that, in the Catholic view, celibacy, continence, and virginity are very healthy, positive vocations, just like marriage is. The key is to discern your vocation and live it fully as a way of uniting yourself more closely with God, Who is our destiny. Mary had the unique vocation of bringing Christ into the world; Joseph had the unique vocation of protecting them both; both in the context of celibate dedication to God. What a blessing!
By the way, in case we forget, the New Testament also has a very positive view of virginity and celibacy, because it allows one to be undividedly dedicated to God. Which Mary and Joseph most assuredly were.



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saint

posted June 13, 2006 at 9:13 pm


Fourth, Kent, on its importance: it has to do with (1) purity of Mary in a special vocation, not necessarily an anti-sex direction; (2) Joseph’s utter reverence for Jesus and therefore his mother; (3) the role of Mary in God’s plan of redemption.
Having said that, John the Baptist had a special calling known to his parents…. Isn’t this therefore a bit anachronistic? Can we really assume that both Joseph and Mary knew that Jesus was the Christ, not just a man who would be bring in the kingdom in socio-political terms but God himself come in the flesh…didn’t Jesus’ response to Mary at Cana suggest that she couldn’t even presume on motherly ties but like all of us approach him by faith (meaning…she hadn’t got it at that point). It seems to me that it wasn’t until Pentecost that anyone “really really got it.”
Like I said, I’m not fussed, just thinking aloud.



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Scot McKnight

posted June 13, 2006 at 9:19 pm


Saint,
Not sure what JB has to do with it or what connection you are making. That they weren’t celibate? Well, that one’s easy: he wasn’t the Son of God.
And I do think we can assume that Mary and Joseph knew alot: that is what Luke 1-2 and Matthew 1 tell us. What they tell us is actually quite remarkable. I’m not sure they knew of his deity. That’s a tough one; virginal conception sure does make him special, holy, etc..
We’ll get at some time on this blog to John 2 and the other texts like it.
By the Cross Mary’s a follower, that’s for sure.



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saint

posted June 14, 2006 at 1:05 am


Sorry Scott I should have been clearer, and thanks for the replies so far.
Yes I agree Joseph and Mary knew a lot (well we are not talking every day occurrences, so you’d hardly forget) And she obviously pondered stuff that happened from what Luke tells us. And while I would say Mary had a *unique* role in redemption history – she was not just the mother of a King or a special deliverer but THE king of kings who was also God incarnate – I can’t say they would have understood that. After Pentecost, definitely. Before…not sure.
However just as the announcement and circumstances of John the Baptist’s birth point to HIS special role in redemptive history (I mean his parents certainly knew something was up as did others), so does the annunciation etc of Christ’s birth point to CHRIST’s special – if also utterly unique and supreme – role. But here the announcement and circumstances are secret. Which – if I think of the grand narrative in the OT – is the way God moves when He is about to do something new, move to the next phase as it were. Would Joseph and Mary have understood that, and would that have prompted a perpetual state of “purity” (virginity)?
(And also, while I hold to the virgin birth, I think the virgin birth was clearly foretold in say Is 7:14 even if Matthew and early Christians read that back into it; what I think is evident is that the virgin birth of Christ underscores the uniqueness and significance of Christ).
Yes, by the cross Mary was a follower as were the other women and John who were also there. But “follower” in what sense… And from the vignettes presented to us in the Gospels, Mary (and Joseph) were parents too; you would want to be with your son in his final hours; if anything you’d expect Mary to be there (and I think some use Joseph’s absence here to support the case that perhaps he had died during Jesus’s earthly life).
I am left with the picture that at the crucifixion they were all despondent, confused.
I am also look at the opening section of Acts where James and John are still asking about the kingdom, and Christ is still teaching them. You’d think Mary after the resurrection would be running around explaining?
It’s really Peter’s “sermon” at Pentecost that really rams it home. And Mary was there. And yet we also have no mention of others turning to her saying, hey why didn’t you tell us or Luke saying Mary smiled knowingly (OK now I am possibly being a bit fanciful).
I can accept Mary and Joseph would have definitely understood God was doing something special (duh!). Now of course Mary knew virgins having babies was not an every day occurrence. Maybe all I can say would seem plausible is that Mary and Joseph knew she was meant to stay a virgin until the baby was born. And perhaps Joseph and Mary didn’t need to understand who Jesus was and how the virgin birth figured in it for Mary to remain a virgin after Christ’s birth.
But still, it seems a bit odd and if it were important why didn’t the evangelists write something like Mary remains a virgin to this day.
If this has something to do with purity…Hmm am now thinking is there some precedent for “purity” in say, the Nazrite vow of Samson’s mother?
I am happy to say we don’t know, and maybe it’s not necessary for us to know in order to have saving faith in Christ. But I’m all ears.
(Also apologies – I am writing this in between distractions so hope it made sense)



