More about Mary: Early believers certain of status

Tue, 07/10/2007 - 3:44pm
By: Letters to the ...

Russell Murphy’s recent commentary, “The Bible says Jesus had siblings,” shows the danger of interpreting scripture apart from historic apostolic teachings of the early Church. He quoted Matthew 1:25 — “But he (Joseph) had no intercourse with her until after she gave birth to a son” — and stated, “this implies that, yes, they did have intercourse.”

But in fact, the early Christian church consistently taught that Mary remained a virgin her entire life. So who is right?

That Mary remained “ever virgin” was the constant belief of Christianity from the time of the apostles until well after the Protestant Reformation.

Saint Augustine stated, “Heretics called antidicomarites are those who contradict the perpetual virginity of Mary and affirm that after Christ was born she was joined as one with her husband.”

Many centuries later, all of the early Protestant reformers, including Martin Luther, John Calvin and Ulrich Zwingli, defended the perpetual virginity of Mary.

Calvin addressed this as follows: “There have been certain folk who have wished to suggest from this passage (Matt 1:25) that the Virgin Mary had other children than the Son of God, and that Joseph had then dwelt with her later; but what folly this is! For the gospel writer did not wish to record what happened afterwards; he simply wished to make clear Joseph’s obedience and to show also that Joseph had been well and truly assured that it was God who had sent His angel to Mary. He had therefore never dwelt with her nor had he shared her company ... And besides this Our Lord Jesus Christ is called the ‘first-born.’ This is not because there was a second or a third, but because the gospel writer is paying regard to the precedence. Scripture speaks thus of naming the first-born whether or not there was any question of the second.” (Sermon on Matthew, 1562)

So why is all this important? Simply because it is true. In my years of attending “non-denominational” Bible studies, I’ve been amazed at the contradicting personal interpretations of Scripture that exist, such as Mr. Murphy’s. Why not compare those interpretations first with the direct teachings of the apostles through the early church fathers to see what they taught? Makes sense to me.

Perhaps Martin Luther said it best: “If the world lasts, it will be necessary, on account of the differing interpretations of scripture which now exist, that to preserve the unity of faith, we should receive the councils and decrees and fly to them for refuge.”

Bob Walden

Fayetteville, Ga.

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