“…the angel of the Lord appeared… saying, ‘Joseph… fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost…’… that it might be fulfilled… ‘Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son…’… Then Joseph… did as the angel of the Lord had bidden him, and took unto him his wife: and knew her not till she had brought forth her firstborn son…”
“While He yet talked to the people, behold, his mother and his brethren stood without, desiring to speak with Him.”
“The wife hath not power of her own body, but the husband… Defraud ye not one the other, except it be with consent for a time, that ye may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again, that Satan tempt you not for your incontinency.”
1 Cor. 7:4-5
Order of Contents
Early & Medieval Church
. Against 2
. Indeterminate 2
. Qualified Tolerance of 4
. Qualified Acceptance of 28+
. Affirmation of 16+
. Lutheranism 3
Mary did Not take a Vow of Celibacy 3
. For: Early & Medieval Church, Romanism, Lutheranism
. Against: Early Church, Reformed
The Early & Medieval Church
Order of Early & Medieval Church Material
The History of Perpetual Virginity in the Early & Medieval Church
‘Perpetual Virginity of Mary’, ‘History’
“The Protoevangelium of James
Mary’s perpetual virginity first appears in a late 2nd century text called the Protoevangelium of James (Lohse 1966, p. 200), which was the ultimate source of almost all later Marian doctrine (Hunter 1993, p. 63). Probably deriving from a sect called the Encratites (Ibid.), whose founder Tatian taught that sex and marriage were symptoms of original sin (Hunter 2008, p. 412), it tells how the new-born Jesus simply appears from a dark cloud and a blinding light and takes his mother’s breast (Burkett 2019, p. 242); Mary remains a life-long virgin, Joseph is an old man who marries her without physical desire, and the brothers of Jesus are explained as Joseph’s sons by an earlier marriage (Hurtado 2005, p. 448).
The context of the Protoevangelium was the growth of asceticism with its emphasis on celibacy and the chastity of the mother of Christ, the monks seeing all sexual activity as tainted by sin (Bromiley 1995, p. 271). It was widely distributed and seems to have formed the stories of Mary found in the Quran (Bell 2012, p. 110), but while Muslims agree with Christians that Mary was a virgin at the moment of the conception of Jesus, the idea of her perpetual virginity thereafter is contrary to the Islamic ideal of women as wives and mothers (George-Tvrtkovic 2018, p. unpaginated).
The 4th Century Establishment of Orthodoxy
Mary’s virginity seems to have attracted little theological attention prior to the end of the 2nd century, Ignatius of Antioch (c.35-108), for example, discussing it only to argue for the reality of Jesus’s human birth against the Docetic heretics who denied him any humanity (Hunter 1993, p. 61). By the early 4th century the spread of monasticism had promoted celibacy as the ideal state, and a moral hierarchy was established with marriage occupying the third rank below life-long virginity and widowhood (Hunter 2008, p. 412-413). Around 380 Helvidius objected to the devaluation of marriage inherent in this view and argued that the two states, of virginity and marriage, were equal (Hunter 1999, p. 423-424); but his contemporary Jerome, realising that this would lead to the Mother of God occupying a lower place in heaven than virgins and widows, defended her perpetual virginity in his immensely influential Against Helvidius, issued c.383 (Polcar 2016, p. 185).
Helvidius soon faded from the scene, but in the early 380s the monk Jovinian wrote that if Jesus did not undergo a normal human birth then he himself was not human, which was the teaching of the heresy known as Manicheism (Hunter 1993, p. 56-7). Jerome wrote against Jovinian but failed to mention this aspect of his teaching, and most commentators believe that he did not find it offensive (Ibid.).
The only important Christian intellectual to defend Mary’s virginity in partu was Ambrose, Archbishop of Milan, who was the chief target of the charge of Manicheism (Ibid., p. 57). For Ambrose, both the physical birth of Jesus by Mary and the baptismal birthing of Christians by the Church had to be totally virginal, even in partu, in order to cancel the stain of original sin, of which the pains of labor are the physical sign (Ibid., p. 59). It was due to Ambrose that virginitas in partu came to be included consistently in the thinking of subsequent theologians (Rosenberg 2018, p. unpaginated).
Jovinian’s view was rejected at a Synod of Milan under Ambrose’s presidency in 390, after which Mary’s perpetual virginity was established as the only orthodox view (Polcar 2016, p. 186). The Council of Ephesus in 431 established a fully general consensus on the subject (Rahner 1975, p. 896), in 553 the Second Council of Constantinople gave her the title ‘Aeiparthenons‘, meaning ‘Perpetual Virgin’, and at the Lateran Synod of 649 Pope Martin I emphasized its threefold character, before, during, and after the birth of Christ (Polcar 2016, p. 186).“
Lightfoot, J.B. – Dissertation 2, ‘The Brethren of the Lord’ in St. Paul’s Epistle to the Galatians: a Revised Text with Introduction, Notes & Dissertations (London: MacMillan & Co., 1914), pp. 252-91
Lightfoot outlines three main views held in the early Church (which his discussion is limited to). In roughly chronological order: (1) that of Epiphanius and many others, that the ‘brethren of the Lord’ were children of a previous wife of Joseph, (2) that of the Helvidians and a minority of others, that the brethren of the Lord were the natural offspring of Mary, (3) that of Jerome (and many following him), which was novel to him, that the ‘brethren’ were cousins of Jesus.
Lightfoot gives a rather thorough survey and analysis of the opinions of the Early Church fathers. He provides a summary table of the opinions of the Fathers on the last page. The footnote on the first page gives a very helpful bibliography.
Early & Medieval Church Affirmation of
Of Heresies, 56; see also Heresy 84.
“Heretics called Antidicomarites [those who speak against Mary] are those who contradict the perpetual virginity of Mary and affirm that after Christ was born she was joined as one with her husband”
Collection of 11 Fathers
Lesieur, David – ‘On the Perpetual Virginity of Mary’ (2014) Lesieur is a Romanist.
Towards the end Lesieur gives 11 quotes affirming this doctrine from:
Origen, Hilary of Poitiers, Athanasius, Epiphanius, Jerome, Didymus the Blind, Ambrose of Milan, Pope Siricius I, Augustine, Leporius of Gaul, Cyril of Alexandria.
Jerome – ‘The Perpetual Virginity of Blessed Mary: Against Helvidius’ (383 A.D.) in Nicene & Post-Nicene Father (New York, 1912), vol. 6, pp. 334-46
Jerome maintains the following three propositions in this work:
1. That Joseph was only putatively, not really, the husband of Mary (chs. 3-8);
2. That the “brethren” of the Lord were his cousins, not his own brethren (chs. 9-17);
3. That virginity is better than the married state (chs. 19-22).”
This works contains the only primary source info available on Helvidius.
Jerome writes that Ignatius, Polycarp, Justin Martyr, and Irenaeus all ‘held these same views’ of Mary’s perpetual virginity and ‘wrote volumes replete with wisdom’ (ch. 19). No writings from these four men survived that unambiguously identifies their belief in this doctrine, though it is possible that Jerome had access to some of their many works that did not survive till the modern day.
The Medieval Church
Aquinas, Thomas – ‘Of the Virginity of the Mother of God (4 Articles)’ being Summa, pt. 3, Question 28
See article 2 for Aquinas arguing that Mary remained a virgin even in delivery (in partu). In article 4 he affirms and argues that Mary took a vow of celibacy.
Qualified Acceptance of Perpetual Virginity in the Early Church
On Basil the Great
ed. Juniper B. Carol, O.F.M., Mariology (Milwaukee: Bruce, 1955), vol. 2, pp. 276-77. Carol was a Romanist scholar.
“The author [Basil] also focuses his attention on the possibility of conjugal relations between Mary and St. Joseph after the birth of Christ; he rejects this possibility, but not by appealing to dogmatic belief; he has no consciousness of any obligation from this angle, and even generously admits that there is no such obligation; faith, he candidly admits, demands only that we believe in the permanence of Mary’s virginity up to (and including) the incarnation; after the virginal conception there is no obligation imposed by faith…
For, it is evident from this discourse that in a region of the Greek world, apparently Asia Minor, an important Churchman, without any doubt the Archbishop of Caesarea, St. Basil, did not hold the perpetual virginity of Mary as a dogmatic truth, nor did his metropolitan Churches.”
Basil the Great (329-379)
Though some have claimed that the below work was a spurious work attributed to Basil, Carol argues that the attempt has no sound basis, and he is in favor of its authenticity.
Homilia in Sanctam Christi Generationem, PG 31:1468 as given in Carol, vol. 2, p. 277, fn. 174.
“[The opinion that Mary bore several children after Christ]… does not run counter to faith; for, virginity was imposed on Mary as a necessity, only up to the time that she served as an instrument for the Incarnation, while, on the other hand, her subsequent virginity had no great importance with regard to the mystery of the Incarnation.”
Against Perpetual Virginity in the Early Church
The Antidicomarianites [Those who speak contrary to Mary] (3rd-5th centuries)
“There is no evidence that these Christians considered themselves to be ‘against Mary’ in any sense, except of her being the ‘Queen of Heaven’…” – Wiki
Tertullian (c. 155 – c. 240? AD)
Bonosus of Sardica (late-300’s A.D.)
Helvidius (c. 380 A.D.)
Jovinian (c. 390 A.D.)
John Henry Newman called Aerius of Sebaste, Jovinian and Vigilantius (fl. c. 400) the forerunners of Protestantism, likening them to the “Luther, Calvin, and Zwingli of the fourth century”. – Newman, Primitive Christianity, ch. 4
Post-Reformation Quotes & Material
Order of Post-Reformation Quotes & Material
Hickman (‘Not denied by any Protestant’)
Wilson (‘it is commonly received’)
Field (‘as the [Medieval] Schoolmen use[d] to speak’)
Chamier (‘We believe’)
Andrea (‘We piously believe’)
Confession of Tarcal & Torda
2nd Helvetic Confession
Church of Scotland
Colloquy of Thorn
Willet (‘We do verily think’)
Wollebius (‘We believe’)
Formula of Concord
A Syllabus of Theological Problems… (Utrecht, 1643), Part 1, 2nd Section, ‘Of Redemption’, Tract 2, ‘Of the Person, Offices & States of Christ the Mediator’, I. ‘Of the Person of Christ the Mediator’, 1. ‘Of the Assumption & Union of the Human Nature’, ‘Of Mary the Mother of Christ’, no page number. In Voet’s explanations of the Latin abbreviations, he explains “Disq” by saying that it can also mean ‘It is investigated’ as long as neither side is said to be determined. And it is probably able to be investigated and [publicly] disputed on either side.
“Whether she was a virgin before birth, during birth and after birth? It is affirmed.
Whether she remained for the whole of life in that state of virginity? It is denied. It is permitted to be investigated.”
