CAUGHT WITH ONE'S HAND IN THE 'TILL'
"And knew her not till she had brought forth her firstborn son: and he called his name JESUS." (Matthew 1:25) (The following is an amended and edited response to an inquirer who had read a Catholic writer's attempt to counter the idea that Jesus had siblings born later to his mother, Mary: a real problem for the Catholic belief in the so-called Perpetual Virginity of Mary. In defense of that error, the Catholic writer had tried to dismiss the clear implications of our text today [MAT 1:25] by pretending that Paul's charge in 1TIM 6:14, ["....keep this commandment....UNTIL the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ"] proves that "till" or "until" does not mean that a condition is implied as having changed or reversed after the time demarcated by "until." The idea [he affirms] is that we don't stop obeying the Lord Jesus after He returns, so "until" doesn't really mean "until" and thus, where the Holy Spirit records that Joseph "...knew her not TILL she had brought forth her firstborn..." it can't mean that Joseph "knew" her [sexually, as in GEN 4:1] after Jesus was born.) "The Catholic position is part of its overall super-exaltation of Mary which includes the heresies of her Immaculate Conception (she being supposedly conceived and born without sin), her sinless life, her bodily Assumption into glory, her commonly assumed status as co-mediatrix and the Queen of heaven. That Catholic apologist's affirmation is a textbook case of Catholic legerdemain with the Scripture. "MAT 1:25 is a death-knell text for the doctrine of Perpetual Virginity and the Catholic knows that. First of all, the Catholic sidesteps the primary definition of Till: "To the time that; up to (the point) when; until. (Denoting the continuance of the action or state expressed by the principal clause up to the time expressed by the dependent clause, and usually implying that at that time such action or state ceases and a different or opposite one begins" (Oxford English Dictionary). A review of the use of "till" or "until" throughout Scripture confirms that it obviously uses those words as we commonly think of them. The sentence "I was a Catholic until I was converted" plainly does NOT imply that the individual remained a Catholic after his conversion. Or if someone said, "I remained a virgin until I was married," it would be a monstrous solecism to conclude that the person remained a virgin after marriage. And, if that sentence implied that the same condition existed both before and after marriage, then what's to say that the sentence doesn't really mean that the person was no more a virgin before marriage than he/she was after marriage?! Isn't this fun? Similar games could be played with the words "brother" or "sister" if one sidesteps their primary definitions and the obvious common usage of those terms. Mary was a virgin TILL she brought forth her firstborn son....and it would be (in my humble opinion) disingenuous of the Holy Spirit to imply by "firstborn" that she never had any other child. The very first usages of "firstborn" in Scripture show it denotes the one born first in a series (GEN 10:15; GEN 19:31). "The Catholic apologist's flight to 1TIM 6:14 is a pretty lame way of avoiding the implications of MAT 1:25. As both "till" and "until" denote (relative to time), there is a change at the appearing of the Lord Jesus Christ that precludes the necessity of "keep this commandment." Paul had just told Timothy, "Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life...." (1TIM 6:12). The battle of faith goes no further than this life. Hence, Paul could say at the end of his days, "I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith" (2TIM 4:7). We are to be "faithful unto death" (REV 2:10) only, for in the world to come, there will be no need for the fight of faith: the warfare is over. Faith is "the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things NOT SEEN" (HEB 11:1), and at the appearing of the Lord Jesus Christ, faith will be displaced by sight. Faith is God's gift for the present that we may joyfully grasp the invisible Jesus, "Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet BELIEVING, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory" (1PE 1:8). Similarly, we now hope for the coming of the Lord to deliver us from corruption and are presently "saved by hope" (ROM 8:24), but "when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall SEE him as he is" (1JO 3:2) and "hope that is seen is not hope: for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for" (ROM 8:24). We are to have faith and hope UNTIL the coming of the Lord, at which time they will "fail." Only "charity never faileth" (1CO 13:8), which is why it is the greatest of the three (1CO 13:13). Our wonderful Savior Who has begun the good work of grace in our inward man to deliver us from the dominion of sin and preserve us now in spite of our corrupted flesh "will perform it UNTIL the day of Jesus Christ" (PHIL 1:6) at which time He shall also make perfect the outward man so that we will be fully free from sin and no longer need to be preserved against it, according to the divine plan (JOH 5:28-29 c/w 1CO 15:51-53 c/w ROM 8:29 c/w PHIL 3:20-21). We are to NOW strive to be "sincere and without offence TILL the day of Christ" (PHIL 1:10) for in that day and that world the hindrances of sin shall be removed and the strife against the flesh ended. "That Mary was a sinner is evident from her sacrificial offering to obey the Law after Jesus' birth (LUK 2:22-24). The offering of a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons was the poor woman's offering for atonement (LEV 12:6-8), a trespass offering (LEV 5:7). Curiously, if Mary had not engaged her husband sexually after she had brought forth her firstborn son, she would have been denying him the "duty of marriage" according to the Law (EXO 21:10). Sex was not optional. It has ever been, "Let the husband render unto the wife due benevolence: and likewise also the wife unto the husband" (1CO 7:3). She would have been defrauding her husband of his due (1CO 7:4-5) and so would have been sinning. Fanciful fiddling with facts like "knew her not till..." ends up doing more damage than good for Catholic fables. Heresy condemns itself (TIT 3:10-11). "As to the significance of JOH 19:26-27, where Jesus entrusted the care of His mother to John, it is only speculation on the Catholic's part that Jesus did so because He was an only child (and that speculation contradicts other Scripture). A more plausible explanation is that up to that time (and until after His resurrection, ACT 1:14) His own brothers did not believe on Him (JOH 7:1-5), likely did not honour Him for the prophet He was (MAR 6:3-4) and had not exactly proven themselves to be trustworthy champions of faith. John, on the other hand, had always been very close to Jesus and was so at the cross. Where was everyone else? At some point during His crucifixion, they were standing "afar off" (LUK 23:49). Jesus had once said to an adulteress, "Woman, where are thine accusers..." (JOH 8:10), but on the cross it seems He might well have said, "Woman, where are thy children, thy faithful saviors (1TIM 2:15)?" As the eldest child, it was His solemn responsibility to honour His mother (EXO 20:12) by providing for her care (1TIM 5:8), perhaps because Joseph had died. Why not entrust her care to someone beloved and faithful, someone who was willing to be right there with Mary and Himself at the cross? "Conclusion: Joseph never had sex with Mary until after she gave birth to Jesus. Then he did. They had children which were truly the brothers and sisters of the Lord Jesus Christ in the everyday, normal, primary sense of the words. The phrase in MAT 1:18, "...When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, BEFORE THEY CAME TOGETHER...." strongly implies that they eventually did come together, just like common sense would conclude from MAT 1:25. Maybe if she had some kind of immaculate contraption used with perpetual vigilance she might not have had other children, but it certainly wasn't because of an immaculate conception and perpetual virginity."