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Timothy

posted June 14, 2006 at 6:00 am


Greetings!
Its interesting to see the debate about a Catholic teaching. I had this debate with some Sola Scriptura fans a few months back. You can read our debate at:
http://www.blogger.com/comment.g?blogID=15184206&postID=114356926786692113&isPopup=true
First, the underlying reason for the doctrine has to do with the divine nature of Jesus, which I noted with interest that no one has mentioned. Denial of PV pulls the rug out from under not Catholicism, but Christianity. The Protestant arguement for siblings is a major line of attack for Islam (and other heresies in the early NT church.) If Jesus had siblings and they were merely human, why is Jesus also not merely human and just a great prophet? Why is Christianity not a great hoax and Muhammed right?
Second, its interesting to note that for all the sex several folks have going on between Mary and Joseph that the alleged siblings don’t appear much in the scripture.
Where are the siblings when Jesus was at the temple? Would not his brothers and sisters also look for him?
Where are the siblings at the Wedding in Canna? Would Jewish tradition not dictate that the siblings, now older teens or twenty-somethings also be at the wedding?
Why is Mary alone at Calvary and being commended to John? Jewish law would not allow that act if there were siblings.
Why does a stranger provide a tomb for our savior? Would not the brothers have made the funeral arrangements? Would not the sisters have washed and prepared Jesus body?
Why are strangers checking on the tomb at Easter? Would not a brother or sister have performed this task for their mother?
So, bottom line:
The teaching of PV is either true or it is false.
The scripture is inerrant, however our personal interpretations are not inerrant nor infallible.
Which interpretation of scripture allows for the use of “brothers and sisters” in one passage, but also allows for the lack of siblings at all the above mentioned events and defends the divinity of Christ. That is probably the true interpretation.
God’s Peace be with you during your discernment…
– Timothy



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Scot McKnight

posted June 14, 2006 at 7:06 am


Timothy,
Thanks for this. Clarify how you think PV explains the deity of Christ. My understanding is that the virginal conception, in that Jesus was born “of” her and not just “through” her, insured his humanity. But, I can’t see how Christ’s deity is related to her PV.
You have good questions, especially the one about the whereabouts of brothers at the cross, and perhaps even more with why Jesus commits Mary to John. But, what a Protestant is going to ask you is this: Did the brothers of Jesus at this time believe in Jesus?



