1411Re: [LutheransLookingEast] Re: Semper Virgo
- Oct 7, 2009Here's what I find regarding Mt 1:25 in Luther's Works, pertinent to the question:
Then he was asked whether Mary also had intercourse with Joseph after the birth of Christ, for Matthew says that he ‘knew her not until she had borne a son’ [Matt. 1:25]. He [Martin Luther] replied, “The church leaves this [to us] and has not decided. Nevertheless, what happened afterward shows quite strongly that Mary remained a virgin. For after she had perceived that she was the mother of the Son of God, she didn’t think she should become the mother of a human child and adhered to this vow.”
Luther, M. (1999, c1967). Vol. 54: Luther's works, vol. 54 : Table Talk (J. J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald & H. T. Lehmann, Ed.). Luther's Works (54:341). Philadelphia: Fortress Press.
Now this refutes also the false interpretation which some have drawn from the words of Matthew, where he says, “Before they came together she was found to be with child.” They interpret this as though the evangelist meant to say, “Later she came together with Joseph like any other wife and lay with him, but before this occurred she was with child apart from Joseph,” etc. Again, when he says, “And Joseph knew her not until she brought forth her first-born son” [Matt. 1:25], they interpret it as though the evangelist meant to say that he knew her, but not before she had brought forth her first-born son. This was the view of Helvidius which was refuted by Jerome.
Such carnal interpretations miss the meaning and purpose of the evangelist. As we have said, the evangelist, like the prophet Isaiah, wishes to set before our eyes this mighty wonder, and point out what an unheard-of thing it is for a maiden to be with child before her husband brings her home and lies with her; and further, that he does not know her carnally until she first has a son, which she should have had after first having been known by him. Thus, the words of the evangelist do not refer to anything that occurred after the birth, but only to what took place before it. For the prophet and the evangelist, and St. Paul as well, do not treat of this virgin beyond the point where they have from her that fruit for whose sake she is a virgin and everything else. After the child is born they dismiss the mother and speak not about her, what became of her, but only about her offspring. Therefore, one cannot from these words [Matt. 1:18, 25] conclude that
Mary, after the birth of Christ, became a wife in the usual sense; it is therefore neither to be asserted nor believed. All the words are merely indicative of the marvelous fact that she was with child and gave birth before she had lain with a man.
The form of expression used by Matthew is the common idiom, as if I were to say, “Pharaoh believed not Moses, until he was drowned in the Red Sea.” Here it does not follow that Pharaoh believed later, after he had drowned; on the contrary, it means that he never did believe. Similarly when Matthew [1:25] says that Joseph did not know Mary carnally until she had brought forth her son, it does not follow that he knew her subsequently; on the contrary, it means that he never did know her. Again, the Red Sea overwhelmed Pharaoh before he got across. Here too it does not follow that Pharaoh got across later, after the Red Sea had overwhelmed him, but rather that he did not get across at all. In like manner, when Matthew [1:18] says, “She was found to be with child before they came together,” it does not follow that Mary subsequently lay with Joseph, but rather that she did not lie with him.
Elsewhere in Scripture the same manner of speech is employed. Psalm 110[:1] reads, “God says to my Lord: ‘Sit at my right hand, till I make your enemies your footstool.’ ” Here it does not follow that Christ does not continue to sit there after his enemies are placed beneath his feet. Again, in Genesis 28[:15], “I will not leave you until I have done all that of which I have spoken to you.” Here God did not leave him after the fulfilment had taken place. Again, in Isaiah 42[:4], “He shall not be sad, nor troublesome, till he has established justice in the earth.” There are many more similar expressions, so that this babble of Helvidius is without justification; in addition, he has neither noticed nor paid any attention to either Scripture or the common idiom.
This is enough for the present to have sufficiently proved that Mary was a pure maiden, and that Christ was a genuine Jew of Abraham’s seed. Although more Scripture passages might be cited, these are the clearest. Moreover, if anyone does not believe a clear saying of His Divine Majesty, it is reasonable to assume that he would not believe either any other more obscure passages. So certainly no one can doubt that it is possible for God to cause a maiden to be with child apart from a man, since he has also created all things from nothing. Therefore, the Jews have no ground for denying this, for they acknowledge God’s omnipotence, and they have here the clear testimony of the prophet Isaiah.
Luther, M. (1999, c1962). Vol. 45: Luther's works, vol. 45 : The Christian in Society II (J. J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald & H. T. Lehmann, Ed.). Luther's Works (45:211-213). Philadelphia: Fortress Press.
--- On Wed, 10/7/09, Rosemarie Lieffring <rose.lieffring@...> wrote:
From: Rosemarie Lieffring <rose.lieffring@...>
Subject: Re: [LutheransLookingEast] Re: Semper Virgo
Date: Wednesday, October 7, 2009, 12:13 PM
You make an important point..."coming at the scriptures from a Sola
Scriptura lens, you miss out on all of the other background information your
posts have provided"
The problem is that Scripture absolutely cannot be removed from the context
of the Church and still be fully understood properly. This discussion of
Semper Virgo is proof positive of that. The Church teaches us how to
understand the Scriptures.. .just as Christ did when He walked with the men
on the road to Emmaus and opened up the Scriptures to them so that they
The verse from Ezekiel 44:2 is one case in point.
Another is the historic understanding of Matt. 1:25 which you reference
here...Luther even comments about the incorrect interpretation of
the heretic, Helvidius, who used the Scriptures in this way to deny the ever
virginity of the Theotokos. (Unfortunately, I don't have that reference
here with me right now.) So here we are 1700 hundred years later and the
misinterpretations are being made anew. How absolutely frightening this is
to me that beliefs of old heretics are resurrected by folks interpretting
Scripture apart from the knowledge of the Church. What a dangerous thing
Sola Scripture appears to be!
Is Semper Virgo important? In addition to what has already been said by the
others here I would emphasize that not seeing Semper Virgo in the Scriptures
is evidence that one doesn't have the proper interpretation of the
Scriptures. Not a good place to be if one is Sola Scripture... ..R
On Wed, Oct 7, 2009 at 12:33 PM, oruaseht <oruaseht@yahoo. com> wrote:
> Thank you for the replies, they are very fascinating. Coming at the
> scriptures from the Sola Scriptura lens, you miss out on all of the other
> background information your posts have provided.
> The most often cited verse for Mary not being perpetually virgin is Matthew
> 1:18 "Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother
> Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found
> to be with child from the Holy Spirit." "Came together" is typically
> understood here as sexual union but the Greek doesn't necessarily indicate
> that was the case.
> The other verse, MT 1:25 "but knew her not until she had given birth to a
> son. And he called his name Jesus." is more problematic. It comes down to
> how you understand the improper preposition translated here as "until."
> It seems though that the understanding of Mary's perpetual virginity has
> been an important tradition of the church ~ one that is no longer really
> held by Lutherans.
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