Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The Virgin Mary -- Always Virgin

Every now and then, when I'm going about my duties as a Catholic seminarian, someone will accost me and demand to know why Catholics say the Virgin Mary never had sex.  I like to respond by calmly explaining that is what the word "virgin" means.

There are a few times in the New Testament where they speak of Jesus' "brothers", that being the generic Greek word for "relatives".  Ancient Greek is less specific about relatives than English; Latin, on the other hand, is more specific about relatives than English. But by and large, the people who are confused about the topic of Mary's virginity are not Scripture scholars, so they don't know about these passages.

No, the reason why people seem to have trouble with accepting Mary's virginity seems to be a cultural thing, as our society likes to promote sex as the highest value.  To promote virginity, as the church has always done, is counter-cultural to these twisted modern-day values, but we must remember that as Catholics, we are called to preach the Gospel in and out of season.

The Blessed Virgin was a virgin, before, during and after the birth of Jesus Christ, and her virginal pregnancy is clearly represented in the Bible as the miraculous work of God the Holy Spirit.  Some may be inclined to doubt this, as St. Joseph once did, but to deny the virginity of Mary is contrary to what has been divinely revealed, taught and believed by Christians in all places at all times.  Therefore, let us not doubt or alter the Scriptures to suit our own tastes, but instead let us pray that God the Spirit will continue to work within us, granting us the wisdom, understanding and humility necessary to accept this teaching.

Mary, Seat of Wisdom, pray for us.

23 comments:

Sammy said...

Wait...I don't get what you are saying. Are you saying that even after Jesus was born, Mary remained a Virgin the rest of her life? If that is what you are trying to say, then I have to disagree. It even says in the Bible that she was not always a virgin. "...But he had no union with her until she gave birth to a son, and he gave him the name Jesus." (Matthew 1:25)But if you are just saying that she was a virgin when she became pregnant with Jesus, then I do agree with you. ~Samantha

Violet said...

Maybe by Union, they mean marriage. Because it says in the Nativity story that inn keepers did not want her to give birth in their inn because she was young and unwed, so it was a disgrace. It also says she was not married when Gabriel came to announce her Holy Conception.

Michael Gray said...

I am calling that out as a bad translation of "gignosko" and "heos" ("know" and "before", respectively).

Sammy said...

That is true, that Union might mean Marrage, but here is Matthew 1:18-25.

This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit. Because 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. But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, "Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins." All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet:"The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel"--which means, "God with us." When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. But he had no union with her until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.

See, it says that he took Mary home as his wife before it says that he had no union with her until she gave birth to a son. Which means that she was probably already married before Jesus was born.

Rachael said...

I have to say that your posts regarding your faith are always interesting. I am a 21 year old Christian and a lot of the scriptures in the bible are just so confusing.

I've become sort of disconnected from it and haven't read it in some time. I really want to learn and become a practicing Christian again but a lot of the churches I've attended make me feel... I don't know. Maybe I should start with buying a bible that's written in simple English. The originals are really hard to read.

Thanks, Arglefumph.

Anonymous said...

Violet said:

"...it says in the Nativity story that inn keepers did not want her to give birth in their inn because she was young and unwed, so it was a disgrace."

I've never read that in the Bible; all translations read along the lines of "...because there was no room for them in the inn."(Luke 2:7) Which would make sense -- there were many who had traveled to Bethlehem at that time, because "Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world....And everyone went to his own town to register."(Luke 2:1-3)

But, it is true that she was not married when Gabriel told her she would conceive.

Michael, I'm not looking to get into an arguement, but the concept of the perpetual virginity of Mary isn't Biblical. I WHOLEHEARTEDLY agree that Mary was a virgin before the birth of Jesus, but to say that she NEVER had sex is neither plainly said nor even implied in Scripture. Here's a link to a Bible answers page which explains the issue well:

http://www.gotquestions.org/perpetual-virginity-Mary.html

I just hope that you'll take the time to read it. If you don't, that's okay.

Rachael: You say you find the Scripture confusing and hard to read. I totally understand; I used to feel the same way. Buying a modern English translation is a good idea, I use an NIV study Bible and it has been of great help to my understanding of the Word.
You say you really want to learn and be an active Christian --that's wonderful! "...if you seek Him, He will be found by you."
(2 Chronicles 15:2) When you sincerely seek God, He will bless you. I'll pray for you, and don't forget to talk to Him often. :)

--J.F.

