Monday, August 31, 2009

Why Are Jesus' "Brothers" (I.e., Cousins or Step-Brothers) Always Hanging Around Mary? Doesn't This Prove That They Are Actually His Siblings?

[Jesus5.jpg]

This exchange occurred on the CHNI forum. The person who asked the questions is, by his own description, "Raised RC, denominational orphan, post-Protestant." I suspect that he may have come up with this question through the influence of a Protestant source or direct challenge (but maybe not). He is seeking answers, and I gave a shot at providing what I thought was a decent Catholic reply to his query. As usual, when I try to answer a question, I learn a lot myself. That is one of the joys and benefits of apologetics. His words are in blue, others' in green and purple, and mine in black.

* * * * *

Okay, so here’s an old question with (I think) a new twist. I’m now trying to come to terms with the Church’s teaching on the perpetual virginity of Mary and exactly who the ‘brothers’ of Jesus were. I’ve read all kinds of apologetics on the subject, but there’s one thing that no one seems to address that keeps nagging at me and I can’t piece together: why were the supposed brothers & sisters of Jesus, who were not Mary’s actual children commonly pictured in Scripture with her? Like I’ve said, I’ve read most of the common apologetic books and online material I could get my hands on so I don’t need all the common arguments repeated. I know the Greek word adelphos meant brother, and it was actually a transference of a middle-eastern phrase ‘brother’ since there was no word for [cousin] in Aramaic or Hebrew. My understanding is that after St. Jerome wrote his tract Against Helvidius, the Church has generally accepted that the brothers were probably Jesus’ cousins. However, for a theory to work, it has to coinhere – that is, all the parts have to fit together in a coherent way. But no apologists ever seem to explain why these ‘cousins’ of Jesus are commonly pictured with Mary.

In Matthew 12.46, it says Jesus’ mother and brothers are outside the house trying to speak with him, and in Matthew 13.55 these ‘cousins’ are listed together with Mary. This seems somewhat odd in a middle-eastern culture in which sons were more commonly listed as being the son of their father as Scripture often does. So I guess what I’m wondering is whether someone can point me to some good references to account for what is happening with these cousins who always seem to be hanging out with their aunt Mary? If one or two of them were listed or were going along for moral support it would make sense, but 6+ cousins listed with their auntie and all tagging along in a gaggle for moral support doesn't really make a lot of sense. But perhaps there's cultural info that I'm not aware of that someone can point me to that will make better sense of this picture. In contrast, I understand that in the earliest Church it was generally believed that these ‘brothers’ of Jesus were older children of Joseph (who was widowed) from a prior marriage (i.e. step-brothers to Jesus). This to me would make more sense – that step-brothers of Jesus would naturally be pictured and listed with their step-mother. It kind of puzzles me that most Catholic apologists (and the western Church) turned away from several hundred years of tradition at the time of St. Jerome to follow a new and novel idea that the ‘brothers’ were actually Jesus' cousins. I find it odd that the Church made this sudden right turn away from a long held tradition, whereas in many instances something like this is used as an argument that something should be believed: because the Church had held to it for hundreds of years from apostolic days. Any thoughts & suggestions as to how to think about all this? Am I free to hold to either viewpoint regarding who the brothers were if I came into the Church? I'm puzzled because even the catechism indicates the brothers were sons of another Mary (500) - which makes me think this has now been definitively defined. Even if not, I would still feel like the odd man out since everyone seems to be on the ‘cousins’ bandwagon, but from what I can see there’s a few serious holes in that that viewpoint that no seems to address from an apologetics perspective which leaves me perplexed. Any help and insight would be appreciated.

If Mary had male children other than Jesus, it would have been a HUGE insult to them for Jesus to entrust her care to the apostle John who was not a "blood" relation.

Unfortunately, this is the standard Catholic response which I've seen many times, but doesn't really answer MY question above. Why were the supposed cousins of Jesus always pictured as hanging out with Mary? I find the standard Catholic response to this question is not an answer at all. Instead, all there seems to be to this question so far is more perplexing questions thrown my way - but I'm hoping someone will be actually be able to answer the questions rather than evading them with more questions. All I want is the truth & to get to the bottom of things wherever that may take me. Thanks!

Have you had a chance to go to www.biblechristiansociety.com? His questions like yours go even farther into the logic of letting our minds go. Here lets take one of his arguments very similar to the unanswered loose ends curiosity you have discovered. Also, we see from Mt. 27:55-56, that the James and Joses mentioned in Mark 6 as the "brothers" of Jesus, are actually the sons of another Mary. And, one other passage to consider is Acts 1:14-15, "[The Apostles] with one accord devoted themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus and with His brothers...the company of persons was in all about a hundred and twenty." A company of 120 persons composed of the Apostles, Mary, the women, and the "brothers" of Jesus. Let's see there were 11 Apostles at the time. Jesus' mother makes 12. The women, probably the same three women mentioned in Matthew 27, but let's say it was maybe a dozen or two, just for argument's sake. So that puts us up to 30 or 40 or so. So that leaves the number of Jesus' brothers at about 80 or 90! Do you think Mary had 80 or 90 children? She would have been in perpetual labor! No, Scripture does not contradict the teaching of the Catholic Church about the "brothers" of Jesus, when Scripture is properly interpreted in context.

The step-brothers scenario would be one plausible answer. I believe that is preferred by the Orthodox Church, and as far as I know (I'm not absolutely certain), it is a permissible option for a Catholic to believe. We are required to believe in Mary's perpetual virginity, meaning that she was always a virgin and had no other children, and that Jesus' birth was a miraculous one, not (far as I know without checking) in any particular hypothesis accounting for the exact nature of the relationship of these persons called Jesus' "brothers" in Scripture, according to standard Hebrew / Aramaic cultural custom.

