Recently, in a conversation on Facebook, I confessed that much of Protestantism annoyed me. Longtime readers will know that I believe in consistency — hermeneutics should be consistent, interpretations of passages should incorporate what has gone before, and your bar of acceptable proof should be even across all areas of your life.
Protestantism just isn’t consistent. The first post in this series laid the groundwork for why I don’t think Protestantism is very consistent with regard to Sacred Tradition. The previous post discussed the concept of high church, how Protestantism lacks it, and why it is biblical. However, submission doesn’t mean surrendering one’s mental faculties. For an application of that idea, we turn to the main issue I’ve always had with Catholicism, and a true biblical contradiction in its teaching: the Perpetual Virginity of Mary.
To believe this doctrine, you have to totally subvert the meaning of Mark 6:3, when the crowd in Jesus’ hometown asks, “Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? And are not his sisters here with us?”
The Catholic argument is that the word translated “brother” (αδελπηοσ) can be used for any close family member, since there wasn’t a Greek word for “cousins.” Therefore, James, Joses, Judas, and Simon are actually Jesus’ cousins. In fact, according to Strong’s, αδελπηοσ means “brother,” “sister” or “fellow believer.” However, we know from other New Testament passages that these folks are not fellow believers.
In fact, there is a Greek word meaning “cousin.” It is ανεπσιοσ, and is used in Colossians 4:10 to describe Mark, cousin of Barnabas. (The word actually refers to a niece or a nephew, and I’m at a loss to find out why it is universally translated “cousin.”) Which means the Catholic argument normally presented for Jesus’ brothers being cousins holds no water whatsoever.
The January 1990 issue of This Rock magazine has an article by Father Mateo specifically stating that:
Kilmon obscures the state of the question by alleging a “premise that ‘brother’ in the New Testament, like its counterpart in the Old Testament really means ‘cousin’ or ‘kinsman.'” No one holds such a premise. Both Hebrew and Greek dictionaries report that there are words in both languages whose primary meaning conveys uterine brother/sisterhood, but that these words are also used in both languages with much wider meanings: half brother/half sister, wife, kinsman, fellow tribe member, and so on, but not, as a matter of fact, cousin. (emphasis added)
But Father Mateo has spoke too soon. The Catholicism Answer Book (Sourcebooks, Inc: Naperville, IL, 2007), written by Catholic priests John Trigilio, Jr. and Kenneth Brighenti, does hold the very position that Father Mateo repudiates:
Scripture scholars have also delved into the question of brothers and sisters of Jesus. It all centers around the Greek word adelphoi. This word can be translated to mean brothers, cousins, or relatives, such as nephews and uncles. Therefore, when we read in Matthew’s Gospel chapter 13:55 concerning the brothers of Jesus, it is ambiguous whether the word adelphos is refering to brothers, cousins, nephews, or uncles. (57, emphasis added)
Just a few pages prior, Trigilio and Brighenti make a similar point. Ancient Hebrew (yes, they said Hebrew–remember that point) didn’t discern between close family (brothers, sisters, cousins, nieces, and nephews), and thus the “brothers and sisters” of Jesus could have referred to other family members that didn’t have precise names (49).
The problem is that the New Testament was written in Greek, not Hebrew. Greek is exceedingly more complex, and does have those distinctions. The passages in question, read plainly, indicate family related by blood is under consideration. One hardly mentions the mother of a person and then a few cousins without some sort of context key. Nope, these are biological brothers and sisters, not close family or fellow Christians that are being discussed. It is difficult to argue otherwise.