Defense of the Perpetual Virginity of our Lady

And the Marian Title "Mother of God" (Theotokos)


These posts originally appeared in the PhileoNet Theology conference in October 1994.

See also Defense of the Title "Mother of God" (Theotokos)

From: P / To: RON WALLACE / Subj: Perpetual Virginity Debate

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INTRODUCTION

RW> Concerning Mary -

(P to Bill B.)

P> Yup, she was and continued to be "Ever-Virgin". Oh, you want me to explain such texts as Mt 1:18,25. First, to show you that the words "BEFORE/UNTIL" in Matt 1:18,25 do not imply any change of condition -- it only affirms the Virgin Birth; that Mary was a virgin UP TO the point of Jesus' birth -- nothing can be concluded what happened after this point in time.

RW> The only problem with this Phil, is that it IGNORES the simple and clear language of the narrative which communicates a specific idea.

You say it is simple and clear. All that Greek stuff you quote makes it complicated for me.

RW> Mt. 1.25, "And he was not knowing her,"

RW> 3. In either case, the clear intent of the language is that no sexual activity took place during a certain period of time - ie, prior to the birth of the Lord.

Exactly what Catholics believe. Correct. That is all that can be concluded here.

RW> 4. and then the use of the adverb heos - with this action verb - clearly indicates the intent of the writer to say that normal sexual activity would and did take place after his birth.

No, that is NOT implied by the use of -heos- ("TILL" or "UNTIL").

Here are biblical and historical reasons why your conclusion is wrong.

(From a previous post to an ex-Catholic on Intelec)

MATTHEW 1:25 AND "UNTIL"

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RY> We are told they DID have relations after Jesus was born!

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

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What does "till" mean according to the Bible? Check this out (loosly translated) --

Gen 8:7 -- the raven "did not return TILL the waters were dried up..." Question: Did the raven return? NO!

Deut 34:6 -- Moses died "and no one knows his grave TILL this day." Question: Have we found Moses' grave? NO!

2 Sam 6:23 -- Michal "had no children TILL the day of her death." Question: Did she have children after she died? NO!

1 Macc 5:54 -- "...not one of them was slain TILL they had returned in peace." Was Judas M and his troops killed when they returned? NO!

Luke 1:80 -- John the B "was in the deserts TILL the day of his manifestation to Israel." Did John the B stay in the desert? YES! (cf. Matt 3:1; Mark 1:3-4; Luke 3:2-4)

John 4:49 -- "Sir, come down BEFORE my child dies!" Did he die? NO!

Rom 8:22 -- "...the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together UNTIL now." Is it still groaning? YES! <groan> :)

1 Cor 15:25 -- "For He must reign TILL He has put all enemies under His feet." After all enemies are put away, will Christ be reigning? YES!

Eph 4:12-13 -- "...for the equipping...for the work of ministry.... for the edifying....TILL we all come to the unity of the faith...." Once we become unified, will equipping, ministry, and edification still be necessary? YES!

1 Tim 4:13 -- "TILL I come, give attention to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine." When Paul arrives, no more reading, no more exhorting, no more doctrine? NO!

1 Tim 6:14 -- "....that you keep this commandment without spot, blameless UNTIL our Lord Jesus Christ's appearing..." When Jesus comes back, we should disobey these commandments? NO!

Rev 2:25-26 -- "But hold fast what you have TILL I come. And he who overcomes and keeps My works UNTIL the end, to him I will give power..." Should we stop holding fast and stop obeying when Jesus returns? NO!

Okay, that shows Matt 1:18,25 does not disprove the perpetual virginity of Mary. For positive biblical evidence that Mary intended to remain a virgin even in marriage, why would she ask the angel Gabriel --

"How can this be, since I do not know a man?" (Luke 1:34)

Mary presumably knew how children were conceived, so the question makes sense only if Mary had taken a vow of lifelong virginity. This is how the earliest Church Fathers understood this passage.

ST. AUGUSTINE AND THE PROTESTANT REFORMERS

As the greatest Christian theologian, St. Augustine, wrote --

"In being born of a Virgin WHO CHOSE TO REMAIN a Virgin EVEN BEFORE SHE KNEW who was to be born of her, Christ wanted to approve virginity rather than to impose it. And He wanted virginity to be of FREE CHOICE even in that woman in whom He took upon Himself the form of a slave." (Holy Virginity 4:4 c. 401 A.D.)

