Archive for the ‘Friends are Asking’ Category

In case you haven’t been following the comments section of this post, I’ve received some additional questions regarding Mary. Because Mary and beliefs about her can be a huge stumbling block to many, I thought it better to create a whole new post instead of responding in the comments section of my previous post.

Here are my friend’s comments:

I stumbled upon this, which is a bit unrelated to my original train of thought, but helpful as I search out the “brother” meaning/usage. I hope it’s not too harsh, but will be a worthwhile read.

Actually I was originally pondering how God extols the joy and even duty of married “love” (I’m being delicate) in Scripture and why both Mary and Joseph would maintain her virginity after Christ’s birth; it seems contradictory and we know God cannot contradict Himself, hence bells go off and we search further. The passages about marriage I’m thinking of which seem to contradict a wife remaining a virgin include
Gen 2:24
Song of Solomon 4:1-5:1
1 Cor 7:1-5 (pre-Mary, but true nonetheless)

Is 7:14 is the clear prophecy that the messiah will be BORN of a virgin–the Hebrew word translated here virgin is found elsewhere in OT in Gen 24:43, Ex 2:8, Ps 68:25, Prov 30:19, Song 1:3, 6:8 and in those places refers only to a chaste maiden who is unmarried (notes from my NAS bible); vice a perpetual married virgin.

Interesting difference between what God tells us about married love and what the Catholic church says about Mary and Joseph’s life in that area.

Clear as mud? )

First, about the link… I don’t know anything about that website or the scholarship of the authors of those posts although they make some interesting points. If your read through the entire page, you will also see a post which begins: BROTHERS AND SISTERS OF JESUS (this is a revision of a previous article of same name) and which is written by someone obviously way more learned. For now, I’m going to defer to that author.
Before moving on to the relationship between Mary and Joseph, I want to reiterate what I explained in this post about Holy Tradition. Catholics believe the revelation of God can only be fully understood in light of Holy Scripture along with Holy Tradition. God cannot contradict Himself in either area. It’s important to keep this in mind because although a doctrine or dogma cannot be anti-biblical, it may be extra-biblical — that is, not explicitly explained within the Bible but elaborated on and developed more fully by others in the early church. Some examples of this would be the acceptance of the belief of the Trinity or the Canon of the New Testament.

On to the issue of the marriage relationship between Joseph and Mary –

To say their family life wasn’t normal would be the understatement of the year. They may have been the ideal family but they certainly weren’t “regular”. Their lives were full of “unnatural” circumstances – a virgin girl giving birth to a child, the responsibility of loving and raising the Son of God who was God Himself. To understand the Holy Family, we have to abandon our tendencies to view their plight with our modern human sensibilities. They were totally unlike any other family. For Joseph and Mary to choose to live a life of abstinence would be unusual and unnatural, but not inconceivable given they weren’t your typical family. In fact, I would go so far as to say it was a necessary and unavoidable choice.

In trying to grasp the idea of Mary’s perpetual virginity, it’s helpful to understand her title of “Theotokos” which literally means “God-bearer”. Origen first used this term to describe Mary in 254 A.D. Later on, however, the Council of Ephesus officially gave this title to Mary in 431 A.D. in response to the heresy known as Nestorianism. Nestorian held to a belief that Jesus was really two persons – one human and one God and that Mary was only the mother of the man Jesus. It was important for the Council of the Church to refute this heresy about the identity of Jesus and to re-affirm what had been believed since the beginning of the Church – that Jesus was fully God and fully man in one person. It’s interesting that the way the Council did this was to re-affirm Mary’s identity as “God-bearer”.

Something else that is helpful is to understand typology. I’m sure you’ve heard of Old Testament stories or people that point to something in the New Testament. Stephen Ray says this about typology and types:

“It is like a taste or a hint of something that will be fulfilled or realized. types are like pictures that come alive in a new and exciting way when seen through the eyes of Christ’s revelation…………………The idea of typology is not new. Paul says that Adam was a type of the one who was to come – Christ (Romans 5:14). Early Christians understood that the Old Testament was full of types or pictures that were fulfilled or realized in the New Testament.”

There are many parallels between the story of the construction of the Ark of the Covenant in the Old Testament and the New Testament stories of Mary. The Catholic Church believes that the Ark of the Covenant in the Old Testament was a foreshadowing or “type” of Mary. In Exodus, God gives very specific instructions about the construction of the ark. It would be a sacred place where God himself would dwell. Once the Ark was constructed, the Lord’s Shekinah glory (in the form of a cloud) covered the tent of meeting and filled the Tabernacle. The metaphor of the cloud represents the presence and glory of god. This metaphor is also seen when the Holy Spirit comes upon Mary and “overshadows” her so that she may conceive and bear Jesus. Mary is a living shrine of God Almighty in the same way that the Ark of the Covenant in the Old Testament served as God’s dwelling. Also, the language of “overshadowing” was language used to describe a marital relationship. Hence, the Holy Spirit has espoused Mary. Understood in that way, it would make sense that Joseph understood that Mary was a consecrated vessel and therefore refrained from having normal marital relations with her. No doubt he had heard of the fate of Uzzah who was struck dead for touching the Ark (2 Sam. 6:6-8). Amazingly, Mary was mother, daughter, and spouse of God. There are many more parallels between stories of the OT Ark and stories about Mary….too many to list here but they aren’t difficult to find with some “googling”.

Another interesting tidbit I learned while in the process of writing this entry was that in Jewish law, if a man was betrothed to a women and she became pregnant with another’s child, the man initially betrothed to her could never have relations with her. He could instead choose to put her away privately or publicly condemn her. Obviously, Joseph chose the former.

This brief look at the “whys” of Mary’s Perpetual Virginity really only scratch the surface in helping to understand this idea. There’s so much more information available and it’s written by folks much more learned than myself on this subject. I invite any readers of this blog who may have more to add to what I’ve written to please do so.

For further study, I would suggest checking out these resources for starters:

Mary, the Second Eve

Hail Holy Queen

Scripture and Early Church Father on Mary

More Interesting Stuff on Mary



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