How did St. Jerome defend the Blessed Virgin's virginity post partum in light of Matt. 1:25, which says St. Joseph "knew her not till she brought forth her firstborn son"?

1 Answer 1


St. Jerome proved that Matt. 1:25 neither affirms nor denies her virginity post partum.

St. Jerome wrote, in his commentary on Matthew, In Matth., I, 18 (PL 26 col. 24):

From the phrase ‘before [έως] they came together’ it does not follow that they came together afterwards; Holy Scripture merely intimates what did not happen [up until the time of Jesus's birth].

Quod autem dicitur antequam convenirent, non sequitur quod postea convenerint, sed Scriptura, quod factum non sit, ostendit.

St. Jerome refutes this possibility by an example (ibid.):

If I say: ‘Helvidius died before he did penance for his sins,’ does it [necessarily/logically/always] follow that he did penance after his death?

and by citing other scriptural verses where doing (or not doing) something until a later time doesn't necessarily imply that one stops (or starts) doing it after said time:

Ps. 109:1: “Sit thou at my right hand, until I make thy enemies thy footstool,” and Gen. 8:6 sq.: “… the raven … did not return till the waters were dried up upon the earth.” Does it follow, he asks, that Christ will no longer sit at the right hand of God the Father when His enemies lie defeated at His feet? Or did the raven return to the ark after the waters were dried up?

cf. Against Helvidius: The Perpetual Virginity of the Blessed Virgin Mary

—Pohle-Preus, Mariology, pt. 2 ch. 1 §3 "Mary's Perpetual Virginity", "Thesis III: The Blessed Mary remained a virgin after the birth of her Divine Son"

(my emphases)

  • Let us see Mtt 1:25 in the context of biblical times when infertility was solely attributed to women . Mary proved her fertility by giving birth to Jesus . Absence of further children to the couple needed to be explained, lest the readers should take Joseph for an impotent man . And it was well known to those who witnessed the public life and death of Jesus, including how he entrusted the care of his mother to disciple John, that he had no sibling. So, Matthew chose to write about the life of abstinence that the couple had till the birth of Jesus, leaving the rest to the `as ye see it ' phase. Jan 20, 2022 at 5:22
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    @Kris "it did not rain until the last whistle indicates that it never rained on those stadium grounds in perpetuity?" No, you can't necessarily draw that conclusion. That's St. Jerome's point here: Matt. 1:25 neither proves nor disproves her virginity post partum.
    – Geremia
    Jan 20, 2022 at 17:57
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    Another example, from the Septuagint, of ἕως (heōs): So for Michal the daughter of Saul, she had no child until the day of her death (2 Samuel 6:23).
    – qxn
    Jan 20, 2022 at 18:26
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    Psalm 110:1 says unto, not until. Genesis 8:6 does not say "...the raven … did not return till the waters were dried up upon the earth". It says "And he sent forth a raven, which went forth to and fro, until the waters were dried up from off the earth. " When the waters were dried up it stopped going to and fro. That's what until means. Jan 21, 2022 at 14:12
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    And there's the obvious point that's being overlooked, why say "firstborn son" rather than "only child". Dec 21, 2022 at 17:04

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