Tuesday, October 14, 2014

John Calvin: Sermon 22 on Matthew 1:22-25 (Mary's Perpetual Virginity)

From: Vol. 46 of Corpus Reformatorum, pp. 259-272.

MATTH. Ch. I.

22. Or tout ceci a este faict afin que fust accompli
ce que le Seigneur avoit dit par le Prophète,
disant, 23. Voyci, une Vierge sera enceinte, et enfantera
un fils: et appelleront son nom Emmanuel,
qui vaut autant à dire que Dieu avec nous. 24. Ioseph
donc esveillé de son dormir, feit ainsi que VAnge
du Seigneur luy avoit commandé, et receut sa femme,
25. Et ne la cognut point pendant le temps qu'elle
devoit enfanter son fils premier nay: et appela son
nom Iesus.

Si nous ne conioignions la Loy et les Prophètes
avec l'Evangile, nous pourrions avoir quelque doute
en nos esprits pour la nouveauté, d'autant que cela
pourroit estre iugé estrange, que Dieu ait manifesté
son Fils au monde, comme s'estant avisé soudain
d'avoir pitié des povres creatures qui estoyent damnées.
Il a donc falu que dés la cheute d'Adam il
y eust promesse du salut qui devoit estre donné de
Dieu pour remède du mal. Les Peres se sont là
attendus, et toutes les ceremonies se devoyent rapporter
à ceste fin, comme fort souvent nous le
voyons en l'Escriture saincte. Or doncques voyci
sur quoy il nous faut estre fondez, c'est à sçavoir
que nostre Seigneur Iesus Christ n'est point apparu,
comme si Dieu avoit prins conseil de nouveau, et
avoit disposé de racheter le monde: mais que selon
qu'il avoit este prédit de tout temps, il a accompli
tout ce qu'il nous faloit espérer. Et voyla pourquoy
il est dit que l'Evangile ha tesmoignage de
la Loy et des Prophètes, que nostre Seigneur Iesus
c'est la fin de la Loy, et qu'il en est l'ame pour
la vivifier. C'est aussi pourquoy maintenant S. Matthieu
adiouste un passage notable et digne de memoire
du Prophète Isaie, pour conformer ce qu'il
avoit dit quant à nostre Seigneur Iesus Christ. Il
monstre donc qu'on ne doit point disputer comment
Iesus Christ est apparu sur terre. Car quand le
Prophète Isaie a parlé, les Peres anciens se sont
appuyez sur ceste vérité qui leur estoit certaine, et
en la mort ils se sont esiouis: comme nous voyons
mesmes devant que la Loy fust publiée, si long
temps devant qu'Isaie fust nay, que Iacob rendant
les derniers souspirs dit, I'attendray ton salut ô
mon Dieu. Par plus forte raison, quand les Prophéties
ont este adioustees, les Peres aussi ont este
asseurez de leur salut, en sorte qu'ils pouvoyent
protester qu'ils mouroyent en l'espérance de la vie
éternelle, puis qu'ils avoyent accepté la grace qui
leur estoit offerte, voire au nom de celuy qui estoit
seulement figuré par ceremonies et par ombrages,
et qui devoit estre manifesté en chair, quand le
temps de plenitude seroit venu, comme S. Paul
l'appelle.

Poisons bien donc les morts de S. Matthieu,
Tout cela (dit-il) a este faict à fin que ce qui avoit
este dit de Dieu par son Prophète, fust accompli.
Yci S. Matthieu ne se fonde point sur l'authorite
d'Isaie, le prenant comme un homme mortel, mais
comme organe du S. Esprit. Il pouvoit bien user
d'un langage plus simple, afin que ce qu'Isaie avoit
dit, fust vérifié: mais il parle d'une façon plus
autentique, à ce que sa doctrine soit receuë sans
aucune réplique. Dieu (dit-il) a parlé par la bouche
de son Prophète. C'est donc autant comme s'il
monstroit que Dieu n'a rien faict, qu'auparavant il
n'eust preveu et ordonné en son conseil, et mesme
qu'il n'eust déclaré par ses Prophètes. Que si
quelqu'un vouloit yci disputer, pourquoy Iesus Christ
n'a este donné plustost apres la cheute d'Adam, et
comme Dieu a tenu ainsi son Eglise en suspens,
nous avons à noter ce qui est dit par S. Paul, que
l'Evangile est un message de ce que Dieu a retenu
et réservé de tout temps en son conseil estroiot.
Et ce n'est pas à nous, de le faire haster: il cognoist
l'opportunité, voire et nous faut remettre là,
et nous contenter de ce qu'il a voulu que sous la
Loy les Peres espérassent en ceste redemption qui
leur e8toit promise: mesme devant la Loy qu'ils
ont espéré que Dieu leur seroit bénin et propice.
Or puis que maintenant nous surmontons ceux qui
ont V68CU devant nous, et d'autant que nostre condition
est meilleure, et que nous sommes comme
privilegez par dessus eux, que nous advisions bien
aussi de recevoir en toute humilité la grace qui
nous est communiquée.

Venons maintenant au passage du Prophète,
Voyci, une Vierge sera enceinte, et enfantera un fis
lequel sera nommé Emmanuel, c'est à dire Dieu
avec nous. Devant toutes choses il nous faut monstrer
comment ce passage doit estre entendu de
nostre Seigneur Iesus Christ, et non autrement.
Car les Iuifs ont usé de tous subterfuges qui leur
a este possible, pour faire à croire que là il n'est
point parlé de Iesus Christ ne du Rédempteur du
monde. Car ils allèguent que cela fust venu mal
à propos, pource qu'il estoit question d'asseurer le
roy Achaz que la ville de Ierusalem seroit délivrée,
laquelle pour lors estoit assiégée de deux Roys, à
sçavoir, d'Israël et de Syrie. Si donc Iesus Christ
eust este yci promis, de quoy pouvoit il servir?
Voyla (di-ie) la cavitation des Iuifs, à fin de nous
arracher ce passage, et aussi d'accuser les Evangelistes
comme s'ils avoyent abusé de l'Escriture.
Or la response est assez facile à cela. Car le Prophète
avoit donné le chois et liberté au roy Achaz
d'élire quelque signe, ou demander à Dieu un miracle,
fust au ciel, fust en la terre, afin d'estre
certifié qu'il seroit secouru en bref, et que ces deux
Rois, quelques puissans qu'ils fussent, ne pourroyent
t rien contre luy, et qu'ils s'en iroyent sans rien
faire. Achaz estoit là tremblant comme la fueille
en l'arbre, ainsi que le Prophète use de ceste
similitude: et ce malheureux estant ainsi saisi d'incredulite,
veut encore faire bonne mine, et avec
son hypocrisie il respond au Prophète, Moy? ia
Dieu ne plaise que ie demande quelque signe, ne
que ie tente mon Dieu. Le voyla (ce semble) tant
bien résolu que merveilles: et toutesfois il est enserré
d'angoisse, en sorte qu'il ne peut recevoir
nulle consolation, et reiette le bien qui luy estoit
offert. Voyla donc une povre ame damnée, et
toutesfois' il fait bien semblant d'estre tout asseuré.
Or là dessus le Prophète dit, Maison de David
(voire par reproche et non point par honneur: il
est vray que ceste maison estoit la plus honorable
qui jamais fut, ne puisse estre, d'autant que Dieu
avoit deciairé que de Jà viendroit la semence bénite
qu'il avoit promise desia à Abraham, et devant
luy, après qu'Adam fut trebusché, et que tout estoit
confus et perdu. Il dit donc, Maison de David)
qui devriez estre miroir et patron de foy, et de
crainte de Dieu: qui maintenant vous faciez la
guerre et à Dieu et aux hommes? Car vous me
voyez yci Prophète estant authorise de Dieu, vous
me despitez, et ma doctrine ne vous est que fable.
Mais qui pis est, quand Dieu m'envoye avec une
charge speciale, et qu'il vous fait ce bien de vous
mettre là comme un memorial devant vos yeux du
bien qu'il vous veut faire, et que vous le faciez
(par manière de dire) descendre yci bas pour estre
entre vous non seulement quant à son essence,
mais quant à sa vertu et maieste, comme s'il se
monstroit d'une façon visible, et que vous soyez
rassasiez de luy, et cependant que vous reiettiez
tout cela? Or quoy qu'il en soit, Dieu vous donnera
un signe, c'est que la Vierge concevera et
enfantera. Quand le Prophète parle ainsi, c'est
comme s'il disoit, Vous despitez Dieu, vous n'estes
pas donc dignes d'avoir un miracle pour monstrer
qu'il sera vostre gardien: mais tant y a que Dieu
achèvera ce qu'il a déterminé en son conseil, c'est
que la ville de Ierusalem sera guarentie. Or il les
ramené à ceste heure au fondement de toutes les
promesses: comme s'il disoit, En despit de vous si
faudra-il que Dieu se monstre fidèle, envoyant le
Sauveur qu'il a promis. Bataillez avec toutes vos
desfiances, soyez obstinez iusqu'au bout, empeschez
tant qu'il vous sera possible le décret de Dieu:
Ho, vous n'en viendrez point à bout: car Dieu
vous surmontera, et en la fin encore recueillera-il
le résidu de son peuple, et le Sauveur se declairera
tel qu'il a esté attendu et espéré de son peuple en
tout temps. Mais cela pourroit estre un peu obscur
et difficile, si nous n'avions une clef qui nous
peust servir pour nous y donner ouverture: C'est
qu'il nous faut regarder quel est le style commun
de tous les Prophètes, comme nous le voyons par
tout: à sçavoir que quand ils veulent consoler les
affligez, et qu'ils veulent donner espérance au milieu
des choses confuses, ils mettent en avant nostre
Seigneur Iesus: car c'estoit de là aussi dont tout
le reste dependoit.

Passons outre. Nous avons à distinguer entre
les promesses de Dieu. Il y en a une partie qui
comprend sous soy toutes les autres. Il y a puis
après les promesses speciales des biens que Dieu
veut faire à son peuple, comme s'il les veut secourir
en quelque besoin, s'il les veut délivrer de
quelque mal et perplexité, s'il veut avoir pitié d'eux
en quelque endroict, comme s'ils sont affligez de
guerre, ou de peste, ou de famine, et qu'il vueille
modérer son ire envers eux. Or la promesse generale
c'est ceste paction que Dieu fait avec nous
quand il luy plaist de nous adopter et nous tenir
pour ses enfans, et nous certifier qu'il nous sera
Père et Sauveur. Voyla par où il nous faut commencer:
car nous pourrions bien recevoir des promesses
speciales, et toutesfois cela seroit bien maigre,
et nous n'en attendrions pas grand profit.

