Looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory |
of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus (Titus 2:13)
Mary, Matthew and The Church of Rome |
Mary, the birth mother of Jesus, plays a very important role in the religious traditions and faith of Roman Catholicism, as well as the Eastern "Orthodox" church. These extra-Biblical (outside Biblical revelation) traditions extend from her birth, being immaculately conceived, i.e., without original sin, to her death, subsequently being bodily assumed into heaven.
Along with her seemingly extraordinary birth and heavenly assumption, where they claim she now reigns as "queen of heaven," it is asserted that she remained a perpetual virgin during her days on earth. Claiming that Mary herself had actually taken a vow of lifelong virginity - even in marriage. They teach that this vow of perpetual virginity was the pretext for her response to the angel Gabriel when he told her that she would bear a Son. A Roman Catholic apologist explains:
When the angel Gabriel appeared to Mary and told her that she would conceive a son, she asked, "How can this be since I have no relations with a man?" (Luke 1:34). From the Church's earliest days, as the Fathers interpreted this Bible passage, Mary's question was taken to mean that she had made a vow of lifelong virginity, even in marriage. (This was not common, but neither was it unheard of). If she had not taken such a vow, the question would make no sense.1The apologist's translation of Lk. 1:34 in the above quote is very misleading. A literal rendering goes more like this: "But said Mary to the angel, how shall be this since a man I know not?"2 Contrary to the apologist's effort to make the verse conform to their doctrine of "perpetual virginity," the Greek in no way suggests that Mary was communicating to Gabriel that she was restricted, by vow, from ever having a sexual relationship with a man. Her question arose not from some mythical vow (as Rome asserts), but the fact of her current state of virginity.
Rome's doctrine that Mary took a personal vow of perpetual virginity of course is totally fabricated. Construed out of the minds of men in a desperate attempt to somehow prove their non-Biblical doctrine as Biblical. Needless to say, the Gospel accounts themselves say absolutely nothing in respect to this absurd notion. But in fact, when reading the accounts in their normal sense, they present Mary and Joseph to be a very typical, young Jewish couple anticipating marriage according to the ordinary social customs of their day. The fact that she was a virgin speaks not of some vow she'd taken, but of her personal piety; her strong faith and love toward the God of her ancestors, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob; and her respect for the privileged, covenant relationship her nation enjoyed with Him. She and her marital situation were normal in every sense of the word.
Probably the verse that most strongly bears witness against Rome's bizarre doctrine of perpetual virginity is found in Matthew 1:24-25:
"And Joseph arose from his sleep, and did as the angel of the Lord commanded him, and took her as his wife, and kept her a virgin (lit. Gr. "was not knowing her") until she gave birth to a Son; and he called His name Jesus."When read in its normal sense (i.e., not filtered through the Magisterial teachings of Rome), one clearly understands the passage to say that Joseph did not have sexual relations with Mary until after she had given birth to the Son she had conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit. This, as well, testifies to the faith and Godly character of Joseph; not to his honoring some previous vow of virginity Mary was obligated to sustain.
Rome's apologist, in an attempt to conform this passage to its Marian doctrine, jumps through hoops and focuses in on the word: "until." Refuting what he calls the "fundamentalist" interpretation of Matt. 1:25, he rationalizes:
But they are using a narrow, modern meaning of "until," instead of the meaning it had when the Bible was written. In the Bible, it means only that some action did not happen up to a certain point; it does not imply that the action did happen later, which is the modern sense of the term. 3He insists that the Greek word "heos," translated "until," "till," or "up to,"4 in its ancient Greek form restricts this verse, and even the context, from concretely communicating the impression that Joseph had normal marital relations with Mary after the birth of Jesus. But such a conclusion cannot be honestly arrived at by anyone from a normal reading of the text within its context; only those bent on defending Rome's extra-biblical tradition of Mary's perpetual virginity.
The idea that the Greek word "heos," in ancient times spoke only to the action, or non-action, up to a certain point, and does not, nor cannot, suggest a change of action after that point, is entirely baseless. The context itself clearly connotes that there was a change of activity after that point of time.
An example of this is plainly demonstrated in Matt. 2:15 where it says that Joseph took the Child and His mother to Egypt "until" (heos) the death of Herod. Here the context clearly communicates that Joseph kept his family in Egypt only until Herod's death, and then a definite change of action took place: He brought his family back into the borders of Israel. This is, of course, confirmed in the subsequent verses. But one can see that it would be ludicrous, indeed, to suggest that because the Greek word "heos" is employed one might conclude that Joseph kept his family in Egypt even after the death of Herod. A normal reading of the passage clearly infers that he did not, and a change of action took place after Herod's death. This same change of action is clearly denoted in Matt. 1:25 when read in its normal sense.
Rome's willful distortion of the Matt. 1:25 passage is a good example of how men, driven by their loyalty to serve the doctrines and traditions espoused by their religion, can intentionally (and possibly unintentionally) disregard the normal reading of a Biblical passage, forcing it to conform to their own religious perceptions. The Apostle Paul's principle in the Book of Galatians: "a little leaven leavens the whole lump,"5 must always be heeded. For in time Rome's extra-biblical, Marian doctrines have robbed her of her true womanhood as revealed in the Bible, and forged her into someone neither human nor divine. And ultimately a serious distraction from the Person of Christ Himself, the glory and praise due to Him alone, and the believer's comprehension of His "once for all," finished, redemptive work on the cross on our behalf.6
A normal reading of the Gospel accounts highly suggests that it was God's intention that Jesus be born and raised by a typical Jewish family comprised of a father, mother and other siblings. In other words, a normal Jewish household at that time in Israel's history. And so it happened. This is confirmed by the many passages that refer to the brothers and sisters of Jesus7, which Romanism also distort for the task of defending their "perpetual virginity" doctrine. But this issue we'll have to tackle at another time.
Written by Gary Nystrom