Before they came together by Jerome

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“Regarding the words of the Gospel: “Before they came together, she was found to be with child by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Mt 1: 18), [Helvidius] observes: “No one, when speaking about someone who is not going to eat lunch, says, ‘Before he ate lunch.’ “

I don’t know whether to laugh or cry. Should I accuse him of lack of experience or just carelessness? Suppose someone should say,“Before eating lunch at the harbor, I set sail for Africa.” Would this mean that his statement could not be valid unless he had to eat lunch at the harbor some day? Or if we wished to say, “The apostle Paul, before departing for Spain, was put in chains in Rome.” Or to say- which is quite likely- “Helvidius, before repenting, was struck down by death.”

Now does Paul have to go to Spain immediately upon his release? Must Helvidius repent after his death, even Scripture says, “In the underworld who will give you praise?” (Ps 6:5)? Although the preposition “before” often indicates a consequence, sometimes it merely shows what was being planned beforehand.
Therefore, it is not necessary that the things one was planning to do should really happen, should something else intervene to prevent them from happening. Thus, when the evangelist says, “Before they came together” ?, he means that the time of the wedding is near and that things have reached the point that she who had been considered engaged was about to become a wife.”

Jerome, De perpetua virginitate Mariae adversus Helvidium 4; PL 23, 195-6

Here, St Jerome argues against Helvidius’s doctrine. Helvidius believed that Virgin Mary was a virgin before giving birth to Jesus, then she became a wife and mother to Joesph and had other children. He proposed that St. Mary lived as a perfect virgin and an exemplary wife and mother.

If you are interested in more quotes on Virgin Mary, you can find them in Mary and the Fathers of the Church on Amazon in both in Kindle and paperback formats.


Gambero, L., 1999. Mary and the Fathers of the Church 1st ed. Translated by Buffer, T., San Francisco: Ignatius Press.

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