Tuesday, August 26, 2008

An argument FOR Perpetual Virginity from Epiphanius of Salamis (1)

I finally had some time to closely work through the argumentation in favor of Mary's perpetual virginity from Epiphanius of Salamis (310/320-403). I'd like to present some of his arguments. With the one below, I'm not going to comment on it, but let it stand as it is. The argument though concludes, "the holy Virgin cannot have had marital relations."

12.1 But if we need to take the matter [Mary's perpetual virginity] up from another point of view, let's examine the findings of the naturalists. They say that a lioness never gives birth but once, for the following reason. A lion is a very fierce, grim of visage, of extremely violent strength, and, as it were, the king of beasts. (2) A lioness conceives by one male, but the implanted seed remains in the womb for a full twenty-six months. Thus the cub comes to maturity inside its mother because of the time, and already has all its teeth before it is born, and its claws fully developed, and, as they call them, its "incisors, eye-teeth and molars," and all the beast's remaining features. (3) Thus while it is in the belly it rakes it with its claws in the course of its upward and forward movements and its other twists, and scrapes the wombs and ovaries that are carrying it. And so, when the mother has come to birth,that very day her belly becomes incapable of labor. (4) For the naturalists say that the ovaries and wombs are expelled with the cub, so that the lioness no longer feels desire unless, perhaps, she is forced. And even if it should happen that she is forced to mate, she can never conceive again because she has no wombs or ovaries.

12.5 Now even this series of events has given me a notion, beneficial rather than harmful, on the subject in question. (6) If Jacob says, "Judah is a lion's whelp," as a symbol of Christ, somewhere in John's Revelation it says, "Behold, the lion of the tribe of Judah, and the seed of David,hath prevailed"—(when the Lord is compared to a lion it is not because of his nature, but symbolically, and because of the kingliness of the beast, bolder, strongest, and in all other respects the handsomest of the animals.) [If the Lord is a lion], then, I should call the mother who bare him a lioness; (7) how can any lion be born if the mother is not to be called a lioness? But a lioness does not conceive a second tine. Therefore Mary never conceives again; the holy Virgin cannot have had marital relations.


Frank Williams, trans., The Panarion of Epiphanius of Salamis: Book II and III, pp. 609-610.

19 comments:

Turretinfan said...

Wow. Not an argument that I hear used much today.

-TurretinFan

Mike Burgess said...
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Turretinfan said...

The idea that either Mary or Joseph failed to engage in normal marital relations with each other after Jesus' birth is perfectly consistent with Scripture. In fact, it is more consistent with Scripture than the alternative.

And yes - the method you so explicitly described is how Jesus' brethren are most naturally explained.

We have no reason at all from Scripture to suppose that Mary was anything other than a normal wife for Joseph after Jesus' birth.

-TurretinFan

Mike Burgess said...

"The idea that either Mary or Joseph failed to engage in normal marital relations with each other after Jesus' birth is perfectly consistent with Scripture."

I presume you meant to say "did not fail to;" otherwise, your statement affirms my position.

But you didn't read Jerome, either, did you?

Mike Burgess said...

As to the explicit nature of my verbiage, it always does good to shine a light where scurrying around in shadows occurs, as with explicitly telling pro-abortionists exactly what dilation, curretage, extraction, and the like actually mean. Why don't you guys shout it from the rooftops? Don't pussy-foot.

Why work so vociferously to assert what you will only surreptitiously affirm? I note noone wants to take a stab at the Jesus question.

dtking said...

The Romanist said: "But you, no doubt, will continue, like DTKing and others here and elsewhere, to insist on the propriety of asserting that Joseph must have ..., to put it explicitly, since they were betrothed,..."

Leave it to a Romanist not only to misrepresent his opponent's position about the marriage bed being undefiled, but you can count on him to express his thoughts just as filthy as he thinks this forum will permit him. I am not surprised at all. This kind of gutter mentality, folks, is a standard commentary on, indeed a practical expression of, what Romanists perceive to be "works performed in a state of grace" as necessary for salvation.

Give them enough rope, and they'll hang out their filth for everyone to see in all its ugliness. And you can be assured that they bear no shame in doing so.

DTK

Rhology said...

From the Authorised Roman Magisterial Version (ARMV) of the Bible:

Hebrews 13:4 Marriage is to be held in honor among all, and the two marriage twin beds are to be undefiled by something so disgusting as married sex...

Turretinfan said...

"I presume you meant to say "did not fail to;" otherwise, your statement affirms my position.

But you didn't read Jerome, either, did you?
"

Quite so, on the first count only. I have long been aware of this work, and have read it with great interest. Jerome's comments really cannot change what Scripture has to say, and it is interesting to see that there was at least one person (Helvidius) in Jerome's day who evidently did not buy the perpetual virginity argument.

