Today, we continue with our series responding to “Meeting the Protestant Challenge: How to Answer 50 Biblical Objections to Catholic Beliefs” (2019), written by Karlo Broussard. With this next chapter, the Catholic apologist continues his section on Mary as he counters evangelical Protestants’ arguments that Mary was not a perpetual virgin because Scripture says, “He Knew Her Not…Until.”
Celibate Roman Catholic clerics had a low regard for sexual relations within marriage and taught that Mary, their spotless “Queen of Heaven,” was a perpetual virgin.
“The deepening of faith in the virginal motherhood led the Church to confess Mary’s real and perpetual virginity even in the act of giving birth to the Son of God made man. In fact, Christ’s birth “did not diminish his mother’s virginal integrity* but sanctified it.” And so the liturgy of the Church celebrates Mary as Aeiparthenos, the “Ever-virgin.” – CCC 499.
Protestants counter by pointing to Matthew 1:25:
“but (Joseph) knew her not until she had given birth to a son.”
The verse indicates Mary and Joseph had normal marital sexual relations after Jesus was born. Broussard attempts to refute the Protestant interpretation with three rebuttals:
(1) Broussard posits that the word “until” (Greek – heōs) doesn’t necessarily signal a change in future status. As an illustration, Broussard offers the saying of one friend to another, “Be safe until I see you again.” The speaker in that case isn’t implying that his friend should be unsafe after they meet again.
(2) Broussard provides examples in Scripture where heōs – “until” or “to” – is used to indicate a select period of time without reference to change in the future, such as 1 Timothy 4:13, 1 Corinthians 1:8, and 2 Corinthians 3:15.
(3) Broussard argues that, framed in context with preceding verses, Matthew is “trying to persuade his audience (in Matthew 1:25) that Jesus’ conception and birth were miraculous, not to tell us what Mary did afterward” (p. 185).
Let’s now respond to Broussard.
Did you catch Broussard’s argumentation? He’s claiming that, paraphrasing Matthew 1:25, “Joseph didn’t have sex with Mary until she gave birth to Jesus” only means that Joseph didn’t have sex with Mary while she was pregnant, and doesn’t convey that he had sex with her afterwards.
We fully understand that heōs – “until” or “to” – doesn’t always indicate/signal a change in future status. But in the case of Matthew 1:25, the clearest interpretation is that Joseph and Mary began normal, marital relations after Mary gave birth to Jesus. Broussard’s argument that “but (Joseph) knew her not until she had given birth to a son” connotes the same lack of future change as “Be safe until I see you again” is lexical subterfuge.
Are there ANY Bible verses that either explicitly or implicitly teach that Mary was a perpetual virgin? No, there are not. The notion is based solely on Catholic tradition. We’ve previously discussed that the Bible teaches Jesus had multiple half-siblings. See here.
The Roman Catholic church’s low regard for natural sexual relations within marriage meant that Mary, the chaste and spotless Queen of Heaven, could never have been “soiled” by her husband. In contrast to Catholicism, the Bible honors the sexual union of husband and wife. The apostle Paul wrote under divine inspiration of the Holy Spirit that married believers ought not to withhold themselves from each other as the Roman church claims Mary and Joseph did.
“Do not deprive one another, except perhaps by agreement for a limited time, that you may devote yourselves to prayer; but then come together again, so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.” – 1 Corinthians 7:5
*Included in the RCC’s doctrine of Mary’s perpetual virginity is the not-widely-known assertion that as she was giving birth to baby Jesus, He miraculously passed through her hymen without rupturing it, thus preserving her “virginal integrity.”
Is the perpetual virginity of Mary biblical?
What does the Bible say about sex in marriage?