Exemple. Si quelqu'un est pressé de griefve maladie,
et que Dieu luy face 6entir qu'il le veut relever
de cest ennuy-là, et bien, encores cognoistrail
la bonté de Dieu en cest endroict: mais cela
8'escoule tantost: car il n'est question que d'un
benefice particulier. Ainsi en est-il de tout le reste.
Gomme quand nous avons tesmoignage que Dieu
nous a délivrez de la main de nos ennemis, qu'il a
destourné quelque guerre de nous, qu'il a retiré sa
main après nous avoir batu de quelques verges,
soit de peste, ou de famine : et bien, cela nous
pourra servir aucunement: mais ce n'est pas pour
nous conduire au chemin de salut, et nous tenir là
du tout. Ce sera bien pour nous faire considérer
qu'il y a un Dieu, et pourrons estre pour quelque
temps debout: mais puis après nous tomberons à
bas, et nostre foy demeurera là comme amortie, et
n'y aura point de vigueur pour passer outre. Que
faut-il donc pour marcher tellement par le chemin,
que nous parvenions au but de nostre salut, et à la
perfection où Dieu nous appelle? Il nous faut avoir
ceste paction generale, c'est que nous soyons bien
résolus qu'il nous veut estre Père et en la vie, et
en la mort. Pourquoy? d'autant qu'il nous a eleus
et adoptez, qu'il nous advouë comme de sa maison
qu'il veut habiter au milieu de nous. Voyla (di-ie)
la promesse generale. Or ceste promesse yci (comme
i'ay desia dit) comprend toutes les autres, tellement
qu'elles n'en sont qu'accessoires. Il est vray que
Dieu quelques fois usera bien de quelque grace
envers les incrédules: mais cela n'ha point de sel
(comme on dit) car ils ne peuvent gouster le bien
que Dieu leur fait: mais pour appliquer les promesses
à nostre salut, ie di les promesses speciales,
il faut que nous ayons cela devant toutes choses,
que Dieu nous a choisis à soy, et qu'il nous veut
tenir pour ses enfans. Ainsi donc il nous faut
maintenant observer, que quand les Prophètes
ameinent nostre Seigneur Iesus Christ, et l'Alliance
de Dieu, il n'est pas question de promettre seulement
que Dieu aura pitié des affligez: et que ce
n'est pas en vain qu'ils parlent. Car ils ne tournent
point du coq à l'asne (comme on dit), mais
ils monstrent, Puis que Dieu vous a adoptez, il
sera Père envers vous. Or estant Père, il modérera
sa rigueur: et encores qu'il vous chastie pour
vos fautes, tant y a que iamais sa miséricorde ne
départira d'avec vous. Espérez donc que l'issue de
vos afflictions sera bonne et heureuse, d'autant que
Dieu vous est Père. Voyla sur quoy les Prophètes
se sont arrestez quand ils ont mis en avant l'adoption
du peuple, afin de donner quelque resiouissance
et allégement à ceux qui estoyent comme povres
gens esperdus. Or il nous faut sçavoir quel est le
fondement de ceste alliance: c'est à sçavoir que
Dieu a iadis adopté les enfans descendus de la
lignée d'Abraham: et qu'auiourd'huy il a voulu que
l'Evangile fust publié, afin de nous conioindre avec
ce peuple qui luy estoit pour lors peculier: voire
mais que cela a tousiours este fondé sur nostre
Seigneur Iesus Christ, comme sainct Paul dit qu'en
luy toutes les promesses de Dieu sont ouy et Amen.
Sinon donc que le peuple des Iuifs eust regardé à
nostre Seigneur Iesus Christ, ils ne pouvoyent pas
espérer que Dieu auroit pitié d'eux: mais quand
ils ont cognu que le Rédempteur leur appartenoit,
que c'estoit comme leur heritage qui ne leur pouvoit
faillir: là dessus ils ont conclu que Dieu donc
ne leur pouvoit non plus faillir: et là dessus ils se
sont tousiours fié que Dieu leur feroit miséricorde:
et combien qu'il les chastiast par fois quand ils
avoyent offensé, que neantmoins les playes ne seroyent
point mortelles, que tousiours il reserveroit
ce qu'il avoit eleu, d'autant que son adoption est
immuable, ainsi que dit Sainct Paul. Car selon
que Dieu ne se peut repentir, il faut que cela demeure
ferme et inviolable, c'est qu'il garde iusques
en la fin ceux qu'il a eleus. Nous voyons maintenant
que le Prophète a tresbien appliqué ceste
sentence, laquelle est yci récitée par S. Matthieu:
comme s'il disoit, Et bien, ie vous présente vostre
délivrance, vpus declarant que ce siege qui est
maintenant devant vostre ville sera levé: ie vous
declaire au nom de Dieu que toute la fureur et
impétuosité de vos ennemis s'en ira bas: cependant
vous n'estimez point le bien que Dieu vous offre,
mesme8 vous le despitez entant qu'en vous est, et
avez en moquerie le message que Dieu m'a commis.
Or si ne ferez-vous point pourtant, que Dieu ne
demeure Sauveur du peuple qu'il a eleu. Voyla
donc Isaie qui rameine le Roy Achaz, et tous les
autres incrédules, et pareillement les infidèles qui
estoyent meslez parmi: il les rameine (di ie) à ceste
adoption commune: comme s'il disoit, que Dieu
demeurera tousiours ferme en son propos. Ainsi,
c'est une cavillation trop frivole, quand les Iuifs
estiment que cela a este sans raison et sans fondement,
qu'Isaie ait parlé de nostre Seigneur Iesus
Christ, quand il faloit asseurer le Roy Achaz et
tout le peuple que les ennemis, c'est à sçavoir, le
roy d'Israël, et le roy de Syrie, seroyent deschassez.
Nous avons solu ceste question-là.

Cependant il y a un autre poinct, qui a troublé
ceux mesmes qui ne voudroyent point pervertir à
leur escient ce passage du Prophète. Car la malice
des Iuifs est du tout désespérée en cest endroict.
Mais aucuns qui n'eussent point voulu de propos
délibéré pervertir l'Escriture saincte, ont este confus
pource que le Prophète adiouste, Devant que l'enfant
puisse nommer ne  père ne mere, devant qu'il
discerne entre le bien et le mal, ces deux Rois I
seront ruinez: et là dessus leur a semblé que le
Prophète continuoit tousiours à parler de cest enfant
qui devoit naistre. Or ce n'est pas ainsi.
Car le Prophète, après avoir parlé de la personne
du Fils de Dieu, et avoir déclaré qu'il seroit envoyé
en son temps, il adiouste, Devant que les
petis enfans qui vivent' auiourd'huy puissent prononcer
les noms de père et de mere> qu'ils puissent
discerner entre le bien et le mal, il est certain que
vous verrez vos ennemis desconfits, et vous aurez
tesmoignage que Dieu a este le protecteur de ceste
ville de Ierusalem. Venons maintenant plus outre.
Les Iuifs après avoir tasché d'obscurcir toute la
clarté, et mesme de renverser ceste sentence, ameinent
des fables qui sont du tout pueriles: mesmes
avec leur orgueil magistral ils n'ont point eu honte
de dire qu'il estoit parlé du Roy Ezechias, lequel
avoit desia quatorze ans, et lequel ils mettent en
l'air pour devoir estre conceu puis #pres. Et voyla
desia un homme tout formé. En cela voit-on leur
bestise: et-non seulement leur bestise, mais une
horrible vengence de Dieu, qui -les a frappez de
cest aveuglement-là, qui est un iugement espovantable,
quand les hommes falsifient ainsi la vérité
pour la tourner en mensonge. Mais ils nous allèguent
que sainct Matthieu a destourné le mot dont
use le Prophète, quand il dit, Voyci, une Vierge
concevera: car il est parlé d'une fille, et non pas
d'une vierge, disent ils. Or afin de n'entrer point
en combat trop subtil, laissons-là le mot. Il est
vray qu'en l'Escriture il se prend pour une vierge
ordinairement: mais nous n'insisterons pas là dessus,
d'autant qu'il n'est ia besoin d'entrer en tels
débats, et sur tout quand nous voyons une obstination
telle et si incorrigible, que moyennant qu'ils
puissent avoir quelque petit subterfuge, ce leur est
tout un. Et de faict, ils sont là comme des chiens
mastins qui abbayent, encore qu'ils ne puissent
mordre. Dieu a là desployé une si horrible vengence,
que quand nous contemplons un Iuif, il est
certain que nous en devons estre esbahis comme
d'un monstre. Eé pourquoy? D'autant que Dieu
(comme i'ay desia dit) les a hebetez, et qu'ils ont
le voile devant leur yeux, comme sainct Paul en
parle, et encore que la clarté luise, ils n'y voyent
goutte, il n'ont point de sens commun non plus que
des bestes. Ne debatons point donc du mot, mais
regardons à la substance. Il est dit, Voyci, une
fille concevera. S'il estoit parlé d'une conception
ordinaire, et qui fust selon le cours de nature, le
Prophète ne diroit pas, Dieu vous donnera un signe:
ce ne seroit pas un miracle. Quel miracle y a-il,
qu'un homme engendre, et qu'une femme conçoyve
et enfante? Cela donc ne seroit rien. Et ainsi
nous voyons que les Iuifs foullent aux pieds l'Escriture
saincte, quand ils apportent là- leur groin
comme des pourceaux, pour faire que l'Escriture
saincte n'ait nulle reverence, et qu'ils puissent
anéantir la foy que nous avons en nostre Seigneur
Iesus Christ. Ce qu'ils machinent toutesfois en
vain: car après s'y estre efforcez tant et plus, ils
demeureront tousiours confus en leur honte. Or
donc il est bien certain qu'il est yci parlé d'une
chose notable et singulière, et non point de ce qui
estoit desia en usage commun, quand il est dit,
Dieu vous donnera un miracle, c'est qu'une fille
enfantera.

Voyla pour un item. Il y a le second, Qu'on
appellera le nom de l'enfant, Emmanuel. Il est
certain que ce nom yci ne pouvoit convenir à nulle
creature simple. Car Iesus Christ, quant à son
humanité, a bien este créé et formé: mais cependant
si est-ce qu'il est appelé, Dieu avec nous. Si
on allègue, que tousiours Dieu a eu son domicile
au milieu du peuple: comme il a dit, Voyci mon
repos: Item, Voyci ie seray au milieu de Ierusalem:
et puis tant souvent il est réitéré en la Loy, le
suis vostre Dieu qui vous sanctifie, habitant au
milieu de vous: i'ay là ma tente et mon pavillon.
.Si donc on allègue que les figures de la Loy ont
desia monstre cela, c'est tant mieux pour nous: ie
di pour monstrer que la foy Chrestienne est asseuree
de ce passage du Prophète. Et pourquoy? Quand
le nom est donné à Iesus Christ d'Emmanuel, c'est
à dire Dieu avec nous, il est certain que là il y a
une declaration expresse, combien que Dieu auparavant
se fust approché de son peuple, et qu'il
eust là conversé familièrement, que toutesfois ce
n'estoit rien au pris de ceste manifestation seconde.
Car il est yci parlé comme d'une chose nouvelle et
exquise, et qui n'a iamais este ni accoustumee ni
ouye. Voyla donc le nom d'Emmanuel, qui emporte
une autre maieste que toutes les figures, les
ombrages, les ceremonies, les tesmoignages, et les
arres, et tout ce que Dieu avoit donné de sa presence:
tout cela est de petite importance, si on
fait comparaison de la presence de Dieu en la personne
de nostre Seigneur Iesus Christ. Ainsi donc
il n'y a nulle doute que le Prophète n'ait declairé
ce que sainct Paul dit par autres mots, mais equipolens:
c'est asçavoir que Iesus Christ est Dieu
manifesté en chair. C'est (dit-il) un grand secret,
quand il parle de la charge de l'Eglise, et que c'est
une chose qui surmonte toute faculté humaine d'annoncer
l'Evangile. Comment? dit-il: est-ce peu de
chose que ce secret admirable de Dieu soit publié
par la bouche d'une creature, c'est à sçavoir que
Dieu soit manifesté en chair? Nous voyons en la
personne du Rédempteur premièrement Dieu créateur
du monde, devant lequel il faut que tout genouil
se ployé: et nous voyons cependant nostre
nature, nous voyons un corps mortel, c'est à dire
qui a este mortel, voire avec nos infirmitez. Nous
contemplons en la personne de Iesus Christ, d'un
co8té Dieu, et puis après nous, comme si Dieu
estoit uni avec les hommes. Voyla donc ce que le
Prophète Isaie a entendu. Et sainct Paul en l'autre
passage continue, en disant que Dieu estoit en
Christ reconciliant le monde à soy: comme s'il disoit
que les figures de la Loy n'ont pas este vuides.
Il est vray qu'il y a eu vertu, et que Dieu n'a
point abusé son peuple ni aux sacrifices, ni aux
lavemens, ni au Sanctuaire, ni en l'Arche, ni en
l'autel qu'il avoit ordonné. Dieu donc estoit là:
voire, mais ce n'estoit sinon pour entretenir l'espérance
du peuple, iusqu'à ce qu'il eust accompli ce
qu'il avoit promis. Or donc il s'est déclaré d'une
autre façon en Iesus Christ, pour reconcilier le
monde à soy, et cela n'avoit iamais este ni veu ni
cogneu. Et c'est pourquoy il dit tiercement en
l'autre passage, que toute plenitude de divinité
habite en Iesus Christ corporellement. Par ce mot
il discerne entre toutes les espèces de figures qui
ont este sous la Loy, et sous les Prophètes, et ceste
manifestation de Dieu envers les hommes. Dieu
donc estoit bien conioint aux hommes, et les a re
cueillis à soy de tout temps en vertu de ses promesses
qui leur a faites: mais cependant il n'y
avoit point ceste plenitude de divinité: c'est à dire,
Dieu ne s'estoit point entièrement manifesté, ainsi
donnoit en partie seulement aux Peres anciens
quelque goust de sa presence. Or en la personne
de son Fils unique il s'est déclaré en toute perfection,
tellement qu'il nous faut espérer du tout en
nostre Seigneur Iesus Christ, et ne vaguer plus ne
ça ne là, ni estre en suspens, pour dire, Dieu envoyera
encores d'avantage. Nous avons tout. Et
c'est ce qu'il adiouste, Corporellement: comme s'il
disoit, Nous embrassons (par manière de dire) en
nostre Seigneur Iesus Christ, le Dieu qui nous a
créez et formez. Non pas que son essence soit enclose
au corps de nostre Seigneur Iesus Christ:
mais il veut exprimer le bien inestimable que Dieu
nous a faict, quand il luy a pieu descendre si bas
pour se conioindre à nous en la personne de son
Fils, afin que nous soyons faits tous un ensemble,
comme il est dit au dixseptieme chapitre de
sainct lean.

