Ecclesiasticus 4:28

"Fight to the death for truth, and the Lord God will war on your side."

Ora pro nobis,

Most Blessed Virgin Mary, St. Francis de Sales, St. Thomas Aquinas, and St. Dominic. Amen.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Mary, Ever-Virgin (Part 1, responding to common objections)

Moving on to the second Marian Dogma of the Church, I must admit at the beginning that I am not really surprised that the Perpetual Virginity of Mary has caused no little stir of disputation in the comments so far, but I am a bit surprised at how much stir this particular belief has raised. But then, I remember looking back at my own journey to Catholicism, and the debates that I would have with my wife Melissa, whom I was dating at the time. The Perpetual Virginity doctrine seemed like such an easy win. I had, in fact, convinced her of the "truth" of the Protestant position when, seemingly inexplicably, one day I told her, "The Catholic Church is right about Mary." Ironically, and unfortunately, since then, sometimes it seems like I've had to almost reconvert her.

Ancient Belief
The Perpetual Virginity of Mary is perhaps the oldest of the Church's beliefs regarding Mary, although it wasn't officially and dogmatically promulgated until the 4th and 5th centuries. It was something that met with disagreement only once or twice in the early years of the Church, and was otherwise believed by all Christians everywhere, until the time of the Reformation. Even then, all of the early Reformers believed it: Luther, Calvin, Zwingli, even John Wesley, are all on record defending Mary's perpetual virginity. With such a weight of historical, universal Christian affirmation, from the Orthodox, the Catholics, and even early Protestantism, one does need to pause and wonder at how it came to be that modern Evangelicalism so heartily denies this doctrine.

Contradicts Scripture?
On the other hand, those same deniers of the doctrine, Bible in hand, wonder how the Church for so long could be in such obvious error, when Scripture seemingly clearly contradicts the notion that Mary was always a virgin. To this point, that a doctrine that contradicts Scripture must therefore be wrong, one must concede wholeheartedly. But at the same time, I reaffirm my belief that there is nothing in Catholic teaching that contradicts the Bible, when it is properly understood. As such, let's move on to our examination of the Perpetual Virginity of Mary.

Let us begin our examination of the dogma of the Perpetual Virginity of Mary in Part 1 with a consideration of the typical objections to the teaching. In Part 2, we will examine the evidence for the doctrine from Scripture and from the historical witness to it in the Church. Finally, we will touch on its importance and meaning in the lives of the faithful.

Four Objections
Objections to the doctrine of Mary's perpetual virginity typically revolve around the Biblical texts which seem to contradict the notion of Mary's continued virginal state after the birth of Christ. There are four arguments typically raised from Scripture against the Perpetual Virginity of Mary. The first is that the Bible mentions Jesus' brothers and sisters. The second is that Matthew 1:25 states that Mary and Joseph did not enter into married relations until she gave birth to Christ, implying that after that point, they did enter into normal marital relations. The third objection is that in passages such as Luke 2:7, Jesus is called Mary's "firstborn", implying at least a "second born". The final typical biblical objection to Mary's perpetual virginity is that the Bible throughout divinely approves sexual intercourse between married couples, and that many offspring are a sign of God's blessing. These, then, are the four basic biblical objections to Mary's perpetual virginity, listed, for the record, in order according to my perception of their strengths.

