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Does the use of the word UNTIL (Mathew 1:25) require that Mary have other children. Does FIRST-BORN imply a second born?

The major Protestant reformers claim that Mary had no other children; in fact they go out of their way to make this point.  However, there are Christians today who have very short traditions and are unaware of this.  

Joane Lamb says yes:  “Mary is not a "perpetual virgin" she had children with her husband Joseph, it says in the Bible. Matthew 1:25-And (Joseph) he did not KNOW HER UNTIL after she had brought forth her firstborn Son. And he called His name Jesus. There is no other way to possibly read this verse” 

Lenny Alt says yes:  Yes, there is another way to possibly read this verse.  This verse does not say that Mary is not a perpetual virgin and it does not say that Mary had children with Joseph.  Joan has violated her own concept of “sola scriptura” Bible alone because these statements are not in the Bible.   Why would she claim to believe the Bible alone and yet make statements not in the Bible? Actually she didn’t invent this; it comes from one of the many contradictory Protestant traditions. There is no record of Mary giving birth to other children in the Bible. 

As to Joan’s second point, the word UNTIL does not imply that Mary had to have sexual relations and children after the birth of Jesus.  Just because the biological possibility is there, does not mean that it actually must have happened.  The definition of the word UNTIL does not require that something happen after the fact.  And so her premise is based on a faulty understanding of the word UNTIL that she received from her tradition.  

Joan is not the first to believe this way, actually there are other Christians who believe that the use of the term UNTIL automatically requires that Mary did have relations with Joseph after the birth of Jesus.  If the use of the word UNTIL required that something had to happen after the fact, you could come up with some very strange conclusions while reading Scripture. 

For example, you could believe that Michal gave birth to one or more children after her death. "Therefore Michal, the daughter of Saul, had no child unto (archaic until) the day of her death" (2 Sm 6:23, KJV).  If the definition of the word until REQUIRED that something happened after the fact, then Michal had children after her death. 

The use of the word UNTIL does not require Mary to have "relations" with Joseph after "she bore a son," anymore than the use of the word "unto" requires Michal to give birth to children after "the day of her death."

“When Joseph awoke, he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took his wife into his home. He had no relations with her until she bore a son, and he named him Jesus” (Mt 1:24-25).  These verses say only that she didn’t have relations with Joseph before Jesus birth and does not say what happened after Jesus birth. 

Jesus as the first born, does this imply that there was a second born?  Does a second born then imply a third born and so on? 

The use of the word FIRST-BORN is used as a proof text that there must have been other children born later: "she had brought forth her first-born Son" (Mt. 1:25, KJV).  

“They say Jesus could not be called Mary’s ‘first-born’ unless there were other children that followed him.  But this is a misunderstanding of the way the ancient Jews used the term.  For them it meant the child that opened the womb (Ex. 13:2, Num. 3:12.  Under the Mosaic Law, it was the “first-born” son that was to be sanctified (Ex. 34:20). Did this mean that the parents had to wait until a second son was born before they could call their first the ‘first –born’? Hardley.  The first male child of a marriage was termed the ‘first-born’ even if he turned out to be the only child of the marriage.  This usage is illustrated by a funerary inscription discovered in Egypt.  The inscription refers to a woman who died during the birth of her ‘first-born” (Brethren  of  the Lord Catholic Answers,  P.O.  Box  17181, San Diego California 92117, pg. 3). 

As can be readily seen, there is no requirement for a second child to be born in order for there to be a first-born. The first-born is simply the first child to open the womb. "Consecrate to me every first-born that opens the womb among the Israelites, both man and beast, for it belongs to me" (Ex. 13:2, Lk. 2:23). Remember, too, that Jesus parents did not wait for a second born to determine that He was in fact a first-born so that He could be consecrated to the Lord. Jesus, as a first-born was presented to the Lord after "their purification" (Lk 2:22). 

Martin luther, John Calvin, Huldreich  Zwingly, Heinrich Bullinger and John  Wesley, all believed in Mary EVER VIRGIN.   None of these scholars believed that Mary had other children.   All non-Catholics that I know of have a very high regard for the Bible.  And yet there are non-Catholics today who are at odds with one another and at odds with the early Protestant Reformers over this issue as well as others. 