Or ce qu'adiouste le Prophète conforme tousiours
ceste doctrine, quand il dit que l'enfant dont
il parle, qui naistra de ceste Vierge, mangera du
miel et du laict, iusqu'à ce qu'il discerne entre le
bien et le mal. S'il eust parlé d'un enfant commun,
cela seroit superflu, et mesmes il seroit froid et
inepte de dire, Il sera allaicté: et bien, on sçait
que les enfans sont allaittez, qu'ils croissent, et
viennent en aage de discretion, qu'on appelle. Cela
ne seroit iamais dit des enfans qui seront procréez
selon l'ordre de nature: mais pource que c'est une
chose incroyable que Dieu mangeast du miel, et
qu'il fust repeu de laict à la façon commune des
enfans, voyla pourquoy notamment le Prophète
l'exprime, comme s'il disoit, Voyci une chose qui
surmonte tout sens humain, et il nous faut adorer
ce conseil incomprehensible de nostre Dieu: que
celuy qui a créé toutes choses, et qui les ha sous
sa main et puissance, et en dispose selon son bon
plaisir et sans aucun contredit, n'empeschement,
soit subiet à faim, et ha soif: que celuy qui.nourrit
les hommes et les bestes, et les oiseaux, soit traitté
à la coustnme des enfans, et qu'il soit nourri et
alaitté: celuy qui est la Sagesse éternelle de Dieu
son Père, soit là ignorant, ne sçachant cognoistre
ne père ne mere, n'ayant nulle discretion de bien
et de mal. Voyla donc des choses qui seroyent
si estranges, qu'il seroit impossible de les croire,
sinon que nous en fussions notamment advertis.
Par ainsi nous avons encores en ceci un argument
invincible, pour monstrer qu'il est parlé de Iesus
Christ, et non d'autre. Car le Prophète a voulu
exprimer, qu'en la naissance de cest enfant il y
aura une clarté de Dieu si haute, et si profonde,
que les hommes la pourront appercevoir, sinon
qu'ils soyent hebetez du tout, pour ne point recevoir
ce qui leur sera dit. Il y a le quatrième argument,
quand il est dit que cest enfant sera le
Roy de sa terre, et mesme que la terre de Iudee
seroit sienne. Ta terre (dit le Prophète) ô Emmanuel.
Or il est certain qu'encores qu'il y eust
des Rois qui dominoyent par ci et par là, la terre
de Iudee estoit sous la main et sous l'empire de
Dieu. Quand donc ceste terre est donnée à celuy
qae le Prophète nomme Emmanuel, ce n'est pas
que Dieu quitte son droict, ne qu'il s'en despouille
pour le resigner à un autre: mais c'est d'autant
qu'en la personne de nostre Seigneur Iesus Christ
il est apparu, et a là habité, comme les Pseaumes
en parlent, qu'il a prins possession de ceste terre.
Comme par tout il est dit, Dieu regne, que les
Isles et pays lointains s'esiouissent: pource que
Dieu s'est déclaré Roy souverain de tout le monde,
et s'est assuietti ceux qui luy estoyent rebelles auparavant,
qui eBtoyent esgarez de luy, et qui n'eussent
daigné en ouir parler. Voyla donc en somme
comme ce passage ne peut estre exposé ni entendu
que de Iesus Christ.

Or cependant pour le profit et instruction de
nostre foy, poisons bien ce mot d'Emmanuel, et
cognoissons puis qu'en nostre Seigneur Iesus Christ
nous sommes conioints avec Dieu, qu'il n'est plus
question d'estre proumenez ni de costé ni d'autre,
mais il nous faut avoir un certain arrest. Et si
ceci eust este bien cognu et persuadé, il est certain
que le monde n'eust pas este distraiet en tant de
superstitions comme on le voit: et un tel labyrinthe
qu'il y a sur tout en là Papauté, iamais n'eust este
dressé par Satan. Pourquoy? Quand nous avons
cognu Dieu estre avec nous, que demanderons-nous
plus? Mail il a falu avoir des patrons et des advocats,
des moyens infinis pour plaire à Dieu, des
façons de faire: et chacun en a forgé en sa teste,
et n'y a iamais eu fin: comme aussi nous voyons
que c'est de la Papauté. Car si on regarde ce qui
s'y fait, on y trouvera une confusion si terrible,
que c'est (brief) pour nous monstrer l'ingratitude
du monde, qui ne s'est point contenté de nostre
Seigneur Iesus Christ. D'autant plus donc nous
faut-il bien arrester à ce mot, et que tous nos sens
y soyent attachez: c'est asçavoir que quand le Fils
unique de Dieu nous a este envoyé, nous avons eu
toute perfection de bien, de félicite et de ioye: et
que si nous cherchons plus, c'est à dire que Dieu
ne nous suffit point. Et quel outrage est-cela,
quel sacrilege, et quel blaspheme, que Dieu ne nous
suffise point? Où est-.ce que nous trouverons une
seule goutte de bien hors de luy? Et quand nous
en serons séparez, qu'est ce que nous pouvons attendre
sinon que le diable nous possède? Et nous
aurons un tel salaire que nous avons mérité. Notons
bien donc que Dieu a desployé en nostre Seigneur
Iesus Christ toutes ses richesses, dont nous
pouvons estre rassasiez, mais cependant si nous
faut-il profiter de iour en iour, et comprendre ce
que nous n'avons pas encores obtenu. Car il y a
une grandeur en cela qui nous est incomprehensible,
et à laquelle nous ne parviendrons point du premier
coup: mais si nous y faut il tendre, et nous y
efforcer de plus en plus, comme S. Paul aussi en
parle. Et mesme combien qu'il eust servi à Dieu
si fidèlement qu'il avoit rempli le monde de la
doctrine de l'Evangile, tellement que c'estoit merveilles
que de luy, c'estoit plustost un Ange celeste
qu'un homme, toutesfois il dit, le n'ay point encores
appréhendé: mais ie m'efforce et ie m'esten
tousiours pour parvenir là où ie desire. l'oublie
tout ce que i'ay fait: car ie pourroye me refroidir
et perdre courage, pour dire, Et que les autres
viennent en rang, quant à moy, i'en ay assez fait.
Non (dit-il) i'oublie tout cela: mais ie cognoy qu'il
me défaut encores beaucoup, et pourtant ie marche
plus outre. Voyla donc comme nous devons prendre
ce mot dont il est yci parlé.

Or le Prophète ne parle point yci du salut
que nous avons traitté ce matin: mais le tout s'accorde
tresbien: car S. Matthieu dit que là Vierge
a conceu suyvant ce qu'il avoit recité, qu'elle a este
trouvée enceinte, voire du S. Esprit. Et comment
cela? C'est la promesse qui a este donnée de tout
temps: car il a este dit qu'une Vierge concevroit,
et qu'elle concevroit le Fils de Dieu. Et pour
quelle raison? Afin qu'il fust conioint avec nous.
Or regardons maintenant quel est le lien de ceste
union, et mesmes quel est le moyen que nous
avons d'approcher de Dieu, et comment c'est aussi
qu'il nous reçoit à soy. Cependant que nous demourerons
en nos péchez, il faut que nous soyons
aliénez de Dieu: car il ne peut avoir accointance
.avec nous cependant que le pèche y domine: il n'y
a non plus d'acoord qu'entre le feu et l'eau. Il
faut donc que pour estre Emmanuel, c'est à, dire
Dieu conioint avec nous, qu'il efface nos iniquitez
en premier lieu, et qu'il nous en purge tellement,
que nous soyons revestus de sa iustice. Et voyci
le moyen de ceste union. Non sans cause donc
l'Evangeliste allègue ce passage pour monstrer que
ce qui avoit este dit par la bouche du Prophete,
et mesmes prononcé de Dieu en son nom et en
son authorité, que cela a este accompli quand la
vierge Marie a conceu, non point d'une façon commune,
ni selon l'ordre de nature, mais par la vertu
secrete et admirable de Dieu, lequel a voulu sanctifier
son Fils unique dés son origine et sa conception.
Voyla donc comme ce passage est tresbien
allégué à propos. Et ainsi, nous voyons comme le
S. Esprit a pourveu de nous conformer. Car c'eBt
afin que nous sçachions que Iesus Christ n'est point
venu à la volée, et que l'Evangile n'a point este
forgé de nouveau, mais que c'est l'accomplissement
de toutes les prophéties anciennes, que c'est une
approbation de la vérité de Dieu, laquelle a este
cachée en partie, mais en partie aussi demonstree
entant qu'il estoit utile pour le salut des hommes.
Car les Peres anciens ont receu ce qu'il leur faloit
de doctrine, combien qu'elle eust este plus obscure
qu'auiourd'huy nous ne l'avons. Quoy qu'il en
soit, Abraham a veu le iour de Iesus Christ, comme
il est dit au huitième chapitre de sainct lean, et
s'en est esiouy. Voyla donc ce que nous avons à
retenir de ce passage.

