Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Debate on the Perpetual Virginity of Mary: Part 2

In Part 1, I responded to some questions from "d.hyde" over at HCR. In Part 2, and the remaining parts, I respond to various attempts to refute the dogma in question. I'll start with my responses to "Brandon":

  • There are many people who have only one child that continue to have maritals. Let the example even be a couple that cannot produce children that adopt one child...
    You say that this doctrine cannot be explicitly or unequivocally proven, yet how is it that one has reached the conclusions that they've reached? If it's not necessarily inferred from the text, how do you go about defending it? Secondary sources? This Thomistic reasoning is not very strong.
Accusing me of "Thomistic reasoning" can only be the greatest compliment, as far as I'm concerned, although I don't see how I've utilized it thus far. At any rate, the perpetual virginity of Mary may not be necessarily inferred from Scripture, but I think it can be reasonably inferred. It is the best explanation for why:
  1. Jesus gave his mother to the care of the Apostle John instead of His supposed "brothers"
  2. Jesus is referred to as "the" son of Mary, not "a" son of Mary
  3. at a time when you would most expect to hear of Jesus' brothers -- when Mary and Joseph lose Jesus on the way back from celebrating the Passover -- they are not mentioned.
The dogma of the Perpetual Virginity of Mary also has the effect of being very Christocentric because it emphasizes the singularity of Christ. Mary's womb becomes a sort of tabernacle, a new Holy of Holies, where only the High Priest can enter. There are already many parallels between Mary and the Ark of the Covenant, which only reaffirms her status as the unique habitation of the Lord, and Him alone.

  • What do you mean by "reasonably"?
When I say that Mary's perpetual virginity can be reasonably inferred from Scripture, I mean that the inference is agreeable to reason or sound judgment. It is logical, or not exceeding the limit prescribed by reason. There is nothing in Scripture that makes the inference unreasonable. The Scriptural data can rightly cause one's faculty of reason to arrive at my position.

  • 1. So? For arguments sake I'm going to give you that Mary didn't have any more children. Let's see though if this requires that she remained a virgin. How do you infer from the text (reasonably or necessarily) that because Yeshua put Mary in the care of John that therefore she and Joseph never had relations?
Remember, good Jews didn't use birth control, and they didn't "spill their seed" like Onan did. Thus, if Mary and Joseph were having sex, then Jesus would have had brothers, and He would have given His mother to them instead of to John. But, of course, we see that that's not how it happened.

  • 2. So? Where are you referring to? But let's say that this means that because of this that therefore he was the only son. Luke gives an account of the genealogy of his family. I will post it in full:
    Luke 3:23-38
    [. . .]
    Are we to assume that all these are the only sons? But we know that to not be the case don't we. Adam did have other children didn't he?
In genealogies, especially the genealogy of Jesus, the definite article ("the") is appropriate because, even though a person may have several sons, it is only through one of them that the covenants and promises of God are fulfilled. You trace Jesus back to Adam through the sons that received the blessing. But, when the crowd in the synagogue says, "Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary?" Jesus' lineage has no real significance to them, and it's actually His humble beginnings that make them doubt what He says and does. If Jesus had brothers, then He would be to them simply one of many sons from a no-name father from a no-name town. The indefinite article "a" almost certainly would have been used. But it wasn't.

  • But again...let's say that He does it necessarily/reasonably follow that she remained a virgin?
As I already explained, Jews did not have sex unless they intended to have children. So, if Jesus doesn't have any brothers, it's because Joseph and Mary never had sex.

