Monday, October 17, 2005

Well, Since You Asked...

I was going to do this within the comment section of the last entry, but it probably deserves a post of its own.

Kevin Johnson (of Reformed Catholicism (which I had forgot to add to the blogroll - thanks for the inadvertent reminder) asks for an elaboration on why I listed Paul Owen's post on Mary as a reason I'm not a "reformed catholic". Fair enough.

Let me state at the outset that I am not against tradition per se, and that I have wide agreement with the goals and insights of those who call themselves "reformed catholics" (hence their inclusion in my blogroll list on the right). However, sometimes the acceptance of (C)atholic teachings and traditions goes just a *wee* bit too far. As much we can (and ought to) castigate reductionistic Protestantism, we must also acknowledge that, on occasion, a blind hog will find an acorn - and that there *are* "traditions" that deserve to be thrown out with the bathwater. The perpetual virginity of Mary is, IMHO, one of those instances.

I, personally, find the argumentation Owen puts forth in the article linked above very weak. I'll take it point by point.

1. I will pass on the nuts and bolts of the Greek exegesis of Luke 1 (as I am no expert on that), but if Mary was going to be a perpetual virgin, what on earth was her "pledge to Joseph" supposed to be?

2. There is nothing in the Old Testament about people abstaining from marriage as a "holy order" within Judaism (Jeremiah being a unique exception) - you don't see the eschatological relativizing of marriage until the New Testament. "Temple virgins" are *pagan*, not Judeo-Christian, in origin. Owen's readings of Anna and "the women temple servants" in I Samuel presume, and do not prove, his thesis.

3. Also, Jepthah said he would offer up whatever came out of his house *as a burnt offering*. And why would his daugher's friends have to go on the mourning trip with her if she was just going to be a "vestal virign" - they could see her anytime. No, I am afraid that Jepthah *killed her*.

4. Jesus giving care of Mary over to John and not to his (literal) brothers, I think, demonstrates what He taught all along in the Gospels - bonds of faith override bonds of blood. At least, the John 19 passage can be read just as well my way as Owen's.

5. I will also pass on the interpretation of the Woman in Revelation. To paraphrase Chesterton, the only monsters more fantastic than those in Revelation are Revelation's commentators. :-} I will only note in passing that the identity of the Woman has been broadly construed, even in "traditional" (i.e. non-Protestant non-dispy) schools of interpretation.

To resurrect an old rhetorical phrase of mine, the idea of Mary's perpetual virginity is a "Bartholomew Cubbins"-size hat - and the Scriptural pegs available are way too small to hang it on. The "Protoevangelium of James" is not, to my knowledge, anywhere near being an ecumenical creed, and therefore does not have the power or right to bind my conscience in this matter.

So now I guess I have a question - why do we have to go so far out on a theological and exegetical limb for the sake of "catholicity" in this particular doctrine? Is there any room for saying that, yes, on occasion, our forebears in the faith did take a misstep?


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