Thursday, February 19, 2009

Joseph and Mary's Marriage

On a recent Dividing Line there was a clip played taken from, if I recall correctly, the "Catholic Answers" show, regarding Joseph and Mary's "marriage." The caller asked (and I may be slightly paraphrasing) two questions:

1) Where in the Bible does it say that marriage is only valid when it is consummated?

2) Did Mary and Joseph have a valid marriage?

The host (well, the person providing the "Catholic Answers") answered the first question by appealing to Genesis, where it says that the "two shall be one flesh."

The host then went on to say that Joseph and Mary never became one flesh, but (and again I'm paraphrasing) that was ok because NT sacramental marriage hadn't come to be, yet. But if Genesis is the institution of the definition of marriage as valid depending on physical union, then the fact that sacramental marriage hadn't come to exist yet is irrelevant - since the question wasn't whether the marriage was sacramental, but whether it was valid.

They did have marriage before the apostles, and physical union was a normative aspect of Old Testament marriage. That's one reason that the New Testament places such great emphasis on the fact that Mary and Joseph didn't "know" each other from before Jesus was conceived until Jesus was born.

Matthew describes it as being that Mary was found to be with child of the Holy Ghost "before they [i.e. Mary and Joseph] came together" (Matthew 1:18). Of course, Catholicism today claims that Mary and Joseph never came together, but the natural sense of the text is that they did come together, just later. This is especially so when coupled with the statement, only a few verses later that Joseph "knew her not till she had brought forth her firstborn son," rather than saying that Joseph "never knew" her.

-TurretinFan

13 comments:

orthodox said...

Uh, what is the chapter and verse that says Joseph and Mary got married?

Turretinfan said...

Matthew 1:16 And Jacob begat Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ.

Matthew 1:19 Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not willing to make her a publick example, was minded to put her away privily.

Matthew 1:20 But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost.

Matthew 1:24 Then Joseph being raised from sleep did as the angel of the Lord had bidden him, and took unto him his wife:

Lucian said...

The only natural sense of the text is that Joseph had nothing to do with Jesus' birth and conception. And the verbal tense used there is a Greek durable imperfect, akin to your English present perfect, which means continuation of their state, and not termination.

Lucian said...

Joseph the husband of Mary
Joseph her husband
Mary thy wife
his wife


The Bible wasn't written in English. The Greek words are man and woman. When getting technical about the status of their relationship, the Gospel-writer has 'a virgin *engaged* to a man named Joseph'.

natamllc said...

With questions and answers as is herein, one realizes the great special Work of Grace we have received!

Turretinfan said...

In Biblical Greek, Lucian, the word for wife is one of the words for woman (same for man/husband). There's not some other way that the husband/wife relationship would be stated, and it is not as though a generic word for "man" and "woman" are being used. And yes, they were betrothed/espoused at the time (engaged is probably too loose a term).

-TurretinFan

Turretinfan said...

Lucian,

It is imperfect, but the terminus is provided via εως ου ετεκεν τον υιον αυτης τον πρωτοτοκον.

Almost the exact same construction is found in Matthew 2:9, where the imperfect of the star "going before them" is terminated by the "till it came and stood over where the young child was." Same conjunction for "till" there as here.

-TurretinFan

Kelly said...

Lucian is right however in noting what commentators not, namely that Matthew's interest is that duration of time between the conception of Jesus and the birth of him. The point is to absolve Joseph from any potential claim of fatherhood.

Matthew is absolutely uninterested in Mary's perpetual virginity, a claim that bothers Catholics who listen to me, but also it seems, someone like yourself (TurretinFan), who I feel in this area, is reading into a text, simply what isnt there.

Turretinfan said...

Orthodox asked: "I suppose the terminus for Mt 28:20 "and lo, I am with you always," is terminated by ἕως τῆς συντελείας τοῦ αἰῶνος ???"

Answer:

a) No, "I am with you" is not in the imperfect tense, so the same grammatical issue is not presented.

b) "Until the end of the world" is simply a strengthening of "alway."

-TurretinFan

Turretinfan said...