Objection 1: The "Brothers" of Jesus
The first, and to my mind, strongest of the arguments against Mary's perpetual virginity is the seemingly clear mention in the Gospels and elsewhere to Jesus' brothers and sisters. The synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) all reference an event where Jesus is teaching, and "His mother and His brothers arrived" (cf. Matt. 12:26-49; Mark 3:31-34; Luke 8:19-21). In Matthew 13, furthermore, Jesus was preaching in His hometown, and the people reject Him there, saying, "Is He not the carpenter's son? Is not His mother named Mary, and His brothers James, Joseph, Simon, and Judas? Are not His sisters all with us?" (Matt. 13:55, cf. Mark 6:3). The fourth Gospel, John, also mentions "brothers", first at the wedding feast at Cana, and later, when they express disbelief in Jesus in John chapter 7, vv. 3-10. Furthermore, Galatians 1:19 has St. Paul referring to St. James the Just as "the brother of the Lord." A final biblical reference often used to claim that Jesus had siblings--and that these siblings are specifically Mary's children--is Psalm 69:9, which says, "I have become an outcast to my kin, a stranger to my mother's children." Now, this may at first glance seem an odd proof for Jesus having brothers and sisters, but the Psalm is viewed as a Messianic prophecy, specifically because the very next verse, "Because zeal for Your house consumes me..." is quoted by John 2:17 as referring to Jesus' cleansing the temple. Further, verse 22 is cited in Matthew 34:48 and Mark 15:23 as prophesying a part of Jesus' passion.

Now, these texts all together serve a very compelling case that Jesus did, in fact, have brothers. I myself believed this all my life before my conversion. Surely a belief that Mary did not have other children, but remained a virgin throughout her life, in light of the overwhelming evidence, is quite silly, and it is difficult to see how the Church could have so completely ignored these texts.

The Church's Response:
So how does the Church deal with these numerous passages dealing with the alleged "brothers" of Christ? For as I said above, if a doctrine contradicts the Bible, it must be false; and, I assert that no doctrine of the Catholic Church does, in fact, contradict the Bible, when it is properly understood. What, then, is the proper understanding of these passages of Scripture?

The first, rather small point that I would make is that, despite the amount of passages referring to Jesus' "brothers", they really add up only to three Gospel accounts, one passing reference, and an Old Testament Poem. Now, that doesn't in itself mean the objections are without basis, for I would contend that if something is mentioned only once in Scripture, it doesn't necessarily make it less true or relevant than something mentioned a hundred times. But to hear the objections stated, one can easily get the impression that the Gospels are littered with references to Jesus' expansive family, as though He were the oldest Son of "Joseph and Mary Plus Eight." When we realise that there aren't, actually, that many references to Jesus' so-called siblings, it's easier to break down each individual passage and see what it actually says, without feeling quite so overwhelmed.

Psalm 69
To begin, I will address the question of Psalm 69's reference to "my mother's children." I will admit that, in my initial investigation of Catholicism, I had not encountered anyone use this passage as a counter to Mary's Perpetual Virginity. It wasn't until a few years later that someone first raised the point to me, and, I admit, it gave me a second or two of pause, because part of my dismissal of the biblical objections to that point was that nowhere are any of Jesus "brothers" specifically referred to as Mary's children (a point I will bring up again later). But here was a passage that specifically did do so--referred to "my mother's children." If Psalm 69:9 did truly and completely refer to Jesus, then it seems to clearly say that His mother did, in fact, have other kids.

However, the crux of the question depends squarely on whether the Psalm does, truly and completely, refer to Jesus. In answering this question, we have to take into account that oh-so-important concept of context. Above, I mentioned two verses (in a 37 verse psalm) that are specifically applied to Jesus in the New Testament. That leaves 35 verses (including the one in question), which the Sacred Authors did not cite in relation to Our Lord. That does not, ipso facto, mean that they don't apply to Him. But when we read the Psalm, we see that there was probably a good reason why only those two verses were applied to Jesus, and none of the others. If nothing else, a careful reading of the Psalm reveals at least a couple verses that most specifically cannot be applied to Jesus!

Verse 4, for example, states, "My eyes have failed, looking for my God." Now, Jesus, who is God, the Son of God, the very image of the invisible Father, of whom He Himself declares that "I and the Father are one", and, when St. Philip asks at the Last Supper, "Show us the Father," Jesus says to him, "If you have seen Me, you have seen the Father," could surely have not worn out His eyes in looking for His God!

