Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The Brothers of Jesus: Part 2

Someone left an anonymous comment on my post about the brothers of Jesus, saying that my "reasoning seems rather closed minded and prejudiced." I would like to respond to his reasons for saying such a thing.
  • Your reasoning seems rather closed minded and prejudiced. If you read additional scripture you will see that it says that Joseph did not know Mary until after Jesus was born. This infers that he did know her in the biblical way after Jesus was born. So Mary would not be a virgin her whole life as the Catholic church teaches.
Not so fast. In Scripture, the Greek word heos (as well as heos hou), which we translate as "until," does not always infer that the status of something up to a certain point will change after that point. In other words, when Scripture says (cf. Mt 1:24-25) that Joseph did not know Mary until she had born a son, this does not necessarily mean that he "knew her" after Jesus was born. This is made evident by other uses of the word "until" in Scripture in which it is more obvious that the situation in question is not going to change after a certain point [the OT passages are from the Greek Septuagint]:

Gen 8:7 and sent forth a raven; and it went to and fro until the waters were dried up from the earth.

Gen 26:13 and the man became rich, and gained more and more until he became very wealthy.

Deut 2:15 For indeed the hand of the LORD was against them, to destroy them from the camp, until they had perished.

Deut 34:6 and he buried him in the valley in the land of Moab opposite Beth-pe'or; but no man knows the place of his burial to (or "until", heos) this day.

2 Sam 6:23 And Michal the daughter of Saul had no child to (or "until", heos) the day of her death.

1 Chron 6:32 They ministered with song before the tabernacle of the tent of meeting, until Solomon had built the house of the LORD in Jerusalem; and they performed their service in due order.

2 Chron 26:15 In Jerusalem he made engines, invented by skillful men, to be on the towers and the corners, to shoot arrows and great stones. And his fame spread far, for he was marvelously helped, till he was strong.

Psa 57:1 To the choirmaster: according to Do Not Destroy. A Miktam of David, when he fled from Saul, in the cave. Be merdiful to me, O God, be merciful to me, for in thee my soul takes refuge; in the shadow of thy wings I will take refuge, till the storms of destruction pass by.

Psa 110:1 A Psalm of David. The LORD says to my lord: "Sit at my right hand, till I make your enemies your footstool."

Psa 123:2 Behold, as the eyes of servants look to the hand of their master, as the eyes of a maid to the hand of her mistress, so our eyes look to the LORD our God, till he have mercy upon us.

Mt 28:20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, to (or "until", heos) the close of the age."

Mk 13:19 For in those days there will be such tribulation as has not been from the beginning of the creation which God created until now, and never will be.

1 Cor 1:8 who will sustain you to (or "until", heos) the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.

2 Cor 3:15 Yes, to (or "until", heos) this day whenever Moses is read a veil lies over their minds;

As you can see, there are plenty of examples in Scripture of the word "until" not necessarily inferring a change in status of the clause that precedes it. Thus, there is no requirement based on the word "until" to believe that Joseph knew Mary after Jesus was born.

  • According to the society and culture in those times, they would have had many more children.
Well, this family is obviously not your typical family.

  • The Bible does not mention a lot of things directly, so not saying that Mary and Joseph looked for Jesus with his brothers means nothing. They most likely would have looked there first as most of us would have done.
First of all, my conclusion does not rest solely on that argument, but instead on the cumulative effect of that argument along with the other arguments I made in defense of Mary's perpetual virginity. Also, you have to admit that no mention of the "brothers" of Jesus at the one time when you expect to read of them the most is surely an odd omission if these brothers really did exist.

  • There is also a word that is usually used in Greek to mean cousins or distant relatives. The word that you propose means cousins or distant relatives does not make sense in the context is is used.
Yes it does, just as it does in the context we use it today. In English too, we have words for "cousin" and other distant relations, but we use "brother" instead. I use this word quite often in fact to refer to guys that I am close to who are not my actual siblings. The New Testament audience was used to this way of speaking, so the writers utilized it, even though technically they had a word they could have used for "cousin."

  • I am not a Bible scholar by any means, but it seems that you are trying to add your meaning to the Bible to fit your beliefs instead of making your beliefs fit the Bible which is the Word of God.
The same could be said of you ;) All I've done so far is analyze the Biblical evidence. You should do the same.

