Did Jesus have brothers? Do Matthew 1:25 and Luke 2:7 disprove the idea that Mary was ever virgin? In honor of the upcoming feast of the annunciation Trent tackles common objections to this important Marian dogma.
Welcome to the Counsel of Trent podcast, a production of Catholic Answers.
Tomorrow is the Feast of the Annunciation, which means it’s the day that we celebrate when the word became flesh and dwelt among us. Welcome to the Counsel of Trent podcast. I’m your host, Catholic Answers apologist and speaker, Trent Horn. When people hear that God became man, sometimes they think about God becoming Jesus during his public ministry or even God being born in a manger in Bethlehem at Jesus’ birth. But that’s not when the word became flesh. The word became flesh at the annunciation. It was at that moment that God became man. He became a one-celled organism. He lived an entire human life just like us, which began at conception as a zygote, a one-celled organism, the eternal God becoming man. So I love visiting the Basilica of the Annunciation in Nazareth. It’s a wonderful basilica. If you’re ever in Israel, you have to go and check it out. It’s a beautiful spot. In Latin, it says over the place where it is commemorated where the annunciation took place. It says in Latin, “The word became flesh here.” Just that gives you chills to think about that when you’re praying there.
Although if you are at the Basilica of the Annunciation, I will say there’s all this artwork around … and it’s beautiful artwork, most of it, at least … There’s all this artwork commemorating the Virgin Mary and Jesus, Mary and Jesus together, the Madonna and Child, that kind of artwork, all over the ground submitted by different countries around the world. My favorite though is probably the one, I think it’s from China. It has a Mary with an Asian motif and Jesus looks like a little Asian child and he’s wearing one little bunny slipper, like the other bunny slipper fell off or something like that. But Jesus has his little bunny slippers, and I love that.
The one I absolutely cannot stand at the Basilica of the Annunciation, though, is the one from America. Ours looks horrible. I’m sure it was designed sometime back in the 1970s. It’s a weird depiction of Mary made out of chrome and it’s just awful. I wish we could have a do over on that one. So since tomorrow is the feast of the Annunciation, I wanted to talk about the Virgin Mary and what Catholics believe about Mary. That we believe Mary was not just a Virgin before Christ was born, but that Mary is Ever Virgin. Aeiparthenos, said she was a Virgin her entire life. Here’s what the Catechism says: “The deepening of faith in the virginal motherhood led the Church to confess Mary’s real and perpetual virginity even in the act of giving birth to the Son of God made man. In fact, Christ’s birth did not diminish his mother’s virginal integrity, but sanctified it. And so the liturgy of the Church celebrates Mary as Aeiparthenos, the Ever-Virgin.”
So what I want to talk about today on the podcast are common objections to the dogma of Mary’s perpetual virginity. But before I get to that though, just a reminder, we’ve got a lot of great bonus content at TrentHornPodcast.com, sneak peeks of my new book authored with Catherine Pakaluk on Can A Catholic Be A Socialist? I’ve got other fun little bonus treats for people there. This week, I think I have posted a video tour of my office, so if you ever wanted to see what my office looks like at Catholic Answers, if you are a subscriber to TrentHornPodcast.com, you can access that. For as little as $5 a month, you get that fun bonus content; educational bonus content; the ability, exclusive ability to comment on episodes. You also get the ability to submit questions for future open mailbag episodes, which I always enjoy doing. So if you want a tour of my office and see what it’s like here and the little fun surprises I keep around here on my bookshelves, not just books but other fun things including little mythical animals, you all know what I mean by that, go to TrentHornPodcast.com, become a subscriber for as little as $5 a month. As I said, you keep the podcast going and you get that really great bonus content.
So all right, let’s jump into the typical objections to the dogma of Mary’s perpetual virginity, which says that Mary refrained from sexual relations with anyone throughout her entire life. That is what the church teaches. It teaches it dogmatically so. The first real debate about this took place … it was probably around the fourth or fifth centuries. There was a writer named Helvidius, and he wrote the view that Jesus’ brothers were actually his biological brothers born of Mary, that Mary had other children after Jesus, and he was vigorously refuted by St. Jerome on that matter. But also in the Eastern church, St. Epiphanius weighed in on the discussion about Jesus as the brothers and sisters of the Lord, which are described in the Bible and offered a different take. So we’ll talk about both here in the podcast.