All the early Christians accepted the fact that Mary was "ever-Virgin." Even the major Protestant Reformers (who accepted the Bible ALONE) believed that Mary remained a virgin. The Bible alone simply cannot settle this issue. That's why we need to listen to the constant Tradition of the Church through the centuries on this point.

To further confirm the Catholic position, check out these statements from the major Protestant Reformers --

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Thus saith JOHN CALVIN --

"There have been certain STRANGE folk who have wished to suggest from this passage [Matt 1:25] that the Virgin Mary had other children than the Son of God, and that Joseph had then dwelt with her later; BUT WHAT FOLLY THIS IS!

"For the gospel writer did not wish to record what happened afterwards; he simply wished to make clear Joseph's obedience and to show also that Joseph had been well and truly assured that it was God who had sent his angel to Mary. He had therefore NEVER dwelt with her nor had he shared her company....

"And besides this, our Lord Jesus Christ is called the first-born. This is NOT because there was a second or a third, but because the gospel writer is paying regard to the precedence. Scripture speaks thus of naming the first-born whether or no there was any question of the second. Thus we see the intention of the Holy Spirit. This is why to lend ourselves to FOOLISH SUBTLETIES WOULD BE TO ABUSE HOLY SCRIPTURE...." (Sermon on Matthew 1:22-25, published 1562)

"We have already said in another place that according to the custom of the Hebrews all relatives were called 'brethren.' Still Helvidius [a 4th century heretic] has shown himself to be IGNORANT of this by stating that Mary had many children just because in several places they are spoken of as 'brethren' of Christ." (Commentary on Matthew 13:55)

"Concerning what has happened since this birth the writer of the gospel SAYS NOTHING...certainly it is a matter about which NO ONE will cause dispute unless he is somewhat curious; on the contrary there never was a man who would contradict this in obstinacy unless he were a PIG-HEADED and FATUOUS [i.e. foolish and stupid] person." (Commentary on Matthew 1:25)

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Thus saith MARTIN LUTHER --

"Christ our Savior was the real and natural fruit of Mary's virginal womb...This was without the cooperation of a man, AND SHE REMAINED A VIRGIN AFTER THAT." (LUTHER'S WORKS 22, 23)

[Luther preached the perpetual virginity of Mary throughout his life]

"...A virgin before the conception and birth, she REMAINED a virgin also AT the birth and AFTER it." (February 2, 1546 Feast of Presentation of Christ in the Temple)

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Thus saith ULRICH ZWINGLI --

"I firmly believe according to the words of the Gospel that a pure virgin brought forth for us the Son of God AND REMAINED A VIRGIN PURE AND INTACT IN CHILDBIRTH AND ALSO AFTER THE BIRTH, FOR ALL ETERNITY. I firmly trust that she has been exalted by God to eternal joy above all creatures, both the blessed and the angels." (from Augustin Bea "Mary and the Protestants" MARIAN STUDIES Apr 61)

"I speak of this in the holy Church of Zurich and in all my writings: I recognize MARY AS EVER VIRGIN AND HOLY." (January 1528 in Berne)

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Thus saith French Reformed pastor CHARLES DRELINCOURT (1595 - 1669)

["well represents the Reformed tradition of the 17th century" according to Thurian]

"This happy Mother REMAINED a virgin DURING the birth and AFTER it."

"O Lord, whose will it was to be born of a virgin, but of a virgin betrothed, to honour thy one same act with BOTH virginity and marriage, and to obtain for thy mother both a support and a witness and innocence...." (Prayer and Meditation on the Incarnation)

"We do not simply believe that God has favoured the holy and blessed Virgin more than all the Patriarchs and the Prophets, but also that He has exalted her above all Seraphim. The angels can only qualify as servants of the Son of God, the creatures and workmanship of His hands; but the holy Virgin is not only the servant and the creature but also the Mother of this great and living God."

(quotes from Max Thurian, MARY, MOTHER OF ALL CHRISTIANS, p. 40-41, 89, 195)

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Max Thurian, who was a Calvinist when he wrote MARY, MOTHER OF ALL CHRISTIANS (NY: Herder and Herder, 1963) but later converted to the Catholic faith, summarizes the views of the Protestant Reformers --

"A very ancient tradition of the Church affirms a perpetual virginity of Mary; and the Reformers of the sixteenth century themselves confessed '-Mariam semper virginem-' [Mary ever-Virgin].....

