Thursday, December 15, 2011

Biblical proof that Mary (and Joseph) made a vow of virginity

4th Sunday of Advent, Luke 1:26-38
But Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I have no relations with a man?”
The Gospel text recounting the Annunciation of the angel Gabriel to the Blessed Virgin Mary contains the biblical evidence and proof that she had made a vow of virginity prior to her conception of the Christ Child. Further, as we consider the historical circumstances of her betrothal to Joseph, it will become quite clear that he also had vowed perpetual continence as the spouse of our Lady.
Rather than discussing the universal and emphatic teachings of the Fathers of the Church – all of whom assert that Mary had made a vow of virginity – because such texts will often be ignored by Protestants (to their eternal ruin), we will look simply at the Gospel text itself and shall assert only those things which are affirmed also by the Evangelist.

The account of the Annunciation, the words of Mary
After the archangel Gabriel tells our Lady that she is to be the Mother of the Messiah, she responds with a simple question: How can this be? We must not think that Mary doubted the words of the angel or the plan of God – far be it from us to impute sin to our Mother! Rather, it is clear (also from the context, since the angel does not rebuke Mary as he had rebuked Zechariah for his doubt) that the Virgin believes that God’s word will be fulfilled, but simply does not understand how this will take place – hence, she asks How can this be?
And what is it that confuses Mary? She says How can this be? Since I have no relations with a man. Mary does not doubt that she will indeed conceive and bear a son, but what she does not understand is the mode of conception. We will consider why she was confused in a moment – first, let us look at the words of the Gospel.
The New American Bible offers a loose translation of this verse (Luke 1:34) – Since I have no relations with a man. The more literal translation is: Since I do not know man. The original Greek: ἐπεὶ ἄνδρα οὐ γινώσκω;
Of course, the phrase “do not know man” refers to sexual relations, as is common throughout the Bible. What I want to point out is that Mary does not say, “Since I have not yet known a man” or “Since I have never known man” – i.e. she does not speak in the past tense. Rather, our Lady uses the present indicative: Since I do not know man. She does not merely affirm that she has been a virgin, but implies that in the moment she intends to remain a virgin.
This is what confused our Lady: That she was a virgin, and yet the angel said she would conceive and give birth to a son.
Proof of the vow of virginity
Now, our Lady was already betrothed to St. Joseph (cf. Luke 1:27) – she had not yet come into his home, but she was soon to do so (cf. Matthew 1:18,24). If the Blessed Virgin Mary had intended to have sexual relations with Joseph – according to the ordinary mode of married life – how can we think that she would have been confused by the words of the angel?
Mary did not say simply: “How can I bear a son? Since I have not yet known a man but intend to soon enter into relations with Joseph.” This would not even make any sense! For she would have presumed then that the child would be the son of Joseph.
The only way we can account for Mary’s confusion, and also for her use of the present (rather than past) tense verb I do not know man, is if we admit that she had no intention of entering into sexual relations with Joseph or with any other man.
Mary could only ask this question of the angel, if she had some good reason for thinking that the child would not be the son of Joseph. And the only good reason she could have to think that Jesus would not be the biological son of Joseph is if she had no intention of ever giving up her virginity to Joseph. Hence, it is clear, that Mary must have made a vow of virginity to God.
Joseph’s betrothal to our Lady
Now, given that we must conclude that our Lady had no intention of entering into sexual relations with Joseph to whom she was betrothed and whom she would soon marry, how can we fail to believe that Joseph must have made the vow of continence together with Mary?
Could we possibly presume that our Lady would enter into a marriage with St. Joseph without telling him that she intended to remain a virgin?! Why, even on a natural level, we know that this would never happen! Of all the things which would have to be discussed before marriage, certainly a vow of perpetual virginity would have to be at the top of the list!
But, if Mary had told Joseph of her vow of virginity (as surely she must have), then we are led to conclude that, since Joseph agreed to marry her, he too must have made a vow of perpetual continence (i.e. to refrain from all sexual relations even within marriage).
We do not say necessarily that Joseph was a virgin – for it is possible that he had been married before and had been widowed – but we are sure of this much at least: After his betrothal to the Virgin Mary, he had forsook all sexual relations. Joseph had no intention of engaging in relations with the Mother of God. Further, we know that this vow must have taken place even before the Annunciation, since our Lady would have had to discuss the matter with Joseph BEFORE the betrothal – it would be quite a surprise to spring it on him only after they were committed to marriage!
Thus, from the text of Scripture itself, it is clear that both Mary and Joseph had made a perpetual vow to abstain from all sexual relations – there can be no doubt that the Mother of God remained a virgin throughout her entire life.
Replies to objections
Here we will briefly consider only the most popular objections to Mary’s perpetual vow of virginity. The objections will be written in italics, followed by the answers in normal font.
But Jesus had “brothers and sisters”. This objection is very easy to answer, since it was common to call cousins “brothers and sisters” – indeed, there was no word specific to “cousin” in ancient Aramaic, hence the New Testament writers felt no need to differentiate between cousins and closer relatives. This same use of the term “brothers and sisters” referring rather to “cousins” is found in Genesis 13:8, 14:14-16; Leviticus 10:4; 1 Chronicles 15:5-10, 23:21-22. If Jesus really had brothers and sisters who were sons and daughters of Mary, why did he entrust his Mother to John the Beloved at his death? Would she not have been cared for by the other children? [further, it is possible that these “brothers and sisters” where children of Joseph by a previous marriage of which he was widowed]
But Matthew 1:18 says, “BEFORE Joseph and Mary came together, she was found with child of the Holy Spirit.” And it would not say BEFORE, if they did not have relations after. The response is simple: We often say things like, “I left the city BEFORE I was able to visit my friend” and we by no means imply that we visited our friend AFTER we left.
But Jesus is called the “first-born son”, which implies that there were others. Rather, the words “first-born” are a title which is applied even if there are no other children. It was of great significance in Jewish culture to be the first-born son, and this title was given even before any other children were born and was retained even if no other children were born.
But Matthew 1:24-25 says, “And [Joseph] took unto him his wife [Mary]; and he knew her not TILL she brought forth her first-born Son.” And Matthew would not have said TILL or UNTIL, if Joseph had not had relations with Mary after the birth of the Christ. This is certainly the most complicated objection and it requires wisdom to see the truth. St. Jerome explains that, in the Scriptures, the word “until” is sometimes used to designate a fixed time, but also can designate and indefinite time. Hence, Psalm 122:2 states, “Our eyes are unto the Lord our God, UNTIL he have mercy on us” – but from this we are not to suppose that we turn our eyes away from the Lord after he is merciful! Rather, our eyes are fixed on the Lord until he shows us his mercy and, after he is merciful to us, our eyes remain fixed upon him all the more! And St. Jerome concluded, “Thus the evangelist says that the Mother of God was not known by her husband until she gave birth, that we may be given to understand that still less did he know her afterwards.” (Adversus Helvid. v) And this interpretation is required by the other texts of Scripture (namely, her reply at the Annunciation) which indicate that Mary was indeed always a virgin.


yan said...

Hello Fr.,

The words of Mary are admissible of many interpretations so that the Scripture alone is not conclusive. We must hold to our doctrine because of tradition in this case.