Verse 5 continues, "Too many for my strength are my treacherous enemies." Shall omnipotent God have too many enemies for His strength to handle? Was Jesus taken against His will, unable to fight back if He so chose? No! A very word from His mouth caused the guards who came to arrest Him to fall to the ground (John 18:6). Later He tells Pilate that he could have had no power at all unless God had willed it so (John 19:11). Jesus' life was not taken from Him, but He gave it up freely!

Just one more verse should suffice to make my point. Verse 6 states, "God, you know my folly; my faults are not hidden from You." If Psalm 69 is to be taken as completely pertaining to Jesus, in that every detail of the Psalm is literally to be applied to His life, then are we to believe that Jesus had faults and folly? That He was a sinner? This goes beyond bad exegesis, into the realm of blasphemy!

So it is clear that the entirety of Psalm 69 cannot rightly apply to Jesus. Rather, there was a more immediate interpretation, that would apply specifically to King David, its author. That the Holy Spirit inspired portions to refer to Jesus does not mean that all of it can be equally applied to Him. The question remains, then, why verse 9, and not verse 6? We have the Apostles' own assurance about vv. 10 and 22, but beyond that is our own guesswork and presuppositions. As such, I assert that Psalm 69:9 cannot conclusively be marshalled in support of Mary having other children.

The New Testament
Let us now turn our attention to the New Testament references to "Jesus' brothers". As I said above, aside from Psalm 69:9, there is no passage of Scripture that specifically states that Jesus' so-called "brothers" were actually Mary's children. And since Psalm 69:9 more easily refers to David's brothers (of which he had seven, according to 1 Samuel 16), we can disregard it. If Jesus' brothers aren't Mary's sons, then who are they? There are a few theories about this, and since the Church has only declared that they aren't Mary's sons, any of the alternatives are just as acceptable until the truth is revealed once and for all. The key to establishing their identity hinges on the meaning of the term "brother": specifically, what it meant to the early Christians who wrote and read the Gospels.

Language Barrier
Now Jesus, as we all know, was a Jew, as were His first followers. In that day and age in Israel, the commonly spoken language for the Jews was Aramaic, with Hebrew known for the reading of Scripture and for liturgical reasons (much as Latin is used in the Catholic Church today). Koine, or common, Greek was also spoken as a sort of "Lingua Franca" between the Jews and the Gentiles living round about. It is very likely that Jesus, then, spoke Aramaic primarily during His ministry, and that His Apostles did, as well. This is important to keep in mind, because, although the earliest copies of the New Testament which we have today come to us in that koine Greek, it is not the language that Jesus would have preached in. Neither is it likely the language that at least a couple of the Gospels were originally written in. Matthew, for example, scholars most certainly agree, was likely written in Aramaic first, and later translated. If we accept current scholarship's dating, it is likely that St. Mark wrote his Gospel before St. Matthew, and it, too, was likely written in Aramaic originally, as Mark, an Aramaic-speaking Jew, drew on St. Peter, an Aramaic-speaking Jew, as his primary source of information, according to Eusebius, the Early Church historian. Matthew, of course, and John, both being Apostles and eye-witnesses themselves, had their own recollections to draw from. Luke, the only Gentile among the Gospel writers, likely wrote in Greek. However, his primary sources would have been the Apostles, as well as St. Paul, his close colleague, and, judging by the internal content of Luke, as well as ancient traditions, the Blessed Virgin Mary herself was possibly one of his sources. Furthermore, the similarities between Matthew, Mark, and Luke which lead them to be called "synoptic", lead us to the conclusion that either they all drew from a single source (which scholars theoretically call the "Q document", or the latter two of them drew from Mark, and added their own recollections and personalities to the compositions (the interpretation which I favour, personally).