Et finalement notons ce qui est yci dit de
Ioseph, qu'estant esveillé il a fait ce qui avoit este
dit par l'Ange. D'un costé nous voyons la promptitude
qui a este en luy d'obéir : et aussi pour nous
instruire il faut faire le semblable, que si tost que
nous aurons cognu la volonte de Dieu, nous marchions
comme il a fait. Et au reste, nous voyons
la certitude qu'a eu Ioseph: car les passions qu'il
avoit eues auparavant estoyent bien dures. Estant
homme, il pouvoit avoir ceste ardeur de ialousie
en soy: et estant iuste, il ne vouloit point adherer
au mal. Or maintenant le voyla tout résolu, il
prend sa femme, il obéit. Il ne faut point donc
estimer qu'il ait eu une imagination douteuse: mais
une pleine fermeté, que Dieu luy a déclaré que
c'estoit luy qui parloit par son Ange.

Et notamment il est dit qu'il n'a point cognu
la Vierge iusqu'à ce qu'elle ait enfanté son premier
Fils. Par cela l'Evangeliste signifie que Ioseph
n'avoit point pris sa femme pour habiter avec elle,
mais pour obéir à Dieu, et pour s'aquitter de son
devoir envers luy. Ce n'a point donc este ni pour
un amour charnel, ni pour profit, ni pour rien qui
soit qu'il a pris sa femme: mais c'a este afin d'obéir
à Dieu, et pour monstrer qu'il acceptoit la grace.
qui luy estoit offerte: comme aussi c'estoit un bien
qui ne se pouvoit assez estimer. Voyla ce que
nous avons à retenir. Or il y a eu aucuns, fantastiques
qui ont voulu recueillir de ce passage que
la vierge Marie avoit eu d'autres enfans que le Fils
de Dieu, et que Ioseph avoit puis après habité
avec elle: mais c'est une folie que cela. Car
l'Evangeliste n'a pas voulu reciter ce qui estoit
advenu après: il veut seulement declarer l'obéissance
de Ioseph, et monstrer aussi qu'il avoit este bien
certifié et deuement que c'estoit Dieu qui luy avoit
envoyé son Ange. Il n'a point donc habité avec
elle, il n'a point eu sa compagnie. Et là nous
voyons qu'il n'a point eu esgard à sa personne:
car il s'est privé de femme. Il pouvoit se marier
à un autre, d'autant qu'il ne pouvoit pas iouir de
la femme qu'il avoit espousee: mais il a mieux
aimé quitter son droict, et s'abstenir du mariage
(estant toutesfois marié), il a mieux aimé (di-ie)

demeurer ainsi pour s'employer au service de Dieu,
que de regarder ce qui luy fust venu plus à gré.
Il a oublié toutes ces choses, afin de s'assubietir
pleinement à Dieu. Et au reste nostre Seigneur
Iesus Christ est nommé le premier nay. Non pas
qu'il y ait eu ne le second ne le troisième: mais
l'Evangeliste regarde au precedent. Et l'Escriture
parle ainsi, de nommer le premier nay, encores
qu'il n'y en ait point de second. Nous voyons
donc l'intention du S. Esprit: et pourtant, de nous
addonner à ces folles subtilitez, ce seroit abuser de
l'Escriture saincte, qui nous doit estre utile a edification,
comme dit S. Paul. Et au reste, quand
les hommes sont ainsi fretillans, et qu'ils ont les
aureilles chatouilleuses pour appeler des speculations
nouvelles, il faut que le diable les possède tellement
qu'ils s'endurcissent, et ne les peut-on ramener au
bon chemin, qu'ils troubleront plustost et le ciel et
la terre qu'ils ne maintienent leurs erreurs et resveries
avec une obstination diabolique. D'autant
plus donc nous faut-il estre sobres pour recevoir la
doctrine qui nous est donnée pour accepter le Rédempteur
qui nous est envoyé de Dieu son Père,
et que cognoissans sa vertu, nous apprenions de
nous tenir pleinement à luy.

Or nous-nous prosternerons devant la maiesté
de nostre bon Dieu, etc.


Bible Passage Translation

Matthew 1:22-25 (Victorian King James Version)

Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying,
[23] Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel [Is 7:14; 9:6], which being interpreted is, God with us. [24] On waking from sleep Joseph did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him; he took his wife home, [25] And he knew her not till she had brought forth her firstborn son: and he called his name Jesus.

Translation of Final Blue Portion (by Facebook friend Gregory Fast):

Certainly, it is said that he did not know the Virgin until she gave birth to her first Son. By this, the Evangelist means to signify that Joseph did not take his wife to live with him, but in obedience to God and to  discharge his duty towards Him. It was not then to be carnal love, nor to take advantage of the situation, or any reason at all, that he took his wife, but it was to obey God, and to accept the grace he had been offered: as that was a blessing beyond estimation.
 
See, that is what we have to remember. But there were some crazy people who wanted to gather from this passage that the Virgin Mary had had other children than the Son of God, after Joseph had lived with her, but it is foolish to think that because the Evangelist would not recite what happened afterwards: he only wants to declare the obedience of Joseph, and how he showed a well-certified tenderness in that God sent his angel to him 

 
He never lived with her. He never had her company. And there we see that [he]  took no regard for himself because he was deprived of a woman. He could have married another, but he could not swear off the woman he had engaged. But better he leave his beloved rights and abstain from marriage (even though all the while he was married), he preferred to remain so as to employ the service of God, while watching what came over him through his agreement. 

 
He forgot all these things in order to submit fully to God. And in the rest (of the account) of our Lord Jesus Christ, he is called the first born; there was not a second, nor a third, but the Evangelist looks only to the first . And Scripture speaks thus of naming the first born, again that there may be no second. 

 
So we see the intention of the Holy Ghost: and yet we must abandon these crazy subtleties; it would be abuse of the holy Scripture, to us a not even useful edification, as St. Paul says.

 
And besides, when men are like fretillans, and they have the ticklish ears to listen to speculative news, it is necessary that the devil has done so they may harden, and we seek the right way, and they disturb rather than have the sky and land, they maintain their mistakes and dreams with diabolical obstinacy, especially all the more must we strive to be sober to receive the doctrine given to us to accept the Redeemer to us from God the Father, being knowledgeable and virtuous, we learn from this to keep us fully to him as we prostrate ourselves before the majesty of our good God, etc.



* * *

Here is a portion of it from Max Thurian (translated by Nevill B. Cryer), in his book, Mary: Mother of All Christians (New York: Herder & Herder, 1963, pp. 39-40):


There have been certain strange folk who have wished to suggest from this passage that the Virgin Mary had other children than the Son of God, and that Joseph had then dwelt with her later; but what folly this is! for the gospel writer did not wish to record what happened afterwards; he simply wished to make clear Joseph's obedience and to show also that Joseph had been well and truly assured that it was God who had sent His angel to Mary.

He had therefore never dwelt with her nor had he shared her company. There we see that he had never known her person for he was separated from his wife. He could marry another all the more because he could not enjoy the woman to whom he was betrothed; but he rather desired to forfeit his rights and abstain from marriage, being yet always married: he preferred, I say, to remain thus in the service of God rather than to consider what he might still feel that he could come to. He had forsaken everything in order that he might subject himself fully to the will of God.

And besides this, our Lord Jesus Christ is called the first-born. This is not because there was a second or a third, but because the gospel writer is paying regard to the precedence. Scripture speaks thus of naming the first-born whether or no there was any question of the second. Thus we see the intention of the Holy Spirit. This is why to lend ourselves to foolish subtleties would be to abuse Holy Scripture, which is, as St. Paul says, "to be used for our edification."

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Did John Calvin Believe in Mary's Perpetual Virginity? (Debate with Tim Staples + Anti-Catholic James Swan's Usual Unsavory Tactics and Nonsense)


[John Calvin's words will be in blue; Tim Staples' words in green; anti-Catholic Reformed polemicist James Swan's words (appropriately for a clown) will be in red and purple]


Tim Staples has a new book out about Mariology, entitled, Behold Your Mother: A Biblical and Historical Defense of the Marian Doctrines.  On 10 October 2014 at the Catholic Answers blog, he wrote a related post, entitled, "Apologists Make Mistakes, Too!" Well, of course we do (as far as that goes)! No argument there. I am questioning, however, whether we have been (hugely) mistaken on this particular point.

First of all: I'm not trying to make this some big stink between Tim and I. Not at all! It's a friendly dispute about a fascinating question. Tim's a great guy. I like his stuff; he appears to like my writing. We first met in 2011 at the Catholic Answers office in California.

I think it is important to respond to this article, in particular, because it's already (quite predictably) being exploited by anti-Catholic Reformed apologist James Swan. I wrote on the CA thread about that:

It's all the more important that we get this issue nailed down, since vitriolic anti-Catholic Protestants like James Swan is already trying to exploit your post, to make Catholic apologists look stupid. He immediately seized upon it in his post, dated 10-11-14:

This is another issue that's been on this blog for many years now. . . . I look forward to utilizing Staples here the next time one of Rome's apologists bring this up. . . . I've accused Rome's defenders for years of sloppy and inaccurate historical work on the Protestant Reformation, especially the Reformers' Mariology. At times it's been like shooting fish in a barrel. . . . It's enough for me that one of Rome's popular defenders is now saying some of the same things I've been saying for years.

Thus, he is using the old tired tactic of pitting one Catholic apologist (whom he thinks is relatively more smart) over against the rest of the massive lot of dummies that he thinks we are as a class, in order to mock both Catholic apologists and the faith they defend. He despises all of us. He's only trying to "use" your post in order to make his point that Catholic apologists en masse are sloppy researchers and not to be trusted (except, of course, when they reach the same conclusion that he does).

It's important, then, that we determine where the truth lies here. . . . I believe I and others (and you, formerly) have been correct in stating that Calvin accepted the PVM. This is not a faux pas (or worse) that we have to rectify, in public or in private.

So what exactly is the dispute under consideration? Here are the standard passages from Calvin that are used to demonstrate (though not with absolute conclusiveness; I agree) that he believed in the perpetual virginity of Mary:

Helvidius displayed excessive ignorance in concluding that Mary must have had many sons, because Christ’s "brothers" are sometimes mentioned. (Harmony of Matthew, Mark and Luke, sec. 39 [Geneva, 1562], vol. 2 / From Calvin’s Commentaries, translated by William Pringle, Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans, 1949, p.215; on Matthew 13:55)

[On Matt 1:25:] The inference he [Helvidius] drew from it was, that Mary remained a virgin no longer than till her first birth, and that afterwards she had other children by her husband . . . No just and well-grounded inference can be drawn from these words . . . as to what took place after the birth of Christ. He is called "first-born"; but it is for the sole purpose of informing us that he was born of a virgin . . . What took place afterwards the historian does not inform us . . . No man will obstinately keep up the argument, except from an extreme fondness for disputation. (Pringle, ibid., vol. I, p. 107)

Under the word "brethren" the Hebrews include all cousins and other relations, whatever may be the degree of affinity. (Pringle, ibid., vol. I, p. 283 / Commentary on John, [7:3] )

Some Protestants have argued that these texts are insufficient to determine what Calvin believed, or that he himself was agnostic and took no position on this issue, or in fact, opposed the notion that she was a perpetual virgin. Tim wrote in his recent post:

I also point out some errors going in the other direction. Well-intentioned Catholics—even some Catholic apologists—have presented things concerning Protestant beliefs that are just plain wrong.
And error is error no matter the source.

. . . Calvin Did NOT Believe in the Perpetual Virginity of Mary

This second myth is even more widespread.  . .