'I do not know man' is an interesting one, and I hadn't thought about it before in the way you have explained it. Yet, if Mary and God had wanted to clear things up through the Scripture, she could have just said, 'how can this be, since I am a celibate?' or something clearly and unambiguously to that effect.

Furthermore 'I do not know man' may just be the equivalent of 'I have never been with a man.' Anyway, how does one talk about such carnal things using ordinary language in the presence of the angel of God?

Moreover I have some questions which your interpretation causes to arise in my mind. For instance, why would Mary and Joseph have consecrated themselves to virginity before marriage? Was this common in those days, and what were the reasons for doing so? Seems it would be a very odd thing to do.

Seems more likely to me that, in view of what God called Mary to be, the perpetual virginity thing was a response to their calling, not pre-planned. Just a thought, applying Occam's razor.

The other proof I find difficult to swallow is the 'till' proof. Your interpretation may be correct, but it is a strain on the ordinary way we would understand 'till' in that sentence. He knew her not 'til Christ was born, would ordinarily mean that after Christ was born, he did know her.

Furthermore, surely the comparison with the psalm is not apt. The question of whether our eyes remain on the Lord AFTER that He has mercy on us would not ordinarily be the point of the phrase; the point is rather that we wait until He has mercy on us. We know this is the correct understanding of the phrase because the first part is not in the form of a negation, e.g., our eyes DO NOT wait for the Lord, until He have mercy on us. If that were the rendering of the phrase, the conclusion would be: after that He has mercy on us, OUR EYES DO WAIT on Him. I.e. we would expect a change in the position of our eyes. In the actual phrase of the psalm, whatever happens to our eyes afterwards is not put in issue by the phrase. But the statement from the gospel is in the grammatical form of the former phrase of the psalm as I have just rendered it [the form of a negation], not the actual phrase in the psalm. Thus your interpretation is very strained.

As for your other proofs, I find your interpretations satisfying.


Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

A quick response ...
1) Mary didn't say "I have not known man in the past" ... she said "I do not know man".
And there would be no reason for confusion if she had simply not known a man yet but was intending to know Joseph ... she would have presumed that the child would be the son of Joseph.
This is the whole point of the article.

2) The discussion of the word "until" comes from St. Jerome who was fluent in Hebrew, and can certainly be trusted. Further, whether the statement is an affirmation or a negation does not change the point -- "until" does not necessarily indicate a change.

Well, if you are looking for other examples consider ... Gen 26:13, 28:3, and Joshua 10:33 [there are countless such examples] ... the event continues through the word "until" ... in fact, the event is perfected through the "until".

For the specific use of a negation with "until" consider Genesis 49:10 -- "The sceptre shall not be taken away from Juda, nor a ruler from his thigh, till he come that is to be sent, and he shall be the expectation of nations." -- shall we think that the scepter is taken away by the coming of Jesus? Of course not! Rather, Jesus coming perfects what came before the word "until".

Also, see 1 Samuel 15:35 -- "And Samuel saw Saul no more till the day of his death" -- shall we presume that Samuel began to visit Saul regularly after death? Of course not!

So too, when we read -- "And he knew her not till she brought forth her firstborn son: and he called his name JESUS." -- we must understand that Joseph did not have relations with Mary before Jesus' birth, and how much less would he dare to have relations after birth.

Again, and this is the whole point of the article, the only way that Mary's question makes sense is if she and Joseph were not planning on having relations -- which means that they had agreed to vow virginity.
And no, this was not common to the day, but was rather by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.

Hope all makes more sense now. +

Doug said...

From Doug at

Numbers, Chapter 30, details specific provisions under the Law of Moses for just these type of vows, within the context of matrimony.

The future husband had to be advised of the vow, and if he approved of it, he would also be irrevocably and permanently bound by it.

So, Numbers 30 forms the authentic, biblical foundation for Joseph and Mary's most chaste marital union.

God simply made plans for it, in advance.

Anonymous said...

I just want to share a little anecdote about the word 'until/till'' :)

One day my mother was coming out of her room in the house and she intended to close the door of the room behind her. But the pet dog was still in the room and naturally she didn't want to shut him in. So she said to the dog, "Come out till I close the door" (She's Irish, by the way, as am I)

Well, it made me think of the verse from St Matthew's Gospel! Here was a prefect example of the word 'until/till' being used in the same way as in that verse. Obviously my mother wasn't saying, "Come out just until I have closed the door and then you can go back in"! That wouldn't make any sense at all. She was saying, "Come out, and then I will close the door." Like how the Gospel simply says, "Mary and Joseph had no relations, and then she gave birth to a Son."

Charles in Ireland

Petrus Augustinus said...

"the archangel Gabriel tell our Lady" tells. "confused by the words of the angle?" angel. "that this must vow must have taken place" one must too much. :) Sorry, thought I do it.

Also: wasn't a marriage non-existent (and isn't still, according to Canon Law) until it was consumated?

David L. Gray said...

Very insightful Fr. Ryan! Thank you! Blessings and Shalom!!!

Paul Nichols said...

Very good article, Father. A further point of discussion on Mary's perpetual virginity that I've had is this - IF you believe that the Church "made this up", what would the purpose be? And, IF they "made this up", wouldn't you think that when the Canon of Scripture was put together, that they'd add more books/letters that supported their claim?

Unfortunately, Mary remains a huge stumbling block for protestants; because she represents trump card on all things protestant. Accepting the Church's teachings on her throws the entire protestant argument out the window.

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

@Petrus Augustinus,
Thanks for the indications ... all should be corrected now ... "They are not angles but angels!" :-)

Regarding the true marriage of Mary and Joseph ... consider the words of St. Thomas -- ST III, q.29, a.2 --

Here is a quote from Augustine: "All the nuptial blessings are fulfilled in the marriage of Christ's parents, offspring, faith and sacrament. The offspring we know to have been the Lord Jesus; faith, for there was no adultery: sacrament, since there was no divorce. Carnal intercourse alone there was none." (De Nup. et Concup. i)

Peace! +

Andy said...

I came to the same conclusion as you by looking at the same text, and did a similar analysis on a forum that I debate on.

An interesting thing I also learned is that, in the Jewish marriage process, Joseph had every right to have relations with Mary before the marriage "process" was finalized! There was a betrothal that happened first, and typically a year later the groom would take the bride into the home that he had built for her. But legally the couple is already married, with all of the associated privileges. Therefore Mary's statement becomes even more clear: a normal marriage arrangement (even one bearing the Messiah) would have led Mary to assume that even at that very time she would have conceived the child with her legal husband. But she still asked "How can this be? For I know not man."

I love this type of discovery, it just solidifies us even more into the truth of the faith we receive from our Church, which is truly guided by the Holy Spirit!

God Bless!

Chatto said...


further reflecting on Yan's questions, is there a case to be made for there being a serious 'language barrier' between us and the people at the time of the Gospels?

What I mean is, Yan wonders why she didn't use the word celibate. Is this a case of expecting too much from the Holy Mother as a teenaged Jewish girl, just so that we can have a clear understanding 2,000 years later? Perhaps the meaning was abundantly clear to her contemporaries.

Also, he says that the use of "until" you presented "is a strain on the ordinary way we would understand 'till' in that sentence." I guess you've already laid out clear examples of the way the Bible uses "until", contrary to our usual (modern) meaning.