All that is to say that we have four Gospels. Two were likely written directly in Aramaic and later translated. John, likely written originally in Greek from either Ephesus, where John lived and served as Bishop, or Patmos, where he was later exiled, and wrote Revelation, was nevertheless a native Aramaic speaker. Luke, the only Gentile and native Greek speaker, was nevertheless heavily influenced by Aramaic-speaking Jewish sources. As such, any understanding of what the text means when it uses specific words and phrases must take into account the Aramaicisms embedded in the Greek texts of the Gospels. These Aramaicisms show through very clearly from time to time in the texts, for instance, when Peter is referred to as "Cephas", the Aramaic form of his name; or when John refers to the hill on which Jesus is crucified as "Golgotha", and then translates it into the Greek, "The place of the Skull" (which we have, as the Latinised "Calvary").

The Meaning of "Brother" in the New Testament
When it comes to our present concern, that of the meaning of "Brother", we first consider that the Greek term "Adelphos" has a wide range of meanings beyond simply a literal "brother". A simple perusal of a concordance's listing for "brother" will show that, besides the literal meaning, it can mean relative or kinsman, friend, neighbour, countryman, co-religionist, disciple, and so on. The simple fact, then, that "adelphoi" (the plural form) is used of Jesus' "brothers" does not, therefore make them sons of Mary. The same goes, of course, for Jesus' "sisters" (adelphe). This fact is further highlighted when one remembers, again, the overwhelmingly Aramaic roots of the Gospel narratives--namely, that in the Aramaic of Jesus' day, there was no word for "cousin", and, instead, "brother" was used in its place. While it is objected that the Gospel writers (at least Mark, Luke, and John) were writing to a Gentile audience, and, having a Greek word for "cousin" would have used that, this does not hold weight since, again, Mark and John were Aramaic-speaking Jews. Even if John, say, was writing in Greek, he was still writing from a Jewish mindset, and would likely have written the way a student writes a French term paper even when he is pretty fluent. That is, for myself, anyway, forming the thoughts in English, and translating it as I go (either mentally, or with the aid of a lexicon). Studies have shown that when a person immigrates to another country after puberty, he never loses his accent, except through disciplined practice and possibly the help of a linguistic coach. The principle applies here. Grown men raised speaking Aramaic would write in Greek, if at all, with a definite Aramaic accent. Thus, while Greek does have a word for cousin, it would not necessarily have crossed Mark and John's minds to use it.

But what about Luke, the Greek-speaking Gentile? He certainly knew the word for cousin, and in fact uses it to describe Mary's relationship with Elizabeth. Yet in his account of Jesus' brothers trying to see Him while He preached, Luke still uses "brother". Consider this: the account is specifically paralleled in Matthew and Mark, and Luke very likely drew his account directly from theirs, or the possible original source. It may not have occurred to Luke to translate an Aramaic account of Jesus' "brothers" as "cousins" in relating this event in his Gospel.

So far, though, Jesus' brothers being cousins is an equally plausible theory to Jesus' brothers being brothers, but not necessarily more convincing. So we must ask, is there any reason to believe that it is more likely that Jesus' brothers were cousins? The answer to that question takes us to the other synoptic reference to Jesus' brothers. Incidentally, it should be noted that Luke does not relate this account, but only the first one, meaning that there is only the one occasion when he does use "brothers" in reference to Jesus' kinsmen. Moving on, though, in Matthew 13:55 and Mark 6:3, when the Gospel writers tell us that Jesus was rejected in Nazareth, His hometown, the townspeople specifically name Jesus' four brothers: James, Joses (Joseph), Simon, and Judas. James and Judas we know as the writers of the Catholic Epistles, James and Jude. But what else does the Bible tell us about these four men? Well, first of all, James and Joseph are specifically identified in Matthew 27:56 and Mark 15:40 as the sons of another Mary, likely the wife of Clopas in John 19:25, who is herself called the "sister" of Mary, the Mother of Jesus. This again highlights the fact that "sister" and "brother" stand in for "cousin"; or would objectors to Mary's perpetual virginity have us believe that Mary's parents were so unoriginal in their naming that they called two of their daughters "Mary"?

