Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Mary's Virginity and Historical Novums

Eric Svendsen at New Testament Research Ministries has recently concluded another series of posts about Mary's perpetual virginity. The link in the title of this post is to part IV of this series, from which the other parts are accessible. In part II of this series, Svendsen has a section in which he calls the idea that Mary might have agreed to marry while remaining a perpetual virgin an "historical novum." Here is the full quote:

Keating (by positing a married virgin) has, moreover, introduced a
historical novum; namely, that there was such a thing as a married virgin. Yet,
such a notion cannot be supported either biblically or historically: “Such an
interpretation of 1:34 reads into the text later concerns; and the idea that a
Galilean village girl, who had already entered into marriage, did so intending
to remain a virgin and childless is out of harmony with the Jewish mentality of
Jesus’ time” (Brown et al, 1978:114-115).

Svendsen has done a great deal of reading about the perpetual virginity of Mary, and throws a great deal of information at the reader. I would that I had the time and the academic resources to study each of his arguments. I just wanted to point out that arguing that Mary's vow of virginity is an "historical novum," or that it is "out of harmony with the Jewish mentality of Jesus's time" is really not an effective refutation. Certainly, the incarnation of the living God in the person of Jesus Christ is also an historical novum, yet this does not argue against its truth. Neither does the fact that the zealots, herodians, sadducees, and pharisees of Jesus's time saw his teaching as "out of harmony with the Jewish mentality of [the] time" provide an effective argument that Jesus's teaching (especially in, for example, John 6) are incorrect. Finally, an angel appearing to Mary and calling her "full of grace," and telling her she will conceive by the Holy Spirit is certainly a biblical and historical "novum," but it is also shockingly true.

I hope this one point is now somewhat clearer.

4 Comments:

At 2:22 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't think the historical novum is even accurate. Mark Shea posted an excerpt from his book giving some examples. Moses was one example. He was in a sexless marriage after Mt Sinai.

 
At 10:11 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

from http://www.takeourword.com/Issue093.html

"The term Virgin Mary first appears in writing in about 1300. Virgin alone originally meant 'a pious, unmarried or chaste woman' since about 1200, and by 1300 it meant also 'a woman in a state of inviolate chastity'. It appears that the Virgin Mary was so dubbed after the change in the word's meaning."

Sometimes women choose not to marry and instead to live for themselves. Before 1300, the word "virgin" could simply mean unmarried.

Is it possible that Mary's historical "virginity" was unrelated to her sexual habits? Maybe it meant that she never fully gave her heart to anyone or that she didn't feel obligated to obey her husband. Maybe it simply meant that she was financially independent.

We will believe whatever mythology gives us the most pleasure. The whole story of Mary seems like a child's fantasy: MY mother never had sex with my father. She never had any other children, or even wanted to. I was enough for her.

This particular mythology is a cover for the unresolved childhood traumas of its believers. For spiritual growth, it would be more valid to engage with the question, "What part of me feels threatened by a woman making her own decisions?"

 
At 4:58 PM, Blogger Esperu said...

The "takeourword" website, cited as an authority by this poster, is a website devoted to the english language, and the meaning of english words. So, in context, the assertion that "the term Virgin Mary first appears in writing in about 1300" is a statement about the english language, not about Christian beliefs about Mary's perpetual virginity. Therefore, the explanation given on that website -- that the term is only applied to her after the change in meaning in english -- indicates a prior belief specifically in the perpetual sexual virginity of Mary predating the variation in the meaning of the word.

Anonymous's subsequent speculations about "virgin" meaning something other than sexual virginity fall on their face, since they are based on a mistaken reading of the very page cited as an authority.

 
At 12:23 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

And what do you think of this part?:

We will believe whatever mythology gives us the most pleasure. The whole story of Mary seems like a child's fantasy: MY mother never had sex with my father. She never had any other children, or even wanted to. I was enough for her.

This particular mythology is a cover for the unresolved childhood traumas of its believers. For spiritual growth, it would be more valid to engage with the question, "What part of me feels threatened by a woman making her own decisions?"

 

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