Monday, October 24, 2005

Replies to Protestants' Alleged Biblical Disproofs of the Perpetual Virginity of Mary (vs. Ken Temple)

Condensed from earlier discussion threads starting here and here. For the entire background context of all remarks, be sure to consult those. Ken Temple's words will be in green; "Grubb"'s will be in blue. I've excluded discussion of Mary's vow of perpetual virginity (which Catholics believe occurred before the Annunciation) because it has been dealt with at length by others in the above threads.

My section on Mary's perpetual virginity, from my first book, A Biblical Defense of Catholicism, is also included in its entirety in the second discussion above. I shall not repeat the arguments I made there in the present paper, but rather, respond specifically to alleged disproofs. In other words, I am counter-replying here, rather than presenting a positive biblical case (which I did in my book, though many Protestants won't find that compelling because the biblical proofs for this belief / doctrine are mostly implicit (and Protestants wrongheadedly, unbiblically demand explicit biblical proofs for everything).

See also my related paper: Luther, Calvin, and Other Early Protestants on the Perpetual Virginity of Mary.

**********

Protestant Evangelicals actually honor her MORE by not believing in her perpetual virginity.

I don't see how. After all, if there is any motif in the Bible one way or the other, it would be towards celibacy, because virtually all of the apostles (with the exception of St. Peter), including St. Paul were lifelong celibates, and so was our Lord Jesus, and many of the prophets (e.g., John the Baptist, the last and greatest prophet, according to Jesus). Therefore, it is not implausible at all to have a predisposition (all things being equal) towards belief that Mary was, also. How Protestants are supposedly honoring her more by denying this, is a mystery to me. She either was or she wasn't a perpetual virgin, and we have the Bible and Christian Tradition to help us find an answer to that question. Once we answer it, then we "honor" Mary by believing the truth about her, wherever that lies, not falsehood.


Matthew 12:46-50 and John 7:3-5 with Psalm 69:8 and Matthew 1:18 "before they came together" (further bolstered with I Cor. 7:5) and 1:25 "until" "heos hou" are just too clear and too perspicuous.

[written several days later] . . . "before they came together" is too clear to understand it as anything other than, "before they came together" in a normal loving, sexual relationship in marriage. Connect with Matthew 1:25 and I Cor. 7:5, and it becomes even more clear and easily seen.

They are not at all. All this shows is that your bias against the doctrine leads you to extravagant claims, unable to be sustained under scrutiny. All Matthew 12:46-50 gives us is the English translation brothers (Greek, adelphos), which has been explained many many times as having a very wide latitude (as indeed it has in English also). Thus, the case can't be made simply by citing use of it. One has to go beyond that and prove that the usage was specifically for blood brothers or siblings. And that is very difficult to do, for reasons I have explained in my book and in the discussions above. Both Luther and Calvin agree with this:

Luther:

I am inclined to agree with those who declare that 'brothers' really mean 'cousins' here, for Holy Writ and the Jews always call cousins brothers.

(Sermons on John, chaps. 1-4 [1539] )

Calvin:

Helvidius displayed excessive ignorance in concluding that Mary must have had many sons, because Christ's 'brothers' are sometimes mentioned.

(Harmony of Matthew, Mark & Luke, sec. 39 [Geneva, 1562], vol. 2 / From Calvin's Commentaries, translated by William Pringle, Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1949, 215; on Matthew 13:55)

Under the word 'brethren' the Hebrews include all cousins and other relations, whatever may be the degree of affinity.

(Pringle, ibid., vol. I, 283 / Commentary on John, [7:3] )


John 7:3-5 is simply another instance of the same thing. It is no proof. As for the cross-reference to Psalm 69:8, you yourself provide the disproof of your own alleged "disproof", so as to save me the trouble:

Psalm 69:8 is interesting, “I have become estranged from my brothers, and an alien to my mother’s sons.” . . . it is not unreasonable to see Psalm 69:8 as clear evidence that Jesus had brothers from His mother.

Only verse 5, obviously is not about the Messiah to come, but David himself, who confesses his sin and folly and wrongs. But many of the Messianic Psalms are like this, a mixture of David’s life with a double fulfillment of some of the Psalm in the Messiah to come. We see this in Isaiah 7:14, which is about Jesus the Messiah, but 7:15-18 is not. Also, 2 Samuel 7:14a "I will be a father to him, and he will be a son to Me" ( Quoted in Heb. 1:5), but part b, "when he commits iniquity, I will correct him with the rod of men . . ." is NOT about Messiah, who was sinless.

Exactly! Since you admit the common theme of "double application" of many prophecies (even messianic ones - thanks for that very interesting and informative aside), you have soundly refuted your own argument here, and indeed shown that it is not "too clear" and "too perspeicuous," as you would like to believe. You think it is "clear evidence" that Jesus had blood brothers, yet you can't prove that 69:8 may simply be another instance of application to David (the author) rather than to Jesus. Is this not obvious? Are you so biased by your rush to deny the perpetual virginity of Mary that you can't see it?

69:5 is not the only verse not "obviously" about Jesus. There is also 69:29 (I am using RSV), in which David writes: "let thy salvation, O God, set me on high!" Jesus doesn't need to be saved, and this was also orthodox Protestant doctrine, the last time I checked. One might also argue that Jesus was never in "despair" (69:20), though that is a much more subtle and involved argument.

Matthew 1:18 "before they came together" (with a supposed cross-reference of I Corinthians 7:5) and Matthew 1:25 prove (or I should say, disprove) nothing, either. The linguistics do not require any necessary implication that sexual relations occurred after Joseph and Mary were married. Again, Luther and Calvin recognized this. Why couldn't they see that the texts were as "clear" as you make out?:

Luther:

Scripture does not say or indicate that she later lost her virginity . . .

When Matthew [1:25] says that Joseph did not know Mary carnally until she had brought forth her son, it does not follow that he knew her subsequently; on the contrary, it means that he never did know her . . . This babble . . . is without justification . . . he has neither noticed nor paid any attention to either Scripture or the common idiom.

(That Jesus Christ was Born a Jew [1523] )
Calvin:

The inference he [Helvidius] drew from it was, that Mary remained a virgin no longer than till her first birth, and that afterwards she had other children by her husband . . . No just and well-grounded inference can be drawn from these words . . . as to what took place after the birth of Christ. He is called 'first-born'; but it is for the sole purpose of informing us that he was born of a virgin . . . What took place afterwards the historian does not inform us . . . No man will obstinately keep up the argument, except from an extreme fondness for disputation.

(In Pringle, ibid., vol. I, 107; on Matthew 1:25)

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).

As for the alleged connection with 1 Corinthians 7:5, where St. Paul urges married couples to sexually abstain only temporarily; this is not an absolute, since there are other instances in Scripture where voluntary marital separation was not condemned. For example, we have St. Peter and, by implication, other apostles, who separated from their wives and families for the sake of ministry, and this was not only not condemned; it was encouraged by our Lord Jesus. St. Peter said to Jesus,"Lo, we have left everything and followed you" (Matt 19:27). We know that Peter was married (e.g., reference to his mother-in-law: Mk 1:30, Lk 4:38). Indeed, this is often an argument used by Protestants to war against the Catholic celibacy requirement for priests.

Yet Jesus thought it was perfectly alright for him to separate from his wife for some time, in order to commit himself fully to ministry. Thus He answers:

And every one who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or
children or lands, for my name's sake, will receive a hundredfold, and inherit eternal life. (Mt 19:29; cf. Mk 10:30)
The reference in Matthew is especially interesting because the prior context had to do with Jesus' strict teaching on divorce, where He had just taught that married couples were "one flesh" (19:5-6), and that marriage was indissoluble (19:6). But this doesn't rule out voluntary separation for the sake of the kingdom. Now, if Peter could do that for the Kingdom, why is it unthinkable that Mary and Joseph could do so, also, since in their case, they were raising God incarnate; thus it was an even more extraordinary exception to the rule than Peter's case was?

Perhaps the Protestant objector to such things will reply that Jeus didn't mention a "wife" in the above passage or the parallel in Mark? Well, He does in Luke:

And Peter said, "Lo, we have left our homes and followed you." And he said to them, "Truly, I say to you, there is no man who has left house or wife or brothers or parents or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, who will not receive manifold more in this time, and in the age to come eternal life.

(Luke 18:28-30; cf. 5:11: "they left everything and followed him")

So much for the objection that no married couple could ever possibly be voluntarily celibate (as a supposed "disproof" of the perpetual virginity of Mary). Jesus goes beyond mere celibacy and actually sanctions separation in extraordinary instances. If you want something "clear", this passage will certainly suffice. John Calvin recognizes its plain import:

. . . though their wealth was not magnificent, they subsisted at home . . . we know that men of humble condition, who have been accustomed to a quiet and modest life, reckon it a greater hardship to be torn from their wives and children than those who are led by ambition . . . Certainly, if some reward had not been reserved for the disciples, it would have been foolish in them to have changed their course of life.

(Harmony of the Synoptic Gospels, commenting on Mt 19:27, Mk 10:28, Lk 18:28 and 22:28)

You (Ken Temple) fail to acknowledge this plain, clear, simple, divinely-sanctioned "exception clause" in Scripture, by writing:

Yes, Celibacy is better for those that are unmarried and have the gift of singleness. ( I Corinthians 7:7, 35, 38, Matthew 19:12 ) But since Mary and Joseph were indeed married ( Matthew 1:18-25, Luke 1-2), that was not her gift, neither her calling. It is not better for the married.

As so often is the case in Protestant counter-Catholic polemics, the large context of overall Scripture and all that it teaches, has been neglected for partisan Protestant purposes. Protestants don't like this doctrine, so they search for something in Scripture to contradict it (since that is their system: sola Scriptura). As we have seen so far (and will continue to see), it's not nearly that simple of a task to do so, and I dare say that my Protestant brethren who believe in this late-breaking heresy, have outright failed to provide any compelling biblical rationale for disbelieving in the apostolic, biblical doctrine under present consideration.

At this juncture in the original discussion, I commented:

Just curious: if Jesus supposedly having siblings is so obvious, how come virtually no Church Father, and most Protestants throughout history (till about the last 100 years and theological liberalism), and the Orthodox can't see this obvious "biblical" truth?

Don't you find that odd? Or is "tradition" so blinding that it can easily overcome even the most "obvious" of biblical truths? So a guy like, e.g., Augustine or Irenaeus or Athanasius is utterly blinded by "tradition" and can't manage to raise himself up to a level where you are at, regarding biblical exegesis and hermeneutics?

Excuse me if I find that ultimately a bit arrogant. There has to be some place for the history of interpretation and doctrine, beyond a breezy dismissal of all that overwhelming historical consensus among Christians, complete with the usual cliches.

You even mock folks like Luther and Calvin in so doing, as if they can't even be taken seriously on their own terms, when they dissent from what is present Protestant orthodoxy on this, that, or the other (contraception is another similar scenario).

It's yet another case where, if things were supposedly so clear and perspicuous in Scripture, why was there an overwhelming consensus in one direction, whereas now we have seen the light and it is "clear" that the exact opposite is true from what folks thought through all those blinded 1800 years before theological liberalism shone the way bright to biblical truth?

I may take on all your supposed "proof texts." I've provided quite a few of my own for the opposite viewpoint, in my first book and in other places.

I guess the idea of Mary's perpetual virginity did eventually overshadow the clarity of Scripture.
Note that this is a bald assertion, which proves nothing; whereas I have provided solid biblical arguments, involving consideration of context, linguistics, and cross-referencing (not merely texts given, as if they all prove what Ken thinks they prove, with no further agrument needed). Thus, he didn't really reply to my (I think, important and quite relevant) questions.

Ken then went on to examine various non-biblical ancient writings and the views of sex of some Fathers, but I am restricting myself to biblical argumentation here, because that allows a concentration and focus on something which we all agree is authoritative and binding on all Christians, as God's revelation and the God-breathed, inspired written Word of God.

It [celibacy] certainly has its place ( I Cor. 7 and Matthew 19), as I mentioned, but it, along with other good works, life of poverty, etc., eventually over-shadow the gospel of free grace and justification by faith.

I don't see how. If this were true, then Jesus couldn't possibly have sanctioned leaving of one's wife and family (in any case) for the sake of the kingdom. Granted, this is applicable only in extraordinary cases (I have no plans on leaving my family - and don't expect God to ask me to -, and I am quite committed to my work), but then, of course, the Holy Family is the most extraordinary, exceptional family situation imaginable. Ken urged:

The church must always go back and devote themselves to the apostles teaching, found in the God-breathed scriptures. (Acts 2:42-46, 2 Peter, Jude, 2 Tim. 3:16-17).

That's exactly what I'm doing! That's precisely why I have chosen to engage in the argument over biblical hermeneutics, as related to the perpetual virginity of Mary, rather than follow Ken's merry-go-round of proof texts among the Fathers (I did that with St. Athanasius and his alleged belief in sola Scriptura, and got nowhere, though I think readers learned how weak Ken's assertions were, when challenged). He needs to defend his biblical "proof texts" since that is where his ultimate objection is derived from (or so he thinks). Ken triumphantly asserts:

Svendsen's book and argument of heos hou has not been refuted at all. He makes perfect sense, and we are enriched by all of his Greek research, and the Perpetual virginity doctrine was pretty much proven wrong by sound exegesis and good contextual and historical work. I read some of the rebuttals of Robert Sungenis and Gerry Matatics. They failed to over-come the overwhelming crushing weight of biblical, historical, Greek, and patristic evidence against this doctrine.

. . . God could have easily caused Matthew or Luke to give us the details about some kind of perpetual virginity or vow, but we get nothing about this in the sacred, God-breathed scriptures. It is just a stretch of mind beyond the breaking point to squeeze those Marian doctrines and dogmas out of any text in the Bible.

Very well, then; if his case is so strong, I eagerly look forward to his direct replies to my explicitly biblical arguments above.

3. Revelation 12:2 is clear enough that the pain was physical pain of labor. "And in the womb, being pregnant, she was crying out, being in labor and being in great pain to give birth." "being in labor" and "being in great pain" are participles. "to give birth" is an infinitive of purpose or result. The two participles go together explaining why she was crying out and are connected to the result or end goal of the pain and labor "in order to give birth" or "so that she gave birth".

This is another instance of a passage having a double application (similar to Psalm 69; discussed earlier); in this instance to both Mary and the nation of Israel. It is also a highly allegorical passage, like much of the book of Revelation. So it is not even wise, let alone supposedly "clear", to draw such a conclusion, based on this passage alone. Many Protestant exegetes deny that the passage is about Mary at all, yet you casually assume it is, and then make an unwarranted assumption as to a point of interpretation. First things first. I agree that it is about Mary; but it is also about Israel, and is of such a nature that hyper-literal interpretation is likely to be problematic.

About John 19:26-27 and Jesus giving his mother Mary to John to take care of:

Actually, the understanding that at the time of the crucifixion, Jesus' brothers are not believers, and that is the reason why Jesus commissions John to take care of her makes perfect sense. They were not there at the cross.

John 7:5 "For not even His brothers were believing in Him."

Mark 3:21 "And when His own kinsmen (literally, 'ones from the side of him") heard about this, they went out to lay hold of Him, for they said, "He is out of His mind."

Apparently, the brothers thought Mary and the other disciples out of their minds also.

This is circular argument, which merely assumes that "brothers" and "kinsmen" mean blood brothers, or siblings. But that is simply not true. As this argument is built upon another fallacious, non-established one, it is of no worth at all. It's a house of cards, or a castle built upon sand.

In Matthew 12:46-50, it is obvious that these are real physical brothers, just as Mary is His real physical Mother, but discipleship is based on faith and obedience. Jesus is saying the spiritual brothers and mothers and sisters, thus an even closer relationship, is what really counts. "For whoever does the will of My Father in heaven is My brother and sister and mother."

It's not at all, I'm afraid (Ken again foolishly assumes what he is trying to prove), based on linguistics and cross-referencing, which I examined in the earlier discussion, citing the section in my book.

Paul said, "I have suffered the loss of all things for the sake of Christ." ( Phil. 3:7-14) Maybe Paul was married and his wife left him, because of his faith. We cannot be dogmatic about that, but there are hints that he was.

I've never heard that. It may be true, but I think I would have heard something about it by now if it were, so I would be interested in some hard evidence. The thing we do know for sure is that Peter was married, and seems to have voluntarily decided with his wife to separate for the sake of ministry (I think this has been the traditional Catholic interpretation). Perhaps, however, she was dead, and he was a widower. The way Jesus responded to Peter's question about the disciples having left their homes (especially in Luke 18:28-30, where he actually refers to the permissible leaving of wives), suggests that if Peter was not married at that time, other disciples were, which, for my purposes, is just as supportive of my argument. Even if none of them were, Jesus still laid down a principle whereby such a thing was not only permissible, and possible, but even highly commendable, if done for the right purposes, based on a divine call to ministry or service.

Why is it so important that Mary be a perpetual virgin?

Well, for one thing, the doctrine (which we believe to be simply true, so that "importance" is a non sequitur in a large sense) preserves the doctrine of the Virgin Birth, and hence, indirectly, the Incarnation.

If Mary had become sexually active and had had other children, then everyone would know she had given birth by natural means, and the potential would be there to deny that Jesus' birth was supernatural.

By her remaining a virgin her entire life, this supports the Virgin Birth as the extraordinary miracle that it was. As always, everything about the Blessed Virgin Mary has to do with lifting up our Lord Jesus Christ, not herself.

Beyond that, we believe mainly that it was appropriate or fitting for God the Son to not have brothers and sisters. Talk about sibling rivalry! Would you want to have God for a brother? Or imagine being in the same womb which had held the Incarnate God. It's too weird and strange to even envision.

This was understood by virtually all Christians until later Protestants, due to the influence of Enlightenment liberalism and the usual obsession with sexual "freedom" and denigration of celibacy, started denying it. It seems to be the sort of thing that one either "gets" and intuitively understands or not.

Here's my attempted objective analysis. There's one passage in the Bible that clearly indicates Jesus had siblings. Since "mothers" and "brothers" didn't always mean literal parent and siblings, this passage may not mean what it appears to mean. Aside from this passage, there are no passages that specifically acknowledge Jesus as having or not having siblings. Any other passage used must be inferred to mean either Mary did or didn't have other children.

If I've missed something let me know (I'm not being facetious when I say that); but in light of that analysis, it seems that the most logical choice would be that Matt 12:46-50 is literal and that Mary had other children.

If you are basing your case on the use of the word translated "brothers" in English (adelphos) then it is exceedingly weak on linguistic grounds alone, and virtually refuted by cross-referencing, as shown above [the material posted from my book, starting here].

Beyond that, you are operating on this principle of sola Scriptura, which holds (generally-speaking) that everything should be explicit in the Bible. But where is that principle itself taught in Scripture?

In other words, we are not self-contradictory in believing a strong Tradition which was the consensus until 100-200 years or so ago, among all Christians, and which has significant implicit scriptural support.

But you are quite inconsistent to believe a purported biblical principle which in fact has no biblical support at all; then making that the basis upon which you will judge all doctrine, and then denying the perpetual virginity of Mary. You use the non-biblical (even anti-biblical) man-made tradition of sola Scriptura to deny that which has more biblical indication than your principle does: by which you judge ALL doctrine.

Not believing in the Perpetual Virginity of Mary is based on clear Scripture.

I haven't seen this "clear" Scripture yet. I'm waiting. None of the passages proclaimed as such has been able to be proven to be compelling and of no other possible meaning.

The focus of Matthew and Luke is to be on Jesus. All of the emphasis on PVM takes away from the focus on Chirst and author's intention.

This is a false dichotomy and circular reasoning. Catholic Mariology is inevitably Christocentric.

The honor and hyper-dulia and prayers to Mary developed later in history take glory and concentration and emphasis and focus and even worship away from Christ.

Again, this merely assumes what it is trying to prove: a trait becoming distressingly common in Ken's vigorous, generally reasonable argumentation.

Psalm 69:8 is very persuasive that this is also about Messiah, because so much of this Pslam is Messiaic. "I have become estranged from my brothers, And an alien to my mother's sons."

Now we're back to repeating ourselves again. If the argument didn't succeed the first time, it won't upon repetition. :-) You refuted yourself in this one, so we need not take it up again.

John 2:12 says His mother, and brothers, and disciples were there with Him. Matthew and Luke and Mark knew and wrote Greek. They could have used sungenis ( kinsmen) or the word for cousin in Colossians 4:10 if the "brothers and sisters" were cousins. (anepsios)

This is one thing you don't seem to understand: adelphos is used because it is the closest Greek equivalent of the Hebrew ach. (precisely because it can also be used for both siblings and more distant relatives; even for countrymen, etc.). Hebrew and Aramaic didn't have words for "cousin." So the Jews used ach in this wider sense of "brotherhood," just as the English word "brother" has a wide latitude also (even though English does have a term, cousin, too).

For example, some Protestant groups call almost everyone else in the group "brother" or "sister"; Catholics use the terms for monks and nuns; we even refer to Protestants and Orthodox as "separated brethren" and call them "brothers in Christ." Black people sometimes call other black persons their "brothers"; those in the military will refer to their comrades as "brothers", as in the Spielberg series, Band of Brothers. In that sense, it is irrelevant to the matter at hand, whether Greek had such terms, which could have been used.

To illustrate this, let me suggest a hypothetical parallel to the English language. Imagine that English, too, had no word for "cousin" and that "brother" was routinely used for cousins or uncles or other relatives, so that when I referred to someone who was my literal first cousin, I had to use "brother":


"My brother: the son of my father's sister, is coming to town to visit next week."

"My brother Jeremiah has the same grandparents as I do, but we have different parents."

Etc.

Now, if I were to translate this into Greek, would I use the Greek word reserved for "cousin" or would I use the one which can mean both sibling and cousin? I would use the latter, because it is the equivalent of how the word being translated is used in that culture. Thus, one must understand a bit about the cultural usage of language, and how it is understood in that environment. More articulate Protestants will stress the high importance of both the original languages and the culture of the particular biblical writer being studied, yet when they war against some Catholic doctrine they don't like, they will often forget this principle and throw it out the window.

Because the Hebrews didn't have a word for cousin, this is why, if one looks in Strong's Concordance under "cousin," there are no Old Testament references whatsoever. Strong lists only Luke 1:36 and 1:58 (Greek, suggenes or sungenis; Strong's word #4773), both referring to Elizabeth and her cousin Mary and other "kinsfolk" (as RSV translates 1:58). Now, it is true, that sungenis and its cognate sungenia do appear in the NT 15 times (sungenia: Lk 1:61, Acts 7:3,14; sungenis: Mk 6:4, Lk 1:36,58, 2:44, 14:12, 21:16, Jn 18:26, Acts 10:24, Rom 9:3, 16:7,11,21). They are usually translated kinsmen, kinsfolk, or kindred in the KJV, and usually in a sense wider than cousin: more so referring to the entire nation of Hebrews.

And this makes sense because the wider, more remote, non-relative usage would have been more likely to have been translated into the Greek term which referred more to those relations than to closer ones. In the case of Jesus' brothers, repeated context suggests that these were actually members of his larger, extended (as opposed to nuclear) family; thus the more common adelphos, or "brothers" was used, because this was how the terminology was used in Hebrew culture (indeed, often in Semitic or Middle Eastern culture, among both Jews and Arabs to this day). That was how ach was used in the Old Testament, so that the KJV never uses "cousin" a single time in the Old Testament.

Furthermore, it is mere speculation on my part, but I notice that in all but two of the occurrences of sungenis and sungenia, the authors were either Luke or Paul. Luke was a Greek Gentile. Paul, though Jewish, was raised in the very cosmopolitan, culturally Greek town of Tarsus. We would expect both of them to use language relatively more influenced by Greek culture, over against Semitic / Hebrew culture. But none of this overcomes the factor of how "brother" was used among the Hebrews.

The task of a translator is to reproduce the usage of the original languages, as faithfully as possible, into another language. Therefore, adelphos, which can mean a wide variety of things, is unanimously translated as "brother" in the KJV, 246 times. The cognate adelphe is translated only "sister," 24 times. These examples include many instances of using "brother" in a context which is clearly not referring to siblings, just as in the case with Jesus and His "brothers". I'll even use the RSV to prove this, lest I be accused of relying on antiquated English translations (which would be a non sequitur since English in 1611 certainly had the word cousin, too). This use was also utilized by Paul and Luke (who also used sungenis / cousin):

Acts 7:23 "his brethren, the sons of Israel" (cf. 7;25-26)

Hebrews 7:5 "the people, that is, from their brethren, though these also are descended from Abraham."

Acts 3:17 "And now, brethren . . . " (identified as "Men of Israel" in 3:12, during the same address) (cf. 3:22)

Romans 9:3 "my brethren, my kinsmen by race."

Luke 10:29 "who is my neighbor?" [Gk. adelphos] (cf. 10:36, which is actually a different word, plesion: Strong's word #4139, thus showing that adelphos can be a synonym in some contexts to other Greek words meaning mostly unrelated "countrymen" or "neighbors")

Matthew 7:3 "Why do you see the speck that is in your brother's eye, . . .?"

Revelation 22:9 "I am a fellow servant with you and your brethren the prophets, . . ."

Romans 1:13 "I want you to know, brethren . . ." (addressing the entire Church at Rome: 1:7; cf. simliar usage in 1 Thess 1:4)

I gave many other examples in my treatment from my book. This entire attempted linguistic argument from the mere use of the word "brothers" in English translations falls flat; it's as simple as that. Ken argues that Paul uses "cousin" (anepsios) in Colossians 4:10 (as in the RSV; interestingly the KJV translates this passage "sister's son," which is more like Semitic terminology). Yes, he does, but he also frequently uses brother / brethren / adelphos in the way that it could quite possibly be used regarding Jesus "brothers" - in the wider sense. This is the only place anepsios appears in Scripture, whereas adelphos and its cognates are used over 272 times. Obviously, that word was seen to be closer to Hebrew usage, than these others, which appear only sixteen times total. So adelphos was used with regard to Jesus "brothers" because the Hebrew word being translated was likely ach or something similar in meaning.

"Could" the writers of Scripture have used these other words? Yes, of course, but they chose to use another one, and I have shown that that word does not at all necessitate a meaning of blood brother. Therefore, these alleged "defeaters" of the perpetual virginity of Mary have themselves been defeated. It may not be an absolute victory, but then neither is the case against perpetual virginity, on these grounds; that's the point.

The evidence of Scripture is not undeniably compelling against the doctrine, as is being made out by Ken. I readily grant that it is not absolutely compelling in favor of it, either, at least not be exaggerated Protestant standards, guided by the mythical, unbiblical, arbitrary principle of sola Scriptura. This is not, however, a problem for Catholics, because we deny sola Scriptura and incorporate authoritative Tradition into our understanding of the truth of falsity of doctrines. In other words, Protestants cannot successfully make a case against perpetual virginity by their criteria and rule of faith, but Catholics assuredly can by our criteria of what is true or not true. The criteria themselves - for both sides - can be questioned in their own right, but of course that is another huge discussion.

Matthew 1:18, 25 and Luke 1:34-35 and Matthew 12:46-50 and 13:55-58 are all much clearer than the Jerome/Augustine view on this issue.

Nothing compelling can be prven from these passages, as has been shown above and elsewhere.

All of the RCC dogmas and emphasis on Mary are un-biblical and take away from glory and honor and worship to the Tri-une God alone.

Obligatory Protestant polemical shot, based on the falsehood of these beliefs being "unbiblical" . . . . .

Muslims and others think we believe like the Mormons because of these bad and unbiblical emphases.

I should think you would be more interested in agreeing with Augustine and Jerome than with Muslims, if you must be so concerned about what others think.

The statues and prayers and exalting Mary too much are just not good, no matter how careful and qualified you get with trying to explain the doctrine.

Thank you for your insight. I suppose, then, you would have been along with the raving hordes of Carlstadt and the early Calvinists, going around smashing these "idols." Even Luther didn't countenance that.

The PVM doctrine gives the impression that sex is dirty, even though you say not.

I see. I'm reluctant to give this trash the dignity of a reply, but if I were to turn the tables, I could just as easily argue that your emphasis against sanctified virginity might give an impression that celibacy is somehow unbiblical and "dirty" and that those who do this are somehow oddballs and misfits and warped. You said not, too, but since our denying this doesn't seem to matter to you, I'll return the favor (merely rhetorically).

The Catholic Church alone (needless to say) has preserved whole and entire the simultaneous biblical teaching about celibacy and undistracted devotion to the Lord (1 Corinthians 7 and Matthew 19) and the sacred goodness of marriage, since we have the tradition of celibate priesthood and monks and nuns, while you have admitted that Protestants do no. Why not? You say we ovweremphasize celibacy. Well, is that not better than wiping it out and having virtually no practice of it among clergy and other ministry callings?

We value marriage so highly that we regard it as a sacrament (even a sacrament among Protestants, like baptism, and unlike the Eucharist). We take such a high view of marriage that we allow no divorce at all. So don't give me this nonsense that we are "against sex." The things that are really "against [moral, proper] sex" are divorce and contraception, which foster fornication and adultery and unnatural, unproductive, unfulfilling, meaningless sex (not to mention directly leading to the abortion and anti-child mentalities). Catholic teaching doesn't allow either, whereas most Protestants now allow both. One is to follow their calling into either marriage or celibacy (1 cor 7 again).

You mention lots of verses talking about "brothers" meaning "brothers in Christ" or just generally other humans, with common interest; but in several contexts, the context makes it clear that the writers of Scripture are referring to Jesus' real flesh and blood brothers ( half-brothers, since Jesus had no human father).

Hardly . . . this is merely wishful thinking on your part.

John 2:12-22 is instructive. In verse 12, it says "His mother, and His brothers, and His disciples" are there, thus distinguishing between "brothers" in the flesh, and spiritual brothers . Here "His brothers" cannot mean, "brothers in Christ".

I agree, according to the pattern of these kinds of passages. But neither does "brothers" here have to mean "siblings." It can just as easily mean "relatives" or "cousins," etc. You can't make a mountain out of a molehill just because you see the word "brothers" and don't seem to fully understand how wide its meanings can be. You are unable to prove your case.

It cannot mean cousins either because he could have used the Greek word for cousin here, as shown by its use in Colossians 4:10 "anepsios".

See, this is where your polemical, wishful-thinking mental processes become utterly illogical. This is a fallacy. What you claim doesn't follow from the language itself. I think I've already demonstrated why, by my lengthy section above on these other words for "couisin" and their relationship to adelphos, but I'll reiterate briefly again. Here is how your thinking is fallacious:


1. Ken: John couldn't possibly have meant "cousins" because he could have used anepsios instead and chose not to. Therefore, adelphos here must mean siblings.

2. Yet Paul often uses brothers in a larger sense, and fails to use anepsios or sungenis in those same instances. John does the same at, e.g., John 20:17.

3. Ken sez that these instances "cannot" mean something other than siblings, either, because Paul and John could have used other words.

4. But other parallel examples do in fact clearly mean something other than siblings!

5. Therefore, it is not true that this instance requires them to mean something (that it "cannot" be otherwise), when they have used the same word elsewhere (and have not used another word they "could" have used) and have meant something other than "sibling."


Thus around and around we go in a vicious logical contradiction. I'm sorry to inform you that your thinking here cannot even pass elementary logical muster (let alone more complicated exegetical and hemeneutical muster).

It cannot mean "relative" , because he could have easily used the word that Luke uses for Elizabeth in Luke 1:36. (sungenis)

The same logical fallacies and circular logic just explained apply again here.

Also, in Matthew 12:46 ff and the parallels in Mark 3:31-35 and Luke 8:19-21, they are putting "mother and brothers" and "sisters" in Matthew 13:55-56 and Mark 6:3, it is obvious that by putting Mary His mother together with brothers and sisters, all the writers mean real, physical mothers and brothers,

It's not obvious at all. You miss the point over and over. One must determine what this word adelphos means, or can mean. You can't just assume that it means something because that will fit into your preconceived theology (which is eisegesis). These texts simply don't require the meaning of siblings to be properly understood. All they have to refer to is Jesus' larger family, so that he refers to his family as "my mother and my brothers," just as an only child today in America might stand at a family reunion and say "here is my mother and father and brothers and sisters."

That particular usage is not as common in American English today (though still used in some specific contexts), but it was for the ancient Hebrews. Just because we talk a certain way today does not mean that we can impose that onto the biblical text. This is precisely why we need to strudy both Hebrew culture and have some rudimentary knowledge of the original languages (I get that through various lexicons and concordances, which allow the non-Greek speaking person to have some decent understanding of at least the range and latitude of definitions of the original words used).

because later Jesus' point about spiritual brothers and sisters and spiritual mothers are the ones who do the will of God and obey the Father's will, shows He is saying, "yes, they are my real Mother, and brothers, and sisters, PHYSICALLY"; but if they do not believe in Me or do the will of My Father, the physical relationship is not as important as the spiritual one.

It is indeed a comparison of family life to the spiritual family of the Church, but it doesn't necessitate blood brothers anymore than this is required when an only child says: "whoever is a fellow Christian is my brother or sister." We do that, in fact, in our terminology of "godfather." A very good friend of ours, who is our first son's godfather is regularly referred to by my entire family as "Uncle." Everyone knows he is not actually that, but this is the larger usage of family terminology, even in English, similar to how the ancient Jews and Middle Eastern culture now and then use them. It's a comparison of the understood nature of family life to the "family" of the Church. Cousins are still "PHYSICALLY" related to us; just not as closely as siblings are, so the analogy need not collapse simply because Jesus was an only child. He still has an extended family. Neither side of the argument can be sustained or proven by these texts alone. It takes much more than that.

The weight of the plain meaning of the Bible in Greek is clear.

It is not, as I keep showing. And I believe that anyone who is truy open to following the biblical data where it leads can see that. On the other hand, I can see how a sola Scriptura approach might lend itself to the competing interpretation, if looking at Scripture with a "first glance" method, and not the more in-depth examination that I am trying to foster. But these texts were not so "clear" to Cavin, who was no ignorant, uninformed exegete (like him or not). He casually assumes that Jesus had no siblings, and that this refers to cousins:

. . . they represent Christ's mother and cousins as having come . . .

(Harmony of the Synoptic Gospels; commenting on Mt 12:46-50, Mk 3:31-35, Lk 8:19-21, 11:27-28)
I believe what the Scripture says, and if it says Mary was a perpetual virgin, I'll trust it and yell it from the highest roof top. Conversely, if this is a man-made idea that someone has found scripture that sort of supports it, I want nothing to do with it. Don't you guys agree?

Yes; we want nothing to do with "man-made" tradition, if it involves dogma. Jesus condemned that, and so do we. We believe that all our doctrines are biblical and passed down to us by the apostles, and that they developed, too. Scripture doesn't come right out and say that Mary was a perpetual virgin; I agree. But nothing in Scripture contradicts that notion, and (to say the same thing another way) nothing in the perpetual virginity doctrine contradicts Scripture. Moreover, no Scripture can be produced that absolutely, undeniably, compellingly defeats the perpetual virginity. That's been the purpose of this paper: to illustrate how all these alleged disproofs utterly fail in their purpose.

As I have noted, it is also true that nothing in Scripture indicates that all doctrines have to be explicit and absolutely clear at first glance in Scripture. Sola Scriptura and perspicuity are both untrue and unbiblical. Scripture does, however, have a lot of information about an authoritative Church and Tradition, and apostolic succession.

The Bible never teaches faith alone, in those bald terms (nor, I would contend, does it teach it in the overall context of soteriology, when all the relevant passages are also brougyht into consideration). Twice it bluntly, clearly denies faith alone, however (in James).

The Bible never lists its own books. Therefore, to determine what the Bible is in the first place, a Christian must rely on authoritative Christian tradition. There is no way out of it.

So in three absolutely central, key areas (sola Scriptura, sola fide, canon of Scripture), the Protestant cannot produce explicit biblical proof (and they even freely admit this with regard to the canon). We can, for our part, produce many (I think) fairly clear biblical disproofs of same. Yet they firmly believe in these things anyway, even claiming that two of them are "pillars of Protestantism (or the Reformation)".

Yet when it comes to some Catholic doctrine that they disbelieve in, all of a sudden the standards and criteria for belief and epistemology are much higher than those which they set for themselves. This is foolish, illogical, and unfair, and I will readily point it out whenever it occurs. Most Protestants seem utterly aware of these double standards, since they are operating like fish in water, unaware in many cases of their own methodologies, traditions, and presuppositions.

In your eyes, is it heresy not to believe this doctrine? . . .

Yes, since it was defined by the same early Church Councils that even many Protestants claim were so noble and "scriptural," etc. We believe that it is a legitimate part of Christian tradition, passed down. There was a reason why this was believed. The disciples and others who knew Jesus would have known whether He had siblings or not! This isn't rocket science. But the tradition was passed down that he did not. I see no reason to doubt that, because it is a very straightforward, simple thing. Nothing in Scripture contradicts such an understanding. Even Luther and Calvin agree. So I accept it in faith. And those who deny it are guilty of heresy in that regard, even by early Protestant standards of orthodoxy, too.

3 comments:

Ken said...

Yes, since it was defined by the same early Church Councils that even many Protestants claim were so noble and "scriptural," etc.

Which ones? Nicea? Constantinople? Ephesus ? or Chalcedon?

beyond Chalcedon?
Where exactly?

kalbertini said...

According to Modern Biblical Scholarship, Paul preferred celibacy over marriage because of the belief that Christ^s return & the end of the world was imminent 1 Cor 7:29-31.He saw marriage getting in the way.Neither Paul or Christ imposed celibacy on no one.

Dave Armstrong said...

That's correct. They both taught that God calls people to one state or the other and that one should follow that call. Jesus talked about the eunuchs in Matthew 19 and Paul talked at length about callings to marriage or singleness in 1 Corinthians 7.

All Catholics say is that we believe there is such a calling as celibacy, and that we want to draw our priests (in the Latin Rite) from this category of those already called to celibacy.

That's not forcing anyone to do anything. It's following the Bible, that is not anti-celibacy anymore than it is anti-marriage or anti-[moral] sexuality.