Is there any resource out there where we can see what the original-language text says, and what was meant and understood by it? If not, there should be!

Mick Jagger Gathers No Mosque said...

Just a thought, applying Occam's razor....

Applying Occam's Razor to Tradition results in decapitation

kkollwitz said...

The "until" I use in Catechism class:

"Sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool."

kkollwitz said...

Re no word for cousin, even contemporary Russian has to say "second-born" brother or sister.

Alessandro said...

I thank you for this post, Father, as it is one of the most interesting points on Mary's life. I have always supported that view even if I didn't know it was properly Catholic until I read it in the Summa.
Anyway, on the translation of Matthew 1,24-25, the latest Catholic Italian Bible for that passage translates thus:
"Quando si destò dal sonno, Giuseppe fece come gli aveva ordinato l'angelo del Signore e prese con sé la sua sposa; senza che egli la conoscesse, ella diede alla luce un figlio ed egli lo chiamò Gesù"

In English, more or less:
"When Joseph woke up, he did as the Angel of the Lord had ordered and took his wife with him; without knowing her, she gave birth to a child and he called his name Jesus".

It's useless to translate word-by-word, it is far more appropriate to adapt the original text to present-day language according to the sense.

ellen said...

I am 67 years of age, and was taught at school about Our Blessed Lady's vow of virginity. Our teachers used precisely the reasoning that you have used. We were also taught that the Jewish betrothal was more like a two-stage marriage not at all like our modern "engagement". Unfortunately, the Scripture translation used in Canada uses the word "engaged" even when Mary and Joseph arrive at Bethlehem, whereas in the past she was described as "his espoused wife". And previously, during Joseph's discussion with the angel the translation used to be "Do not be afraid to take Mary, your wife..." whereas now it is "take Mary as your wife". It may be argued that the "as" is added legitimately, but to modern ears it changes the meaning. So although I taught my children what I had been taught, we are very much in the minority and most people seem to think Our Blessed Lady became an unmarried mother when she conceived. One very good priest gave a sermon in which he said that Our Lady and St. Joseph were just like any other couple and were probably planning to have a big family. When I queried this, he assured me that of course he believes in Our Lady's perpetual virginity, but he doesn't agree with St. Thomas Aquinas' reasons (which you have given) for deducing that she took a vow of perpetual virginity. So I think the priest must be thinking along the lines of "yan", your first commenter. I wish the Church in Canada would use a better Scripture translation and that we could have better catechesis so that the present generation could understand why we believe what we believe.

seminarian said...

Just to be clear, are you saying that this is dogma (the vow of virginity), i.e. we as Catholics and Christians are to make an assent of faith to this? Or rather, is this some interesting tradition (with a small t)that is peripheral to the salvific mystery of Christ?

Ricardo said...

Fr. Ryan,
How do you respond to protestants when they say that a vow of continence contradict texts like 1 Cor 7,9-35-36? What happens if someone made a vow of celibacy, and then realizes that he do not think enough, and does not have the real vocation (that Jesus says that is given to few)?

I´m from Brazil, so sorry about my english.

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

The tradition of the vow is not something which we must believe ... it is a theological certainty, but not a dogma.

What we simply must believe (of course) is that Mary was a virgin before, during, and after birth -- and this includes both moral and physical virginity.
Do intentionally and knowingly deny this would be to reject the gift of salvation.

It would be hard to understand how Mary could remain a virgin while married to Joseph, unless they had agreed together to vow virginity (in some form or another).

Peace to you! +

Msgr. Pope said...

Thanks Fr. For this well written article.

I too think Mary's question to the angel bespeaks some sort of expectation of on-going virginity despite her looming marriage.

I have however, found most Protestant believers singularly unimpressed with my speculations, which are similar to yours and the Tradition.

In more recent years I have also found it helpful merely to raise the question "Why do you think Mary asks this and what does her question mean?" And let them venture the answer while I continue to raise questions with their inevitable answers. I would rather leave them with questions and doubts about their own attempted answers, which in the end they know do not answer my question.

In this way they too can enter into the wonderment at Mary's words which admittedly have some mysterious dimensions to them.

I suppose the commonest ground we can find with those who do not want to admit of Mary's perpetual virginity is simply the mysterious dimension of her question "How can this be since I do not know man?"

At any rate thanks for a good article in setting for the the true and Catholic meaning of her words.

Richard M. Sawicki said...

As a life-long Catholic who has dutifully tried to refute Protestant heresies in the most friendly, congenial, and charitable way (usually by way of trying to make myself as well-informed on matters of faith and morals as possible) I must say that I have NEVER received from anyone a satisfactory answer to the question of WHY would Mary have made a promise of perpetual virginity?

When a young girl is growing up, and presumably expecting to one day get married, she doesn't usually do so with the intent to never have relations with her future husband. I have always understood her query of the angel ("How can this be...") as simply a logical question by an intelligent human who knows where babies come from. What would have been a motivating factor? And speaking of motivating factors, what would motivate a man to consent to a marriage where his future bride had made such a vow (unless you ascribe to the "Joseph was an elderly widower who may not have been concerned with sexual matters at that stage of his life" school of thought).

If Mary made that vow in light of her destiny, well that suggests she may have been slightly prescient about the future (certainly a possibility in the world of Divine power), but that would remove the sensibility of the question to the angel ("Yes Gabriel, I'm already aware of that, thank you!").

I'm a fervent believer in interpreting Scripture in light of Sacred Tradition, but I do often come away from discussions of this PARTICULAR issue with a sense of having credulity stretched just a little.

If, as apologists of what I call the "classical school" are wont to say, that there is nothing about the Catholic Faith that is contrary to reason, then I think a concerted effort must be made to try and iron this one out. If I, as a Catholic who openly professes belief in the Immaculate Conception, Virgin Birth, perpetual virginity, and bodily Assumption of Our Lady have difficulty wrapping my mind around this "pre-marital vow of virginity"issue, imagine how a Catholic of less-solid faith, or indeed, even someone attracted to the faith but not yet convinced, must feel.

Gaudete in Domino Semper!

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

I would respond to the protestants that, in that very same passage, St. Paul prefers virginity to married life and very explicitly states that it is better to vow continence -- however, one must not vow continence if he is unable to live it.
Thus, natural marriage is a concession to human weakness and lust -- though, of course, I refer to the time after the Fall; since, in itself (and in Christ) marriage has been elevated to a sign of the union of Christ and his Church.

Paul himself was celibate (as he states explicitly), and he said that he wanted us to imitate him in this -- hence, I wonder why the protestants have completely ignored St. Paul's example in this regard!

Also, no worries about your English! It was just fine! :-)
If it is easier to write in either Spanish or Italian feel free to do so ... unfortunately, I cannot read any Portuguese. +

Ricardo said...

Fr. Ryan,
Thank you. But I think you didn´t answer my question. St. Paul was a celibate, but there is no evidence that he made a VOW of PERPETUAL continence. He says that it is better to remain unmarried, but does not say that "it is better to vow continence". My question is: WHY some christians vow perpetual continence, when they can be continent without the vow and the vow will block any future change of mind?

John Calvin says in his Institutes:
"Let those who have it [the special gift] use it; and if at any time they feel the infirmity of the flesh, let them have recourse to the aid of him by whose power alone they can resist. If this avails not, let them not despise the remedy which is offered to them. If the faculty of continence is denied, the voice of God distinctly calls upon them to marry."