So to serve as a proper foil for our discussion of this, I’m going to go to a video from the Protestant speaker and author John Ankerberg. So I have … I think I got one or two Ankerberg books in my bookshelf here. I know I do deal with Ankerberg. I interact with his work. He co-authored a book on Catholicism with someone else. I forget the other guy’s name off the top of my head, but I do interact with him in my book, The Case for Catholicism. So he has a series of videos. They’re probably shot a long time ago, but they still get some decent play on YouTube where he interacts with the dogma of Mary’s perpetual virginity. So I’m just going to deal with the two videos he has that offer objections to the doctrine that say, “Well, no, Mary could not have been a perpetual Virgin because of these other reasons that we see from scripture.” So let’s play that and then I’ll offer you my thoughts.
Did Joseph and Mary ever have intercourse after Jesus was born? Well, let’s read what the Bible says from the Douay-Rheims Catholic translation of the Bible. You can decide for yourself. In Matthew 1:24&25, we read: “And Joseph, rising up from sleep, did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took unto him his wife. And he knew her not until she brought forth her firstborn son and he called his name Jesus.” The implication is plain enough from Matthew’s words here. Mary and Joseph did not come together as husband and wife until after she gave birth to Jesus.
Okay, so that’s the famous until argument in Matthew 1:25. The idea here was that Mary and Joseph did not have relations until she had given birth to Jesus. So normally when we use the word until, even in English, it signifies a reversal of some kind. I’m not going to eat chocolate until Lent is over, which then you can apply from that, that once Lent has finished then I’m going to resume eating chocolate again. But the word until, of course, doesn’t always mean that. It doesn’t necessarily imply there is a cessation or a reversal of activity after that point. There are examples of this in scripture itself. So let me talk about some of those. The Greek word that is translated until in this passage is Heos. In English, if you transliterated it, it would be H-E-O-S, Heos, and here are a few examples where there is no reversal, even though the word until is used.
In 2 Samuel 6:23, in the Greek translation of the Old Testament or the Septuagint, it says, “Michal, the daughter of Saul had no child to,” or heos, “the day of her death.” So Michal, call the daughter of King Saul, it says she had no child to the day of her death. That does not mean after she died she started having children. We go on, when Jesus quoted Psalm 110, He said, “David himself, inspired by the Holy Spirit, declared, ‘The Lord said to my Lord, sit at my right hand till,” Greek heos once again, “‘I put your enemies under your feet.'” That doesn’t mean that he won’t be sitting at the Lord’s right hand after the enemies are put under his feet. Once again, it’s talking about a continuing action, even though the word until is used.
Now, some people, I’ve read other Protestant authors who will say, “Well, you’re picking and choosing out of the Old Testament here to say what heos means or until. Matthew doesn’t use it this way. So you can’t impose the Old Testament’s usage onto Matthew.” But actually that’s not the case. Matthew does use the word heos in this way. Look at Matthew 28:20. In there, Jesus says, Jesus tells the disciples, the apostles, “Observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always to the close of the age,” heos, the close of the age. But Jesus is going to be with the apostles even after this present age comes to an end. It’s cited in 1 Thessalonians 4:17 says that. So the word heos, until, yes, it can talk about a reversal, but it can also just mean an action was done and it will still be continuing. It’s just focusing on the prior elements of the action, but it doesn’t imply some kind of reversal at a future time.
So 2 Samuel 6:23, Michal had no child until the day of her death; just means she’d never had children throughout her entire life. It doesn’t say anything of what she did after the day of her death. So this passage in Matthew 1:25, I would ask a Protestant who brings us up, what is Matthew’s point? What is he trying to get across? Is Matthew trying to tell the reader, “My point is that Mary and Joseph had sex after Jesus was born.” That’s not his concern. That’s not Matthew’s main point in Matthew Chapter One. His main point is that Jesus does not have an earthly father. Jesus’ Father is God the Father. We know that because Mary and Joseph did not have sexual relations before Jesus was born. That is the main point he’s trying to get across. He’s not saying anything about what happened after Jesus was born. His main point is about the span of events that took place before Jesus was born.
