Thursday, October 27, 2005

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

See the first dialogue. Ken's words will be in green. My older words will be in brown.


Thanks for putting up most of that discussion. I appreciate the interaction and you are forcing me to study it deeper.

You're welcome; likewise.

I have now a 12 page response, but you may accuse me of just repeating myself.

If you do, I will! :-)

Your whole paper seemed to me to just dismiss my argumentation, or assume your own position, or use circular reasoning also; the very thing you accused me of many times throughout.

Then I eagerly look forward to your demonstration of this charge, if it is true. I deny it, of course, just as you have denied my frequent charge.

I will try to answer some of your assertions. I am not trying to be difficult, or “mean”, it’s just an honest opinion.

Great; thanks! This is fun, and, I trust, educational for all parties reading. I know I'm learning a lot (as always) by delving more deeply into Scripture. I enjoy few things more.

If the RCC uses that passage [Revelation 12] for Mary, then the fact that she had pain in childbirth shows that she had a very normal human, “what every other woman goes through”- kind- of -a birth.

If in fact, that clause is properly interpreted literally. If it is not, then your argument is a non sequitur. You're again assuming what you need to establish (that the clause about childbirth is both literally about Mary and literally describing the pain of childbirth).

Jesus did not just go through her like He walked through the door or walls in the upper room in His resurrection body.

She was really pregnant. Jesus was in her womb. But we believe that the birth was also a miracle, different from the usual physical childbirth, just as His conception was.

The RCC position on the PVM is Gnostic.

I don't see why. You like to freely throw out these extraordinary charges, don't you? So she remained a virgin her whole life . . . how is that "Gnostic"? Skeptics could just as well say (with this kind of "reasoning") that the Virgin Birth, too, is "Gnostic" because Jesus' conception didn't come about in the usual manner.

The idea that she was a virgin before the birth of Jesus is Biblical and truth. But during birth is Gnostic and after birth of Jesus is also Gnostic.

I don't have the slightest idea how you arrive at that conclusion (perhaps you can inform all of us in due course). This seems to me to be the same old fallacy that it is impossible to imagine that anyone could be both married and celibate: even in the most extraordinary circumstances and motherhood in the history of the world. I believe that I blew that out of the water by showing how Jesus sanctioned not only celibacy, but a lengthy separation from wives and families. The notion is quite thinkable, and quite in line with the range of biblical thought and practice. It's unusual, granted, but so was the Incarnation, Virgin Birth, etc. We should expect very unusual circumstances when it comes to God taking on flesh and becoming man.

I do honestly think that Matthew 1:18 and 1:25 with Luke 1:27, 34-35 and all the other passages about Jesus’ “brothers” and sisters ( Mark 6:3) are all much clearer than all your argumentation.

I trust that this is not your entire dismissal of my argument (i.e., a summary of what you hope to rationally demonstrate), and that you will actually give us some reasoning for why you believe this.

Psalm 69:8 would be clearer if it was directly quoted, but it seems clear enough, given how John uses it in the contexts in his gospel in John 2:12-17, 7:3-8, and 15:25 about the world hating Him, contrasting the rejection of His brothers with the faith of the disciples and drawing parallels from David’s persecutors.

Again, it is not compelling because it is entirely possible for that portion to not be about Jesus, but about David, as you yourself have granted in terms of the overall Psalm.

What is especially poignant is that at the cross at John 19:26-28, and that His thirst and them giving Him gall is an allusion to Psalm 69:21 and that John 19 says, “in order that the Scripture might be fulfilled”; and the “hatred” ( John 15:25) ( unbelief of the brothers in 7:5) and estrangement of his Mother’s sons, and therefore, He commits His mother to the care of a non-sibling, John, a spiritual brother.

I agree that some parts of Psalm 69 are messianic prophecies; I've used them myself.