If indeed they are cousins (as I am inclined to believe, from extensive exegetical examination: see the "Perpetual Virginity" section of my Blessed Virgin Mary web page for all those in-depth arguments), I think the way to answer this would be to better understand the nature of the ancient Hebrew extended family.

Here is a description from a website called Ancient Hebrew Research Center. It is referring more so to the nomadic, OT period, but I suspect that in Jesus' day it wasn't all that different:

    The family, children, parents and grandparents, all resided in one tent. The clan consisted of the extended family, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, etc, all residing in one camp and may contain as many as 50 to 100 tents laid out in a circular pattern. When the clan becomes too large for one area to support, the tribe splits into two clans (see Genesis 13). All the clans (all being descended from one ancestor) may cover hundreds of square miles making up the tribe. As an example, the house of Moses, of the clan of Levi, of the tribe of Israel.

The Hebrew "household" (if not virtually always) often would contain extended family members. It was not like our nuclear families of today. For example, in the book, Families in Ancient Israel (Leo G. Perdue, editor; Westminster John Knox Press, 1997) we find this description:

    The familial roles of males in the household's kinship structure included those of lineal descent and marriage -- grandfather, father, son, and husband -- and those lateral relationships -- brother, uncle, nephew, and cousin.

    (pp. 179-180)

The household often even extended to sojourners or hired laborers (ibid., p. 199). In this book, the "household" is casually described as including cousins. For example:

    The line of responsibility to serve as the household's or clan's "goel"* began with the brother, then the uncle, then the cousin, and, finally, any close relative.

    (p. 192)


* = "redeemer", or the one "responsible for the justice and well-being of the family."

The Eerdmans Bible Dictionary (edited by Allen C. Myers, Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans, rev. ed., 1975) makes the nature of the Israelite family very clear, by noting that it could include more than one nuclear family (thus, cousins would be residing together):

    The basic social unit, comprised of persons related by kinship and sharing a common residence. The Israelite family was an extended family known as the "father's house" or "household" (Heb. "bet-ab"), consisting of two or more nuclear families (i.e., a married couple and their children) or composite families (an individual with multiple spouses and their offspring) . . . other kin (including grandparents), servants, concubines, and sojourners might also be reckoned part of the household (cf. Gen. 46:5-7, 26).

    ("Family," p. 376)

Moreover, on the next page, this reference work noted that clans also usually "occupied the same or adjacent towns." Extended families stuck together. It was like a perpetual family reunion. This would easily account for first or second or third cousins (all referred to as "brothers" in Semitic or Near Eastern culture (then and now) all "hanging around" in one place.

In a fascinating article, "The 'Brothers and Sisters' of Jesus: Anything New?," François Rossier notes how the NT use of "brothers" when meaning "cousins" might be explained, by analogy:

    This plurality of interpretations has been made possible because of the ambiguity of the word "brother" (and "sister") in ancient Hebrew. This language, like Aramaic, does not distinguish between blood brother and cousin. In fact--and this point might not have been taken into sufficient consideration--the Hebrew word "ah," in its literal meaning, applies to any close male relative of the same generation. Once someone belongs to this circle--whether as sibling, half-brother, step-brother or cousin--he is an "ah." Within this circle defined by true family brotherhood no further word distinction is made. For ancient Hebrew, one belongs either to the family in-group or not. . . .

    The psychological and anthropological reality of speaking and writing in a language of another culture is, however, more complex. I was able to witness it when I was living in Abidjan, the major city of the Ivory Coast, in West Africa. It is today a big city of about four million inhabitants that grew up in a zone originally scarcely populated. The sparse original population was not able to absorb the waves of immigrants coming from all over the former French colonies in West Africa. The only language all these people had in common was French, and French became thus the native language of Abidjan. In most native languages of West Africa, no distinction is made between a "brother" and a "cousin," whereas such a distinction exists in French. Nevertheless, the inhabitants of Abidjan, whose mother tongue is French, who have been raised and educated in French, continue to use the French word for "brother" when they speak of a "cousin." Using the French word for "cousin" would betray the way they envision social and family relationships. When the people of Abidjan want to specify that "brother" means a true blood sibling, they need to add "same father, same mother" ("même père, même mère"). Full siblings are a particular kind of brothers; they do not constitute the benchmark of brotherhood. The socio-cultural milieu of the authors of the New Testament is Judaism. So, we can accept the idea that, even if their text does not suppose a Hebrew or Aramaic substrate, in their use of Greek words they would naturally convey the way their own Judaic society and culture envision social and family relationships. . . .

    Nowhere in the New Testament are the "brothers" of Jesus also identified as “sons of Mary” within the same context. Whereas, again in Mark 6:3, Jesus is identified as "the son of Mary" by the people of Nazareth.


* * * * *

Further exchanges since the first posting:

Thanks Dave A. You da' man! Your reply and articles really helped - especially that last article since the book it references Mary in the New Testament is one of the texts I've been looking through. From thinking this over the past week, it seems that based on Scripture alone a conclusive argument can't be made that the 'brothers' of Jesus were necessarily half-brothers. And like the rest of Scripture, who the 'brothers' were needs to be understood within its context or tradition - which has been that Mary has always been a virgin - including subsequent to the birth of Jesus. I think I can accept this with intellectual integrity. From what you posted I can see that the cousin argument has merit and it's something I'll have to mull over some more.