In fact, John Calvin, the Protestant reformer John Calvin, said of Matthew 1:25 and the perpetual virginity of Mary, “No just and well-grounded inference can be drawn from these words of the Evangelist as to what took place after the birth of Christ.” In fact, belief in Mary’s perpetual virginity was something most of the Reformers believed in: Martin Luther, John Calvin, I think Zwingli believed in this. So Mary’s virginity was something that was believed in even well past the Protestant Reformation. I think a lot of times that modern Protestants are more apt to reject this doctrine. It’s because we live in a time and place where people think that to go without sexual relations is almost like a kind of death, like you’re being denied, like something that is necessary for life itself because we live in kind of a sex-crazed culture.
Now, I’m not saying these Protestant critics are sex-crazed, by any means, but I believe because they have imbibed this cultural understanding of marriage, of sexuality, and most of them think that there’s nothing wrong with contraception, for example. They have lost the ancient understanding of the purpose of sex, the purpose of marriage, and the purpose of the sanctity that comes from that and how abstaining from sex, which we’ll talk about here at the end of the podcast, can be a very holy thing too.
I mean, you look at Protestant churches. I’ve talked about this before on the podcast and in my videos. There are Protestant churches that refuse, most Protestant churches are skeptical or outright refuse to hire pastors that are not married. They don’t want single men. They want someone who is married because I think there’s something odd about people who are not married and engaging in the marital act in that way. So I think that it’s very culturally removed from a more biblical understanding of not just sex, but also celibacy, abstinence, and offering that up to God as something pleasing to him to totally devote oneself to God by living a celibate lifestyle or abstaining from sexual relations for very good reason.
Now some apologists, Eric Svendsen is a Protestant apologist and he wrote a lot of books in the late ’90s, early 2000s, critical to Catholic faith, and one of them was like … I think it was like a doctoral dissertation on Mary in the gospel or Mary in the New Testament. He goes on a lengthy report where he tries to prove that not just heos, but the Greek phrase, heos hou … So it’d be H-E-O-S H-O-U if you transliterated it into English. He says that heos hou always implies a reversal of condition. So it’s not just heos, but Matthew said heos hou is Svendsen’s argument?
But that doesn’t work because even heos hou doesn’t always imply a reversal. For example, in Acts 21:25, it says that St. Paul was held in custody heos hou, until, Festus could send him to the emperor. But Paul was still detained by the Romans even after he left Festus, the Governor Festus, his custody when he was on his way to Rome because Paul said, “I’m a Roman citizen. I have the right to appeal to the emperor.” So he was held in custody until Festus could send him, but he was still in custody even after that point.
You go to the apocryphal book 4 Maccabees. This is not in the Bible, but it’s part of the intertestamental literature, so it’s very, very close to the time when Matthew was writing. In 4 Maccabees 713, it talks about how Eleazar did not turn away from his faith until, heos hou, he sailed into the haven of immortal victory. So that mean that Eleazar turned away from faith in Yahweh, the Jewish faith, after his death? No, it doesn’t mean that at all. Yet, it uses that Greek construction heos hou that Svendsen says always implies a reversal. So he’s just wrong on that point.
I also give a hat tip here for the 4 Maccabee citation to Tim Staples, who notes it in his book, Behold Your Mother, which is his defense in the Marian dogmas. If you want to go even more deeper in all the Marian dogmas, I highly recommend Tim’s book. Tim is our resident expert here when it comes to Maryology. So Behold Your Mother by Tim Staples, I highly recommend.
Here’s another argument though that comes up a lot when this is brought forward, and people talk about Matthew 1:25. Similar people will bring up Luke 2:7, and Luke 2:7 talks about how Jesus is Mary’s first born son. She gave birth to her firstborn son. Some of you will say, “Oh, well, Luke says this is her firstborn son, which means she had other children as well. Jesus was Mary’s first child and then she went on to have other children.” Well, right off the bat, you can see this is a bad argument. There’s lots of people you might know, newly married couples who have a child. You say, “Oh, your firstborn son, your first child.” That doesn’t entail that they will automatically have other children. Some people will only have one child, but having only one child does not detract from the fact that you have a firstborn child.
In fact, St. Jerome mocked this argument when he was engaging Helvidius, because he said that Exodus 13:1-2, the Book of Exodus, Exodus 13:1-2, that parents were commanded to consecrate their firstborn to the Lord. But Jerome said, “Well, why couldn’t an Israelite parent have just said, ‘I owe nothing to the priest unless the birth of a second should make the one I previously had the firstborn.'” So Jerome makes it very clear. He says, “He is called the firstborn who opens the womb and who has been preceded by none, not he whose birth is followed by that of a younger brother.”
