Mary's Perpetual Virginity

The problematic question of Mary's perpetual virginity is connected with the notion of "the virgin inviolate". The ancient church decided, against Helvidius (whom even Zwingli continued to regard as a heretic for this very reason), that Mary remained a virgin before, during and after the birth of Jesus, although this was never dogmatically defined. This notion of the perpetual virginity of Mary (semper virgo ) has on occasion been set forth in Roman Catholic doctrinal works, but it was a long-standing theological opinion which Luther and Zwingli simply accepted as a matter of course. It also found its way into the Lutheran confessions, where the semper virgo flowed from the pen of the Latin translator of the Smalcald Articles, who rendered the phrase "of the pure, holy Virgin" with "ex maria pura, sancta, semper virgine" (SA 1/IV). The semper virgo is taught in the Solid Declaration (SD VIII/24)*, but it is certain that this theological tradition cannot be a dogma of the Lutheran Church because it has no scriptural basis. Hollaz made a correct judgment when he wrote that "whether (Mary)...can be called semper virgo also after the birth cannot be incontrovertibly demonstrated from scripture."

From 'Liturgy and Confession, A Brotherly Warning Against the High Church Danger', first published in Lutherische Blaetter, Christmas 1959.

Note - In point of fact, SD VIII/24 does not use the phrase semper virgo: ...quod de virgine, inviolata ipsius virginitate, natus est. Unde et vere Theotokos, Dei genitrix, est et tamen virgo mansit. This appears to have reference to the Virgin Birth rather than to Mary's perpetual virginity. In any case, Sasse is correct that the perpetual virginity of Mary is not a dogma of the Lutheran Church; it remains a pious opinion.

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