"The entire tradition of the Church has held to the perpetual virginity of Mary as a sign of her dedication and of the fullness of God's gift of which she was the object. The Reformers themselves respected this belief."

"For Calvin and the other Reformers accept the traditional view that Mary had only one son, the Son of God, who had been to her the fullness of grace and joy."

"In regard to the Marian doctrine of the Reformers, we have already seen how UNANIMOUS they are in all that concerns Mary's holiness and perpetual virginity."

(Max Thurian, MARY, MOTHER OF ALL CHRISTIANS, p. 37-40, 197)

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Ron, are you telling me that all these Protestant Reformers who accepted the Bible ALONE and basically the entire Christian Church for NINETEEN centuries did not see what you see in Matt 1:25. I think all of this evidence should make you reconsider your conclusion.

PERPETUAL VIRGINITY DEBATE

Is Mary Ever-Virgin?

representing the historic, orthodox Christian position --

P -- resident Catholic apologist of PhileoNet YES, Mary is -semper virginem- ("Ever-Virgin")

versus

representing the novel position that St. Jerome called "novel, wicked, and a daring affront to the faith of the whole world" (Against Helvidius c. 383 A.D.), and what the Protestant Reformer John Calvin characterized as "strange... folly... foolish... obstinant... fatuous... pig-headed [ignorant and stupid]" (Commentary on Matthew 1:25)

RON WALLACE -- host of the PhileoNet Theology conference NO, Mary was not -semper virginem- but had other children

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Ron,

You have forced me to hit the books on this one. I have re-studied the following which discuss all the relevant biblical passages and present both sides of the issue --

THE CULT OF THE VIRGIN by Elliot Miller and Ken Samples (Baker,1992) (chapter 2 "Perpetual Virginity" p. 24-29)

REFUTING THE ATTACK ON MARY by Fr. Mateo and Catholic Answers (1993) (booklet answering CRI and Elliot Miller's arguments)

CATHOLICISM AND FUNDAMENTALISM by Karl Keating (Ignatius Press,1988) (chapter 22 "Marian Beliefs" esp. p. 282-289)

MARY, MOTHER OF ALL CHRISTIANS by Max Thurian (NY:Herder,1964) (especially chapter 3 "Poor Virgin" p. 26-41)

THE MOTHER OF JESUS IN THE NEW TESTAMENT by John McHugh (chapters 6 - 9 p. 200-254 which discusses in detail the three major views -- named after their primary 4th century proponents

THREE VIEWS ON MARY'S VIRGINITY

(1) the Helvidian -- Mary had other children after Jesus [your view and most of modern Protestantism defend this view],

(2) the Epiphanian -- Mary was perpetually a virgin and the "brothers" and "sisters" were older children from a previous marriage of Joseph [some Eastern Orthodox and such competent scholars as J.B. Lightfoot defend this view],

(3) the Hieronymian or Jerome's view -- Mary was perpetually a virgin and the "brothers" and "sisters" were cousins of Jesus [Catholic and Latin Church including all the major Protestant Reformers defend this view]

In our debate, I asked you the following --

PP> Ron, are you telling me that all these Protestant Reformers who accepted the Bible ALONE and basically the entire Christian Church for NINETEEN centuries did not see what you see in Matt 1:25 ?

You responded:

RW> Absolutely - categorically - dogmatically! And they were wrong on a lot of other things too.

Ron,

Your comments that you could care less what the entire history of Christianity has taught for NINETEEN centuries (that it is "hearsay") is surprising to say the least. This sounds like Herbert W. Armstrong, Mary Baker Eddy, Charles Taze Russell, Joe Smith and other cult leaders. "Who cares what Augustine and all the Fathers, also such renowned Protestant Reformers as Luther, Calvin, Zwingli, Wesley, et al say?" Whatever happened to Jesus' promise that the gates of hell would never prevail and that He would be with His Church to the end of time ensuring faithfulness to His teaching (Mt 16:18; 28:20; Jn 14:16; 16:13). The UNANIMOUS testimony of so many saints of God (Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant) is NOT hearsay. Neither are Jesus' promises hearsay.

