Apologetics for the Masses, #388 - "Until"...Matthew 1:25

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Does the word "until" in Matt 1:25 "prove" that Mary was not a perpetual virgin?


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General Comments

Hey folks,

     Just a reminder that if you want to watch any of the episodes of my television program - Balaam's Ride - you can do so by clicking here: https://www.htv10.tv/balaams-ride.  The episodes that I just recorded, and which will be aired over the next 4 weeks covered the following topics:

     1) a) An email from a father struggling with believing in God, because of the death (miscarriage) of his unborn child, who asks: What is your best argument for the existence of God? b) No Salvation Outside the Church

     2) a) How to respond to Isaiah 64:6 - Your works are as "unclean rags"; b) Infallibility - Catholic's "opinion" vs. Protestant's opinion;

     3) Problems With Protestantism: a) Decapitating Jesus; b) What's Love Got to Do With It (Salvation that is)?

     4) a) The Not-So-Nice Jesus; b) What is truth? 

     If you guys have any questions you would like to have answered on one of the shows, just send them along.  Remember to put in the subject line of your email: Question for Balaam's Ride, or something similar.


     This week, I am going to give a long hard look at the word, "until," in the Bible, particularly its use in Matthew 1:25 which says: "...[Joseph] took his wife, but knew her not "until" she had borne a son..."  Does the word "until" in Matt 1:25 connote that Joseph and Mary had marital relations after the birth of Jesus, as most Protestants believe?  Let's look and see...


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." (RSV-CE)

     The exact same phrase, "knew her not," is also in the King James Version of the Bible.  The verb, "know," in this sense, is referring to physical relations between a man and a woman.  So, does the fact that Joseph did not have physical relations with Mary - he knew her not - "until" Jesus was born, necessarily imply that Joseph did indeed have physical relations with Mary after Jesus was born?  No, it does not, as I will explain below.

     The first thing I want to look at in my defense of Mary's virginity, is the context of the passage - the immediate context, but also the broader scriptural context.  For the immediate context of a verse of Scripture, you can generally, as I mentioned in last week's newsletter, just read 2 or 3 verses before and/or 2 or 3 verses after the verse in question.  When we do that in Matthew 1, we can see in verses 22-23 that, "All this took place to fulfil what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: 'Behold, a virgin shall conceve and bear a son, and his name shall be called Emmanuel,' (which means, God with us)."

     We see from these 2 verses that the immediate context of this passage from chapter 1 of Matthew, verses 22-25, is that Jesus was born of a virgin in fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecy from Isaiah (7:14).  There is no intent to let the reader know anything about what did or did not happen between Mary and Joseph after Jesus was born.  The whole focus is on Jesus being born of a virgin.  That's it...that's all!  To extrapolate from the word "until" that Mary and Joseph did have physical relations after the birth of Jesus is to take the verse out of context.  The focus is on the virgin birth...period.  It is not at all on what did or did not happen between Joseph and Mary after the birth of Jesus.

     And there is a broader context from Scripture - Old and New - that points very strongly to Mary being a perpetual virgin.  One of the strongest passages is from Ezekiel 44:1-2, "Then He [the Lord] brought me back to the outer gate of the sanctuary, which faces east; and it was shut.  And He said to me, 'This gate shall remain shut; it shall not be opened and no one shall enter by it; for the Lord, the God of Israel, has entered by it; therefore it shall remain shut."  No one enters through the door that the Lord, the God of Israel, enters by.  Why?  Because once God has entered by the gate, then it has become so holy that no one else is worthy to enter by it.  

     Essentially the same thing as the Ark of the Covenant.  What did the Ark of the Covenant contain?  The staff of the high priest, Aaron.  The Word of God in stone - the Ten Commandments.  And a portion of the manna that God sent from Heaven to feed the Israelites while they wandered in the desert for 40 years.  On top of the Ark was the mercy seat, that was overshadowed by the wings of two cherubim (graven images, by the way) at either end of the mercy seat, which was the seat of God Almighty Himself.  The Ark of the Covenant was so holy that, one time when it was being transported from one place to another, one of the porters - Uzzah - reached out to steady the Ark as he thought it was going to fall, and when he touched it...he was smote by God and died (2 Samuel 6:6-7)

     The Ark was holy because it was the seat of God and it contained the things of God; and the gate of the sanctuary was holy because the Lord God has passed through it.  If that was true of the Ark and the gate of the sanctuary, then how much more holy must Mary have been?  Mary was the gate through which the Lord, the God of Israel, passed through, in the flesh, into the world.  The gate will remain shut, therefore, after the birth of the Lord, because no mere human being is holy enough to pass through it.  Mary was the Ark of the New Covenant as she bore not just the staff of the high priest, but the High Priest Himself.  Not just the Word of God in stone, but the Word of God Incarnate in the flesh.  Not just the manna that fell in the desert so that the Israelites could make bread and eat to stay alive, but the true Living Bread which came down from Heaven (John 6:32-33) that all can eat to live forever (John 6:51).  Therefore, the womb of Mary, the Ark of the New Covenant, will remain empty after bearing the Lord as no mere human being is holy enough to be contained therein. 