So if James and Joseph were sons of Mary, the wife of Clopas, what about Jude and Simon? Well, according to the introduction to Jude's own Epistle, he identifies himself as James' brother. So it seems that he also might be one of Mary, the wife of Clopas' children. Then again, we're exerting a good deal of effort defending the principle that "brother" doesn't necessarily mean "brother", in which case, Jude might be another cousin to James. It's interesting to note that while St. Paul refers to James as the Lord's brother in Galatians, James himself doesn't make that claim to fame (nor does Jude) in the introduction to his epistle, calling himself rather the Lord's slave, further evidencing that James was, at closest, our Lord's cousin. Jude, furthermore, is also identified as the "son of James" in Luke 6:16 and Acts 1:13. Whoever the James is that Jude is the son of, it certainly isn't Joseph, the most chaste spouse of Mary! Therefore, three of Jesus' "brothers" seem definitively to not be His brothers, but rather, His cousins. That leaves Simon, whom some scholars think is Simon the Cananean of Matthew 10:4. This is possible, but in no way conclusive. Nevertheless, three out of four of Jesus' "brothers" aren't His literal brothers. It is therefore not too much of a stretch to think that Simon isn't, either.

However, there is an alternative view, which has very historic roots in the Church, coming to us from an early Christian document known as the "Protoevangelium of James", which was written under the auspices of being by the very James that we were just discussing. Since it likely was not written by him, dating from somewhat too late for his lifespan, it was deemed "apocryphal"--that is, not worthy of canonicity in the New Testament. That doesn't mean it's utterly false, though. At any rate, its early date of composition (scholars estimate from between AD 70 to 150) shows the antiquity of the belief in Mary's perpetual virginity, since it was written for the express purpose, it seems, of defending that belief. According to this book, Mary was given to the Lord as a consecrated virgin from the time of her childhood, by way of thanksgiving for her miraculous conception to two elderly people, Sts. Joachim and Anne. If you're doubting whether something like that actually would occur, consider Hannah dedicating her son Samuel to life in the Temple, in 1 Samuel. When Mary came of age, in order to safeguard her vow of perpetual virginity, she was betrothed to an elderly man, Joseph, who was a widower and had already had a family. He was to act as her guardian and provider--in all ways her spouse except sexually. Of course, when he found her pregnant, it was a great scandal, for it appeared she had broken her vow of virginity in the most shameful way! Partly out of fear that the priests would accuse him of defiling Mary, and partly out of honourable motives since he still wanted to protect her, and knew she would be stoned if she were found out, he intended to divorce her secretly, as Scripture tells us. However, the Angel appeared in a dream and gave him the lowdown, and he obeyed God, taking her as wife as he had promised to do, and, despite the fact that they had a Son, Jesus, he still, as did she, honoured her vow of perpetual virginity. How does this explain who Jesus' brothers are? Well, as we said, Joseph was chosen because he was a widower who had already raised a family. Jesus' "brothers" then were step-brothers, and the children of Joseph's previous marriage.

In support of this, biblically speaking, let us turn to the instances in John where Jesus' "brothers" are mentioned. Specifically, John 7 (since they are given only a passing reference in John 2, and the meaning could go either way). In John 7, we find Jesus' brothers scolding Him very forcefully about His goings on, teaching the people. Now, Jesus was Mary's firstborn Son, and if these "brothers" were actually her children, they all would have been younger than Him. However, the manner in which they treat Him in John 7 is very contrary to how younger brothers should and could treat their eldest sibling in that culture! The behaviour they exhibit would be more appropriate for older siblings--which, if they were Joseph's sons, and Jesus' step-brothers, would make perfect sense. Of course, they also could have been older cousins, as we discussed earlier. Or, alternatively, a mix between the two scenarios is equally plausible, with James, Joses, and Judas being cousins, and Simon, possibly, being Joseph's son. As I said, we don't know for sure, so any of these theories is acceptable until God reveals the truth to us (probably on the other side of heaven...). The fact is, that these theories make much better sense of the Scriptural data than that they are literally Jesus' blood brothers.