You have to ask yourself -- if your interpretation of the text is so "simple and clear" as you repeatedly said, why have so many Christians through the centuries who have carefully read the Bible missed this?

But okay, you want to deal with the Bible only. All right.....

First, let's address Matthew 1:25 and Luke 1 --

then we'll move on to the "brothers and sisters" of Jesus.....

MATTHEW 1:25 AND "UNTIL" AGAIN

Concerning Matthew 1:25 and related passages --

RW> You are using an English translation that does not coincide with either the Greek or the Hebrew.

Who are you? A.T. Robertson come back from the dead? I don't read Greek or Hebrew so when you quote the Greek or Hebrew I really cannot defend myself. I just take your word for it. Are you saying that a Christian must learn Greek and Hebrew in order to interpret the Bible properly? That leaves out about 99.99% of all Christians.

Anyway, try these translations --

"He had no relations with her at any time before she bore a son." (New American Bible)

"he had not known her when she bore a son." (Knox translation)

I tried to point out to you that the use of the word "TILL" or "UNTIL" need not imply any change of condition. I quoted for you many passages that back up what I am saying -- that the most that can be concluded from Matt 1:25 is that Mary was a virgin TO THE POINT of the birth of Jesus, that this passage affirms the Virgin Birth, nothing more --

"...did not know her TILL [UP TO the point] she had brought forth her firstborn Son." (New King James Version)

You appealed to the Greek of this passage with the following --

RW> Mt. 1.25, "And he was not knowing her," Greek, ginosko, imperfect active indicative, clearly used to indicate sexual intercourse in this context. 1. the imperfect tense - continuous action in past time- indicates that the action was not (plus the negative) going on. 2. Sometimes, (the inceptive imperfect, Dana & Mantey, page 190) the idea of beginning an action is indicated by the imperfect. thus, did not begin to know her - 3. In either case, the clear intent of the language is that no sexual activity took place during a certain period of time - ie, prior to the birth of the Lord.

I agreed with this and said "this is also the Catholic position" -- we affirm the Virgin Birth. I will add the following concerning the Greek of this text from the John McHugh book I mentioned above --

"The second text brought forward in support of the Helvidian theory [Mary had other children] is Mt 1:25 -- Joseph 'did not know her (Mary) until she gave birth to a son'. Those who see in this phrase a hint that the marriage was later consummated overlook a most significant fact: the verb used for 'know' (-eginosken-) stands in the imperfect tense [just as you said, Ron], not in the aorist, and therefore lays the stress on the DURATION of the PERIOD THROUGHOUT which Joseph and Mary abstained from intercourse. The meaning is that Joseph had no carnal knowledge of Mary DURING the PERIOD which PRECEDED the birth of her son.

"This interpretation suits the context perfectly, for the whole of Mt 1:18-25 is concerned with the VIRGINAL CONCEPTION of Jesus and its consequences for paternity. If (as those who uphold the Helvidian view maintain) the author had wished to imply that after the birth of Jesus, Joseph and Mary consummated their marriage, it is more likely that he would have used here the Aorist (-egno-).

"His choice of the imperfect implies rather that he did not EXCLUDE the possibility that Joseph and Mary lived a life of virginity after the birth of the Lord."

(John McHugh, THE MOTHER OF JESUS IN THE NEW TESTAMENT, p. 204)

Now, regarding the use of "TILL" or "UNTIL" (-heos-) I brought up a number of texts from the OT and NT. I'm sorry I don't have an interlinear (maybe I should get one!) so you might have beat me a few times from the Greek on this point.

On Genesis 8:7 --

RW> In other words, this "guy" was flying all over the place - and did not stop UNTIL there was land to rest upon. Did the raven stop "going and returning?" YES! (The Hebrew word for "until" is -adh- which has a whole handful of uses - as far as, even to, up to, until, while the LXX has the Greek word heos - until)

I concede this text to you. My translation was from Karl Keating's book which is the Ronald Knox or Jerusalem Bible I believe. Note you also said the meaning could be "UP TO" which is how I understand the use of -heos- at Matt 1:25.

Other texts I think prove my point. (excuse the editing)

PP> Deut 34:6 -- Moses died "and no one knows his grave TILL this day." Question: Have we found Moses' grave? NO!

