Confusion…until…

May 13th, 2014 | By | Category: Blog Posts

Whoever tells you that theology does not play a role in Bible translation is selling you something. It is probably a “very accurate” translation, or maybe a “very literal” one. There are lots of problems with being too literal when translating, though there is at least one potential benefit: there may be less injection of theological bias into the translation (note that I do not say no injection of bias). The problems arguably make literalistic translations more dangerous in some ways for the average layman. Why? Because the layman is almost certainly not a Greek or Hebrew or Aramaic or Latin scholar, and is hence unqualified to make decisions about interpreting literal translations. There are plenty of cans of worms that can be opened when an unskilled individual—no matter how bright he may be—starts making guesses about what literal translation ABC really means. Does it mean DEF, or maybe JKLMN? How does one decide? Generally, the layman decides by interpreting it (if he can) in accord with whatever theological tradition of which he is already part. If he finds himself unable to do that, he will turn to his pastor or some other person he reckons to be a reliable source and find out what that person says. If the answer makes sense, he may adopt that person’s opinion as his own, but please note: that does not make him right, and it does not make his trusted authority correct, and it certainly does not make his theological tradition correct either. So all this theological baggage gets tossed into the mix and is rarely noticed (and even more rarely discussed).

Mary, Perpetually Virgin

Mary, Perpetually Virgin

The difficulty with all this baggage is that if the theological tradition which serves as the starting point for interpreting the literal translation is just wrong, then the odds of a bad interpretation (by which I mean one that is negatively influenced by the incorrect theological tradition)—the odds of a bad interpretation following from all that just jump sky high.

In short, the literal translation is no friend of the layman who does not know the source languages. It encourages him to make interpretive leaps which may be unwarranted and for which he lacks any serious competence. If he is able to find a way to “fit” the passage into his theological paradigm, he may very probably start acquiring an inflated confidence in both his own abilities and the validity of his theological paradigm.

The problem is not made better by tools like Strong’s Concordance, which allows the layman to find all occurrences of a given word and then look up the Greek, Hebrew, or Aramaic word(s) that are translated using the same English word (for example). He sees a strange collection of what in English are entirely unrelated possible translations for some words (because the source language has different semantic domains than the target), and can’t figure out what is going on. “Are the translators just crazy? Can I just use one of the other translations given for the word in this case? Because if I did, then the passage would mean LLPMRD, which fits nicely with what I believe as a [insert denomination or theological tradition here]. This current word just confuses things.”

A real-world example of the kinds of problems that can arise from literal translations (especially those underwritten by theological traditions which happen to be incorrect) is found in Matthew 1:25. The New American Standard Bible (NASB), celebrated as perhaps the most literal translation available today, renders the verse this way:

…but kept her a virgin until she gave birth to a Son; and he called His name Jesus.

It includes a footnote for the first verb/object that says it literally reads “…and was not knowing her…” But that is not the interesting part. The interesting part (for this post anyway!) is the word until. In English a common sense of until in such a context implies that the action identified by the main verb (*kept* in this case) no longer applies after the event in the subordinate clause. For example, I drove until I was tired.

There is a difficulty here for this meaning in this context, however: namely, that the Catholic Church teaches us that Mary was perpetually virgin, so that she did not stop being a virgin with Christ’s birth, and she never had other children. The “obvious” English meaning presents a problem for this dogma. Thus we need to either reject the literal rendering for something more idiomatic which better expresses what Matthew must have meant, or we need to consider an alternate way of understanding the literal translation.

We find one example of a less literal rendering that better communicates the Catholic perspective in the New Jerusalem Bible (NJB):

…he had not had intercourse with her when she gave birth to a son; and he named him Jesus.

The benefit of this translation is that it makes clear the same thing about how St. Joseph treated Mary while she was pregnant and at the same time implies nothing contrary about the future. Personally I think this is a very good way to render this verse, but I am not qualified to speak authoritatively about it. At the least, though, it is much more readily seen that Mt. 1:25 is in perfect harmony with the Catholic dogma of Mary’s perpetual virginity than if we resort to the more wooden reading of the NASB.

But is there a way that perhaps we can save the literal rendering? Maybe so, though I hasten to point out again that I am not qualified to make a judgment that is in any way official here. In English we have expressions like the following: “God bless you until we meet again.” Does the man who says this mean to imply that after meeting his friend again he hopes God will cease blessing his friend?!? Of course not! We see the same kind of usage in this: “I had all sorts of problems in my life until I received my inheritance.” Does this mean that our lucky legatee no longer has problems? Heh. Not likely. No, if he was pressed he would undoubtedly have to concede that he still has problems, even if they are not of the same sort as in his earlier days of penury.

The point of these examples is that there are usages of until in English that imply nothing whatsoever about cessation of the referenced action. So the fact that Matthew may have literally said until does not ipso facto imply cessation even in English, and hence it is reckless to assume from a literal translation that it does. The question that interests me is whether the Greek uses until in the same sort of way as my two alternate English examples above. If so, it is completely reasonable to use a less literalistic translation (like the NJB’s) because of the confusion the literal rendering produces.

The Navarre Bible commentary (sorry, I know of no online edition) has this to say:

Following the Greek text strictly, the New Vulgate version says: “et non cognoscebat eam, donec peperit filium”. The literal English translation is: “and he knew her not until she had borne a son”. The word “*donec*” (until) of itself does not direct our attention to what happened afterwards; it simply points out what has happened up to that moment, that is, the virginal conception of Jesus Christ by a unique intervention of God. We find the same word in John 9:18, where it says that the Pharisees did not believe in the miraculous cure of the man blind from birth “until” (*donec*) they called his parents. However, neither did they believe afterwards. Consequently, the word “until” does not refer to what happens later.

It turns out that the same Greek particle is used for until in both Mt. 1:25 and Jn. 9:18. Clearly in the latter the Pharisees did not believe even after talking to the parents of the man born blind. Hence it seems safe to conclude that the Greek for until can bear both senses that it does in English: for action that stops at some point, and for action that continues after some event. This being the case, it seems that tradition must be taken into account in interpreting Mt. 1:25. Since it is a dogma that Mary remained virgin throughout her life, the translation of Mt. 1:25 ought to reflect this (as it does in the NJB). The literal translation too readily creates opportunities for the error of supposing that Mary had other children. Sometimes literalism is not always best.

This is consistent with the second principle according to which the Catechism of the Catholic Church says that we should approach hermeneutics:

Read the Scripture within ‘the living Tradition of the whole Church’. [CCC §113]

Acknowledgment

This post was inspired in part by comments made here by fra Charles, as well as by others participating in the conversation in that thread.

Further Reading

Brantly Millegan offers a look at Protestant defenses of Mary’s perpetual virginity here.

Bryan Cross discusses the relationship between interpretation, tradition, and lexicon here.

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86 comments
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  1. Fred,

    One question I have. Where does it say in John 9 that the Pharisees persisted in unbelief after they asked the man’s parents?

    Compare the disciple’s question in 9:2 to the Pharisee’s response to the man in 9:34:

    John 9:2 (ESV)
    And his disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”

    John 9:34 (ESV)
    They answered him, “You were born in utter sin, and would you teach us?” And they cast him out.

    The Pharisee’s remark, “You were born in utter sin,” seems to imply that they believed he was born blind.

    All the best,
    VV

  2. I know a man who was a Jehovah’s Witness for 26 years. After he left (due to rising in leadership and “seeing the man behind the curtain”) he spend years trying to debunk the Witness’ theology by scripture. He says that by using their terms, explanations, etc, he was only able to find three verses in the entire Bible he couldn’t massage into conformity or even support of their teachings.

    After this, he told us, he could never take sola scriptura seriously again. While his wife was attending RCIA (she had spent years secretly praying the rosary in front of a statue of Budda, a bit confused, yes, but Our Lady worked through it anyways. If you pick up the rosary with good will, Mary will drag you to Her Son) he realized that since he had (1) rejected a false teacher, and (2) rejected the possibility of Sola Scriptura, perhaps Our Lord had left us a True Teacher…and now he’s Catholic

  3. Greetings VV,

    If they had believed his story they would not have cast him out of the synagogue.

    Secondly, they cast him out in their arrogance because a man they deemed to be completely untutored was lecturing them on the meaning of the Law.

    Peace,

    Fred

  4. fra Charles (#2):

    Yes. It is never a question of whether we shall apply a theological paradigm to our translation and interpretation of the Bible. It is always a question of which paradigm it will be.

    Peace,

    Fred

  5. Fred,

    “If they had believed his story they would not have cast him out of the synagogue.”

    Can you show me where it says that in the text, or if not explicitly, how you came to that conclusion? I’m not seeing your inference.

    Your response does not address the two verses I cited, with the words I emphasized. When the Pharisees say, “You were born in utter sin,” what do you take that statement to mean?

    VU

  6. St. Thomas, commenting on 9:34 (http://dhspriory.org/thomas/John9.htm), writes:

    1353 Here the Pharisees condemn the blind man. In this condemnation they fall into three defects or sins, namely, untruth, pride, and injustice. They fall into untruth in reviling the blind man, saying, you were born in utter sin. Here it should be noted that the Jews were of the opinion that all infirmities and temporal adversities beset us on account of our previous sins. This was the opinion given by Eliphaz: “Think now, who that was innocent ever perished? Or where were the upright cut off? As I have seen those who plow iniquity and sow trouble reap the same. By the breath of God they perish” (Job 4:7). The reason for this opinion is that in the Old Law temporal goods were promised to the good, and temporal punishment to the evil: “If you are willing and obedient, you shall eat the good of the land” (Is 1:19). Therefore, seeing that this man had been born blind, they believed that this happened on account of his sins, and so they say, you were born in utter sin. But they were wrong, because the Lord said: “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents.”

  7. Sorry, forgot to include the next paragraph:

    They say in utter sin to show that he is defiled by sins not only in his soul, insofar as all of us are born sinners, but even as regards the traces of sin which appear in his body, as blindness. Or according to Chrysostom, in utter sin means that he was in sin all his life, from his earliest years.[29]

  8. St. Augustine, commenting on 9:34 (http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/1701044.htm), writes:

    14. They answered and said unto him, You were wholly born in sins. What means this wholly? Even to blindness of the eyes. But He who has opened his eyes, also saves him wholly: He will grant a resurrection at His right hand, who gave enlightenment to his countenance. You were altogether born in sins, and do you teach us? And they cast him out. They had made him their master; many questions had they asked for their own instruction, and they ungratefully cast forth their teacher.

  9. VU (#5):

    “If they had believed his story they would not have cast him out of the synagogue.”

    Can you show me where it says that in the text, or if not explicitly, how you came to that conclusion? I’m not seeing your inference.

    My statement is based upon the quotation from the Navarre Bible commentary, in the last one-third or so of the article. But if they had believed, they would necessarily have had to accept something about Jesus that they were clearly not willing to do. It is easier for them to deny the miracle, which is the only possible reason that they could have had for questioning the man again after speaking with his parents: they knew that there is nothing that a plain old human can do to make a blind man see, and they did not like the conclusion. So they interrogated him again, obviously looking to punch a hole in his testimony.