Objection 2: Matthew 1:25 and "Until"
Now that we've exceedingly thoroughly covered the first biblical objection, let us turn our attention to the second: that when Matthew writes that Joseph and Mary did not enter into marital relations until Jesus was born, that this implies that they did, in fact, assume normal marital relations afterward.

Interestingly, although the Perpetual Virginity of Mary was largely uncontested in the Church until the time of the Reformation, there was one man in the early Church, a Helvidius, who used this very passage to try to refute it. St. Jerome, the eminent biblical scholar, responded thunderously, as was his way, and very plainly showed that Matthew's "until" doesn't mean what Helvidius assumed it did. St. Jerome's tract can be read here, but I'll relate the gist of it for you, faithful reader.

The Church's Response:
The fact is that Matthew 1:25 does not say anything whatsoever about the state of Mary and Joseph's life after she gave birth to Jesus. While perhaps in our language, "until" implies a change of state after the time that "until" refers to, this is not necessarily the case with the Greek term (heos). This is seen throughout the New Testament, and, for that matter, all of Scripture, but I will cite two examples:

In Matthew 28:20, at the end of the Great Commission, Jesus promises to be with the Church until the end of the age. If we take the understanding of "until" to imply a change after the time "until" specifies, will Jesus then abandon us at the end of time?

In 1 Timothy 4:13, Paul tells Timothy to pay attention to reading, exhortation, and doctrine until Paul comes to him. I suppose when Paul visits, Timothy is free to become an illiterate heretic?

I won't detail other examples, but check out, for the record, Deuteronomy 34:6, 2 Samuel 6:23, and Psalm 110:1, for Old Testament examples, and Matthew 11:12, Matthew 28:15, Romans 8:22, and 1 Corinthians 15:25, for New Testament examples.

So, while there are times when until definitely means a change afterwards, there are times in which it definitely does not. It simply is emphasising a particular point in time--namely, in Matthew 1:25, the virgin birth of Jesus.

Objection 3: Luke 2:7 and "Firstborn"
The third objection is that Luke 2:7 and other passages refer to Jesus as the "firstborn" of Mary. But this objection hardly amounts to anything.

The Church's Response:
If one is an only child, he is just as much the firstborn of a couple as he is the last born. Moreover, in Jewish Law, the term "firstborn" was a legal term referring to the child who "opened the womb", which, a) necessitated the ritual purification after 40 days (described by St. Luke in Luke 2:22-38), and which entitled the firstborn to the father's blessing and inheritance, whether or not he ever had younger siblings.

Objection 4: Marital Relations are Divinely Approved
The final biblical objection is that throughout Scripture, sexual intercourse between married couples is divinely approved. It was therefore not "sinful" for Mary and Joseph to engage in sexual activity.

The Church's Response:
In response to this, three things must be said: The first is this, that while it is approved, it is not therefore mandated that a husband and wife must have sex. The second thing is simply that if the Protoevangelium of James is true in its relation of Mary consecrating herself to perpetual virginity (and in the next part of this article, we'll look at biblical evidence for that assumption), then Mary, having made such a vow, would indeed be sinning by breaking it--that their marriage was not a normal marriage at all. The final thing is that Mary, who bore the Christ, God Himself in the flesh, became herself sacred, her womb a sacred space, home to the pre-natal God-man. While sex is not wrong in the confines of marriage, but is, rather, a great gift of God, nevertheless, there are times when a common good is inappropriate when something sacred is involved. Eating and drinking are good things, but one would not use the Eucharistic Chalice for family dinner! (In fact, King Belshazzar met with God's great wrath when he used the sacred temple vessels when throwing a great debauching feast--Daniel 5.) Mary's womb, made forever sacred by bearing, nurturing, and forming the God-man, could not rightly be used for even the best of common goods without leading to great profanation. It is not that sex is bad, or that Joseph's seed would "sully" her womb per se, but such an act would be gravely inappropriate.

