Jegsy Scarr

Ask a Catholic! (i.e, me...)

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Really? Why? I haven't gotten to that part of the Bible yet (I've barely started reading the Old Testament) but from what I've heard, it doesn't say anywhere that Mary stayed a virgin after Jesus was born. I would be curious to hear which verses support that.

 

In fact, from what I remember of my readings last semester, it definitively states that Jesus had brothers at least two different times. I've heard some people say that they were his step-brothers (Joseph's sons from a prior wife before Mary) but that doesn't seem the most Occam's Razor-y explanation to me....

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In fact, from what I remember of my readings last semester, it definitively states that Jesus had brothers at least two different times. I've heard some people say that they were his step-brothers (Joseph's sons from a prior wife before Mary) but that doesn't seem the most Occam's Razor-y explanation to me....

 

Yeah I've heard that argument before and it's absolutely ridiculous. There was absolutely no mention of any step children of Joseph's during Jesus' infancy or childhood. There is no basis for that other than arguing from silence. What Catholics appeal to is insisting the Greek words for "brothers" and "sisters" means cousins.

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Yeah I've heard that argument before and it's absolutely ridiculous. There was absolutely no mention of any step children of Joseph's during Jesus' infancy or childhood. There is no basis for that other than arguing from silence. What Catholics appeal to is insisting the Greek words for "brothers" and "sisters" means cousins.

 

Oh, really, Vincey? Well, let's just see about that...

 

 

Really? Why? I haven't gotten to that part of the Bible yet (I've barely started reading the Old Testament) but from what I've heard, it doesn't say anywhere that Mary stayed a virgin after Jesus was born. I would be curious to hear which verses support that.

 

You won't find an explicit teaching in the Bible which states "Mary was a virgin her whole life", just like you won't find an explicit teaching saying "God is one being in three persons" or "The Bible is the only source of authority for Christians." But the teaching has been in Sacred Tradition since the beginning.

 

First, to address the common arguments against Mary's perpetual virginity. The one that Vince and Steadfast already mentioned is that the Bible refers to Jesus's "brothers and sisters" a few times, like in Matthew 13:55-56 "Is not this the carpenter’s son? Is not his mother called Mary? And are not his brethren James and Joseph and Simon and Judas? And are not all of his sisters with us?"

 

There are a couple of problems with this, though. For one thing, although it refers to "Jesus's brethren" a few times in the Bible, never do we see Mary referred to as being their mother, even though it's common for the Gospels to distinguish between women in this way. The other issue is, we can see from other passages in the New Testament that at least some of these "brethren" definitely aren't biological siblings of Jesus. That "brother" James is mentioned again in Paul's letter to the Galatians (Galatians 1:18-19) "Then after three years I [Paul] went up to Jerusalem to visit Cephas, and remained with him fifteen days. But I saw none of the other apostles except James the Lord’s brother."

 

Okay, so James is one of the apostles. There are two apostles named James: James the son of Zebedee, and James the son of Alphaeus. So whoever Jesus's "brother" James is, he's not Mary and Joseph's son. If we know that at least one of those who are called Jesus's "brothers" isn't Mary's child, then it's not unreasonable to assume that the others mentioned aren't necessarily her children either.

 

So who are the "brothers and sisters" of Jesus, if not biological siblings? There are a few different options, and the Church doesn't have a definitive teaching on any of them - they're all perfectly valid. The first is that the term "brethren" is used as general term for a more distant relative, like a cousin. We see this, for example, in the Old Testament, where Abraham and Lot are referred to as "brothers" even though they're actually uncle and nephew. The second is that at least some of the people referred to are step-siblings of Jesus: sons and daughters of Joseph, but not Mary. I'll come back to this in a moment. And there's also the chance that they could be adopted children (not completely unheard of at the time), but that's probably a lot less likely to be the case.