The error seems to have stemmed from misunderstanding some few comments from John Calvin’s 3-volume set, Commentary on a Harmony of the Evangelists, Matthew, Mark, and Luke, Transl. by Rev. William Pringle (Christian Classics Ethereal Library, 2009). In his commentaries on Matt. 13:55 and Matt. 1:25, in volume 1, he takes Helvidius to task for assuming Mary had other children because of the mention of the “brothers of the Lord,” in Matthew 13:55, and for assuming “Joseph knew her not until…” meant that Joseph then was being said to have known Mary conjugally after Christ was born.
Calvin correctly and sternly (in good Calvin fashion) teaches the "brothers" of the Lord may well be a Hebrew idiom representing "cousins" or some other extended relative. And he also points out that the "until" of Matt. 1:25 really says nothing about what happened after Mary gave birth. It was used there to emphasize the virginity of Mary up "until" that point.
. . . unfortunately, many Catholics have taken these two sections of Calvin's commentary out of context and claim it to mean he agreed with the Perpetual Virginity of Mary. But in fact, he never says that. He simply concludes these Scriptures to be silent on the matter. They prove neither yeah nor nay when it comes to Mary's perpetual virginity.

Tim produces as evidence for his claim, Calvin's commentary on Luke 1:34:

The conjecture which some have drawn from these words, that she had formed a vow of perpetual virginity, is unfounded and altogether absurd. She would, in that case, have committed treachery by allowing herself to be united to a husband, and have poured contempt on the holy covenant of marriage . . . 

He added:

Notice here, he not only denies this text could be used to prove the Perpetual Virginity of Mary, but he denies the doctrine itself as a possible consideration.

Now, at first glance, this evidence did seem fairly compelling for Tim's position. But I knew (because I had documented it previously) that many Calvinist  scholars and other Protestant experts on Calvin agree that he did accept the perpetual virginity, and so I wondered why that is, if Tim is correct, and I started digging for more information. I found another related citation, that I think affirms what I and others have been arguing, lo, these many years.

Max Thurian, in his Mary: Mother of All Christians (translated by Nevill B. Cryer, New York: Herder & Herder, 1963, pp. 39-40) -- I have a hard copy in my library -- notes a sermon of Calvin's on Matthew 1:22-25, published in 1562 in the shorthand notes of Denys Ragueneau. Here is his citation:

There have been certain strange folk who have wished to suggest from this passage [Matt 1:25] that the Virgin Mary had other children than the Son of God, and that Joseph had then dwelt with her later; but what folly this is! for the gospel writer did not wish to record what happened afterwards; he simply wished to make clear Joseph's obedience and to show also that Joseph had been well and truly assured that it was God who had sent His angel to Mary. He had therefore never dwelt with her nor had he shared her company. There we see that he had never known her person for he was separated from his wife. He could marry another all the more because he could not enjoy the woman to whom he was betrothed; but he rather desired to forfeit his rights and abstain from marriage, being yet always married: he preferred, I say, to remain thus in the service of God rather than to consider what he might still feel that he could come to. He had forsaken everything in order that he might subject himself fully to the will of God.

And besides this, our Lord Jesus Christ is called the first-born. This is not because there was a second or a third, but because the gospel writer is paying regard to the precedence. Scripture speaks thus of naming the first-born whether or no there was any question of the second. Thus we see the intention of the Holy Spirit. This is why to lend ourselves to foolish subtleties would be to abuse Holy Scripture, which is, as St. Paul says, "to be used for our edification."

From this we learn several things:

1. It serves as a further interpretation or clarification of his allegedly "agnostic" commentary on Matthew 1:25, as actually affirming perpetual virginity.

2. It shows that his denial of a vow of perpetual virginity from Mary is not necessarily and not in fact the same as a denial of her perpetual virginity.

3. Calvin does indeed believe in the traditional doctrine, as we see in his statement: "not because there was a second or a third" and his assertion that Joseph never dwelt with Mary. Mary had no further children. This is why he habitually refers to her as "the virgin" in his writings, much like Catholics have through the centuries. It implies perpetual virginity.

4. Since they never lived together, according to Calvin, obviously they had no children together. Thus, Mary was perpetually a virgin.

5. Moreover, it wasn't a question of corrupting marriage, per his comment on Lk 1:34, since for him, they never lived together and thus were not "united." Thus, the difficulty for the belief that he held to the PVM, suggested prima facie by his comment on Luke 1:34 vanishes. For Calvin, both things are true: Mary didn't make such a vow and they didn't live together in a chaste fashion, since he thinks they didn't live together at all.

This 1562 sermon may be one reason why many Protestant (including Calvinist) scholars agree that Calvin adhered to Mary's perpetual virginity, as I noted in my paper (alluded to and linked above) over four years ago now:

David F. Wright, in his book, Chosen by God: Mary in Evangelical Perspective (London: Marshall Pickering, 1989, pp. 173, 175), stated:
. . . his more careful biblicism could insist on only Mary’s refraining from intercourse before the birth of Jesus (i.e., her virginity ante partum). On the other hand, he never excluded as untenable the other elements in her perpetual virginity, and may be said to have believed it himself without claiming that Scripture taught it. . . . [Calvin] commonly speaks of Mary as "the holy Virgin" (and rarely as simply as "Mary" preferring "the Virgin", etc.).

Thomas Henry Louis Parker, in his Calvin: an Introduction to his Thought (Westminster John Knox Press, 1995), concurs:
. . . the Virgin Birth, which Calvin holds, together with the perpetual virginity of Mary. (p. 66)
He is the author of several books about Calvin, such as John Calvin: A Biography (Westminster John Knox Press, 2007), and Oracles Of God: An Introduction To The Preaching Of John Calvin (Lutterworth Press, 2002), Calvin’s New Testament Commentaries (S.C.M. Press, 1971), Calvin’s Preaching (Westminster John Knox Press, 1992), Calvin’s Old Testament Commentaries (Westminster John Knox Press, 1993), and several other Calvin-related volumes, and translator of Calvin’s Harmony of the Gospels in its 1995 Eerdmans edition.

Presumably, he knows enough about Calvin to have a basis for his beliefs about this matter and Calvin's own position.

The article “Mary” (by David F. Wright) in the Encyclopedia of the Reformed Faith (edited by Donald K. McKim, Westminster John Knox Press,1992, p. 237), proclaims:
Calvin was likewise less clear-cut than Luther on Mary’s perpetual virginity but undoubtedly favored it. Notes in the Geneva Bible (Matt. 1:18, 25; Jesus' "brothers") defend it, as did Zwingli and the English reformers . . .
Donald G. Bloesch, in his Jesus Christ: Savior and Lord (Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 2006, p. 87), joins the crowd:
Protestantism . . . remained remarkably open to the idea of Mary’s perpetual virginity. Among others, Luther, Calvin, Zwingli, Wollebius, Bullinger and Wesley claimed that Mary was ever-virgin (semper virgo). The Second Helvetic Confession and the Geneva Bible of the Reformed faith and the Schmalkald Articles of the Lutheran churches affirm it.
Geoffrey W. Bromiley in his article, “Mary the Mother of Jesus” in International Standard Bible Encyclopedia: K-P (edited by Bromiley, revised edition of 1994 published by Eerdmans [Grand Rapids, Michigan], p. 269), wrote:
The post-partum or perpetual virginity concept is held by some Protestants and was held by many Reformers (e.g., Calvin in his sermon on Mt. 1:22-25) . . .
Note that this refers to the sermon I cited above, not just Calvin's Commentaries. And this is from the revised ISBE: not a source one can easily dismiss.

Derek W. H. Thomas, writing in A Theological Guide to Calvin's Institutes: Essays and Analysis (edited by David W. Hall & Peter A. Lillback; Presbyterian & Reformed Publishing [Calvin 500 series]: 2008, p. 212), makes a casual reference: "a perpetual virgin in Calvin's view!"

He is a professor of systematic and pastoral theology at Reformed Theological Seminary.  His doctoral dissertation was devoted to Calvin's preaching on the book of Job.

Timothy George concurs, with slight qualification:

To be sure, there is nothing theologically problematic about affirming Mary's perpetual virginity. This venerable tradition, first given dogmatic sanction at the Fifth Ecumenical Council in 553, was affirmed by Luther, Zwingli, and Calvin during the Reformation, though Calvin was more agnostic about this belief than the other two reformers.

(in Mary, Mother of God, edited by Carl E. Braaten and Robert W. Jenson, Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans Pub. Co.: 2004;  p. 109)

Dr. George is the dean of Beeson Divinity School at Samford University, teaches Church history and serves as executive editor for Christianity Today. He has served on the Board of Directors of the Southern Baptist Convention, has written more than twenty books, and regularly contributes to scholarly journals. His book Theology of the Reformers is used as a textbook in many schools and seminaries.

J. A. Ross MacKenzie wrote: "Calvin, like Luther and Zwingli, taught the perpetual virginity of Mary" (in Alberic Stacpoole, editor, Mary's Place in Christian Dialogue, Wilton, Connecticut: Morehouse-Barlow, 1982, 35-36).  Dr. Mackenzie was a professor of church history at Union Theological Seminary in Virginia, and has translated or written more than twenty theological books.

Robert H. Stein, professor of New Testament interpretation at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, also agrees:


If one believes in the perpetual virginity of Mary, a teaching held not only by Roman Catholicism but also by Greek Orthodoxy, Martin Luther, and John Calvin, then the Helvidian view must be rejected. (Mark [Commentary], Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Academic: 2008, p. 187)

Calvin’s successor Theodore Beza argued that Catholics and Protestants agreed on the perpetual virginity of Mary, at the Colloquy of Poissy in 1561 (see William A. Dyrness, Reformed Theology and Visual Culture: the Protestant Imagination from Calvin to Edwards, [Cambridge University Press, 2004], pp. 86-87).


* * * * *

Tim Staples gave a long reply in the combox that I don't think (with all due respect) refuted the heart of my objection at all: what Calvin flat-out stated in his sermon. Nor did he explain why so many Protestant and/or Calvinist scholars hold that he accepted the perpetual virginity of Mary. It's one thing for us as Catholics to look at a few texts and render our opinions. The Calvinist or the Calvinist or otherwise Protestant Calvin scholar who has an opinion on such a matter will be far more informed, as both a specialist and an advocate of Calvinism, as the case may be, than we would be (generally speaking).

He would also know a lot more than a quack Reformed polemicist like James Swan who regularly makes pronouncements on such matters as if he is some sort of scholarly expert who should be trusted as much as actual scholars. I back up my contentions with scholars, as much as possible. Swan makes his (often quite dogmatic) contentions (complete with the ubiquitous mocking of Catholics and Catholicism that is his stock-in-trade) whether scholars agree with him or not.

Such Protestant scholars also would generally disbelieve in many of the Marian doctrines, so if they assert that Calvin believed this, chances are he did, since their bias would be towards a stance that he did not. In that sense, they are sort of "hostile witnesses."

James Swan then chimed in with his usual one-note tune, first writing on his blog about my comment in the thread:


A comment was left for Mr. Staples giving (among other things) a Calvin citation from a secondary source (that is, no original or complete context) documenting a sermon from Calvin (a citation from Calvin in English which was translated from the French, originally from shorthand notes), taken from a French journal, not the original sermon (that is- the secondary source utilized a Calvin quote from a journal). 

Then on the thread itself, he replied:

If I recall, Max Thurian wrote his book in French. It was then translated to English. If one checks Thurian's documentation for his Calvin quote, it doesn't appear to me that he actually utilized a primary source, but rather took his citation from La Revue réformée 1956/4, pp. 63-64. In other words, the Calvin quote in question that is presented in English came from the French, and was taken from a French journal. Where did the French journal get it? Did the journal article use the primary source? These are the questions I would ask immediately. Without reading something in context, making pronouncements on what Calvin did or did not believe may not be the best thing to do. 

. . . These are the basic things I ask when looking into texts. It may indeed be the case that there was not any distortion from what Calvin originally said to the presentation from Thurian. A careful person though should make sure to examine the trail of evidence before making dogmatic conclusions.