We also have Robert Stein, a Protestant author, in his commentary on Luke’s gospel. He says that there is an ancient grave inscription talking about a woman who died giving birth to her firstborn son. So we found ancient inscriptions honoring a woman who died giving birth to her firstborn son. Well, clearly if that’s the case, she never had any other children because she died giving birth to her firstborn, yet that was her only child and is still commemorated to her as her firstborn child. So that argument then from Matthew 1:25 and Luke 2:7, they do not show that Mary had other children or engaged in sexual relations after Jesus’ birth. So those verses don’t work.
Perhaps the most common argument though, by far, is the appeal to the brothers and sisters of the Lord. Most people, when you ask them, “Was Mary a virgin her whole life?” Protestants will say, “Well, how could that be? The Bible says that Jesus had brothers: James, Joses, Judas. He had at least more than one sister. He had sisters. Aren’t those his brothers? That means that Mary had other children, right?” Now, the church has offered a response to this. A traditional response coming from St. Jerome is that these are Jesus’ kinfolk or his cousins.
Now, Ankerberg replies to this, I’m going to play this clip. It’s kind of a lengthy one where Ankerberg cites the Catechism and then offers his reply to the question of whether Jesus had brothers or cousins who, who are Jesus’s brethren that are described in the gospels.
Now, Roman Catholic scholars brushed these scriptures aside saying that all of them refer to the Lord’s cousins and not to his actual brothers or sisters. For example, the Catechism of the Catholic Church states: “Against this doctrine,” speaking of Mary’s perpetual virginity, “the objection is sometimes raised that the Bible mentions brothers and sisters of Jesus.” Well, it certainly does that. “The church has always understood these passages as not referring to other children or the Virgin Mary. Why? They are close relations of Jesus according to the Old Testament expression.” That is, sons and daughters of Mary’s sister, not children of Mary herself.
But there’s a big problem in stating this. The reason being that there was an exact term for cousin, anepsios, a very well known word in New Testament times. This word for cousin is not used in any of the passages we have read or any others which referred to Jesus as brothers or sisters. On the other hand, the word for cousin is used in Colossians 4:10 where the Apostle Paul writes, “Aristarchus sends you his greetings as does Mark, the cousin,” here’s that word anepsios, “of Barnabas.”
And then Ankerberg goes on to say that there’s another word that just means relatives, suggenes, and that that word is used in other parts of the scriptures, but it’s not used to describe the brethren of Jesus. So he says, “Look, if they were cousins or just kinfolk or extended relatives, the biblical authors would have used anepsios or suggenes, not adelpho or adelphe, which means brother or sister.” So he draws from that. Okay, we have to believe that these are biological brothers and sisters who were born of Mary. So what’s wrong with that argument? Well, in Hebrew and Aramaic, any of your relatives, whether it was a brother, a cousin, step-sibling, whoever it may be, they were usually just called brothers. They were called in Hebrew, akhi, or an Aramaic, akha.
Then in Greek, when it was translated later, so when you went from the Hebrew or the Aramaic to the Greek … remember, the apostles, they spoke Greek as a language of commerce, but they probably spoke Aramaic amongst one another. That was the common tongue among Jews and Jesus’ time. When it’s translated to Greek, it was usually the word adelphos is used. So for example, the Septuagint uses the word adelphoi to describe the relationship between Abram and his nephew Lot. So these were uncle and nephew between Abram and Lot, they weren’t brothers. The cousins of Moses and Aaron in Leviticus 10:4 are also called adelphoi.
Here’s what’s really interesting in the intertestamental literature. So the deuterocanonical books, which are closer to the time of Jesus than the Book of Exodus, in Tobit 7:2-4, it says that adelphoi and anepsios. So we have the word for brother, adelphoi, that’s the Greek word for brother, and the Greek word for cousin anepsios. They’re used interchangeably to describe the relationship between Raguel and his cousin Tobit. So there’s no contradiction here using the word adelphoi to mean cousin. It’s used in the Old Testament, Greek Old Testament that way. It’s used in the deuterocanonical books that way. As we’ll see, there’s evidence it’s used that way in the New Testament as well.
Finally, the word for brother, which is used in speaking about Jesus’ brothers is the word adelphos, and for sisters it is adelphe. Adelphos and adelphe can sometimes be used in a wider sense, but their primary meaning speaks of a relationship of shared parentage. Unless the context suggests otherwise, and in none of these passages is that the case, this must be the primary meaning of the word that is intended. As James McCarthy has said in his book, The Gospel According to Rome, had the Holy Spirit wanted Christians to venerate Mary as ever a virgin, the Holy Spirit would not have referred to these relatives of Jesus as his brothers and sisters without further qualification.
