Matt 1:24-25

edited December 1969 in Faith Issues
" When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. But he had no union with her until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus."

Can someone explain how the words "no union UNTIL she gave birth" fit into the Orthodox idea that Mother Mary remained a virgin till her death?


  • Dear Gregory,

    A great question, indeed! There is quite a bit of material on the topic, with support from the Old Testament as well. I'm sure that one could put together a very exhaustive response concerning the matter, but I will only quote that which is immediately at hand, as I'm sure you'd like the answer to your question sooner rather than later.

    St. John Chrysostom writes the following:

    "And when Joseph had taken her, 'he had no relations with her until she had borne a son.' Matthew has here used the word until not that you should suspect that afterward Joseph did know her but to inform you that before the birth the Virgin was wholly untouched by man. But why then, it may be said, has he used the word until? Because it is common in Scripture that this expression is used without reference to specific, limited times. Here are three examples. First, in the narrative of the ark it was said that 'the raven did not return until the earth was dried up,' yet the raven did not return even after that limited time. Second, when discussing God the Scripture says, 'You are from everlasting to everlasting,' but there is no implication here that some limit is being fixed--rather the opposite. Third, when preaching the gospel beforehand and saying, 'In his days may righteousness flourish, and peace abound, until the moon be no more!' it is not thereby setting a temporal limit to this beautiful part of creation. So then here likewise, it uses the word until to make certain what was before the birth, but as to what follows, it leaves some further inference to be made. So it is necessary to learn what Matthew teaches: that the Virgin was untouched by man until the birth. But the rest is left for you to perceive, both as a consequence of the previous narrative and what was later acknowledged: that not even after having become a mother and having been counted worthy of a new sort of travail and a childbearing so strange, could that righteous man ever have permitted himself to have sexual relations with her."

    Let me also reference Ezekiel 44:1-3, which you will undoubtedly come across in your quest for the Truth:

    "Then he brought me back the way of the gate of the outward sanctuary which looketh toward the east; and it was shut. Then said the LORD unto me; This gate shall be shut, it shall not be opened, and no man shall enter in by it; because the LORD, the God of Israel, hath entered in by it, therefore it shall be shut. It is for the prince; the prince, he shall sit in it to eat bread before the LORD; he shall enter by the way of the porch of that gate, and shall go out by the way of the same."

    May we always seek the answers to our questions in the words of the Fathers, whom the Holy Spirit has enlightened for our benefit,
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  • GODlovesme,

    It certainly is the case that we follow the Greek in the New Testament, and it's great that you've referenced that! As such, the verse reads as follows in the Greek:

    Matthew 1:25: καὶ οὐκ ἐγίνωσκεν αὐτὴν ἕως οὗ ἔτεκεν υἱόν· καὶ ἐκάλεσεν τὸ ὄνομα αὐτοῦ Ἰησοῦν.

    The word in question is "ἕως" which is defined as the following: "Of uncertain affinity; a conjugation, preposition and adverb of continuance, until (of time and place): - even (until, unto), (as) far (as), how long, (un-) til (-l), (hither-, un-, up) to, while (-s)."

  • As others said the translation is misleading. The "until" is emphasizing her virginity "even to the point of" Jesus's birth and not implying anything afterwards. There is a great article here to explain it:
    under Ever-virginity
  • Greg,

    Listen here,it will clarify a number of questions you may have:St. Mary's Revival - St. Mary in the New Testament

    PS:The answer to your specific question starts at 23:15.
  • but cant this translation problem obscure the idea of Saint Mary's perpetual virginity and cause to heresies??
  • Well the sources everyone was kind enough to offer state that the word "until" was actually intended.  Sts. John and Jerome both maintain that it was used not to cause controversy about whether or not Mother Mary was a virgin, but to clarify and ensure everyone that Christ was not conceived by natural methods.
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