     But then, there is a broader context to Matthew 1 that most people rarely consider.  According to the Law of God, what is the proper relationship between two persons who unite to conceive a child?  Husband and wife, right?  A man cleaves to his wife and they became one flesh (Genesis 2:24).  A child conceived out of wedlock was considered illegitimate.  It was a disgrace to have a child born outside the bonds of marriage.  Which means, that the relationship between Mary and the Holy Spirit, as the two persons who joined together to conceive the Christ child, was a marital relationship, a spousal relationship.  The overshadowing of Mary by the Holy Spirit (Luke 1:35) necessarily implies that Mary was the spouse of the Holy Spirit.  Otherwise, Jesus was conceived and born outside of a marital relationship.

     So, Mary, being the spouse of the Holy Spirit, would not have had marital relations with Joseph.  Now, this is not to say that Mary was not really Joseph's wife - she was - but her 1st Spouse, her true Spouse, her first Love, is God Almighty Himself.  She became one with Him in a way that she could not become one with any mere human being, even one as holy as Joseph.

     The second thing I want to consider in my defense of the virginity of Mary, is the meaning of the word, "until".  Does the word "until" always and everywhere imply a change in circumstance, as the Protestant interpretation of Matt 1:25 implies?  Let's consider it.  I want to offer, as part of my argument, a prayer that I say every time I pull out of my driveway to go somewhere: "God, watch over my family until I get back."  Does that mean I am asking God to watch over my family while I'm gone, but I want Him to stop watching over my family once I get back?  No, it does not.  It's just that I am putting a little extra emphasis on Him watching over my family while I am not there.  I of course want Him to keep watching over my family even after my return.  So, no change in circumstance is implied here with the use of "until".

     But, what about the use of the word "until" in Scripture?  Does "until" always and everywhere imply a change of circumstance when it's used in the Bible?  Let's look and see.  First, let me do something I rarely do in these newsletters, let me talk about the Greek word that is translated "until".  The Greek word is: heos.  The only reason I mention this here is because this Greek word is not only rendered as "until" in many places in the New Testament, but it is also rendered as "till" in many places of the New Testament.  So, if you're reading your particular translation, and it says "till", just know that comes from the exact same Greek word as "until" does.  This is probably obvious to all of you, but I'm just mentioning this to ward off any possible Protestant objections to what I'm about to say.  In fact, in Matt 1:25 in the KJV Bible, the word is rendered as "till", and not "until".

     Okay, enough of the Greek.  Let's look at how the word "until," or "till," is used in the Bible.  Does it always involve a change of circumstance as in: Circumstance A was true "until" a certain point of time, and then after that point of time Circumstance A was no longer true?

     Luke 24:49, "And behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you; but stay in the city, until you are clothed with power from on high."  What was the promise of the Father?  The Holy Spirit.  At Pentecost the Holy Spirit descended upon them and clothed them with power from on high.  So, did they leave Jerusalem immediately after the Day of Pentecost?  After all Jesus told them to stay in the city "until" they were clothed with power.  So that means they were to immediately leave the city after they were clothed with power, right?  Uhm...nope.  Didn't happen.  In fact, some of them stayed in Jerusalem for several years after Pentecost.  So, there's one example where "until" doesn't mean one thing up to a certain point in time and then another after that point in time.

     Any other examples along those lines?  Oh yeah.  This is a good one.  1 Corinthians 15:25-26, "For He [Jesus] must reign until He has put all His enemies under His feet.  The last enemy to be destroyed is death."  So, apparently, according to Protestant interpretation of the word, "until," Jesus' reign will one day come to an end.  But, in Revelation 11:15, it says this: "Then the seventh angel blew his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, saying, 'The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign for ever and ever.'"

     So, does Jesus reign until death is defeated, or does He reign for ever and ever?  Ask any Protestant who believes Matt 1:25 conclusively proves Joseph and Mary had physical relations after the birth of Jesus if they believe Jesus reigns for ever and ever.  If they say, "Yes, He does," then take them to 1 Cor 15:25-26 and ask them to explain what "until" means.

     In Acts 8:40, it says that "Philip was found at Azotus, and passing on he preached the gospel to all the towns till he came to Caesarea."  Does that mean that Philip never again preached the gospel after he "came to Caesarea"?  Apparently it does, if "until" absolutely means a change of circumstance. 

     There are other Scripture verses I could cite, but these are sufficient to demonstrate my point that the word "until," does not always and everywhere mean a change of circumstance.  Yes, that is the most common usage - Condition A is true until this point of time then it is no longer true - but it is not the only usage.  As I have clearly shown, from the Bible, "until" can also just be referring to what happens up to a certain point in time, without implying what happens after that point in time.  It does not automatically mean that the condition changed after that point in time.  So, the fact that Joseph did not know Mary "until" Jesus was born, does not necessarily infer anything about what happened between Joseph and Mary after Jesus was born.

     One last point, Protestants will point to the "brothers" and "sisters" of Jesus mentioned in the Bible (Mark 6:3, for example), as further proof that Joseph knew Mary after the birth of Jesus; but, as I have pointed out in other newsletters (e.g., https://www.biblechristiansociety.com/newsletter/179-apologetics-for-the-masses-issue-129), Scripture shows us that the "brothers" of Jesus are not sons of Jesus' mother.  So, not brothers as we use the term today, but more likely cousins. 

Closing Comments

     I hope you have enjoyed this newsletter.  If you have any suggestions for topics of future newsletters, or you know of a particular anti-Catholic website that would be good for me to "take on," so to speak, don't hesitate to send the topics or the website addresses to me.

     Have a great week! 


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Apologetics for the Masses