Friday, October 28, 2005

Dialogue on Supposed Biblical Disproofs of the Perpetual Virginity of Mary: Round Two, Part III (vs. Ken Temple)

See the first dialogue, and Part I and Part II of this second round of the same discussion. Ken's words will be in green; my older words in brown.


As for Matthew 1:18: "came together" (RSV, KJV): this is the Greek, sunerchomai (Strong's word #4905). It, too, has a wide range of meaning, far beyond mere sexuality. Protestant linguist W.E. Vine (under "Come", "Came") states that it is "often translated by the verb to assemble." In fact, if we look at all the NT usages of this word, only one instance out of 32 is clearly sexual in meaning, in context (1 Corinthians 7:5 - so naturally you select that verse as your cross-reference, when there are 30 other instances which are clearly not sexual in nature (Mk 3:20, 6:33, 14:53, Lk 5:15, 23:55, Jn 11:33, 18:20, Acts 1:6,21, 2:6, 5:16, 9:39, 10:23,27,45, 11:12, 15:38, 16:13, 19:32, 21:16,22, 25:17, 28:17, 1 Cor 11:17,18,20,33,34, 14:23,26).

Dave, you shot yourself in the foot on this one. You proved my point. Word studies are only valid when the context validates the meaning. By choosing the one context that is sexual in nature, I did proper exegesis and word study analysis. You on the other had, cloud and obfuscate the issue by bringing in so many other usages of the word, but clearly do not mean that in those contexts.

Ken, Ken, Ken. What will I do with you!!!? Again, you have argued in a great big vicious circle: "In order to prove that this passage is sexual in nature, I'll choose the one other example out of 32 that is clearly sexual, so I can 'prove' what I already believe to be the case because it is so obvious for anyone to see that Mt 1:18 is a sexual context and content, and no one need argue that. Only those 'anti-sex' Catholics could miss it! By choosing the one context that was sexual in nature I confirmed what I already believed: that Mt 1:18 is also sexual, and this is proper exegesis; not reading my own preconceived bias into the passage at all."

The issue is not the word sunerchomai, but the context and how the word is used. You obviously agree that I Cor. 7:5 is sexual in nature. OK. Is not Matthew 1:18-25 also talking about lots of issues that have to do with marriage, sex, ( kept her a virgin until), etc., virginity, betrothal period, etc.

I don't see that the Virgin Birth is a "sexual" thing; rather, it is a Christological, incarnational thing. It is not sexual at all, in fact, because no one believes that the Holy Spirit literally had sex with Mary when she conceived. That would hardly be possible, since the Holy Spirit is immaterial, anyway.

Come on! This is very bad argumentation, because NOT one of these contexts you have cited is in the context of a husband and wife or betrothal or marriage. However, Matthew 1:18 -25 and I Cor. 7:5 are clearly in contexts of marriage, a man and a woman coming together, sexual issues, betrothal period, proving the virgin birth, etc. I am not basing my argumentation on the word “come together” (sunerchomai), but rather on the contexts of each, clearly in Matthew 1, Mary and Joseph is all about betrothal, virginity, before they came together, don’t be afraid to take her as your wife, “kept her a virgin”, until ( hoes hou) she gave birth to a Son”, etc. Come on, man! I did not make my case based on the word alone, but on context.

Yor method is still flawed, because you can't just find another sexual instance to prove that this instance must also be sexual. That is circular argument. But to see that the word is overwhelmingly used in a non-sexual way is support for the possibility that here, too, it might be intended non-sexually. That's much stronger than simply assuming it means one thing here that it usually doesn't mean elsewhere.

Another counter-argument is to list different translations which illustrate that the word sunerchomai here does not necessarily have a sexual connotation:

Phillips / New English Bible / REB: ". . . before their marriage . . ."

Today's English Version / Goodspeed / CEV: ". . . before they were married . . . "

Barclay: "before they became man and wife"

Jerusalem: ". . . before they came to live together . . ."

Williams: "before they had lived together"

NRSV / Beck: "before they lived together"

Neither "marriage" nor "living together" means "engaging in sexual relations." Granted, the latter usually is associated with the former, but they don't mean the same thing, which is at issue. If these translators had thought (as you do) that the latter was what the author (or context) intended or required, then clearly they wouldn't have translated as they did. But no less than eleven translations (only Jerusalem has a connection with Catholicism) render the word in this fashion: in a way which does not support your casual, rather foolishly triumphant conclusion.