Kelly:

a) Yes, Lucian is right and you are right that Matthew's interest is in Mary's virginity up to Jesus' birth.

b) Nevertheless, we can legitimately note that Matthew reinforces our expectations for a married couple.

c) Among these are the "before they came together" and "knew her not until" as well as Joseph's change of mind regarding divorcing Mary (a clue about their being married), together with the later references to the continued, post-birth cohabitation of Joseph and Mary (not to mention Jesus' brethren who hung out with Jesus' mother).

d) If Perpetual Virginity were true, we'd expect some clue of it here ... such as "never" instead of "until Jesus was born" and/or some warning from the angel for Joseph never to take Mary to be his wife, but to keep her in a perpetual betrothed state - or something, anything, to indicate that Mary's virginity continued beyond Jesus' birth + her time of purification.

-TurretinFan

Turretinfan said...

I had written: "If Perpetual Virginity were true, we'd expect some clue of it here ... such as "never" instead of "until Jesus was born""

Orthodox has responded: "Apart from the aforementioned problems [he may here be referencing perceived problems that I haven't published], you assume that Matthew would have to have known of perpetual virginity if it is true. Our position is simply that he did not address that issue. Now if Matthew simply didn't know and didn't address the issue, how is his statement inconsistent with what we'd expect? It's not."

Well, given that it isn't true, Matthew didn't know about it (just as Matthew didn't know that Jesus beamed through the wall of Mary's womb to avoid having her undergo normal labor). And if it were true, and Matthew didn't know about it, it would be something unimportant to the Christian religion.

But, of course, it is of major importance to Catholicism, to the point where people in Catholicism aren't allowed to deny this thing that plainly Matthew didn't know about.

And, of course, given that Matthew was aware of Jesus' brethren, Matthew would not only have simply been unaware of the idea, he would have been well aware that Mary was not a perpetual virgin.

-TurretinFan

Kelly said...

My major concern was that I thought you were offering Matthew's infancy narrative as evidence that Mary and Joseph later consumated their marriage (in fairness to myself, you really do seem to be doing this, in at least two posts). I (and commentators) naturally disagree, but since you yourself have acknowledged that “Matthew's interest in in Mary's virginity up to Jesus' birth” perhaps we agree on the proper reading of the text.

But I don't think I agree with Point D. Mark and Paul were able to articulate the Xian Gospel without appeal to the virgin birth for example, and yet we still believe both that this is a reality, and that it is an important one. Would you consider that comparison fair?

Turretinfan said...

Kelly wrote: "My major concern was that I thought you were offering Matthew's infancy narrative as evidence that Mary and Joseph later consumated their marriage (in fairness to myself, you really do seem to be doing this, in at least two posts)."

Evidence, yes - taken together with the account of Jesus' brethren. More specifically, though, evidence against perpetual virginity.

Kelly again: "I (and commentators) naturally disagree, but since you yourself have acknowledged that “Matthew's interest in in Mary's virginity up to Jesus' birth” perhaps we agree on the proper reading of the text."

Certainly, we seem to agree on the main thrust of the text. The question is really over what implications are properly drawn from the references presented in the text, such as the use of "until Jesus' birth" (paraphrase) as opposed to "until Joseph's death" or simply "never."

"But I don't think I agree with Point D. Mark and Paul were able to articulate the Xian Gospel without appeal to the virgin birth for example, and yet we still believe both that this is a reality, and that it is an important one."

I'm not sure I can grant the validity of the comparison. In fact, it seems only to emphasize the weakness of the case for perpetual virginity.

Surely, the virginity of Mary was not of such enormous importance that it needed to be stated in every gospel. Much less so was an perpetuity of that virginity.

There's a sense in which the virginity of Mary is important - and it is clearly taught in Scripture, fulfilling the prophecy of Isaiah. But there is no need at all (and no Scriptural testimony to) perpetual virginity for Mary.

Kelly wrote: "Would you consider that comparison fair?"

I suppose not - not that it's abusive, just that you are comparing a Scriptural doctrine of some importance with a doctrine for which there is (at best) no Scriptural support.

-TurretinFan