    Your response does not address the two verses I cited, with the words I emphasized. When the Pharisees say, “You were born in utter sin,” what do you take that statement to mean?

    Aside from the quotes you provide in #’s 6-8, my opinion has always been that this was said to him in their typical hypocritical self-righteousness. He is calling them on it, and so they put him out. I must concede however that I do like what Aquinas says too :-)

    Peace,

    Fred

  10. “the Catholic Church teaches us that Mary was perpetually virgin, so that she did not stop being a virgin with Christ’s birth, and she never had other children. The “obvious” English meaning presents a problem for this dogma.”

    There are lots of other problems with this dogma too.

  11. “But if they had believed, they would necessarily have had to accept something about Jesus that they were clearly not willing to do.”

    Or they could have accepted the miracles of Jesus, which they often did while attributing them to the power of Satan.

    My point in all of this is that your claim that their unbelief persisted after the parents were brought forward is offered as obvious evidence for a different use of “until” in order to give credence for interpreting Matt. 1 differently. I just don’t see how this is strong evidence given that it is based on an inference that is less than obvious. Compare that inference to the remarks made by teachers like St. Augustine and St. Thomas who point to the phrase “born in utter sin” in 9:34 to suggest it means that the Pharisees acknowledged that the man was born blind. So, that is counter-evidence to the claim that they continued to disbelieve that the man was born blind.

    “I must concede however that I do like what Aquinas says too ”

    Of course you would, that’s what I quoted him in hopes that I could get you to amend your ways and listen to your and my intellectual superior. (:

    All the best,
    VU

  12. IP,

    You wrote in #10:

    There are lots of other problems with this dogma too.

    Yes, like the strange fact that the heirs of Calvin and Luther abandoned it, which certainly seems to make a hash of sola scriptura and the perspicuity of Scripture. :-)

    Unless you intend to discuss the “until” problem here, you will be better served taking general discussion about Mary’s perpetual virginity either to Brantly Millegan’s article linked above, or to this article here at Called to Communion. Thanks!

    Peace,

    Fred

  13. I think there is a serious case of this in Luke 1:34 – would really like the opinion of someone who is theologically superior to me (almost anyone :-)) and whose Greek is better than mine (not so much almost anyone; I read Greek well, classical as well as NT, but am no expert).

    Luke 1:34 says:

    ειπεν δε μαριαμ προς τον αγγελον πως εσται τουτο επει ανδρα ου γινωσκω

    Most English translations have something like the NAB:

    Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?

    Now it seems to me that this translation is seriously misleading. First, of course, it has Our Lady asking how can this be, which is not what the Greek has. It is εσται which is future. But far deeper, it seems to me, is that she says, as in the rather more literal KJV:

    seeing I know not a man

    The Greek present cannot, I claim, refer to a mere present state of affairs, with no implications about past or future; the aorist would be used there. Instead, it either is present progressive – ‘I am not at this moment in the act of “knowing” a man’ – which is, of course, absurd – or it is a present habitual.

    It seems to me that Luke’s Greek – quite aside from any Aramaic or Hebrew substrate – that his Greek is saying that ‘since that is not something I do,’ and is much more compatible with the idea of her vow of perpetual virginity.

    Or is my understanding the Greek tenses wrong? I really would like someone who is an expert to comment here.

    jj

  14. VU (#11):

    I am not an exegete, nor have I expertise in any of the biblical languages. I certainly concede that the inference could be mistaken, as far as that goes, but at the very least it does have some scholarly support. Furthermore, it is not clear to me that it is out of accord with or ruled out by what St. Thomas says.

    Your very reasonable suggestion that they could have claimed a diabolical origin for the miracle could be already there: they tell the man born blind that Jesus is a sinner (and therefore could not have had divine help). This declaration shows that they still did not believe what they were hearing, it seems to me. Or, given that Jesus had issued a rather devastating rebuke to this claim of theirs, I think it also plausible that they would not reach back into that bag of tricks again lest they pull out another viper. Obviously I am not willing to take a position. :-)

    Peace,

    Fred

  15. I don’t have the time or the linguistic knowledge to make sure it is the same exact Greek word, but there are more examples of the word “until” not implying the contrary throughout the New and Old Testaments. This question does not stand or fall on John 9, which does seem ambiguous to me.

    Like with Brothers = Uterine Brothers in Matt. 13, to demonstrate that the end of Matt. 1 means Mary and Joseph had relations after the birth of Jesus, it will be necessary to defend it against any counter-examples. If there is even a reasonable doubt, this question ends with a scripturally ambiguous answer.

    In which case, the , the other evidence for the Perpetual Virginity, whether it be indirect scriptural evidence (such as John 19 or arguments from typology), fittingness, or from tradition, should be taken into account, and the question why modern Protestants are insistent on this point should be examined.

  16. Are you aware of a list of well-known theology-leading-to-translation-errors among major translations? Something akin to D.A. Carson’s “Exegetical Fallacies” but for popular translations. I seem to recall Matthew 9:19 being mistranslated in the NIV to reinforce a divorce “loophole”. And again the NIV’s choice of “teaching” vs. “tradition”. I’d love to see a more exhaustive list of these, from the most popular translations.

  17. Eva,

    Sorry, but I know of no such work having been done.

    Peace,

    Fred

  18. The interesting part (for this post anyway!) is the word until. In English a common sense of until in such a context implies that the action identified by the main verb (*kept* in this case) no longer applies after the event in the subordinate clause. For example, I drove until I was tired.

    Fred,

    Syntactically the preposition catches its force more from the verb tense than itself, although it certainly stands for itself.

    As you noted the verb tense of “kept” is imperfect – an action begun in the past and continuing to the present, with an expectation it will come to an end at some point. Your doctrine begs for the perfect tense of “kept,” with the expectation that Mary’s virginity, begun in the past, remained perpetual.

    This the Holy Spirit has not given you, and as for “until, see Mat. 1:17, only 8 verses earlier.

    But as you note, that really isn’t the interesting part of the text, but rather what men who held your beliefs in the past have written on it. This merely points out the difference between competing religious authorities.

    The perpetual virginity cannot be determined from Scripture, and can rather easily be shaken by those who believe Scripture is holy and thereby the singular religious authority over men. Add in the “brothers and sisters” texts and it takes a special pleading of the text and a persistent pleading of men’s teachings to avoid what is obvious. Mary had other children.

    The real issue here is not the length of her virginity but religious authority.

    By the way, let me know now if you are going to start moderating out my comments so I don’t waste my time in discussion.

  19. Fred,

    I found this comment interesting since it gives other examples of the “until” :

    Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
    25. And knew her not till she had brought forth her first-born son: and he called his name JESUS—The word “till” does not necessarily imply that they lived on a different footing afterwards (as will be evident from the use of the same word in 1Sa 15:35; 2Sa 6:23; Mt 12:20); nor does the word “first-born” decide the much-disputed question, whether Mary had any children to Joseph after the birth of Christ; for, as Lightfoot says, “The law, in speaking of the first-born, regarded not whether any were born after or no, but only that none were born before.” (See on [1205]Mt 13:55, 56

    The references he mentions:

    I Samuel 15:35 And Samuel did not see Saul again until the day of his death, but Samuel grieved over Saul. And the Lord regretted that he had made Saul king over Israel.

    II Samuel 6:23 Therefore Michal the daughter of Saul had no child unto the day of her death.

    Matthew 12:20 a bruised reed he will not break,
    and a smoldering wick he will not quench,
    until he brings justice to victory;

  20. Hello Ted,

    Starting from the bottom first, you wrote in #18:

    By the way, let me know now if you are going to start moderating out my comments so I don’t waste my time in discussion.

    I do my best to adhere to our posting guidelines and to ensure that commenters do the same. If I have a known weakness here it is in allowing conversations to run off-topic too far and too long. I am working on it, and I ask that you be patient with me as I seek to be fair to all commenters on my articles.

    Syntactically the preposition catches its force more from the verb tense than itself, although it certainly stands for itself.

    As I said, I am not equipped to debate this point, although I do think that James Jensen (who is far more qualified than I) makes some useful observations in #13.

    As you noted the verb tense of “kept” is imperfect – an action begun in the past and continuing to the present, with an expectation it will come to an end at some point. Your doctrine begs for the perfect tense of “kept,” with the expectation that Mary’s virginity, begun in the past, remained perpetual.

    This the Holy Spirit has not given you, and as for “until, see Mat. 1:17, only 8 verses earlier.

    I checked the RSV, the NJB, the ESV, and the NASB, and none of them use “until” for heos (sorry, no Greek keyboard on my iPad) in 1:17. So I am not sure I understand your point. Nor do I think that 1:17 forms part of the context for 1:25. It is an entirely different part of the story (genealogy vs. the events surrounding Jesus’s conception and birth). If your point is that heos only appears with an up to here and no farther sense in the NT, I think you would have to demonstrate that.

    As for what the Spirit has given, see below.

    But as you note, that really isn’t the interesting part of the text, but rather what men who held your beliefs in the past have written on it. This merely points out the difference between competing religious authorities.

    The perpetual virginity cannot be determined from Scripture, and can rather easily be shaken by those who believe Scripture is holy and thereby the singular religious authority over men. Add in the “brothers and sisters” texts and it takes a special pleading of the text and a persistent pleading of men’s teachings to avoid what is obvious. Mary had other children.

    The real issue here is not the length of her virginity but religious authority.

    I agree that ecclesial authority is certainly an issue here, but I do not think it is the only issue at all. As I said in the article (and summarized in comment #4 above), the theological paradigm we bring to the translation and exegesis of the Bible is an inescapable factor. And the Tradition of the Church is unambiguous about Mary’s perpetual virginity. According to the Catholic paradigm, the Spirit has preserved the Tradition of her PV, and this is reflected in Catechism §113 (quoted in the article). I would also refer you to Bryan’s article on the tradition and the lexicon for more about this. This paradigmatic concern is why I think that the NJB’s rendering of 1:25 is good.

    It appears that the situation is more complicated for you, if you are Reformed, since your theological forebears (Calvin, Turretin, Luther) accepted Mary’s perpetual virginity. How do you propose to explain the fact that the Reformed have since abandoned the doctrine? The Reformers evidently believed (with the Catholic Church) that the Spirit has indeed given us the truth of the dogma of Mary’s perpetual virginity; what has changed since then?

    Peace,

    Fred

  21. Fr Charles, Are you going to leave us hanging in suspense? What are those 3 verses the ex Witness couldn’t tinker with?

  22. Hi Fred (#20),

    The comment on “being cut out of commenting” refers to my comments that go unposted that do not violate the commenting policies of CtC, specifically David Anders and his post on World Vision.

    At the time I appealed to Bryan but to no avail, so I stopped commenting on the article by his guest poster – the presbyterian – in which I was about to critically evaluate a book used his guest poster to presume presbyterian polity in the church (“churches,” as he would have it) in Rome.

    Why post in one article when not being allowed to post in another? The multiple moderator format is unavoidable but is off-putting when not executed charitably.