One cannot assume when you see Mary listed with other sons that they are Jesus Mother.    And so this begs the question, how do you know which Mary is the mother of Jesus and not one of the other two Marys?  Because of the several Marys in the Gospels and in Acts, the authors of these books make it very clear when the Mary spoken of is the actually mother of Jesus.

The text tells us when the Mary spoken of is the mother of Jesus.  

"His mother named Mary (Mt 13:55), the mother of Jesus (Jn 2:1),
standing by the cross of Jesus were His mother (Jn 19:25),
Mary the Mother of Jesus (Acts 1:14).

When the mother spoken of is not the mother of Jesus, but one of the other Mary’s, it is very clear, for example;

his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Clopas,
and Mary of Magdala” (Jn 19:25).
Mary the mother of James and Joseph, (Mt 27:56).

Jesus seems to have lots and lots of brothers (as many as 500) at one time, but how would you know if any of these brothers of Jesus were actually biological sons of Mary.  In John 2:1 the text says Mary “the mother of Jesus.”  In this instance if Mary were to have other sons, it would have read “the mother of Jesus, James and Joses, but of course it doesn’t.  



Martin Luther on Mary's Perpetual Virginity

These citations are listed on www.BiblicalCatholic.org.


Christ, our Savior, was the real and natural fruit of Mary's virginal womb . . . This was without the cooperation of a man, and she remained a virgin after that.


{Luther's Works, eds. Jaroslav Pelikan (vols. 1-30) & Helmut T. Lehmann (vols. 31-55), St. Louis: Concordia Pub. House (vols. 1-30); Philadelphia: Fortress Press (vols. 31-55), 1955, v.22:23 / Sermons on John, chaps. 1-4 (1539) }


Christ . . . was the only Son of Mary, and the Virgin Mary bore no children besides Him . . . I am inclined to agree with those who declare that 'brothers' really mean 'cousins' here, for Holy Writ and the Jews always call cousins brothers.


{Pelikan, ibid., v.22:214-15 / Sermons on John, chaps. 1-4 (1539) }


A new lie about me is being circulated. I am supposed to have preached and written that Mary, the mother of God, was not a virgin either before or after the birth of Christ . . .


{Pelikan, ibid.,v.45:199 / That Jesus Christ was Born a Jew (1523) }


Scripture does not say or indicate that she later lost her virginity . . .


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 . . . This babble . . . is without justification . . . he has neither noticed nor paid any attention to either Scripture or the common idiom.


{Pelikan, ibid.,v.45:206,212-3 / That Jesus Christ was Born a Jew (1523) }


Editor Jaroslav Pelikan (Lutheran) adds:


Luther . . . does not even consider the possibility that Mary might have had other children than Jesus. This is consistent with his lifelong acceptance of the idea of the perpetual virginity of Mary.


{Pelikan, ibid.,v.22:214-5}


 ". . . she is full of grace, proclaimed to be entirely without sin. . . . God's grace fills her with everything good and makes her devoid of all evil. . . . God is with her, meaning that all she did or left undone is divine and the action of God in her. Moreover, God guarded and protected her from all that might be hurtful to her."

Ref: Luther's Works, American edition, vol. 43, p. 40, ed. H. Lehmann, Fortress, 1968


 ". . . she is rightly called not only the mother of the man, but also the Mother of God. . . . it is certain that Mary is the Mother of the real and true God."

Ref: Sermon on John 14. 16: Luther's Works (St. Louis, ed. Jaroslav, Pelican, Concordia. vol. 24. p. 107)


"Christ our Savior was the real and natural fruit of Mary's virginal womb. . . . This was without the cooperation of a man, and she remained a virgin after that."

(REf: On the Gospel of St. John: Luther's Works, vol. 22. p. 23, ed. Jaroslav Pelican, Concordia, 1957)


"Men have crowded all her glory into a single phrase: The Mother of God. No one can say anything greater of her, though he had as many tongues as there are leaves on the trees." (From the Commentary on the Magnificat.)