I would be delighted to find a collection of Helvidius' writings, if anyone can point me to them.

What is really the most significant aspect of the debate (from our standpoint) is that both Helvidius and Jerome at least attempted to practice Sola Scriptura, at least on this issue.

And evaluating the debate based on Scriptural evidence, Jerome (wise though he was) loses and Helvidius (as petulant as Jerome portrays him to be) wins.

*** As to the more disturbing aspects of your argument.

To echo Scripture, the marriage bed is undefiled. There's nothing similar about the operating room being undefiled. And, naturally, as a consequence there's nothing at all disturbing to us about Joseph knowing Mary in the way that Adam knew Eve, after Jesus' birth (while in contrast, what abortionists do is disturbing even simply stated as "intentionally ending a human life").

-TurretinFan

JustJan said...

Is it bad to be just a little practical here?

The angel appeared to Mary and announced that she would bear the infant Jesus. No mention that she would never "know" her husband.

Further Joseph was visited in a dream by an angel who told him that Mary had conceived by an angel. Again no mention of the permanent prohibition of sexual relations.

While I am not a man, it seems to me from what I know about men, that if God expected Joseph to be a husband to Mary but not to have sex with her- EVER, God would have announced this VERY important fact to Joseph. If their perpetual chasteness was as important to God as it seems to be to the Roman Catholic Church we would have seen that recorded in the gospels.

The idea that a "good" Jewish couple would have married but never consummated the marriage is just silly.

Mike Burgess said...
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Alan Kurschner said...

Sadly, this type of argumentation from Rome is not the exception, but the rule.

Rhology said...

Mike,

The "medical terminology" was not "ovaries" and "womb" and you know it. How disingenuous can you get?
What we'd really like instead of a bunch of ranting about how evil DTK is, is an answer to a few of our questions. It's really not too much to ask.

Doctor Winters said...

interesting....does the fact that his biology is completely wrong undermine his argument?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lioness#Reproduction_and_life_cycle:

"The average gestation period is around 110 days,[78] pride. The cubs themselves are born blind—their eyes do not open until roughly a week after birth. They weigh 1.2–2.1 kg (2.6–4.6 lb) at birth and are almost helpless, beginning to crawl a day or two after birth and walking around three weeks of age.[82]
pride.

the lioness. Furthermore, when one or more new males oust the previous male(s) associated with a pride, the conqueror(s) often kill any existing young cubs, [85] perhaps because females do not become fertile and receptive until their cubs mature or die."

Jesus is also called a lamb....I wonder what kind of allegorical reproductive life cycle we could develop for Mary from that?

Anyway, Paul at least seems to think perpetual virginity in marriage would be a sin:

1Cor7:
3(B) The husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights, and likewise the wife to her husband. 4For the wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. Likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. 5(C) Do not deprive one another, except perhaps by agreement for a limited time, that you may devote yourselves to prayer; but then come together again,(D) so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self-control."

EA said...

interesting....does the fact that his biology is completely wrong undermine his argument?

Thanks Doc!

I had researched this angle a bit as well. But was kept from writing about this due to a lack of morning coffee. ; ^ )

bkaycee said...

1Cor7:3 The husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights, and likewise the wife to her husband. 4For the wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. Likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. 5 Do not deprive one another, except perhaps by agreement for a limited time, that you may devote yourselves to prayer; but then come together again, so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self-control."

It's is doubtful that God would make a mockery of marriage especially in Mary's case.

It is clear Mary had other children as stated rather matter of factly in several scriptural passages and obviously scripture is totaly silent on Mary's perpetual virginity or why that need be the case.

Jesus is still the Man/God Savior whether or not Mary and Joseph had other children after His birth.

Carrie said...

I had researched this angle a bit as well. But was kept from writing about this due to a lack of morning coffee.

You guys need to watch more Discovery Channel!

Bryan said...

The purpose of marriage in the Bible was to have sexual relations which lead to covenant children. If one were not going to do this, then the Bible and the Fathers would tell the man not to get married (rather than to get married and not have relations). Therefore, since God tells Joseph to marry Mary, He is telling Joseph to have relations with her after she gives birth to Christ.
There is also the fact that to "get married" in the first place (which God tells him to do) requires consummation through the sexual act. Without it, no one is married in the Bible.

Bryan said...

The purpose of marriage in the Bible was to have sexual relations which lead to covenant children. If one were not going to do this, then the Bible and the Fathers would tell the man not to get married (rather than to get married and not have relations). Therefore, since God tells Joseph to marry Mary, He is telling Joseph to have relations with her after she gives birth to Christ.
There is also the fact that to "get married" in the first place (which God tells him to do) requires consummation through the sexual act. Without it, no one is married in the Bible.

Lvka said...

What's wrong? Don` like Epiphanius now no mo`? >:)