GEN-MEDIEVAL-L ArchivesArchiver > GEN-MEDIEVAL > 1999-03 > 0921436162
From: John Carmi Parsons <>
Subject: Re: Medieval Marriage
Date: Sun, 14 Mar 1999 13:29:22 -0500 (EST)
Whoa. Please don't shoot the messenger; I was only reporting what the
medieval Church taught, and as I indicated, those teachings (including
such doctrines as Mary being virgin during or after pregnancy, and the
question of Jesus' siblings) were often determined even when the Scriptures
obviously said otherwise. What Paul wrote is, in many cases, not 100%
consonant with what is actually stated in the synoptic gospels and the
Acts of the Apostles (usually nowadays attributed to the same author as
the gospel of Luke).
On Sun, 14 Mar 1999 wrote:
> In article <>,
> (John Carmi Parsons) wrote: Deleted
> In response to John Parsons: It's too bad the Church did not read it's own
> scripture. They would have only had to read the first page of the New
> Testament to avoid this conundrum. The last sentence of the first chapter of
> Matthew reads, "Then Joseph did as the messenger of the Lord had bidden him
> and took unto him his wife and knew her not till she had brought forth her
> firstborn son and he called his name Jesus."
True enough; but the other gospels, especially Luke, do imply more than this
about Mary's bodily integrity, and the Church, with its growing fondness for
monastic asceticism and virginity, found it more congenial to emphasize Luke
(or what the early Church Fathers thought Luke meant) than to argue over
whether Matthew or Luke carried greater authority. The Pauline horror of
sexual activity of any kind fed right into this.
> According to Jewish law or tradition at
> the time, Joseph, being already betrothed to Mary would have had to divorce
> her, even though they were not married nor had they consummated their
> marriage. Jesus was not and only child and Joseph's role not relegated to
> that of caretaker.
Joseph's role as caretaker was, again, an invention or explanation that
was thrashed out over many centuries. Initially he was represented in
Christian art as an elderly man who indeed might well have been married
before and hence provided Jesus with some putative half-siblings. But as
the Middle Ages drew on, religious art began to depict Joseph as a younger
and more vigorous man; the rationale (chiefly developed by Jean Gerson)
being that Joseph's supposed vow of celibacy would have greater impact if
it was believed to have been taken by a man still in the prime of life, not an
doddering old geezer. It is also accepted that Joseph's transformation into
an economically viable paterfamilias, still young and strong enough to protect
and support his family, is to be related to the emergence of a strong urban
middle class artisanate in the Later Middle Ages.
> Also Mary was not ever-virgin. This doctrine, along with
> some others came in very late, after 1000 AD, I think.
I'm honestly not sure just when her perpetual virginity became doctrine.
But emphatically she was believed from a very early date to have conceived
Jesus as a virgin.
> Consummation of a
> marriage is important I think mostly to the parties concerned. Proof of
> virginity is mentioned in Mosaic Law, to protect the woman primarily.
I'd have to disagree here. Most anthropologists and scholars of early or
traditional societies agree that the emphasis on a bride's virginity is
for the protection of the lineage into which she marries. Put at its very
bluntest, if she is found to be non-virgin on her wedding night, it is to
be assumed that her sexual misbehavior before marriage will continue after
marriage, so that she might bear children not truly of her husband's
> woman's father could offer proof of virginity of a bridegroom ravished his
> virgin and then claimed she was not a virgin. Proof of virginity is not a
> concern in the New Testament.
But the sexual purity of a young woman is. Cf. the incident in which one of
David's daughters is seduced, after which her brothers take revenge on those
who outraged her. Deflowering the maiden insulted and debased her whole
family, and the offense had to be punished.
> For the
> common man it is much more healthy to get your teaching direct from scripture
> or just rely on common sense.
But how many people in the Middle Ages were able to consult Scripture for
themselves? It was officially forbidden for anyone to possess the Bible in a
vernacular language, indeed for anyone to make such a translation, since the
Church reserved to itself the ability to interpret the Scriptures correctly,
and hence insisted that the book could only exist in Latin; if every Tom, Dick
and Harriet could read the Bible in his/her own tongue, a plethora of erroneous
interpretations might result. Hence most people, like it or not, were left
dependent upon their parish priest or other local religious authority.
> PS. I am looking for info on Parsons from
> Baden-Baden in my genealogy research, any connection or do you have
> background on the surname.
Sorry. We're all from Cornwall and Devon.