However, one thing I am still puzzled about is how the Catechism can seemingly define the 'brothers' to be cousins in paragraph 500, and yet I've read in various places that Catholics are still free to hold to the step-brothers theory. But doesn't the fact that the 'brothers' are spelled out in the Catechism as cousins close the door to any other possibilities and define what must now be believed? I'm thinking there must be something here I'm not understanding.

CCC #500:
    Against this doctrine the objection is sometimes raised that the Bible mentions brothers and sisters of Jesus. 157

    [Footnote 157: Cf. Mk 3:31-35; 6:3; 1 Cor 9:5; Gal 1:19.]

    The Church has always understood these passages as not referring to other children of the Virgin Mary. In fact James and Joseph, "brothers of Jesus", are the sons of another Mary, a disciple of Christ, whom St. Matthew significantly calls "the other Mary". 158

    [Footnote 158: Mt 13:55; 28:1; cf. Mt 27:56.]

    They are close relations of Jesus, according to an Old Testament expression. 159

    [Footnote 159: Cf. Gen 13:8; 14:16; 29:15; etc.]

The Catechism here only refers to James and Joseph, not all the "brothers" of Jesus. And it does because there is explicit biblical indication (I've written about it myself) that these two are sons of another Mary. This would (logically) leave an option open for other possible explanations for additional "brothers" (cousins, more distant relatives, or step-brothers). The dogmatic part (long since settled by the Church) remains the negative appraisal on siblings of Jesus: "The Church has always understood these passages as not referring to other children of the Virgin Mary."

"They are close relations" may refer (it's not clear to me) to all such "brothers" or to James and Joseph only. But either way, "close relations" could easily refer either to cousins in close proximity or to step-brothers. In Semitic culture there is less of a distinction of the fine categories because the family was mostly regarded as extended rather than primary, as we know it in modern urban, western culture.

28 comments:

Ken said...

Problem with the Aramaic/Hebrew/cousins argument is that the NT books were written in Greek; and there is a specific word for "cousin" in Greek, used in Colossians 4:10

Μᾶρκος ὁ ἀνεψιὸς Βαρναβᾶ

Mark the cousin of Barnabas

cousin = anepsios (English phonetics)

If they were cousins, the NT writers would have used them.

Also, there are other words for close relative, cousin, as in Luke 1:36 "your relative Elizabeth"

Ἐλισάβετ ἡ συγγενίς

sungenis (English phonetics) The double gamma, "g" is pronouned "ng".

Also, in Matthew 12:49-50 - the point would be lost, if he meant "cousins", because Jesus makes the point that His true spiritual brothers are disciples, believers; and His blood (half) brothers were not believers at that time. ( John 7:5 "for even His brothers were not believing in Him.")

In Hebrews 2:10-11, it says, ". . . for which reason His is not ashamed to call them brothers." (those who are sanctified, the believers, who trust Him (v. 13)

In Matthew 12:50 - He is making this point, the true brothers are those that believe and obey and do the will of God; not His physical brothers who don't believe.

So, giving His mother to John, a believer, a true disciple, a true spiritual brother, was the right thing to do, considering his physical brothers were not believers at that point. They became believers after the resurrection. (I Cor. 15:7; Galatians 2:19)

So, Jesus is not ashamed to call John his brother from the cross over His physical half-brothers, shaming them, because of their unbelief. (see also Matthew 10:32-40)

Galatians and Corinthians were Greek/Gentile areas, they did not speak Aramaic, so even more reason for those books to use the word "cousin" (anepsios) if James was his cousin. But not, he calls him "the Lord's brother". Galatians 1:19

The whole RC argument for the Perpetual Virginity of Mary falls flat.

Also, Psalm 69:8-9 seems to point to His brothers being His mother's sons.

"I have become estranged from my brothers, and an alien to my mother's sons. For zeal for Thy House has consumed Me, and the reproaches of those who reproach Thee have fallen on Me." (see John 2:17; Romans 15:3; and also John 15:25)

Hebrew parallelism "brothers" = "mother's sons"

Obviously, Psalm 69:5 is NOT about Jesus, becasue He was sinless, but one cannot deny that there are many other verses in Psalm 69 that are Messianic and many quotes from this Psalm are about Jesus Himself. (see also Psalm 69:21 (in John 19:28-30)

Ken said...

If Mary had male children other than Jesus, it would have been a HUGE insult to them for Jesus to entrust her care to the apostle John who was not a "blood" relation.

They were already offended and insulted by Jesus in Mark 6:3. This is not a big deal for Jesus to offend His brothers, since they were unbelievers and, again, He is not ashamed to call believers, His brothers. Heb. 2:11

So, He is ashamed to call His real brothers, "brothers" and does not honor them with the care of Mary; but gives her to a faithful believer, John.

Ken said...

Eric Svendsen's book, Who is My Mother? soundly refutes the RC apologetic for the Perpetual Virginity of Mary.

http://www.amazon.com/Who-My-Mother-Status-Jesus/dp/1879737450

Adomnan said...

Ken,

Eric Svendsen is an ignorant charlatan with a fake "degree" he got through the mail from some Fundamentalist diploma mill in South Africa. (Like he ever spent time studying in South Africa: ha! I'll believe that when I see the stamp in his passport). All of Svendsen's books are garbarge, and you should be ashamed of advising people to waste their money on them. And, no, he doesn't know Greek; he's faking that, too.

Ken: cousin = anepsios (English phonetics)

If they were cousins, the NT writers would have used them.

Adomnan: You mean "used anepsios"? False. The Septuagint translators called Lot Abraham's "adelphos" even though Lot was Abraham's nephew (Gen. 13:8) So, Hebrew/Aramaic words for cousin, nephew and other kinsmen can indeed be rendered as "adelphos" in Greek, AS WAS DONE IN THE SEPTUAGINT! Get it? Let me repeat: The Septuagint, which was a Greek translation of the Hebrew that was done in ancient times, translated cousin and nephew as "adelphos."

