Apologetics for the Masses - Issue #129

Bible Christian Society

General Comments

Hey folks,


I want to thank everyone who responded to my semi-annual appeal for $0.10 a day to support the Bible Christian Society, and to let you know that thank you letters will be coming your way, but probably not until after Thanksgiving as my travels of late have gotten me way behind on things. But I wanted to let you all know how much I appreciate your support and your prayers – the Bible Christian Society would not exist without them. I did not get the 10% response that I always hope and pray for (it was just over 1%), but it did help us pay off some bills and allowed me to give myself a paycheck last week, which is always a good thing. Also, I received an offer of free help regarding the production of some videos for YouTube, so I hope that particular project might get going sometime early in the new year. I’ve tentatively titled that project: “Questions Protestants Can’t Answer.”


I haven’t had a chance to get a newsletter out in the last few weeks because I’ve been busy getting a Catholic radio station on the air in Hanceville, AL (it’s low power right now, but please pray that we can raise the necessary funds to go full power), and then I’ve been traveling – first to Kansas City and then to College Station, TX to talk at fundraisers for other Catholic radio stations.


The main reason I went out to College Station, though, was to talk to the folks who run the Catholic Campus Ministry there. It is an incredible campus ministry program they have going – all sorts of programs, on-fire students, on-fire ministry team – it’s an amazing place. If you have kids who are at or near college age, you might want to look into sending them to Texas A&M – they can get their degree while at the same time being involved in a campus ministry program that will help strengthen and deepen their Catholic Faith.


Finally, I want to thank Jeff Paradowski and his lovely wife, Becky, for opening up their home for the radio fundraiser in College Station. Best steak I’ve had in a long time!

Introduction

Continuing the chapter on Mary. We’ve talked in previous issues about the Immaculate Conception and about Mary being without sin her entire life. In this issue I’m going to wrap up the section on Mary being without sin and start talking about the perpetual virginity of Mary.

Challenge/Response/Strategy

The arguments against Mary’s sinlessness lack any foundation whatsoever.  I have already shown that the one passage from Scripture – Romans: 3:23 – which is used over and over and over again by Protestants to "prove" Mary could not have been without sin, actually "proves" no such thing.  If it "proves" that Mary did indeed sin, then it also proves that no Protestant is seeking God and that no Protestant ever does good and that no Protestant fears God (see Romans 3:10-12, and 18).  If the word "all" is an absolute in verse 23, then it is also an absolute in verses 10-18.  Would anyone who believes Romans 3:23 proves Mary sinned also then admit that they do not seek God, that they never do good, and that they have no fear of God?  I doubt it.

And, whether Rom 3:23 is referring to personal sin or to Original Sin or both, it makes no difference.   If it is referring to Original Sin, then "all" still isn’t an absolute.  Adam and Eve were created without the stain of Original Sin.  Jesus Christ was conceived without the stain of Original Sin.  Is it not possible for God to have Mary conceived without the stain of Original Sin?  Of course it is.  All things are possible with God.

Now, some people will say, "Well, if Mary was conceived without Original Sin, and if she never sinned her entire life, then she has no need of Jesus Christ as her Savior.  Yet, Mary herself says in Luke 1:47 that God is her Savior; therefore, Mary had to have sinned!"  The problem with this line of thinking, though, is that it flows from a limited view of the power of God.  These folks seem to think that God can only save someone after that person has sinned, and not before. 

I am not an alcoholic.  Why?  By the grace of God.  God saved me from being an alcoholic before I ever became one.  In that same vein, if I am walking along and fall into a big hole in the ground, and someone comes by and pulls me out of that hole, then they have indeed saved me from that hole.  However, if I am walking along and just before I reach the hole, someone comes by and prevents me from falling into it, did they not also save me from that hole?  Of course they did.  Which means, someone can be saved from something either after they have fallen into it, or before they ever fall into it.  So, Mary rightly claims God as her Savior because He saved her, before the fact, from Original Sin, and because He saved her, by His grace, from ever committing an actual sin. 

There are also those who say that by claiming Mary was free from the taint of sin, we Catholics are making Mary equal to God.  Where is the logic in that?  Does that mean Adam and Eve, before they sinned, were equal to God?  Of course not!  So, Mary being sinless in no way makes her equal to God, just as Adam and Eve being sinless in no way made them equal to God.  That argument is based on faulty logic.  Besides, how could Mary be equal to God, when it was only by the grace of God that she was immaculately conceived and was able to avoid sin her entire life? 

