Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Debate on the Perpetual Virginity of Mary: Part 4

Part 4 resumes my debate with "Brandon" from the HCR forum. Also see Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3. Brandon's words will be indented and italicized.

  • But your syllogism is not logical. There is nothing in the premise (Jesus was an only child) that is in your conclusion (Mary remained a virgin). This is reasoning...but not logical reasoning.
First of all, I gotta say, you're a soldier, dude. Very thorough and intellectual, I appreciate that. Also, I ask that you please read this entire post before you respond to it, instead of responding to it as you read it.

Now, to respond to the above, I already explained how the premise leads to the conclusion. Good Jews didn't use birth control, and they didn't "spill their seed" like Onan did. Thus, if Mary and Joseph were having sex, then Jesus would have had brothers. But, he doesn't have brothers, so we can conclude that they were not having sex.

  • But haven't you yourself said that her womb was like a "tabernacle" or "holy of holies". Could it be also (assuming that he was an oly child, or his "singularity") that Mary was kept barren afterwards? Is this not also a "reasonable" conclusion?
What do you mean? God made her barren so that they could continue having sex without conceiving? You can pull that remote and highly improbable possibility out of thin air if you like, but there is definitely nothing reasonable about it. You have conjured up the most unlikely of scenarios so that you can continue to hold that Mary and Joseph had sex when there is absolutely no reason to believe that God actually did such a thing. It certainly doesn't follow from the Tabernacle - Temple - Ark imagery, which points to Mary's body as being reserved for God and God alone. That would necessarily exclude the possibility of Mary and Joseph having sex -- miraculous barrenness or otherwise -- because then Mary's body would be put to ordinary use.

  • Weren't "good Jews" told to be fruitful and multiply? Didn't Paul say that couples shouldn't stay away from each other too long? It stimulates my "faculties" to assume that Joseph would atleast "know" his wife, as a good wife she should also, "know" her husband.
I agree that all of this was expected of your typical Jew, but Scripture and the Jews' own understanding of their marriage laws also allows for exceptions.

For example, married rabbis would often abstain from marital relations in order to devote themselves entirely to the study of the Torah. Moses commanded the people to do this in order to prepare themselves for the coming of the Lord on Mt. Sinai (cf. Exo 19:14-15). God commanded Jeremiah to refrain from marriage (cf. Jer 16:1-2), and Peter and the apostles forsook their wives in order to follow Jesus (cf. Mt 19:27-29, KJV). Jesus himself was celibate and said that some men choose that life for the sake of the kingdom (cf. Mt 19:12). Paul was celibate and considered it to be the more preferable state for serving the Lord (cf. 1 Cor 7:1,7,38). History tells us that the Essenes, the Zenu'im, and the Therapeutae were all groups of Jewish men and women around the time of Christ who chose celibacy in order to cleave more tightly to God, to His Word, to His Wisdom.

The point is that there were lawful exceptions to the rule to "be fruitful and multiply." It is true that Paul says, "Do not refuse one another except perhaps by agreement for a season, that you may devote yourselves to prayer; but then come together again, lest Satan tempt you through lack of self-control" (1 Cor 7:5). But, he also says, in the very next verse, "I say this by way of concession, not of command." What if there is no lack of self-control? What if there is no "temptation to immorality" (vs. 2). Joseph was "a just man" (Mt 1:19), and I've already shown that Mary's intent was to remain a virgin.

  • Assuming that your exegesis is correct in that "brothers" means cousins or "brothers in the Lord", it does not necessarily follow that because his brothers or sisters are not mentioned in scripture, that he therefore didn't have any. Mine is an argument from silence, but so is yours, therefore invalid.
The argument from silence is not my only argument. I have provided many reasons to believe that Jesus did not have any siblings. Where is your proof that he did?

  • Can you provide any authority from scripture that says that Yeshua MUST give his mother to his brothers?
Well, 1 Tim 5:4 shows the responsibility that children had for the care of their widowed mother. Smith's Bible Dictionary (here) says, "Under the Mosaic dispensation no legal provision was made for the maintenance of widows. They were left dependent partly on the affection of relations, more especially of the eldest son, whose birthright, or extra share of the property, imposed such a duty upon him, and partly on the privileges accorded to other distressed classes, such as a participation in the triennial third tithe (Deut 14:29 ; 26:12), in leasing (Deut 24:19-21), and in religious feasts (Deut 16:11,14 )." Baker's Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology shows, with ample Scriptural citation, that once a widow's husband died, she was utterly dependent upon the charity of her own family (see "Widow"). It is just very highly unlikely that Jesus would give Mary into the care of one of his disciples if Mary had other children to care for her.