This seems very reasonable for me. (I´m a catholic). I don´t understand WHY people make vows of perpetual continence. Of course, it gives more stability to the decision of been a celibate. But what happens with the persons who repent from their vows? What happens if the person realizes that he does not have the gift?

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

The simple answer is that it would be extremely difficult to live continence without a vow ... if it was something that we could go back on at a moments notice, then we would scarcely have the fortitude to follow through.

Further, that which is done according to a vow is greater than that which is done without a vow -- because by a vow we dedicate the act to the Lord in a special way, and we bind ourselves to him.
This is why, throughout the Bible, God calls the people not simply to temporary agreements, but to Covenants.

Yes, if someone makes the vow rashly, then they may be excused from the vow - following the proper canonical guidelines according to the law of the Church and by the authority of the Pastors (to whom Christ has given the keys of the Kingdom).

The vow of celibacy (even if only a private vow) is what separates a bachelor from a consecrated religious.
The vow of continence (again, even if only privately) is what separates a couple whose love has grown cold from a couple who is zealously seeking to love one another and the Lord in a new way.

John Calvin has no understanding of how grace and free will co-operate ... hence he believes that a vow restricts freedom, whereas in truth it is precisely the vow of celibacy which gives true freedom to consecrated religious.

Peace. +

Ricardo said...

Thank you very much. I think your answer (considering too the very old and universal tradition of vows in the Church) is satisfactory. That is why protestantism never developt a true cultivation of celibate life.

The way protestants think about vows, as satanic abominations, means that the Church are completely dominated by satanic things since the first centuries. They are very intolerant, in fact.

But I also think that the Church must be merciful when considering persons who sincerely repent from their vows.

Anonymous said...

Marvelous! Thank you for a great aspect of meditation on Our Lady. Thanks for the patience in fielding questions on it too. Pax te cum!

Dan said...

The burning bush that was not consumed, in Exodus, was also a sign pointing to the teaching of the perpetual virginity of Mary

Catinlap1 said...

Consider this possibility, which honors both Mary's perpetual virginity and the Jewish mileau. St. Luke's gospel was written possibly around 80 AD. Much reflection of the early apostolic communities (Mary had been a member of one)and much lived Tradition is reflected in the Gospels.

Mary was, perhaps, in a period of normal bethrothal but not yet together in marriage. The angel announces her miraculous pregnancy, and later lets Joseph in on the secret (see Matt of course). The only appropriate response the young couple could make to being trusted with such an awesome mystery was to resolve to maintain virginity in order to protect its integrity by abstaining from all carnal relations. The early Apostolic community affirmed Mary's perpetual virginity by intentionally phrasing Mary's question clearly in the present tense.

Consider the similarity between Mary's Magnificat and Hanna's prayer of praise in 1 Sam., ch 2. This suggests the influence of considerable reflection.

Must we retrofit the Gospels with 21st century customs, language style and authorship rules?

Msgr. Pope said...

By the Way, Fr., as I am sure you know, many scholars, even Catholic Scholars like Fr. Ray Brown, held that this whole question of Mary is merely for our sake, in that it gives the angel a way to reiterate that God, not Joseph, will be the father of this Child.

I however, wince at turning a biblical text into a mere literary mechanism, as opposed to a true and actual and historical question of Mary.

I wonder what you think of this theory that the question is more a rhetorical device than a true question. A question that exists merely for our ale and to set the stage for the Angel's reiteration of the true Fatherhood of Jesus.

Father S. said...

@ Father:

You wrote, “The simple answer is that it would be extremely difficult to live continence without a vow ... if it was something that we could go back on at a moments [sic] notice, then we would scarcely have the fortitude to follow through.”

I think that I can see the point that you are making, but I am not sure that I agree. I know a large number of people who live continence without a vow. They simply live it because they are not married or otherwise avowed. Continence is a moral obligation for those who are not married. People can fulfill this obligation by ordinary means (i.e., prayer and the Sacraments). Plus, who can go back on this at a moment’s notice? Morally, no one who is unmarried can do so. Even those planning to be married typically have to go through some prolonged preparation. I suppose I simply mean to say that continence is a given. There is nothing special about it per se.

That being said, I think that we can make a distinction between continence and celibacy for the sake of the Kingdom. In other words, we can distinguish between the moral obligation to continence and the deliberate living out of perpetual continence.

Kind Regards,
Father S.

Anonymous said...

I have to question the idea that it is to protestants ruin to not identify with Mary as a continual virgin. I thought the center for salvation was Jesus and God, not perfect understanding. What are your thoughts Father.

-Fellow Believer

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

@fellow believer,
Indeed, it is not perfect understanding which is required, but faith.
Hence, to knowingly deny something which God has revealed would lead to damnation -- since it would be to renounce the faith.

Further, the physical and moral virginity of our Lady is in fact much more about the Person of Jesus, who came from God the Father without any rupture of the Divine Essence, than it is about our Lady.

Hope that is more clear now! +

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

@Msgr Pope,
I suspect that Fr. Ray Brown would hold that a large portion of the narratives in Luke and Matthew are not rooted in history but are "rhetorical devices"!
Like you, I am quite suspicious ...

That being said, I am quite certain that Luke did relay the historical facts through the use of rhetorical devices as well.
Hence, I'm sure that much of the infancy narrative is written in a way that is meant to remind us of certain figures from the Old Testament (whether Hanna or David, etc) ... but this of course does not mean that Luke is making things up! :-)

Blessings to you Msgr as we enter into the final days before Christmas!
Oremus pro invicem. +

Charles said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

I'm just wondering about the dogmatic extent of yours "the only way"... is this an infalible assertion?

Anonymous said...

I wish I could send your explanation to a Protestant family I know, who in all sincerity, have wondered about the relationship of Mary & Joseph.
However, with regret -- and great annoyance & frustration -- I cannot send it because of your gratuitous throwaway line that Protestants don't understand, "to their eternal ruin."
What is wrong with you? Do you think well-meaning Protestants cling to error because they want to go to "eternal ruin"? Where's your catechetical spirit? We're meant to harvest the field, not burn it to rubble!

larryb said...

@ FR Ryan-"Thus, natural marriage is a concession to human weakness and lust -- though, of course, I refer to the time after the Fall; since, in itself (and in Christ) marriage has been elevated to a sign of the union of Christ and his Church".
God's commandment to be fruitful and multiply can never be thought of as a weakness. Marriage is part of that commandment, therefore it cannot be a consession. I am totally baffeled by your comment.

Manuel Halvelik said...

Jesus! Isn't there really ANYONE here who read Anna-Catharina Emmerick or Maria of Agreda on these matters ?! Their texts are so DETAILED and EXPLICIT they leave no doubt or uncertainty whatever ...

Aaron Aukema said...


Fr. Erlenbush is NOT retrofitting modern ideas into ancient text. He is using ancient ideas to explain an ancient truth.

It was already pointed out that espousal or betrothal was as good as marriage: St. Joseph and St. Mary could have, if they so chose, engaged in the marital act after their betrothal, as per ancient Jewish custom. Thus when Mary responds "Since I know not man", she is admitting that 1) she and St. Joseph have not engaged in the marital act, and 2) she and St. Joseph WILL NOT engage in the marital act. It is a forgone conclusion in her mind, even before the angel tells her what the plan is.