Gravatar Furthermore, the evangelical position on James and Jude being the half-brothers of Jesus and therefore, sons of Mary, is an added apologetic for the resurrection of Christ. One of the big criticisms of the resurrection by skeptics and unbelievers is that Jesus only appeared to his disciples and those that already believed in Him. No, because I Cor. 15:7 and other passages, and the fact that James and Jude wrote two letters that became Scripture, are more positive proof that Jesus appeared to some of His “enemies”, including Saul of Tarsus. Jesus’ brothers became believers only after the resurrection, as they had rejected Him during his life, thinking He was crazy, and they rejected Him and were not even there at the cross. “I looked for sympathy, but there was none, And for comforters, but found none.” ( Psalm 69:20)

I don't see how any of this proves that they were siblings of Jesus. Remember, I am only attempting to shoot down your alleged proof texts for your position. I freely grant that the biblical case for Mary's perpetual virginity is not compelling, but that, on the other hand, nothing in the Bible is contrary to this belief, and nothing (I have yet seen) requires the contrary position. This is one such instance of that. You have simply assumed that they are blood brothers because the word brother (adelphos) is used. But as we have seen, that can't be determinative in and of itself, because the range of meanings for adelphos is too wide.

Now if this (so far) is indicative of how you will be arguing in the second round, indeed it has been simple repetition with only minimal additional information, not a rational defense of positions I have already critiqued, or a proper examination of your assumed and/or circular premises and conclusions. I hope that your subsequent replies will be of a more substantive nature.

By “clear and perspicuous”, I mean of course, Matthew 1:18, 25 and Luke chapters 1-2 and Matthew 12 with the parallels. Psalm 69:8 would be clearer if it was directly quoted in the NT, but I did not say that it was as clear as the others. John could be alluding to Psalm 68:8 in John 7:3-5, "For not even His brothers were believing in Him". Since John is also the one to whom Jesus commits His mother to care for, this is significant. John’s use of Psalm 69 in chapter 2, and chapters 7 and 15, and 19, along with all the other Messianic content in Psalm 69, this could be John's way of pointing out or alluding to Psalm 69:8.

More needless repetition, that doesn't advance the discussion along.

You left out some of the other Messianic references to Jesus in Psalm 69, that I referred to.

Psalm 69:4 is quoted in John 15:25
Psalm 69:9a is quoted in John 2:17 ( context, in verse 12, he distinguishes between brothers and disciples.)
Psalm 69:9b is quoted in Romans 15:3
Psalm 69:21 is quoted or alluded to in Mathew 27:34, 48, Mark 15:23, 36; and Luke 23:36, and John 19:28-30.
Psalm 69:25 is about Judas, and quoted in Acts 1:20. One of the “enemies”, who hates Him.

I don't dispute any of that. But it doesn't prove that the one part is necessarily referring to Jesus! Why is this so hard to understand? I'm merely applying the principle that you yourself established, by asserting that there was a verse about the sinfulness of David that clearly didn't apply to Jesus. Double application is very common in messianic prophecies. We needn't argue about that. You can repeat all you want, but if you don't establish your premise or disprove my objection (altogether reasonable in this instance, I think), then you have accomplished nothing, and veer close to sophistry.

Thanks for pointing out Psalm 69:29 and that Jesus did not need salvation from sin. That's good, and I would agree with you if David, the writer, is referring to "salvation from sin". But in the context, he could be referring to "salvation from the affliction and pain: "But I am afflicted and in pain; May Thy salvation, O God, set me securely on high."

I agree, since "salvation" is more often used in that sense in the OT, and then it is used allegorically later in the NT in a soteriological sense. But we should be reluctant to apply such a term to Jesus at all, precisely because it often has that dual connotation in Scripture. If it ever is applied to Jesus in the New Testament, I'd be interested in seeing it.

Anyway, obviously, since there are clear verses that Jesus was sinless and did not need salvation from sin, this is a moot point. ( John 5, 8, 10, 2 Cor. 5:21, Hebrews 4:15, 7:26, I Peter 2:22-23) Could be in the same vain as “may this cup of suffering pass from Me, but not My will, but Thy will be done.” ( Luke 22:42)

Yes; that's possible, but I don't think so here, per the above.

