Sunday, January 17, 2010

Debate on the Perpetual Virginity of Mary: Part 3

In Part 3, I am responding to another HCR forum member by the name of "Trey.Dub". This post provides more arguments in defense of Mary's perpetual virginity, which I will refer to when I pick back up again with Brandon in Part 4 of this debate.

  • I dont believe Mary was a Perpetual Virgin. Okay Jesus may have been Mary's only son but that still doesnt mean she did not have intercourse with Joseph after. Mary and Joseph lived together throughout Jesus' childhood. Mary and Joseph were married too, so I dont see why they woundnt,like any married couple, enjoy the pleasures of marital sex. Mary may have consecrated her entire life to the Lord, but that doesnt not prove she was a Perpetual Virgin.
Your position, that Mary and Joseph had sex, is an inference based on what one would expect from your typical, married couple. But, this is not your typical married couple. Mary is not your typical wife and mother. Her pregnancy was not your typical pregnancy. Her son is not your typical son. This family is not your typical family. Thus, I'm not so sure that we should just automatically assume, as you are doing, that the married life that Mary and Joseph shared with each other was exactly like that of your typical married couple. The extraordinary nature of the entire situation should allow your mind to entertain the possibility of an extraordinary relationship between Mary and Joseph.

There are indications in Scripture that they had such a relationship. I think Lk 1:34 is a clear example. The angel tells Mary that she will conceive and bear a son and Mary's response is, "How can this be, for I do not know man." Mary and Joseph are already betrothed at this point. He has already taken her into his home. Typically, once this happens, the couple begins marital relations with each other. If Mary was planning on having your typical sexual relationship with Joseph, then there is simply no reason why she would ask this question .... unless she didn't know how babies were made! I think the more likely reason is because she never intended to know a man. She said, "I do not know man" just as someone would say, "I do not swim," or "I do not eat meat." It is something that she does not do and does not intend to do in the future.

Secondly, I do not think the Temple - Tabernacle - Ark of the Covenant imagery should be overlooked. She is likened to the Temple in that, once God chose Mary to be the one in whom He would actually dwell, physically and substantially, then her womb becomes a sort of Holy of Holies in which only the great High Priest can enter. There is an interesting passage about the Temple in the Book of Ezekiel that early Christians saw as a prophecy of Mary's perpetual virginity:
  • Ezek 44:1-2 Then he brought me back to the outer gate of the sanctuary, which faces east; and it was shut. 2 And he said to me, "This gate shall remain shut; it shall not be opened, and no one shall enter by it; for the LORD, the God of Israel, has entered by it; therefore it shall remain shut.
As for the Tabernacle imagery, note that, when John says that the Word became flesh and "dwelt among us" (Jn 1:14), the Greek literally means that Jesus "pitched his tent" or "tabernacled" among us. The Spirit overshadowed Mary (cf. Lk 1:35) just as the shekinah cloud "abode upon" (or "overshadowed" in the Septuagint) the Tabernacle (cf. Exo 40:35).

There are also the many parallels between Mary and the Ark of the Covenant. Both Mary (cf. Lk 1:39) and the Ark (cf. 2 Sam 6:2) arise and go to Judah, where they reside for 3 months (cf. 2 Sam 6:11; Lk 1:56). David leaps with joy at the presence of the ark (cf. 2 Same 6:16), just as John leaps at the presence of Mary (cf. Lk 1:41). What David says at the coming of the ark (cf. 2 Sam 6:9) is almost exactly what Elizabeth says upon the coming of Mary (cf. Lk 1:43). Most importantly, just as the ark of the Old Covenant contained the word of God on the stone tablets, the manna from heaven, and the rod of Aaron the great High Priest (cf. Heb 9:4), so did Mary contain Jesus Christ, who is the Word of God (cf. Jn 1:1), the Manna from Heaven (cf. Jn 6:51), and the great High Priest (cf. Heb 5:4-5).

The point is that Mary's body, her womb, has been set apart for a holy purpose. As such, it is not for ordinary use. Just as the Ark of the Covenant was so holy that no one could even touch it, and the Holy of Holies in the Temple was such a sacred place that only the high priest could enter, and even then only once a year, so is the flesh of Mary for God and Him alone. Joseph, being a "righteous man" (cf. Mt 1:19), would have undoubtedly respected that. You have to place yourself in the mindset of the first-century Jew. The Almighty God became man and took on flesh through this woman! He literally dwelt and lived within her for 9 months. There's no way that Joseph would have felt worthy enough to use her body in the ordinary way, even though technically that may have been his "right." This is not to say that sex between two married people is "dirty" or "profane," it's just that Mary has been consecrated for a higher purpose, and if Lk 1:34 is any indication, then Mary had already made the commitment to remain a virgin.

I think that all of this makes my inference that they never had sex much more reasonable and plausible than your inference that Mary and Joseph somehow had your typical married relationship.

Pax Christi,

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