Aaron Aukema said...

@Richard M. Sawicki:

Perhaps some historical context might be of some help.

Discovered texts, like the Dead Sea Scrolls, reflect that some Jewish communities (the Essenes being one of them) had married couples who vowed continence. From a Jewish perspective, then, such an arrangement makes sense.

In addition, we know that early on, there was the tradition (from the Prote-Evangelium of James ) that Mary was consecrated to the temple--in the same manner as Samuel the prophet was--as a young girl. The Temple fathers cast lots for a man to care for her as a husband, yet keep her virginity intact.

The only way such explanations stretch credulity is when your hearer chooses not expand their perspective outside a modern-day cultural millieu.

Anonymous said...

"because such texts will often be ignored by Protestants (to their eternal ruin)"

talium caveat scriptor, ne superbia fiat inflatus. etiam fratres nostri sunt qui Patres nesciant. nonnumquam quos irrisisti isti ignorant Patres Ecclessiae sine culpa. Ergo gratias age iubilans Domino nostro quia concessus es tanta novisse. Ignorantes, pater, noli irridere. Ecce, causa perditionis est vere irrisio, numquam autem ignorantia.

cura ut valeas, pater, et pax multiplicetur!

Anonymous said...

Hello Fr.
I know you addressed the issue of perpetual Virginity from the starting point of the Scriptural reference claiming a vow prior to the Angel's Visit for our Blessed Lady. It is St Thomas Aquinas and the Church's line of thought. I also read you said that it is a theological certainty: namely, the subject of the vow. However, I think (and believe) that the object itself, the perpetual Virginity of our Lady is already 'defined'... I think it would be a (collection of all three for each moment) De Fide statement (D. Ludwig Ott?) at least found in the Catechism of the Catholic Church paragraphs 499-500...? Would that be a "dogma" still?
I really enjoy how St Thomas cites Ezekiel 44.2 in refuting the error that Our Lady was a not a virgin after Christ's birth. I can see why some one who attempts to over analyse Scripture without seeing it as a whole, also just ignores Aquinas' view, even if it is also a claim also to Tradition and the best of explanations.

yan said...

Hello Fr.,

Your response on "'til" is convincing to me. I will try to keep your other biblical examples in mind if this issue comes up in discussion with others.

God bless and a very merry Christmas!


Anonymous said...

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

Hence, to knowingly deny something which God has revealed would lead to damnation -- since it would be to renounce the faith.

HOWEVER - the key here is knowingly. Protestants deny it based on what they read and believe.. so are not knowingly denying something they know to be true. they are denying something the believe to be untrue.

M. R. Wright

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry Father Erlenbush. I now understand less what you mean then before. I admit to not being Cathoilc, but I am Christian. So I don't get the whole focus on Mary, to the degree that Catholics do. So I apologize for my ignorance on it.

But I can't see how it's good for Jesus to come and be the bridge between us and God, if we're traped in confusion of aspects of faith and understanding.

We can't keep all the laws and all fall short so it's good that Jesus came so that we are saved. But there is so much confusion with christian denomations, catholicisn, and afew other followers that are neither protistant nor catholic, such as Morman, or Johovah Witnesses.

If we are damned because of being lost in confusion then we are all truely damned.

Again I am sorry for my thoughts being different then the ideals of Catholicism, I don't mean to make a divide. I just hope that having faith and following God and Jesus is enough.

Thanks for replying before.
-Fellow Believer.

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

You are forcing modern notions of marriage upon the 1st century Jews ... see comments from others (below) which reference the dead sea scrolls and the practice of vowed continence within marriage ... further, do you really expect that the marriage of the Immaculate to St. Joseph would be just like every other marriage?! :-)

In any case, you have the text of Scripture ... if Mary was planning on having intercourse with Joseph, why did she not understand the announcement of conception? Would she not have presumed that the Child would be Joseph's son?
You answer me that! +

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

@Anonymous (Dec 18, 6:26am)
You put a name to your comment (or at least a pseudonym) and I'll answer your question.

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

@Anonymous (Dec 19, 6:59am),
Please use a name or pseudonym when commenting ... as per the "comment policy"?

In any case, if you were of good spirit you would simply copy the article into a word document and then delete the one line you don't like ... the fact that you refuse to do this shows me that you aren't really all that concerned after all.

Finally, the word you are looking for is "ecumenical" not "catechetical".
And I meant just what I said ... many people lose salvation because they refuse to follow the words of the Father's of the Church and the teachings of Jesus given us in the Scripture's.

Do you think that the Church Fathers and martyrs died for nothing? Ought we pretend that believing in the true Faith is unimportant? If Divine and Catholic Faith is just a technicality, then so is the death of Christ.
So, "What is wrong with you?" (as you say)

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

You must be remembered ... the command to be fruitful and multiply took place before the Fall ... what I said is that, after the Fall (and before the gift of grace through Christ), natural marriage is primarily a remedy for sin (and to help maintain good order in society).

Do you think I have said something different from the Church Fathers?

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

@Aaron Aukema,
Thank you for providing that interesting information! +

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

@Anonymous (Dec 18, 10:10am),
Please use a name or at least a pseudonym.

Yes, you are right that the perpetual Virginity is a de fide Dogma -- hence, to deny it is to reject the gift of salvation.

However, the specific mode of making a vow is not on the same level as the fact of virginity itself.

Hope it is clearer now! +

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

@anonymous (Dec 18, 9:14am),
Please use a pseudonym in the future.

Thank you for your words, written in charity.
You are correct regarding the cause of damnation ... however, we must also be clear when instructing the faithful, lest they should think that it is no little thing to deny a dogma of the faith.

Oremus pro invicem, and please pardon that I responded in English ... I can read latin well, but have never been any good at writing or speaking! :-)

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

In truth, I would not desire that my writing in either the articles or in the comments should be a stumbling block to any.
I only want to write clearly and directly, so that the truth may be presented in a concise and direct form.

Further, do remember that I am writing a "theological" blog -- i.e. it is for those who already believe and are hoping to understand their faith more deeply ... of course, if I were writing for protestants (or even for the average catholic) I would write much differently! :-)

Finally, if you think that my writings are good and helpful -- please pray for me, that I might go from good to better.
If you think that I am no good, arrogant, and a poor priest -- please pray for me, that I might be converted and follow the Lord unreservedly.

Know that you all are in my daily prayers -- even those to whom I respond directly and perhaps a bit harshly!

In any case, I hope that there is room in the Church for St. Jerome as well as St. Augustine (i.e. I hope that at least some of us priests can speak directly and without worrying about political correctness)! [not that I am in any way comparable to either Augustine or Jerome]

larryb said...

@Fr Ryan==
"24 This is why a man leaves his father and mother and becomes attached to his wife, and they become one flesh.

25 Now, both of them were naked, the man and his Wife, but they felt no shame before each other"

All this is mentioned Before the fall.

Either way, before the fall or after the fall, the commandment stands. Be fruitful and multiply.
thus marriage it is not a consession, nor is sex a weakness. Lust is another conversation completely. If you doubt this, what are the consessions for the 10 comandments? There are none, thats why Jesus came to save us. His sacrifise, his suffering, nothing we did.