Diana said...

The Virgin Mary and Joseph had to go in the stable because 'there was no room for them at the inn' or that's what it' says in every Bible I read. As for the union, I think that means marriage. I believe that Mary was a virgin her whole life, but that is just a 15 year old talking so...people probabaly have many different views. Will we ever find out which one is right? Not until we get to heaven, and we probably won't care then anyway. That's my take on the situation at least!
~Diana

S and D Hobbit said...

Hi, I saw this post and thought I'd like to get in on the discussion!

I'm a sixteen yearold Christian and I haven't studied the Bible enough to feel as if I know the true answer regarding Mary, (how many of us really do?) but I would have to say that I fall more on the side that after the birth of Christ she most likely had other children with Joseph.

I liked your point that people are wary of your conclusion because of our society's messed up focus.

That, is not my reason for disagreeing, but it's simply not what I was specifically raised to believe about Mary.

I hope you respond to some of our responses! :)

-Hannah

Sparksbet said...

I strongly disagree that "all Christians at all times" believe that Mary was a virgin after Jesus was born. To my knowledge, only the modern Catholic church believes this. Jesus' brother, James, wrote a book of the new testament, and it's pretty well documented that he is Jesus' real brother. I'm fine if you personally don't believe that, as it's far from a core Christian belief, but don't claim that all Christians have always believed your beliefs, because pretty much all protestants to my knowledge don't believe that.

Whoever that Anonymous was, I totally agree. I didn't read the link, but what you have in the comment sounds A-OK. You should've left your name or something....

The Green Platypus said...

Sharksbet, could you please show me where it's pretty well documented that James was Jesus' real brother?
Also, even though it was only modernly defined as dogma, Catholics have believed it for a very long time.

Also guys, please keep in mind that Catholics are not sola scriptura, we never have been.

The Green Platypus said...

also, a good answer to the link that "anonymous" posted is at
http://www.catholic.com/library/Brethren_of_the_Lord.asp

Anonymous said...

I know that this has nothing to do with Virgin Mary, but I've just found out that Herinteractive posted the screenshots for the Captive Curse, if any one's interested to see them.

Anonymous said...

If we're discussing virginity in the sense that Mary stayed pure after the birth of Jesus, then I suppose that makes sense. But Mary absolutely had other children in addition to Jesus, presumably through natural conception. In Roman historical documents they commonly list Jesus's brothers and sisters who traveled with him preaching. Many of them went on to assist Mary Magdalene and Peter in forming the church after Jesus died. Many of these siblings wrote religious texts which were voted out of our current version of the Bible.
I personally don't see why Mary would be any less holy if she had other children, or even if Jesus was born through natural conception (there are several rumors that Jesus's father was actually a Roman soldier, though this is likely slander). One way or another, she gave birth to the son of God and should be honored for it. The historical details are, well, just details.
~Emily
~Emily

3D###Boy said...

Thanks Anonymous, It WORKS! ;)

Sparksbet said...

Green Platypus (by the way, love your name. Please get mine right):

I never said that it was dogma. I'm just saying that it's unfair for him to say that all Chrstians have believed it for all history, because, to my knowledge, only Catholics believe that.

And could you please enlighten me on the meaning of "sola scriptura"?

Anonymous said...

The reason people have a huge issue with accepting that Mary was a virgin is because it is a biological contradiction to to be a virgin, and give birth. The fact that divine conception is even possible is a belief, not fact, so it's completely normal for people to be confused about this. The reason people have issues with this topic is not because society promotes sex at the highest value but because a large majority of people (including myself) do not believe sex is a sin, and think that it's completely normal, natural, and an expression of love. It is also our only way to pro-create, which in itself is a beautiful thing, and so I'm on the side of people who question why it's considered so sinful and evil by the church. Your blog post bothers me because it's tone assumes that you, and all Catholics are correct in your beliefs, and that everyone else who believes otherwise is wrong. Each person has their own beliefs, and to be unable to understand the perceptions and thinking of others is very narrow minded indeed. :( Someone in your line of work should above all, be able to accept and understand others.

Anonymous said...