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Dennis Martin

posted June 14, 2006 at 9:17 am


Scot and Saint: Did Mary (and Joseph) know of Jesus’ divinity, you ask, tending toward denial that they did or serious doubts. Since I made this a key point in my reply to Scot on PV thread 1 just a few minutes ago, I should address it here. If an angel appears to a woman and tells her she is to become pregnant with the Jeshua who would save her and His people Israel and she says, how can this happen since I know not a man and the angel replies, the Spirit will come upon you and you will conceive, why would she not have understood this (women being intuitive and deep on such matters, unlike us clueless men) as an espousal by God’s Spirit? And if she has been espoused by God, would that not give her an insight into the Plan that no one, not even his disciples, would have had during his ministry? When he claimed to forgive sins, those who heard him instantly recognized the divinity claim.
When God through an angel tells a woman He is going to father her child and she (and she alone, not even Joseph) knew for sure that no man had ever “touched” her and thus the new life she felt stirring in her own body weeks later was the mysterious product of God himself
if she knew that, then how could not not, inchoately to be sure, have known that what came forth from her womb was in some sense divine in a way that no mere prophet had ever been divine?
This is what I mean by Mary being the first to truly believe in the Redemption of Israel by Incarnation. Even Joseph had to depend on trusting her word. The message from the angel he was given was not as explicit but even more importantly, Mary knew what he could not know 100 percent for sure: that she had not had intercourse with a man. He knew he had not had intercourse with her, but as to exactly what happened to make her pregnant, he had to trust the angel (that it was God’s doing) and Mary (that God’s doing involved making her pregnant without employing another man to do it). There’s no way he could prove the latter 100 percent but trusting the angel and trusting his wife, he could believe it and thus also have some inchoate sense of the divinity involved in the Plan.
This also makes sense of the mysterious, obviously important to the author of Luke, repeated comments about Mary pondering things in her heart. She knew what no one else knew existentially and that knowledge was stupendous. Others had his signs and wonders, but prophets can do some of those. They had his “speaking with authority” and his claim to forgive sins and eventually his resurrection. Joseph gets more insightg, perhaps, after Jesus goes “about his Father’s business” in the Temple and surely he and Mary talked about that–and that was something that presumably others did not know, at least right away.
But Mary had a knowledge of the entire Plan that no one else had.
Thus I think, while there’s no smoking gun prooftext, careful, pondering exegesis does at least point to the fact that she did know that her Son was God Incarnate–at least in some inchoate way.
And this only underscores a larger point. She is his Mother. Mothers know their children in ways even fathers do not. The Church honors her so much because of the unique and awesome relationship between a mother and her child. Add to that the circumstances of this Mother’s conceiving, though lacking smocking gun explicit text statement, an awful lot follows theologically consistently.
It’s this theological work that the Church did early on. It’s not present, theologically thematized, in the NT itself. It’s present implicitly in Lk and John and (I would say) Rev. 12 and elsewhere. But that is why I can never be a sola scriptura nuda person. (And, in fact, those who claim to be sola scriptura nuda do not operate that way but constantly read interpretations arising from church history, the various schisms and debates, into their exegesis.) You rightly point to the amazing 2nd century consensus on various Marian points, some of it from the Protoevangelium of James, which I think is actually probably even earlier, some from Epiphanius and other very early Church Fathers. This strong early consensus points to knowledge about Mary and to theological reflection on the stupendous significance of Mothering the Christ that was part of the Church’s own pondering process post-Paul but already hinted at in the Lukan and Johannine material.
In short, from an exegeticial standpoint, what we have going on here is a glimpse of the Church’s very early subapostolic theological work. Paul is also doing theolgical work–so are the epistles of Peter, James, Jude, John and Revelation. All of these are theological expositions (Holy Spirit inspired and guaranteed, as attested by the Church meeting in councils later) of the facts of revelation: the life and deeds and unwritten by Jesus teachings of Jesus. The theologizing starts already with Paul and continues with the other NT writings–the Gospels (which I believe are very early, virtually contemporary with Paul though the Greek dress they come to us in is later, though not a lot later–Robinson’s pre-70 datings make sense to me). What we get in this next stage of theologizing about just what it means to have had a woman as the first believer because the Plan required miraculous, divinely-fathered conception and birth from a woman–that theological reflection is just beginning in the later NT writings and is reflected in the very earliest sub-apostolic writings. It is well developed by the time of Justin and Irenaeus.
This is why it is fallacious to cut everything off with the NT, to follow a sola scriptura that fails to take account of the fact that the kerygma was first given orally and authoritatively by the Christ-selected Apostles and only after that written down. The NT was embedded in this pre-NT-writing kergyma and post-NT writing theologizing. It has to be seen that way or it will be misinterpreted.
You know all this already, Scot. I write for Saint and for others who share his/her assumptions, not to hector you, Scot, because I know you know it already. But it does help to explain the remarkable consensus already in the 2nd century on Marian matters and I write it additionally for the sake of those following this thread who wish to dismiss nearly all Marian veneration as post-NT “traditions of men.” It’s just not that simple.
And this leads



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Scot McKnight

posted June 14, 2006 at 10:02 am


Dennis,
Good stuff here, though I’m not sure the logic from “child from God” to “God Incarnate” is as inexorable. I’m not sure I deny your point either. But, as a NT person, we don’t move that quickly. As you know, the notion of incarnation was pushed back by Jimmy Dunn to the latest NT books (John), while others have said it was earlier.
More of us need to give more attention to the 2d Century, not as a way of undercutting the primacy of Scripture but to come into contact with the earliest theological exegesis.