  • But it's not used, and they appeal to His brothers and sisters in the same verse, Since the crowd is speaking of His humble beginnings, as if they know his beginings, obviously appealing to His mother...why not assume that they are also appealing to his actual brothers and sisters?
They can appeal to his brothers and sisters so as to prove his humble beginnings without these "brothers" and "sisters" being his actual siblings. The use of the word "brother" and "sister" in Jesus' time was not reserved for siblings alone. You are filtering the passage through your own modern understanding of these words, which is causing you to assume that there is only one meaning to the passage.

In fact, it can be proven, by tracing the lineage of the James and Joseph who are called the "brothers" of Jesus in Mk 6:3, and by identifying the four Mary's in the NT, that these "brothers" are not his actual siblings. This is all very involved, so I'd like to direct you to an article instead of trying to get into here. See "The Four Mary's in the Gospels".

  • Why would they consider those who are not his actual brothers and sisters, brothers and sisters? It seems to my faculities that they are mary's children as well, as they are mentioned with them.
Are you mocking me w/ the whole "my faculties" thing? Anyway, in Jesus' time, people of extended relation or of the same tribe were often called "brothers" and "sisters." It was a very common way of speaking. This explains why James, Joseph, Simon, and Judas can be Jesus brothers without actually being his siblings.

  • And you still haven't accounted for the definitive "the" as used in the genealogy. You argued that since he is an only child, "the" is the only appropriate use...but as I've clearly shown "the" does not necessarily mean "only". You have not addressed this crucial fact.
I thought I did, in the quote you are responding to here, but maybe I can say it a different way. A definite article indicates that its noun is a particular one. It speaks specifically instead of generally. That's why definite articles are used in the first place. "The" does mean "only." The fact that the definite article is used in Jesus' genealogy does not mean that it can somehow replace the indefinite article. "The" is used in Jesus' genealogy because the only son that mattered was the one whom the covenants promises of God came through. There was only one of those, thus the definite article was used.

  • How do you know that the first people that they ask is the sibling?
I was utilizing common sense. You're obviously not a parent!

  • You realize that it's an argument from silence and then when questioned you continue to build your argument from silence as if it's just going to be logically consistent by your re-asserting it? How can a silence be awkward? It's either silent or it's not silent...there's no such thing as an awkward silence. If so...can you silently show me?
There's no need for you to be so sarcastic. As soon as we start trying to get our little jabs in, this debate is just going to go downhill.

Now, I realize that arguments of silence, by themselves, don't definitively prove anything. But, I think you can still learn from the silence of Scripture. It forces us to ask, "Well why is Scripture silent on this point?" Then, we use what we do know to come up with an answer. My answer, that the siblings of Jesus are not mentioned because they do not exist, is much more plausible then your answer, that Jesus' had siblings but the author just chose not to mention them. Why would the gospel writer not mention the siblings of Jesus at the very points in which one would most expect him to mention them? Only Jesus, Mary and Joseph flee to Egypt (Mt 2:13-14); only these three return a while later (2:20-21); only these three go up to Jerusalem when Jesus is twelve (Luke 2:41-43); and these three alone are mentioned after that event (Luke 2:51-52). At the wedding feast at Cana, John tells us that Jesus, his mother Mary, and even his disciples were invited. If Jesus had siblings, why wouldn't John say that they were invited too? Were they not invited? That seems doubly odd! Your answer forces us to accept a proposition that is improbable and nonsensical.

  • Now you're arguing that Mary "intended" to remain a virgin! Where in scripture are you shown her "intentions" to remain a virgin? Where do she say in her heart that she will remain a virgin? The intensions are in the heart...now show me her heart.
I provided my proof for this in my response to Trey.Dub.

  • How does her remaining a virgin make it christocentric? How in the end does her not consummating her relationship with HER HUSBAND (something which glorifies YHWH) glorify Mashiach? Why would it not be Christocentric if they did have sex?
The perpetual virginity of Mary is Christocentric because it shows that Mary has devoted her entire being to Him. Her body has been consecrated and set apart by Him and for Him. If that doesn't make it Christ-centered, I don't know what does. However, if you assert that Mary and Joseph had sex throughout their life together then you are basically saying that God had no consecrating effect on Mary when He became man in her and through her. Now you're saying that two stones, some bread, and a rod can consecrate the Ark of the Covenant so thoroughly that no one is allowed to even touch it, but when God himself literally, physically, substantially resides within the body of Mary, that body can then be put to ordinary use. That's why I say that the perpetual virginity of Mary glorifies God -- because it acknowledges the radical uniqueness of the presence of God within Mary and the implications that that presence would have on her life.