The Divine Right of Church Government... (London, 1646), Introduction, section 2, pp. 22-23
“[Richard Hooker, an Anglican, said:] ‘Now we can nowhere find by reading Scripture anything for the baptizing of infants, or a remedy for women to be cured of original sin in the Old Testament in lieu of circumcision; we find no warrant for the Feast of Dedication in the Law of Moses, nor for the days of puring observed by the Jews, nor for images, invocation of saints, prayer for the dead, the perpetual virginity of the virgin Mary, and many such doctrines which the Church believes.’
But we [Rutherford & the Scottish reformed] answer, because these vain doctrines (we except the baptizing of infants, warranted by Scripture) are not in Scripture, they are the vain and sapless doctrines of men, and will-worship…”
[It seems likely that Rutherford here is only objecting to the perpetual virginity of Mary as it was held as a dogmatic truth on par with the other teachings of Scripture. Below, under ‘A Qualified Tolerance of’, Rutherford categorizes the issue as a question of fact, on par with another Biblical example which we do not have enough knowledge to determine, though logically one position or the other must be erroneous.
Such an interpretation of Rutherford puts him more on par with the majority of the reformed figures on this webpage.]
Whiston, William – Sermons & Essays, p. 182 ff.
Thomas Smyth – Mary Not a Perpetual Virgin, nor the Mother of God: but Only a Sinner Saved by Grace through the Worship & Mediation of Jesus Christ, her God & our God, together with a view of the True Position, Duty & Liberty of Woman, under the Gospel Dispensation (Charleston, SC: B. Jenkins, 1846) 30 pp. no ToC
Smyth was a Southern presbyterian pastor in Charleston, SC.
Anon. – Helvidius Redivivus; or, an Examination of the Question, Who were the Brethren of our Lord, Spoken of Mt. 13:55 (London, 1857) 96 pp. ToC
The author argues that the answer to the question of the title of the book is the natural brothers of Jesus. Helvidius lived prior to 383 A.D. and had argued against the perpetual virginity of Mary in the Early Church.
Machen, J. Gresham – pp. 143-5 of Ch. 6, ‘The Integrity of the Lucan Narrative’ in The Virgin Birth of Christ (NY: Harper, 1930)
Peter Martyr Vermigli
As quoted by Heinrich Heppe, Reformed Dogmatics ed. Ernst Bizer (1950; Wipf & Stock, 2007), ch. 17, section 10, p. 422 No source in Vermigli is given.
“We need believe nothing that is outside the Word of God. It is not necessary to believe that Mary remained a virgin, since the Scriptures do not assert it diserte [explicitly]. Augustine advises us not to believe either affirmation or denial in such cases.”
Commentary on Mt. 1, vv. 24-25
“He took unto him his wife, that is, he took her unto his house (for betrothed virgins used to abide at their own friends’ houses till the consummation of the marriage) and owned her as his wife, yet not fully using her as such, for the text saith he knew her not (a modest phrase used from the beginning of the world, as appears from Gen 4:1, to express the conjugal act) till she had brought forth her firstborn Son.
Some make a great stir in determining whether he knew her afterwards, yea or no. Some of the ancients were stiff in their opinion that he did not, so are the popish writers, and many protestant interpreters. Mr. Calvin I think determines best, that none will move such a question, but such as are unwarrantably curious; nor contend for either part, but such as are unreasonably quarrelsome.
For as, on the one side, none can conclude that she had more children from the word till, further than they can conclude, from Ps 110:1, that Christ shall not for ever sit at his Father’s right hand (the word until being a particle only exclusive of a preceding time, not affirming the thing in future time), nor doth the term firstborn conclude any born afterward; so, on the other side, there are no cogent arguments to prove that Mary had no more children by Joseph. We read of the brother of our Lord, Gal 1:19, and of his mother and his brethren, Matt 12:47; and though it be true brethren may signify kinsmen, according to the Hebrew dialect, yet that it doth so in these texts cannot be proved.
The Holy Ghost had made use of the virgin for the production of the Messias; why after this her womb should be shut up, and Joseph take her home to be his wife, and not use her as such I cannot tell, nor yet what reproach it could be to Mary or to our Savior, marriage being God’s ordinance, and the undefiled bed honorable: and those who think our Savior would have been dishonoured in any others lying in the same bed after him, seem to forget how much he humbled himself in lying in that bed first, and then in a stable and a manger. We know he knew her not till Christ was born, whether he did afterward or no we are willingly ignorant because God hath not told us.”
A Qualified Tolerance of
A Free Disputation Against Pretended Liberty of Conscience… (London, 1649), pp. 97-98 irregular page numbering
“But are there no far off truths at all to be tolerated? Do not learned men give diverse and contrary expositions of one and the same text of Scripture? And has not the Church suffered errors and erroneous opinions in godly, learned men in all ages, even in Tertullian, Augustine and others? and have not implored the sword of the magistrate against them, though all errors printed and preached hurt the souls of others more or less.
2. For diverse expositions of one and the same text, as that, ‘we look for new heavens and new earth,’ when neither of the expositions so far as is revealed to the godly and learned, who in this life do but know and prophesy in part, do neither hurt the foundation, nor cross any clear truth that is non-fundamental: we think the opinions of both may be tolerated, even though the one of them be in itself an error, and that upon the ground that Church and magistrates both are to tolerate, not to punish these infirmities, against both Tables, that are the necessary results of sin-original, common to all men as men bearing about with them a body of sin.
And the like I say of other the like opinions about matters of religion, and especially matters of fact [whether it ocurred or not], as the virginity of Mary for all her life.”
Ductor Dubitantium, or, The Rule of Conscience in all her General Measures… (London, 1660), vol. 2, bk. 4, ch. 1. Taylor was a prominent Anglican cleric and writer. He was Latitudinarian and Arminian, though he had some puritan tendencies.
“There are also traditions pretended of things which are not necessary, such as are the Fast of Lent, godfathers and godmothers in baptism… and the perpetual virginity of the Virgin Mary. Now that these are not divine traditions nor apostolical appears by the destitution of their proper proof. They are ecclesiastical traditions and of several ages, and some of them of very great antiquity… they neither are of the necessity of faith, or the essential duty of Christian religion: and therefore as a Christian can go to heaven without the observation of them in certain circumstances, so is the Scripture a perfect Canon without giving rules concerning them at all.”
“4. A negative argument from Scripture is sufficient to prove an article not to be of necessary belief, but is not sufficient to prove it not to be true: because although the Scripture is the measure of faith and of manners, yet it is an adequate measure of all truth. The meaning of which rule takes in all truths of art, experience, of prudence, of tradition and common report…
The Scripture no where says that the blessed Virgin was a virgin perpetually to the day of her death: but as therefore it cannot be obtruded as an article of faith, yet there are a great many decencies and probabilities of the thing, besides the great consent of almost all the Church of God, which make it very fit to be entertained. There are some things which are piè credibilia, there is piety in the believing them: and in such cases it is not enough that there is nothing in Scripture to affirm it; if there be anything in any other topic, it is to be entertained according to the merit of the thing.”
The Safe Religion, or, Three Disputations for the Reformed Catholike Religion against Popery proving that popery is against the Holy Scriptures... (London, 1657), ‘Query. Whether Popery be a safe way to Salvation? Neg.’, p. 132
“5. And for those few [claimed apostolic traditions] that Bellarmine has instanced in, viz. the perpetual virginity of the Virgin Mary… To the first, I say, it is no article of divine faith, but of human-ecclesiastical:”
Laudensium Apostasia: or A Dialogue in which is shown that some divines risen up in our church since the greatness of the late archbishop [Laud, d. 1645], are in sundry points of great moment, quite fallen off from the doctrine received in the Church of England (London, 1660), Preface. Hickman was a reformed puritan.
“[According to Hickman’s opponent, Mary] had not set one step forward toward the consummation of her marriage so much as in thought, and possibly had set herself back from it by a vow of chastity and holy celibate… and of the burden [pregnancy] which she bare not hindering her… That she had no pain in the production, for to her alone did not the punishment of Eve extend, that in sorrow she should bring forth… so He came also into the world without doing violence to the virginal and pure body of his mother.
He [the opponent] contents not himself to assert the perpetual virginity of Mary, which is not denied by any Protestant, but [he] will abuse Scripture to prove it; viz. that of Eze. 44:2…”
Qualified Acceptance of
William Tyndale 1530
The Whole Works of W. Tyndall, John Frith & Doctor Barnes, Three Worthy Martyrs... (London, 1573), Tracts, ‘An Answer Made unto Sir Thomas More’s Dialogue, Made by William Tyndale, 1530’, ‘The Solutions and Answers Made unto Mr. More’s First Book’, ch. 25, p. 286
“And how brings he in the perpetual virginity of our Lady, which though it be never so true, is yet none article of our faith to be saved by. But we believe it with a story-faith, because we see no cause reasonable to think the contrary.”
in Foxe, John, Acts and Monuments of Matters Most Special and Memorable... (London, 1583), The 8th Book, ‘The Answer of John Lambert to the First Article’, p. 1,107. Lambert (d. 1538) was an English protestant martyr who was burned to death. He was a friend of William Tyndale and a member of the humanist theologians which met at White Horse Tavern.
“Moreover, if you mean by this word expressed that which in scripture is clearly showed out, and appears evidently to every reader or hearer that has but a mean understanding, so do I affirm that there are some things which a man ought to believe, although they be not of him expressly understand [understood]: As I have ever believed that the virgin Mary was and is a perpetual virgin, and that the same might be gathered by the Scripture.”
On John Calvin
Given that it appears that all of Calvin’s writings on the topic of Mary’s virginity in English are indeterminate as to her virginity being perpetual, so such assertions below by scholars that Calvin held to and affirmed the doctrine remains the only positive evidence that Calvin affirmed the position.
On the one hand scholars have more information in other languages at their disposal than the average person; on the other hand, scholars are not always as careful as they should be and may be (and sometimes routinely are) mistaken. As secondary quotes such as those below are apparently the only evidence that Calvin positively affirmed the perpetual virginity of Mary, these claims should be held tentatively till they can be confirmed.
T.H.L. Parker, Calvin: an Introduction to his Thought (Westminster John Knox Press, 1995), p. 66
“…the Virgin Birth (which Calvin holds, together with the perpetual virginity of Mary)…”
eds. Raymond E. Brown et al, Mary in the New Testament (Philadelphia: Fortress Press / New York: Paulist Press, 1978), p. 65. This was a joint Catholic-Protestant venture.
“The title ‘Ever Virgin’ (aeiparthenos, semper virgo) arose early in Christianity… It was a stock phrase in the Middle Ages and continued to be used in Protestant confessional writings (Luther, Calvin, Zwingli, Andrewes; Book of Concord , Schmalkaldic Articles ).”
