Mary’s Virginity vs. Marriage Sex -tmp(1 Cor 7:1-9)

“Mary and Joseph were strong and didn’t have to give in to
their human urges.” said my friend some time ago when we were talking about
Mary’s supposed perpetual virginity. What struck me about this thought was that
it drew an ethical line without meaning to. Is it right, though?

Take three couples: one of them is married with an active
sex-life, one of them is not and just as active and one of them are Mary and
Joseph. My friend’s idea would likely place the middle couple as “Sinners”
because they are unmarried and they shouldn’t be having sex anyway.
Justification for this bit is found all over Scripture but you can use {{Gal
5:19}} as summative support. 

My friend would look at the last couple as holy because
they’re Mary and Joseph, but if we simplify, it would be because they’re in a
monogamous married relationship where they can have sex but are stoically
putting up and not giving in to their sexual urges. There’s really no support
for this scripturally unless you take {{1 Cor 7:38}} and interpret virgin as
[virgin wife] instead of [virgin daughter].

That would put the first couple as not being as holy as the
last couple because they got married and gave into their sexual desires.

My friend could likely find some support in 1 {{Cor 7:1-2}}
where it states that it’s better for a man not to touch a woman but in the
chance of being immoral, it’s better to get married ({{1 Cor 7:8}}). So marriage
used here to stave off immorality (as in the second couple who would be
considered better off if they were married). So from this position it would
make the sexual desire an immoral thing that must be nipped in the bud or given
a justified breeding ground. Not that I’m supporting that idea, I’m just
stating where someone could argue a point.

Opposed to this position I would say that Paul immediately
deals with the actual marriage relationship in {{1 Cor 7:2-6}}. Point one (v1)
is that it’s good for a man not to touch a woman—not that it’s sinful but
because of immoralities (especially in that day and age where a visit to the
local temple whore was a matter of rote). No casual touching—this is serious
business: (point 2) each man is to have his own wife and each woman is to have
her own husband. And then, within that relationship (point 3) the husband must
fulfill his duty to his wife (not limited to but definitely includes the
sexual) and each wife must do likewise to her husband (again, not limited)

The authority over the wife’s body is not some stranger or
her father…but her husband. And the authority over the husband’s body is not
his own sexual urges or some stranger…but his wife. That would make the
marriage relationship in the sexual department aimed at the spouse’s
gratification instead of personal satisfaction or reciprocation. (Incidentally,
that really raises some questions about autoeroticism within
the marriage relationship.)

Paul underscores this point by stating that the husband and
wife is to stop depriving each other unless it’s by agreement. Here my friend
might shout out with an “aha!” But I would have him pause and look at what Paul
says after that: this deprivation is for a time of devotion to prayer and then
afterwards they are to come together again. It’s not a lifetime of separation,
but seasonal with the very practical understanding that one can be tempted during
this time of abstinence.

Now, if Mary and Joseph did remain separated in marriage
Paul would be telling them to stop depriving one another…unless they are
specifically doing this for a season with the full intent of coming together afterwards.
Scripturally this is exactly the case ({{Matt 1:24-25}}) that (a) Joseph took
Mary as his wife, (b) kept her a virgin (c) until she gave birth to a Son. That
sort of time bracketing tells me that Joseph and Mary agreed to it especially
in light of the important messages both of them personally received (Joseph
contextually {{Matt 1:22-24}}).

What should be explored is if there is anything specifically
wrong with those sexual desires within the marriage relationship. Jesus makes
it clear that it’s wrong to go off lusting after other women ({{Matt 5:28}})
and Paul makes it clear that a married man doesn’t even have a right over his
own body to go off and use it for anything but his wife. But when looking at
Scripture, how does God view the marriage relationship and sex within it?

A general survey (it’s way too long a study for one post) would
have God commanding sex between husband in wife in that they are to be fruitful
and multiply ({{Gen 1:28}}). Abraham and Sarah were told they were going to have
a son but Sarah couldn’t have kids ({{Gen 16}}). That didn’t stop them from
trying, her past her bearing years and his body as good as dead ({{Heb
11:7,8}}). Rachel and Jacob seem to be spending quite some time together, her
not being able to bear kids and all—so much so that Leah has to purchase
Jacob’s “services” ({{Gen 30:15-16}}). A reading of the book of Song of Solomon
would reveal things between a Bride and a Beloved that would make you blush
(Song 1:2, 4; 2:6; 4:9 the whole book really).

So in the end, regardless of who Mary was—Joseph was her
husband and as such he had say over her body and she had say over his. The two
were also under God’s command to humans to fruitfully multiply and I would take
that to mean trying for more than one. Lastly Scripture doesn’t speak of sex
within marriage as something bad or sinful but constantly looks at it in it’s
ideal—and conversely looks at what happens when someone messes with the ideal.

-r-

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