I wish that you and the RCC would treat Mary’s clear statement “My soul exalts the Lord, and my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior.” ( Luke 1:46-47) with the same seriousness- that she was a sinner and needed salvation from her sins.

We absolutely do; that's why we believe that she was saved from her would-be inevitable sin by her Immaculate Conception, just as one is saved from falling in a pit by being taken away from ever encountering it, just as much as he or she is saved from it by falling in and then being pulled out of it. A man is saved from drowning in storm-tossed waves if he puts his lifejacket on in the ship, just as much as he would be if he fell over and then had it tossed to him. Prevention thus serves the same capacity as rescue. The end result is the same. In Mary's case the end result is salvation, just as it is for any other elect. She had just as much need for God's grace as everyone else. In fact, the Immaculate Conception would be pointless if not for the fact that original sin made it necessary if Mary were to be freed from same. You can't free someone from something that doesn't threaten them.

Where is your evidence that the other apostles were lifelong celibates? Jesus, yes, John the Baptist, maybe, OK, (but is there clear evidence of this? Where?) but I Corinthians 9:5 says “Do we not have a right to take along a believing wife, even as the rest of the apostles, and the brothers of the Lord, and Cephas?” The phrase, “even as the rest of the apostles” clearly indicates that they were all married. So only Jesus, maybe John the Baptist are candidates for this life-long celibacy. As I mentioned before, Paul may have been married and the verse you point out in Luke 18:29 about a man leaving his wife for the sake of the kingdom, may be an example of what happened to Paul. Luke 14:26 also says whoever does not “hate” his own father and mother and wife and children . . . etc. even his own life, he cannot be My disciple. It could be that Paul’s conversion caused him to put Jesus first, and his wife rejected him for that. By putting Jesus first, the wife complained, “you have left me” or “you are too busy with all this ministry”, and she left him, not being able to handle the situation. That is probably why Paul’s emphasis in I Corinthians 7 is mostly on an unbelieving wife who leaves because of the man’s love and devotion to Christ.

I probably overstated that, and would need to research the matter further. I have two books about the twelve disciples, and neither has "marriage" or "celibacy" or suchlike in their index, so it would be time-consuming to try to find something quickly.

In any event, they became celibate like Jesus insofar as the married ones among them (however many) left their wives and families in order to commit themselves to evangelization, etc. That point of mine will stand no matter how many of the disciples were married, because the analogy was to marital chastity (remember, this is about Mary's perpetual virginity). I countered the objection to that by pointing out how Jesus sanctioned marital separation (which went even beyond voluntary married chastity). Even if temporary, this also is an exception to your scenario from 1 Corinthians 7, where Paul talked about husbands and wives separating for a short time and then becoming sexually active again. Don't forget the context in which I made my original argument . . .

I don’t think Jesus is saying to irresponsibly “leave your wife” for good. You almost sounded like you were saying that, until I read it more closely and saw the words, “for a time” The disciples temporarily left their homes and jobs to follow Jesus, but they returned periodically to fish and visit their families and earn a living.

I don't rule it out. Again, I think it would be an interesting thing to study further, to find out exactly what the scholarly consensus on that is. But I reiterate that my analogy is not defeated because they were separating for significant times. This was a great sacrifice for the married among them (even arguably greater than for one who never married). All of these considerations make the marital chastity of Mary and Joseph quite "biblical" and not all that different from what we have here, explicitly stated. The details are less important than the fact that this is present at all. If the charge is that the Catholic Church is "anti-sex" because it is unthinkable that a married couple could abstain for very long periods, then the same charge must be made about Jesus Himself. And I am always proud to be on the same side of an issue as my Glorious Lord and Savior Jesus! But you seem to miss all this (the major point and force of my analogy), in your rush to dispute secondary particulars.

Jesus is saying He must come first and our devotion must be to Him first. He is not saying that Peter left his wife for good, nor any of the other disciples; that would contradict so much of the other Bible, for us to love our wives as Christ loved the Church ( Ephesians 5:25), and for a man aspiring to be an elder to be “above reproach” and be good managers of his family. ( I Timothy 3, Titus 1)

You act as if Jesus was urging them to sin! This would be a voluntary sacrifice for the sake of the Kingdom. It was extraordinary circumstances. No one is saying that it was or should be normative. Obviously not.