Once again, for those not familiar with Swan's modus operandi (which I've observed and interacted with for over twelve years), he appears objective and without an ax to grind. To act with his usual stripes would not be to his purpose, so he "behaves." His insinuation is that Tim Staples is "careful" whereas the vast majority of Catholic apologists are not. And that is what Swan has been contending for years, with particular animus against my views of Martin Luther's Mariology. It's the "divide and conquer" routine. He's simply cynically using Tim Staples' views as a means to make the same anti-Catholic and anti-Catholic apologist point he always tries to make.

The fact remains that Swan can talk about "context" all he wants, and make out that even non-scholars must always read the original context in the original language (which he doesn't do himself) to decide anything at all. He's no scholar. The men I cite are scholars, and for some odd reason they conclude (over against mere blogger Swan) that Calvin believed in the perpetual virginity of Mary.

This is why scholars exist in the first place: to specialize in things that most of us have neither the ability nor the desire to specialize in. We consult them for the answers to such things. Geoffrey W. Bromiley (unlike Swan) is such a scholar,  and in the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (edited by himself: revised edition of 1994) he stated:
The post-partum or perpetual virginity concept is held by some Protestants and was held by many Reformers (e.g., Calvin in his sermon on Mt. 1:22-25) . . .

Somehow he thinks this sermon is solid evidence that Calvin believed in Mary's perpetual virginity.  Somehow another scholar like Thomas Henry Louis Parker, the very editor of Calvin's Commentaries, and author of some ten works about him, agrees with Bromiley. Why is that? Did they, too, take things out of context, or lack "care" with the primary sources? Did they jump to dogmatic conclusions, when they would be inclined by predisposition not do? I think not.

In such disputes about historical fact, one should consult the scholars who are most familiar with the person whose opinions are being discussed. Tim Staples is not a Calvin scholar and not an historian. Neither is James Swan. Neither am I. But I consult the scholars who are in a position to decide such things, whereas both Tim and Swan have (regarding this question) thus far ignored that relevant evidence, for some inexplicable reason.

Another internal argument based on Calvin's own commentaries can be produced. I alluded to it in on page 60 of my 2010 book, "The Catholic Mary": Quite Contrary to the Bible? In his Harmony of the Gospels (Vol. II, p. 65; "translated from the original Latin and collated with the author's French version, by William Pringle), Calvin is commenting on Luke 8:19 ("And his mother and his brethren came to him"), and  casually mentions that the parallel passages of "the other two Evangelists . . . represent Christ's mother and cousins as having come . . ." (my italics). The other two passages are the following (RSV):


Matthew 12:46 While he was still speaking to the people, behold, his mother and his brothers stood outside, asking to speak to him.
Mark 3:31 And his mother and his brothers came; and standing outside they sent to him and called him.

This is fascinating. Calvin is not being neutral or agnostic here at all, as to the specific meaning of adelphos in these instances. He has taken a definite position: it means "cousins." He believes that Jesus doesn't have siblings and that these instances of adelphos / adelphe / "brothers" / "brethren" do not prove otherwise (as countless contrary arguments against perpetual virginity falsely assume is the case). Calvin adopted the classic "cousins" theory as to the meaning of "Jesus' brothers" in Scripture (which is the usual view that Catholic commentators take).

This directly contradicts what Tim Staples claimed (above) about Calvin's views. He wrote:

Calvin correctly and sternly (in good Calvin fashion) teaches the "brothers" of the Lord may well be a Hebrew idiom representing "cousins" or some other extended relative. . . . But unfortunately, many Catholics have taken these two sections of Calvin's commentary out of context and claim it to mean he agreed with the Perpetual Virginity of Mary. But in fact, he never says that. He simply concludes these Scriptures to be silent on the matter. They prove neither yeah nor nay when it comes to Mary's perpetual virginity.

This has now been shown to be untrue, by both the 1562 sermon and the Harmony of the Gospels, at Luke 8:19, where Calvin definitely opts for the meaning of "cousins." Therefore, he does indeed "say that" in this other place in his corpus of Bible commentary. He's either taking the position of perpetual virginity or at the very least a view perfectly consistent with it (Jesus' described "brothers" were his cousins / He had no siblings). But what it clearly is not, is an agnostic or neutral position (at least regarding these uses of adelphos / adelphe), as Tim claims it is. Later, he wrote in comments (replying to me):

I believe Calvin rejected the Perpetual Virginity of Mary in his commentary on Matthew, Mark, and Luke and that I think many of us have taken this work out of context over the years. . . . the use of his commentary on Matthew, Mark, and Luke, specific to his comments on Matt. 13:55 and especially Matt. 1:25 is misguided, in my opinion.
When you consider that Calvin explicitly takes a position in between Helvidius and Jerome in his commentary on Matt. 1:25 and he says as much, he says the text does not conclude either way, and then he footnotes his own work in Matt. 1:25 when he comments on Matt. 13:55 that the "brothers of the Lord" could be a Hebrew idiom for some other extended relation, that seems to me to be more agnostic than declaratory of the Perpetual Virginity of Mary.

It's no longer agnostic, when Calvin interprets both the passages in Matthew and Mark (and by strong implication, also in Luke) as meaning "cousins." Again, I'm sure this data is part of the reasoning for why so many Protestant, and specifically Calvinist scholars believe that Calvin held to the perpetual virginity of Mary.

Nor is there any hint of "waffling" on Calvin's part, as far as I can tell, in all of this information, taken together. My take is a perfectly plausible and self-consistent explanation for all of it, in line with what the Calvin scholars also say: he believed in the perpetual virginity of Mary. He didn't "waffle" on it; he didn't appear to change his view over time, He simply wasn't quite as explicit as Luther and others were, on this question. It requires a little digging to ascertain his position (which we have done).

I also don't think that Calvin was "neutral" or "agnostic" regarding Matthew 1:25 and the notorious "until" argument of those who deny perpetual virginity. That text neither asserts nor denies perpetual virginity in and of itself. That far, we all agree, I think. What detractors of the doctrine do is insinuate that "until"  implies sexual activity on Mary's part after the birth of Jesus. Calvin firmly responds that it does no such thing. He shoots down this very common argument, made by Protestants all the time today. He responds precisely as a Catholic apologist would: arguing that the text doesn't in any fashion  prove what it is claimed that it supposedly proves.

To me, that is not an agnostic or uncommitted position at all. It is in favor of perpetual virginity (or if we want to nitpick) totally consistent with it, and inconsistent with one of the most common biblical arguments made against it. The "brothers" argument is the other most common (and thoroughly fallacious) argument made. Calvin points out that the word doesn't have to always mean "siblings." He's exactly right.

But if that sounds neutral or agnostic at his commentary on Matthew 13:55, it ain't when he comments on Luke 8:19 (and also on Mathew and Mark) and says that the meaning of "brothers" in the parallel passages is "cousins". He is no longer neutral or undecided or uncommitted or agnostic. He has taken a position. And it is exactly what we would expect him to argue, if indeed he holds to the perpetual virginity of Mary, as I believe he did.

I think Tim's argument collapses in all respects (sorry, Tim!). The 1562 sermon was one decisive blow. It explained that Calvin's objection to a vow of virginity did not mean he denied the perpetual virginity of Mary, as explained above. He blew that off by saying that Calvin's commentary is much more to be trusted than the sermon. Very well, then: if we (rightly or wrongly) want to give some "priority" to the Commentaries, now the comment on Luke 8:19 has to be dealt with, and it does not favor Tim's position. It has undermined the very essence of it (repeated over and over by Tim): that Calvin allegedly took no stand and merely discussed a range of possibilities.

In another instance of Calvin interpreting a "brother of Jesus" as a cousin, we have his commentary on Galatians 1:19 ("But I saw none of the other apostles except James the Lord's brother."):

Except James. Who this James was, deserves inquiry. Almost all the ancients are agreed that he was one of the disciples, whose surname was “Oblias” and “The Just,” and that he presided over the church at Jerusalem. (33) Yet others think that he was the son of Joseph by another wife, and others (which is more probable) that he was the cousin of Christ by the mother’s side: (34) but as he is here mentioned among the apostles, I do not hold that opinion. Nor is there any force in the defense offered by Jerome, that the word Apostle is sometimes applied to others besides the twelve; for the subject under consideration is the highest rank of apostleship, and we shall presently see that he was considered one of the chief pillars. (Galatians 2:9.) It appears to me, therefore, far more probable, that the person of whom he is speaking is the son of Alpheus. (35)
Footnote 35 elaborates:

This is fully consistent with the opinion commonly held, that Alpheus or Cleopas was the husband of the sister of Mary, the mother of our Lord, and consequently that James, the son of Alpheus, was our Lord's cousin-german.


All of this is perfectly consistent with, if not direct evidence of, Calvin's belief in the perpetual virginity of Mary.

Tim made another reply in the thread, consisting mostly of reiterations of what he has already said (which is never a good sign of the vigor and strength of an argument: it should be able to defend itself against critiques). I replied:

In fact, if you want to add to your case file, I would recommend Calvin's commentary on Gal. 1:19,

I already made that argument in comment #26 [right above his comment where he stated this]. But glad to see that you found that, too.

All of these are great for Catholic apologetics, but I don't believe they are definitive proof that Calvin believed in the PVBVM.

Again, you completely ignore the opinions of Calvin scholars: that he did believe in it. Why? Why do they think that? Why are you so sure that they are wrong? So you really think that a guy like Thomas Henry Lewis Parker is completely out to sea when he affirms this; that he is not familiar with all the relevant texts in Calvin, and his understanding of all that is inferior to yours? He is the author of:

Calvin: an Introduction to his Thought (Westminster John Knox Press, 1995).

John Calvin: A Biography (Westminster John Knox Press, 2007).

Oracles Of God: An Introduction To The Preaching Of John Calvin (Lutterworth Press, 2002).

Calvin’s Preaching (Westminster John Knox Press, 1992).

Editor of Calvin’s New Testament Commentaries (S.C.M. Press, 1971),

Editor of Calvin’s Old Testament Commentaries (Westminster John Knox Press, 1993)

Translator of Calvin’s Harmony of the Gospels (1995 Eerdmans edition).

He translated Calvin's commentaries on Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, and Colossians in 1965 and his Commentary on John (1959-61).

According to you, The Encyclopedia of the Reformed Faith is dead-wrong.  Donald G. Bloesch is wrong. Geoffrey W. Bromiley in the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia is wrong.

Derek W. H. Thomas, writing in A Theological Guide to Calvin's Institutes: Essays and Analysis (edited by David W. Hall & Peter A. Lillback; Presbyterian & Reformed Publishing [Calvin 500 series]: 2008, p. 212), makes a casual reference: "a perpetual virgin in Calvin's view!" He is a professor of systematic and pastoral theology at Reformed Theological Seminary.  His doctoral dissertation was devoted to Calvin's preaching on the book of Job. But he's wrong, too.

Timothy George, dean of Beeson Divinity School at Samford University, and executive editor for Christianity Today is wrong. Robert H. Stein, professor of New Testament interpretation at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary is dead-wrong. Theodore Beza, Calvin's successor, was wrong in asserting that Calvinists accepted the doctrine, in an attempted ecumenical council in 1561, during Calvin's lifetime.

You ignore all this. All these scholars are incompetent in their own field of expertise. I guess you think they have been quoting Calvin out-of-context, too, just as (if you are right) dozens of Catholic apologists have been doing (such as Jimmy Akin, Scott Hahn, Fr. Stravinskas, various EWTN articles, etc.). The Catholic Answers tract Mary: Ever Virgin agrees with my take:

Today most Protestants are unaware of these early beliefs regarding Mary’s virginity and the proper interpretation of "the brethren of the Lord." And yet, the Protestant Reformers themselves—Martin Luther, John Calvin, and Ulrich Zwingli—honored the perpetual virginity of Mary and recognized it as the teaching of the Bible, as have other, more modern Protestants.