I sure hope I don't have to repeat this again, do I? You DO understand, don't you?

But I think you knew this -- because you've been in these discussions before.

Ken: So, He is ashamed to call His real brothers, "brothers" and does not honor them with the care of Mary; but gives her to a faithful believer, John.

Adomnan: And yet Jesus's "brothers" (i.e., kinsmen) show up as believers less than two months later at Pentecost, in the company of Mary, where they all partake of the Holy Spirit. So much for your theory that Jesus was dissing them because they weren't "faithful believers."

The rest of your observations on this subject are confused and incoherent and don't merit a response. You should edit your stuff a bit before you post it.

Ken said...

Adomnan: You mean "used anepsios"?

Yes, in the NT.

False. The Septuagint translators called Lot Abraham's "adelphos" even though Lot was Abraham's nephew (Gen. 13:8)

The reason for that is because the Hebrew word is "Achim" (brothers). They translated it literally. There is no problem here with my point. Furthermore, the context is Abraham is appealing to the context of the whole clan and the other herdsmen; yes, I know that "brother" can be used in that way, when it doesn't mean literally, "son of my mother" or blood sibling from same mother and father, etc. That is not the point. Genesis 12:5 is literally, both in Hebrew and the Greek Septuagint, "son of his brother". New American Standard translates it as "nephew", but the JKV, RSV, NRSV, and NKJ all have "brother's son".

If Genesis 13:8 in Hebrew was "because we are "sons of brothers"; (which is possible, given Genesis 12:5)then your case would be stronger. But, it is not. You failed.

My point was in the NT. Give me a NT clear example. As it is, even your OT example is refuted.

So, you are just wrong; and your attitude is ad hominem against Eric Svendsen, bombastic and a condescending response.

I don't know anything about his doctorate, but sometimes people can get an advanced degree without having to uproot and move and maybe it is because they don't have enough money to go to an accredited institution that you would approve of; and also because of time, jobs, moving. It is not always a bad thing to get that kind of a doctorate.

Also, many of the 'accredited" institutions are filled with liberalism; (not all, but most are), so it just may be a case of not wanting to have to fight all the liberal garbage every day in classes, and while studying and writing papers.



So, Hebrew/Aramaic words for cousin, nephew and other kinsmen can indeed be rendered as "adelphos" in Greek, AS WAS DONE IN THE SEPTUAGINT! Get it? Let me repeat: The Septuagint, which was a Greek translation of the Hebrew that was done in ancient times, translated cousin and nephew as "adelphos."

Carmelite said...

"[T]he Son of God...was born perfectly of the holy ever-virgin Mary by the Holy Spirit..."
Epiphanius,Well Anchored Man,120(A.D. 374),in JUR,II:70

"The friends of Christ do not tolerate hearing that the Mother of God ever ceased to be a virgin"
Basil,Hom. In Sanctum Christi generationem,5(ante A.D. 379),in OTT,207

Imitate her, holy mothers, who in her only dearly beloved Son set forth so great an example of maternal virtue; for neither have you sweeter children, nor did the Virgin seek the consolation of being able to bear another son."
Ambrose,To the Christian at Vercellae,Letter 63:111(A.D. 396),in NPNF2,X:473

"Therefore let those who deny that the Son is from the Father by nature and proper to His Essence, deny also that He took true human flesh of Mary Ever-Virgin; for in neither case had it been of profit to us men, whether the Word were not true and naturally Son of God, or the flesh not true which He assumed."
Athanasius,Orations against the Arians,II:70(A.D. 362),in NPNF2,IV:386-387

And by a new nativity He was begotten, conceived by a Virgin, born of a Virgin, without paternal desire, without injury to the mother's chastity: because such a birth as knew no taint of human flesh, became One who was to be the Saviour of men, while it possessed in itself the nature of human substance. For when God was born in the flesh, God Himself was the Father, as the archangel witnessed to the Blessed Virgin Mary: because the Holy Spirit shall come upon thee, and the power of the most High shall overshadow thee: and therefore, that which shall be born of thee shall be called holy, the Son of God.' The origin is different but the nature like: not by intercourse with man but by the power of God was it brought about: for a Virgin conceived, a Virgin bare, and a Virgin she remained."
Pope Leo the Great(regn. A.D. 440-461),On the Feast of the Nativity,Sermon 22:2(ante A.D. 461),in NPNF2,XII:130

Carmelite said...

The ever-virgin One thus remains even after the birth still virgin, having never at any time up till death consorted with a man. For although it is written, And knew her not till she had brought forth her first-born Son, yet note that he who is first-begotten is first-born even if he is only-begotten. For the word first-born' means that he was born first but does not at all suggest the birth of others. And the word till' signifies the limit of the appointed time but does not exclude the time thereafter. For the Lord says, And lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world, not meaning thereby that He will be separated from us after the completion of the age. The divine apostle, indeed, says, And so shall we ever be with the Lord, meaning after the general resurrection."
John of Damascus,Orthodox Faith,4:14(A.D. 743),in NPNF2,IX:86

Ken said...

Carmelite,
374 AD (Ephiphanius)
379 AD (Basil)
396 AD (Ambrose)
362 AD (Athanasius) ( I wonder if Athanasius really wrote this; or if this is a later gloss or redaction; as the only other times he talks about this issue ("De Virginity" and "Homily on Turin") is in spurious works that are doubted as to belonging to Athanasius himself.)