So there is no problem with this concept in evangelical circles. Ministers and missionaries sacrifice a lot for ministry. And some have to do some work on a short term basis. So you don't really have a good point here at all.

I certainly do, as reierated above, and you have not overcome it. You're the one claiming that marital chastity is both unbiblical and unthinkable. The larger milieu in which these charges are made is the ridiculous old saw about the Catholic Church somehow being opposed to sexuality and marriage. If we are (in the sense claimed), then so is Jesus, etc. These charges seem to me to be insufficiently acquainted with relevant biblical motifs (1 Corinthians 7, Matthew 19, this business of disciples leaving their wives for ministry's sake), upon which we have based our beliefs in this regard. So once again we show ourselves significantly more "biblical" or "Bible-honoring" than Protestants. This is the theme of my own ministry. :-)

Gravatar Since Scripture is truth, and Scripture says she had other children; that is why we honor her more, by believing the truth. She was not a perpetual virgin, as Matthew 1:18 and 25 clearly show.

No it doesn't! It can't be proven by adelphos alone. How many times must we say this? And other deductive arguments also suggest that there were no siblings. Nor do Matthew 1:18 and 25 show ("clearly" or otherwise) that Mary became sexually active after Jesus' birth, whether she had additional children or not (based not on dogma but on the linguistics involved, and cross-referencing). This is not merely "arbitrary Catholic opinion"; it was the orthodox position of almost all Protestants, too, until the 19th century, higher criticism and theological liberalism broke it down.

You made the comment somewhere that the Perpetual virginity doctrine protects the virgin Birth of Christ. How?

I gave my speculations in the first dialogue. Go read that. This is long enough.

The danger of this doctrine is not it by itself, but the implications that it gave toward marriage with its Gnostic leanings . . .

This is ridiculous and ludicrous. Just because someone (Gnostics or anyone else) takes an instance of consecrated virginity and turns it into some stupid, God-dishonoring, human-debasing, anti-procreation, anti-sexual extreme does not prove that the thing thereby distorted is itself "dangerous." You even admit this yourself in your first clause above. Yet you would have us believe that even though a thing is good "by itself", it ought to be condemned and denied at least in part because of how others distort, twist, and warp it for their own nefarious ends. If that were true, then we ought to throw out all of Christianity, since every part of it has been distorted by some weird cult that both you and I would equally condemn. What's true is true, and we don't decide truth by how some folks butcher and twist it.

. . . and then the taking off and running with this to produce all of the other emphasis on Mary that takes glory and honor away from Jesus Christ and the Triune God.

So you take a flat-out fallacy that even you only half-believe, and "run with" that to enter into the usual garden-variety contra-Catholic polemics about Mariolatry and all the other tripe (which is itself based on ignorance of what we teach about Mary, and practice). Not impressive. All this suggests to me is that your own overwhelming bias against the Mariology of the Catholic Church is profoundly coloring what you write and argue, when critiquing our beliefs in that regard.

So it seems that you can't accept the perpetual virginity of Mary, not only because of your opinion that it lacks sufficient biblical support or even indication but first and foremost because, well, it is, after all, "Gnostic" and leads to gross idolatry and the denigration of Jesus Christ! Obviously, then, no self-respecting Christian can accept such a hideous doctrine if it inevitably ends up in all that mess! And so anything I argue from Bible, linguistics, and reason alike is utterly futile. Thanks for at least being quite open and transparent about it.

Roman Catholic statuary, bowing, kissing, honoring, and praying to a statue and emphasis on Mary and praising her is an affront to God.

I see. Are you sure?

Mary is most always pictured as bigger and more central.

Is that so? I must have missed it in my fifteen years as a Catholic.

The church in the late 300s and onwards sowed those seeds that produced the other doctrines and dogmas that eclipse the unseen, Triune God.