  • He's already unique by reason of His Virgin Birth...by reason of His being...you know...GOD! There is nothing in Mary remaining a virgin that somehow makes Yeshua more unique. Are you saying that if she didn't remain a virgin that He would somehow no longer be unique, no longer be "unparralled" in glory?
Jesus' unique sonship within time reflects his unique Sonship outside of time. Christ is the only-begotten Son of the Father, who begets Him eternally without the help of a mother. He is also the only Son of Mary, who conceives Him in time without the help of a man. There are no other brothers or sisters, only Christ, only Him and the parents who raised Him. Whether you like it or not, that emphasizes his singularity.

  • Yet the Holy of Holies and the ark of the covenant was done away with and is no longer needed. Are you saying...as a good Catholic...one that venerates Mary...that she has been done away with and is no longer needed?
Of course not! You're using faulty logic here. The Temple was done away with too, does that mean that Jesus shouldn't have referred to his body as a temple? It's a metaphor, homie

  • I'd like to question you about the connection between the two which I'm sure you're prepared to do (you can make another thread to argue that point. For now I will disagree. There is no connection made in scripture.)
Do you mean between the Ark of the Covenant and the Holy of Holies? Or, do you mean between the Ark of the Covenant/Holy of Holies and Mary?

  • There is nothing that is the glory of the God-man that requires she be the ark and the holy of holies.
Are you serious? In your zeal for your position you have resorted to making the most ridiculous statements. My question for you is: How could the glory of God NOT transform Mary into a New Ark of the New Covenant? The tablets of stone, and the manna from heaven, and the rod of Aaron were mere symbols of God's presence, yet they were glorious enough to consecrate the Ark to such an extent that no one could touch it, not even if it was about to fall in the mud. Now, in Mary, the REAL THING comes, not the signifiers but the VERY THING BEING SIGNIFIED, and He's not going to have the same effect on Mary? That's just ridiculous.

To anticipate your objection, this is not the same as when a person receives the Holy Spirit or when, through love of Christ, the Father and the Son come to make their home in him (cf. Jn 14:23), or even when Jesus comes to abide in us in the Eucharist (cf. Jn 6:56). What we are speaking of is an entirely different presence. It happened only once, in all of human history, and it's hard to believe that it would not have a life-changing impact on the woman it happened to.

  • Nor would this use be for "ordinary" use...but for the glory of the Lord in being fruitful and multiplying and submitting to her husband, even in sex.
I agree that chaste marital relations in accordance with the will of God gives Him glory. It's not like I think that sex within marriage is dirty or sinful. It's just that, once God took possession of her, it was no longer befitting of Joseph to think that he could know Mary in the typical way. It would be like someone storing their socks in the Ark of the Covenant, or playing hide-and-go-seek in the Holy of Holies, or roasting marshmallows under the Tabernacle (the "tent of meeting"). It's not that these actions are sinful in and of themselves, it's just that they are ordinary and thus inappropriate for something that has been set apart for the extraordinary use of the Lord.

  • Yep! I'd hope they'd mate...I don't care about what you feel a first century Jew would feel. It doesn't make something true...or false. Piety is something subjective...felt is something subjective....sentiments are something subjective. I can make the same case but it doesn't make my conclusions true.
Believe it or not, the historical beliefs and sentiments of the Jewish people are important to understanding the Bible. We can't reasonably ascribe to them actions that would have been contrary to their customs and their piety. It would be like saying that women regularly cussed out their husbands, or that the eldest son deserved no respect within his family.

  • I understand that that's what Catholics believe. How am I to know your sensiblities?
I don't expect you to know. That's why I am telling you, so that you'll be more effective in your conversations with Catholics.

  • Scripture declares that all have sinned...that "the death" passed on to all because of Adam. This is what scripture teaches...have respect for God's Word...I care nothing for how you feel about it.
Look, no one is saying that you have to short-change what you believe. There's a way to speak the truth without being callous or offensive. I think that's just common courtesy.

  • By sense you mean it feels right to your faculties? You trust your senses rather than logically deducing the information to form your conclusions. Your irrationalism does not honor the Logos! How do you know that it gives more glory to Mashiach?
What in the world are you talking about? I said that my position "makes more sense." Do you not know what that phrase means? It means I think it is more logical and reasonable. I think it fits the data better. Yet somehow I'm not "logically deducing the information to form my conclusions." Weird.

Pax Christi,


  1. I think that the scariest thing about the Perpetual Virginity of Mary, to a Protestant, is that, typically, Catholics believe it and Protestants don't. It's dangerous for Catholics to be right on things. It's a trend that all too often continues.

  2. You have a fantastic blog. Extremely well laid out too. I will add you to the links page on my site.

    Pax et Bonum,

    Craig King
    "The Theology Geek"
    Steubenville 1994


  3. Hidden One .... good point!

    Theology Geek .... thanks!


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