Anonymous said...

Father, while I appreciate the defense of Church doctrine, I will suggest that this post is erroneous for two reason: one, this is a classic case of eisogesis rather than exegesis. You are taking a Church teaching and reading it into the Scriptures, instead of reading meaning out of Scripture. This makes for bad theological arguments, and this post is an example of one. For one thing, in Greek narratives present tense was often used when in fact past tense is to be understood - in fact we find this throughout the Gospels. Second, your logical formulation is missing several steps. You have jumped from "there is a confusion as to why she would have said this" to "therefore she took a vow of virginity which meant she could never have sex." That leap of logic simply is not supported by the text, and to suggest that it is the only explanation is, quite frankly, irresponsible.

The second error in this post is quite simply that you are nearly ceding a major point of contention to the Protestants, which is the notion of sola scriptura. Mary's perpetual virginity is not explicitly demonstrable from Scripture, though certainly the roots of it are there. But more importantly, we don't care if it is. The perpetual virginity of Mary is an infallible dogma of the Church, and while it's helpful to see the foundation in Scripture, it doesn't need to be proved from Scripture - which it can't be. But trying to go over to the sola scriptura playground unfortunately has caused you to come up with a very poorly argued defense of Church teaching.

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

@Michael Hallman,
You must know Greek quite well to be able to dismiss the exegetical skills of St. Jerome (who, by the way, was fluent in that ancient language) ... and I need say nothing of how much wiser you are than St. John Chrysostom (who grew up speaking Greek)!

Well, all that asside, how do you explain our Lady's question? If she had planned on having relations with Joseph, why was she surprised to hear that she would have a child?

Finally, I'm not entering into "Sola Scriptura" ... you should have noticed the numerous citations of the Fathers, especially in the answers to the objections.'
But, in fact, this particular point is easily proven by the Scriptures alone.

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

ok, I'm glad you admit that the passage you quoted was before the Fall ... and I have spoken of marriage after the Fall.

Irenaeus of New York said...

Thought you might like this quote from the good Doctor.

"And when he had taken her, he knew her not, till she had brought forth her first-born Son.' He hath here used the word till,' not that thou shouldest suspect that afterwards he did know her, but to inform thee that before the birth the Virgin was wholly untouched by man. But why then, it may be said, hath he used the word, till'? Because it is usual in Scripture often to do this, and to use this expression without reference to limited times. For so with respect to the ark likewise, it is said, The raven returned not till the earth was dried up.' And yet it did not return even after that time. And when discoursing also of God, the Scripture saith, From age until age Thou art,' not as fixing limits in this case. And again when it is preaching the Gospel beforehand, and saying, In his days shall righteousness flourish, and abundance of peace, till the moon be taken away,' it doth not set a limit to this fair part of creation. So then here likewise, it uses the word "till," to make certain what was before the birth, but as to what follows, it leaves thee to make the inference."
St. John Chrysostom, Gospel of Matthew (320 AD)

In short, "heos" references the past, never the future. So "not until" does not mean he "knew" her after.

I also wanted to add that Christ while on the cross gave Mary to John for caretaking. Jewish tradition said if there were any biological brothers of Jesus, Mary would have been placed in their care instead.

"For if Mary, as those declare who with sound mind extol her, had no other son but Jesus, and yet Jesus says to His mother, Woman, behold thy son,' and not Behold you have this son also,' then He virtually said to her, Lo, this is Jesus, whom thou didst bear.' Is it not the case that every one who is perfect lives himself no longer, but Christ lives in him; and if Christ lives in him, then it is said of him to Mary, Behold thy son Christ.' What a mind, then, must we have to enable us to interpret in a worthy manner this work, though it be committed to the earthly treasure-house of common speech, of writing which any passer-by can read, and which can be heard when read aloud by any one who lends to it his bodily ears?"
Origen, Commentary on John (232 AD)

Irenaeus of New York said...

larryb said-
Marriage is part of that commandment, therefore it cannot be a consession.

Marriage is not necessarily part of that commandment. The celibate and those consecrated to virginity can also adhere to the divine command to be fruitful and multiply. This increase can be obeyed carnally but also spiritually. Priests are the ordinary ministers of baptism. Therefore, they beget children in Christ, which of course is one of the reasons they are called Father.

larryb said...

@FR Ryan--
So how is marriage a coscession if it was instituted before mans fall? I am so baffeled. If it was instituted after mans fall it makes total sense.

Anonymous said...

I am sorry to put you on the defense Father. (If that's what I did.) A friend has been following your words and showed a group of us this artical. Some of the people started asking her some questions concerning the content, and she recomended to give those questions to you via this blogsite, if we wanted an answer. She is Catholic, where as many of us are not.

Thankyou for being kind enough to reply back before. I am sorry to intrupt the flow of this blog, for someone who doen't understand many of the catholic teachings. Best wishes, and hope your ministery, and your thoughts lead many people to Jesus, and to further understand bible truths and spiritual truths.

-Fellow Believer

drizzle said...


To support larryb's argument somewhat, how about God's commandment to Noah after the flood? Genesis 9 starts with God blessing Noah and his sons and says "Be fruitful and increase in number." Do you/church fathers interpret that as a sort of special case? I've started interpreting it as a type of the command Jesus gave--go forth and make disciples of all the nations; that the Old Testament commission was to expand the nation of believers through procreation, whereas the new commission was to expand the church through conversion. (This ties in nicely with the change from birthright inheritance to inheritance via adoption, as in how Christians receive heavenly gifts and treasures through adoption by God rather than literally being His progeny.) In fact, though it's been a while since I've checked, I think that most every covenant formed had some variant of this command (especially if we view it as a type of the great commission). However, it doesn't seem that this command is meant by God to be a method to remedy sin; rather, it seems to be a request for them to engage in a positive task. Any thoughts?

Wade St. Onge said...

"such texts will often be ignored by Protestants (to their eternal ruin)"

Sorry, Father, but that's a bit strong.

Wade St. Onge said...

"natural marriage is a concession to human weakness and lust".

Father, I would like to see you discuss this issue with Deacon Scott Dodge. We just had a disagreement on his blog (my final response was given on my blog because he ended the discussion).

For my part, I agree with you - and I think the Church needs a good debate on this issue because the widespread dissent from the dogma of the superiority of celibacy to marriage is leading modern Catholics to not only disagree with the Church Fathers, but to accuse them of Manichaeism (which is exactly what Deacon Dodge did).

@larryb: many of the Church Fathers would say that sexual intercourse was given to man as a "back up plan" in foresight of the Fall, and that before the fall, man would have had the preternatural powers to simply speak the word and bring a new human being into existence, just as God spoke the Word in order to create the world. And if you think this idea is passe, guess where I learned this from? One of my Steubenville professors, Dr. Scott Hahn.

Minh said...

Thank you for the excellent article father. I just want to add a couple points.
In some translations of 2 Samuel 6:23 "...Michal the daughter of Saul had no child until the day of her death". We can safely understand this as NOT to mean that she had children then AFTER her death. Furthermore, it would have been absolutely shocking, if Jesus entrusted His mother to John if He had blood-brothers.
Also, if the Ark of covenant that was so revered and one would die if touching it had one not have priestly duty to do so, how much more would the Blessed Mother, the Ark that carried God Himself should be treated (including by St. Joseph).
Lastly, wasn't it true that Martin Luther himself believed only a fool would question this issue (of Mary's perpetual virginity)

Thank you.


second the use of "brothers and sisters" in Vietnamese is very much similar to Aramaic.

larryb said...