  • 3. So? Argument from Silence.
I know it's an argument from silence, but it's a very awkward one. Jesus was 12 when He was lost. If Joseph and Mary were having sex, then He would have almost certainly had siblings by then. One would expect to see them, too. After all, they are traveling back to Nazareth from Jerusalem, where they celebrated the Passover. Jesus siblings, if he had any, would have been with Him. But, there is no mention of them. Suddenly, Jesus goes missing. Now, when a child goes missing, the first thing his parents do is ask his siblings, "Hello?!? Where's your brother!" But they don't, they ask their relatives. When Joseph and Mary decide to go look for Jesus in the Temple, there's no mention of Mary and Joseph leaving their other children with Aunt Mildred so that they could go look for Jesus, and there's no indication that these supposed children went with them either. It's just an awkward silence.

I realize that, by itself, it doesn't prove anything, but other curious facts are already painting the picture that Jesus had no siblings and that Mary intended to remain a virgin, and so this becomes another interesting occurrence that would cause one to reasonably infer that Jesus was indeed the only son of Mary.

  • Define Christocentric.
"Christocentric" means "Christ-centered." At the center of every teaching about Mary is a statement about Christ.

  • Define singularity.
When I say that Mary's perpetual virginity emphasizes the "singularity" of Christ, I mean that it points to his uniqueness. Being the only son of His foster-father Joseph points to Christ as the only Son of the Father. It also points to His unique and unparalleled glory. Remember, it was the presence of God (signified by the tablets, manna, and rod) that made the Ark so holy that no one could touch it. It was the presence of God that made the Holy of Holies so, well, holy that no one could enter except the high priest. Similarly, it is the glory of the God-man that demands that Mary, who is His Ark and His Holy of Holies, be not available for ordinary use.

How can some rocks, some bread, and a piece of wood make the Ark of the Covenant so holy that Uzzah was stuck down by God for simply trying to keep it from falling in the mud, yet our Almighty Lord and Creator of all things can BECOME MAN in the womb of Mary and Joseph can still have sex with her whenever he wants? I think that defies every pious sentiment that every first-century Jew ever felt. As a Catholic, I happen to share that sentiment.

  • I can assure that because of Total Depravity (which clearly you reject), Mary's womb was just as sin stained as ours.
Catholics believe that Mary was conceived without sin, but that's another topic for another day. Also, try to have a little more respect for my sensibilities here. Saying that Mary's womb was "sin-stained" is very insensitive and offensive to most Catholics. You need to know that if you desire to have effective conversations with us.

  • The rest of this post is just pure speculation. It may sound good...but it's findings aren't from scripture and must therefore be rejected.
I think it's a reasonable inference based on the biblical data. You can call that "speculation" if you want, but then again, your position is too. Scripture does not explicitly say whether they had sex or not, so the task is to determine which position best fits with the biblical data. I think my position makes more sense, and it is actually the one that gives more glory to Christ.

Pax Christi,


Andrew said...

Perhaps the following isn't a great defense of Mary's perpetual virginity, and maybe that's why I don't hear people use this argument, but here it is anyway...

When the angel Gabriel tells Mary that she will conceive a child, her response is puzzling unless you believe that she intended to remain a virgin.

She was told that she WILL (future tense) conceive, NOT that she ALREADY HAS (past/present tense) conceived.

Why would she ask, "How can this be, since I have no relations with a man?"

I would think that no married woman who intended to have relations with her husband would be puzzled by such a statement. I think she would simply think, "Sounds reasonable. After we have relations, it's very possible that I WILL conceive a child."

But this isn't Mary's response. She's puzzled because she she doesn't intend to have relations with Joseph. She intends to remain a virgin. Otherwise, Gabriel's statement wouldn't seem odd to her.

phatcatholic said...

I think that's a very good argument. I utilize it in Part 3 of the debate, which is coming soon.

Anonymous said...

If you "Catholics" spent as much time spreading the Gospel as you do trying to defend these issues that really dont matter maybe the catholic church wouldnt have to ask catholics in India to "have more babies" The devil is playing you guys like a fiddle, gets you side tracked so your not out there spreading the only important thing- the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

phatcatholic said...

So, you see me here defending Mary's perpetual virginity and you automatically assume that I do not concern myself with preaching the Gospel? That's illogical and absurd.

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