Matthew 1:25: And knew her not till she had brought forth her firstborn son: and he called his name JESUS.

Luke 12:59: I tell thee, thou shalt not depart thence, till thou hast paid the very last mite.

According to standard Protestant apologetics, the Koine Greek word for "till" (ἕως or εως depending on your manuscript of choice) doesn't necessarily mean that the event referred to ever happens. Therefore, they deny that the second verse above refers to Purgatory. Rather, it refers to Hell, where unrepentant sinners will suffer forever "till" an impossible outcome which will never come to pass. However, they use the other meaning of "till" to deny Mary's perpetual virginity.

Catholic apologists do the exact opposite. They deny that the first verse implies that Joseph eventually had relations with his wife. On the other hand, they insist that the second verse is proof of Purgatory, because those who die in God's grace will be there "till" their unconfessed venial sins are purged.

Meanwhile, Orthodox Christians believe in Mary's perpetual virginity, but not in Purgatory. Might they be on to something? Or, can Catholic and/or Protestant interpretations of scripture be reconciled?

  • Perhaps what you meant was that the presence of the adverb until does not necessarily imply cessation (Matthew 28:20).
    – Lucian
    Commented May 10, 2020 at 14:09
  • @Lucian You could say that, but I do not see how that would change my question. What are your thoughts on the matter?
    – K Man
    Commented May 10, 2020 at 14:29
  • The meaning of words varies with context.
    – Lucian
    Commented May 10, 2020 at 17:12

2 Answers 2


ἕως is a relative particle, used to express the point of time up to which an action goes. The certainty of whether or not the event actually happens is directed by the accompanying case.

  • (as a temporal conjunction)
    • (with indicative) of a fact in past time
    • (with subjunctive, relating to an uncertain event in the future)
    • (with optative, relating to an uncertain event in the past)
    • (with infinitive, only in late authors)
  • (with single words, mostly of adverbs of time)

Mat 1:25:

καὶ οὐκ ἐγίνωσκεν αὐτὴν ἕως οὗ ἔτεκεν υἱόν· καὶ ἐκάλεσεν τὸ ὄνομα αὐτοῦ Ἰησοῦν.

  • ἔτεκεν is Aorist Indicative Active -> of a fact in past time

Luke 12:59:

λέγω σοι, οὐ μὴ ἐξέλθῃς ἐκεῖθεν ἕως καὶ τὸ ἔσχατον λεπτὸν ἀποδῷς.

  • both ἐξέλθῃς and ἀποδῷς are Aorist Subjunctive Active -> relating to an uncertain event in the future

The grammar would dictate to interpret this as:

  • Joseph did have relations with his wife
  • release from purgatory is uncertain

To me, the "untils" are consistent. Lk 12:57-59 resembles Mt 18:15-20, and deals with, you could say, lower case "p" purgatory (absent prayers for the dead and other nonscripturalities). And 1:25 is consistent with the other Scripture that details our Lord Jesus' younger physical half-brothers and half-sisters. As far as reconciling the sects of Catholicism, Protestantism, and Orthodoxy in these "comparative trivialities," I don't think that's gonna happen. At least not until the "isms" themselves disappear in the heat of the last 3 1/2 years of this age when the "man of sin" reigns and wars against saints.

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