 

The second objection that gets brought up is the passage in Matthew 1:24-25 "And Joseph rising up from sleep, did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him, and took unto him his wife. And he knew her not till she brought forth her firstborn son: and he called his name Jesus." Some argue that "firstborn" implies a second-born, but this is a misunderstanding of what "firstborn" means in Judaism - the child which opens the womb, and therefore is consecrated to God, as in Exodus 13:1-2. But the main argument people raise is the use of the word "until" and argue that this means they must have had sex after Jesus's birth. But this isn't always how the word "until" is used. We use it in expressions like, "Until we meet again, may God bless you" and in the Bible, "Christ must reign until He has put all His enemies under His feet." That doesn't mean that after you've met again, you want God to stop blessing someone, or that Jesus won't reign after His enemies are under His feet. Rather, it's emphasising what happens before the event is fulfilled.

 

So why the emphasis on Mary being a virgin up until Jesus was born? Likely, just to emphasise the fact that Jesus has no human father, and that Joseph had nothing to do with Jesus's conception or development in pregnancy. I think that's particularly important considering that it's only in the last two-hundred years that we've become aware of exactly how conception and pregnancy works, and that after conception, having sex isn't going to have any impact on the child.

 

The early Christians believed in Mary's perpetual virginity, as did Martin Luther and Ulrich Zwingli. Even John Calvin, whilst he wasn't certain about it, agreed that the Bible references to "brethren", "firstborn" and the "until" don't tell us anything on the subject.

 

Now for the arguments for Mary's perpetual virginity.

 

In Luke 1:34, when the Angel Gabriel tells Mary that she is to be the mother of Jesus, Mary asks, "How shall this be, since I know not man?" Now, we know that Mary is already "espoused" to Joseph, which meant that he already had the right to consummate the marriage with her. There's nothing in what the angel says that suggests that Jesus's conception is going to be anything other than the natural way - all he says is "You will conceive your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus". There'd be no reason for Mary to ask how it would happen - for all she knows Jesus will be conceived in the ordinary way - unless, of course, she wasn't planning on ever consummating her marriage with Joseph.

 

Another argument is that when Jesus is dying on the cross, He entrusts Mary to the apostle John, asking him to take her into his house and look after her as his mother. If Mary did have other biological sons, then it would be their duty to take care of her, not John's.

 

From a theological perspective, Mary is also called the Bride of the Holy Spirit. The language used in Luke 1, that the Holy Spirit will "overshadow" her so that she will conceive Jesus, is nuptial language, like that in Ruth 3:8, where Ruth tells Boaz "spread your skirt over me" (don't laugh, men wore skirts). Joseph is Mary's legal husband, and he's the legal father of Jesus, but she's conceived Jesus through the Holy Spirit. It probably wouldn't have been a sin per se for him to have consummated the marriage to Mary, but it'd be very unfitting - she's been chosen to bear God's son, and her body has become God's physical temple. It's fitting for her to remain a virgin, for God alone.

 

Now, there's also an extra-biblical source called the Protoevangelium of James which seems to clear a lot of things up. It's not inspired scripture, and therefore not part of the Bible, but it was written around A.D. 120, so it may have preserved at least some truths about Mary that have been passed down. According to the text, Mary's parents were struggling to conceive a child, so vowed to God that if He gave them a child, they would dedicate them to Him. When Mary was born, that's exactly what they did. Mary became a consecrated virgin. Now, when consecrated virgins came of age, it was customary for them to marry a man who would act as their protector and guardian, a legal husband but one who wouldn't consummate the marriage. According to the text, Joseph was selected as Mary's husband because he was already an older man and a widower with children, and therefore he wasn't interested in marrying again to have more children.

 

As I said, this isn't considered to be an inspired scriptural text, and was written a long time after Mary was born. But, it would explain a lot of things if it were true. It could explain who some of those brothers and sisters were - step-siblings of Jesus from Joseph's previous marriage. It would explain as well why Joseph isn't mentioned in the Gospels during Jesus's ministry - it's assumed that he died at some point between Jesus's life in between age 12-30, and if he was an older man, this would make sense. And it would also make sense that Mary and Joseph married never intending to have sex in the first place - it would explain Mary's remarks, "How can this be, since I know not man?"

 

Personally, I like the explanation given in the Proteoevangelium of James. It's actually quite an interesting book. I also like the description of Jesus's birth, which is described as having took place not in the ordinary manner, but that He appeared through a cloud of light (the description has been compared to the way light shines through glass, without breaking the glass's shape or integrity). I think that's a really nice idea.

 

(The text gets weird after that, with a woman saying, "Oh, a virgin's given birth, I'm not believing that. I'm going to go look and see what she looks like," and she ...uh...checks her out, and gets her hand burned off by a mysterious fire, and she starts screaming, "Lord, Lord, forgive me," and an angel appears and says, "Hey, just hold your arm out to the baby there, and He'll fix you up," so she does, and she gets her hand back... Yeah, it's at this point that I think the writer has just decided to make stuff up he thought would be a cool symbol, or something. Even so, I liked the light image.)

 

xxx

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Okay, I should say there is no biblical evidence for Joseph's children from a previous marriage. The Proteoevangelium of James is not a reliable aid in helping interpret the Bible because it contradicts a lot of details in the Bible. That includes, but not limited to:

 

1. It claimed Jesus was born in a cave outside of Bethlehem. The Bible clearly states He was born in Bethlehem.

2. It says that Mary and Joseph hid Jesus at an inn to hide from King Herod, when the Bible says the angel told them to hide in Egypt.

3. Mary's response to Gabriel was "“What! Shall I conceive by the living God, and bring forth as all other women do?” when the Bible says she said "Then Mary said to the angel, ‘How can this be, since I do not know a man?"

4. It says that John the Baptist and his mother fled Bethlehem to escape Herod, when the Bible says he grew up in the desert and didn't reach Israel until adulthood.

5. It says the 3 wise men went to Bethlehem to ask Herod where Christ is. The Bible says they went to Jerusalem to ask where Christ is.

 

Finally, the Church affirms that the PoJ is an apocryphal writing that was not written by James but rather by heretics who used his name. This was a common practice in the first few centuries for people to use the Apostles and their associates' names in forgeries. If the author lied about his identity, why should we believe anything else that he wrote?

 

First, to address the common arguments against Mary's perpetual virginity. The one that Vince and Steadfast already mentioned is that the Bible refers to Jesus's "brothers and sisters" a few times, like in Matthew 13:55-56 "Is not this the carpenter’s son? Is not his mother called Mary? And are not his brethren James and Joseph and Simon and Judas? And are not all of his sisters with us?"

 

There are a couple of problems with this, though. For one thing, although it refers to "Jesus's brethren" a few times in the Bible, never do we see Mary referred to as being their mother, even though it's common for the Gospels to distinguish between women in this way. The other issue is, we can see from other passages in the New Testament that at least some of these "brethren" definitely aren't biological siblings of Jesus. That "brother" James is mentioned again in Paul's letter to the Galatians (Galatians 1:18-19) "Then after three years I [Paul] went up to Jerusalem to visit Cephas, and remained with him fifteen days. But I saw none of the other apostles except James the Lord’s brother."

 

Okay, so James is one of the apostles. There are two apostles named James: James the son of Zebedee, and James the son of Alphaeus. So whoever Jesus's "brother" James is, he's not Mary and Joseph's son. If we know that at least one of those who are called Jesus's "brothers" isn't Mary's child, then it's not unreasonable to assume that the others mentioned aren't necessarily her children either.

 

 

Actually there is a verse that says Mary had other children. Psalm 69:8 is a messianic prophecy of the coming of Jesus which says, "I have been estranged from my brothers, and a alien to my mother's sons." Which was fulfilled in John 7:5, "For not even His brothers were believing in Him."

 

The James in Galatians 1:18-19 doesn't necessarily have to be identified as one of the two of the original 12 Apostles. First, others outside the Twelve have been called apostles, namely Paul and Barnabas (Act 4:36). Secondly, if the word "brother" can be extended to friends or the original Twelve, then which of the 2 Apostles called James is Paul referring to? He could have easily identified James as Son of Zebedee or son of Alphaenus to avoid confusion, but he didn't. He just says the Lord's brother, so we can conclude that he is referring to James the Just, the Lord's actual brother. That makes sense in light of Matthew 13:55-56 because Matthew refers to Jesus' actual mother, Mary and father, the carpenter (Joseph). Given the context of starting with his actual immediate family, it makes no sense for there to be a switch in context to extended relatives or friends when His brothers and sisters are listed right after. Also, while there are Apostles named James, Simon and Judas, none was named Joseph.  Even "brothers" was referring to the Apostles in this verse, then who were the "sisters?"

 

 

The second objection that gets brought up is the passage in Matthew 1:24-25 "And Joseph rising up from sleep, did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him, and took unto him his wife. And he knew her not till she brought forth her firstborn son: and he called his name Jesus." Some argue that "firstborn" implies a second-born, but this is a misunderstanding of what "firstborn" means in Judaism - the child which opens the womb, and therefore is consecrated to God, as in Exodus 13:1-2. But the main argument people raise is the use of the word "until" and argue that this means they must have had sex after Jesus's birth. But this isn't always how the word "until" is used. We use it in expressions like, "Until we meet again, may God bless you" and in the Bible, "Christ must reign until He has put all His enemies under His feet." That doesn't mean that after you've met again, you want God to stop blessing someone, or that Jesus won't reign after His enemies are under His feet. Rather, it's emphasising what happens before the event is fulfilled.

 

So why the emphasis on Mary being a virgin up until Jesus was born? Likely, just to emphasise the fact that Jesus has no human father, and that Joseph had nothing to do with Jesus's conception or development in pregnancy. I think that's particularly important considering that it's only in the last two-hundred years that we've become aware of exactly how conception and pregnancy works, and that after conception, having sex isn't going to have any impact on the child.

 

It is true that "firstborn" may or may not imply any future children after the first one. In Luke 2:7 refers Jesus as "the firstborn." However, in the chapter before it in Luke 1:57 it refers to Elizabeth and Zacharias' only child as "son." That doesn't prove Mary had other children but the implication is stronger to that idea than her not having any more children.

 

It is also true that the word "until" doesn't always mean something happened after the fact. But when "until" is preceded by a negative ("knew her not"), it always implies that a negated action took place later. Also, Matthew 1:25 is used in connection in Matthew 1:18 which says. "Before they came together, she [Mary] was found to be with child of the Holy Spirit." The phrase "came together" means a physical union in a sexual sense (it also means orgasm too. lol). We know that Mary was a virgin at least up until the birth of Christ. It's likely that Matthew uses "till" and "before" to emphasize a opposite post-condition to a virgin state.

 

 

 

In Luke 1:34, when the Angel Gabriel tells Mary that she is to be the mother of Jesus, Mary asks, "How shall this be, since I know not man?" Now, we know that Mary is already "espoused" to Joseph, which meant that he already had the right to consummate the marriage with her. There's nothing in what the angel says that suggests that Jesus's conception is going to be anything other than the natural way - all he says is "You will conceive your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus". There'd be no reason for Mary to ask how it would happen - for all she knows Jesus will be conceived in the ordinary way - unless, of course, she wasn't planning on ever consummating her marriage with Joseph.

 

Mary said, "How shall this be, since I know not man?" That is in the present tense. Obviously that would be the natural response because she hadn't had sexual relations at the point. If she was planning on never having sex or somehow took a vow of celibacy, then she would have said something like, "How shall this be, since I will never know man?" We've already established that forgeries like the PoJ is not a reliable support for any sort of vow of celibacy that Mary may or may not have made. Finally, if Mary and Joseph didn't have sex, then they would be disobeying Old Testament command to be fruitful and the New Testament command to not deprive each other sexually. Therefore, they would be sinning, which runs into all sorts of theological incompatibilities if you were also to believe in the Immaculate Conception.

 

 

 

Another argument is that when Jesus is dying on the cross, He entrusts Mary to the apostle John, asking him to take her into his house and look after her as his mother. If Mary did have other biological sons, then it would be their duty to take care of her, not John's.

 

In Matthew 26:31,56 and in John 7:5, Jesus' family and apostles fled and deserted him. Since John was the only one who remained at Jesus' side at the cross, he would be the logical choice to entrust Mary into his care.  I mean would you entrust your own mother to a family member who abandoned you? I certainly wouldn't. I'd rather place my trust in a family friend who was there for me in hard times. Furthermore, Jesus says in Matthew 12:48-50 that anyone who does the will of the Father is his brother, sister and mother. You and I and anyone else who puts their faith in Him is just as much part of Jesus' family as His own blood relatives.

 

The early Christians believed in Mary's perpetual virginity, as did Martin Luther and Ulrich Zwingli. Even John Calvin, whilst he wasn't certain about it, agreed that the Bible references to "brethren", "firstborn" and the "until" don't tell us anything on the subject.

 

 

Yeah well, there were also numerous Church Fathers, Catholic theologians, popes and saints who didn't believe in many dogmas of the Church today. The difference is the Reformers never claimed infallibility like the Church does. So at least the Reformers have the luxury of being wrong.

 

From a theological perspective, Mary is also called the Bride of the Holy Spirit. The language used in Luke 1, that the Holy Spirit will "overshadow" her so that she will conceive Jesus, is nuptial language, like that in Ruth 3:8, where Ruth tells Boaz "spread your skirt over me" (don't laugh, men wore skirts). Joseph is Mary's legal husband, and he's the legal father of Jesus, but she's conceived Jesus through the Holy Spirit. It probably wouldn't have been a sin per se for him to have consummated the marriage to Mary, but it'd be very unfitting - she's been chosen to bear God's son, and her body has become God's physical temple. It's fitting for her to remain a virgin, for God alone.

 

 

Is it fitting for the King of kings, the Alpha and the Omega to be born into poverty in a smelly, dirty manger? Is it fitting for God Himself to be tortured, beaten, mocked and executed in disgrace? Not at all. So it's fallacious to base the Perpetual Virginity on the idea that it's just not fitting. Jesus deserves all the praise and glory that is due to Him, yet He chose to humble Himself and become one of us to give His life in the most horrific way possible.

 

More importantly, sex within marriage is quite the opposite of anything remotely a sin. God created it and commanded it. He would not create anything that was inherently "dirty." In fact, in Ephesians 5:31-32 says, "For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh. This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church.” Sexual relations is symbolic to Christ's relationship with the Church. How could that be anything but beautiful and holy?

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Thank you, Jegsy, for your (as always) detailed and interesting answer! Having read both yours and Vince's, I must say I agree more with Vince here, but I admire how both of you can argue your points of view so well and make them so interesting to read. :D Though at this point in the debate I'm pretty much like

 

187_zpskidjf5xb.gif

 

(The text gets weird after that, with a woman saying, "Oh, a virgin's given birth, I'm not believing that. I'm going to go look and see what she looks like," and she ...uh...checks her out, and gets her hand burned off by a mysterious fire, and she starts screaming, "Lord, Lord, forgive me," and an angel appears and says, "Hey, just hold your arm out to the baby there, and He'll fix you up," so she does, and she gets her hand back... Yeah, it's at this point that I think the writer has just decided to make stuff up he thought would be a cool symbol, or something. Even so, I liked the light image.)