J. A. Ross MacKenzie (a Protestant), in ed. Stacpoole, Alberic, Mary’s Place in Christian Dialogue (Wilton, Connecticut: Morehouse-Barlow, 1983), pp. 35-36
“Calvin, like Luther and Zwingli, taught the perpetual virginity of Mary. The early Reformers even applied, though with some reticence, the title Theotokos [God-bearer] to Mary…
Calvin called on his followers to venerate and praise her as the teacher who instructs them in her Son’s commands.”
The context of the quote is Mt. 1:22-25, where the angel comes to Joseph (who was betrothed to Mary) and announces that Mary is with child from the Holy Ghost. The angel says, “fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife”. Joseph obeys this (Mt. 1:24), marries Mary, and yet did not ‘know’ her ’till she had brought forth her firstborn son’.
Noting that translation from the French is an issue, it seems possible that Calvin is simply guarding the text from undue inferences from other interpreters (as he often did) who leapt to conclusions about what the text does not actually specify or necessarily infer (as he so does in parallel accounts on this issue in his commentaries), and that Calvin does not necessarily pronounce a verdict on the issue itself.
Sermon 22 on Matthew 1:22-25 (1562), from Corpus Reformatorum, vol. 46, pp. 259-272 (not currently on the net) as given in Max Thurian (a Protestant), Mary: Mother of All Christians, trans. Nevill B. Cryer (New York: Herder & Herder, 1963), pp. 39-40. The French and this English excerpt, along with another larger translation of the French, has been provided by the Roman apologist Dave Armstrong, ‘John Calvin: Sermon 22 on Matthew 1:22-25 (Mary’s Perpetual Virginity)’.
“There have been certain strange folk who have wished to suggest from this passage [Mt. 1:24-25] 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 [to the angel in Mt. 1:24] 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. There we see that he had never known her person for he was separated from his wife. He could marry another all the more because he could not enjoy the woman to whom he was betrothed; but he rather desired to forfeit his rights and abstain from marriage [for the time?], being yet always married: he preferred, I say, to remain thus in the service of God rather than to consider what he might still feel that he could come to. He had forsaken everything in order that he might subject himself fully to the will of God.
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 no there was any question of the second. Thus we see the intention of the Holy Spirit. This is why to lend ourselves to foolish subtleties would be to abuse Holy Scripture, which is, as St. Paul says, “to be used for our edification.””
[Et notamment il est dit qu’il n’a point cognu la Vierge iusqu’à ce qu’elle ait enfanté son premier Fils. Par cela l’Evangeliste signifie que Ioseph n’avoit point pris sa femme pour habiter avec elle…
…demeurer ainsi pour s’employer au service de Dieu, que de regarder ce qui luy fust venu plus à gré. Il a oublié toutes ces choses, afin de s’assubietir pleinement à Dieu. Et au reste nostre Seigneur Iesus Christ est nommé le premier nay. Non pas qu’il y ait eu ne le second ne le troisième: mais l’Evangeliste regarde au precedent. Et l’Escriture parle ainsi, de nommer le premier nay, encores qu’il n’y en ait point de second. Nous voyons donc l’intention du S. Esprit: et pourtant, de nous addonner à ces folles subtilitez, ce seroit abuser de l’Escriture saincte, qui nous doit estre utile a edification, comme dit S. Paul. Et au reste, quand les hommes sont ainsi fretillans, et qu’ils ont les aureilles chatouilleuses pour appeler des speculations nouvelles, il faut que le diable les possède tellement qu’ils s’endurcissent, et ne les peut-on ramener au bon chemin, qu’ils troubleront plustost et le ciel et la terre qu’ils ne maintienent leurs erreurs et resveries avec une obstination diabolique. D’autant plus donc nous faut-il estre sobres pour recevoir la doctrine qui nous est donnée pour accepter le Rédempteur qui nous est envoyé de Dieu son Père, et que cognoissans sa vertu, nous apprenions de nous tenir pleinement à luy.]
Commentary on Mt. 13:55 (1562)
“Helvidius [lived before 383 A.D.] displayed excessive ignorance in concluding that Mary must have had many sons, because Christ’s ‘brothers’ are sometimes mentioned.”
Commentary on Mt. 1:25
“‘And knew her not’; This passage afforded the pretext for great disturbances, which were introduced into the Church, at a former period, by Helvidius. The inference he drew from it was, that Mary remained a virgin no longer than till her first birth, and that afterwards she had other children by her husband. Jerome, on the other hand, earnestly and copiously defended Mary’s perpetual virginity.
Let us rest satisfied with this, that no just and well-grounded inference can be drawn from these words of the Evangelist, as to what took place after the birth of Christ. He is called first-born; but it is for the sole purpose of informing us that he was born of a virgin. It is said that Joseph knew her not till she had brought forth her first-born son: but this is limited to that very time. What took place afterwards, the historian does not inform us. Such is well known to have been the practice of the inspired writers.
Certainly, no man will ever raise a question on this subject, except from curiosity; and no man will obstinately keep up the argument, except from an extreme fondness for disputation.”
Commentary on Jn. 7:3
“Under the word ‘brethren’ the Hebrews include all cousins and other relations, whatever may be the degree of affinity.”
Beza’s Confession (1560), Article 23 in Dennison, Reformed Confessions 2.249-50
“Jesus Christ, very God and very man (Matt. 1:21-23; Luke 1:35), i.e., having a true and human soul and a true human body formed of the same substance of the virgin Mary, daughter of David, by virtue of the Holy Ghost, was by this means conceived and born of the same virgin Mary—a virgin I say both after and before her deliverance; and all this was done for the accomplishment of our reconciliation.”
Propositions & Principles of Divinity Propounded and Disputed in the University of Geneva, by certain Students of Divinity there, under Mr. Theodore Beza and Mr. Anthony Faius… (Edinburgh, 1591), Ch. 42, ‘Principles Concerning the Nativity, Circumcision and Baptism of Christ’, p. 109
“7. The virginity of Mary after her child-bearing, to wit, that as it is most certain, that before her child-bearing, she was unknown of man; so also she remained a virgin after the same unto her dying day, is religiously believed: yet there is nothing expressly found concerning this point in the holy Scriptures, neither doth it belong any-wise unto the mystery of our salvation.”
Peter Martyr Vermigli
The Common Places… (d. 1562; 1583), Pt. 3, ch. 3, ‘Of Faith & the Certainty Thereof’, section 7, p. 62. While Vermigli’s agnosticism on the question appears to be strong, nonetheless he uses language that appears to default to belief in perpetual virginity.
“This thing [that the Word of God is the object of faith] our [papist] adversaries can by no means abide; for they contend that there be certain things (I know not what) to be believed, which are not contained in the holy Scriptures. But we say that faith is an assent that is given to the holy Scripture and unto those things which are necessarily and evidently concluded of it.
Among other things, they are wont to object unto us the perpetual virginity of the mother of Christ, which they say must be believed although it be not mentioned in the holy Scriptures….
3. As touching the first, it is sufficient for us that we are taught by the holy Scriptures (Mt. 1 & Lk. 1) that Christ was conceived and born of a virgin. And above that, to affirm that the blessed Virgin was joined with man in fellowship of the flesh, it were rash and presumptuous; for seeing there is nothing spoken thereof in the holy Scriptures, nor yet is the same likely; why (in God’s name) should we either believe it or affirm it? And contrariwise, that she abode perpetually a virgin; forsomuch as the holy Scriptures do not by express words avouch the same, it is not to be admitted among those things which must of necessity be believed such as are the things expressly contained in the holy Scriptures.
Jerome against Helvidius wrote of this matter; for he was worthily to be condemned because he did rashly affirm that she was not perpetually a virgin. And Augustine very well admonishes us that when we come to such places where the sense of the Scripture cannot certainly be gathered, we should not rashly set our opinion on the one part or the other.”
Two Treatises written against the Papists… (London, 1577), bk. 2, ch. 17, ‘An Answer to their Negative Argument, with the Conclusion of the Book’, p. 453. Fulke (1538-1589) was an English puritan.
“All truth may be proved by Scripture, either in plain words, or by necessary conclusion, which is all one… As for the perpetual virginity of the mother of Christ, as we can think it is true, so because the scripture has not revealed it, neither pertains it unto us, we make no question of it.
A Retentive, to Stay Good Christians in True Faith & Religion... (London, 1580), A Discovery of the Dangerous Rock of the Popish Church…, ch. 3, p. 200
“But whereas Mr. Sanders joins to these not only the perpetual virginity of the virgin Mary, which is not certainly, though probably to be gathered, but also transubstantiation, the sacrifice of the Mass, and Purgatory, against which the sense of the Scripture is manifest…”
A Defense of the Sincere & True Translations of the Holy Scriptures into the English Tongue... (London, 1583), A Brief Confutation of Sundry Cavils…, p. 53
“Last of all, which you make the greatest matter, the perpetual virginity of the mother of Christ after his birth, although for my part I do believe it, and wish all men so to do, yet dare I affirm that it is not damnable not to believe it except it can be proved that the Scripture has taught it.
But you object against me first the condemnation of Helvidius testified by Sozomenus. Whereto I answer that he was justly condemned, not because he believed not, but because he did obstinately deny it, and troubled the peace of the church about an unnecessary question.”
The True Difference Between Christian Subjection & Unchristian Rebellion… (Oxford, 1585), 4th part, p. 589. Bilson (1547-1616) was a reformed, Anglican bishop and one of the final editors of the King James Bible.
By tradition only, he and other[s] condemned Helvidius the heretic for denying the perpetual virginity of our Lady.
Your stoare fails you when you flee from faith and hope in God to examine Joseph and Mary that you may pick out somewhat between them to impeach the perfection of the Scriptures. That Christ was born of a virgin undefiled is an high point of faith and plainly testified in the Scriptures. That after the birth of her son she was not known of her husband, is a reverend and seemly truth preserved in the Church by witnesses worthy to be trusted, but no part of faith needful to be recorded in the Scriptures.
But Helvidius was noted as an heretic by St. Augustine and others for saying that our Lady was known of Joseph her husband after the birth of our Savior.
The Fathers might reject him as an heretic for his impudent abusing the Scriptures to build a falsehood upon them which was not contained in them; and if they detested it as a rash and wicked slander for him against manifest truth to blemish that chosen vessel which the Holy Ghost had overshadowed, and the son of God sanctified with his presence, we neither blame them, nor mislike their doings.
St. Jerome purposely writing against Helvidius uses the fulness of the Scriptures as his best argument to defend her virginity. [in Latin] ‘As we deny not those things which are written, so we reject those things which are not written. That God was born of a virgin, we believe, because we read. That (the same virgin) Mary became a wife after the birth of her son, we believe it not, because we read it not.’ St. Augustine alleges Scripture for it, with what success I will not judge. If neither of these quiet your contentious spirits, our answer shall be that when you make just proof that this is a point not of truth, which we grant, but of faith, which you urge, then will we not fail to show it consequent to that which is written.”