RW> The intent of the writer here is not to say that the grave would never be found (that is not relevant), but to say that "up to" a certain point in time it has not been found. ie, this very day.

That is precisely the meaning I am giving to Matt 1:25 -- "UP TO". That Mary was a virgin UP TO the point of the birth of Jesus.

RW> After that "history" determines what happens. In the case of Moses - never found. In the case of Mary's virginity - brethren AND SISTERS at Mt. 13.55-56 (I have discussed this elsewhere)

Whoah! Wait a second. The question is what does the text in Matt 1:25 mean? The use of -heos- in the LXX of Deut 34:6 shows that the meaning of "UP TO" is possible. I will get to the "brothers AND SISTERS" of Jesus in next post.

PP> 2 Sam 6:23 -- Michal "had no children TILL the day of her death." Question: Did she have children after she died? NO!

RW> These passages just do not address the issue. This is to be viewed in the same way as above. (although in this case, it is an obvious permanent cut off point.)

What do you mean "do not address the issue." I thought the issue here in Matt 1:25 is what does -heos- imply? The LXX of 2 Sam 6:23 -heos- is another example of "TILL" not implying any change of condition -- unless you wish to say Michal had children after she died?

PP>1 Macc 5:54 "...not one of them was slain TILL they had returned in peace." Was Judas M and his troops killed when they returned?

RW> I do not have access to the Greek of the Apoc.

Regardless, if -heos- is used in the LXX here then this is another verse that shows "TILL" does not necessarily imply any change of condition.

I used John 4:49 as an example of "BEFORE" as in Matt 1:18.

On Rom 8:22; 1 Cor 15:25; Eph 4:12-13; 1 Tim 6:14; Rev 2:25-26 you responded --

RW> No issue here, Phil, the Greek is not heos, but achri. [or mechri or achris]

These texts I might concede to you. The point is the use of "TILL" or "UNTIL" in English -- I tried to show with these examples that the word does not necessarily imply any change of condition after the event. Please explain the significant differences between the use of -achri-, -achris-, -mechri-, and -heos-. I appreciate your scholarship, Ron, I really do. :)

PP>1 Tim 4:13 -"TILL I come, give attention to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine." When Paul arrives, no more reading, no more exhorting, no more doctrine? NO!

RW> Hey we found heos! I think you are stretching the intent of Paul here. The intent is that while he is absent - study, etc. - and when he is present, he himself will provide the teaching.

I am wondering how you can be so sure what is Paul's intent. The point is -- WHEN Paul arrives, attention will STILL be given to reading, exhorting, and doctrine -- although Paul would do the teaching I guess.

Also, here are other texts (NKJV) I found relevant to Matt 1:25 --

Psalm 110:1 quoted by Jesus in Matt 22:44 -- "Sit at My right hand, TILL I make Your enemies Your footstool."

Question: When Christ's enemies are vanquished, will He be removed from the Father's right hand?

Psalm 112:8 -- "His heart is established; He will not be afraid, UNTIL he sees his desire upon his enemies."

Question: Will the person trusting in the Lord (v. 7) whose heart is established (v. 8) be afraid AFTER enemies done away?

Psalm 72:7 -- "In His days the righteous shall flourish, and abundance of peace, UNTIL the moon is no more."

Question: After the moon is no more, the righteous shall NOT flourish?

1 Sam 15:35 -- "And Samuel went no more to see Saul UNTIL the day of his death."

Question: After Sam dies, he goes to see Saul? (cf. 2 Sam 6:23)

There's more for you to correct me on from the LXX Greek. :)

LUKE 1:34 AND VOW OF VIRGINITY

I asserted that Mary made a vow of perpetual virginity even in marriage with the following question --

PP> "How can this be, since I do not know a man?" (Luke 1:34)

RW> It makes perfect sense since she did not know a man. Of course she knows about children - that's WHY she asks - how can this happen, since I am not doing what one does to have children and I do not plan to until marriage.

There's that use of "until" again. There is no indication that Mary planned to AFTER marriage either. Remember, Mary was ALREADY "betrothed" to Joseph (Mt 1:18; Lk 1:27). When the angel said to her -- "you WILL conceive in your womb and BRING FORTH a Son" (Lk 1:32) -- it would NOT make sense for her to ask "HOW can this be...." since she was engaged to be married! Her response "....since I do not know a man" implies a lifelong vow of virginity.

