Expert Answer Forum
Mary-Ever Virgin QUESTION from Patrick December 11, 1999 Am I correct in my understanding that Mary is the Ever Virgin, meaning she never had sex? If that is so, what does Matt 1:25 mean when it says He had no relations with her [Mary] until she bore a son, and he named him Jesus. I'm confused, can you clarify this. Also I have heard that Mary had other children, I always understood that Joseph was a widower and had children from that marriage, is this correct?
ANSWER by John-Paul Ignatius on December 11, 1999 Dear Mr. Patrick:
The problem with Matthew 1:25 is a translation problem. Following the Greek text strictly, the official Latin translation reads: et non cognoscebat eam, donec peperit filium. As it is explained in the Narvarre Bible Commentary, The word donec (until) of itself does not direct our attention to what happened afterwards; it simply points out what has happened up to that moment.
The same word is used on John 9:18 where the Pharisees did not believe in the miraculous cure of the man blind from birth until (donec) they called his parents. But we know that the Pharisees also did not believe it after they talked to the parents either. This also shows that the word until does not refer to what happens after the event in question.
A similar question deals with first born. This is merely a convention of the times which merely means first born without implying that other children came later. (cf. Exodus 13:2)
The Church has always taught that Mary had only one child – Jesus – and that her marriage to Joseph was without marital relations. She remained a Virgin her whole life.
One of the other Scriptural proofs that Mary had no other children comes from the scene of the Cross. Jesus hands over the care of Mary to John. This would have been a major insult and rebellion against the Jewish custom and law concerning this issue. If Jesus had any brothers, the brother next in line would have had the care of his mother. John was not Jesus’ brother. Jesus had no brothers and thus was free to hand over care of his mother to John.
Finally, there is another reason why Mary must be ever Virgin. She was the Ark of the Covenant (Jesus), the tabernacle of our Lord.
Once something is consecrated for a holy purpose it can never again be used for profane or non-sacred purposes. This is true of the tabernacles in our parishes. That tabernacle should never be used for a toy box, for example, if the parish gets a new tabernacle.
Mary’s womb was consecrated (which means set aside) for a holy purpose – to house (be the tabernacle, the Ark of the Covenant) for the Lord Jesus Christ. Thus it must be pure and unblemished – hence the Immaculate Conception and the Virgin birth – and must continue to be pure and unblemished – hence the perpetual virginity.
As to Joseph having children from a previous marriage, there are apocryphal writings that mention this, but these writings are not reliable and have no authority whatsoever. Even if true, it would not change the fact of the perpetual virginity.
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