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saint

posted June 14, 2006 at 11:05 am


Thanks Dennis. Nicely explained.
“Thus I think, while there’s no smoking gun prooftext, careful, pondering exegesis does at least point to the fact that she did know that her Son was God Incarnate–at least in some inchoate way.”
I can accept that. How then does one theologize to perpetual virginity? And while I can understand Catholic/Orthodox veneration of Mary, I can’t see how her perpetual virginity…and from there its “necessity”
(I notice it is not in the creeds we recite each week at church…Apostolic/Nicene/Athanasian)
BTW I am not Scriptura nuda. I have Catholics, Eastern Orthodox and Protestants in my family…as well as atheists, JWs etc. Which is why I tend to just call her Mary mother of Jesus Christ as she is called in the NT, to avoid the Theotokos/Mother of God dichotomies at family barbies ;-)



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Georges Boujakly

posted June 14, 2006 at 11:49 pm


Saint,
Luke says that Elizabeth calls her the “mother of my Lord.”
(Luke 1:43).



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Timothy

posted June 15, 2006 at 6:55 am


“Clarify how you think PV explains the deity of Christ.”
No, thanks. But, if you seriously desire more understanding on PV, you might join in the discussions at the Journey Home Forum, where Protestant ministers who are converting to Catholicism discuss those same theological problems. Here’s a sample:
“I would also like to add that I also see Mary’s perpetual virginity as necessary, because I, like the Church, regard Mary as the gate that the Messiah passed through, the one through which NO other man would pass through, the one that would forever more remain shut. It could be asserted that if Mary was not perpetually a virgin, then Jesus was not this Messiah predicted by the Old Testament. I believe that her perpetual virginity has a Christological purpose.”
– by Rick Okarski, Jr. in a discussion of perpetual virginity at:
http://209.239.45.222/dcforum/DCForumID1/74.html
“what a Protestant is going to ask you is this: Did the brothers of Jesus at this time believe in Jesus? ”
Brothers? What brothers?
Pax vobiscum…



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Scot McKnight

posted June 15, 2006 at 6:59 am


Timothy,
You are now starting to get smart-alecky. You are the one who connected deity and virginity. I asked.
On “brothers” of Jesus … that is the language, after all, of the Bible. Blood-brothers or not, the question is fair.
The comment from Okarski is a non sequitor.



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Timothy

posted June 15, 2006 at 7:23 pm


Not smart-alecky. I just really have no desire to probe the theology of PV and don’t have any great insights for you. I just happened to know from reading the early church fathers that PV is essential in defense of Christianity. Someone didn’t understand why the doctrine existed and I passed along my little bit of knowledge.
I provided a theological forum where you could discuss PV with men smarter and better educated than I and probably get a better answer. That seemed the fair, charitable thing to do.
I fail to see how the quote is absurd or has no relation to this thread as it is directly related and germaine to the discussion at hand. It also is a sample of another PV discussion that has taken place and which may add to your understanding.
Also, if you follow through on the quote and see my earlier link, you’ll find the OT texts which are typologies of PV, further proof of the doctrine of PV. (Almost every NT doctrine has an OT counterpart, i.e., baptism – Noah, eucharist – passover. The Bereans didn’t use the NT, they used the OT to prove Christian doctrines, as we all should learn to do.)
To date, the Catholic doctrine of PV is the only interpretation that satisfies all the relevant passages from the Bible. It has stood for 2,000 years of scrutiny and not been found wanting by either Catholics or the Reformers. That’s good enough for me.
“On “brothers” of Jesus … that is the language, after all, of the Bible. Blood-brothers or not, the question is fair.”
No, I don’t believe it is a fair question as it begs the question, making it a circular question or a tautology.
However, as brothers often means kinfolk in Biblical usage, then yes, at least one kinfolk did believe in Jesus. His cousin John, the Baptist. Cases could also be made for John the Baptist’s mother as well.
Pax vobiscum…



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