Pax Christi,


  1. I am constantly amazed (and should'nt be by now) how inflexible anti-Catholics are. It is one thing to profess what something "is not". It is entirely another thing to profess someone elses thing "is not" what has been realized and validated for over 2 millennia.

    Rock on Nick.

  2. Yes it does, just as it does in the context we use it today. In English too, we have words for "cousin" and other distant relations, but we use "brother" instead.As further support, one year a young man from Croatia, whose bio described him as a single child, came to stay with us as an exchange student. While here he mentioned that his sister was in the US and he really wanted to see her. It wasn't like his bio was wrong, whenever he was asked specifically about his immediate family he spoke only of his parents, where did an older sister come from?

    Well, after careful questioning it became clear that this girl was actually his first cousin whom he'd grown up in the same community with. He knew English well and could have used the correct term, but didn't because she was his "sister" as far as he was concerned. He told us that sister/brother is used often for close relationships in that country. I think, and may be wrong - it's been many years, that this is despite the fact that there is a word for cousin in Croatian.

    So this broad use of siblings is common in that area of the world even today. In fact it's very closed-minded to suppose the American custom of precisely labeling each of our relatives applies to the whole world. ;-)

  3. These apologetics prove that the Catholic position is both possible and plausible...but is it probable? I am Catholic, so I bend my knee to the Church on this matter. But I would hardly count the catholic answer on this one as biblical "proof" for the Catholic doctrine. In fact, without my faith in God's protection over the Church (or perhaps if I were a nonbeliever) the most probable explanation would be the most simple one: Jesus did indeed have other brothers in the literal sense.

  4. One thing I've learned from Scripture study is that the simplest answer is not always the right one. Plus, as Catholics we don't need explicit or direct, in-your-face proof of something in Scripture before we can believe it.

  5. Yes, plus... lex orandi, lex credendi - the law of prayer is the law of belief. We've been praying in the Mass (not sure how long): "and I ask Blessed Mary ever virgin, all the angels and saints, and you my brothers and sisters to pray for me to the Lord our God". Even though that's sort of an inside-baseball answer, it wouldn't be in our worship if it didn't come from Scripture AND Tradition. Also, Mary's perpetual virginity is so closely tied to who she is that she is often referred to by the Early Church Fathers with the phrase "Blessed Virgin Mary" as if it was her very name. She is known AS a Virgin - it identifies and captures her entire life.

  6. An explanation that you haven't considered (or have i missed it ?) is that the "brothers" of Jesus refers to step-brothers, children of Joseph by a previous marriage. The idea of the brothers being "brethren" or spiritual brothers might fit some passages but not others. When St.Paul writes about "James the brother of the Lord" he's clearly using brother in a sense other than the spiritual one. Also,i've read that Paul knows and uses the word cousin elsewhere but not here. So James appears to have been thought of as a brother in some other sense. Church tradition and Catholic doctrine rule out the idea that James was a full blood brother, so the likliest explanation is that James (as the other "brothers and sisters")was a step brother. The term brother and sister would quite naturally be used of them as it would be now. In one of the apocryphal gospels (Protoevangelium of James)Joseph does indeed have children by a previous marriage. Whilst this is a later- and as with other apocryphal gospels- unreliable "gospel" it is possible that it has preserved on this point an earlier and correct traditon that Joseph had been married before and had children from that marriage. Jesus would have been brought up with them and they would have been regarded as his siblings. I would also add that nowhere in the New Testament are these brothers and sisters said to be children of Mary.

  7. You're right: that some of the "brothers" could be step-brothers is possible as well. I agree that "brethren" understood as "spiritual brother" does not fit every usage of the word, but that's ok b/c, like I said in my earlier post, adelphos encompasses a wide range of relations. As for James in particular, if he is the same James from Mt 13:55 then he is actually Jesus' cousin, since his mother, the "other Mary" is the Blessed Mother's sister.

  8. Wait. Of the 14 biblical examples you give to support your translation of the Greek, you cite 10 Old Testament passages, written in Hebrew.

  9. Jim, I stated in my post that the OT passages were from the Septuagint, which was written in Greek.

  10. I want to ask anti-catholic this...

    Why would the Blessed Virgin Mary still seek the pleasure of SEX if she have JESUS as our perfect rest, joy, peace and LOVE!

    How disrespectful can you get? They can't even call her "BLESSED"!


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