All right, let me address some of these arguments here. First, just because a word appears to have a clear and plain meaning, it doesn’t mean it always has that particular meaning. For example, Joseph is called the father of Jesus, and throughout scripture, father is almost always used in a biological sense when referring to parentage in these kinds of relations. Yet, of course, just because Joseph is called the father of Jesus in scripture, it doesn’t mean that he was Jesus’ biological father. He was Jesus’ legal father or guardian. He was married to Jesus’ mother, Mary.
Second, the word adelphe is used. There is a case that can be made that the word adelphe is used in this sense, in the New Testament in a way where the context doesn’t strictly demand it, but it does make sense for it to be used in that way and doesn’t require further explanation or further qualification. That’s in John 19:25. In John 19:25 it says, “Standing by the cross of Jesus where his mother and his mother’s sister,” adelphe, “Mary, the wife of Clopas.” So, now some people have tried to argue that there are two women … Sorry, there are three women described here, not two: Jesus’ mother, his mother’s sister, and Mary the wife of Clopas. But I think this text, what makes more sense given the Greek construction is that it’s saying, standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother and his mother’s sister, and the next term is a description of who Mary’s mother’s sister is and that would be another Mary called Mary the wife of Clopas.
Now Richard Bauckham, a Protestant scholar, he says, “It’s certainly unlikely that two full sisters should bear the same name.” So Mary has an adelphe also named Mary. But the odds that these were two full sisters, they have the same mother and father and they’re both named Mary, that’s really strange. I mean who would name their kids, give their kids identical names? People just don’t do that. So Bauckham says that, in this context, adelphe need not mean full sister. The two Mary’s could be half-sisters, stepsisters, sisters-in-law, or some other family relationship for which modern English would not use the word sister at all.
Now when you talk about understanding who the siblings are, more evidence for the cousin view can be found, in that Matthew 27:56 talks about another Mary. It’s not talking about Mary the mother of Jesus; it’s talking about another Mary named Mary the mother of James and Joseph. We remember that James and Joseph are two of the names of the brothers of Jesus in Matthew 13:55. So here we see that two of the brothers, at least, or the alleged brethren, are described as being sons of another Mary, which would make them probably cousins if they’re sons of Mary the wife of Clopas. Because later in Galatians, we hear that James, the brother of the Lord, that James is the son of Alphaeus.
So if James is the son of Alphaeus, and if this guy Alphaeus was also named Clopas, much the same way that Paul and Saul refer to the same person, or Simon and Peter refer to the same person, if Clopas and Alphaeus are the same person, and Mary is the wife of Clopas Alphaeus, Mary could be the mother then of James and Joseph, and they become cousins. They are the sons of Mary’s sister, and by sister, of course, I mean the sister in the broader sense that adelphe can mean like a cousin, half-sister, other things like that.
So there’s evidence for the cousin view that all of the brothers and sisters of the Lord are cousins to him. But it also can be the case that some or all could have been step-siblings or it could be a mix. Maybe James and Joseph are the cousins, but the others are half-siblings or they all are half-siblings or step-siblings. That is the other view of explaining who the brothers and sisters of the Lord are, that was made popular in the eastern church and you can find it in the writings of Epiphanius, for example. I think that this view, while the cousin’s view is permissible, it’s the traditional view in the western church, I’m drawn a lot to this eastern view that the brothers and sisters of the Lord are his step-siblings, in that they are the biological children of Joseph from a previous marriage. So they would be related to Jesus in that they are the sons and daughters of Jesus’ legal father, but they are not the sons and daughters of Mary. They wouldn’t be biologically related to Mary, but they’re biologically related to Jesus’ legal father, Joseph.
So why do I think that? Why do I find this view attractive? Well, first, it explains why in the gospels, Mary is always with the brothers of the Lord. So Mary and Jesus’ brothers and sisters, they’re always together as a kind of family unit. So that is possible, if they’re cousins, but it does make a lot more sense if they are the sons and daughters of Joseph. So they already have a tight knit family unit with Mary to care for her while Jesus is engaged in his public ministry. So that makes sense.