A Disputation on Holy Scripture Against the Papists… (d. 1595; Cambridge: Parker Society, 1849), pp. 538-9
“In the ninth place, he [Bellarmine] frames this objection: It is necessary to believe that Mary continued a virgin always. But this is not certain from the scriptures: therefore [according to Bellarmine], some necessary things are known from some other source besides the Scripture…
I answer: As to the perpetual virginity of Mary, it is no business of mine to meddle with that dispute. I content myself with saying that the fathers who managed the controversy with Helvidius, adduced not only some obscure traditions, which no one would rank very high, but made use also of testimonies from Scripture. So Proclus Cyzicenus alleges a passage from Ezekiel about the gate which should be closed [Eze. 44:2]. So Ambrose (Sermon 4 and 5). So also Ambrose (Epistle 31 and 79) proves the same from John, where Christ commends his mother to John’s care; which He would not have done if she had a family of children. Epiphanius prosecutes this argument still more copiously against the Antidico-Marianites. Jerome contends against Helvidius with many passages of Scripture; and in like manner other fathers.
Therefore, if these fathers determined aright, this opinion is not absolutely without scriptural authority. Now, as to the Jesuit’s assertion that it is an article of faith to believe the perpetual virginity of the blessed Mary, I say that Basil thought otherwise: for, in his Homily on Christ’s nativity, he says that we should not curiously dispute upon this subject, but that it is enough to know that she had no children before Christ.”
A Defence of Mr. [William] Perkins’ book, called A Reformed Catholic, against the Cavils of a Popish Writer... (London, 1606), The 7th Point, ‘Of Traditions’. Wotton (c. 1561 – 1626) was an English clergyman and controversialist, of puritan views.
“Master Perkins says nothing of the necessity of believing. That point of the virgin Mary’s perpetual virginity, we hold to be true, but we dare not lay a burden upon any man’s conscience where the Scripture is silent.
St. Austin’s judgment, though he were a singular light of the Church, is not of weight enough to determine, without all warrant of scripture, what is heresy and what is not… Besides, Austin thus delivers the matter concerning the Helvidians’ heresy. The Helvidians (says he) so gainsaid the virginity of Mary that they confidently affirm [that] she had other children after Christ by her husband Joseph. So that it may well be Austin counted them heretics especially for avouching that peremptorily which they could no way make good by Scripture.”
“The fourth heresy in Austin is the Basilidians [after Basil the Great], who held no such opinion of the virgin Mary [as to her perpetual virginity]. Indeed there were other heretics, the six in number who denied her virginity after our Savior’s birth, falsely, as we verily persuade ourselves; but this is no matter necessary to salvation, though it be an heresy to hold that as a matter of faith which has no warrant from the Scripture, but rather the contrary.”
“Fifthly, we do not with Helvidius oppugne the perpetual virginity of the blessed Virgin, nor in all respects equal marriage with virginity; nor was he to be condemned, if in regard of merit of eternal life, he equaled marriage with virginity.”
“[Signification] 2. Infinite, without end or ceasing, where there is no time following. 2 Sam. 6:23, ‘Michal had no child until her death;’ that is, she never had any. Mt. 28:20, ‘I am with you always, until the end of the world;’ that is, forever. Ps. 110:1 & 123:2.
In which [second] of these two significations [the first was ‘unto a certain and appointed time’, Gen. 49:10; Rom. 11:25], we should understand, that in Mt. 1, verse last, ‘Until she had brought forth her first begotten son.’ As it is doubtful among divines: so is it not needful for us to know, being no article of our faith, nor any branch of the Moral Law; yet it is commonly received (as I take it) that Mary was a virgin before the birth, in the birth and ever after the birth; but not by the vow of perpetual virginity, whereof there is no ground in all Scripture.”
Of the Church, Five Books… (Oxford, 1628), bk. 4, ch. 20, ‘Of the supposed imperfection of Scriptures, and the supply of Traditions’, p. 376. Field (1561-1616) was the next major Anglican apologist after Richard Hooker, and was no friend of the puritans.
“The only clear instance they [Romanists] seem to give is touching the perpetual virginity of Mary, which they say cannot be proved by scripture, and yet is necessary to be believed.
But they should know, that this is no point of Christian faith. That she was a virgin before, in and after the birth of Christ, we are bound to believe as an article of our faith, and so much is delivered in Scripture and in the Apostles Creed: but that she continued so ever after, is a seemly truth, delivered unto us by the Church of God, fitting the sanctity of the blessed Virgin and the honor due to so sanctified a vessel of Christ’s incarnation, as her body was: and so is de pietate [of piety], but not de necessitate fidei [of the necessity of faith], as the [Medieval] Schoolmen use[d] to speak.
Neither was Helvidius condemned of heresy for the denial hereof, but because pertinaciously he urged the denial of it upon misconstruction of scripture, as if the denial of it had been a matter of faith. Touching this allegation of our adversaries concerning Mary’s perpetual virginity, we must know, that howsoever they pretend to hold it only by tradition, yet the Fathers that defend it against Helvidius, endeavor to prove it by the Scripture.”
11 Choice Sermons Preached... (London, 1640), pt. 2, sermon 5, on 1 Cor. 2:2, p. 104
“The Helvidians of old called the perpetual virginity of the Virgin Mary into question: but she might have been a perpetual virgin, as well as she was born [spiritually] of God…”
A Body of Divinity... (1645), ‘A Large Explication of the Body of Christian Religion’, p. 20
“Objection 1. Yet our [Romanist] adversaries quarrel against this most rich and plentiful treasure of the holy Scriptures, alleging that we receive many things by tradition which are not in Scriptures, and yet we believe them; as Mary’s perpetual virginity and the baptism of infants?
We make not Mary’s perpetual virginity any matter of religion,
but a likely opinion so far as it can be maintained; that it were an unseemly and unfitting thing for a sinful man to use to the act of generation the vessel which was chosen and consecrated by the holy Ghost to so high an use as was the bringing forth of the Savior of the world; it has warrant from the apostle’s charge, Phil. 4:8, of doing whatsoever is honest, whatsoever is of good report, whatsoever is praise-worthy, etc.”
On Frederic Spanheim, Sr. (1600-1649)
“Spanheimius [Sr.] in his Dubia Evangelica, concludes against the opinion of Helvidius (which I much marvel at) merely upon the account of decency and congruity, as judging it more suitable and agreeable to that honorable esteem we ought to have of our Blessed Savior’s mother, to hold that after his birth she remained a perpetual virgin.”
A System or Body of Divinity… (London, 1654), Bk. 1, ch. 8, ‘Of the Properties of Scripture’, pp. 98-99
“[It is claimed by Jesuits that] There are some points of faith not contained in the Scripture, neither in the Old nor New Testament; therefore it is not perfect… [such as] In the New Testament, the perpetual virginity of Mary the mother of Christ.
Answer: …yet would it not thence follow which the Jesuits pretend, that some necessary point of Christianity wanted the ground of holy Scripture, it being sufficient for us to know, that she was a virgin when our Savior Christ was born of her, as the prophets did foretell. Yet (as [Daniel] Chamier said well [in his immensely popular work against Romanism, in Latin, Panstratiae Catholicae, vol. 2, bk. 4, ch. 3, ‘Of Christ’s Nativity’, pp. 110-114]) we believe that she continued a virgin all her lifetime, for in those things (said he) which are not properly de fide [of faith], we hold the authority of the Church is great, if it contradict not Scripture or produce no other absurdity. Vide [see Andrew] Rivet, Apologiam pro Virgine Maria [A Defense of the Virgin Mary], bk. 1, ch. 15 [pp. 107-118].
Helvidius would gather from those words, Mt. 1:25, ‘until’, and ‘first-born’, that Mary after had children by her husband: The word ‘till’ does not import so much. See Gen. 8:7 and 28:15, 1 Sam. 15:35; Sam. 6:23; Mt. 28:20. He is called the first-born in Scripture which first opens the womb, whether others follow or no.”
Compendium Theologiae Christianae… (Groningen, 1690), XVIII, section 11 as quoted by Heinrich Heppe, Reformed Dogmatics ed. Ernst Bizer (1950; Wipf & Stock, 2007), ch. 17, section 10, pp. 422-23
“Mary’s virginity did not flow from a vow, whether on the parents’ part or on her own. With many other fairy tales contrary to the practice of the gens and the nature of wedlock she entered upon, this is a fiction of the Papists, using Lk. 1:34 (‘How shall this be, seeing I know not a man?’) for empty weaving of words, which, whether we translate them in the past with a frequent change of tense, or in the present or even, with reference to Isaiah’s prophecy, in the future, establish not a prayer but only a particular fact.
Nor does Christian faith demand that Mary’s virginity be extended perpetually beyond the nativity of Jesus, as the Papists will again have it on the pretext of a vow and the of the excellency of virginity and of the passage Eze. 44:2 dealt with allegorically with this in view… But so far we agree with them against the Helvidians and the Antidico-Marianites, that we believe it more probable that Joseph abstained from conjugal contact with Mary even after the nativity of Jesus, because he sensed a gracious miracle.”
Institutes of Elenctic Theology, 13th Topic, ‘The Person & State of Christ’, 11th Question, ‘The Conception & Nativity of Christ’, sections 21-25
“XXI. …whether she always remained a virgin afterwards. This is not expressly declared in Scripture, but is yet piously believed with human faith from the consent of the ancient church. Thus it is probable that the womb in which our Savior received the auspices of life (whence he entered into this world, as from a temple) was so consecrated and sanctified by so great a guest that she always remained untouched by man; nor did Joseph ever cohabit with her.
XXII. Hence Helvidius and the Antidicomarianites (so-called because they were opponents of [antidikoi] Mary) are deservedly rebuked by the fathers for denying that Mary was always a virgin (aei Parthenon). They held that she cohabited with Joseph after delivery; yea, also bore children from him. As Augustine remarks, they rely on the shallowest arguments, i.e., because Christ is called the ‘firstborn’ of Mary (cf. De Haeresibus 56, 84 [PL 42.40, 46]). For as Jerome well remarks, she was so called because no one was begotten before him, not because there was another after him. Hence among lawyers: ‘He is the first whom no one precedes; he is last, whom no one follows.’ The Hebrews were accustomed to call the firstborn also only begotten; Israel is called ‘the first-born of God’ (Ex 4:22), although the only people chosen of God. Thus ‘the firstborn’ is said to be ‘holy unto God’ (Ex 13:2), who first opened the womb , whether others followed or not. Otherwise the firstborn would not have to be redeemed until after another offspring had been procreated (the law shows this to be false because it commands it to be redeemed a month after birth, Num. 18:16).