    You wrote,

    I agree that ecclesial authority is certainly an issue here, but I do not think it is the only issue at all. As I said in the article (and summarized in comment #4 above), the theological paradigm we bring to the translation and exegesis of the Bible is an inescapable factor.

    Yes, quite right, but that doesn’t mean we are in Jean Paul Sarte’s “No Exit” either. Humility before Holy Scripture is to be aware of one’s presuppositions as much as one can be – a capacity we all have from our glorious Creator, but diminished by indwelling sin.

    I think you are quite aware of yours, and that you find relief from your theological tensions in your ultimate religious authority – Tradition/paradigm of the Roman Catholicism. I’m not saying this as if this is revelatory to you in any sense, and sorry if it sounds like that. You are completely aware of your faith system.

    My only point is that when confronted with a text in Holy Scripture that according to the rules of language simply goes contrary to the doctrine of the perpetual virginity of Mary, you find refuge for your faith in the RCC system of beliefs. This is why in the matter of competing religious authorities, Holy Scripture or Tradition, you will go with Tradition every time. As proof, you wrote, “This paradigmatic concern is why I think that the NJB’s rendering of 1:25 is good.”

    You admit you aren’t facile in the Koine, and therefore can’t know, so you go to your authority which for you personally makes “it” good. But it makes mashed potatoes of the text. Gee, Joseph didn’t have intercourse when she was giving birth? Imagine that.

    The benefit of this translation is that it makes clear the same thing about how St. Joseph treated Mary while she was pregnant and at the same time implies nothing contrary about the future. Personally I think this is a very good way to render this verse, but I am not qualified to speak authoritatively about it.

    Yet you have no basis to make that statement except personal preference according to your higher principle which is defending Catholic dogma. That’s why you think a mistranslation is a “very good way” to render this verse.

    Errata: the gk preposition “until” (heos) is used 3x in Mat. 1:17. Look up Mat. 2:13 and 2:15 as well.

    – You are incorrect in your answer to me that the preposition “heos” is in a separate context – see the contextual word “geneas” in both Mat. 1:1 (which introduces 1:1 to 1:17) and Mat. 1:18 (which introduces 1:18 to 1:25), and the similar word “gennethentos” is in Mat. 2:1. For Matthew, his gospel’s introduction likely stretches through to 2:23.

    – JJ does not comment on the preposition “heos” or even Mat. 1:25 in comment 13, so I can’t imagine what “useful observations” you think he makes.

    – It is important to understand that every instance of “heos” in the NT includes a termination depending upon the context. One well-known lexicon lists this as it’s second meaning: ” to denote contemporaneousness, as long as, while” and lists several instances of it – such as Mark 6:45: “Immediately he made his disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side, to Bethsaida, while [heos] he dismissed the crowd.” But we would be mistaken to think Jesus is still, perpetually, dismissing the crowd, as your position on the use of “heos” in Mat. 1:25 requires.

    – Frank, as Koine is not in your skill set (though many other valuable things are, you just haven’t been privileged to study it) it would be best not to call Reformed Christians guys to Rome by an article on something you aren’t highly skilled in – or someone like me – a biblicist.

    – That self-conscious commitment to Scripture first makes me immune to a lock-step faith in Calvin, etc. I believe they were wrong on this point because their teaching at this point does not conform to Scripture, my religious authority. My God, the eternally begotten Son of the Father, Jesus Christ, requires me to compare all doctrine to the principle of Precept and Example in Holy Scripture alone, for He promised to give His chosen apostles, and them alone, “all the truth” (John 16:13).

  23. Hello Ted,

    I am separating your meta-comment off the main thread for the sake of clarity (and so that this sub-thread can be closed off at the proper time, since it is really off-topic here)

    You wrote, in #22:

    The comment on “being cut out of commenting” refers to my comments that go unposted that do not violate the commenting policies of CtC, specifically David Anders and his post on World Vision.

    At the time I appealed to Bryan but to no avail, so I stopped commenting on the article by his guest poster – the presbyterian – in which I was about to critically evaluate a book used his guest poster to presume presbyterian polity in the church (“churches,” as he would have it) in Rome.

    Why post in one article when not being allowed to post in another? The multiple moderator format is unavoidable but is off-putting when not executed charitably.

    The multiple moderator format is undoubtedly part of the problem; we each apply the posting guidelines as best we can, but we are not consistent. There are other factors that figure in as well: the more articles an author posts, the more responsibilities he has for staying on top of moderation; when an article is busy, it can be nearly impossible to keep up just because there are more commenters than authors/moderators for the article (generally: one guy), and the responsibility to interact with you all is both time-consuming and requires a lot of task-switching and referring back to the thread for context. On top of these difficulties, the real world frequently interferes with our moderation responsibilities (this is a significant reason why I haven’t written much here; real-world responsibilities prevent(ed) my active participation most of the time).

    The long and short of it is that we do try our best, and we are inconsistent, and we do get occasional scoldings (!) from our team leader about this issue, but we have not yet solved it. Our apologies. We beg your patient indulgence. I am sure it is irritating. :-(

    Peace,

    Fred

    More on the rest of #22 when I can get to it…

  24. Fred (#14)

    Thanks for your response! Unfortunately, I think we are talking past one another, but I now see what is causing the confusion and it is due to the equivocation of the phrase “did not believe in the miraculous cure” that has not been addressed explicitly in my argument, which is preventing the point of my argument from being understood as why I see my argument as so problematic for the commentary and your claim concerning the word “until.”

    So let’s start from the beginning.

    Quoting the commentary, you write:

    We find the same word in John 9:18, where it says that the Pharisees did not believe in the miraculous cure of the man blind from birth “until” (*donec*) they called his parents. However, neither did they believe afterwards

    And then you remark,

    Clearly in the latter the Pharisees did not believe even after talking to the parents of the man born blind.

    The Pharisee’s did not believe the man’s claim “until” the parents were called. But as your argument goes, “until” cannot refer here to a temporal termination because neither did they believe after the parents were called.

    However, the claim “not believing” is imprecise, for we first need to ask what was the original reason for the Pharisee’s unbelief. John gives us the answer:

    John 9:18-19 (ESV, with my emphasis added)
    The Jews did not believe that he had been blind and had received his sight, until they called the parents of the man who had received his sight and asked them, “Is this your son, who you say was born blind? How then does he now see?”

    In other words, their reason for disbelief in the miraculous cure is that they assumed the boy was lying about the fact that he was born blind and that is why they discredit the miracle.

    So the force of the word “until” implies that they refused to believe the boy’s claim about his congenital blindness until they call his parents and ask them if it was true that he was born blind.

    That was implicitly understood by me in my argument but was never made explicit. However, the commentary equivocates on the reasons for their disbelief, and that is why they think it is a valid inference to suppose that “until” cannot simply refer to a temporal termination. However, “until” refers not to the Pharisee’s disbelief simpliciter but to their disbelief that the boy was born blind.

    And so, in conclusion, the reason why I point to John 9:34 and then supplied the commentary by St. Thomas and St. Augustine is that 9:34 demonstrates that they then believed he had been born blind given the phrase, “You were born utter sin,” which parallels the disciple’s question in 9:2, “Who sinned?…That this man was born blind.”

    The proper question before us concerns not the disbelief of the Pharisees simpliciter as the commentary and you allege, but the reason for their disbelief. “Until” concerns the disbelief, not in general terms, but with respect to the boy’s claim to congenital blindness.

    Thus, when all of this is made explicit, your comment, “Furthermore, it is not clear to me that it is out of accord with or ruled out by what St. Thomas says.” cannot stand because it is not a question of compatibility but of contradiction.

    In order for your argument to stand, the real argument that needs to be made is that “until” is referring to the Pharisee’s belief in general and not with respect to any reasons whatsoever. But if that is so, why do the Pharisee’s call the boys parents to question them if “until” is referring to unbelief in general? The reason why they call them is because their disbelief concerns the boy’s claim to congenital blindness and who better to ask to verify than the parents themselves?

    I hope that all makes sense now and why I think this is so devastating for the commentary and your claim. Now, notice that I did not, therefore, conclude the falsity of the perpetual virginity, nor did I suggest that “until” can have different meanings. My simple point is that using John 9 as evidence will not do when viewed with exegetical scrutiny.

    Take care,
    VU

  25. Fred, and Ted (22),

    This article http://catholic-legate.com/Apologetics/MaryAndTheSaints/HeosHouPolemic/HeosHouAndProtestantPolemic.aspx

    discusses heos hou –I am wondering if you two have read it. It gives the different arguments concerning evidence in regards to the meaning.

    Thanks…

  26. Kim D (#25),

    I agree with Ray Brown, the RCC commentator and quoted in the article:

    Leaving aside post-Reformation quarrels, we must seek to reconstruct Matthew’s intention, first from the immediate context and then from the whole Gospel. How does “not know her until” fit into the immediate context? In English when something is negated until a particular time, occurrence after that time is usually assumed. However, in discussing the Greek heõs hou after a negative…K. Beyer, Semitishce Syntax im Neuen Testament (Gottingen: Vandenhoeck, 1962), I, 132(1), points out that in Greek and Semitic such a negation often has no implication at all about what happened after the limit of the “until” was reached…The immediate context favors a lack of future implication here, for Matthew is concerned only with stressing Mary’s virginity before the child’s birth, so that the Isaian prophecy will be fulfilled: it is as a virgin that Mary will give birth to her son. As for the marital situation after the birth of the child, in itself this verse gives us no information whatsoever. In my judgment the question of Mary’s remaining a virgin for the rest of her life belongs to post-biblical theology […] Besides the question of fact, one has to ask whether Matthew was in a position to know the facts. Did he think that the brothers were children of Mary born after Jesus; and if so, was this simply an assumption on his part?

    To that final question, one can simply read Matthew’s own words in 12:46-49, and 13:55.

  27. Hello, Fred and Eva (16 and 17),

    I remember, some time ago on his blog “Smaller Manhattans” (mainly about catechesis for 6th graders), Christian LeBlanc mentioned paradigm-serving translations, where “tradition” was used as the Schimpfwort, with negative connotations, while “teaching/s” was used for positive connotations. He may know more.

  28. 1 Sam 15:35
    “Until the day Samuel died, he did not go to see Saul again, though Samuel mourned for him…”

    Did Samuel go to see Saul AFTER he died?

  29. Ted,

    Interesting quote… strangely enough… I agree with his *overall* assessment as well…

    …in Greek and Semitic such a negation often has no implication at all about what happened after the limit of the “until” was reached…The immediate context favors a lack of future implication here, for Matthew is concerned only with stressing Mary’s virginity before the child’s birth, so that the Isaian prophecy will be fulfilled: it is as a virgin that Mary will give birth to her son. As for the marital situation after the birth of the child, in itself this verse gives us no information whatsoever. In my judgment the question of Mary’s remaining a virgin for the rest of her life belongs to post-biblical theology.”

    What happened *after* Matthew 1:25 (whether she remained a virgin or NOT) ” belongs to post-biblical theology.”

    IC XC
    Christopher

  30. Kim (#25):

    Thank you for the link to that informative article. I appreciate it very much.