Also, this view that they are step-siblings of Jesus completely eviscerates Ankerberg’s objection saying, it says brother, it doesn’t say cousin. Well, fine. If adelphe means brother, guess what step-brothers are brothers, they are brothers. They’re just as much brothers as anyone else. You can say your stepbrother is your brother. I mean, it’s a cruel thing to say, “You’re not my real brother, not my real dad, not my real mom, not my real dad.” There is that horrible video, I’m not even going to get into it, but the line that’s quoted from it that’s very meme worthy is “Not my real dad.” No, that stepbrothers are brothers. So he might say, someone like Ankerberg would say, “Well, adelphe can … It doesn’t mean cousins. That’s stretching it. It means brothers.” Fine, stepbrothers, stepsisters, step-siblings. You get over that.
Richard Bauckham, who’s a Protestant scholar that denies the perpetual virginity of Mary, he leans toward the Epiphanian view that the brothers and sisters of the Lord are not biological brothers and sisters from Mary, but they are step-siblings. They are from Joseph’s previous marriage. He’s a Protestant scholar, and he says the historical and biblical evidence points him in that direction.
So Bauckham says of history, he says, “The idea that Jesus’ brothers and sisters were Joseph’s children by a previous marriage is taken entirely for granted in the early second century and third century works related to the family of Jesus.” So the earliest non-biblical information we have about Jesus’ family simply assumes this. “It is the only piece of non-biblical information common to these works, the works themselves show no signs of a literary relationship, and so the information can reasonably be considered a tradition which predates them. Therefore, there’s evidence of a well-established tradition in probably early second century Syrian Christianity that Jesus’ brothers and sisters were children of Joseph by a previous marriage.”
So these include things like the Protoevangelium of James, the Infancy Gospel of James, speaks to this. So we have a very early tradition here, some of the earliest in the church, and it’s independent from these multiple sources. They’re not influencing one another.
Now, it’s funny, as some Catholics get very upset at me when I say Joseph had a previous marriage and had children because they think that Joseph was a virgin his whole life. That’s not what the church teaches. The church teaches that Joseph is Mary’s most chaste spouse, and you can practice chastity within marriage. In fact, you ought to do that. The church does not teach that Joseph … you can believe Joseph was a virgin his entire life. You’re certainly permitted to believe that. But you’re not mandated to do so. The church does not require it. These earliest sources say that that Joseph was married and that he had previous children, and that he was selected as an older widower to be wed to Mary who had taken a vow of virginity. So she had taken an early vow of virginity and Joseph was wed to her as kind of her protector.
So it’s funny, I’ve had some Catholics say, “Trent, how can you quote the Protoevangelium of James to say Joseph was previously married and had children when St. Thomas Aquinas even says that this is a work of fiction and mythology?” Catholics who denigrate the Infancy Gospel of James because people draw from it that Joseph had a previous marriage and had children, I’m really confused by Catholics who would do that because the Infancy Gospel of James is where we get other important information about Jesus’ family.
Like that is where we get the information that Mary made a vow of virginity for those who hold the view that Mary spoke to the angel in Luke 1:35 and said, “How can I have a child for I know no man?”They say, “Well, that means Mary made a vow of virginity for her whole life and Joseph was entrusted to her as a spouse to protect her.” For those who hold to that view, they cite the Infancy Gospel of James. In fact, the church derives from the Protoevangeliums of James that the name of Mary’s parents, Anne and Joachim, it comes from this document. So I don’t understand Catholics who will criticize me for citing this document to show that Joseph had a previous marriage and had children before he was wed to marry. That I cite the Infancy Gospel of James for that reason, but it’s okay for them to cite it to say, “We know that Mary’s parents are Anne and Joachim and she made a vow of virginity.” I just don’t … I find that to be kind of a double standard there.
Finally, Bauckham says that a view that tips him towards the Epiphanian view is that in the Bible in Nazareth, Jesus is referred to, not as a son of Joseph, but as the son of Mary. So when he’s in Nazareth, outside of Nazareth, he’s called the Son of Joseph. Well, here’s how Bauckham puts it: “Whereas outside Nazareth, Jesus would have to be identified as the son of Joseph,” as John 6:42 says, “in Nazareth where the family was known, the children of Joseph’s two wives would be distinguished by their matronymics. Jesus would be called the Son of Mary, precisely because James, Joses, Judas, and Simon were not sons of Mary.” So when Jesus is called the Son of Mary, I believe it’s in Mark’s gospel uses this description, “Is this not the Son of Mary?” That’s strange because in ancient Judaism, you always refer to someone as the son of their father, not the son of their mother. The only exception to that was when the mother was far more prominent than the father, like a queen or a wealthy person, like a living queen to a deceased king or something like that, but Mary, of course, would not hold that position.