 

Perpetual Virginity of Mary

The Church teaches that Mary was a perpetual virgin.  She was not only a virgin before Jesus was born, but remained so after Jesus was born.  Yet, as many Protestants point out, the Bible does indeed mention the “brothers” of Jesus.  For example, Mark 6:3, “Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and the brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon…”

The “brothers” of Jesus are clearly mentioned, and even named, in the Bible.  So, Mary did indeed have other children and, therefore, the Catholic Church is wrong when it dogmatically teaches that she was a perpetual virgin, right?  Well, not so fast.

First of all, one needs to realize that there was no word for cousin, or for nephew or niece, or for aunt or uncle in ancient Hebrew or Aramaic – the words that the Jews used in all those instances were "brother" or "sister".  An example of this can be seen in Gen 14:14, where Lot, who was Abraham’s nephew, is called his "brother."  Some Bible translations might say “kinsman” because the translator knows that Lot was not Abram’s brother, but the actual word used in the Hebrew is “brother”.  Lot, however, is clearly identified as Abram’s nephew in Gen 11:27, “Terah was the father of Abram, Nahor, and Haran; and Haran was the father of Lot.”  So, Lot was Abram’s, or Abraham’s, nephew.  Yet, Scripture refers to him as Abraham’s brother.

Second, let’s get the "big picture" regarding Jesus’ "brothers" by looking at some verses that describe the scene at the Crucifixion:

1) Matthew 27:55-56, “There were also many women there, looking on from afar…among whom were Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James and Joseph, and the mother of the sons of Zebedee.” 

2) Mark 15:40, "There were also women looking on from afar, among whom were Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James the younger and of Joses, and Salome…"

3) John 19:25, "But standing by the cross of Jesus were His mother, and His mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene."

What do we see in these three passages that pertains to the perpetual virginity of Mary?  Well, we see that Mary, the mother of James and Joseph (or Joses), is specifically mentioned in the passages from Matthew and Mark.  Isn’t that interesting?  Where else do we see James and Joses mentioned?  In Mark 6:3, which is the verse mentioned above that contains the reference to Jesus’ "brothers."  And who are two of those brothers?  James and Joses.  But wait a minute, I thought James and Joses were sons of Mary the mother of Jesus?  Not according to Scripture.  Plus, when we look at the passage from John, it seems that Mary the mother of James and Joses is further identified as Mary the wife of Clopas, and she is also further identified as the "sister" of Jesus’ mother.  Which means, that James and Joses, the "brothers" of Jesus, would actually have been the cousins of Jesus.  Which makes perfect sense because the Jews referred to all close male relatives as their "brothers." 

In other words,  it seems that the James and Joses identified in Mark 6:3 as the “brothers” of Jesus, indeed had a mother named Mary, but it was not the same Mary who was the mother of Jesus.  This scriptural fact would tend to negate Mark 6:3 as "proof" that Mary, the mother of Jesus, had other children.  It would, in fact, add to the argument for her perpetual virginity.  

There are only two possible arguments someone could make to counter this line of reasoning: 1) The James and Joses mentioned in Matthew 27 and Mark 15 are not the same James and Joses mentioned in Mark 6:3; or 2) To concede that James and Joses were not the "brothers" of Christ, they were instead close relatives, but to still argue that the other "brothers" named in Mark 6:3 – Judas and Simon – and the "sisters" mentioned there, really were the sons and daughters of Mary the mother of Jesus…really! 

The problem with the former argument is that there is absolutely nothing in the Bible that would suggest the James and Joses mentioned in Matthew 27 and Mark 15 are not the same ones mentioned in Mark 6:3.  People who have the same name are clearly distinguished in the New Testament.  For example, we see that there were several women named Mary amongst Jesus’ followers.  We also see that they are clearly identified as separate individuals when they are mentioned in the Scriptures so that there is no confusion as to which Mary is being talked about.  In Matt 27:61, it even mentions the "other" Mary to distinguish Mary, the mother of James and Joses, from Mary Magdalen.  It didn’t just say, "Mary and Mary," or, "The two Mary’s." 

So why would anyone think that the James and Joses in Matt 27 and Mark 15 are anyone other than the James and Joses of Mark 6:3?  In none of the verses that mention these two names does it have any other identifier that would distinguish one pair of James and Joses from another pair of James and Joses.  It seems that there was but one pair of brothers named James and Joses who were apparently well known by the early Christian community. 