461 AD Leo
743 AD John of Damascus

All of these men had many other great things that they wrote about; but on this issue, they were wrong, and unScriptural. This was a man-made tradition that was sincerely believed, and caught on and lasted for centuries.

But Tertullian, (writing around 180-220 AD) is more ancient than all of them; and he disagreed with them.

Against Marcion 4:19 --

So his testimony, on this issue, along with the NT Scriptures - 49-69 AD, Matthew 1:18-25, are more weighty and older and "deeper in history". Newman's dictum is refuted.

see
http://beggarsallreformation.blogspot.com/2009/08/in-gospel-according-to-john-apostles.html

Ken said...

Carmelite:

http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/npnf204.v.iii.i.html

This Patristic scholar, Archibald Robertson, and Gwatkin think “On Virginity” was not really written by Athanasius himself.

55) De Virginitate. (Migne xxviii. 251). Pronounced dubious by Montf., spurious by Gwatkin, genuine by Eichhorn (ubi supr., pp. 27, sqq.), who rightly lays stress on the early stage of feminine asceticism which is implied. But I incline to agree with Mr. Gwatkin as to its claims to come from Athanasius. ‘Three hypostases’ are laid down in a way incompatible with Athanasius’ way of speaking in later life.

On “The Homily of the Papyrus of Turin”, allegedly written by Athanasius – pseudograph, spurious, probably not written by Athanasius himself.
http://turretinfan.blogspot.com/2008/05/athanasius-homily-of-papyrus-of-turin.html


So many other places in Athanasius’ standard agreed upon works, he refers to the Virgin Mary, when she conceived and birthed Jesus, but not “ever-Virgin”, except that one place at Orations against the Arians, 2:70. This seems odd indeed.

On the History of Arian Opinions by Athanasius, I could not find any “ever-Virgin” , but only “Virgin”; agreeing with Protestant interpretation.
http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/npnf204.xxii.ii.ii.html?highlight=ever,virgin#highlight

Athanasius’ statement of Faith; not found there either. Seems like it should be there if he really believed that.
http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/npnf204.x.ii.html?highlight=ever,virgin#highlight

Adomnan said...

Carmelite,

Thanks for those excellent quotes from the Fathers.

Ken:The reason for that is because the Hebrew word is "Achim" (brothers). They translated it literally. There is no problem here with my point.

Adomnan: Exactly! That is OUR point. "Brother of the Lord" is translated from an Aramaic "ach" --the same "ach" as in Hebrew and Arabic, for that matter. So, the "achim of the Lord" are the "brothers of the Lord" just as Lot was a "brother" of Abraham. The NT writers were translating an Aramaic expression that was used in the early Palestinian Christian community to refer to Jesus's kinsmen.

Ken: If Genesis 13:8 in Hebrew was "because we are "sons of brothers"; (which is possible, given Genesis 12:5)then your case would be stronger. But, it is not. You failed.

Adomnan: Ken, this makes no sense whatsoever. Genesis 13:8 doesn't have "sons of brothers," but just "brothers" (achim). What are you talking about?

Ken: My point was in the NT. Give me a NT clear example.

Adomnan: We did. Every mention of "brothers of the Lord" in the NT is an example.

Besides, as any person of normal intelligence would acknowledge, if "ach" in Hebrew could be translated as "adelphos" in the Greek of the 3rd century BC even though it meant nephew or cousin, then "ach" in Aramaic (same word as Hebrew) could be translated as "adelphos" in 1st-century Greek, even though it meant cousin in some cases. Certainly, you're not going to suggest that "adelphos" became more restricted in meaning from 250 BC (the Septuagint) to 50 AD (Paul)? I'd like to see you prove that!

What makes your assertions so arrogant and so presumptuous is that you ignore the fact that many of the Fathers that Carmelite cited spoke Greek as their native language. They knew that the "brothers of the Lord" weren't Mary's sons. They didn't automatically infer from the word "adelphoi" that Mary had other children besides Jesus. In fact, they denied it vigorously.

And yet you are saying that you (and Svendsen) know the meaning of this Greek word better than NATIVE SPEAKERS OF ANCIENT GREEK! That's preposterous. In fact, it's sinfully arrogant. It demonstrates a lack of even rudimentary humility. But that's typical of Protestant Fundamentalists, who are invariably ignorant obscurantists who think, or pretend, that they know it all.

Ken: So, you are just wrong; and your attitude is ad hominem against Eric Svendsen, bombastic and a condescending response.

Adomnan: Bombastic? I didn't mix words in describing Svendsen's charlatanism, but I was hardly "grandiloquent," which is what bombastic means. Condescending? Ken, if I were condescending towards him, I would have been nicer. Please consult a dictionary in the future before you try to use big words. (See, THAT was condescending.)

In the world of decent and honest people, Ken, degrees only count if they're awarded by accredited institutions. In the charlatans' world, the world Svendsen inhabits, accreditation and honesty don't matter.

If you can recommend real scholars to back up your views, we'd be willing to hear about them. But don't ask us to waste our time on fakes.

Adomnan said...

Ken: This Patristic scholar, Archibald Robertson, and Gwatkin think “On Virginity” was not really written by Athanasius himself.

Adomnan: So what? We agree with the scholars who do ascribe "On Virginity" and "The Homily of the Papyrus of Turin" to Athanasius.

Tertullian was a heretic (Montanist). Jerome dismissed him as "not a man of the Church." Besides, his remarks about Mary's perpetual virginity are ambiguous and not necessarily to be interpreted as rejecting it.

