Episode 119: Sing We the Virgin Mary

Debate topic: “Mary, the mother of Jesus, remained a virgin her entire life.” Eastern Orthodox Reverend Laurent Cleenewerck, author of Aiparthenos | Ever-Virgin? affirms; Robert Zins, Ministry Director at CWRC (A Christian Witness to Roman Catholicism), denies. This episode contains the complete, 2+ hour debate.


  • Steeleye Span, Sing We the Virgin Mary from the album, Winter, 2006

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5 thoughts on “Episode 119: Sing We the Virgin Mary

  1. Thank you to Chris and Robert for making this exchange possible. One point that Rob mentioned and that I did not answer was the debate overt heos + hou always being used when a reversal occurs in the New Testament. This is not the case in the LXX/OT of course, but a point of debate regarding the 17 occurrences of heos hou in the NT (we are not quite sure that 17 is the accurate number because some manuscripts only read heos when others have heos hou). John Pacheco of Catholic Legate has an extensive study of this issue (http://www.catholic-legate.com/articles/heoshou.html) which shows that several of these verses do not have to imply reversal…

  2. I enjoyed the podcast very much and thought both sides did a good job presenting their views. Frankly, as a Baptist, I’ve never even considered or been taught the possibility of Mary being ‘ever virgin’. I appreciate the evidence Laurent presented for his view that she was ‘ever virgin’. Several aspects of the OT typology Laurent presented (Mary to Eve, Joseph to OT Joseph, Jesus to Solomon) that I’d never really thought of before do seem somewhat reasonable.
    1. Hegesippus [a.d. 170] was an early church historian. He records the following statement concerning the events during/after the Vespasian siege of Judea:
    “Concerning the relatives of our saviour. There still survived of the kindred of the Lord the grandsons of Judas, who according to the flesh was called his brother.”

    Notice that on Laurent’s view, Judas was not a brother of Jesus “according to the flesh”. Laurent’s view is; Jesus did not have maternal siblings.
    2. Laurent brought up (at least that’s the way I understood him) that Scripture records Jesus was prophesied to be and was therefore Mary’s “only son”. Which of course I do not find to be the case. Jesus is The Father’s “Only Son”, not necessarily Mary’s only son.
    3. Laurent suggested that Mary had made a vow of virginity prior to becoming betrothed to marry Joseph (and Joseph concurred with this plan) and never had any intentions of being sexually active within their ‘arramgment’. He suggested their sexless marriage arrangement was the model for the’ vow of virginity’ that is discussed in Corinth (1 Cor 7). However, that seem contradictory to what is actually recorded in 1 Corinthians:
    1 Cor 7:34 And the unmarried woman or the virgin cares for the things of the Lord, in order that she may be holy both in body and in spirit. But the married woman cares for the things of the world, how she may please her husband.

    The model given by Paul is that the married woman (as Mary was) cares to ‘please’ her husband (sexually as the context shows). So if Paul was modeling Mary and Joseph’s arrangement, they got it wrong. Paul laid out a plan that required an ‘ever-virgin’ to be ‘ever-unmarried’ (ai-agamos). Not an ever-virgin (ai-parthenos) married couple, as Mary/Joseph were.

    4. http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/text/irenaeus-book3.html

    “To this effect they testify, [saying, ] that before Joseph had come together with Mary, while she therefore remained in virginity, “she was found with child of the Holy Ghost;”

    5. Also, if you read Irenaeus’ argument of ‘Mary-The 2nd Eve’ he does say:
    “In accordance with this design, Mary the Virgin is found obedient, saying, “Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word.” But Eve was disobedient; for she did not obey when as yet she was a virgin.” for it was necessary that they should first come to adult age, and then multiply from that time onward), having become disobedient, was made the cause of death, both to herself and to the entire human race

    But that’s not all he says:

    “so also did Mary, having a man betrothed [to her], and being nevertheless a virgin, by yielding obedience, become the cause of salvation, both to herself and the whole human race. And on this account does the law term a woman betrothed to a man, the wife of him who had betrothed her, although she was as yet a virgin; thus indicating the back-reference from Mary to Eve, because what is joined together could not otherwise be put asunder than by inversion of the process by which these bonds of union had arisen; so that the former ties be cancelled by the latter, that the latter may set the former again at liberty. And it has, in fact, happened that the first compact looses from the second tie, but that the second tie takes the position of the first which has been cancelled. For this reason did the Lord declare that the first should in truth be last, and the last first.”

    In other words, Irenaeus’ point was that Mary represents (a typology of) a reversal of Eve’s disobedience and procreation of sons thereafter all in that disobedience (except for Jesus). Thus, Mary re-sets the situation (if you will) to the point before Eve sinned yet was created for Adam with married sex in mind. That is, married sex in the mind of God. Mary did deliver a sinless son (Jesus) while in her virginity. But then, Mary was “married”/promised to Joseph (as Eve was to Adam, before they sinned). And thus Mary was free to perform the God made functions that a wife and a husband are made for. Irenaeus never says Mary remained a virgin. In fact, he is implying she did NOT remain a virgin after Jesus’ birth within his argument.

  3. I would like to suggest some replies to the comment above:
    (1) Hegesippus’ statement is well analyzed by Richard Baukham in his “Jude” and he shows that “according to the flesh” simply means according to family bonds as opposed to spiritual bonds. To me, the fact that Eusebius relies so much on Hegesippus and yet takes the Epiphanian view for granted is the strongest argument that Hegesippus’ account (lost) was also Epiphanian.
    (2) The prophecy (or plural) I am referring to are:
    Zechariah 12:10 “And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of compassion and supplication, so that, when they look on him [or “me” LXX] whom they have pierced, they shall mourn for him, as one mourns for an only child, and weep bitterly over him, as one weeps over a first-born.
    Luke 2:34 and Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, “Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is spoken against 35 (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), that thoughts out of many hearts may be revealed.”
    (3) I confirm my own view that 1 Corinthians 7:28 is best understood a Christian having a virginal betrothal: “6 If any one thinks that he is not behaving properly toward his betrothed, if his passions are strong, and it has to be, let him do as he wishes: let them marry — it is no sin.
    37 But whoever is firmly established in his heart, being under no necessity but having his desire under control, and has determined this in his heart, to keep her as his betrothed, he will do well.
    38 So that he who marries his betrothed does well; and he who refrains from marriage will do better.”
    4. Ireneaus (of which we only have the Latin text) is simply citing Matthew 1:18; which everybody agrees may imply reversal but does not demand it.
    5. Irenaus is unclear, but I contend that the Eve / Mary theological typology (which is decidedly not Protestant) makes the most sense if we have Eve>Disobedience>Sexual intercourse>Mother of the Dying with more dying children, in contrast with Mary>Obedience>Virginity>Mother of the Living with no dying children.
    Thank you for the interaction.

  4. I think that Robert was able to effectively engage the presentation of Fr. Laurent in that he didn’t seem to understand many of the points. The most glaring one, I think, is how he continued to press the point that ‘adelphos’ always means biological sibling, and yet Jesus was not an adelphos in that manner. He was at best a half-sibling. Adelphos has a wide range of scriptural meaning in fact.

    Another point that I’d like to mention that that Robert talked about rejecting any argument from silence, yet he suggests that Apostle James was not a believer at the point of the Crucifixion and this is why Mary was entrusted to Apostle John instead of her own child. Is this not an argument from silence?

    I could go on and on but please study all the evidence carefully and with an open mind and without preconceptions.

  5. CORRECTION: Read the first sentence from my previous post thus —

    I don’t think that Robert was able to effectively engage the presentation of Fr. Laurent in that he didn’t seem to fully understand many of the points.

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