In the latter argument above, to concede James and Joses as being close relatives, and not brothers, of Jesus, yet to try and still argue that Judas and Simon were indeed Jesus’ brothers – sons of Mary – is a very weak argument.  If two of the four "brothers" of Jesus listed in that verse are actually cousins of Jesus, then doesn’t it make perfect sense that the other brothers listed there are cousins as well, and that the "sisters" are also cousins?  Think about it.  First of all, if Judas and Simon were also sons of Mary, wouldn’t they have been listed first instead of James and Joses?  After all, wouldn’t you list the actual "brothers" of Jesus ahead of the cousins of Jesus in a list of "brothers" of Jesus?  Secondly, the fact that it has been shown the word "brothers" is referring to at least two "cousins," not blood brothers, proves that  you cannot automatically assume the word "brothers," as used in Mark 6:3, absolutely refers to sons of the same mother.  The word "brothers" in Mark 6:3 has lost its clout in trying to prove that Mary was not a perpetual virgin.

Furthermore, let’s look at Galatians 1:19.  Paul is talking about when he went to Jerusalem to consult with the chief of the Apostles, Peter, and while there, “I saw none of the other apostles except James, the Lord’s brother.”  So, we have James, the “brother” of Jesus as mentioned in Mark 6:3, and James, the “Lord’s brother,” as mentioned in Gal 1:19.  And this time James, the Lord’s brother, is identified as an apostle.  So, if I’m a Bible-only believer – in other words, if the Bible is my sole rule of faith when it comes to all things related to the Christian Faith – then I have to admit that the James in Mark 6:3 and the James in Gal 1:19 are the same James.  There is nothing in Scripture to tell me otherwise.

But there’s a problem for those who would say this James is the son of Mary, the mother of Jesus.  You see, this James is clearly identified as an apostle.  Yet, of the two apostles named James that we find in the list of the twelve apostles (e.g., Matthew 10:1-4), one of them had a father named Zebedee and the other had a father named Alphaeus – neither one of them had a father named Joseph!  So, the Apostle James, who is one of the "brothers of the Lord" from Mark 6:3, cannot actually be a blood brother of Jesus, because he is either the son of Alphaeus or the son of Zebedee, not the son of Joseph.  He has to be a cousin or some similar relation to Jesus, not his brother. 

Now, there is one line of Catholic tradition (small “t” tradition), that identifies the James in Galatians 1:19 as not being one of the original twelve apostles.  However, someone who goes by the Bible alone and who does not put any stock in “tradition” cannot use the argument from tradition, because they only accept the Bible as the authority in matters Christian.  So, using the Bible alone, one cannot argue that the James in Gal 1:19 is a “third” James who had at some point been named an apostle, because the Bible nowhere mentions such a thing.

So, when we look at the “brothers” of Jesus in the broader context of Scripture, rather than just focusing on Mark 6:3, we see that the argument against the perpetual virginity of Mary has no foundation in the Bible.  We also see that Mark 6:3, when taken in a broader scriptural context, tends to actually strengthen the argument for Mary as having been a perpetual virgin.

Another point to consider: If Jesus had had any brothers, if Mary had had any other sons, would the last thing that Jesus did on earth be to grievously offend his surviving brothers? In Jn 19:26-27, right before Jesus dies, it says that Jesus entrusted the care of His mother to the beloved disciple, John. If Mary had had any other sons, it would have been an incredible slap in the face to them that the Apostle John was entrusted with the care of their mother!  In Jewish society, when the father died, the care of the mother would pass to the eldest son.  If he died, then the care of the mother would pass to the next eldest son, and so on.  The fact that Jesus gave the care of His mother over to the Apostle John provides strong evidence that there were no other "brothers" of Jesus.  If there had been, then one of them would have naturally assumed care for their mother at Jesus’ death. 

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 several dozen or so, just for argument’s sake.  So that puts us up to 80 or 90 or so.  Which leaves the number of Jesus’ brothers at about 30 or 40! Do you think Mary had 30 or 40 children?  We would have to have a dogma that proclaimed the perpetual labor of Mary!  No, Scripture does not contradict the teaching of the Catholic Church about the "brothers" of Jesus, not when Scripture is properly interpreted in context.

 

[to be continued…]

 

In Conclusion

I hope all of you have a great week and a very happy Thanksgiving. No newsletter next week as I will be out of town from Tuesday through Saturday at my mom’s in Huntsville, but I’ll get back to it the following week.


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Apologetics for the Masses