@ Irenaeus of New York
Thank you for your comment.
"Marriage is not necessarily part of that commandment". If you wishsd to include celebet priest I understand. That does not change Gods command to be fruitful and multiply, or "This is why a man leaves his father and mother and becomes attached to his wife, and they become one flesh". It does shed light on that even Priest can fulfill the command, albeit on a spiritual level as you say. Fr Ryan means something here that I do not yet understand.

Augustinus said...

Irenaeus of New York said:

"In short, "heos" references the past, never the future."

This is not correct, nor have you correctly represented Chrysostom's argument. There are several exampels of ἕως meaning "until" as in "until later" in the NT. Behold two of the many examples.

John 21:22

22 λέγει αὐτῷ ὁ Ἰησοῦς: ἐὰν αὐτὸν θέλω μένειν ἕως ἔρχομαι, τί πρὸς σέ; σύ μοι ἀκολούθει.

22 Jesus said to him: So I will have him to remain till I come, what is it to you? Follow me.

Acts 8:40

Φίλιππος δὲ εὑρέθη εἰς Ἄζωτον, καὶ διερχόμενος εὐηγγελίζετο τὰς πόλεις πάσας ἕως τοῦ ἐλθεῖν αὐτὸν εἰς Καισάρειαν.

But Philip was found in Azotus: and passing through, he preached the gospel to all the cities, till he came to Caesarea.

Mike said...

Father, the one question I get asked on this issue that I have no answer for is "if there was no word for cousin, why is Elizabeth referred to as Mary's cousin?" Can you help me with that one? Thanks.

Anonymous said...

"the perpetual Virginity is a de fide Dogma -- hence, to deny it is to reject the gift of salvation"...

I'm wondering if God will have men's created dogmatic and morality in consideration when He's thinking if a human being is refusing, or not, the gift of salvation… more: your interpretation of Luke 1:26-38 is just that: your interpretation and saying the hypothesis of a virginity vow “is the only way” to understand that text (it is not… more: your position lacks any evidence that the present tense used in the Greek text is to be understood also as a bridge to the future: it’s a common Greek syntax that does not allow that interpretation) is an immense lack of humility…


Mick Jagger Gathers No Mosque said...

If y'all think it odd that Mary took a vow of perpetual virginity, what would y'all think upon reading that Mary was surrendered to be brought up in the Temple when she was three and that at the age of three Mary began to get-up and pray every midnight -Matins for Mary :).

No, that is not in The Bible but we Catholics, as Trinitarians - have a three-fold source of truth, Tradition, Bible, Church - and, additionally, we know from Private Revelation (Mary to St Elizabeth of Hungary) that Mary prayed at that time in the Temple:

"I always rose at midnight and went before the altar of the temple, where I besought of God that I might observe all the commandments of His law, and be enriched with those graces which would render me pleasing to his majesty.."

Dear Protestants. Holy Mother Church has gone out of her way to be kind and understanding to those of you who were born into christian communities which had earlier been separated from the Truth and so it seems only rational and fair to ask of you folks in those communities to keep in mind it makes no sense for y'all to insist we abandon the fullness of truth to satisfy your desires; rather, it is your duty to accept the fullness of truth and to convert to the One True Church, the Ark of Salvation.

Asking a Catholic to stick only with the BIble would make as much sense as a Mormon demanding you protestants source your claims solely in their texts.

The Catholic Church owns the Bible, Lock, Stock, and Barrel and Holy Mother Church alone has the authority, guided as she is by The Holy Ghost, established as she was by Jesus, to say what Scripture means and the fact the Hierarchy does not tell you that truth is a failure that needs correction because effete ecumenism succors not the Truth in all of its glory.

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

I'm sure I've not been as clear as I could be ... I'd rather not go off into questions of marriage too quickly, since it is far beyond what the article is about ... so, just a word here ...

Marriage before the fall was not a sacrament but a natural condition ... all the sacraments were instituted as a remedy for sin, none of them would have been given without the fall (for more see ST III, q.61, a.3).

The particular context of our discussion related to St. Paul's words -- and he makes it clear that, if one can be celibate then he should (i.e. if he can do it without "burning") ... and this would lead us to believe that marriage is (in large part at least) a remedy for concupiscence (burning).

Well, in any case, I do not go quite as far many of the Church Fathers (especially those of the East) who held that sex was a result of the foreseen fall ... you can see more on this point from Wade St Orange (below).

St. Thomas, in fact, is quite a bit more moderate than most of the Fathers.

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

@Fellow Believer,
Please do always feel very free to comment and ask questions! You most certainly did not offend me or put me on the defensive! :-)

For my part, I am sorry that I'm not being very clear ... what I mean to say is that confusion in itself is most certainly NOT a cause of damnation. Not by any means!

My comment in the article is meant to emphasize the importance of receiving the faith from those first chosen to preach it to the whole world (the Apostles and Church Fathers).

Again, confusion does not cause damnation, but rather obstinate denial of the faith and of the teaching of Christ.
In other words, it is precisely when we are not confused, but know that Jesus taught us that his Mother was a Virgin, and yet still choose to reject his teaching (given us in Scripture and through the Fathers) -- this is when failing to read the Fathers leads to our eternal ruin.

You, on the other hand, show your goodness of spirit in entering into this dialogue (on a very intense and conservative Catholic blog) ... and I applaud you for your openness to discussion and your desire for truth.
Please do feel free to comment again on any article ... you are most welcome here!

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

I believe you are referring to Luke 1:36 ... where Gabriel speaks of Mary's "cousin" Elizabeth.
Yes, the word (in Greek) is either "cousin" or "kinswoman".

In the article, I pointed out that there was no word for "cousin" in Aramaic ... and that, in both the Old and New Testaments, the Hebrew and Greek words for "brother/sister" are occasionally used to refer to "cousins".

Hope it is more clear now! +

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

Did you catch the irony of accusing me of "an immense lack of humility" right after you had dismissed 2000 years of Church tradition (which goes back to men who were friends of St. Peter and the other Apostles) as "men's created dogmatic and morality" ... I mean, come on! You didn't even use proper spelling!
(I'm presuming that you meant the noun "dogma" rather than the adjective "dogmatic")

Well, in any case, since you are so smart (and humble to boot!), why don't you explain what Mary didn't understand?
If she was planning on having relations with Joseph, what part of "you will conceive" was confusing to her?!

You are obviously much more learned than Sts. John Chrysostom and Jerome ... let not your humility keep us in the dark! Share your light with us, oh Teacher!

larryb said...

@ Fr Ryan: thank you for your article, your comments and mostly for your patience. Whether marriage was natural or a sacrament before mans fall I do not know. I do know that God made man/woman in his image and that sex outside marriage is a sin. If man did not have the knowledge of good and evil and had not sinned yet, it would make sense that God would instituted marriage to prevent that. I would also imagine that concupiscence also existed but again man had no knowledge of it. As far as Marys perpetual virginity, I cannot see how one could come to any other conclusion than you do. I bet Joseph had no problem being celebet once he found out whos child he would be raising, and who the mother of that child was. Who could dare to even think of it.

larryb said...