As Catholic apologist Karl Keating says --

"If she anticipated having children and did not intend to maintain a vow of virginity, she would hardly have to ask 'HOW' she was to have a child, since having a child the normal way would be expected by a newlywed. No, her question makes sense only if there was an apparent, but not a real, conflict between keeping a vow of virginity and acceding to the angel's request." (CATHOLICISM AND FUNDAMENTALISM, p. 283-284)

And as the great ST. AUGUSTINE wrote --

"Surely, she would not say, 'HOW shall this be?' unless she had already vowed herself to God as a virgin...If she intended to have intercourse, she wouldn't have asked this question!

"In being born of a Virgin who CHOSE to REMAIN a Virgin even BEFORE she KNEW who was to be born of her, Christ wanted to approve virginity rather than to impose it. And He wanted virginity to be of FREE CHOICE even in that woman in whom He took upon Himself the form of a slave." (Holy Virginity 4:4 c. 401 A.D.)

And how about French Reformed pastor CHARLES DRELINCOURT (1596-1669)

"O Almighty God, who, by thine infinite and incomprehensible power didst draw from man (Adam) the mother of the living (Eve) without the aid of woman, according to the rich treasures of thine inexhaustible wisdom, thou hast thought it fitting to fashion the Prince of Life in the substance of a woman without any work of man.

"A woman had borne for us the fruit of death and here we behold another who presents us with the fruit of life and immortality."

"O Lord, whose will it was to be born of a virgin, but of a virgin BETROTHED, to honour thy one same act with BOTH virginity AND marriage, and to obtain for thy mother both a support and a witness and innocence...."

(Prayer and Meditation on the Incarnation and Birth of our Lord)

I'll end this section with Max Thurian who was a Calvinist when he wrote MARY, MOTHER OF ALL CHRISTIANS (p. 40) --

"In this same attitude of respect for the mystery of the divine predestination in regard to Mary, we are able to concede that the traditional doctrine of perpetual virginity is for the monk consonant with the unique vocation which is Mary's, in that she is entirely dedicated to the work of God, exceptionally fulfilled with God's grace, totally directed towards the Kingdom of God.

"Mary is in her virginity the sign of the preacher who is set apart and dedicated by the Lord, is filled with all the fullness of God, and has nothing more to await than the final completion when the Kingdom of God should be revealed, of which she already, in a hidden and anticipatory way, sees the fulfillment.

"She is the sign of the Holy Church which only awaits and looks for the return of Jesus Christ."

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MATTHEW 13:55-56 AND THE "BROTHERS" AND "SISTERS" OF JESUS

Concerning Matthew 13:55-56 (cf. Mark 6:3) --

PP> The texts on Jesus' "brothers"/"sisters" have been explained already. Catholics (and the historic Reformers and the Church Fathers) understood these as references to cousins or relatives of Jesus, or step-brothers from a previous marriage by Joseph.

PP> The Catholic understanding is that the NT writers employed the common Septuagint (Greek OT) usage of adelphos, calling cousins and relatives "brothers" since there was only one word available in Hebrew. The Septuagint and the NT followed this.

(Ron responded:)

RW> All the references you produced in the past do indeed support this use for the word 'adelphos' - for relative or relatives.

I'm glad you admit at least this much. Then I won't repeat all these references -- mostly taken from Karl Keating's book CATHOLICISM AND FUNDAMENTALISM (Ignatius,1988), p. 282-283.

RW> However, were that the intent at Mt. 13.55-56, then adelphos would have been used ALONE - without the word SISTERS! For adelphos in the plural includes both male and female relatives. The fact that the writer uses both adelphos (masc.plural) and adelphos (fem. pl), shows the clear intent to distinguish between brothers and sisters in the immediate family of Jesus. You see, one does not use both in the Greek if you are talking about one's "brethren" as in relatives. adelphos is adequate for that purpose. But the fact that both brothers and sisters is used proves what the people were seeing and saying - his brothers and sisters.

This appears to be your best argument against the historic, orthodox Christian position of the Church that Mary was "Ever-Virgin" -- believed by Catholics and Eastern Orthodox and all the major Protestant Reformers -- Luther, Calvin, Zwingli, Wesley, et al. Is there an answer to your objection -- but of course!

