Mary & Lutherans

19-3Holy Trinity 2010, Volume XIX, Number 3Table of Contents

(A feature article from the journal: Semper Virgo: A Doctrine by David Scaer)

In its confrontation with early twentieth-century liberalism, Fundamentalism designated Jesus' virgin birth as one of the four necessary beliefs. Some self-styled confessional Lutherans have gone one step further in raising the hypothesis of the semper virgo, that is, Mary's perpetual virginity, near to the level of doctrine. It qualifies as a question of biblical interpretation and not a doctrine. What Luther and the Lutheran fathers said about this question may be of historical interest but is not determinative.

Since Bishop John Spong and the now popular Bart Ehrman, in the tradition of radical biblical criticism, deny Jesus' virgin birth because they consider it to be something added to the gospel message late in the first century, Mary's perpetual virginity has hardly been a matter for serious discussion. The semper virgo means that after giving birth to Jesus, his mother refrained from sexual relations with Joseph. Not only was Jesus conceived ex Maria virgine, but she remained so for the rest of her life. The highly fanciful second-century Protoevangelium of James, which combines and expands the Matthew and Luke birth narratives, is the first known document to offer the idea. It gained momentum with the Roman Empire's recognition of Christianity as a legal religion. Martyrdom as a certain way to heaven was replaced by asceticism, which included celibacy, and Mary was held up as an example to be followed. Virginity became the new martyrdom. or download the rest of this article here (free, PDF)

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