    Ted (#26):

    Immediately prior to your emphasized statement, Brown explicitly opines that 1:25 tells us nothing about what happened maritally after the Child’s birth: “The immediate context favors a lack of future implication…”

    Jocelyn (#27):

    That would not surprise me, unfortunately.

    Peace to all,

    Fred

  31. VU (#24):

    Thanks for taking the time for your comment. It appears that my reliance on the Navarre did not work out so well in this case.

    Peace,

    Fred

  32. Fred (30)

    Immediately prior to your emphasized statement, Brown explicitly opines that 1:25 tells us nothing about what happened maritally after the Child’s birth: “The immediate context favors a lack of future implication…”

    Yeah, I don’t agree with that statement, because the imperfect tense of the verb “kept” clearly implies “he was keeping her…. until…..” Brown’s statement would be in keeping with a perfect tense verb.

  33. Ted (#32):

    Yeah, I don’t agree with that statement, because the imperfect tense of the verb “kept” clearly implies “he was keeping her…. until…..” Brown’s statement would be in keeping with a perfect tense verb.

    You may not agree, but by emphasizing something else entirely from the quotation you seem to be trying to paint Brown as being in your corner. Clearly the full quotation indicates he is not. You may not agree with him (which raises the usual questions I pose in The Accidental Catholic) but to emphasize the later development of the dogma when the conversation has to do with the meaning of until in Mt. 1:25 is a red herring, isn’t it? And on this question Brown does not support your view, whether you agree or not. And he was not the only scholar who did not hold your view; there were a number of Protestants who also disagree with you.

    My point is merely that the view I have represented is not out of accord with scholarly opinion, just as it is in full accord with the Tradition of the Church.

    Peace,

    Fred

  34. Ted (re #18),

    In addressing Fred’s exegetical comments on Matthew 1:25, you wrote:

    As you noted the verb tense of “kept” is imperfect – an action begun in the past and continuing to the present, with an expectation it will come to an end at some point.

    That did not seem right to me, simply on grammatical / syntactical grounds, so I consulted Daniel Wallace’s Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics: An Exegetical Syntax of the New Testament to investigate the matter. By way of general introduction to the imperfect tense, Wallace writes:

    Like the present tense, the imperfect display an internal aspect. That is, it portrays the action from within the event, without regard for beginning or end. [p. 541, emphasis original]

    This is clearly in contrast to your description of the imperfect tense. Wallace goes on to delineate various uses and nuances of the imperfect, but based upon the portion quoted above, it seems that your claim is incorrect as a general description of the imperfect tense. If you have an argument or reference in support of your account of the implications of this verb tense, I would be glad to consider it. (If you prefer, you can contact me privately through the “Contact” page on this website.)

    Andrew

  35. Hey Andrew (34),

    Consider the following from Dana and Mantey, A Manual Grammar of the Greek NT (pp. 186-87):

    The imperfect may be regarded as a sort of auxiliary to the present tense, functioning for it in the indicative to refer its significance of continuous action to past time. This fact is exhibited even in the form of the imperfect, for it is built on the present stem. The imperfect is “a sort of moving panorama, a ‘moving picture show.’ . . , The aorist tells the simple story. The imperfect draws the picture. It helps you to see the course of the act. It passes before the eye the flowing stream of history” (A.T. Robertson, Greek Grammar, 883). That is, “it dwells on the course of an event instead of merely stating its occurrence” (Goodwin: Greek Moods and Tenses, p. 12). The time element is more prominent in the imperfect than in the present, owing to the fact that it is exclusively an indicative tense. Since its essential force is identical with that of the present, it follows that its uses should be practically parallel.

    Webster quotes from Donaldson the following definition of the imperfect: “The imperfect denotes an incomplete action, one that is in its course, and is not yet brought to its intended accomplishment. It implies that a certain thing was going on at a specified time, but excludes the assertion that the end of the action was attained” (Syntax and Synonyms of the Gr. Test., p. 87).

    True enough, for the imperfect is not asserting the time when the action was attained because some imperfects discuss action that never gets completed, as in Zech. 1:69, “and they were going to call him Zechariah.” This use of the imperfect is also described Wallace, Greek Basics, as Conative, or more precisely, Tendential. This is not a common use of the imperfect, and it doesn’t help RCC dogma because at some point in future time, Zechariah’s son got called “John,” just as at some point in future time Mary lost her virginity.

    So also Mat. 3:14: “But John was trying to prevent [imperfect] Him, saying, “I have need to be baptized by You, and do You come to me?” Matthew is not saying John succeeded, but that for the time under consideration he was preventing it. But he employs the imperfect precisely because John did not succeed.

    These two example accurately reflect Wallace’s comment that the imperfect “portrays the action from within the event, without regard for beginning or end” even while asserting the action of the imperfect verb did indeed eventually occur. This “without regard for beginning or end” is also true of the present tense but it hardly means what you are asserting, that the writer had no time orientation in mind. Wallace simply means that this verb tense does not state the action’s beginning or end. This is why Wallace follows up your quote of him on p. 541 by writing, “With reference to time, the imperfect is almost always past” and it “always grammaticalizes time.”

    Dana and Mantey continue:

    176. The regular uses of the imperfect lack but little of being identical with those of the present.
    (1) The Progressive Imperfect. The imperfect is used to denote action in progress in past time. This is manifestly the most characteristic use of the tense. The thought of process involved in the imperfect may be regarded from two points of view.
    a. The process may be vividly represented as actually going on in past time. This use we may define as the progressive imperfect of description.
    καὶ πολλοὶ πλούσιοι ἔβαλλον πολλά
    And many rich people were casting in much. Mk. 12:41. See also: Mt. 3:6; Lk. 15:16.

    So too, when Wallace introduces the imperfect tense in his Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics (also p. 541) he writes:

    As a tense of the first principal part, the imperfect mirrors the present tense both in its general aspect and its specific uses (the difference being, for the most part, that the imperfect is used for past time).

    This “past timedness” is the central issue in understanding Mat. 1:25. RCC dogma wishes to replace the verb imperfect verb “kept” (i.e., “he was keeping her a virgin until…) in Mat. 1:25 with a future tense (or perfect tense) but yet, Matthew writes only from the perspective of the past, with the expectation that the action of the object (Joseph keeping her a virgin) ceased once Jesus was born.

    Please go back to Dan Wallace’s Greek Grammar and look at his 3 uses of the imperfect beginning on page 542 and make a decision for yourself which type of imperfect Mat. 1:25 is, instantaneous, progressive, or ingressive. With Dana and Mantey above, I would judge the imperfect “kept” in , Mat. 1:25 a progressive imperfect.

  36. Ted (re #35),

    The quoted portions from Dana and Mantey corroborate Wallace’s general description of the implications of the imperfect tense, as such. And as with Wallace, their account of the imperfect tense is incompatible with the notion that the imperfect tense carries with it “an expectation [the action] will come to an end at some point”.

    Please notice that I am not “asserting, that the writer had no time orientation in mind”. I never made such an assertion. Rather, I have pointed out that the imperfect tense, as such, carries no implication for the beginning or ending of an action. Also notice that Catholic dogma insists upon the “past timedness” of the action (or in this case the non-action) under consideration in Matthew 1:25. However, in perfect accord with the rules of Greek grammar and syntax as discussed by the scholars we each have cited, Catholic doctrine does not press the imperfect into “an expectation that [the action] will come to an end at some point”. That is an inference you have made, but it is not an implication of the verb tense itself. Neither, of course, is it implied by the imperfect tense, as such, that the action (or non-action) did not come to an end. As you have pointed out, context can sometimes determine that question, but as I have pointed out, citing Wallace, who is corroborated on this point by your citations from Dana and Mantey, the imperfect verb tense cannot.

    So, with reference to Matthew 1:25, we have to look to the context to discover the answer to our question. But the question of Mary’s perpetual virginity, or not, seems to be under-determined by the immediate context, which brings us to the larger context of the Gospels, which has already been discussed in the thread following the podcast on Jason and Cindy Stewart’s conversion to Catholicism (the discussion on this topic picks up around comment #210). Beyond that, we have the context of the tradition in which this matter has been considered, which raises the large hermeneutical question of the relation of Scripture and tradition. My purpose here is not to start that conversation, nor to restart the conversation on the Gospels re Mary’s virginity, but rather to point out that you are pressing the imperfect tense for more service than it can, in itself, render for your position.

    Andrew

  37. Also, this was brought up earlier, but here’s a little of Calvin commenting on Matthew 1:25

    This passage afforded the pretext for great disturbances, which were introduced into the Church, at a former period, by Helvidius. The inference he drew from it was, that Mary remained a virgin no longer than till her first birth, and that afterwards she had other children by her husband. Jerome, on the other hand, earnestly and copiously defended Mary’s perpetual virginity. Let us rest satisfied with this, that 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. He is called first-born; but it is for the sole purpose of informing us that he was born of a virgin.115 It is said that Joseph knew her not till she had brought forth her first-born son: but this is limited to that very time. What took place afterwards, the historian does not inform us.

    Andrew, this seems to agree with your statement in #36 that the issue of perpetual virginity is “under-determined by the immediate context”.

    Peace,
    John D.

  38. Andrew, Ted, Fred,

    Concerning the argument about the tense of “kept” or as other translations have it “knew” or “know”,

    McHugh pg 204 The Mother of Jesus in the New Testament notes:

    Those who see in this phrase a hint that the marriage was later consummated overlook a most significant fact: the verb used for ‘know’ stands in the imperfect tense, not in the aorist (eyivwokev), and therefore lays the stress on the duration of the period throughout which Joseph and Mary abstained from intercourse. The meaning is that Joseph had no carnal knowledge of Mary during the period which preceded the birth of her son. This interpretation suits the context perfectly, for the whole of Mt. 1:18-25 is concerned with the virginal conception of Jesus and its consequences for paternity. If the author had wished to imply after the birth of Jesus, Joseph and Mary consummated their marriage, it is more likely that he would have used there the Aorist (eyvw). His choice of the imperfect implies rather that he did not exclude the possibility that Joseph and Mary lived a life of virginity after the birth of the Lord.

    {end of quote]
    I find it interesting that he asserts that the author would have most likely used the aorist if he wanted to indicate that the marriage was consummated after the birth of Jesus. It does seem that the purpose in Matthew’s gospel was not to demonstrate what happened after the birth of Jesus, but to point to the fact that she was a virgin when she gave birth to Jesus. This text does not prove anything one way or the other concerning whether she remained a virgin after the birth of Jesus as I believe you have all argued. But it does appear to be clear that this verse could be used for either side of the issue.

    Thanks,kimd

  39. kimd (#38)

    I find it interesting that he asserts that the author would have most likely used the aorist if he wanted to indicate that the marriage was consummated after the birth of Jesus. It does seem that the purpose in Matthew’s gospel was not to demonstrate what happened after the birth of Jesus, but to point to the fact that she was a virgin when she gave birth to Jesus. This text does not prove anything one way or the other concerning whether she remained a virgin after the birth of Jesus as I believe you have all argued. But it does appear to be clear that this verse could be used for either side of the issue.

