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Marital Relationships and the Holy Family

Marital Relationships and the Holy Family

Q: In Matthew 1:25, the New American Bible states, "He [Joseph] had no relations with her [Mary] until she bore a son, and he named him Jesus. Does the word "until" imply that marital relations occurred after Jesus was born?

A: Father Rene Laurentin answered this question as follows:

Matt. 1:25 says that "(Joseph) did not know her 'until' she had borne a son ... Jesus." 'To know' evidently has here the biblical sense of intercourse, contrary to the interpretation proposed by certain Fathers of the Church. But may one conclude therefore that Joseph 'knew' Mary afterwards? No, for this expression 'until' does not in any way anticipate what came to pass afterwards. According to Semitic usage it simply marks the term and limit of the author's interest. The most striking example is 2 Sam. 6:23, "Michal the daughter of Saul had no child 'until' the day of her death." Obviously she had none afterwards either. Similar uses are in Gen. 8:7, Dt. 34:6, Num. 20:17, Ps 110:1, 1 Mac. 5:54, 1 Tim. 4:13, Is. 14:2, Matt. 16:28, 28:20 1 Cor 4:5. The expression 'until' in no way implies a change of situation after the limits mentioned. (Short Treatise on Mary, p. 321)

Note especially that Matthew's Gospel itself uses the word 'until' (i.e. heos in Greek) as Laurentin describes in two places besides Matt 1:25 (i.e. 16:28 and 28:20). Also note that in English 'until' may also be used in this sense. For example, the statement "Our immigration policy will not change until we elect a new President" does not imply that a new President will change the current policy, only certainty that the current President will not.

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