@Anonymous above me,

I don't want to get into a big religion fight, but as a Catholic, I'd like to point out something in your reasoning. The Church does not believe that sex is evil and a sin. Sex is not a sin if it is open to creating new life and is confined between a MARRIED couple. Now, say you are using sex because you are lusting after someone, or you use blocking methods. This is not open to new life, and I don't believe this is good behavior. This is what the Catholic Church teaches, and this is what I wholeheartedly believe in.

Anonymous said...

yes well that is my point about this, the church believes sex is a sin, as you have just said when it is NOT confined to marriage. This I do not believe in, and that is perfectly fine as a Catholic to have your view on this, but I am simply pointing out that not all people are Catholics, and do not agree with this concept. Im not debating the morality of the situation, just that not everyone has the same view on it, and those who have opposite views should be accepted for thinking otherwise :)

The Green Platypus said...

Sparksbet(I apologize for getting your name wrong)
You are definitely correct when you say that it is a view that not all Christians hold. It is believed by Catholics, Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, and some other churches and people believe it also. It was also a pretty common belief for early protestants, even Luther and Calvin.

I should not have said it was dogma, I got it confused with something else, it is a doctrine.

Sola Scriptura is latin for "by scripture alone" Neither the Catholics, Orthodox, and some Anglicans subscribe to this idea. We have always believed in both Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition. In fact, it is through Sacred Tradition that we which books were inspired by God and therefore belong in the Bible and which don't.
Also, you mentioned that it was pretty well documented that Jesus had a "real brother." Can you direct me to where I may do some reading on that?

Justice said...

Sparksbet:

I'm "Anonymous". Sorry about not putting a name; I just put my initials. And I also agree with what you said. The virginity of Mary BEFORE the birth of Christ IS something all Christians believe, but after that? The concept of her always being a virgin is, from what I can see, a Catholic teaching.

The Green Platypus:

I read the page you linked to...that is a fairly convincing arguement. But what I'm seeing is that this whole thing hinges on a difference in interpretation of the word "brother". The explanation presented by Catholics seems to be grasping at Scriptural straws in trying to support the "always a virgin" concept. I have one more link to offer:

http://www.compassdistributors.ca/topics/cousin.htm

I don't seek to offend anyone, I only hope to clear up some questions and offer food for thought, whether or not anyone actually agrees with the Christian view.

One more thing, TGP...I'm aware that Catholics have never been Sola Scriptura...why is that?? It doesn't make much sense as to why some find it necessary to follow other traditions and teachings besides those from the Word of God. The Lord is the highest authority, correct? So why should one need to add to what He has given us? “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16). The unbiblical traditions of Roman Catholics confound me. While the Bible nowhere states that it is the ONLY authoritative guide for faith and practice, it doesn't allow for religious traditions that contradict its teachings.
I have found the Bible to be all that is needed for a Christian to learn about and live their faith.

--J.F.

The Green Platypus said...

J.F.-
That requires a somewhat lengthy explanation and I feel the need to get my thoughts in order to express them clearly. I will try to post something on my blog later this week, but it will be too long for a comment on a blog.
Please know that Sacred Traditions are different from small-t "traditions." Sacred Tradition is given to us by God and we have believed in it for nearly 2000 years. When understood correctly, it will in no way contradict Sacred Scripture, they complement each other. Regular traditions are not divinely inspired, some are good and some are bad.

Justice said...

The Green Platypus:

Well, as you might guess, I'm not convinced that the Catholic Sacred Tradition doesn't contradict Scripture, since I have observed examples of this very thing, but I am open to hearing your explanation of the matter. I try to not reject anything blindly, but to learn about it and consult the Bible.

These theology discussions can be pretty exhausting. But it's good to delve into difficult topics like religion/faith; I'm glad we can talk about stuff like this without getting into a heated arguement. :)

--J.F.

Cecila said...

Hello,
My school is deciteded to St. Montfort, The slave of Jesus through Mary. Becase of this I do know a little on the topic. Let me begen by saying that there was a hersay ( a false belif ) that said that Mary wasn't a virgin. I forgot which Saint proved it wrong but in the end it was proven wrong. Also lering greek is a big part of my school, so they did explain the use of the word brother in that context. Also, reamber the time period of that time. Mary would have been a girl of fifteen or so when the angle appered to her. It sould be palin that she was a virgin at that point. After Jesus's birth however, it does become harder to prove. I say {this is my opion} thay Joessh whould not whant to have sex with her after she had the son of God in her.
Love,
Cecilia