St. Jerome—Against Helvidius: On the Perpetual Virginity of Mary
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“The axe of the Gospel must now be laid at the roots of the barren tree and the tree must be delivered to the flames with its unfruitful leaves, so that he who has never learned to speak might learn at length to hold his tongue.”
Throughout his life, St. Jerome was never far from controversy. Infamously irascible, Jerome often found himself in fierce disagreement with his contemporaries—and he’d let them know it, too. Helvidius was one such hapless victim of Jerome’s righteous scorn.
Despite little training in eloquence or theology, Helvidius had gained some notoriety as an opponent of monasticism and of virginity as a way of life. This led Helvidius also to deny the perpetual virginity of Mary. Helvidius’ book on the subject became a major source of scandal in Rome. And this Jerome could not abide.
In his response, Jerome maintains three propositions against Helvidius: that Joseph was considered the husband of Mary as he was considered the father of Jesus, more by repute than by biological fact; that the “brethren” of the Lord referenced in the Gospels were Jesus’ cousins, not his brothers; and that virginity is indeed a higher state in life than the married state.
And, of course, Jerome’s characteristically caustic manner against his opponents is on full display...
Way of the Fathers, Ep. 37—Jerome, the Curmudgeonly Commentator: https://www.catholicculture.org/commentary/37jerome-curmudgeonly-commentator/
Dogmatic and Polemical Works, by St. Jerome: https://verbum.com/product/120412/dogmatic-and-polemical-works
Against Helvidius full text at CatholicCulture.org: https://www.catholicculture.org/culture/library/fathers/view.cfm?recnum=2314
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