XXIII. (2) Not more solidly have they been able to elicit this from the fact that in the New Testament certain ones are called ‘the brothers of Christ.’ It is common in Scripture not only for one’s own and full brothers by nature to be designated by this name, but also blood relatives and cousins (as Abraham and Lot, Jacob and Laban). Thus James and Joses, Simon and Judas are called brothers of Christ (Mt. 13:55) by a relation of blood. For Mary (who is called their mother by Matthew and Mark) is called by John the sister of the Lord’s mother. However what is said in Jn. 7:5 that ‘neither did his brethren believe him’ must be understood of more remote blood relations.
XXIV. (3) Nor is it derived better from this-that Joseph is said ‘not to have known Mary till she had brought forth her firstborn son’ (Mt. 1:25). The particles ‘till” and ‘even unto’ are often referred only to the past, not to the future (i.e., they so connote the preceding time, concerning which there might be a doubt or which it was of the highest importance to know, as not to have a reference to the future-cf. Gen. 28:15; Ps. 122:2; 110:1; Mt. 28:20, etc.). Thus is shown what was done by Joseph before the nativity of Christ (to wit, that he abstained form her); but it does not imply that he lived with her in any other way postpartum. When therefore she is said to have been found with child ‘before they came together’ (prin e synelthein autous), preceding copulation is denied, but not subsequent affirmed.
XXV. Although copulation had not take place in that marriage, it did not cease to be true and ratified (although unconsummated) for not intercourse, but consent makes marriage. Therefore it was perfect as to form (to wit, undivided conjunction of life and unviolated faith, but not as to end (to wit, the procreation of children, although it was not deficient as to the raising of the offspring).”
Johann H. Heidegger
XVII, section 18 as quoted in Heinrich Heppe, Reformed Dogmatics ed. Bizer (1950; Wipf & Stock), ch. 17, section 10, p. 423
“When the ancients not a few and the monks in their train explain Mary’s words as though she had intimated the taking of a resolve or vow of eternal virginity whether on her own or her parents’ part, according to the story, or rather dream from the ivory gate, which Gregory of Nyssa related under the title of A certain apocryphal Tale, they are quite mistaken, because if bound by a vow whether of her own or of others she would not have promised marriage to Joseph. At the time she was a virgin but betrothed to Joseph, Mt. 1:18, with whom it is suggested in the same passage that she proposed to cohabit.
Moreover God wished the most holy virgin to be betrothed, lest either the son as spurious, not being admissible to the congregation, Dt. 23:3 (no bastard, unto the tenth generation) might be hindered in the administration of his office; or lest according to the law, Lev. 20:10 (adulterer or adultress put to death) a capital charge might be brought against Mary, as an adultress. Those who adduce from Epiphanius that the virgin was ἐπίκληρος, we have shown earlier to be destitute of reason.
Also the Church believes that she was always a virgin. Faith in Jesus bids us believe that both before and in parturition she was a virgin. Also that after an untainted parturition she retained the bloom of her virginity is a pious belief of the Church, although it makes no difference to faith in Christ.”
The Concise Marrow of Theology trans. Casey Carmichael (RHB, 2019), Locus 17, section IV, p. 118
Danaeus, Lambert – Commentary on Augustine’s On Heresies, ch. 56 in Works, p. 984
Chamier, Daniel – bk. 4, ch. 3, ‘Of Christ’s Nativity’, pp. 110-114 in Panstratiae Catholicae (Geneva, 1626), vol. 2
“Chamier said well, we believe that she continued a virgin all her lifetime, for in those things (said he) which are not properly de fide [of faith], we hold the authority of the Church is great, if it contradict not Scripture or produce no other absurdity.” – Edward Leigh
Edward Leigh references Rivet in the context of favoring the perpetual virginity of Mary in the manner of Chamier above.
Gomarus, Francis – Explication of the Place, Mt. 1:24-25 in Works, p. 8
Spanheim, Friderich – Evangelical Doubts, pt. 1, doubt 28, p. 227
Bynaeus, Antonius – On the Birth & Circumcision of Jesus Christ, bk. 1, ch. 2, section 32
Marck, Johannes – see De Moore
Andrea, Samuel – p. 32, Corollary 5 in A Theological Disquisition on the Nativity of Immanuel from the Virgin, According to the Prophecy in Isaiah 7:14 (Marburg, 1679)
Andrea (1640-1699) was a German, reformed professor of rhetoric, history and theology at Marburg.
Andrea speaks against Romanists holding the doctrine as one of faith, and that under pain of eternal damnation. He also is contrary to a vow of celibacy by Mary. Andrea says, however, that ‘we piously believe’ ‘with a good persuasion’ (admodum probabiliter) that her virginity was perpetually kept with orthodox antiquity, citing Zwingli on Isaiah.
Vitringa, Campegius – pp. 464-72 in The Doctrine of the Christian Religion, vol. 5
De Moore, Bernardinus – pp. 562-66 of ch. 18, ‘On the Mediator of the Covenant of Grace’, section 11 in Perpetual Commentary
De Moore first concisely argues against the Papal vow of Mary, and then at more length, treats of the ‘probability’ of Mary’s perpetual virginity (in contradinction from the necessity of it, per the Papists), from the ‘greatest gift of God’ (p. 563 mid to the end of the chapter).
On Ulrich Zwingli
G. R. Potter, Zwingli (London: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1976). Also Zwingli, The Perpetual Virginity of Mary…, Sept. 17, 1522
“He turns, in September 1522, to a lyrical defense of the perpetual virginity of the mother of Christ… To deny that Mary remained ‘inviolata’ before, during and after the birth of her Son, was to doubt the omnipotence of God… and it was right and profitable [according to Zwingli] to repeat the angelic greeting – not prayer – ‘Hail Mary’… God esteemed Mary above all creatures, including the saints and angels – it was her purity, innocence and invincible faith that mankind must follow. Prayer, however, must be… to God alone…
‘Fidei expositio,’ [An Exposition of the Faith, 1536] the last pamphlet from his pen [d. 1531]… There is a special insistence upon the perpetual virginity of Mary….”
Max Thurian [a Protestant], Mary: Mother of All Christians, trans. Nevill B. Cryer (New York: Herder & Herder, 1964), p. 76
“Zwingli had printed in 1524 a sermon on ‘Mary, ever virgin, mother of God.’”
A sermon on ‘Mary, ever virgin, mother of God’, as quoted in Max Thurian [a Protestant], Mary: Mother of All Christians, trans. Nevill B. Cryer (New York: Herder & Herder, 1963), p. 76
“I have never thought, still less taught, or declared publicly, anything concerning the subject of the ever Virgin Mary, Mother of our salvation, which could be considered dishonourable, impious, unworthy or evil… I believe with all my heart according to the word of holy gospel that this pure virgin bore for us the Son of God and that she remained, in the birth and after it, a pure and unsullied virgin, for eternity.”
Opera, Corpus Reformatorum, vol 1, p. 424
“I firmly believe that Mary, according to the words of the gospel as a pure Virgin brought forth for us the Son of God and in childbirth and after childbirth forever remained a pure, intact Virgin.”
as quoted by E. Stakemeier, De Mariologia et Oecumenismo, ed. K. Balic (Rome, 1962), p. 456
“I esteem immensely the Mother of God, the ever chaste, immaculate Virgin Mary.”
Opp. III, p. 188 as quoted by Heinrich Heppe, Reformed Dogmatics ed. Ernst Bizer (1950; Wipf & Stock, 2007), ch. 17, p. 422
“she had–to be a virgin and perpetually a virgin, who brought forth Him who could not have even the suspicion of defilement.”
On Heinrich Bullinger
Perry, Tim, Mary for Evangelicals: Toward an Understanding of the Mother of Our Lord (IVP Academic, 2006), p. 218
“As Zwingli’s successor, Heinrich Bullinger (1504-1575) consolidated the reform of Zurich. Nevertheless, he is more positively disposed toward Marian doctrine and piety. His ‘Sermon on Mary,’ after defending Mary’s perpetual virginity…
This is not to say that the sermon is a wholesale endorsement of Marian developments to the sixteenth century, for it also regards the immaculate conception and the bodily assumption as open questions… Bullinger also inveighs against her invocation and rejects the understanding of Mary as mistress of the church.”
as quoted in Hilda Graef, Mary: A History of Doctrine & Devotion, combined ed. of vols. 1 & 2 (London: Sheed & Ward, 1985), vol. 2, pp. 14-15. Bullinger was also a main author of the Second Helvetic Confession, quoted on this webpage.
“The Virgin Mary… completely sanctified by the grace and blood of her only Son and abundantly endowed by the gift of the Holy Spirit and preferred to all… now lives happily with Christ in heaven and is called and remains ever-Virgin and Mother of God.”
Rhaetian Confession (1552)
ed. Dennison, Jr., Reformed Confessions 1.675. This was a Swiss reformed confession.
“But that even our Scriptures… use metaphorical and symbolic words and discourse is clearly apparent from these things… How is it that Mary herself calls Joseph the father of Jesus (Luke 2:48)? What pious person would not profess that all these things are said improperly? Or, having been taught by Scripture, do we not firmly believe that the Lord Jesus was by no means conceived by the seed of Joseph (which certain heretics, being of unsound mind with the Jews, have dared to proclaim) but that He was conceived of the Holy Spirit (Luke 1:35), and that His blessed mother had never known a man but remained a virgin and untouched forever?”
A Confutation of Unwritten Verities… ([Wesel, 1556]), Ch. 10, ‘Doctors to the Same Purpose with Their Answers’, no page number
“They [Romanists] say moreover that the perpetual virginity of our Lady is to be believed of necessity as Cyprian, Chrysostom, Jerome, Ambrose, Austen and all other speaking thereof say. But this is not found in the Scripture: ergo [therefore] there is something to be believed that is not written in the Scripture.
The minor, that is to say that this is not written in the Scripture is false. For first, none of the old authors that rehearse traditions of the apostles-unwritten make mention of the perpetual virginity of our Lady to be one of them: but they rehearse only diverse ceremonies or bodily gestures… which (as I have manifestly declared) are not necessary to salvation… Moreover all the said authors prove her perpetual virginity by this text of Scripture:
Ezekiel 44, ‘This door shall be still shut and not opened for any man to go through it: but only for the Lord God of Israel, yea He shall go through it, else shall it be shut still.’ For if these and such other fathers had not judged her perpetual virginity to have been written in the Scriptures: they would never have judged it to have been a thing to be believed under pain of damnation.
Saint Jerome also calls Helvidius a rash and an ungodly man: because that he taught that our Lady had other children by Joseph after Christ’s birth, which doctrine he could not prove by the Scriptures of God. In like manner we call all them that preach any doctrine in the Church without the authority of God’s Word both ungodly, rash and wicked members of Antichrist.”
Confession of Tarcal & Torda 1562/3
Article 23 in ed. Dennison, Jr., Reformed Confessions 2.663. This was a Transylvanian confession.