So now that has to be revised, too?

Your argument (that you merely repeat here; nothing new) from Calvin's commentary on Luke1:34 was refuted by the sermon of 1562. Calvin thought Mary and Joseph didn't even live together. Thus, the "difficulty" you find compelling, vanishes.

You dismiss the sermon on inadequate grounds (therefore you make no attempt to counter-reply to that relevant additional consideration). How is it, then, that Geoffrey Bromiley, in the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, seems to think that it is strong evidence?: "The post-partum or perpetual virginity concept is held by some Protestants and was held by many Reformers (e.g., Calvin in his sermon on Mt. 1:22-25)".

You can ignore this relevant data from Calvin scholars a third or fourth time if you wish, but it won't help your case. Every doctoral dissertation reviews the literature, to see what the consensus of scholars on a particular question is. It's not considered the fallacy of "appeal to authority" when they do that. And it isn't, because that's not all they produce. They also make the argument in their dissertation, just as I am making various arguments from primary Calvin texts, but also noting the consensus of the Calvin scholars and professors of history, etc. who have examined the matter. This is not insignificant at all. Yet when it comes to what the scholarly experts say, you want to completely ignore and dismiss that.

You certainly don't have a consensus of scholars on that contention.

I'm the only one in this discussion who has actually cited scholars! I don't think you have cited a single one (I may have missed it, and it may be in your book; just not here). At best, some of them note that Calvin was less explicit than Luther (which  I agree with in the first place). Thus, David F. Wright says: "Calvin was likewise less clear-cut than Luther on Mary’s perpetual virginity but undoubtedly favored it."

That's not saying that the opinion is tentative, or that he waffled, or was agnostic, or only open to the possibility, or changed his mind in later years, etc. It says what it says: "undoubtedly favored it." Timothy George wrote: "affirmed by Luther, Zwingli, and Calvin during the Reformation, though Calvin was more agnostic about this belief than the other two reformers." Yep; I agree. He was less direct than Luther (most people are!), but he still, according to Dr. George,  "affirmed" it.

They're all looking at the same evidence that you and I have seen. This is the conclusion they come to. I think they're right, and that Catholic apologists have been right about this, and anti-Catholic polemicists like James Swan wrong.

I have no problem noting when Protestant "reformers" get things wrong, or when they change their minds later on. Hence, I modified my view of Luther's view of the Immaculate Conception, which he changed later on in life. I call his position "immaculate purification," because he no longer placed it at her conception. I changed my mind in part because of some arguments produced by anti-Catholics. Truth is truth, wherever it is found.

But I changed my mind, and wrote about it almost exactly four years ago. I wrote about the same thing in a recent article for Seton Magazine. So you're not the only Catholic apologist who can change their mind if the facts warrant it (lest the enemies of the faith like James Swan start saying that you are a "lone voice" in this regard). I've done it many times.

But as I mentioned at first, anti-Catholics like Swan are only going to exploit your article (he already has), since it says that almost all Catholic apologists have been wrong about this for years, and you become in effect the "whistleblower" for integrity and truth.

That's a shame; especially when I don't see that your argument succeeds.
Tim replied at length again in the thread. Here is my response:


I would love to go with these Protestant scholars you've cited. It would make my life easier. But how can I when I read the above that I've given to you?

By accepting the 1562 sermon as the most "definitive" word on the topic that we have (far as I can tell)!

An appeal to the authority of Calvinist scholars is good and interesting, but can you at least see why that would not be enough for me?

Technically, I'm not appealing merely to their authority, or saying, "believe it because these experts believe it, and no one can do otherwise." I understand logical fallacies very well, as the veteran of well over 700 online debates and apologetics arguments for 33 years now.

My challenge to you was a more subtle form of argument: "Why do you think these guys all seem to agree that Calvin held to the PVM, if in fact (and in your mind) it is so unclear and so fuzzy and indefinite?" Bias doesn't explain it, because their natural bias would be to oppose it, since they likely don't hold to it themselves (most of 'em; though I read that even Kuyper believed in it). You question the validity of the 1562 sermon, but Bromiley didn't, and made it his stated proof.

To me it's a curiosity: how could a guy that eminent in academia conclude that Calvin believed in the PVM, on the basis of something you will hardly even consider? The most plausible reason to me would be that he thinks it is genuine and does indeed reflect Calvin's thought, two years before his death. The scholar has to defend what he asserts to his peers, and will be hung out to dry if he can't. The stakes are a lot higher for them, in everything they argue.

I must say this as well. I am enjoying this back-and-forth quite a bit. Hopefully, all who are reading this will do the research and make up their own minds.

Yeah, it's fun, and that is the utility of dialogue. I've found new arguments that I think help my side, in being challenged to back it up more fully. And it looks like you have done the same from your side.

I really appreciate Dave's attention to detail in this matter. Would that all involved in the work of apologetics were as intense.

Thanks, and likewise.

And I have yet to hear a response for my concerns from these other statements.

I've said at least twice now that what Calvin said in his sermon, can account for that, I believe. He sees it as not a "regular" situation at all. He assumes that Joseph and Mary don't even live together. Therefore, there is no "monstrosity" of a man and a woman being under the same roof, and also chaste. They aren't together in the first place! If he wants to die on the hill of saying that without consummation there cannot possibly be a marriage, then Joesph and Mary weren't married at all in his eyes, though the Bible says they were, and it seems to me that he puts his opinion above even the Bible at that point.

But that's how I answer your whole line of argument about Calvin and the absolute necessity of sexual relations for a marriage, in his mind. You obviously disagree, but it is some kind of counter-reply, agree or no. So it's incorrect to say that I have not replied to that. I incorporate the sermon into what I think is a consistent interpretation that takes all of the data into account, whereas your method is to dismiss the sermon as inauthentic or of dubious overall relevance.

I would say: "utilize all the resources and connections available at Catholic Answers and find out more about this sermon; get the original, and find some guy who knows Latin or French (whatever the original is), so that all that can be settled." You guys have the money and 40 or so people. I have very little money and am just myself. :-)

I've searched and searched online and can't find out any more info. about it. If it goes down, I would agree that your case is relatively more plausible, though I still believe that he held to the PVM, from all the evidence, even without the input of the sermon. If it is determined to be absolutely authentic, then I think you have to deal directly with it, and explain how it doesn't prove that he held to the PVM.

And especially in the case of Matt. 1:25, Calvin explicitly says the text cannot be used to conclude either position.

I dealt with that earlier. Proponents of the "brothers" follow Helvidius and argue that the famous "until" here proves sexual relations. Calvin states firmly that it does not do so at all. To me, that is more so defending tradition, even if he also says or implies that no one can conclude either way based on that alone. But he does assert that the "pro" argument fails at this point -- he shoots it down and virtually insults those who make it -- , and that is quite significant itself, seeing that this is one of the centerpieces of their argument.

I think it all goes together. This argument; the fact that he states twice that adelphos meant "cousins" and not sibling-"brother"; the sermon, the use of "holy virgin," the testimony of Beza, the seeming consensus of Reformed scholars. It's a cumulative argument, with the sermon as the clincher, in my mind, but still strong and plausible even without it.

But (here is your strength) without what he says in the sermon, your argument from his views on marriage would be a lot more compelling, since they wouldn't be countered and overcome by what he stated in the sermon. So the sermon seems to be in the center of the whole debate, and we must learn more about it: if for no other reason than satisfaction of curiosity!

I acknowledge that your argument (at the end) is more compelling if the sermon is irrelevant. But what do you say if it is backed up by scholarship and shown to be absolutely authentic and late in his life as well?

Thanks for the friendly discussion!
 
* * * *

I then went searching for the sermon in question. I had an idea where it might be found, and wrote in the thread:

I think the sermon would likely be part of the Corpus Reformatorum, since volumes 29-87 are devoted to his works. It's in Latin (unless some stuff is French). We just have to figure out what volume it's in. Many volumes are available in Google Books. 

I started looking through online volumes; went to the index volume and found "Sermons on the Nativity" in Volume 46. I then wrote:


I'm almost certain I found it. Go to this link and download the pdf of vol. 46 ("Tome 46") of the Corpus Reformatorum. It's called "Sermon 22" on the Harmony of the Gospels, dealing with Matthew 1:22-25, and runs from pp. 259-272. It's in French.

I did that, and cut-and-pasted the entire sermon.  Google and Babylon translation pages revealed that it was indeed the sermon in question, based on a comparison to the Thurian version (above). I then posted it on a separate web page, and asked on Facebook if anyone could translate the last portion of it. Gregory Fast did so.

Now fortunately, we are incredibly blessed to have James Swan, an anti-Catholic blogger, who does not know French, as far as I know, to announce (on the CA thread) that he also ran across the sermon and that "The translation from Thurian's book is accurate." Whew! That settles that! Now we can all rest easy at night, knowing that a non-French speaker and non-credentialed blogger with a penchant for classifying professional Catholic apologists as "psychotic" -- has authoritatively proclaimed that the portion of a Calvin sermon conveyed by native French speaker Max Thurian, who was born in Geneva, the city of Calvin, is "accurate." Thurian's citation wasn't good enough for Swan. He had to make a judgment, himself, in all his wisdom, before he trusted it. Now he does, and so we can all go through the day with a spring in our step, knowing that Swan has confirmed a citation as authentic.

Swan is the one always harping on and on with his one-note tune about going to the original sources and doing "ad fontes" research, endlessly mocking Catholic apologists (or those who pass themselves off as such). He talks a good game (man, he sure does talk it!), but he doesn't follow his own advice. He only applies it selectively to Catholic apologists, whom he despises and detests. He wrote in the thread:

I have located the sermon, as well as the place in the text Thurian's quote is from. The translation from Thurian's book is accurate. . . . The sermon itself was not all that difficult to locate, and the place in the French text is easy to spot.

Uh huh. Is that so? I just found out about the sermon a few days ago, and already, last night, I located it in its primary source, with no help from Swan, who alluded to having found it in the thread, but didn't post the reference, as I did. Swan, however, has known about at least a portion of this sermon for over seven years. Why, then, has he not dug it up until now, since, as he said last night, that it "was not all that difficult to locate"? He goes on and on about going to the original sources, and takes almost eight years to find this one, amidst his eight or so articles about Calvin's Mariology?

On 17 January 2007, Swan wrote an article on his blog entitled, "Bibliographic Tedium on the Reformers and Perpetual Virginity." In it he rails (as he has 39,584 times) about how stupid Catholic apologists are. He cited a portion of this sermon that one of them posted on the anti-Catholic CARM discussion board:

Calvin: "There have been certain folk who have wished to suggest from this passage [Matt 1:25] that the Virgin Mary had other children than the Son of God, and that Joseph had then dwelt with her later; but what a folly this is!Sermon on Matthew 1:22-25, Published 1562

Alongside this were ostensible citations from Luther and Zwingli. Swan goes into deep detail about the sources of those, but ignores the Calvin quote. He then condescendingly lectures and insults in his usual boorish fashion:

Normally when I interact with someone on this topic, the person quoting this stuff becomes silent when ask for a little more bibliographic information. I do so to find out if the person putting forth the information has actually read Luther, Calvin, or Zwingli, or if the information is a cut-and-paste job taken from Catholic apologetic web sites. . . .
it’s the Internet, and anything goes. I strongly doubt I’ll get the bibliographic material I asked for. I only point out tedium like this to show that many times, people are putting forth information as if they’ve actually studied a subject, and made an informed decision. For most people though, it seems one makes a conclusion and then looks for information to support it. Such is the normal folly of the defenders of Rome.