    Which is why I think that the use of the present rather than the aorist in Luke 1:34 is strongly in favour of her intended continued virginity – and why the translations that make it “since I am a virgin” are wrong, and misleading. They could mean “since I am a virgin by intended state of life” but could as well mean ‘since I am a virgin up to now” – I think the tense of the verb makes the former much more likely, and that the translation “seeing I know not a man” is much more accurate.

    jj

  40. Fred (#31),

    I appreciate your kind concession.

    All the best,
    VU

  41. Fred,

    In other words, intellectual humility, which you demonstrated by acknowledging that the argument from John 9 is not a good one and ought to be abandoned, is a wonderful display of fruitful Catholic and Protestant dialog, where we can humbly acknowledge at certain points that particular arguments from the “other side” are better and our particular argument ought to be abandoned.

    One final note: our dialog gives me a glimmer of hope that it seems possible, at least in principle, to approach the Scriptures and debate exegetical points without clubbing one another to death with the Catholic/Protestant paradigm bat.

    All the best,
    VU

  42. VU,

    You probably would not have liked me when I was Protestant. I was very stubbornly insistent that I was right most of the time. Converting knocked me right off my high horse, and I now just need to stop trying to climb back on. :-)

    Peace,

    Fred

  43. I would just like to second what VU said in #41. For example if you go to “Catholic Answers” and look at the amount of people that were banned it is a very telling sign that that echo chamber only wants easy questions. I got banned there for pointing out that marriage tribunals can err.

    The “Michael Francis” so called moderator over there has been given free reign to subvert any interesting dialogue.

    Now, after my many bumps heal from being clubbed I would like to dialogue with sincere Catholics, but it does require them to have that intellectual humility.

    Peace,
    David

  44. David (#43):

    Now, after my many bumps heal from being clubbed I would like to dialogue with sincere Catholics, but it does require them to have that intellectual humility.

    Intellectual humility is required on both sides, along with charity (among other virtues). If a person is unable to admit to himself and others the possibility that he could be wrong, or if he takes his dialog partner’s words in an uncharitable way, dialog is impossible.

    Note: I am not saying that you or anyone here has problems with this.

    Peace,

    Fred

  45. @Fred 42

    You probably would not have liked me when I was Protestant. I was very stubbornly insistent that I was right most of the time. Converting knocked me right off my high horse, and I now just need to stop trying to climb back on.

    Amen, brother, amen. It is a bit disconcerting, that getting kicked off our high horse. Chesterton said “A Catholic is a person who has plucked up courage to face the incredible and inconceivable idea that somebody else may be wiser than he is.”

    And, related to the conversation and the quote, while we all do need to realize when we are wrong, the essential difference between the Catholic and the Protestant is that the Catholic believes that the Catholic Church is the instrument founded by Christ to sanctify, teach, and govern the people of God. Therefore, it is impossible for a Catholic to concede the Perpetual Virginity of Mary, for it is a dogmatic teaching of the Church, and to deny it would be to deny the very essence of the Catholic Church. To concede that the Protestant is right that the Catholic Church dogmatically taught error, would be to accept that, not only is the Catholic Church not right, but that nobody has to be right, which essentially means we don’t know who is right, which is practically the same as saying that no one is right, which is equivalent to saying that everyone is wrong. Which is absurd, but I think we can see this train of thought being played out in our day. And this is similar (I think) to the Noltie Conundrum.

    I just wanted to make the point that we can no more concede the All-Pure Perpetual Virginity of Mary to Protestants for the sake of dialogue no more than they would be willing to concede the Trinity to Muslims for the sake of dialogue. But this is also to say that Catholic Doctrine cannot be proved false from reason, history, or Scripture, and we are more than willing to hash this out in a frank and vigorous argument. Which is why we are here.

    Again, I am trying to point out that to put the Perpetual Virginity of Mary up for grabs would not mean we have become intellectually humble, but that we have become Protestants. And just as we cannot demand that Protestants first become Catholics before arguing theology, they cannot insist that Catholics become Protestants in order to engage in dialogue. Much of this site is dedicated to highlighting this often-missed point, and tries to approach the differences at that level.

    Finally, in addition to humility, which is the foundation for everything, and charity, which is the perfection of virtue, we need to pray as well. For without a life of prayer, we neither be either humble nor charitable.

    And now we resume our regular programming…

  46. Well the Immaculate Conception does conflict with the Word of God in Romans 3:10.

    And the frequent over-adoration of Mary is even anticipated and redirected by the Lord Himself (Luke 11:28).

    Scripture First.
    Peace,
    David

  47. David (#46):

    Well the Immaculate Conception does conflict with the Word of God in Romans 3:10.

    No, it doesn’t. For starters Paul is quoting poetry which is obviously using hyperbole. Second, if no exceptions whatsoever are allowed then Jesus is under indictment as well. If there is one exception (and of course we agree that there is) then there is no reason why there may not be a second. And since she is preserved from all sin by the grace of God, the Church has not violated salvation by grace alone.

    And the frequent over-adoration of Mary is even anticipated and redirected by the Lord Himself (Luke 11:28).

    David, this is nothing but tossing a grenade. It does not rise to the level of an argument, and it is uncharitable to call us liars (which is exactly what every Protestant does who ignores us when we say that we do not worship Mary but instead insists that we really do), and the fact that true worship is from the heart makes it absolutely impossible for any human being to say “Jim Bob worships Mary” when Jim Bob denies it.

    Scripture First.

    Yes, that is the Protestant position, but it is not an argument (not that this article would be the place for that particular argument either) :-)

    Peace,

    Fred

  48. No, it doesn’t. For starters Paul is quoting poetry which is obviously using hyperbole. Second, if no exceptions whatsoever are allowed then Jesus is under indictment as well. If there is one exception (and of course we agree that there is) then there is no reason why there may not be a second. And since she is preserved from all sin by the grace of God, the Church has not violated salvation by grace alone.

    How do you know Psalm 14 is just hyperbole? Maybe you’re bringing *your* assumptions to the table without evidence. I think God could very well have said such a thing before the time of Noah, or perhaps just before the Tower of Babel. See, presupositions go both ways Fred :-)

    David, this is nothing but tossing a grenade. It does not rise to the level of an argument, and it is uncharitable to call us liars (which is exactly what every Protestant does who ignores us when we say that we do not worship Mary but instead insists that we really do), and the fact that true worship is from the heart makes it absolutely impossible for any human being to say “Jim Bob worships Mary” when Jim Bob denies it.

    Fred, I am surprised to hear you say this, rather how devoid your reply is of proper argumentation. Liars? Worship Mary? Sounds like you’re having flashbacks from debating someone else :-P My statement is perfectly accurate and I stand by it 100%.

    Peace my friend,
    David

  49. David (#48)

    Fred, I am surprised to hear you say this, rather how devoid your reply is of proper argumentation. Liars? Worship Mary? Sounds like you’re having flashbacks from debating someone else :-P My statement is perfectly accurate and I stand by it 100%.

    The point is that you do say in #46 that Catholic worship Mary:

    …the frequent over-adoration of Mary…

    And Catholics have told you repeatedly that we do not worship Mary. Maybe by ‘adoration’ you don’t understand that that means worship – and is only appropriate to God. But we don’t need to be having flashbacks to feel that saying we worship Mary when we do not is calling us liars – and is neither helpful, argumentative, or charitable.

    jj

  50. David (#48):

    How do you know Psalm 14 is just hyperbole? Maybe you're bringing your assumptions to the table without evidence. I think God could very well have said such a thing before the time of Noah, or perhaps just before the Tower of Babel. See, presupositions go both ways Fred :-)

    First, because the result of a literalist rendering of Ps. 14 is to cause Ps. 15 to refer to the null set, which is absurd.

    Second, because that literalist rendering turns Ps. 11:5-7 into gibberish.

    Third, because that literalist rendering turns Ps. 9:9 into gibberish.

    I could go on like this for a very long time. :-) But I will close with reminding you about Genesis 26:5, where God says of Abraham: “he kept my charge, my commandments, my statutes and my laws.”

    Fred

  51. Ah, J.Jensen and Fred, I am sorry, yes I used the wrong word.

    I did not mean adoration as in worship. I should have used hyper-dulia. What I meant is over venerating her.

    Fred, I am going to dig into my Bible to see what you are saying on the Psalms, but I wanted to get this correction out for now.

    Peace both,
    David

  52. F.N.’s initial article is a bit cartoonish to me. His complaint is: Some Protestant translations use a “literal” translation of the word heos / heos hou as “until.” This allows perceived textual support the Protestant view of Mary bearing more children after Jesus…. or maybe not, as many scholars point out.

    In other words, as with many words in Greek (or any other language, for that matter), the use of a word can sometimes leave a bit of ambiguity in the text. But “until” or is a normative (and even dominant) translation of heos into English, as can be seen throughout a variety of New Testaments in English. In fact, the Douay-Rheims uses “till” in Matthew 1:25. So, it is not some sneaky Protestant prejudice that results in “until” as the translation.

    So, the author’s real complaint is that the translation of hoes as “until” is quite accurate, non-prejudicial, and not strained to reflect concerns of Catholic Marian doctrines. He is, instead asking to use an inaccurate, looser translation which fails to capture the ambiguous Greek, favoring instead the Church’s verbiage that simply reflects the Church’s Mariology. Yet the NJB already does that for Catholics, replacing “until” with “when,” substituting actual translation with a reinforcement of a dogma. But isn’t that what F.N. is complaining about regarding “literal” translations? Hmmm.

    Well, if you are going to complain about doctrinally bent translations, you might look start with the Douay-Rheims rendering of paenitentiam (paenitentia: regret (for act); change of mind/attitude; repentance/contrition; penance) as “do penance,” etc. The problem with this is that “penance” often carries with it the concept of the entirety of the Catholic sacrament so named; and thus is often rendered by phrases such as “DO penance” (emphasis mine) in the Douay-Rheims. But translation of paenitentiam into English only accurately reflects the Greek if limited to its meanings that match the Greek: metanoeite (metanoeo: to change one’s mind/purpose, to repent), metanoia (repentance, conversion), etc.

    On the other hand, if one is just going to stuff doctrine and dogma into the text of scripture via freer “translation,” just admit it, and have at it. But then, you might as well include the Johannine Comma, and call it the text’s original meaning. …Oh, why not just go for it?! Just add key points of the CCC interspersed throughout the text of scripture, and call it a “clearer translation.” ; )

  53. Hello Malcolm:

    You wrote (#52):

    F.N.’s initial article is a bit cartoonish to me. His complaint is: Some Protestant translations use a “literal” translation of the word heos / heos hou as “until.” This allows perceived textual support the Protestant view of Mary bearing more children after Jesus…. or maybe not, as many scholars point out.

    No, not exactly. My thesis is stated in the first sentence: “Whoever tells you that theology does not play a role in Bible translation is selling you something.” I simply use Mt. 1:25 as a convenient example of the sort of problems that can arise when theology is implicitly injected into a translation in the name of literalism. Now, if you would like to suggest that I could have chosen a better example than Mt. 1:25…that’s as may be, and for better or worse my reply will be Pilate’s: “What I have written, I have written.”