How sad, huh? It would have been easy enough to include Mary in the Godhead, since the Church was working through theology proper and Christology in those same years. Somehow it didn't happen. I wonder why that is?

I have no problem with a manger scene at Christmas time, . . .

You should, because if (as you claim) a statue is an idol, so is this. What does size have to do with it? An idol is an idol, even if someone looks at it in a microscope. An idol can also be a non-physical thing.

. . . but the ongoing all the time emphasis on Mary in the RCC contexts honestly does seem to take away from Christ.

Now you thankfully qualify a bit. Above you were quite sure that it did this; no question about it. Which is your actual opinion?

Dave, you write that all I do is to make bald assertions; but that is all you seem to have done also.

How so?

Here Luther indicts himself, for it is just wrong to claim that “Holy Writ and the Jews always call cousins brothers.” John Mark is a Jew (Colossians 4:10), Barnabas is a Jew (Acts 4:36), yet Colossians 4:10 clearly calls John Mark, “Barnabas’ cousin” (anepsios). Elizabeth and Mary are Jews and Elizabeth is called “relative” (suggenes or sun-genes).

That's right, but it doesn't rule out using "brother" also for the same people, so this proves nothing for your case, as has been shown at much greater length already.

“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:”

Since John is the one who is quoting and alluding to Psalm 69 so much: ( John 2:17, John 15:25, John 19:28-29), and the context of John 7:3-5 is about his brothers not believing in Him, and then in verses 6-8, it becomes even more clear that John is saying that Psalm 69:8 is about Mary’s others sons. John 7:6, “Jesus therefore said to them, “My time is not yet at hand, but your time is always opportune.” John 7:7, “The world cannot hate you; but it hates me because I testify of it, that its deeds are evil.” Because verse 3 in the same context says, “His brothers therefore said to Him, “Depart from here and go into Judea, that your disciples also may behold Your works which You are doing.” – here is a clear distinction between Jesus’ brothers and Jesus’ disciples. He contrasts between the faith and love of the disciples and the hatred and unbelief of the world. He does the same thing in John 15:25, another quote from Psalm 69. “They hated Me without a cause”. Now the context of the cross and the giving of Mary to John to care of her becomes even more important and more clear that Mary had other children. And then in John 19:27-28, where Jesus says, “Behold, your mother!”, Jesus is clearly connected her with Psalm 69, because his real brothers have disowned Him and been estranged from Him and rejected Him, and hated Him, so therefore, He commits His mother to John. In verse 28 of John 19, the Scripture says, “. . . in order that the Scripture might be fulfilled, said, “I am thirsty”. Psalm 69:21 – with Matthew 27:34, 48, Mark 15:23, 36, and Luke 23:36.

Ah, now here is a decent exegetical counter-argument; something with substance and meat, that I can sink my teeth into. Thank you. One thing occurs to me, however. Now you are making an argument from inference and deduction: an indirect and implicit proof rather than a direct one - the very thing that you chide us for doing. Why is that okay for you but not for us? John doesn't cite entire Psalms, but rather, portions of them. So he cites bits and pieces of Psalm 69 here and there, as it was rather well-known, I think, as a messianic prophecy. As you note, at least three times he cites this Psalm as related to events which are the fulfillment of something written there, by King David. So we know that John does this. It is indisputable.

Why, then, doesn't he go ahead and cite Ps 69:8 right in the immediate context of John 7:5, where he mentions Jesus' brothers, and be done with it? If he had done that, and had made this disbelief by Jesus' relatives a fulfillment of the "mother's sons" of the Psalm, then we wouldn't be having this argument at all. That would be clear-cut, undeniable, unarguable, and compelling. But he doesn't do that; there is no such "slam-dunk" passage in the NT, and you are forced to argue from speculation, just as I am doing. Yet when you do it, you see this as "clear" proof. When I do it, I am being your usual "unbiblical" Catholic who supposedly can't give biblical proofs for distinctive doctrines. Very interesting. On the same basis upon which you reject my indirect proofs, I can reject yours and regard them as every bit as non-proof, non-compelling as you regard my deductive exegetical arguments.

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