Why, then, didn't Swan follow his own advice and show that the quote from Calvin's sermon was not authentic? It took him over seven years to do so, in the context of Tim Staples writing about the topic and my disagreement with him (and his attempted exploitation of same for purely polemical and slanderous purposes). All of a sudden, now Swan can figure out how to find the original primary source. If it "was not all that difficult to locate," why did it take him almost eight years? It took me two days. I guess that is one of the many profound differences between the Inimitable Mr. Swan and meself.

In his article, he mocks the Catholic who produced these quotes because he said it might be a couple of weeks to find further sources, because he was moving and his materials were in boxes (
"It will be [a] long couple of weeks. Now this takes guts, . . ."). Almost eight years later, Swan looks up the same source, and pronounces the Thurian portion of it (that the Catholic he chided, cited) as "accurate."

How could we all make it through the day without such a profoundly intelligent, wise, nuanced, always-thoughtful, always eminently fair and charitable and "scholarly" fellow brother in Christ, who thinks we are all in spiritual darkness and an inch away from hell, being lowly "Romanists?"

* * *

After posting the translation of a portion of the sermon onto the CA thread, I wrote:

So where does that leave the friendly discussion and debate now, Tim? Do you agree (first of all) that it is an "authentic" source, to be duly considered in the overall mix? Does it change anything? Does it make it more plausible for those of us who think Calvin accepted the PVM to believe it, even if you remain unpersuaded? Can we now move from a status of being classified as those who cite Calvin "out of context" in order to promulgate a "myth" to ones who hold a respectable position that can be solidly believed in good faith (equally reasonable and thoughtful folks honestly disagreeing), given the evidence we have produced?

Tim replied:

I think it leaves the discussion friendly, but perhaps it makes the title of my blog post all the more appropriate, but for a different reason. I stand corrected. I think this leaves no doubt that Calvin, at least at the point of writing this sermon, believe[d] in the Perpetual Virginity of Mary. I can now say definitively that Calvin waffled on this. And this is reasonable. The PVBVM was believed universally for 1,500 years in the Church. It was believed by men like St. Augustine, St. Jerome, and St. Bernard, all of whom Calvin respected. I will modify my post to include the "waffling" part. I appreciate the back-and-forth and all involved. We live and learn.

I'll take note of Tim's modifications of his post when he changes that. It's been a great discussion. Kudos to Tim Staples, Director of Apologetics and Evangelization at Catholic Answers, for being able to be partially persuaded of a different view. He now thinks Calvin "waffled" on the perpetual virginity of Mary and believed it at least in the last years of his life. I think Calvin believed it consistently all along, and that nothing in his statements that we have found is inconsistent with that interpretation. He merely became more explicit, so as to leave no room for doubt, in the late sermon.

And for these reasons (I submit), the numerous Protestant scholars and Calvin scholars I have cited take the position that he did indeed believe in the perpetual virginity of Mary. The ones who think he did not believe it are folks like, well . . . . noncredentialed anti-Catholic polemicist and blogger James Swan . . . . Not very impressive . . . .

* * *

Tim revised his initial post as follows:

This second myth is even more widespread, but I must qualify it. There can be no doubt that John Calvin, at least at some point in his career, believed in the Perpetual Virginity of Mary. But to place him on the same level of Luther, Zwingli and Wesley is misguided. It is not to paint the entire picture accurately. And this is why. . . .

My thanks to Dave Armstrong for pointing out to me something I did not know. There is a sermon that John Calvin preached on the Harmony of the Gospels (sermon 22) where he explicitly defends the PVBVM, but this occurred earlier in his career [?: my understanding is that it is from 1562: two years before his death]. So again, there is no doubt that Calvin at least earlier in his career believe[d] this Catholic dogma.

Swan continued to comment in the thread. I disputed one thing he stated:

If one really wanted to give Calvin's opinion on this issue, it is to simply say that Calvin did not think it correct to speculate. This isn't the answer polemicists want to hear, but it is letting Calvin be Calvin.

Nor is it the answer numerous Calvin scholars (including T. H. L. Parker, mentioned above [by Swan himself], who appears to be the leading Calvin scholar in the world, judging by his books) want to hear. They are letting Calvin be Calvin and they think he held to the PVM. Period. Some temper it a bit in terms of emphasis and explicitness (and I agree, as I have said; Calvin is not Luther), but they still say he held it. I could hardly find anyone who said what Tim believes about him. I'm open to hearing about those. I didn't find them myself, in some very intense and laborious searches.

That's not proof, of course, but it does prove that one can hold that Calvin believed in the PVM for non-"polemical" purposes. These guys think he did because they think he did. DUH! No other motives other than arriving at historical fact: just as are my motives and Tim's alike (despite being ignorant, lowly, Pelagian, half-pagan, unregenerate papists who don't know what the gospel is). Folks can honestly disagree on some things.

Calvin already did "speculate" about the issue at hand by stating that there were no second and third sons besides Jesus, and by interpreting adelphos / adelphe as "cousins" in at least two instances. That is taking a stand (of some sort), whereas most of those arguing against PVM today almost automatically use the tired, dumb "brothers" argument and also the "till" argument of Matthew 1:25 that Calvin also says proves not a whit of what they casually assume it proves.

To me, that's taking a stand on it. I don't think it's neutral or noncommittal at all. Technically, Jesus being an only child and Mary being a perpetual virgin are different, but it works out basically the same, in terms (specifically) of the arguments commonly used. One party says these "brothers" are siblings and the other denies it. Calvin is in the latter camp. Seems to me, anyway. And all these scholars I have cited somehow come to the same conclusion.

I remain the only person who has cited scholars that back up what my position is, as a non-scholar and non-historian. If someone thinks otherwise, then please produce the scholars that agree, and say that Calvin either denied or waffled on the PVM. I'm all for it. That would make the "agnostic" case stronger and more respectable. As it is now, I truly believe that my position is the most plausible to interpret in  harmonious fashion all of the data I am aware of.

"Why Bring Up the Marian Views of the Early Protestant Leaders At All? Of What Relevance is It?"

This is a question often raised by Protestant apologists, who misunderstand the reason why Catholics note these historical facts about the Protestant founders' beliefs and aspects of "distinctive Catholicism" that they retain.

Primarily, it is a matter of historical fact or absence of evidence for same. Hence I wrote in the thread at CA:

In this instance, no dogma is involved. It's purely a matter of historical fact: did Calvin believe in the PVM or not? Whether he did or not has nothing to do with Catholic belief. We do hold to it in any event, as dogma.

If one is interested in the history of theology, development of doctrine, and history of ideas (as I am, very much so), these sorts of questions are interesting, in and of themselves, wholly apart from apologetics or personal adherence one way or the other. Along these lines, it's fascinating to see how the earliest Protestants differ from present-day ones, which is a matter of internal Protestant development (or departure, as the case may be). These approaches are as much sociological as they are historical, but not directly related to apologetics or "partisanship."

 I also think, however, that such questions are tangentially or potentially also apologetical ones in some respects. If a Protestant founder like Luther or Calvin believes in the PVM and at the same time believes in sola Scriptura, then (assuming self-consistency) they obviously think they have biblical rationale to believe it, rather than merely Catholic authority or an argument from extrascriptural tradition

This then becomes a question in apologetics, insofar as a Protestant tries to claim that Catholics believe in it (as they habitually claim) only due to extrascriptural tradition. At that point we say that it is entirely possible to accept it within a sola Scriptura rule of faith, since Luther or Calvin or Zwingli or whoever, did the same. This undercuts the argument against such-and-such detested Catholic doctrines based on thinking they are "traditions of men" or corruptions. And that is undoubtedly apologetics and/or "polemics." Anti-Catholic polemicist James Swan understands this, since he wrote on his Boors All blog, on 10-15-14:
What I've found is that the alleged Mariology of the Reformers has been used by the defenders of Rome to show that the Reformers practiced sola scriptura and held to distinctly Roman doctrines.

Having gotten this right  (this is partially what we are attempting to do, per the above explanations), he then goes on to draw conclusions from that, that we do not use in our arguments in this respect. But kudos to Swan for getting part of his analysis right. He has consistently shown himself to be equally clueless about both Catholicism and Catholic apologetics over the dozen years I have observed his pathetic antics.

Anti-Catholic polemicist Steve Hays, writing on his Tribalblogue site on 10-13-14, demonstrates, on the other hand, that he doesn't get all of this at all (which is not an infrequent occurrence for him), in writing (after referring to the discussion with Tim Staples on the CA blog):

Suppose the Protestant Reformers agree with Rome on this issue. If that's an argument from authority in support of Rome, then by converse logic, when they disagree with Rome, that's an argument from authority in opposition to Rome. The argument from authority cuts both ways.

He's completely out to sea here, and about to drown. It never was an argument from "authority" in the first place (what non-Catholics believe has no bearing at all on what the Catholic Church teaches as binding doctrine: zero, zip, nada, zilch). He only thinks it is because he doesn't analyze Catholic thinking and apologetics deeply enough: not even as deeply as James Swan does (and that's setting the bar very low indeed!).

And he does not do so because it is a general rule that what one utterly despises, one doesn't accord enough respect to study and research and present accurately. Therefore, when such a person sets out to battle against the dreaded Beast that he detests so deeply, he inevitably ends up fighting a straw man. Hays has virtually made a "career" (insofar as one can say that at all about a mere blogger, as he is) out of such foolish activities.


Protestant apologists typically claim that such beliefs among their founders are mere unfortunate remnants of their former Catholic affiliation, which they haven't yet managed to shake off because they were still early in the game of Protestant history, and this is "understandable," etc., etc. This is the "spin" that indicates, I think, a definite measure of embarrassment that the heroes and founders of the Protestant Revolt continued to believe a fair amount of "Catholic stuff" that now your average Protestant "Tom, Dick, or Harry" immediately "knows" from Scripture Alone, are abominable false doctrines. Luther and Calvin hadn't yet arrived at that basic state of "Bible knowledge" (a ridiculous contention if there ever was one, once one sees how learned and "soaked in the Bible" both men were).

The "remnant" explanation is possible; however, it's an entirely subjective argument, very difficult to prove. It's a distinction without a difference. How would one prove that so-called "Reformer X" believed in the PVM because of the continuance of arbitrary Catholic tradition, or because he truly thought it was warranted from the Bible? I don't see any way to do it. So the claim is arbitrary and made based on wishful thinking and special pleading, rather than solid ascertainable fact. It's an interpretation superimposed on the facts as can be determined, to "explain away" what is thought to be anomalous or embarrassing or inconvenient in the course of anti-Catholic and/or pro-Protestant apologetics and polemics.


 In any event, all parties are responsible to try to determine the historical facts of any given matter, whichever way they turn out. I think  I've shown that I am trying my best to be objective as to these sorts of facts, by changing my mind about some aspects of Luther's opinion of the Immaculate Conception. He later placed this act of grace at the time of Jesus' conception rather than Mary's, so, accordingly, I have renamed his belief, "Immaculate Purification."

This showed that I am perfectly willing to go where the facts lead, even if the persuasive evidence was partially provided by anti-Catholic sources, as it was in that instance, because truth is truth wherever it is found. Tim Staples has also shown that he is willing to retract some things and modify his position, as more facts become available. That's what it's all about: we ought to go to wherever the truth leads us, as can best be determined by diligent study. It was that pursuit of truth that led both Tim and I into the Catholic Church, which entailed changing our minds on a host of matters.

[For further discussion, about this final section in particular, see my Facebook thread]