By Luke Lancaster
Some Protestants think that St. Joseph had sexual relations with his wife, Mary. This would make sense, considering that they were married. However, the Church has taught from the very beginning that Mary actually stayed a virgin her entire life. Meaning, she never had relations with Joseph! Many Protestants only look to Scripture instead of Tradition, though, and will claim that Scripture proves that Mary and Joseph had relations. Matthew 1:25 says,
"When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took his wife, but knew her not until she had borne a son; and he called his name Jesus."
This text is where Joseph is thinking about divorcing Mary, since she is pregnant of Somebody else, but an angel appears to Joseph, telling him to stay married to Mary, for she was pregnant of the Holy Spirit. The child to be born is Divine, and Joseph has been chosen to be His father. So, he still took his wife, but "knew" her not until she gave birth.
Many Protestants will say that this text shows that Joseph "knew" his wife Mary after she had given birth to Jesus. For to "know" somebody in Scripture typically means that the couple had relations. Now, the word “until” here is what this debate of Mary's perpetual virginity hinges on. Did Joseph avoid normal marital relations with his wife only before Jesus's birth, or did he avoid those relations even after Jesus's birth?
Catholics believe in the latter, for the Greek word for “until” simply means that there weren’t any relations between Mary and Joseph to the time Jesus was born, and says nothing of what happened after the fact. The verse is really just trying to emphasize the divine source for Mary’s virginal conception, that Joseph was not the reason for Jesus! Rather, it was the Holy Spirit.
Oftentimes, we speak the way Scripture does in this passage. For example, if a mother told her kids "don't tear up the house until I get home," that emphasized the children behaving well while the mother was gone. It does not mean that the kids should tear up the house after she returns!
Or consider Matt. 28:20, where Jesus says, “I am with you always until the end of the age.” Does that mean that Jesus will not be with the apostles after the end of the age (in Heaven)? No. In fact, Proof of this exact usage of the word “until” can also be shown in the Old Testament and surrounding literature of the New Testament (ex. Aseneth met Joseph & Apocalypse of Moses), so suffice it to say, this verse does not prove what the Protestant thinks it does.