“Therefore, Jesus Christ, true God and true man (i.e. consisting truly of a human body and soul and, by the working of the Holy Spirit, of the substance of the Virgin Mary, daughter of David), was truly conceived and indeed born of that virgin (virgin, I say, both before and after giving birth) and was to fulfill all things for our salvation (Matt. 1:21-23; Luke 1:27,31).”
The 2nd Helvetic Confession (1562-66) & the Church of Scotland (1566)
The 2nd Helvetic Confession (1566) was a binding document of the reformed Swiss churches (see Wiki for background info). While James Dennison, Jr. says that the 2nd Helvetic Confession was ‘the most widely received of the sixteenth century Reformed confessions,’ (Reformed Confessions, vol. 2, p. 809) yet he says that the only churches that ‘adopted it as a standard of their own’ besides the Swiss churches were the reformed Churches of Hungary and Eastern Europe; hence the Confession did not have binding status in other Reformation churches.
The General Assembly of the Church of Scotland in 1566 sent a letter to Theodore Beza approving the Confession, with only the one of its teaching about keeping the evangelical festivals. However, “[e]verything else, as we have said, we teach, approve, and most willingly embrace.” In fact, they said just previously to this:
“…we considered each chapter by itself, and left nothing unexplored, and diligently examined everything respecting God, the sacred laws and rights of the Church, and it is impossible to express the exceeding delight we derived from that work, when we clearly perceived that in your little book was most faithfully, holily, piously, and indeed divinely explained, and that briefly whatever we have been constantly teaching these eight years, and still by the grace of God, continued to teach, in our Churches, in the schools, and in the pulpit.
We are therefore altogether compelled, as well by our consciences, as from a sense of duty, to undertake its patronage, and not only to express our approval, but also our exceeding commendation of every chapter and every sentence.”
Ch. 11, ‘Of Jesus Christ, True God and Man, the Only Savior of the World’
“CHRIST IS TRUE MAN, HAVING REAL FLESH. We also believe and teach that the eternal Son of the eternal God was made the Son of man, from the seed of Abraham and David, not from the coitus [union] of a man, as the Ebionites [a sect from the Early Church] said, but was most chastely conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the ever virgin Mary, as the evangelical history carefully explains to us (Matt., ch. 1). And Paul says: “he took not on him the nature of angels, but of the seed of Abraham.” Also the apostle John says that whoever does not believe that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh, is not of God. Therefore, the flesh of Christ was neither imaginary nor brought from heaven, as Valentinus and Marcion wrongly imagined.”
Guy de Bres
The Staff of Christian Faith… (d. 1567; 1577), ‘Of Purgatory’, p. 150
“Objection [arguing for Purgatory]:
‘Verily I say unto thee, thou shalt not come out thence, till thou hast paid the utmost farthing.’
In the first of St. Matthew it is said that Joseph knew not his wife, till she had brought forth her firstborn son.
Augustine expounds that place by the raven that Noah did send forth: and saith that the raven did never return again: even so Joseph never knew the virgin Mary, for she is a virgin.”
Sandomierz Consensus 1570
Article 11 in ed. Dennison, Jr., Reformed Confessions 3.198. This was a Polish, Czech and Bohemian confession.
“We also believe and confess that this eternal Son of God is the son of man, from the generation of Abraham and of David, conceived not from union with a man (as Ebion stated) but without blemish by the Holy Spirit and born of the pure and perpetual virgin Mary…”
The Colloquy of Thorn
II.2.(2) in ed. Dennison, Jr., Reformed Confessions 4.210. This colloquy served Poland and Lithuania.
“We likewise believe the article on the office of our Lord Jesus Christ as a fundamental article, namely that the only begotten Son of the Father became flesh through Mary (who remained always a virgin) is our sole Redeemer and Mediator…”
Synopsis Papismi, that is, A General View of Papistry... (1592), 9th Controversy, 2nd Part, 9th Question, 2nd Part, ‘Whether Mary Vowed Virginity before the Annunciation?’, p. 400. Willet (1562–1621) was a reformed Anglican clergyman with puritan tendencies, though a conformist.
“That Mary, as she was an entire virgin before the birth of Christ, so that she continued also a virgin all her life after, we do verily think, and condemn their opinion that hold the contrary…”
An Exposition of the Symbol or Creed of the Apostles… (Cambridge, 1595), p. 171
“As Mary conceived a virgin, so it may be well thought that she continued a virgin to the end, though we make it no article of our faith. When Christ was upon the cross, he commended his mother to the custody of John; which probably argues that she had no child to whose care and keeping she might be commended. And though Christ be called her firstborn, yet does it not follow that she had any child after him: for as that is called last after which there is none, so that is called the first before which there was none. And as for Joseph, when he was espoused to Mary, he was a man of eighty years old.”
A Golden Chain… (Cambridge, 1600), ch. 18, ‘Of Christ’s Nativity & Office’, pp. 27-28
“The nativity of Christ, is that whereby Mary, a virgin, did after the course of nature and the custom of women [contra in partu], bring forth Christ, that Word of the Father and the Son of David: so that those are much deceived which are of opinion that Christ, after a miraculous manner, came into the world, the womb of the Virgin being shut. Lk. 2:23, ‘Every man-child which first opens the womb, shall be called holy to the Lord.’ The which place of scripture is applied to Mary and our Savior Christ. Hence is it that the Virgin Mary is said Theotokos [God-bearer] to bring forth God, albeit she is not any way mother of the Godhead. For Christ as He is God, is without mother, and as man, without father.
It is convenient to be thought that Mary continued a virgin until her dying day, albeit we make not this opinion any article of our belief:
I. Christ being now to depart the world, committed his mother to the tuition and custody of his disciple John, which it is like He would not have done, if she had had any children, by whom, as custom was, she might have been provided for, Jn. 19:26.
II. It is likely that she who was with child by the Holy Ghost, would not after[ward] know any man.
III. It is agreed of by the Church in all ages.”
A Commentary or Exposition, upon the Five First Chapters of the Epistle to the Galatians… (Cambridge, 1604), ch. 1, pp. 61-2
“In that James is called our Lord’s brother [in Gal. 1:19] three things may be demanded:
One, which James this was?
Answer: It was James the son of Alpheus: for he lived 14 years after this, Gal. 2:9, whereas James the son of Zebedeus lived not so long, because he was put to death by Herod.
The second thing is, how James should be the Lord’s brother?
Answer: In scripture, children of the same womb, are brethren: men of the same blood are brethren; as Abram and Lot, Gen. 13:8. Men of the same country are brethren, thus Saul’s countrymen are called his brethren, 1 Chron. 12:2. And James is called our Lord’s brother, not because he was of the same womb, but because he was of the same blood or kindred: for Elie had two daughters, Mary, espoused to Joseph, and Mary Cleophas, who afterward was married to Alpheus, of whom came James here mentioned. James therefore was the cousin-german [first-cousin] of Christ. Therefore Helvideus failed when he went about to infringe the perpetual virginity of the virgin Mary out of this place, as if she had more sons beside Christ.
The third thing is, what benefit James had by being the Lord’s brother?
Answer: He is here called the Lord’s brother only, for distinction’s sake in respect of the other James the son of Zebedeus…”
An Exposition of all the Principal Scriptures used in our English Liturgy… (London, 1610), pp. 37-8
“The Scripture tells us how man comes four ways into the world… 4. Of a woman without a man, and so was Christ born.
Of the Virgin Mary.] Where the mother of Christ is described by her
Name, ‘Mary’; surename, ‘Virgin’.
The new Jesuits and old Friers have many wonderful
extravagant conceits of this name: let it suffice that it is
added in the Gospel and Creed to show that Christ came
of the lineage of David: and that therefore He was the true
Messias, as God had promised and prophesied by the
mouths of all his holy servants.
Virgin] A perpetual Virgin: Before, In, After Christ’s birth.
Before his birth, against 1. Jews, 2. Gentiles, 3. Cerinthians.
Unto the first [the Jews] we say with Cyril: Pariet Aaronis virga sine semine, et non pariet virgo sine semine? aut vtrum[que] negate aut vtrum[que] concedite.
Against the second [the gentiles], we have:
Ficta: Qui enim e Iouis cerebro Mineruam, et ex eiusdem femore Bacchum, falso prognatum esse fabulamini: quomodo ex vtero virginali Christum nasci dicitis impossibile?
Facta: Quoniam animalia multas sine commistione generantur. And Plutarch in the life of Numa spake like an angel: Incredibilo non est, ut spiritus Dei cum muliere coeat, ei[que] sobolis quaedam principia ingoneret.
3. The Cerinthians, Ebionites, and Carpocratian heretics held that Christ was the natural son of Joseph: et verus, et merus homo [both true and merely man]. Contrary to text, Mt. 1:25; Lk. 3:23. See the Gospel, Dom. l, post Epiphan.
In his birth, against: Jovinian, Durandus. Unto these that of Isa. 7 is opposed, ‘Ecce 〈…〉, & pariet filium.’ The which words are to be construed:
‘in censu composito, non diuiso: scilicet integra perman•e•• et conceptura, et paritura: nam quale signum vel prodigium esset ut quae fuit virgo conciperet, et corrupta pareret?’ ‘Hic si ratio quaeritur, non erit mirabile. Si poscitur exemplum, non erit singulare. Demus Deum aliquid posse, quod nos fateamur inuestigare non posse.’ ‘Fides adsit, et nulla quaestio remanebit.’ See the Gospel of the purification.
After his birth against the Old Helvidians, [and] New Antidicomarianites:
holding it a point of zeal to disgrace this holy Virgin: whereas it is our duty rather highly to reverence her, as being the Mother of our Lord; a prophetess on earth, a saint in heaven, (as the Fathers usually) the window of heaven, through which it pleased the light of the world to illuminate such as sit in darkness and in the shadow of death.
Of such estimation in the Church, that whereas the first General Council was assembled against Arius, to maintain the honor of the Son, and so by consequence of the Father: The second against Macedonius, to maintain the honor of the Holy Ghost: The third was assembled against Nestorius, to maintain the dignity of the blessed Virgin. And therefore let not us give her too little, though the Papists have given her too much. See Gospel on the Annunciation.”
Last 3 pages of ‘The Purification of St. Mary the Virgin’, ‘The Epistle, Isa. 7:10’ in An Exposition of the Festival Epistles & Gospels used in our English Liturgy… (London, 1615)
On Lancelot Andrewes
Andrewes (1555-1626) was a reformed Anglican.
ed. Raymond E. Brown et al, Mary in the New Testament (Philadelphia: Fortress Press / New York: Paulist Press, 1978), p. 65, fn. 116. This was a joint Catholic-Protestant venture.
“The title ‘Ever Virgin’ (aeiparthenos, semper virgo) arose early in Christianity… It was a stock phrase in the Middle Ages and continued to be used in Protestant confessional writings (Luther, Calvin, Zwingli, Andrewes; Book of Concord , Schmalkaldic Articles ).”