Now, this article has become exceedingly long, and I have only said half of what I intended to say--half of what is needed to be said--in defense of Mary's Perpetual Virginity. I hope the response to common objections serves as food for thought to those who would reject this most ancient teaching of the Church. While I have here endeavoured to defend Mary's Perpetual Virginity in a negative fashion, in my next article, I will argue for the truth of the doctrine in a positive way, showing from Scripture that it is the only logical conclusion, and demonstrating from the historical witness that it has been the universally held teaching of the Church. Finally, I will conclude by reflecting on its relevance and importance to our lives as Christians.

God bless.

(Category: Catholic Distinctives: Mary, Mother of God.)


Gregory said...

Just a quick note regarding my comments on Psalm 69. When I was referencing it when writing this article, I was referring to the New American Bible's translation (since it has handy cross-references in the margins, which my New Jerusalem Bible sadly does not). The NAB uses the Hebrew verse numbering system for the Psalms, which usually counts the little title "A Psalm of David, when etc. etc." or whatnot as "verse 1", whereas other Bibles using the LXX and Vulgate numbering systems, call the beginning of the psalm proper as "verse 1". Therefore, if you're looking up the psalm to double check my sources (which I heartily recommend), please realise that in most English Bibles, the verses I reference are Psalm 69:3, 4, 5, 8, 9, and 21, instead, as I refer to them, 4, 5, 6, 9, 10, and 22. Psalm 69 would also, therefore, have 36 verses as opposed to 37, as I state in the article. Understand that it wasn't a mistake on my part, but a difference in translations.

Further, for those following along in their LXXs, Vulgates, or Douay-Rheims Bibles, we're talking about Psalm 68.

Sorry for any confusion :)

Andrew said...

Greg, I think you've done a wonderful job of answering those common objections. I can't honestly say that I'm conclusively convinced that Mary MUST have been a virgin throughout her life afterwards, and I must be honest with you. However, I can clearly see the points you make, and I cannot emphatically say that she MUST NOT have been a virgin for the rest of her life. Thanks for educating me as to alternative possible meanings for 'brothers'.
The point about 'until' was also well made, though I still cannot say that it MUST mean 'and afterwards too', any more than a coach saying, "Keep running until you get to the end of the race." MUST mean that the runner is to continue running in perpetuity... (quite a daunting task, might I add)

Gregory said...

Hey Andrew,
I understand your statements, and, quite frankly, that's why I said that Part 1 was a "negative" argument for Mary's perpetual virginity. That is, it doesn't conclusively prove that she was, but it does demonstrate that the "proof" against it doesn't adequately hold up. I think the most "positive" proof for Mary's perpetual virginity in this article was identifying three out of four of the explicitly-named brothers of Jesus as someone else's kids.

This article served to do two things: first, it completely nullifies the accusation that the Perpetual Virginity of Mary contradicts the Bible. As such, it could be true, or it could be untrue--the point is, it's not definitely untrue, and thus to believe it doesn't make Catholicism contrary to Scripture or against the Bible, as some have alleged (even recently in the Intro thread).

The second thing that this article serves to do is to help remove stumbling blocks to believing in this Marian dogma, and, therefore, in Catholicism as a whole. Even if I never bring anyone to the point of actually converting to Catholicism, I am trying my best to remove various objections to the Church, so that if someone nevertheless refuses to become Catholic, they won't be doing so for wrong reasons or due to misinformed arguments.

Of course, the "negative" arguments need to be balanced by specific "positive" proofs, which is where "part 2" comes in, which I'll be at least beginning to write, right now.

God bless