Monday, May 31, 2010

St. Thomas and the Argument for the Perpetual Virginity of Mary

In a previous post we showed that Aquinas made a typological argument for the perpetual virginity of the Blessed Virgin in his commentary on the Angelic Salutation. This was part of a response to a Protestant’s claim that the use of typologies contradicted St. Thomas’ views concerning the usefulness of the different senses of Scripture: clearly it does not, since he made use of them himself.

But some folks might be tempted to suggest that his use of typology in the commentary doesn’t contradict the Protestant’s argument, because (so it might be said) Aquinas isn’t making an argument in the commentary; these folks might say that the commentary on the angelic salutation is devotional, and not actually an argument. In this post we shall see that St. Thomas used typological arguments in the Summa Theologiae, which is clearly not a devotional work.

In ST III Q28 A3 he addresses the question “Whether Christ’s Mother Remained a Virgin after His Birth?” In the sed contra he writes:

It is written (Ezekiel 44:2): “This gate shall be shut, it shall not be opened, and no man shall pass through it; because the Lord the God of Israel hath entered in by it.” Expounding these words, Augustine says in a sermon (De Annunt. Dom. iii): “What means this closed gate in the House of the Lord, except that Mary is to be ever inviolate? What does it mean that ‘no man shall pass through it,’ save that Joseph shall not know her? And what is this—‘The Lord alone enters in and goeth out by it’—except that the Holy Ghost shall impregnate her, and that the Lord of angels shall be born of her? And what means this—‘it shall be shut for evermore’—but that Mary is a virgin before His Birth, a virgin in His Birth, and a virgin after His Birth?”

St. Thomas approves Augustine’s typological interpretation of Ezekiel 44:2 as referring to Mary, and uses it as part of his argument in defense of her perpetual virginity. From this we see that the use of typology in argument is not contrary to St. Thomas’ statement that only the literal sense should be used for that purpose; this is so because God is the author of Scripture, and consequently a single passage may have more than one literal sense (as he stated in I Q1 A10).

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