The Abridgment of Christian Divinity… (d. 1629; London, 1660), pp. 128-9
“VII. We believe also that Mary continued a virgin after her childbirth: For her marriage with Joseph did not consist in the generation of children, but in her education and holy conjunction of life with him.
VIII. Although Christ had no other brothers born after Him, yet He is rightly called Mary’s first begotten Son.
In Scripture Christ is called the ‘firstborn’ four manner of ways… 4. In respect of his nativity of the Virgin, Lk. 2:7. Now He is not only called firstborn, whom other brothers do follow; but he also who is born before others, although he be indeed the only begotten, or he whom other brothers do not follow; whence such a one, even before he had any brothers, was consecrated to God, as if he had been the firstborn, Num. 18:16.”
A learned and very useful commentary on the whole epistle to the Hebrews… (London, 1655), §. 67. ‘Of Christ the first-begotten’, p. 49
“Though Christ in regard of his divine nature, and by virtue of his eternal generation be the only begotten Son of his Father; and in regard of his humane nature, by reason of the perpetual virginity of his mother, her only begotten Son; yet may He well be said to have brethren, and that in two especial respects:
1. Because the Son of God and Son of men are of one, even of one and the same nature: Therefore He is not ashamed to call them brethren, Heb. 2:11.
2. Because He has adopted them to be Sons of his Father; For we children of men are said to have the adoption of children by Jesus Christ, Eph. 1:5.
In this respect Christ stiles his disciples whom He had adopted, ‘brethren’, Mt. 28:10. For He Himself renders this reason of calling them brethren, ‘My Father is their Father’, Jn. 20:17.”
Collegium Theologicum... (Geneva, 1662), ix, section 44 as quoted by Heinrich Heppe, Reformed Dogmatics ed. Ernst Bizer (1950; Wipf & Stock, 2007), ch. 17, p. 422
“We recognize that even after the birth the blessed Virgin was untouched by a male.”
“The fifth and last proposition is this, that although Jesus of Nazareth naturally descended only from Mary, yet he derives not his title to the crown and kingdom of the Jews originally by the line of Mary (for as much as she sprang from the Line of Rhesa the younger Son of Zorobabel), but received that from Joseph, who was of the elder line by Abiud; which line of Abiud failing in Joseph, as having no issue, the right of Inheritance devolved upon one of the younger line, viz. upon Mary, and consequently upon Jesus her son and legal heir.
From whence there rises this unanswerable argument, both against the opinion of those who affirm Joseph to have had other Children by a former wife; as also against that old heresy of Helvidius, who, against the general and constant sense of the Church, denied the perpetual virginity of Mary, affirming that Joseph had other children by her after the Birth of Jesus. [Frederic] Spanheimius [Sr., 1600-1649] in his Dubia Evangelica, concludes against the opinion of Helvidius (which I much marvel at) merely upon the account of decency and congruity, as judging it more suitable and agreeable to that honorable esteem we ought to have of our Blessed Savior’s mother, to hold that after his birth she remained a perpetual virgin.
But I add, that to assert so, seems not only decent, but of as absolute necessity, as that Jesus Christ the Messiah was to be of right king of the Jews. For had Joseph had any children either by Mary, or any other wife, they as coming from the elder line of Abiud by Joseph their father, must have claimed the inheritance of the kingdom in his right, and not Jesus the Son of Mary, who descended from a younger line, and so could not legally inherit, but upon default of issue from Joseph the only remaining heir of the elder. For this was the law of Moses, which in this case would have barred Jesus from a title to the kingdom of the Jews. But we know Jesus came to fulfill the Law in every part and tittle of it; and therefore would never have owned himself king of the Jews, contrary to the express injunctions and tenor of it.
For though it must be confessed that the Gospel makes mention of the brothers and sisters of Jesus, yet it is known to be most usual in the Jewish language to call any collateral kindred, as cousins and cousin-germans [first cousins] by that name. And antiquity reports the Virgin Mary to have had two sisters, the children of which might very well be called the brethren of Jesus. So that from hence there can be no necessity of granting that Jesus had any brother or sister either by his mother Mary, or his reputed and legal father Joseph.”
[South’s argument rests on the same premise as the English crown in his day, that in the royal lineage there may only be one successor to the crown, and it descends according to birthright. However, it is by no means clear that Mary and Joseph were the only descendants of David, or that they were even the most direct descendants of David in their day.
Nor does Jesus’ title as king of God’s Kingdom depend upon such premises: the Messiah was simply to come from the line of David, and the revelation of God’s chosen king, as in times past, was revealed by prophecy.]
On Lutheranism Generally
Kreitzer, Beth – Reforming Mary: changing Images of the Virgin Mary in Lutheran Sermons of the Sixteenth Century (Oxford Univ. Press, 2004) 250 pp. ToC
A Roman Catholic on Luther
More (1478-1535) was beheaded and later made a Roman Catholic saint.
Thomas More, ‘An Answer to Martin Luther’ in The Essential Thomas More (Canada: Mentor-Omega Books, 1967), p. 112
“If Luther is willing to accept nothing except what is plainly set down in Scripture, why does he believe in the perpetual virginity of Mary? There is nothing to prove this in Scripture and Helvidius actually took it upon himself to prove the contrary, relying on no other authority than that of Scripture.”
On Martin Luther
LW 22:214-215 Pelikan was a modern editor of Luther’s works and was a Lutheran at the time.
“Luther… does not even consider the possibility that Mary might have had other children than Jesus. This is consistent with his lifelong acceptance of the idea of the perpetual virginity of Mary.”
“It is an article of faith that Mary is Mother of the Lord and still a Virgin.”
That Jesus Christ was Born a Jew (1523) in LW 45:199
“A new lie about me is being circulated. I am supposed to have preached and written that Mary, the mother of God, was not a virgin either before or after the birth of Christ…”
That Jesus Christ was Born a Jew (1523) in LW 45.206, 212-213
“Scripture does not say or indicate that she later lost her virginity…
The form of expression used by Matthew is the common idiom, as if I were to say, “Pharaoh believed not Moses, until he was drowned in the Red Sea.” Here it does not follow that Pharaoh believed later, after he had drowned; on the contrary, it means that he never did believe.
Similarly when Matthew [1:25] says that Joseph did not know Mary carnally until she had brought forth her son, it does not follow that he knew her subsequently; on the contrary, it means that he never did know her. Again, the Red Sea overwhelmed Pharaoh before he got across. Here too it does not follow that Pharaoh got across later, after the Red Sea had overwhelmed him, but rather that he did not get across at all. In like manner, when Matthew [1:18] says, “She was found to be with child before they came together,” it does not follow that Mary subsequently lay with Joseph, but rather that she did not lie with him.
Elsewhere in Scripture the same manner of speech is employed. Psalm 110[:1] reads, “God says to my Lord: ‘Sit at my right hand, till I make your enemies your footstool.’ ” Here it does not follow that Christ does not continue to sit there after his enemies are placed beneath his feet. Again, in Genesis 28[:15], “I will not leave you until I have done all that of which I have spoken to you.” Here God did not leave him after the fulfillment had taken place. Again, in Isaiah 42[:4], “He shall not be sad, nor troublesome, till he has established justice in the earth.” There are many more similar expressions, so that this babble of Helvidius is without justification; in addition, he has neither noticed nor paid any attention to either Scripture or the common idiom.”
Sermons on John, chs. 1-4 (1539) in ed. Jaroslav Pelikan, Luther’s Works (St. Louis: Concordia Pub. House, 1955), 22:23-24
“According to His humanity, He, Christ, our Savior, was the real and natural fruit of Mary’s virginal womb (of which Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to her in Luke 1:42: “Blessed is the fruit of your womb!”).
This was without the co-operation of a man, and she remained a virgin after that. Everything else that a mother imparts to a child was imparted by Mary, the mother of God’s eternal Son. Even the milk He sucked had no other source than the breasts of this holy and pure mother.”
Sermons on John, chs. 1-4 (1539) in LW 22:214-215
“Now the question may occupy us how Christ could have brothers, since He was the only Son of Mary, and the Virgin Mary bore no children besides Him. Some say that Joseph had been married before his marriage to Mary, and that the children of this first wife were later called Christ’s brothers…
Any children born to Joseph by other wives would have been half brothers of Christ. This is the explanation offered by some. But I am inclined to agree with those who declare that “brothers” really means “cousins” here, for Holy Writ and the Jews always call cousins brothers. Be that as it may, it matters little. It neither adds to nor detracts from faith. It is immaterial whether these men were Christ’s cousins or His brothers begotten by Joseph.”
“For this reason, too, Scripture does not quibble or speak about the virginity of Mary after the birth of Christ, a matter about which the hypocrites are greatly concerned, as if it were something of the utmost importance on which our whole salvation depended. Actually, we should be satisfied simply to hold that she remained a virgin after the birth of Christ because Scripture does not state or indicate that she later lost her virginity.
We certainly need not be so terribly afraid that someone will demonstrate, out of his own head apart from Scripture, that she did not remain a virgin. But the Scripture stops with this, that she was a virgin before and at the birth of Christ; for up to this point God had need of her virginity in order to give us the promised blessed seed without sin.”
Further Luther References
WA 11.320; 49.174, 182; 51.176; 54.207
On the Smalcald Articles 1537
See Wikipedia for background.
ed. Raymond E. Brown et al, Mary in the New Testament (Philadelphia: Fortress Press / New York: Paulist Press, 1978), p. 65. This was a joint Catholic-Protestant venture.
“The title ‘Ever Virgin’ (aeiparthenos, semper virgo) arose early in Christianity… It was a stock phrase in the Middle Ages and continued to be used in Protestant confessional writings (Luther, Calvin, Zwingli, Andrewes; Book of Concord , Schmalkaldic Articles ).”
The Formula of Concord 1577/80
See Wikipedia on the Book of Concord.
“He demonstrated his divine majesty even in his mother’s womb in that he was born of a virgin without violating her virginity. [or ‘with her virginity inviolate’]”
Mary did Not take a Vow of Celibacy
This was the standard reformed view, with no exceptions found so far.
Commentary on Luke, ch. 1, v. 34
“The conjecture which some have drawn from these words [‘How shall this be, seeing I know not a man?’], that she had formed a vow of perpetual virginity, is unfounded and altogether absurd. She would, in that case, have committed treachery by allowing herself to be united to a husband, and would have poured contempt on the holy covenant of marriage; which could not have been done without mockery of God.
Although the Papists have exercised barbarous tyranny on this subject, yet they have never proceeded so far as to allow the wife to form a vow of continence at her own pleasure. Besides, it is an idle and unfounded supposition that a monastic life existed among the Jews.”
