Archive for the ‘Helvidius’ Category

Response to Jerome’s Response to Helvidius – Part 4a

September 24, 2011

Jerome wrote a response to Helvidius regarding the virginity of Mary.  This post is the first part of a fourth in a series of responses to what Jerome wrote.

Jerome wrote:

4. Let us take the points one by one, and follow the tracks of this impiety that we may show that he has contradicted himself. He admits that she was betrothed, and in the next breath will have her to be a man’s wife whom he has admitted to be his betrothed. Again, he calls her wife, and then says the only reason why she was betrothed was that she might one day be married. And, for fear we might not think that enough, “the word used,” he says, “is betrothed and not intrusted, that is to say, not yet a wife, not yet united by the bond of wedlock.”

We should definitely seek to avoid self-contradiction.  But is this a self-contradiction?  Why else is a woman betrothed except in order to become a wife?  Moreover, Joseph was minded to put her away, which is what one does with an unfaithful wife, but was encouraged to “take” her by the angel of the Lord,

Jerome seems to be attempting to score some kind of rhetorical points here, but it isn’t working.  Helvidius’ and our position is pretty straightforward and non-contradictory.  Mary was betrothed to Joseph, which was – at that time and in that culture – the first stage of the marriage, but it was prior to cohabitation.  Nevertheless, as set forth in the previous sections, the legal status of a betrothed woman was like that of a married woman, in that any fornication would be adultery.  Thus, Mary is sometimes called Joseph’s wife even though they had not yet come together.  It may be imprecise, but it is not really self-contradictory.

Jerome doesn’t attempt to revitalize the “intrusted” alternatively, seemingly granting that Helvidius is right.  Mary was betrothed (not intrusted) to Joseph.  She was to be his wife.

– TurretinFan

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Response to Jerome’s Response to Helvidius – Part 3

September 23, 2011

Jerome wrote a response to Helvidius regarding the virginity of Mary.  This post is the third in a series of responses to what Jerome wrote.

Jerome wrote:

3. His first statement was: “Matthew says, [Matthew 1:18-20] Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found with child of the Holy Ghost. And Joseph her husband, being a righteous man, and not willing to make her a public example, was minded to put her away privately. But when he thought on these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost.” “Notice,” he says, “that the word used is betrothed, not intrusted as you say, and of course the only reason why she was betrothed was that she might one day be married. And the Evangelist would not have said before they came together if they were not to come together, for no one would use the phrase before he dined of a man who was not going to dine. Then, again, the angel calls her wife and speaks of her as united to Joseph.” We are next invited to listen to the declaration of Scripture: [Matthew 1:24-25] “And Joseph arose from his sleep, and did as the angel of the Lord commanded him, and took unto him his wife; and knew her not till she had brought forth her son.” 

Finally, Jerome is getting around to an actual argument, and kudos to Jerome, he is presenting his opponent’s position first.  Specifically, what Jerome has done here is to present what Helvidius argued, apparently as a quotation from or at least a paraphrase or summary of Helvidius.  Considering that Jerome had accused Helvidius of being loquacious, one suspects that this may be a summary of Helvidius’ argument, rather than the entirety of it.

Helvidius argued from Matthew 1 that the word used is “betrothed” not merely “entrusted” and the reason for the betrothal was ultimately marriage.  Helvidius further argued that Matthew wouldn’t have written “before they came together” unless they were going to come together.  Likewise, the angel calls Mary Joseph’s wife and speaks of her as being united to Joseph, according to Helvidius.  Finally, there seems to be implied that “knew her not till …” implies that Joseph eventually knew Mary.

All of these seem to be sound arguments.  To them, we may add the argument we mentioned in the previous section, namely that Joseph was minded to put away Mary, not to seek out her seducer or to return her to her father or elsewhere.  Putting away implies divorce, which implies a marriage (of which betrothal is a first step), not merely an entrustment.

-TurretinFan

Response to Jerome’s Response to Helvidius – Part 2

September 23, 2011

Jerome wrote a response to Helvidius regarding the virginity of Mary.  This post is the second in a series of responses to what Jerome wrote.

Jerome wrote:

2. I must call upon the Holy Spirit to express His meaning by my mouth and defend the virginity of the Blessed Mary. I must call upon the Lord Jesus to guard the sacred lodging of the womb in which He abode for ten months from all suspicion of sexual intercourse. And I must also entreat God the Father to show that the mother of His Son, who was a mother before she was a bride, continued a Virgin after her son was born. We have no desire to career over the fields of eloquence, we do not resort to the snares of the logicians or the thickets of Aristotle. We shall adduce the actual words of Scripture. Let him be refuted by the same proofs which he employed against us, so that he may see that it was possible for him to read what is written, and yet to be unable to discern the established conclusion of a sound faith.

