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Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. V:
On Marriage and Concupiscence.: Chapter 12

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Chapter 12 [XI.]—Marriage Does Not Cancel a Mutual Vow of Continence; There Was True Wedlock Between Mary and Joseph; In What Way Joseph Was the Father of Christ.

But God forbid that the nuptial bond should be regarded as broken between those who have by mutual consent agreed to observe a perpetual abstinence from the use of carnal concupiscence. Nay, it will be only a firmer one, whereby they have exchanged pledges together, which will have to be kept by an especial endearment and concord,—not by the voluptuous links of bodies, but by the voluntary affections of souls. For it was not deceitfully that the angel said to Joseph: “Fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife.” 2095 She is called his wife because of her first troth of betrothal, although he had had no carnal knowledge of her, nor was destined to have. The designation of wife was neither destroyed nor made untrue, where there never had been, nor was meant to be, any carnal connection. That virgin wife was rather a holier and more wonderful joy to her husband because of her very pregnancy without man, with disparity as to the child that was born, without disparity in the faith they cherished. And because of this conjugal fidelity they are both deservedly called “parents” 2096 of Christ (not only she as His mother, but he as His father, as being her husband), both having been such in mind and purpose, though not in the flesh. But while the one was His father in purpose only, and the other His mother in the flesh also, they were both of them, for all that, only the parents of His humility, not of His sublimity; of His weakness, not of His divinity. p. 269 For the Gospel does not lie, in which one reads, “Both His father and His mother marvelled at those things which were spoken about Him;” 2097 and in another passage, “Now His parents went to Jerusalem every year;” 2098 and again a little afterwards, “His mother said unto Him, Son, why hast Thou thus dealt with us? Behold, Thy father and I have sought Thee sorrowing.” 2099 In order, however, that He might show them that He had a Father besides them, who begat Him without a mother, He said to them in answer: “How is it that ye sought me? Wist ye not that I must be about my Father’s business?” 2100 Furthermore, lest He should be thought to have repudiated them as His parents by what He had just said, the evangelist at once added: “And they understood not the saying which He spake unto them; and He went down with them, and came to Nazareth, and was subject unto them.” 2101 Subject to whom but His parents? And who was the subject but Jesus Christ, “who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God”? 2102 And wherefore subject to them,who were far beneath the form of God, except that “He emptied Himself, and took upon Him the form of a servant,” 2103 —the form in which His parents lived? Now, since she bore Him without his engendering, they could not surely have both been His parents, of that form of a servant, if they had not been conjugally united, though without carnal connection. Accordingly the genealogical series (although both parents of Christ are mentioned together in the succession) 2104 had to be extended, as it is in fact, 2105 down rather to Joseph’s name, that no wrong might be done, in the case of this marriage, to the male, and indeed the stronger sex, while at the same time there was nothing detrimental to truth, since Joseph, no less than Mary, was of the seed of David, 2106 of whom it was foretold that Christ should come.



Matt. i. 20.


Luke ii. 41.


Luke ii. 33. So the Vulgate as well as the best Greek texts, instead of the “And Joseph and His mother marvelled,” etc., of the common text.


Luke ii. 41.


Luke ii. 48.


Luke ii. 49.


Luke 2:50, 51.


Phil. ii. 6.


Phil. ii. 7.


Matt. i. 16.


Compare Luke 3:23, Matt. 1:16.


Luke i. 27.

Next: Chapter 13

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