Peter Martyr Vermigli
The Common Places… (d. 1562; 1583), Pt. 3, ch. 3, ‘Of Faith & the Certainty Thereof’, section 7, p. 62
“But whereas some feign that she asked this because she had vowed her virginity unto God; this needs no long confutation, specially seeing we are by the history itself taught that she was betrothed to a man: neither was there at that time any such custom to vow virginity unto God. But let us return to our purpose.”
Willet, Andrew – 9th Controversy, 2nd Part, 9th Question, 2nd Part, ‘Whether Mary Vowed Virginity before the Annunciation?’ in Synopsis Papismi, that is, A General View of Papistry... (1592), pp. 400-401
Turretin, Francis – Institutes of Elenctic Theology, vol. 2, 13th Topic, ‘The Person & State of Christ’, 11th Question, ‘The Conception & Nativity of Christ’, sections 26-27, p. 346
Order of Material
In Partu is the belief that not only was Mary a virgin before (ante partum) and after pregnancy (post partum), but that in pregnancy and delivery itself (in partu) her womb remained perpetually virgin, unmarked by normal human delivery. For Romanists, this means that Mary did not go through birth pangs, her hymen did not tear, and in fact her cervix remained always closed: the birth was miraculous.
For support of this tradition, Romanists, amongst other things, appeal to Isa. 7:14 & Mt. 1:23, that ‘a virgin’ shall not only conceive, but also will ‘bring forth a son’. They interpret these verses as signifying that Mary would always remain a virgin, and hence did so, miraculously, through child-birth.
As is seen below, early Lutheranism tended to hold onto this Medieval tradition of Mary’s virginity in partu. Notably though, those reformed persons who held to Mary’s perpetual virginity, such as Beza and the Confession of Tarcal and Torda above, affirm her virginity ante partum and post partum, but not in partu. That is, the reformed, apparently universally (no evidence has been found otherwise), affirmed that Mary’s pregnancy and delivery was after the normal human mode, under the pains and labor of Eve’s curse. In support of this, amongst other things, they often appealed to Lk. 2:23, which says, being applied by the Evangelist to Jesus’s birth:
“As it is written in the law of the Lord, ‘Every male that openeth the womb shall be called holy to the Lord’;”
Early & Medieval Church
Collection of 14 Sources
Armstrong, a Roman apologist, quotes the following for in partu from the early and Medieval Church fathers (less clear references that he cites are omitted here):
Synod of Milan (390 A.D), St. Ephraim the Syrian, St. Gregory of Nazianz, St Gregory of Nyssa, St. Ambrose of Milan, Augustine (see Sermon 189, (2)), Pope Leo the Great, Pope Pelagius I, the Lateran Council (649 A.D.), Creed of the Council of Toledo, 16 (693 A.D.) Proclus of Constantinople, John of Damascus, Aquinas, Bonaventure.
The Lateran Council 649
The Lateran Council was a local synod of the Church of Rome held in the Basilica of St. John Lateran to condemn Monothelitism, a Christology espoused by many Eastern Christians. The Council did not achieve ecumenical status in either East or West, but represented the first attempt of a pope to convene an ecumenical council independent of the Roman emperor.
The language of Mary bearing in an ‘uncorrupted’ manner (incorruptibiliter) by the Council appears to follow the language of the homily of Cyril of Alexandria (c. 376–444) at the council of Ephesus, where he said (P. 3, Ch. 9):
“Neither did God suffer any division (by begetting the Word), for He begot divinely, nor did the Virgin suffer corruption in giving birth, for she gave birth spiritually.”
After the middle of the seventh century, prior to the reformation, Medieval treatments of the topic generally have an explanation of the claimed threefold character (ante partum, in partu and post partum) of Mary’s virginity. See Aquinas above for an example.
“Canon 3. If anyone does not properly and truly confess in accord with the holy Fathers, that the holy Mother of God and ever Virgin and immaculate Mary in the earliest of the ages conceived of the Holy Spirit without seed, namely, God the Word Himself specifically and truly, who was born of God the Father before all ages, and that she incorruptibly [incorruptibiliter] bore [Him], her virginity remaining indestructible even after His birth, let him be condemned.”
Aquinas, Thomas – Article (2), ‘(2) Whether she was a virgin in His Birth?’ in ‘Of the Virginity of the Mother of God (4 Articles)’ being Summa, pt. 3, Question 28
In Romanism after the Reformation
Armstrong, a Roman apologist, quotes the following for in partu from after the Reformation:
Pope Pius IV during the Council of Trent, the Catechism of the Council of Trent, the 2nd Vatican Council, the New Catechism of the Catholic Church, Pope Pius XII (1943/54), Pope Paul VI (1967/74), Pope John Paul II (1987/92), Pope Benedict XVI (2005).
Armstrong quotes from other liturgical and popular devotional works for the doctrine. At the end of the article, Armstrong answers 19 questions and objections to the doctrine.
“The Church has interpreted Mary’s virginity during the birth (in partu) as an inviolability of the hymen; in other words, it was a physically miraculous birth rather than a natural one.”
Armstrong quotes numerous Romanist documents and writers on the subject. According to Armstrong and others, the doctrine is most accurately categorized, according to Romanism, as:
“A Teaching Pertaining to Faith, i.e., theologically certain (sententia ad fidem pertinens, i.e., theologice serta), is a doctrine, on which the Teaching Authority of the Church has not yet finally pronounced, but whose truth is guaranteed by its intrinsic connection with the doctrine of revelation (theological conclusions).”
“[Christ] came forth from a womb left perfectly intact.”
Sermon for Christmas Eve; Luke 2:1-14, tr. Geo. H. Trabert, 24 Dec. 1521; in v. 1 of Sermons of Martin Luther, The Church Postils; ed. John Nicholas Lenker, 8 vols. (Minneapolis: Lutherans of All Lands, 1904-1906)
“[S]he brought forth without sin, without shame, without pain and without injury, just as she had conceived without sin. The curse of Eve did not come on her, where God said: “In pain thou shalt bring forth children,” Gen. 3:16; otherwise it was with her in every particular as with every woman who gives birth to a child.”
Personal Prayer Book, 1522, tr. Martin H. Bertram, in Luther’s Works, 43.26-27, 40
“[H]e was born of the immaculate Virgin Mary, without changing her physical and spiritual virginity…
[S]he gave birth without labor, pain, and injury to herself, not as Eve and all other women, but because by the Holy Spirit and without sin, she became fertile, conceived, and gave birth in a way granted to no other woman.”
That Jesus Christ Was Born a Jew, 1523, tr. Walther I. Brandt, in Luther’s Works, 45.206
“[T]he Scripture stops with this, that she was a virgin before and at the birth of Christ;”
‘Preface to the Prophet Isaiah’ (1528) in Luther’s Works, 35.275
“He [Isaiah] even describes, in Isaiah 7:14, the Mother of Christ, how she is to conceive and bear Him without injury to her virginity…”
Further References of Luther on in partu
WA 7.549; 11.320; 17, II.457; 49.174, 182; 54.207
LW 31.368; 35.275
Against In Partu
Order of Contents
Early Church 1
On the Flesh of Christ, 23
“She who bare (really) bare; and although she was a virgin when she conceived, she was a wife when she brought forth her son. Now, as a wife, she was under the very law of opening the womb, wherein it was quite immaterial whether the birth of the male was by virtue of a husband’s co-operation or not; it was the same sex that opened her womb. Indeed, hers is the womb on account of which it is written of others also: ‘Every male that opens the womb shall be called holy to the Lord.'”
As is seen below, the common doctrine of the reformed was that Mary was not a virgin in partu. Exceptions to this, though, were the Anglican ministers John Boys, Richard Field and Thomas Wilson (above).
Boys, however, in contradistinction to the Early, Medieval and Romanist Churches, appears to define Mary’s virginity in partu as only explicitly excluding sexual relations during her pregnancy, which Scripture explicitly states (Mt. 1:25).
Theodore Beza & Anthony Faius
Propositions & Principles of Divinity propounded and disputed in the Uniuersity of Geneva, by certain students of divinity there, under Mr. Theodore Beza & Mr. Anthony Faius… (Edinburgh, 1591), Ch. 42, ‘Principles Concerning the Nativity, Circumcision and Baptism of Christ’, p. 108-9
“2. We say that Christ was born (when as the usual term of child-bearing common unto all other men being fulfilled) the Virgin brought forth Christ that Word of the Father, and the Son of David.
8. In this place we do not only refuse, but utterly detest, all filthy questions and such as are most unagreeable unto so holy a birth.”
A Golden Chain… (Cambridge, 1600), ch. 18, ‘Of Christ’s Nativity & Office’, pp. 27-28
“The nativity of Christ, is that whereby Mary, a virgin, did after the course of nature and the custom of women [contra in partu], bring forth Christ, that Word of the Father and the Son of David: so that those are much deceived which are of opinion that Christ, after a miraculous manner, came into the world, the womb of the Virgin being shut. Lk. 2:23, ‘Every man-child which first opens the womb, shall be called holy to the Lord.'”
The Abridgment of Christian Divinity… (d. 1629; London, 1660), pp. 128-9
“VI. The nativity of Christ is both natural and supernatural: Natural as he was born in the usual time by the opening of the womb; Supernatural as he was begot of a virgin.
The Papists, under pretense of maintaining Mary’s virginity, affirm that Christ was born of Mary without pain, the womb being shut: Now although we leave it as a thing doubtful, whether Mary’s child-bearing was without pain or not, as the Ancients thought: yet we deny that Christ came out the womb being shut; when in plain terms the Law is applied to her which requireth, That every male which opens the womb, shall be holy to the Lord, Lk. 2:23. Neither doth Mary’s virginity consist in this, that her womb was not opened in her child-birth, but in this that she was not known of man.
Institutes of Elenctic Theology, vol. 2, 13th Topic, ‘The Person & State of Christ’, 11th Question, ‘The Conception & Nativity of Christ’, section 24, p. 346
Andrea, Samuel – p. 32, Corollary 4 in A Theological Disquisition on the Nativity of Immanuel from the Virgin, According to the Prophecy in Isaiah 7:14 (Marburg, 1679)
Andrea (1640-1699) was a German, reformed professor of rhetoric, history and theology at Marburg.
Lightfoot, J.B. – p. 252, fn. 1 in Dissertation 2, ‘The Brethren of the Lord’ in St. Paul’s Epistle to the Galatians: a Revised Text with Introduction, Notes & Dissertations (London: MacMillan & Co., 1914)
“…rejoice with the wife of thy youth. Let her be as the loving hind and pleasant roe; let her breasts satisfy thee at all times; and be thou ravished always with her love.”
“Live joyfully with the wife whom thou lovest all the days of the life of thy vanity, which he hath given thee under the sun, all the days of thy vanity: for that is thy portion in this life, and in thy labour which thou takest under the sun.”
“So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself. For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church:”