    My complaint is that literalistic translations and books like Strong’s give uninformed laymen a false impression about how translation is done and leads at least some of them to make textual and translational decisions for which they wholly unqualified. I do not think this is particularly controversial.

    So, the author’s real complaint is that the translation of hoes as “until” is quite accurate, non-prejudicial, and not strained to reflect concerns of Catholic Marian doctrines. He is, instead asking to use an inaccurate, looser translation which fails to capture the ambiguous Greek, favoring instead the Church’s verbiage that simply reflects the Church’s Mariology. Yet the NJB already does that for Catholics, replacing “until” with “when,” substituting actual translation with a reinforcement of a dogma. But isn’t that what F.N. is complaining about regarding “literal” translations? Hmmm.

    I have restated my “real complaint” above for your convenience, so that you may readily avoid attempting to read my mind. :-) Heck, I will do it again because I am long-winded: my complaint is that literalistic translation misleads the layman, giving him the utterly false impression that literalism excludes eisegism in translation. This is just false, and is a poor way to approach the problems of translation. See Bryan Cross’s article (linked at the end of the post) for more.

    But then, you might as well include the Johannine Comma, and call it the text’s original meaning.

    This remark raises a related issue: who is the proper steward of Scripture? Your comment suggests that your answer is “the scholar.” I think this view is indefensible. Only the Church can be the steward of the Bible. I thought this as a Protestant, too: wherever does God entrust the Bible’s text to academics, or its translation to publishers and Bible societies?

    Peace,

    Fred

  54. Ted Bigelow #26
    “To that final question, one can simply read Matthew’s own words in 12:46-49, and 13:55.”

    It isn’t that simple Ted. When you follow the parallel passages of the Gospels, you see that James and Joses (Joseph) are the children of the “other Mary” who is also called the sister of Jesus’ mother in John 19:25. Even if you dispute whether there were 3 or 4 women at the cross (since there were no original commas), the mother of James and Joses parallels with the wife of Clopas.
    We then see that Judas (Jude) claims to be the brother of James. So this now shows three of the brothers of Christ listed in Matt. 13:55.
    How likely is it that Jesus also had three brothers with these same names which are specifically called out in scripture?
    Also in Galatians, we see that Paul saw Peter in Jerusalem and no other apostles except for James, the Lord’s brother. Of the two apostles James (Jacob) listed in scripture, neither are the sons of Joseph.

    Then of course we see Jesus giving His mother to John and vice-versa (John 19:26-27) as his last action before drinking the sour wine and taking His last breath on the cross.
    The care of Mary would have passed to her children, yet she went to live with John from that moment on. Would Jesus have violated the spirit of the Law by taking His mother away from her children? Even so with His “brother” James being the leader of the church in Jerusalem?

    It might be of assistance if you read Papias from the late 1st or early 2nd century on the relations of the women at the cross. He also shows that those brethren of the Lord were not blood brothers.
    It also would be of value to read the full text of St. Jerome’s response to the Arian Helvidius. (Against Helvidius – “The Perpetual Virginity of Mary”). John Calvin cited Jerome’s work in his agreement with the doctrine.

    I think this also speaks to the original post about literal usage of terms like adelphos (from the same womb) which can lead to an etymological fallacy when insisting on a literal translation. The term is used for multiple types of relations in scripture.

  55. John W. #54,
    Hi John, hope you are well,

    When you quoted me you left off the context. I started off quoting Ray Brown, the great RCC scholar wrote, and I quoted,

    Besides the question of fact, one has to ask whether Matthew was in a position to know the facts. Did he think that the brothers were children of Mary born after Jesus; and if so, was this simply an assumption on his part?

    To which I added,

    To that final question, one can simply read Matthew’s own words in 12:46-49, and 13:55.

    Your response goes to the other gospels – which I think is great, but you don’t answer my question. Deal with this first and then we can discuss other places in the gospels.

    But you should be prepared to explain why this is false first:

    Regarding Mat. 12:46, Jesus’ own mother and brothers are included as single syntactical unit (the same possessive pronoun, used twice) in the phrase, “Ἰδοὺ ἡ µήτηρ σου καὶ οἱ ἀδελφοί σου” In Matthew’s language both mother and brothers belong to Jesus equally. One is not “more belonging to Jesus” than the other. To make the brother’s “cousins” is simply not in the text, suppresses Matthew’s Greek syntax. It is the same as claiming Mary is Jesus’ aunt, but the Greek won’t allow it. In order to sustain the RCC claims, Mat. 12:49 s/b translated, “Behold, my mother and cousins.”

    Regarding Mat. 13:55-56 we see a similar syntax but the same result: “ἡ μήτηρ αὐτοῦ λέγεται Μαριὰμ καὶ οἱ ἀδελφοὶ αὐτοῦ Ἰάκωβος καὶ Ἰωσὴφ καὶ Σίμων καὶ Ἰούδας; καὶ αἱ ἀδελφαὶ αὐτου.” Here each family unit is distinguished by the same possessive pronoun. Mary belongs to Jesus as much as the brothers belong to Jesus as much as the sisters belong to Jesus. No difference in familial relationship.

    The word “ἀδελφοὶ” is easily understood for blood relative to the degree of sharing the same mother or father. The word for cousin, “ἀνεψιὸς” is not.

  56. Hi Ted,
    I am well and wish you the same. Thanks for asking and thanks for responding.

    What I understood from your post #26 is that the two passages that you cited made it plain that Matthew was in a position to know whether Joseph and Mary had relations after Jesus was born.

    If your main point was:
    Matthew knew that Jesus had siblings by virtue of what he wrote in 12:46-49, and 13:55
    Therefore by evidence and deduction was in a position to know about marital relations between Joseph and Mary after Jesus was born.
    Then yes, that seems like pretty simple logic.

    However, Fr. Brown is pondering how intimately Matthew knew Jesus’ family structure with the ultimate question being whether he knew that the brothers and sisters of Jesus were actual siblings.
    My personal opinion would be that it is very likely, having spent so much time with Jesus, that Matthew would have known the family dynamics. However, Fr. Brown’s ultimate question is whether scripture is definitive on this point. It is not unless one assumes apriori that adelphos is restricted to its etymological usage. That’s where the danger of the etymological fallacy comes in.
    When we see from scripture that adelphos is used in a wider semantical range, we cannot restrict it to siblings. A word search of adelphos in the NT and in the Septuagint will show this clearly. It includes non-sibling family relations and even non-blood relations.

    My response was based on context and evidence, which always trumps etymology. My response was also based on Matt 13:55 since it contains the names of the “brothers” of Jesus. It has the additional information that is not found in 12:46-49 that allows us to look further into scripture to investigate who these “brothers” were.

    But you should be prepared to explain why this is false first:
    Regarding Mat. 12:46, Jesus’ own mother and brothers are included as single syntactical unit (the same possessive pronoun, used twice) in the phrase, “Ἰδοὺ ἡ µήτηρ σου καὶ οἱ ἀδελφοί σου” In Matthew’s language both mother and brothers belong to Jesus equally. One is not “more belonging to Jesus” than the other. To make the brother’s “cousins” is simply not in the text, suppresses Matthew’s Greek syntax. It is the same as claiming Mary is Jesus’ aunt, but the Greek won’t allow it. In order to sustain the RCC claims, Mat. 12:49 s/b translated, “Behold, my mother and cousins.”

    Ted, what I see here is a case of special pleading and nothing that would restrict the relations to blood siblings and especially if these “brothers” were raised in the same household or were extremely close growing up to together in a small community. That was and still is typical of kinship cultures as in the Middle East. Since the names of at least two or three of these brothers are linked to be the offspring of Mary’s sister Mary, the wife of Clopas, you might see this as evidence of how close they might have been. This also calls into question whether Mary MOJ actually had a sibling who was also named Mary? It would seem odd to us, but I don’t know if it was common practice in first century Hebrew cultures. If not, here is another case where adelphe would be used in a non-literal sense.

    Regarding Mat. 13:55-56 we see a similar syntax but the same result: “ἡ μήτηρ αὐτοῦ λέγεται Μαριὰμ καὶ οἱ ἀδελφοὶ αὐτοῦ Ἰάκωβος καὶ Ἰωσὴφ καὶ Σίμων καὶ Ἰούδας; καὶ αἱ ἀδελφαὶ αὐτου.” Here each family unit is distinguished by the same possessive pronoun. Mary belongs to Jesus as much as the brothers belong to Jesus as much as the sisters belong to Jesus. No difference in familial relationship.
    The word “ἀδελφοὶ” is easily understood for blood relative to the degree of sharing the same mother or father. The word for cousin, “ἀνεψιὸς” is not.

    My response would be the same as above. Are you possibly overlaying modern Western family relational thinking upon ancient Hebrew family culture?
    I had already acknowledged the etymology of the word adelphos, but also that restricting the word to it’s root is fallacial, especially considering it’s wider semantical usage in scripture.

    As I’m sure you know, there were no words in Hebrew or Aramaic for cousins, nephews, aunts and uncles, etc. Maybe this is why Lot was referred to as Abram’s brother, yet we see elsewhere that Lot was actually the son of Abram’s brother, Haran, i.e. Abram’s nephew.
    Evidence shows that the wife of Clopas is called the mother of James and Joses in the Gospels.
    Note also that Jesus’s mother is never directly called the mother of anyone else in scripture.

  57. Hi John, I hope you are well.

    I think you missed my point. If adelphoi (ἀδελφοὶ αὐτοῦ) means other than Jesus’ blood brothers, as you believe, then mater (μήτηρ αὐτοῦ) means other than Jesus’ blood mother, for “mother” has a broader semantic range than just blood mother, as seen in the very context: Mat. 12:49.

    But since both mater and adelphos are grouped by the same possessive pronoun “of Him,” they must, by the rules of language, be the same blood relation in both cases.

    Based on Matthew’s language, your only have two choices. Either both mother and brothers are first order blood relatives, or both are not.

    You cannot make the mater His physical mother, and the adelphoi cousins without twisting Matthew’s text.

  58. Ted,

    Your thesis is incompatible with the fact that Jesus entrusted the care of His mother to a non-family member. This is flatly inconceivable in Semitic culture (and even in Hellenist culture, if I remember my Homer correctly). The responsibility for caring for a widowed mother would fall to her children. If Mary had any other children at all, the obligation of caring for her would have been theirs. The obvious implication is that there were no other children, and so Jesus entrusted His mother to someone else He trusted.

    I would also recommend Bryan’s article here.

    Peace,

    Fred

  59. Hi Fred,

    My ‘thesis” is just exegesis of the words of Matthew. Sorry, John doesn’t “fix” Matthew.

    When you are ready to show that Matthew’s words mean differently than they are written, let’s talk.

  60. Ted,

    If Scripture interprets Scripture, then you either have to allow John to play a role in the interpretation of Matthew or vice versa.

    If you insist upon your thesis concerning Matthew, please explain how it can possibly fit with the fact that Jesus entrusts His mother not to siblings but to John.