Now, you may think that you know better than these Greek scholars do. For my part, I am happy to yield to their professional judgment, as shown in the very way they decided to translate the word sunerchomai in this instance. And the phrase "come together" itself does not necessarily mean sexuality (in English) either. It could, but it's not clear-cut. So there is no translation that I can find which expresses a sexual meaning beyond any reasonable or linguistic doubt.

You claim that 1 Corinthians 7:5 is a direct parallel: sex is being discussed there (I agree), so (you say) it must be here, too. But if we use the translation that the Bibles above use at Mt 1:18 over at 1 Cor 7:5, it becomes absurd; obviously, then, they think the two passages are essentially different. I'll use the RSV for the surrounding words in the passage and then add in the translations from the other versions at Mt 1:18:

Do not refuse one another except perhaps by agreement for a season, that you may devote yourselves to prayer; but then get married again, lest Satan tempt you through lack of self-control.

Do not refuse one another except perhaps by agreement for a season, that you may devote yourselves to prayer; but then become man and wife again, lest Satan tempt you through lack of self-control.

Do not refuse one another except perhaps by agreement for a season, that you may devote yourselves to prayer; but then live together again, lest Satan tempt you through lack of self-control.

I rest my case.

You are amazing that you write so much, and I commend you for the volume and all.

Thank you. It has taken me a large chunk of a day each for the four installments.

The massive amounts and time it takes to read your material is overwhelming.

You're not exactly word-challenged yourself! LOL I come home to my computer after my post was up for a day and find 70 comments, most of them yours, and considerably lengthy.

But the challenge gives me energy, as I think I remember you writing in one of your articles.

Indeed; I'm the same way. In fact, I thank you profusely for your critique (I mean that; I'm not being merely cute or sarcastic) because it was the precipitating cause for this now quite-meaty and in-depth treatment of the subject, which I had never examined in anywhere near this depth before (and likely wouldn't have, but for the challenge). It's very educational and exciting for me personally, and I hope that it provides food for thought for my Christian readers of all stripes.

None of this was meant as personal, it is all doctrinal and historical and written because I care.


Hegessipus clearly distinquishes between brother and cousin and since Simon, Simeon, Symon are common Jewish names, obviously Jesus has a half-brother named Simon, and a cousin named Simon, two different people.

That is not what I found, in Eusebius (in the last installment). Hegesippus makes it very clear that Symeon (or Simon) is Jesus' first cousin:

Symeon, son of the Clopas mentioned in the gospel narrative [note: Jn 19:25; perhaps Lk 24:18], was a fit person to occupy the throne of the Jerusalem see. He was, so it is said, a cousin of the Saviour, for Hegesippus tells us that Clopas was Joseph's brother.

When James the Righteous had suffered martyrdom like the Lord and for the same reason, Symeon the son of his uncle Clopas was appointed bishop. He being a cousin of the Lord, it was the universal demand that he should be the second.

. . . Mary, wife of the Clopas whose son he was" and "the son of the Lord's uncle, the aforesaid Simon son of Clopas . . .

Cross-referencing makes this the same person, not two different ones, and it is the same Simon who is twice listed as the Lord's "brother".

Just like all the different Marys and Jacobs ( James) and Johns and Judes in the NT.

Yep, there are lots of repeated names, but it's not like we have no way to make distinctions and to largely determine who is who. My Protestant references pretty much all agreed as to the identity of these four brothers, and the scenario I offered is perfectly coherent and in perfect harmony with the biblical data that we have.

Anyway, you make some good points about inferences, etc. This is where we agree that there is Doctrinal Development, the question is, what is legitimate DD and what is not legitimate. DD=Doctrinal Developement.

Yes; I have made many and elaborate arguments concerning that, as you know. It's one of my specialties, and my favorite theological topic.

I think the Protestant case is stronger -- good exegesis is staying in the parameters of language, context, historical background, grammar, Greek and Hebrew, etc.

Where have I done otherwise in my replies? I've utilized all these things and strictly Protestant reference sources. And when one does this, the Catholic case for the perpetual virginity of Mary (even utilizing mostly the Bible only - in this case with the aid of a little bit of early tradition) is shown to be, I think, much stronger than its denial.

Protestant doctrine stays within paramenters of the language and grammar and history and good exegesis, whereas RCC theology relies too much on speculation and imagination and actually adding things to the text.

