Thursday, August 23, 2018

The Spurious Origin Of Mary's Perpetual Virginity

        The Roman Catholic dogma that Mary remained a virgin throughout her lifetime was most likely a consequence of the early church adopting low views regarding human sexuality and marriage. The rise of asceticism, monasticism, and already existing Gnostic beliefs played a foundational role in the development of Mary's perpetual virginity. Many early Christians embraced positions on the issue of marriage verses virginity that we would readily discard as being totally unbiblical, irrational, and even harsh. After centuries of christological disputes, the Second Council of Constantinople officially declared the mother of the Lord Jesus Christ to be "ever virgin."

        The church father Jerome vigorously argued marriage as being inferior to virginity and celibacy. Others such as Athanasius and John of Damascus taught that the concept of marriage was derived from original sin. Augustine thought that it was impossible to engage in marital relations without also having ungodly lusts. Basil claimed that although he personally rejected the teaching, many in his day believed in the perpetual virginity of Mary. There was a small Arabian cult known as the Collyridians, which appointed woman to be priests so as to offer sacrifices of bread to Mary. They worshiped her, and also believed her to be a perpetual virgin.

        It is worth considering this excerpt from the late second to mid third century scholar Origen:

        “And depreciating the whole of what appeared to be His nearest kindred, they said, Is not His mother called Mary? And His brethren, James and Joseph and Simon and Judas? And His sisters, are they not all with us? They thought, then, that He was the son of Joseph and Mary. But some say, basing it on a tradition in the Gospel according to Peter, as it is entitled, or The Book of James, that the brethren of Jesus were sons of Joseph by a former wife, whom he married before Mary. Now those who say so wish to preserve the honor of Mary in virginity to the end.” (Commentary on Matthew, 17, emphasis added)

        Note how the catechism of the Roman Catholic Church defends the perpetual virginity of Mary:

        "Against this doctrine the objection is sometimes raised that the Bible mentions brothers and sisters of Jesus. The Church has always understood these passages as not referring to other children of the Virgin Mary. In fact James and Joseph, "brothers of Jesus", are the sons of another Mary, a disciple of Christ, whom St. Matthew significantly calls "the other Mary". They are close relations of Jesus, according to an Old Testament expression." (CCC # 500)

        Thus, we see that Roman Catholic apologists have resorted to apocryphal literature in order to substantiate their claims. One may as well justify non-Christian teaching by citing extra-biblical sources such as the Quran or Jewish Kabbalah.

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