By the way, the Bible teaches explicitly that Mary's virginity was preserved in childbirth. Isaiah's prophecy was that "a virgin shall conceive and give birth to a son." Everyone accepts that "a virgin shall conceive" means "a virgin shall conceive while remaining a virgin." By the same logic and grammar, one must accept that Isaiah prophesied that "a virgin shall give birth while remaining a virgin." Same subject (virgin) with two verbs. Mary's a virgin with the first verb and a virgin with the second verb.

Ken said...

Adoman,
I don't think you understood my point about Genesis 13:8 and 12:5.

The LXX is translating the Hebrew word, "Achim" - "brothers". The Hebrew does not have "son of my brother" or "son of his brother" here in 13:8 as it does in 12:5.

It does not mean cousin or nephew ("my brother's son" or "his brother's son")here in Gen. 13:8; even though Lot is Abraham's "son of his brother", as it says in Gen. 12:5.

They could have used "sungenis", I suppose, but the LXX translators were seeking to be literal "to the very word, "Achim" - the exact literal one, adelphois, "Brothers". They were translating, not interpreting. To put anepsios would be wrong, they were not "cousins", but nephew/uncle relationship, so "sungenis" would have been better, if 12:5 was also in their minds. They would have been interpreting,[informed by 12:5] not translating.

In Gen. 13:8 it has the wider application of "relatives", "family", "kin"; "fellow-countrymen" as the context of the other people of the extended family and herdsmen and all is there. brothers here, means "relatives"; we are related, kinsman, extended family.

My point is that for your point to be valid, you would need "son of my brother" (=nephew) in Hebrew, there in Hebrew in 13:8. Then if they had tanslated the Hebrew for "nephew" (son of his brother) as just "brother", then it would carry force to your argument.

Since that is not there, they are just translating it word for word. They are not translating the concept of "nephew" (Hebrew) into "brother" (Greek), but word for word, "brothers" (Achim) to "brothers" (adelphois), literally.

So, I agree that the Hebrew/Aramaic has no one word equivalent to "cousin" or "nephew", and has the wider meaning of "relative" in the extended family, or member of the same clan, or even ethnic nation.

You make a good point about some of those fathers whose first language was Greek - Ephiphanius, Basil, Athanasius (Coptic was probably his first languagae, but he certainly wrote in Greek); and John of Damascus.

Ambrose and Leo was Latin.

The strange idea that it would be inappropriate or defiling or dirty for Mary and Joseph to have a normal, healthy, sexual marriage after Jesus was born seems to have clouded their thinking, over their language. They ascribed to exalting virgin-hood over marriage; for themselves and ministers/monks/priests/nuns, etc.

But this kind of thinking was only among the Gnostics and Apocryphal gospels before 350s -

Tertullian had it right. Too bad for his Montanism. When he supports your position, you use him; as do all RC apologists. We can use him also when he supports our position. He is older and so "to be deeper in history" is to hold to Sola Scriptura. On this point, he actually interpreted Matthew 12 and the passages of "brothers of the Lord" correctly. (which means he also probably understood "heos hou" in Matthew 1:25 correctly.)

Of course it is better to get to get a doctorate on campus for several years at an accredited institution; but, the money, time, and uprooted to the location for several years are real life barriers.

the modern age, internet, etc. has given us advantages of study that previous generations did not have.

What would you say to someone who desires to get a Phd or Th.D, but does not have the money or the time or ability to move their family to an accredited institution for several years?

You were caustic and ad hominem and insulting and mean and judgmental. How's that for more accuracy and simple language?

Adomnan said...

Ken: You were caustic and ad hominem and insulting and mean and judgmental.

Adomnan: All of these adjectives are correct, except for "mean." Svendsen's a charlatan. He deserves to be "judged," caustically, as such. That is not mean.

Ken: The strange idea that it would be inappropriate or defiling or dirty for Mary and Joseph to have a normal, healthy, sexual marriage after Jesus was born seems to have clouded their thinking, over their language.

Adomnan: All of the Fathers thought that consecrated virginity was a higher calling than marriage. In that, they followed Jesus, who was of course a virgin and who said that some men (like Him) become eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven. And the Fathers also followed Paul who said that virginity was better than marriage; i.e., "I wish that all men were as I am (celebate)."

So your argument is not just with the Fathers, but with Jesus and Paul.

What a shame it is that virginity is not valued in contemporary America. As a result, our society is inundated by sex and eroticism. The only way to prevent a societal obsession with sex is for society to value virginity over sexual coupling.

Ken: When (Tertullian) supports your position, you use him; as do all RC apologists. We can use him also when he supports our position.

Adomnan: Tertullian is an entertaining writer, and I've enjoyed reading him in Latin. However, as a Catholic, I am not so much interested in his quirky, individual views as I am in his witness to Catholic practice and belief in his day. It's generally easy to tell when he is reporting what the Church teaches and does and when he's riffing on his own thoughts. Besides, as I said, Tertullian's take on Mary as a virgin and as a "woman" is difficult to follow, and your conclusion that he denied her virginity post partum is debatable.

On the issue of unaccredited "degrees": People of course are free to study whatever they want however they want. But they should not claim they have a PhD or any degree unless it's from an accredited institution. Unaccredited "degrees" have no legal or sooietal standing. Svendsen may or may not be self-educated, but he has no advanced degree. He pretends he does, though, and is therefore a charlatan.

Finally, Ken, you're not making a coherent point about the translation of achim in Gen 13:8. The word is translated into Greek as "adelphoi" even though the kinsmen referred to are not children of the same parents. This is the same situation we find with the "brothers of the Lord" in the NT. The expression is a translation of an Aramaic original that used the plural of "ach". So it is parallel to the OT example.

Perhaps the souce of your misunderstanding is that you don't see that we Catholics are positing an underlying phrase in Aramaic for brother and brothers of the Lord, using "ach." Same as in Gen. 13:8.

