All Saints Greek Orthodox Church
Weirton, WV

The Virginity of Mary

The Virginity of Mary

A Short Orthodox Bible Study On Interpretation

 

MATTHEW 1:24-25 - When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took his wife, but knew her not until she had borne a son; and he called his name Jesus.

MATTHEW 12:46-50 - While he (Jesus) was still speaking to the people, behold, his mother and his brothers stood outside, asking to speak to him. But he replied to the man who told him, "Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?" And stretching out his hand toward his disciples, he said, ``Here are my mother and my brothers! for whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother, and sister, and mother.''

 JAMES - Is often referred to as the brother of the Lord. (Galatians 1:19 - "I saw none of the other apostles except James the Lord's brother."See also, Matthew 13:55, Mark 6:3, Acts 12:17; 15:13; 21:18, 1 Corinthians 15:7, Galatians 2:99; 2:12, James 1:1.

            Did Mary have other children from Joseph besides Jesus? Scriptures seem to indicate so. How then can the Orthodox Church hold to the position that Mary was always a virgin, and call her the Virgin Mary? Doesn't this show that the Tradition of the Orthodox Church is contrary to the Bible, and therefore in error?

            Let us examine the biblical usage of the word UNTIL as found in Matthew 1:25. In Greek it is found as follows: <<EWS OTOU εως οτου>>, <<EWS TOU εως του>>, <<EWS OU εως ου >>, or <<EWS ON εως ον>>).

             What other passages in the Bible use these forms of UNTIL? (Note: Old Testament references are from the Greek Septuagint version, not the Hebrew)

 GENESIS 8:7 - "And he sent forth a raven; and it went forth and returned not UNTIL <<EWS TOU>> the water was dried from off the earth." We know that the raven never returned to Noah's Ark. UNTIL means never or an indefinite period of time.

 PSALM 72 - "In His days shall righteousness spring up; and abundance of peace TILL <<EWS OU>> the moon be removed". Again in this case, TILL is an expression meaning forever or eternity. If this expression is interpreted as modern-day scholarship would have it, in the sense of the opposite happening after the period of time has passed, then God's righteousness will cease or turn to injustice after the passing of the moon. In other words we could ask the question, ``When do you think Fred will change his mind?'' The answer,"Not till the moon turns blue!!" Not a chance.

JOHN 9:18 - Referring to the blind man, "the Jews did not believe concerning his sight, UNTIL <<EWS OTOU>> they called the parents of him that had received his sight." We know that the Jews never believed (John 9:24-41).

 II SAMUEL 6:23 - "And Michal the daughter of Saul had no children UNTIL <<EWS TIS εως τις >> the day she died." Did Michal have children after she died? Again, the meaning is indefinite time, forever, or never.

            What then can our conclusion be, according to the Scriptures, with regard to Joseph having relations with Mary ("he took his wife, but knew her not until she had borne a son")? All the above indications of the use of UNTIL indicate the sense of NEVER. If we then apply the same interpretation in Matthew 1:25, we are left with the conclusion that Joseph NEVER had relations with Mary, and thus she ever remained a virgin.

            What then about Jesus' brothers as referred to in the other verses mentioned? The word <<ADELPHOS>> as used in the biblical sense can mean brother, cousin, or male relative, unlike its Modern-Day usage. Unless we interpret correctly, we will always find conflict.

ST. JOHN CHRYSOSTOM ON THIS MATTER (From Homily 5 on the Gospel of Matthew 1:23 & 25, Nicene and Post Nicene Fathers)

"And when he had taken her, "he knew her not, till she had brought forth her first-born Son."

He hath here used the word "till," not that thou shouldest suspect that afterwards he did know her, but to inform thee that before the birth the Virgin was wholly untouched by man. But why then, it may be said, hath he used the word, "till"? Because it is usual in Scripture often to do this, and to use this expression without reference to limited times. For so with respect to the ark likewise, it is said, "The raven returned not till the earth was dried up." And yet it did not return even after that time. And when discoursing also of God, the Scripture saith, "From age until age Thou art," not as fixing limits in this case. And again when it is preaching the Gospel beforehand, and saying, "In his days shall righteousness flourish, and abundance of peace, till the moon be taken away," it doth not set a limit to this fair part of creation. So then here likewise, it uses the word "till," to make certain what was before the birth, but as to what follows, it leaves thee to make the inference. Thus, what it was necessary for thee to learn of Him, this He Himself hath said; that the Virgin was untouched by man until the birth; but that which both was seen to be a consequence of the former statement, and was acknowledged, this in its turn he leaves for thee to perceive; namely, that not even after this, she having so become a mother, and having been counted worthy of a new sort of travail, and a child-bearing so strange, could that righteous man ever have endured to know her. For if he had known her, and had kept her in the place of a wife, how is it that our Lord commits her, as unprotected, and having no one, to His disciple, and commands him to take her to his own home?

How then, one may say, are James and the others called His brethren? In the same kind of way as Joseph himself was supposed to be husband of Mary. For many were the veils provided, that the birth, being such as it was, might be for a time screened. Wherefore even John so called them, saying, "For neither did His brethren believe in Him."

 

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