Why do you insist that males and females in the immediate family are distinguished here and male and female RELATIVES or COUSINS cannot be distinguished with the use of adelphoi/adelphai ?

RW> And again, one must ignore the clear intent of the narrative to insist that those mentioned are "cousins."

(then Ron repeated:)

RW> Not even what [the Protestant Reformers] SAY affects what I can see clearly in the bible. Mary had other children. You have tried to explain away Mt. 13.55-56 but to no avail. If - that is IF only the word "brethren" occurred there, then maybe - that is MAYBE, you would have a case. BUT - brothers and sisters cannot be explained away.

I'm glad you admit that I might have a case with the word "brethren."

RW> It is really quite simple - brothers AND sisters at Mt.13.55-56. Do you have ANYONE who will try to explain that away?

Yes, I do. We've been around 2,000 years, Ron. Have you even tried to look for an answer? The following is from a booklet available from CATHOLIC ANSWERS in San Diego, CA.

It is called REFUTING THE ATTACK ON MARY (written by Fr. Mateo) which answers all of CRI and Elliot Miller's objections to the Marian dogmas. Here's your answer --

FATHER MATEO'S DEFENSE

Now CRI comes to the often-urged question of the "brothers and sisters of Jesus" (Matt 13:55-56; Mark 6:3, and elsewhere)....

The point at issue in the "brothers/sisters of Jesus" texts is the translation of the Greek words -adelphos- (brother) and -adelphe- (sister). CRI admits that the Greek Septuagint uses these words not ONLY for brother/sister, but ALSO for remoter relatives [see the book THE CULT OF THE VIRGIN p. 26-28]. [Karl] Keating [of Catholic Answers] rightly notes that New Testament writers follow this Septuagint usage.

CRI tries to dismiss Keating's argument with [the] counter-assertion:

"He never gives an example of a New Testament writer using -adelphos- for a cousin....There are no such examples."

This is a red herring. Keating does not claim -adelphos- MEANS cousin. He claims, rightly that it often is used for "relative." And there ARE New Testament texts which must be so translated. I invite the reader to examine Matthew 27:56, Mark 15:40, and John 19:25. In these James and Joses (Joseph), who are mentioned in Matthew 13:55 with Simon and Judas (Jude) as Jesus' -adelphoi-, are called sons of Mary, wife of Clopas, a DIFFERENT Mary from our Blessed Mother. This "other" Mary (Matt 27:61; 28:1) is called our Lady's -adelphe- in John 19:25.

It is wholly unlikely that two daughters of the same parents were given the same name, "Mary." Our Lady and the "other Mary" were related only in the wider sense of -adelphe-. They were RELATIVES, but not sisters.

Since Matthew 13:55-56 and Mark 6:3 mention Simon, Judas, and the sisters of Jesus ALONG WITH James and Joses, calling them all -adelphoi- (masculine) and -adelphai- (feminine), these words in the texts at issue must be translated [or could be understood as] "RELATIVES."

[After quoting a number of scholars concerning the Septuagint and its influence on the Greek of the New Testament]

The writers (except for Luke) and the very early readers of the New Testament, being Jews of that period, were "Septuagint conditioned." They were accustomed to the Septuagint usage of adelphos/adelphe as the ordinary Greek rendering of the Hebrew word -ach- in all its familial and extra-familial meanings, meanings much broader than uterine brother/sisterhood.

Texts which call James, Joses, Simon, Judas, and the unnamed women the adelphoi and adelphai of Jesus cannot be understood except by calling these people Jesus' RELATIVES, not his uterine brothers and sisters.

KARL KEATING'S DEFENSE

A similar argument is given by Karl Keating in his masterpiece of Catholic apologetics, CATHOLICISM AND FUNDAMENTALISM (p. 287-288,284)

Of the four "brethren" who are named in the Gospels, consider, for the sake of argument, only James. Similar reasoning can be used for the other three. We know that James' mother was named Mary. Look at the descriptions of the women standing beneath the Cross:

"Among them were Mary Magdalene, and Mary the MOTHER OF JAMES AND JOSEPH, and the mother of the sons of Zebedee" (Mt 27:56);

"Among them were Mary Magdalene, and Mary the MOTHER OF JAMES THE LESS AND OF JOSEPH, and Salome" (Mk 15:40).