Turretinfan said...

I think it says a lot about the high quality and persuasive content of Svendsen's books that Adomnan feels the need to slander and personally attack him.

Dave Armstrong said...

My own books must be of truly outstanding quality, then, since James White says of them:

"DA lacks the ability to engage the text of the Scriptures in a meaningful fashion, and 2) DA will use anything to attack the truth. . . . As to the first, I simply direct anyone to the "exegesis" presented in A Biblical Defense of Catholicism, his 2001 publication. The book is a monument to how to ignore context, avoid grammar, shred syntax, and insert the traditions of Rome willy-nilly into any passage you cite. . . . DA thinks himself a modern Socrates, yet, his writing takes wild leaps from topic to topic, inserts endless (and often gratuitous) irrelevant material that serves only to cover the shallow nature of what is being said, and in the end requires one to possess the skill of nailing jello to a wall to be able to respond to it for its utter lack of substance."

(3-28-04)

http://aomin.org/BlogArchives0304.html

Thanks for the compliment!

Eric Svendsen has gotten in a few shots, too:

"[T]here are not that many of us who take Armstrong's writings seriously . . . To correct him always requires discussing foundational issues that Armstrong should have known before embarking on writing in the first place (which is justification for my prior statement that his writings are little more than a bunch of words that have been loosely strung together)."

(1-3-05)

http://ntrminblog.blogspot.com/2005/01/luke-128-and-roman-catholic-apologetic.html

Not to mention your own many personal attacks. Here is but one example:

"I've recently commented on your lack of integrity. It seems this is going to be an ongoing trend for you."

(8-21-09)

http://beggarsallreformation.blogspot.com/2009/08/pro-catholic-and-enjoying-it.html?showComment=1250891784493#c2509439147040263820

Given the avalanche of anti-Catholic attacks on my person, I think we can safely paraphrase your words, using your logic, and apply them to me:

"I think it says a lot about the high quality and persuasive content of Armstrong's books that dozens of anti-Catholics feel the need to slander and personally attack him."

Turretinfan said...

Dave:

I realize you may think that every negative comment we make about you is slander. For the sake of the argument, let's suppose you're right. Why do you seem to get so bent out of shape in those situations but come to the aid of someone slandering Dr. Svendsen? Why this double-standard?

-TurretinFan

Dave Armstrong said...

I just realized what you meant when I read it again:

Why do you seem to get so bent out of shape in those situations but come to the aid of someone slandering Dr. Svendsen? Why this double-standard?

I didn't come to the aid of anyone at all. I simply noted your own glaring double standards and manifest absurdities.

I don't even agree with all that was said about Svendsen in this thread. I hadn't even participated in the discussion till you made your dumb remark. But how is all that (Adomnan's remarks and what I may or may not think of them) relevant to what I wrote?
It is not at all.

I've obviously been slandered many times by your cronies and yourself. Anyone can see that. So what you said about Svendsen applies to me as well, unless we throw out logic. You couldn't overcome the logic, so you switched topics and descended to non sequitur. Period.

Dave Armstrong said...

I added a little more material to the end of the post. The original questioner made a comment and I answered again.

Ken said...

I wonder if Adoman even read Eric Svendsen's book, Who is My Mother?

Did you read it?

A charlatan is usually someone who deliberately deceives; so this slander does not apply.

He (and other Reformed folks; including me) sincerely believe this is the truth.

Dave Armstrong said...

I'd be happy to if Eric would dialogue with me about it line-by-line. I'll even make an exception to my rule of not debating anti-Catholics.

Adomnan said...

Ken: A charlatan is usually someone who deliberately deceives; so this slander does not apply.

Adomnan: A charlatan is a person who claims he has credentials when he doesn't.

For example, a guy who never got a medical degree but neverthless opens a doctor's office as an MD would be a charlatan. It wouldn't matter that he had a piece of paper mailed to him saying he was an MD or that he really, really believed, deep in his heart, that he was an MD. He's still a charlatan.

Svendsen doesn't have a PhD (i.e., accredited, of course), but he claims to. Therefore, he is a charlatan.

And I am no more required to "acknowledge" Svendsen's fake PhD, no matter how sincere he is, than I am to acknowledge an MD sent through the mail from Nigeria, for a fee. In fact, if I did acknowledge it, I'd be a dupe.

It's amazing to me that I must spell out facts as evident as these to you. You Protestant fundamentalists will argue about anything. Talk about "sophists," trying to make the worse argument seem the better.

And "Doctor" James White is a charlatan, too, with his own fake "PhD."

Ken said...

Did you read the book?

Adomnan said...

Ken: Did you read the book?

Adomnan: Was Svendsen's argument concerning the Greek for "until" (heos hou) in that book? If so, I read that part at least. It was cited by someone who refuted the argument, conclusively, on line.

Mr. Svendsen is a man who pretends he has a degree when he doesn't and who can't make a coherent argument, even when he spends a lot of time on it, as he did in this case.

Consequently, I wouldn't waste my time on the rest of his oeuvre. It's a prudential judgment on my part, one that I recommend others follow.

Given what I know of Mr. Svendsen and his work, I am sure we wouldn't be missing anything.

nissa_loves_cats said...

Why did Jesus' cousins-or-stepbrothers hang around Mary?
1) If you were a cousin-or-stepbrother of Jesus, wouldn't YOU hang around Mary? If only because she had a rather interesting life story.
2) Stepbrothers who had no living mother or father would hang around their stepmother.
3) Cousins from more numerous households might hang around the household of Mary who had only one Son of her own.