While we agree with Jerome that the standard should be the actual words of Scripture and not attempts at Aristotelean philosophy, we have to note that Jerome is still not actually setting forth a valid argument for his position.

Notice that Jerome seems to think that “sexual intercourse” is something bad.  Thus, he describes suggestions to the contrary of his position as “suspicion of sexual intercourse” like one might speak of “suspicion of fornication” or the like.

Here is an opportunity, however, to help define the difference between us.  We agree that Mary was a virgin before the conception of Christ, and that until Jesus was born she remained a virgin.  This is important, not because virginity itself is somehow sacred, but because it was necessary that it be clear that Jesus was the Son of God.

Upon Jesus’ birth, the need for Mary to remain a virgin ceased.

Likewise, Mary was already betrothed when she was found with child.  She was Joseph’s bride-to-be, though they had not yet come together.  Under the Jewish regime, it would have been adultery for her to have been sexually joined to anyone but Joseph (“If a damsel that is a virgin be betrothed unto an husband, and a man find her in the city, and lie with her; Then ye shall bring them both out unto the gate of that city, and ye shall stone them with stones that they die; the damsel, because she cried not, being in the city; and the man, because he hath humbled his neighbour’s wife: so thou shalt put away evil from among you.” Deuteronomy 22:23-24), and when Joseph discovered her pregnancy, he was planning to divorce her (“Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not willing to make her a publick example, was minded to put her away privily.” Matthew 1:19).

That stood in contrast to the situation of a virgin that was not betrothed (Exodus 22:16  And if a man entice a maid that is not betrothed, and lie with her, he shall surely endow her to be his wife.). In that situation, neither death nor merciful divorce (as Joseph thought he would do) was appropriate.  Instead, in that case, the seduced girl would (with her father’s permission) become the spouse of the seducer.

Joseph was not minded to track down her seducer and make him marry Mary, he was minded to “put away” (i.e. divorce) Mary.  This demonstrates that Mary was to be Joseph’s wife.

Moreover, when Joseph considered this option of putting away Mary, God intervened. 

Matthew 1:20  But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost.

Look at that! God specifically tells Joseph not to be afraid to take Mary unto him.  In context, that means Joseph is not to be afraid to take Mary to be his wife, which will involve the very thing that so troubled our ancient brother Jerome.  After all, that’s what distinguishes husband and wife from merely “betrothed” and is what is involved in “taking” her (compare “And what man is there that hath betrothed a wife, and hath not taken her? let him go and return unto his house, lest he die in the battle, and another man take her.” Deuteronomy 20:7).

In fact, it is such an integral part of taking her, that the Scriptures make sure to explain an exception:

Matthew 1:24-25 
Then Joseph being raised from sleep 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: and he called his name JESUS.

Notice that Joseph took Mary to be his wife, but did not know her until Jesus was born.  The implication, of course, is that this exceptional case ended with the identified terminus, namely Jesus’ birth.

-TurretinFan

Response to Jerome’s Response to Helvidius – Part 1

September 23, 2011

Jerome wrote a response to Helvidius regarding the virginity of Mary.  This post is the first in a series of responses to what Jerome wrote.

Jerome:

1. I was requested by certain of the brethren not long ago to reply to a pamphlet written by one Helvidius. I have deferred doing so, not because it is a difficult matter to maintain the truth and refute an ignorant boor who has scarce known the first glimmer of learning, but because I was afraid my reply might make him appear worth defeating. There was the further consideration that a turbulent fellow, the only individual in the world who thinks himself both priest and layman, one who, as has been said, thinks that eloquence consists in loquacity and considers speaking ill of anyone to be the witness of a good conscience, would begin to blaspheme worse than ever if opportunity of discussion were afforded him. He would stand as it were on a pedestal, and would publish his views far and wide. There was reason also to fear that when truth failed him he would assail his opponents with the weapon of abuse. But all these motives for silence, though just, have more justly ceased to influence me, because of the scandal caused to the brethren who were disgusted at his ravings. The axe of the Gospel must therefore be now laid to the root of the barren tree, and both it and its fruitless foliage cast into the fire, so that Helvidius who has never learnt to speak, may at length learn to hold his tongue.

One has to smile a little.  Here’s Jerome eagerly whipping up emotions against Helvidius as being someone who “considers speaking ill of anyone to be the witness of a good conscience” and “when truth failed him he would assail his opponents with the weapon of abuse.”  Yet obviously Jerome is intending to speak ill of Helvidius, and is assailing his opponent verbally, rather than beginning with arguments founded in truth.

We certainly agree with Jerome that the Gospel (i.e. the Scriptures) ought to be brought to bear on the matter, and that we ought not to count mere loquacity as eloquence.  On the other hand, we will need to examine the arguments before we decide whether it is Jerome’s arguments or those of Helvidius that ought properly to be described as ravings (if any!).

– TurretinFan


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