@ Wade St Onge: I have never heard of Scott Hahn nor his alternative teaching of Gods supposed back up plan until today. But I'm willing to listen. Please supply a link of any info you have.

Irenaeus of New York said...

Hello Augustinus,

Your examples betray your own argument. It is referencing the past in your examples as well. Which is the only logical way to look at it. There is a description of some manifest state. The translation of "until" is better translated as "up to that point" because it only speaks to the state of things described. The clause afterwards can either provide a change of that state or provide a completely different state. But no matter how you look at it, whatever comes after is not the reference point.

Anonymous said...

Thankyou Father Erlenbush. I might take you up on that and at least try and keep up on these blogs through my friend on a different blogging site. Though I might not have much more to add questions or comments. I've studyed the bible a little, but know very little about catholic traditions and teachings that are outside the scope of the bible.

For instance you next blog commmenting on Angels, is intreasting, but I have no knowledge on angels to be able to scope the ideas as either reasonable or unreasonable ideas. (The calculating of Angelic hirachery isn't something I found in bible passages.)

-Fellow Believer

Wade St. Onge said...

Dr. Hahn speaks about the issue at length in the last 25 minutes of Disk #5 of his 7-CD set, "Genesis 1-22: The Covenant as a Family Affair". You should be able to find it in a parish or diocesan library. If not, do a google search for "sex before the fall".

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the response to my (only) note Fr. (concerning Anonymus Dec 10 at 10:10am)

Anonymous said...

I do not know whether Fr. said that the "till" in Greek can only be interpreted in the manner he is. I think the exegesis argument is to be not interpretation, since anyone can claim a knowledge of Koine Greek, but that on translation. First, the logic of translation is very accesible and found in volumes of dictionaries, lexicons, concordances, etc. However, Interpretations vary...The Catholic view and teaching it to provide that the teaching is not only found in Scriptures (actually explicit or implicitly as the Old Testament being found in the New and vice versa)but that the logic of Scripture is confirmed by Church Teaching and the teaching of the Church does no violence to the logic of Scripture, and that is how a few examples exegetically sound (and literally) suffice.

Anonymous said...

That is a fabulous article.
Jesus was not an illegitimate Child!!! There is no way God would conceive a Child with Mary without first espousing her. Mary was espoused to God by a vow of virginity. A vow of virginity is a vow of espousal to God: total consecration to God her Spouse.
Mary was not a surrogate mother for God's Son! Humans can espouse themselves to God if they want to. The Church is the Bride of Christ, we will all be espoused to God for ever in Heaven. Nuns, Brothers, Religious take vows of Poverty, Chastity (Virginity for virgins) and obedience to God. In other words they marry God in this life to be more perfectly espoused to Him in the next. Mary had to be espoused (Vow of virginity) to God before she conceived Jesus otherwise Jesus was an llegitimate Child.
‎"Before they came to live together she was found to be with child". In reality she was already married to God and had a Son. There is no way God would conceive a Child out of wedlock.
Would a Christian man conceive a child with a woman before marrying her? No! Neither would God.
God is not a spiritual fornicator or spiritual adulterer. Mary had to espouse herself to Him before He conceived the Child in her womb.

The Protestant position is that Mary was a surrogate mother for His Son. Sorry God does not use surrogate mothers. If He conceives a Child in a woman He would have to be spiritually espoused to her even though she is only a mere creature. God does not break His own rules.
Jesus could not have been born of Mary unless she had taken a vow of virginity for the love of God. It would have been compulsory for her to totally give herself to God before she conceived His Son.

So why was Mary married to Joseph?
2 reasons: 1) Because Joseph was of royal descent then by adoption into Joseph's lineage Jesus became a descendent of David.
2) For very practical reasons Mary who was a single mother had to have a husband for appearance purposes. She would have always been under the risk of stoning to death otherwise. Joseph was that very special holy and devout person who was capable of living under the same roof as God and who must also have been consecrated to God in virginity.

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

Please use a pseudonym in the future.

Yes, certainly Mary was the spouse of the Holy Spirit through her vow of virginity ... and I think you are very right to point this out.

Additionally, I would add that Mary was already the spouse of Joseph (even though they had only been betrothed) ... because betrothal was much more in their culture than engagement is in ours.
Indeed, the Scriptures say as much ... "... to a virgin espoused to a man named Joseph ..." ... if she was espoused to Joseph then she was his spouse.

In any case, as you say, Mary was most certainly NOT an unwed mother ... and it is impious for anyone (protestant or catholic) to utter such words!

Peace and merry Christmas! +

Anonymous said...

Ezechiel, Chapter 44:1-3, says that the east gate will remain shut and no one else may enter by it because the Lord of hosts has entered by it, it shall remain shut. Only the prince may sit by it and eat his bread in the presence of the Lord, he should enter by the vestibule and leave the same way. 1-Since it is strongly asserted that the gate remain shut it is easy to see that after the the birth of Jesus Mary is to be perpetual virgin and at the foot of the Cross Jesus gives her to be our spiritual Mother in the person of John the beloved disciple. 2-The only one that qualifies as the prince can only be Saint Joseph who is the spouse of Mary and ate his bread in the presence of the Lord all the days for the rest of his life. 3- It speaks of the hidden life as pointed out that he comes and goes by way of the vestibule, which we know that when the priest is in the vestibule he is hidden from sight, thus Saint Joseph's coming is prophesied. Another area that speaks of Saint Joseph is a comparison with Joseph of old. The first Joseph was made Lord over Egypt except for the house of Pharaoh but Joseph the spouse of the ever Virgin Mary was made Lord over the house of the Lord at Nazareth, he was also honored to name Jesus along with Mary and Jesus also called him Father. Lastly he was declared as Patron and protector of the Universal Church along with his many other titles!

Luciano, a stone that cries out.

Cephas said...

Father Ryan:

I love your sharp wit and the way you express the Truth in the light of dissenters. As Christians we are all bound to search for the Truth. When I was young and Protestant I relied on the Bible, but I had problems when what I read did not agree with others, and even more so when I saw ministers interpret passages that were completely contrary to another ministers; and yet, they were both supposed to be the Truth. My search for the Truth eventually lead me to the Catholic Church, but I was afraid to enter because of the anti-catholic myths, half-truths, and out-and-out lies I had learned as a Protestant. It was only through a lot of searching, even going back to writings of the early Church Fathers, that I finally swam the Tiber.

Many of those who dissent from your writing have also been brought up with those anti-catholic biases, and they refuse to believe that you speak the TRUTH; they refuse to even consider that they do not have the fullness of Truth. I sometimes worry for them because when they had the Truth presented to them they refused to believe. I worry that they will forever burn in Hell because of their denial of the Truth, and I thank God every day that I found it. We need to remember to pray that the scales will fall from their eyes so they may see clearly and will be able to see that the fullness of Truth is found only in the Catholic Church.

Thank you for such a well written article, and for your wonderful answers to those who thought otherwise. Though I have been a Catholic for almost 42 years, I have never stopped learning, and your article has given me some new insights. God bless you

Post a Comment

When commenting, please leave a name or pseudonym at the end of your comment so as to facilitate communication and responses.

Comments must be approved by the moderator before being published.