I don't think you can actually PROVE anything about family relationships based on who hung out with whom.

Dave Armstrong said...

I agree. I was responding to the objection, which is of the essence of apologetics. :-)

Heather said...

I think all of this attacking and name calling of people all claiming to be Christians is pretty revealing. Is it Christian to say something like "I hadn't even participated in the discussion till you made your dumb remark"? Or how about prefacing an argument with "as any person of normal intelligence would acknowledge"?

Before quoting early church fathers on Catholic dogma, how about we think a little bit about how Jesus said in the Bible that one of the greatest commandments was to "love your neighbor as yourself." Paul also exhorts us to "do all things in love" in 1 Corinthians.

Remember that we are identifiable as Christians when we are exhibiting the fruits of the spirit. I don't believe name calling and attacking people's intelligence made the list. Just something to think about, especially if one is making a living as a Christian writer.

Yes, the tradition of the ever-virgin Mary is controversial, but does it have anything to do with salvation? No! Therefore it is not worth all the argument and anger. Somebody is right and somebody is wrong, but being right on every point is not how you get to heaven, thank the Lord!! Otherwise nobody would make it there but Jesus, since the rest of us poor sinners are not so perfect, nor are we omniscient, but thankfully God does not expect us to be so.

Dave Armstrong said...

Hi Heather,

Thanks for your lecture on Christian ethics, safely anonymous, with no one being able to find out the slightest thing about you. That takes guts.

I think all of this attacking and name calling of people all claiming to be Christians is pretty revealing. Is it Christian to say something like "I hadn't even participated in the discussion till you made your dumb remark"?

Yes it is. I didn't call anyone a name. All I said was that it was a "dumb remark." Big wow. That's infinitely less severe than what Jesus said about the Pharisees in Matthew 23. This particular person has said far, far worse about me for many years now, and he truly does attack my person and not just my ideas.

Or how about prefacing an argument with "as any person of normal intelligence would acknowledge"?

I didn't make that comment, so it's a non sequitur in terms of your criticism of me. But even that you seem to have taken out of context, and made it out to be worse than it is.

Before quoting early church fathers on Catholic dogma, how about we think a little bit about how Jesus said in the Bible that one of the greatest commandments was to "love your neighbor as yourself." Paul also exhorts us to "do all things in love" in 1 Corinthians.

I agree. Was Jesus loving the Pharisees when He called them "vipers" and "whitewashed tombs, full of dead men's bones"? But I can't even say that a remark (which was a misguided attack on my person) was "dumb"? St. Paul uses the word "stupid" twice (RSV) in precisely this sense (2 Tim 2:23; Titus 3:9). St. Peter applies "ignorant" to men twice (2 Pet 2:12; 3:16). Seems they fall far short of your ethical standards, too.

Remember that we are identifiable as Christians when we are exhibiting the fruits of the spirit. I don't believe name calling and attacking people's intelligence made the list.

Again, saying a REMARK was "dumb" is not name calling (towards a person). You seem unable to differentiate between a person and their ideas. You know: "love the sinner; hate the sin"? Ever hear that saying?

Just something to think about, especially if one is making a living as a Christian writer.

That is my living, yes, which is why I try to be very careful in avoiding attacking persons, as I did here.

Yes, the tradition of the ever-virgin Mary is controversial, but does it have anything to do with salvation? No!

Yes it does, in the Catholic tradition, which is mainstream Christianity. But you don't want to debate or discuss that. You're too busy preaching about ethics.

Therefore it is not worth all the argument and anger. Somebody is right and somebody is wrong, but being right on every point is not how you get to heaven, thank the Lord!! Otherwise nobody would make it there but Jesus, since the rest of us poor sinners are not so perfect, nor are we omniscient, but thankfully God does not expect us to be so.

Thank you for the sermon. My job as a Catholic apologist is to defend truth, as it is determined to exist by the Bible and the Catholic Church. It's worth every bit of effort to defend that, because truth is important, as the Bible constantly reiterates. For example [next post]:

Dave Armstrong said...

John 16:13 (RSV) When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; . . .

2 Corinthians 4:2 We have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways; we refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God's word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to every man's conscience in the sight of God.

2 Corinthians 11:10 . . . the truth of Christ is in me . . .

2 Corinthians 13:8 For we cannot do anything against the truth, but only for the truth.

2 Thessalonians 2:10-13 and with all wicked deception for those who are to perish, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. Therefore God sends upon them a strong delusion, to make them believe what is false, so that all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness. But we are bound to give thanks to God always for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God chose you from the beginning to be saved, through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth.

1 Timothy 2:4 who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.

1 Timothy 3:15 if I am delayed, you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and bulwark of the truth.

2 Timothy 1:13-14 Follow the pattern of the sound words which you have heard from me . . . guard the truth which has been entrusted to you by the Holy Spirit who dwells within us.

James 5:19 My brethren, if any one among you wanders from the truth and some one brings him back,

1 John 2:21 I write to you, not because you do not know the truth, but because you know it, and know that no lie is of the truth.

1 John 4:6 We are of God. Whoever knows God listens to us, and he who is not of God does not listen to us. By this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error.

2 John 1:1-4 The elder to the elect lady and her children, whom I love in the truth, and not only I but also all who know the truth, because of the truth which abides in us and will be with us for ever: Grace, mercy, and peace will be with us, from God the Father and from Jesus Christ the Father's Son, in truth and love. I rejoiced greatly to find some of your children following the truth, just as we have been commanded by the Father.

3 John 1:1, 3-4 The elder to the beloved Ga'ius, whom I love in the truth. . . . indeed you do follow the truth. No greater joy can I have than this, to hear that my children follow the truth.