    Have you read Bryan’s article by chance?

    Peace,

    Fred

  61. Ted:

    “I think you missed my point. If adelphoi (ἀδελφοὶ αὐτοῦ) means other than Jesus’ blood brothers, as you believe, then mater (μήτηρ αὐτοῦ) means other than Jesus’ blood mother, for “mother” has a broader semantic range than just blood mother, as seen in the very context: Mat. 12:49.

    But since both mater and adelphos are grouped by the same possessive pronoun “of Him,” they must, by the rules of language, be the same blood relation in both cases.

    Based on Matthew’s language, your only have two choices. Either both mother and brothers are first order blood relatives, or both are not.

    You cannot make the mater His physical mother, and the adelphoi cousins without twisting Matthew’s text.”

    I don’t think this follows. Fred did not argue that “adelphos” *couldn’t* mean blood-brothers, he argued that it didn’t *have* to mean blood-brothers. Granted, this means that Fred can’t say that “mater” *has* to mean blood-mother, as you point out, but that’s irrelevant, since we know via other means that Mary *is* in fact the blood-mother of Jesus. Scripture records Mary giving birth to Jesus, so problem solved.

  62. Excuse me, change “Fred” to “John” in #61. My mistake.

  63. Hi Fred, Yes, I’ve read Bryan’s article a while ago. Not recently.

    Scripture does interpret Scripture, but you are the one using that to avoid the text of Matthew. That’s not the point of that principle. Even if I provide you an alternative explanation of Jesus’ words to John on the cross, and even if it satisfies you (doubtful) you’ll just move to another argument and avoid the text of Matthew.

    You can’t understand the person of God until you understand the words of God. So again, when you are ready to show that Matthew’s words mean differently than they are written, let’s talk.

  64. Hi Ty,

    Scripture records Mary giving birth to Jesus, so problem solved.

    Hmm, are you conceding? Since Mary must be Jesus blood relative, as proven from her birth of Jesus, and she is μήτηρ αὐτοῦ, then so must the brothers be blood brothers since they are ἀδελφοὶ αὐτοῦ, as per Matthew’s possessive pronouns and explained in 55 and 57?

    Somehow I don’t think you mean that, or am I wrong?

  65. Ted,

    My point is that the text of John (which is unambiguous) completely rules out the possibility of siblings. Therefore any reading of Matthew which suggests otherwise is incorrect.

    My personal opinion is that the error is being injected by assuming that there is no Aramaic background to the Greek text of Matthew. I know you will correct me if I am mistaken :-) but I am pretty sure that Matthew is widely believed to have been written in Aramaic first, given that the intended audience was Aramaic-speaking. Consequently it won’t do to work with the Greek text sans that Aramaic context.

    Peace,

    Fred

  66. Ted,

    How many Greek scholars from the Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant branches of Christianity agree with your assessment, I wonder? ISTM that you think your exegesis proves that either Mary had other children, or that Mary was merely some other kind of blood relative of Jesus, since that’s the what your proof of the meaning of the Greek forces one to accept, correct?

    Please give me your most air-tight exegetical argument, and I will take it to scholarly Greek reading/teaching profs, etc.. contacts that I have from all three branches of Christianity I mentioned above. What University do you teach Greek exegesis at, as they might want to contact you on your discoveries. Most all exegetes have missed this throughout Christian history, so… you may have done something ground-breaking here. Some of the Fathers believed in the PVM spoke this Greek as their native tongue, and they weren’t able to pick up what you have centuries later. This would be a pretty big finding, I would think.

    Can you please give me your most succinct, airtight argument, so that I can disseminate it to some scholars from the groups I mentioned above for review? Thanks…

    Christopher

  67. “Hmm, are you conceding? Since Mary must be Jesus blood relative, as proven from her birth of Jesus, and she is μήτηρ αὐτοῦ, then so must the brothers be blood brothers since they are ἀδελφοὶ αὐτοῦ, as per Matthew’s possessive pronouns and explained in 55 and 57?

    Somehow I don’t think you mean that, or am I wrong?”

    No, I merely pointed out that this is a non-sequitur. ” ‘Mater’ *could* mean blood-mother, and actually *does* mean blood-mother in this particular case” + ” ‘Adelphos’ *could* mean blood-brother in this particular case” =/= ” ‘Adelphos’ actually *does* mean blood-brother in this particular case”

  68. “But since both mater and adelphos are grouped by the same possessive pronoun “of Him,” they must, by the rules of language, be the same blood relation in both cases.

    Based on Matthew’s language, your only have two choices. Either both mother and brothers are first order blood relatives, or both are not.”

    This is the non-sequitur.

  69. Ted,

    There is ample testimony from extremely earlier on in Church history that Jesus’ “brothers” were either cousins or Joseph’s children from a prior marriage. I think that it is likely that Cleopas’ wife Mary, who would have been the sister in-law of Jesus’ mother Mary, is the mother at least some of the list of those who are said to be Jesus’ “brothers”. Early Christian writer Hegesippus testifies that Cleopas was Joseph’s brother, and that one of his sons was named “Simeon”. Moreover, in the gospel of John, Cleopas’ wife is said to be the mother of Joses and James. If we trust the early testimony of Hegesippus, then Cleopas’ wife was a mother to 3 names Simeon, Joses (or Joseph), and James. Considering that Cleopas was the brother of Joseph, Cleapas’ wife, Mary, would be too close to Mary for Mary/Joseph to name their children the same exact names. Rather, it is more historically and logically probable, that, at least some, of the names mentioned in the list of Jesus’ “brothers” are cousins.

  70. Hi Fred,

    My point is that the text of John (which is unambiguous) completely rules out the possibility of siblings. Therefore any reading of Matthew which suggests otherwise is incorrect.

    Fred, I think you are assuming two things. First, that adelphos in Matthew’s gospel is ambiguous and second, that John 19:27 determines that Mary had no other sons. Neither can concluded from the premise.

    Where in the NT does adelphos ever mean cousin? Check out Mat. 1:2 and go from there.

  71. Ty – 68,

    This is the non-sequitur.

    Following your sequitur, then, the possessive pronouns of Mat. 12:48, although the same word and used with the same possessive force, are not logical. Second, Mat. 12:49-50 should be understood as saying,

    “Behold, my (blood-relative) mother, and my (non blood-relative) brothers! For whoever does the will of God, he is My (non-blood) brother and (non-blood) sister and (blood) mother.”

    Hopefully you can see where the sequitur problem lies.

  72. Hi Chris, hope you are well, (66)

    My most airtight argument? hmmm, I don’t know. But Mat. 1:25 is pretty good. Beyond that, give your friends my argument in #72, and be sure to ask them for just one occurrence in Scripture where adelphos means cousin.

    Do me a favor. I’m a bit slow. Explain to me what “ISTM” and “PVM” mean.

  73. Hi Eric, #69,

    There are divided writings on this topic from early Christians writings. See Eusebius, Hist. Eccl. 2.23.4; 3.11; 3.20.1; 4.22.4. So it wasn’t unanimous.

    And then there’s Matthew.

  74. Ted (#70):

    Fred, I think you are assuming two things. First, that adelphos in Matthew’s gospel is ambiguous and second, that John 19:27 determines that Mary had no other sons. Neither can concluded from the premise.

    Where in the NT does adelphos ever mean cousin? Check out Mat. 1:2 and go from there.

    Adelphos in Matthew is ambiguous because (as I said, unless I am mistaken) the gospel was first written in Aramaic for an Aramaic-speaking audience. There is no word for cousin in Aramaic (nor in Hebrew, I believe), and so “brother” is used for any near relation. The Greek translator used the literal Greek word for brother but that does not mean that the Aramaic meant that.

    Hence the ambiguity in Matthew.

    Please provide an argument that demonstrates an ambiguity about Mary’s alleged other children in John 19. You will need to take into account Aramaic (and Hellenic, if I remember Homer rightly) cultural traditions which obliged children to care for their widowed mothers—a tradition with which Jesus was obviously familiar, since it is based upon the commandment to honor one’s father and mother. Indeed, this was the source of the distinction between mere widows (who had children to care for them) and widows indeed, as Paul called them, who had no children to care for them (and consequently were more urgently in need of help from fellow believers).

    Peace,

    Fred

  75. Ted,

    Thanks for the reply.

    ISTM = it seems to me.
    PVM = the perpetual virginity of Mary

    Post #72 is a response to me. I think you mean another post…

    Personally, for me, your argument from Matthew 1:25 and heos hou is not a strong argument for definitive proof that the Catholic Church is wrong about the PVM. You might have missed it above, but, even your quote from Raymond Brown in support of your position on that verse/phrasing seemed to come out against the main thrust of your point when he said, ” …in Greek and Semitic such a negation often has no implication at all about what happened after the limit of the “until” was reached…The immediate context favors a lack of future implication here, for Matthew is concerned only with stressing Mary’s virginity before the child’s birth, so that the Isaian prophecy will be fulfilled: it is as a virgin that Mary will give birth to her son. As for the marital situation after the birth of the child, in itself this verse gives us no information whatsoever. In my judgment the question of Mary’s remaining a virgin for the rest of her life belongs to post-biblical theology.”

    The argument you made further along in the thread based on your exegesis of Matthew 12:46 & Matthew 13:55-56 seems to be that the Greek *demands* that one see Mary and the brothers are either the full bio-logical mother and (half-) siblings of Jesus or the aunt and cousins of Jesus as “each family unit is distinguished by the same possessive pronoun (i.e. “Mary belongs to Jesus as much as the brothers belong to Jesus as much as the sisters belong to Jesus”). You say the Greek shows clearly there is “no difference in familial relationship.”

    Have I stated this well enough or do I need to phrase the argument differently? My point about the Fathers was that some of them believed in the PVM and were native Greek speakers, and missed centuries ago, what you have seen so very plainly centuries later. This would surely be pretty big new in the world of exegesis… nevermind that you will have shown the Catholic Church in error, and, for me personally, Christianity is a false religion. So there are all sorts of things that are big about your findings on a professional level for you, and at a personal level for me.

    Let me know exactly how to succinctly and accurately present your argument based on your exegesis of Matthew 12:46 & Matthew 13:55-56 to biblical studies professors from the 3 main branches of Christianity, please. I want to make sure I present it accurately.

    Best.
    Christopher

  76. Ted, it seems like your core argument is the following:

    Regarding Mat. 12:46, Jesus’ own mother and brothers are included as a single syntactical unit (the same possessive pronoun, used twice) in the phrase, “Ἰδοὺ ἡ µήτηρ σου καὶ οἱ ἀδελφοί σου” In Matthew’s language both mother and brothers belong to Jesus equally. One is not “more belonging to Jesus” than the other.

    But since both mater and adelphos are grouped by the same possessive pronoun “of Him,” they must, by the rules of language, be the same blood relation in both cases.

    One problem with your argument is that what you’re saying about Greek isn’t true about English.

    In English, if I say “my hat, and my car”, then there is no implication that my relationship to my car and my hat are equal. For instance, I may be owning the hat, but I may be renting the car – or maybe I share ownership of the car with the bank where I took out the loan.