Commentaries on Luther


". . . in the resolutions of the 95 theses Luther rejects every blasphemy against the Virgin, and thinks that one should ask for pardon for any evil said or thought against her." (Ref: Wm. J. Cole, "Was Luther a Devotee of Mary?" in Marian Studies 1970, p. 116:)



"In Luther's Explanation of the Magnificat in 1521, he begins and ends with an invocation to Mary, which Wright feels compelled to call 'surprising'".

(David F. Wright, Chosen by God: Mary in Evangelical Perspecive, London: Marshall Pickering, 1989, p. 178, Cited from Faith & Reason, Spring 1994, p. 6.)



Other Reformers on Mary's Perpetual Virginity


John Calvin

 Helvidius displayed excessive ignorance in concluding that Mary must have had many sons, because Christ's 'brothers' are sometimes mentioned.


{Harmony of Matthew, Mark & Luke, sec. 39 (Geneva, 1562), vol. 2 / From Calvin's Commentaries, tr. William Pringle, Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1949, p.215; on Matthew 13:55}


[On Matt 1:25:] The inference he [Helvidius] drew from it was, that Mary remained a virgin no longer than till her first birth, and that afterwards she had other children by her husband . . . No just and well-grounded inference can be drawn from these words . . . as to what took place after the birth of Christ. He is called 'first-born'; but it is for the sole purpose of informing us that he was born of a virgin . . . What took place afterwards the historian does not inform us . . . No man will obstinately keep up the argument, except from an extreme fondness for disputation.


{Pringle, ibid., vol. I, p. 107}

Under the word 'brethren' the Hebrews include all cousins and other relations, whatever may be the degree of affinity.


{Pringle, ibid., vol. I, p. 283 / Commentary on John, (7:3) }


Huldreich Zwingli

He turns, in September 1522, to a lyrical defense of the perpetual virginity of the mother of Christ . . . To deny that Mary remained 'inviolata' before, during and after the birth of her Son, was to doubt the omnipotence of God . . . and it was right and profitable to repeat the angelic greeting - not prayer - 'Hail Mary' . . . God esteemed Mary above all creatures, including the saints and angels - it was her purity, innocence and invincible faith that mankind must follow. Prayer, however, must be . . . to God alone . . .


'Fidei expositio,' the last pamphlet from his pen . . . There is a special insistence upon the perpetual virginity of Mary.


{G. R. Potter, Zwingli, London: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1976, pp.88-9,395 / The Perpetual Virginity of Mary . . ., Sep. 17, 1522}


Zwingli had printed in 1524 a sermon on 'Mary, ever virgin, mother of God.'{Thurian, ibid., p.76}


I have never thought, still less taught, or declared publicly, anything concerning the subject of the ever Virgin Mary, Mother of our salvation, which could be considered dishonourable, impious, unworthy or evil . . . I believe with all my heart according to the word of holy gospel that this pure virgin bore for us the Son of God and that she remained, in the birth and after it, a pure and unsullied virgin, for eternity. 

{Thurian, ibid., p.76 / same sermon}


Heinrich Bullinger

Bullinger (d. 1575) . . . defends Mary's perpetual virginity . . . and inveighs against the false Christians who defraud her of her rightful praise: 'In Mary everything is extraordinary and all the more glorious as it has sprung from pure faith and burning love of God.' She is 'the most unique and the noblest member' of the Christian community . . .


'The Virgin Mary . . . completely sanctified by the grace and blood of her only Son and abundantly endowed by the gift of the Holy Spirit and preferred to all . . . now lives happily with Christ in heaven and is called and remains ever-Virgin and Mother of God.'


{In Hilda Graef, Mary: A history of Doctrine and Devotion, combined ed. of vols. 1 & 2, London: Sheed & Ward, 1965, vol.2, pp.14-5}


John Wesley (Founder of Methodism)

 The Blessed Virgin Mary, who, as well after as when she brought him forth, continued a pure and unspotted virgin. 

{"Letter to a Roman Catholic" / In This Rock, Nov. 1990, p.25}


These citations are listed on www.BiblicalCatholic.org.