Then look at what John says:

"Now there stood by the cross of Jesus His mother, and His mother's SISTER, MARY THE WIFE OF CLOPAS, and Mary Magdalene" (Jn 19:25 [whether there are actually 3 or 4 women distinguished here is a matter of debate]).

If we compare these parallel accounts of the scene of the Crucifixion, we see that the mother of James and Joseph must be the wife of Cleophas [Clopas in Greek]. So far so good.

An argument against this, though, is that James is elsewhere (Mt 10:3) described as the son of Alphaeus, which would mean this Mary, whoever she was, was the wife of both Cleophas and Alphaeus. One solution is that she was widowed once, then remarried. More probably Alphaeus and Cleophas (Clopas in Greek) are the SAME person, since the Aramaic name for Alphaeus could be rendered in Greek in different ways, either as Alphaeus or Clopas. Another possibility is that Alphaeus took a Greek name similar to his Jewish name, the way that Saul took the name Paul.

So it is probable, anyway, that James is the SON of this OTHER MARY and Cleophas. If the testimony of Hegesippus, a second-century historian, is believed, Cleophas was the BROTHER of Joseph, the foster father of Jesus. James would thus be Joseph's NEPHEW and a COUSIN of Jesus, who was Joseph's putative son.

This identification of the "brethren of the Lord" as Jesus' cousins is open to legitimate question -- they might even be relatives more distantly removed -- and our inability to know certainly their status says nothing about the main point, which is that the Bible demonstrates that they were not, anyway, the Virgin Mary's children.

[Keating further states as evidence of Mary's perpetual virginity:]

In the story of his being found in the Temple, Jesus, at age twelve, is mentioned as evidently the only Son of Mary (Lk 2:41-51); there is no hint of other children in the family. The people of Nazareth, where he grew up, refer to him as "THE son of Mary" (Mk 6:3), not as "A son of Mary". The Greek expression implies he is her ONLY son. In fact, others in the Gospels are never referred to as Mary's SONS, not even when they are called Jesus' "brethren". If they were in fact her sons, this would be strange usage.

JOHN MCHUGH'S DEFENSE

A further point is noted by John McHugh, author of THE MOTHER OF JESUS IN THE NEW TESTAMENT that I mentioned earlier. After quoting Mark 6:4

But Jesus said to them, "A prophet is not without honor except in his own country, among his own RELATIVES, and in his own house."

McHugh notes the following (p. 241) --

"Why does Mark not write 'in his own country and AMONG HIS BROTHERS and in his home'? Perhaps it was to maintain a crescendo from 'his own country' through a narrower circle (his kinsmen [relatives]) to a still smaller group (his own home). All the same, the choice of 'kinsmen' [relatives] in v. 4, coming straight after v. 3, might be an indication that the 'brothers' just mentioned could also be described as 'kinsmen' [relatives], i.e. not full blood-brothers.

"Thus this second Synoptic pericope does not supply clear and irrefutable evidence for the Helvidian theory [that Mary had other children]; it might even find a more satisfactory interpretation if that theory were untrue. At all events, a solution must be sought elsewhere."

For a detailed explanation and examination of all three views I mentioned earlier (Helvidian, Epiphanian, and Jerome's) I would suggest you find the book THE MOTHER OF JESUS IN THE NEW TESTAMENT by John McHugh. After exhaustively presenting all the evidence from the NT and other sources, and critiquing all three views, McHugh concludes (p. 254) --

"In the New Testament, the term 'brothers' does not mean 'cousins.' It means 'brothers.' But that is not to say that it DENOTES blood-brothers; it can denote first cousins who were KNOWN as brothers; who ever refers to his foster-brother (outside a legal context) as anything but his 'brother'? These 'brothers' were, as this chapter has shown, the FIRST COUSINS OF JESUS on his father's side, and not (as [Jerome's] -Adversus Helvidium- suggested) on his mother's.

"Thus the hard core of St. Jerome's theory stands, and with it the Roman Catholic and Orthodox dogmas (or, to those who prefer it, the ancient Lutheran and Calvinist tradition) of the PERPETUAL VIRGINITY OF MARY THE MOTHER OF JESUS."

See also Defense of the Title "Mother of God" (Theotokos)


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