    Another example – at church, I might say, “Hi John, this is my mother. Mom, this is my brother John.” That doesn’t imply that the relationship is equal, for John is my “brother-in-Christ”.

    Another example – In talking to John, I could say “John, this is my mother and my brother”, when it turns out that the brother I’m referring to is my step-brother Kevin. So in English, there is nothing about using “my” twice in a row that implies that the “blood relationship” is the same degree of kinship.

    For my 2 cents, I think Fred’s argument is stronger. It seems reasonable to believe that an Aramaic-speaking Greek writer would use the word adelphos when translating from Aramaic to Greek. It’s also reasonable to believe that the word adelphos was used in this case to refer to Jesus’s half-brothers or cousins. The fact that Joseph is called Jesus’s father “πατήρ” in Luke 2:48 shows that familial words can be used loosely in the Greek language.

  77. Ted

    Jhn 6:42 And they said, Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? how is it then that he saith, I came down from heaven?

    Should we believe that Joseph was the natural father of Jesus since father and mother form a syntactical unit here in the text?

  78. Hi Fred, #74,

    Adelphos in Matthew is ambiguous because (as I said, unless I am mistaken) the gospel was first written in Aramaic for an Aramaic-speaking audience. There is no word for cousin in Aramaic (nor in Hebrew, I believe), and so “brother” is used for any near relation. The Greek translator used the literal Greek word for brother but that does not mean that the Aramaic meant that.

    Fred, there are none to few instances of Hebraisms in the Greek text of Matthew. No scholars today hold to your theory. It is without foundation.

    Please provide an argument that demonstrates an ambiguity about Mary’s alleged other children in John 19. You will need to take into account Aramaic (and Hellenic, if I remember Homer rightly) cultural traditions which obliged children to care for their widowed mothers—a tradition with which Jesus was obviously familiar, since it is based upon the commandment to honor one’s father and mother. Indeed, this was the source of the distinction between mere widows (who had children to care for them) and widows indeed, as Paul called them, who had no children to care for them (and consequently were more urgently in need of help from fellow believers).

    As I said above, even if I tell you an alternative explanation than that you already believe, and even if it satisfied you (again, doubtful) you would only move on to a different argument to support your PVM beliefs that are contrary to what Matthew wrote, and which I showed you above. I doubt your beliefs can be challenged by Scripture.

    Since this is the second time on this point, it seems fruitless to go on.

  79. Hi Chris (75),

    Thanks for the tutoring on the abbreviations :). Later in the afternoon I figured them out, because i tend to be slow.

    Let me know exactly how to succinctly and accurately present your argument based on your exegesis of Matthew 12:46 & Matthew 13:55-56 to biblical studies professors from the 3 main branches of Christianity, please. I want to make sure I present it accurately.

    My arguments can be seen in #57 and #71.

  80. John W (77),

    I’m not too tempted to form doctrine from the mouths of Christ’s enemies. But I am very open to doing so from His apostles.

  81. Ted (#80),

    Let’s put aside doctrine since you are appealing solely to the Greek language. This means you must consider all biblical as well as extra biblical koine, whether written by ignorant pagans, agnostics, active enemies of Christ or whomever. Your response seems to limit this to a minuscule subset. Please clarify and correct me if I have read this incorrectly.

    Jesus was preaching on His home turf in John 6. It is very likely that these Jews did know Him and His family. What reason is there to doubt this? The response of the Jews also would lead us to believe that they did not know that Jesus was divinely conceived. Then again, who actually did know this other than Joseph and Mary?
    With this simple contextual evidence, it then is easily understood why the Jews believed that Joseph was the father of Jesus and not His step-father. The hard literalistic linguistic rules that you subscribe to in the Matthew passages does not allow us to consider context and evidence.

    Another point that directly addresses your Greek “rules” in Matt 12:46-47

    Mat 12:49 And he stretched forth his hand toward his disciples, and said, Behold my mother and my brethren!

    Here we have all the same structure from your initial appeal from a “trustworthy” source. Possessive pronouns with the same syntactical unit of mother and brothers, equally belonging to Jesus. Again there is no exegetical controversy here if contextual evidence is observed.

    This is also another instance where brothers is not used in a strict literal sense.

    I would also like to hear your alternate explanation of John 19:25.

  82. Ted (#78):

    Fred, there are none to few instances of Hebraisms in the Greek text of Matthew. No scholars today hold to your theory. It is without foundation.

    Patristics scholars would apparently disagree with your contention that my theory is foundationless. See here. According to the linked article, the non-Hebraic origin of Matthew is an innovation from Erasmus.

    As I said above, even if I tell you an alternative explanation than that you already believe, and even if it satisfied you (again, doubtful) you would only move on to a different argument to support your PVM beliefs that are contrary to what Matthew wrote, and which I showed you above. I doubt your beliefs can be challenged by Scripture.

    You are apparently unfamiliar with the occasions on which I have admitted my mistakes here at CtC. :-) And between the two of us, I am the one who abandoned his former theological tradition when I realized it is hopelessly broken. My concern is always for the truth, and I am willing to admit when I am wrong if I am shown to be mistaken or realize my errors myself.

    Quite frankly, I seriously doubt that Jesus’s actions can be explained at all on the hypothesis that he had half-siblings. The very idea is foreign to Semitic culture.

    Peace,

    Fred

  83. John (81)

    Let’s put aside doctrine since you are appealing solely to the Greek language. This means you must consider all biblical as well as extra biblical koine, whether written by ignorant pagans, agnostics, active enemies of Christ or whomever. Your response seems to limit this to a minuscule subset. Please clarify and correct me if I have read this incorrectly.

    I’m looking at the context, of Mat. 12 and Mat. 13. See 55 and 57. Why looking at the NT greek requires me to look at other greek to form doctrine, is unusual, to say the least. Point is, I’m following rules of koine syntax in Mat. 12 and 13 as already explained in 57. You aren’t.

    With this simple contextual evidence, it then is easily understood why the Jews believed that Joseph was the father of Jesus and not His step-father. The hard literalistic linguistic rules that you subscribe to in the Matthew passages does not allow us to consider context and evidence.

    Yes, but John, Matthew knew. And He was an apostle.

    Mat 12:49 And he stretched forth his hand toward his disciples, and said, Behold my mother and my brethren! Here we have all the same structure from your initial appeal from a “trustworthy” source. Possessive pronouns with the same syntactical unit of mother and brothers, equally belonging to Jesus. Again there is no exegetical controversy here if contextual evidence is observed. This is also another instance where brothers is not used in a strict literal sense.

    John, this is my exact point in #71 to Fred, except concerning “mater.”

  84. Fred, 82,

    Patristics scholars would apparently disagree with your contention that my theory is foundationless. See here. According to the linked article, the non-Hebraic origin of Matthew is an innovation from Erasmus.

    There are ancient Christian writings claiming Matthew first wrote his gospel in Aramaic, and that the Greek gospel we have comes from that. 3 problems. You avoided my point on why that thesis is untenable; we have no copy of such a gospel, and there are no traces of Hebraisms in Matthews Greek – an impossibility if it were originally in Aramaic. Thus no one holds to that thesis anymore except for those who do so for partisan reasons. You have faith in the thinnest of evidence to claim adelphos is ambiguous. But it isn’t, and as i mentioned in 55, there was a common Greek word for cousin. Matthew, nor his alleged translators, used it. Ever wonder why?

    My concern is always for the truth, and I am willing to admit when I am wrong if I am shown to be mistaken or realize my errors myself. Quite frankly, I seriously doubt that Jesus’s actions can be explained at all on the hypothesis that he had half-siblings. The very idea is foreign to Semitic culture.

    You’ve already proven to believe things on the thinnest of evidence with a great deal of contrary evidence.

  85. we have no copy of such a gospel, and there are no traces of Hebraisms in Matthews Greek – an impossibility if it were originally in Aramaic

    Ted, let’s address these objections:

    1. The first objection is an argument from silence, but that argument is outweighed by the fact that Irenaeus, Eusebius, and Origen all attest that the gospel of Matthew was first written in Aramaic.

    2. Regarding the second objection, this writer points out three Hebraisms in the first chapter of Matthew:

    … there are reasons to believe that beyond just transcribing spoken Hebrew/Aramaic into written Greek, Matthew may have originally been written in Hebrew. The genealogy of Matthew 1:1-16 uses the identical wording pattern as many of the Hebrew Old Testament geneologies (X begat Y, Y begat Z, etc.). This could be just coincidental, but by comparison the genealogy in Luke 3:23-38 uses wording unlike any Old Testament genealogy (Luke being originally written in Greek). Furthermore, Matthew ends his genealogy with the comment that there were 14 generations from Abraham to David, 14 generations from David to the Babylonian exile, and 14 generations from the exile to Christ. Hebrew letters double as numbers, and as a result, every Hebrew word has a number associated with it, the number usually being calculated by summing the individual letters. David’s name has a very low number – 14. This would have been common knowledge to Jewish Hebrew language readers, and Matthew is perhaps using the three 14’s to further point to Jesus being the Son of David, the Messiah. This interesting point of course makes sense only in Hebrew and is obliterated in any translation. Matt 1:25 says Joseph did not “know” his wife before Jesus was born, using a familiar Hebrew (but not Greek) euphemism for sexual relations between a husband and wife. Note that the examples we have offered so far are all limited to just the first chapter of Matthew.

    The author at the link makes a number of further arguments which I won’t copy.

    Nonetheless, An overriding point to me is that most of the dialogue in Matthew’s gospel was originally spoken in Aramaic or Hebrew, so it is highly likely that if what we have today is a true text, then these texts were based on original sources which transcribed the actual dialogue between Jesus and his associates.

  86. Jonathan, (85),

    The first objection is an argument from silence, but that argument is outweighed by the fact that Irenaeus, Eusebius, and Origen all attest that the gospel of Matthew was first written in Aramaic.

    No, it’s an objection of non-existence, not silence. If I were arguing for silence, why would my prior post have said, “There are ancient Christian writings claiming Matthew first wrote his gospel in Aramaic” (84)? The Hebrew gospel of Matthew is non-existent, yet, some would rather trust in it concerning PVM than in an apostle’s clear words that go against it.

    Regarding the second objection, this writer points out three Hebraisms in the first chapter of Matthew:

    No, none of the author’s claims are Hebraisms. And he admits that his advocacy for a Hebrew original is only possible: “Matthew may have originally been written in Hebrew.”

    God has given you proof in the gospel of Matthew that is near you, in your mouth and in your heart. But you are chasing down things that are non-existent to support your faith in PVM.

    An overriding point to me is that most of the dialogue in Matthew’s gospel was originally spoken in Aramaic or Hebrew

    You weren’t there; you don’t know that, nor does the text itself ever indicate that to the reader. Moreover, there are indicators that Greek is the original language, such as Mat. 1:23. And if the Sermon on the Mount was originally Aramaic, how did the Gentiles in the audience follow the Lord’s teachings? They all spoke Aramaic? (Mat. 4:25).

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