Again, I appeal to our readers to judge who has been doing this in our dialogue. I've cited all kinds of references; I don't recall you using any (though you seem to be basically regurgitating polemical material you have found from Eric Svendsen and perhaps also Jason Engwer). I've done extensive cross-referencing and linguistic analysis, with the aid of the appropriate books (none Catholic). You have been speculating quite a bit, by supposing that you see sex in several places where it either isn't there at all, or not necessarily there (so there is room for doubt). I've played your game all the way on this, and have examined your arguments and found them severely wanting and not even coherent, let alone compelling or persuasive. The "RCC does this and that and hates sex and worships idols and makes Mary a goddess and it is so outrageous" card won't work with me, because I have argued on the basis of common premises (as is my habitual method). You have to argue the case from the Bible and logic with me, and I submit (with all due respect and even affection) that you are not succeeding very well in your task.

The RCC inferences are more of stretches - like the PVM, papal infallibility, sinlessness of Mary, immaculate conception, indulgences, NT priests as clergy with ex opere operato power in their words to call forth grace.

I've backed all of these things up in my papers and books with significant amounts of biblical evidences and support (though not all explicit). I've even found much biblical support for Mary Mediatrix. Indulgences are expressly biblical: right from a concrete example from St. Paul. Some doctrines, like the Assumption, are very difficult to back up with specific Scripture, yet that doctrine, like all Catholic doctrines, is not contrary to anything in Scripture. All the Assumption means is that Mary was immediately resurrected when she departed this earthly life. I don't find that implausible at all, considering who she was, and given that all the elect will one day be resurrected. All it is, is a speeding-up of that which will happen to every person who makes it to heaven by virtue of God's grace, and His grace alone.

And all the Immaculate Conception is (speaking in a certain limited "minimalistic" sense to make a point), is a return to the human race before it fell. Mary was simply made by grace that which we all could and would have been, had we not fallen. And we will all be sinless again if we enter heaven. I can scarcely imagine any sensible a priori objection to that. One may argue that it is not factual or actual, but I don't see how one can deny that God has the power to make the mother of Jesus sinless from conception by a sheer act of unmerited grace. Nor, I believe, is there any compelling a priori objection to the perpetual virginity of Mary. That being the case, instead we hear a bunch of hooey and hogwash about it supposedly being a "Gnostic" doctrine or "anti-sex" and so forth . . .

The Protestant position was around in the canonical scriptures, both Tertullian and Helvidius just happen to have their eyes opened or open on that issue, even if they were wrong on other issues.

According to The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (edited by James Orr, Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1939, volume 1, p. 518-520, "Brethren of the Lord":

This view [denial of the PVM] is not the most ancient. It has been traced to Tertullian [c. 160-c.225], and has been more fully developed by Belvidius, an
obscure writer of the 4th century.

Two other views have been advocated with much learning and earnestness. The earlier, which seems to have been prevalent in the first three centuries and is supported by Origen, Eusebius, Gregory of Nyssa and Ambrose, Epiphanius being
its chief advocate, regards these "brethren" as the children of Joseph by a former marriage, and Mary as his second wife.

. . . Another view, first propounded by Jerome when a very young man, in antagonizing Belvidius, but afterward qualified by its author, was followed by Augustine, the Roman Catholic writers generally, and carried over into Protestantism at the Reformation, and accepted, even though not urged, by Luther, Chemnitz, Bengel, etc., understands the word "brother" in the general sense of "kinsman," and interprets it here as equivalent to "cousin." According to this, these brethren were actually blood-relatives of Jesus, and not of Joseph. They were the children of Alphaeus, otherwise known as Clopas (Jn 19:25), and the sister of Mary. This Mary, in Mt 27:56, is described as "the mother of James and Joses," and in Mk 15:40, "the mother of James the less and of Joses, and Salome." This theory as completely developed points to the three names, James, Judas and Simon found both in the lists of the apostles and of the "brethren," and argues that it would be a remarkable coincidence if they referred to different persons, and the two sisters, both named Mary, had found the very same names for their sons.

[At the end of the article it is stated that J.B. Lightfoot, the great biblical scholar, accepted the Epiphanian view - the "brethren" as sons of Joseph from a former marriage]

It is NOT 19th Century enlightenment.

Strictly speaking, no, because all errors can usually be traced back to ancient heresies. But that is when it took hold among Protestants, along with the detrimental influence of theological liberalism and higher criticism.

Thanks again for a very stimulating and enjoyable discussion. This wraps up Round Two. If you counter-reply to my Round Two arguments, I will respond in kind and put up a third dialogue.

No comments: