Sunday, March 28, 2010

*BEST OF DTB #8* Did Mary have other Children?

Mary: Ever virgin

Another "former catholic" (1 John 2:19) on You Tube goes by the moniker serveCHRISTnow and is assailing the Catholic position that Mary was a perpetual virgin. Like so many of the protestants I have met, he is quite confident in his prospects of winning the day on this issue.

Obviously, my friend's confidence is misplaced. Mary's perpetual virginity is a matter of demonstrable fact and statements to the contrary merely reflect an ignorance of scripture and history.

My friend plays a little linguistic gymnastics with the greek and I'll deal with that in a moment. First, let's start with what we can know with absolute certitude and use that as a starting point.

A Brother is a brother...except when it isn't.

Quoting my protestant friend:

Before we dialogue, please let me share with you my very simple clear honest starting point. I believe these men clearly identified on numerous occasions in the N T as JESUS Brothers were indeed his Brothers .

I would say to my friend that if that is your position, then you have already lost the debate. "Brothers", according to our reckoning, which is full brothers, is the one impossible position.

Full brothers are born of the same Mother and of the same Father. Surely, you are not suggesting that James and Joseph are conceived by the Holy Spirit?

No, I do not believe you are suggesting this but, nevertheless, it proves that the term "brother" is not as straightforward as you suggest, right from the start.

Possible interpretations

This leaves us with a number of other possibilities to be explored.

  1. They are children of Mary and Joseph.
  2. They are children of Joseph from another marriage.
  3. They are cousins or relatives.
  4. They are spiritual brothers.
  5. There are different combinations of 2, 3 and 4

Let's be clear, from the start. Since the doctrine in question is whether or not Mary remained a virgin, I do not have to demonstrate who each of these "brothers and sisters" actually are. per se. All that I have to prove is that they are not children of Mary. That is a burden of proof that can certainly be met in a number of ways.

Not near so clear as you suggest

Let's start with his arguments and circle back from there.

Scripture is very clear, Mark 6;3" Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary, and BROTHER of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? Are not His sisters here with us?" however Read Luke 21:16 "But you will be betrayed even by PARENTS and BROTHERS and RELATIVES and FRIENDS. Notice that unlike the O T Hebrew the N T Greek makes a clear distinction between parents and brothers relatives and friends etc .

Your argument is circular at best because most of the NT was translated from Aramaic using the rules of translation common at that time.

You then said ## some could be children of Joseph from a previous marriage...that is an open question and makes for interesting speculation. ##  You don't seem very certain here? Using words such as Could be and speculation, where is the certainty in that?

Now You using Luke 2:48 as support for your poor interpretation of the verses mentioning JESUS brothers is amusing indeed. Let me make this simple for you ok?

Absolute certitude when it is imprudent is folly. I am very careful never to overstate my case. You seem to have no such reservations. Do not be upset when I use that against you.

I would be very grateful if you are not dishonest about my arguments. I did not use Luke 2:48 to support my "poor interpretation" of Jesus brothers. I used Luke 2:48 and 49 to establish a precedent. Since you obviously couldn't counter the precedent, you create a straw man. Very dishonest. Please don't do that again. Think of it this way, when you avoid confronting my actual argument and set up a straw man like this, you actually confirm to me that you have no confidence in the strength of your case. I would think you wouldn't want to give me such an impression.

Luke 2:48 When his parents saw him, they were astonished, and his mother said to him, "Son, why have you done this to us? Your father and I have been looking for you with great anxiety."
2:49 And he said to them, "Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father's house?"*
Here is the point I was making... a simple one, really. Here, both Joseph and Our Heavenly Father are called Jesus' father. The same greek word is used in both verses.

So, if you were completely unfamiliar with the Biblical account and context, but you knew greek, and I gave you these two verses alone, you would conclude that both verses were referring to the same father.

You and I know that they are not, only because we understand the context.

Always careful, as I said before, not to overstate my case, I am not alleging that I have proven Mary had no other children on the strength of Luke 2:48-49. First of all, to do so would be a complete non-sequiter.

What I am establishing is that a family relationship cannot be established on the strength of exegesis of the text alone. That seems to be the entire crux of your argument. If it is, you will lose this debate very quickly.

The nuts and bolts of your case

You said ## I can prove that some of those called ''brothers'' are actually cousins ##. I assume your trying to use a Linguistic argument here? If so then please base it on the N T Greek and not the O T Hebrew as this would only highlight an absolute ignorance to the fact that these are different languages. The O T Hebrew only has the word Ach (brother) and no separate word for relative, however this argument would not apply to the new testament as the N T was written in a far more precise language ( koine greek) which has separate words used for distinction such as adelphos/ brother, Anepsios/cousin and syggenes/relative.
You just made my previous point.

I am well aware that the Old Testament was written originally in Hebrew and Aramaic (though most NT quotes of the OT are from the greek Septuagint) and that the oldest existing NT manuscripts exist in greek. (though much of it was translated from Aramaic).

Notwithstanding all of the above, your linguistic case is not nearly as strong as you suggest. Take your characterization of the greek Adelphos as a starting point. You infer that this word only indicates ''brothers'', in the full sense but we know that is simply impossible by the very reason that it is used in this context.

It is impossible for Jesus and James to have been brothers because we know at a minimum, that Jesus is not a son of Joseph. The case for Joseph being Jesus' father (Luke 2:48) is every bit as strong as for James being his brother from the stand point of the greek word assigned. Yet, we know that Joseph was not Jesus Father in the full sense.

So, at a very minimum, the meaning of Adelphos would have to allow for half-brothers to support your interpretation. So, at the very start, your argument already stands refuted.

Unfortunately for you, it goes even further. The Hellenistic Jews who wrote/translated the New Testament books to greek were well versed in the Septuagint. There are a host of sources that prove that Jesus and the Apostles and writers favored the Septuagint overwhelmingly when quoting the Old Testament. Here is but one. I could easily produce more.

The reason this is important is that the Septuagint (LXX) makes very liberal use of the word greek word Adelphos. In fact, is actually used in contexts where we know the person being described is a cousin. Examples are Genesis 14:14 and 1 Chr. 23:21–22.

I get a chuckle when protestants attempt to dismiss this argument out of hand, rejecting the "false" greek translation of the Old Testament in favor of the "more reliable" Hebrew (Masoretic). The reason this argument is silly is because the New Testament quotes the Old Testament five times as often from the LXX as from the Masoretic text and even the protestants retain the greek name of the Bible's first book- Genesis over it's Hebrew equivalent Bereshit. This, in itself is a concession by the protestants that the LXX is the more reliable source.

The New Testament translators/writers followed the same rules of greek as the LXX translators. Contrary to my friend's argument, the greek word Anepsios appears nowhere in the gospels for cousin. In fact, it appears only once in the entire New Testament. (St. Paul's epistle to the Colossians, Chapter 4, verse 10) In this context, it refers to Marcus' sister's son which would clearly be a nephew, not a cousin.

Further, in two clear opportunities to use Anepsios for cousin, Luke 1:36 and 1:58, the greek syggenes is used instead. In this instance, the fact that Elizabeth was Mary's cousin is factually established and even the error riddled KJV correctly translates it so.

All James are not the sames

Therefore, as all the above evidence shows, your linguistic arguments are at best inconclusive, at worst, proven false. The case gets even murkier when you attempt to identify these brothers. Take James, for instance. In the NT, there are as many as 7 men called James.

There is James called "The brother of Jesus" (Matt. 13:55, Acts 15:13-21, 1 Cor. 15:7, Gal. 1:19) at the center of our current debate but there is also James "Son of Zebedee" (Matt. 4:21, 10:2, 17:1, Acts 12:2) and James (and Joseph), sons of another Mary (Matthew 27:56, Mark 15:40). In John 19:25, this other Mary is clearly differentiated from the mother of Jesus. She is the wife of Clopas. (Alpheius in Matthew 10:3).

John 19:25 proves that these were not sons of Mary but of her "sister" Mary. Not only does this prove they were not children of Mary but they prove the literal use of the term "sister". Could Mary's sister be named Mary? Come now.

However, if you take Mark 6:3 as literally referring to James and Joseph (always listed in that order) as brothers of Jesus, one then has to conclude that two different sisters named Mary each had sons, in order, named James and Joseph. A bit of a reach by any one's measure.

Yet, scripture does not make this case. If Mark wanted to specifically identify James and Joseph as biological (uterine) brothers of Jesus, he would have used the specific term Ho Adelphos. To not include this descriptor, means relative and not necessarily brother. This, with the other Biblical evidence makes it clear.

This James and Joseph were cousins, not brothers. A second century historian has stated that Mary's "sister" Mary was actually Joseph's sister Mary, making James and Joseph cousins by marriage. Of course, I cannot prove that Mary, mother of James and Joseph, was a sister of Joseph, adopted father of Jesus. However, that this James and Joseph were not sons of the Mother of Jesus is beyond disputable.

Now, back to the James that is called "brother of Jesus".

You are correct that much of the speculation of his identity grows from the Protoevangelium of James. That this document is extra-Biblical does not mean it is factually in error.

It was written specifically as a defense of the doctrine of Mary's perpetual virginity. At a minimum, it's antiquity should give you pause. Being written about 120 AD, memory of Mary's life would still have been well intact.

You claimed using the protoevangelium is a "curious" starting point but nothing could be further from the truth. It seems a logical starting point since it alleges insights that the scriptures leave unclear. It seems perfectly prudent that the early church would take this first hand account into consideration to determine whether it's claims are meritorious and credible against the revealed truth of scripture, especially since the canon would not be set for more than 260 years.

If the facts presented in the protoevangelium were in contradiction with inspired scripture, the church would have condemned it as heretical. It did not. If, however, this document can be used as a tool for reexamining our understanding of the Biblical account, it is absurd to say we should not do so.

Is the Protoevangelium account reliable?

The protoevangelium makes a number of assertions that we can positively say are supported, or even confirmed, by the Gospels. Further, it makes none that are directly opposed to scripture.

I want to focus on two for now. These claims are contained in paragraphs 8, 9 and 10.

Claim #1

The first claim is that Joseph was a widower who already had children and that Mary, at this point was in her early teen years.

Does the Bible support this view? it certainly does! Joseph is last mentioned in the Gospels when Jesus is 12 years old. He is not present as Jesus ministry begins. At that point, Mary would have been in her 40's. In the account of the 12 year old Jesus being in the temple, there is no mention of any other children. This seems odd due to the fact that it is likely that Mary would be fast approaching the end of her child bearing years.

This alone, is compelling but not overwhelmingly so. However, examine what Jesus said to the Pharisees in the 7th chapter of St. Mark's gospel, verses 10-13;

Mark 7:10 For Moses said, 'Honor your father and your mother,' and 'Whoever curses father or mother shall die.'
7:11 Yet you say, 'If a person says to father or mother, "Any support you might have had from me is qorban"' * (meaning, dedicated to God),
7:12 you allow him to do nothing more for his father or mother.
7:13 You nullify the word of God in favor of your tradition that you have handed on. And you do many such things."

It is very clear that Jesus is saying that providing material support and care for your parents is a direct requirement of the Mosaic law. Even if James, "the brother of Jesus" did not believe in Jesus as the Messiah, he was a Jew and would not have disobeyed the clear mandate of law (to say nothing of the mandate of his own conscience) to care for his mother. The same is true of Joseph and all the other brothers and sisters. They would have stepped up and assumed her care. Certainly, Jesus would not have violated the law by entrusting His Mother to any other than her own sons and daughters.

Further, history tells us that James the Just was an elderly man when he was martyred in 62 AD. If you assume old man means 70+ (certainly a reasonable conclusion), then James was older, not younger, than Jesus.

If James were Jesus younger brother, he could not have been more than 60 or 61 years old. Hardly, elderly.

Allowing, also, that James was the oldest of at least 6 children (4 brothers and at least 2 sisters), it is likely that James was older than Jesus by at least 10 years or more. In fact, at the time of his betrothal to Mary, it is likely that Joseph's son was nearly as old as his wife!

Claim #2

The second claim that I want to focus on is that Mary was of the House of David. This would mean that Joseph and Mary were actually related and that sex between them would actually be incest!

Is there any support for this claim? There certainly is!

How is Jesus established as being in the Davidic line? Most would answer by reciting the genealogy in the first chapter of St. Matthew's gospel.

When you look at verse 16 you find an astounding problem.

Matthew 1:16 Jacob the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary. Of her was born Jesus who is called the Messiah.
Jesus would indeed be of the Davidic line if Joseph was his father...but he isn't. The verse clearly tells us that Jesus is of Mary, not Joseph.

Of course, you may try to get around this by saying that Jesus was of the Davidic line by adoption but that is a clear violation of Scripture.

ROM 1:3 the gospel about his Son,
descended from David according to the flesh
As you can see, it is impossible for Jesus to be descended by flesh from David unless Mary was also of the house of David. This gives powerful support to the protoevangelum that Joseph could not possibly have had a conjugal marriage with Mary and, thus, James the Just could not possibly have been Joseph and Mary's son.

Please allow me to develop my own arguments
rather than doing it for me

However, this makes a good dovetail into refuting another of my friend's arguments;

If what you are saying about mary is infact true then you would have no need for all this wrangling to support your erroneous theological position, which most definitely originated in a false gospel (Protevangelium of james) and was promoted by dualistic philosophers of the Roman catholic Church

I am not wrangling and my position is certainly not erroneous. However, we must first address the burden of proof. Your allegation is that the one- and only- explanation of the verses in question is that the "brothers" of Jesus are children of Mary. Thus far, you have failed to meet that burden of proof. If you have other arguments to make, you may yet strive to still make it. Yet, since your first argument is that the greek terms used establish these brothers as sons of Mary, to the exclusion of all other explanations, that argument certainly stands refuted.

Even if you are audacious enough to assert that I have not yet proven they are not her sons, even you must concede that I have proven that you have not yet proven that they are.

In proving the question, one way or another, I went more than 40 paragraphs, and refuted your linguistic arguments, without even mentioning the protoevangelum of James. Yet, you alleged that my;

"erroneous theological position, which most definitely originated in a false gospel(Protevangelium of james)"
As a lifelong Catholic, I find this kind of argumentation hillariosly audacious. How dare you presume to tell me the origin of my own arguments! This again, adds fuel to our perception that protestants know they cannot win an argument meritoriously so they attempt to re-frame the argument into terms that favor themselves. You should listen long and hard to what I am telling you because we Catholics find this tactic very, very offensive. Allow me to develop my arguments, then counter those arguments. Do not create strawmen. If you intend to "educate" me, as you assert, do so with honest arguments.
I do not know if you have further arguments to make than the linguistic ones. If you don't, you have lost this debate already (since you bear the burden of proof), if you do, I should be only so happy to hear them.

What need to go further?

I could probably rest my arguments now and be the winner but I don't wish to do that. The reason why is because it is not enough for me that your arguments not be proven correct but that they be proven incorrect, if not for your benefit, than for the benefit of someone watching.
The problem for me is that there are so many ways to prove you wrong that it is hard to whittle them down into a cohesive case and I wind up sounding long-winded.

I may still be a long time before I have mentioned all the pertinent arguments of the protoevangelum and, even then, may do so only peripherally. However, I do need to address one specific allegation that you make and we can circle back to this later.

What is not proven true is not as a consequence, proven false

You allege that the Protoevangelum of James is a "false gospel".

This is a circular argument. First of all, the Catholic Church did not include this writing in it's canon of sacred scripture (the very same canon you attempt to use against me now) but that does not mean it is false or even that it isn't inspired. It only means that we cannot infallibly declare it to be true or inspired.

To claim that the protoevangelum is false on the basis of it's not being contained in the canon is a fallicious argument of burden of proof;

X is false because it has not been proven true.

In saying this, I do not deny that the Protevangelum could be proven to be a false writing. I am only pointing out that it is not proven such merely by it's not being included in the canon of scripture. Extra-Biblical does not necessarily equal Anti-Biblical. That is a non-sequiter.

"I know not man"

The protoevangelum asserts that Mary was a dedicated temple virgin. If so, for someone- including Joseph- to have relations with her would be a grievous crime (1 Samuel 2:22-25).

Is this claim credible?

Once again, this claim squares exactly with scripture. For, when the Angel Gabriel told, the already betrothed, Mary that she would conceive and bear a son, she immediatly asked how this could be since she has no relations with a man (Luke 1:34).

This question is absurd if she and Joseph were betrothed in a conjugal marriage. Mary was not stupid! She knew how babies were made. If she and Joseph were betrothed in the normal sense, she would have immediatly, if erroniously, concluded that Joseph would be the father of this child. Mary was questioning how she could possibly have a child and not break her vow. Once again, the account in the protoevangelum is borne out.

No relations until...

Protestants wrongly interpret Matthew 1:25....

Matthew 1:25 He had no relations with her until she bore a son, and he named him Jesus.
The greek word heos is translated to 'until'. It affirms that something did not happen up to that point, but does not imply that it happened after that (Hebrews 1:13, 1 Timothy 4:13). The Old Testament equivalent can be found in 2 Samuel 6:23, a verse that is absurd if interpreted as the Protestants interpret Matthew 1:25.

The Woman, the Queen mother, The Mother of God,
and The Ark of the Covenant

One of the reasons protestants don't understand the New Testament is because they don't understand the Old Testament. The Catholic church has a much deeper understanding of both. That is just a fact.

In Genesis 3:15, we read that enmity is placed between the Woman1 (Mary) and her offspring (Jesus first2, and then her adopted children3), The Douai (the best english version ever produced) even goes so far as to state that it is the woman who will crush the serpent's head.

In 1 Kings 15:13, and 2 Kings 10:13 we see on display the role of the mother of the king as the Queen Mother4.

In Isaiah chapters 7 and 9, we read of the virgin who literally becomes the mother of God. 5

Finally, throughout the Old Testament, we read of that holy vessel made of incorruptble wood that carried within it the very Word of God. So, holy was this Ark of the Covenant6 that for a man to even touch it meant death! 2 Samuel 6:6-7

Then, in dazzling splendor, and startling clarity, we see all these elements tied together in the singular person of Mary, in the 11th and 12th chapters of John's Revelation.

Revelation 11:19 Then God's temple in heaven was opened, and the ark of his covenant6 could be seen in the temple. There were flashes of lightning, rumblings, and peals of thunder, an earthquake, and a violent hailstorm.

12:1 * A great sign appeared in the sky, a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a 4crown of twelve stars.
12:2 She was with child and wailed aloud in pain as she labored to give birth.*
12:3 Then another sign appeared in the sky; it was a huge red dragon, * with seven heads and ten horns, and on its heads were seven diadems.
12:4 Its tail swept away a third of the stars in the sky and hurled them down to the earth. Then the dragon stood before the woman about to give birth, to devour her child when she gave birth.
12:5 She gave birth to a son, a male child, destined to rule all the nations with an iron rod.2 * Her child was caught up to God and his throne 5

12:6 The woman herself fled into the desert where she had a place prepared by God, that there she might be taken care of for twelve hundred and sixty days.*
12:7 * Then war broke out in heaven; Michael* and his angels battled against the dragon. The dragon and its angels fought back,
12:8 but they did not prevail and there was no longer any place for them in heaven.
12:9 The huge dragon, the ancient serpent, * who is called the Devil and Satan, who deceived the whole world, was thrown down to earth, and its angels were thrown down with it.
12:10 Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say:
"Now have salvation and power come,
and the kingdom of our God
and the authority of his Anointed.
For the accuser * of our brothers is cast out,
who accuses them before our God day and night.

12:11 They conquered him by the blood of the Lamb
and by the word of their testimony;
love for life did not deter them from death.

12:12 Therefore, rejoice, you heavens,
and you who dwell in them.
But woe to you, earth and sea,
for the Devil has come down to you in great fury,
for he knows he has but a short time."

12:13 When the dragon saw that it had been thrown down to the earth, it pursued the woman who had given birth to the male child.
12:14 But the woman was given the two wings of the great eagle, * so that she could fly to her place in the desert, where, far from the serpent, she was taken care of for a year, two years, and a half-year.
12:15 The serpent, * however, spewed a torrent of water out of his mouth after the woman to sweep her away with the current.
12:16 But the earth helped the woman and opened its mouth and swallowed the flood that the dragon spewed out of its mouth.
12:17 Then the dragon became angry with the woman1 and went off to wage war against the rest of her offspring 3 , those who keep God's commandments and bear witness to Jesus.


The above evidence proves, beyond any possible doubt, that Mary could not possibly have had other children. That has been the church's position since day 1, and for good reason.

Your move.

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