So all of that together, the early tradition, that it makes sense, you could say Jesus … that adelphe means brothers, but it just means stepbrothers in this passage, early historical evidence from these independent works in early second century Syrian Christianity, and the phrase Son of Mary, all of it comes together. I think the Epiphanian view has a lot of evidence going forward, but, of course, you’re still allowed to believe in St. Jerome’s view that the brothers of the Lord are cousins. That’s called the Hieronymian view. Hieronymus is Jerome’s name in Greek.
Finally, one last objection. Some people say, “Well, you can’t believe in the perpetual virginity of Mary because this dogma says that sex is bad or evil and that Mary would have never had sex because she was pure and holy.” That is not what the dogma teaches at all. Not at all. Rather what the Bible teaches is that it is a good thing to abstain from sexual relations for holy purposes. There are prophets, the Talmud talks about prophets who remain celibate, abstain from sex for the rest of their lives, after they had an encounter with the word of the Lord and receiving it. In Exodus 19:15, it says that the people, the Israelites, were told to abstain from sex for three days before the reception of the Ten Commandments.
So the idea of abstaining from sexual relations because someone has a holy purpose can be found in scripture. So how much more wouldn’t it make sense that for Mary to become the tabernacle, to become the new Ark of the Covenant, and remember, in the old Testament, remember, Uzzah the cart bearer, when he touched the Ark of the Covenant when he weren’t allowed to, he dropped dead. So imagine now, Mary, the Ark of the New Covenant where the word, the eternal word, dwells within her. How much more fitting it would be to abstain from sexual relations to her? Even more so that in Luke 1:35 … Sorry, it’s not Luke 1:35 where Mary says, “How can this be for I know not man?” Or it could be. Well, it might be a part of the verse. I know it’s right around there. In Luke 1:35, the angel explains to Mary. She says, “How can this be? I know not man.” Because, remember, when then Gabriel says, “You will conceive a son,” she doesn’t say, “Well, how can this be?”
There’s no hint that it’s miraculous. There’s no hint that it’s some kind of miraculous dealing that’s going on here because she’s betrothed, not just engaged. Betrothal was a marriage. She was essentially married to Joseph. The angel says, “You’re going to bear a son,” while she’s betrothed. That’s not that surprising. It’d be like if I was at a wedding reception and the bride and groom were eating cake and I said, “You’re going to have a baby boy,” and then the wife says, “Well, how can this be? We haven’t gotten to the hotel yet.” Well, it’s going to happen relatively soon. But instead the Angel Gabriel says it’s going to be miraculous. “The Holy Spirit will come upon you. The power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore, the Holy One to be born shall be called the Son of God.”
That phrase, to overshadow, that scholars recognize this as kind of bridal language; to overshadow, the power of the Most High will overshadow you. It’s a euphemism for marital language or spousal language. The Targum, which is an Aramaic commentary to Deuteronomy 21:4 says … talks about laying one’s power over a woman, reshuth, is a euphemism for having a marital relationship with her. So, of course, God the Father did not have a physical relationship with Mary. But the idea here is in ancient Judaism, just like most other traditional societies, if you bear someone’s child, it is a sin for you to bear someone’s child if you’re not married to that person. If you’re going to have someone’s baby, you got to be married to them.
So even through God the Father acting through the Holy Spirit in a miraculous way to overshadow Mary, she becomes a spouse to the Holy Spirit, a spouse to the Father with this language. So now she is not able to have marital relations with Joseph because she has fully given herself to God in this way to bring his son into the world. Not in a physical way, but in a true marital way, in a true gift of self to God.
So I hope that’s helpful for you all just to be able to answer those objections to the dogma of Mary’s perpetual virginity. I also recommend, if you want to go deeper into the subject, definitely check out Tim Staples’ book, Behold Your Mother. I also cover this somewhat in my book, The Case for Catholicism. So thank you all so much. Be sure to go to TrentHornPodcast.com to get those bonus content that we have there and to support us. I hope you have a very blessed day and a blessed celebration of the Annunciation tomorrow. Thank you all so much. Have a great one.
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