 

Gotta love those apocryphal texts. Kind of reminds me of this article :P

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Thank you, Jegsy, for your (as always) detailed and interesting answer! Having read both yours and Vince's, I must say I agree more with Vince here, but I admire how both of you can argue your points of view so well and make them so interesting to read. :D Though at this point in the debate I'm pretty much like

 

187_zpskidjf5xb.gif

 

 

Gotta love those apocryphal texts. Kind of reminds me of this article :P

I'm with you! :) I don't really get in these discussions, but I love reading them. I usually learn something, as well, and that's always fun.

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Thank you, Jegsy, for your (as always) detailed and interesting answer! Having read both yours and Vince's, I must say I agree more with Vince here, but I admire how both of you can argue your points of view so well and make them so interesting to read. :D Though at this point in the debate I'm pretty much like

 

187_zpskidjf5xb.gif

 

 

Gotta love those apocryphal texts. Kind of reminds me of this article :P

 

Dang, you beat me to it. Earlier I was looking for this smiley I remembered seeing before and just found it.

 

TenseEarlyImperialeagle.gif

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Okay, I should say there is no biblical evidence for Joseph's children from a previous marriage. The Proteoevangelium of James is not a reliable aid in helping interpret the Bible because it contradicts a lot of details in the Bible. 

 

To be clear, I'm not saying that the Protoevangelium of James is a fully reliable source. It's obviously not - the author has clearly expanded on what we know from the Gospel, probably to emphasise elements they considered important, or for symbolic reasons. I was simply pointing out that it's interesting that we have this idea of Mary being a consecrated virgin, and although it was written later, it's only a few generations later. You'd have Christians at the time who'd listened to their parents telling them what they'd learned first-hand about Mary and Joseph. I'm certainly not saying that the consecrated virgin theory is true, just that if it were true, it would explain a lot.

 

 

Actually there is a verse that says Mary had other children. Psalm 69:8 is a messianic prophecy of the coming of Jesus which says, "I have been estranged from my brothers, and a alien to my mother's sons." Which was fulfilled in John 7:5, "For not even His brothers were believing in Him."

 

Psalm 69 also contains many verses that don't fit the messianic prophecy. For example, verse 11 has the speaker wearing sackcloth, and we have no references in the Gospels to Jesus wearing sackcloth. There are lots of verses where the speaker is asking God to save them from deep waters, and that they are sinking beneath the waves, something we know Jesus did the exact opposite of. Most importantly, verse 5 has the speaker talking about the wrongs he has done God, and that certainly can't be Jesus, because we know He never sinned.

 

Not every verse fits the messianic prophecy. We're not supposed to take the speaker of the psalm as being Jesus - some are the words of the psalmist, and some will be poetic images and language which is supposed to apply to anyone who's in a similar situation of calling for God's aid and protection.

 

 

The James in Galatians 1:18-19 doesn't necessarily have to be identified as one of the two of the original 12 Apostles. First, others outside the Twelve have been called apostles, namely Paul and Barnabas (Act 4:36). Secondly, if the word "brother" can be extended to friends or the original Twelve, then which of the 2 Apostles called James is Paul referring to? He could have easily identified James as Son of Zebedee or son of Alphaenus to avoid confusion, but he didn't. He just says the Lord's brother, so we can conclude that he is referring to James the Just, the Lord's actual brother. That makes sense in light of Matthew 13:55-56 because Matthew refers to Jesus' actual mother, Mary and father, the carpenter (Joseph). Given the context of starting with his actual immediate family, it makes no sense for there to be a switch in context to extended relatives or friends when His brothers and sisters are listed right after. Also, while there are Apostles named James, Simon and Judas, none was named Joseph.  Even "brothers" was referring to the Apostles in this verse, then who were the "sisters?"

 

I think it's unlikely that the term "apostles" is being used as a general term. Paul is talking about going "up to Jerusalem" right after his conversion, at an early date, and he's going to get approval lest he "should be running or had run in vain". I think it's far more likely he's going to see the Apostles as in "the twelve".

 

We also know that James the son of Zebedee was martyred early on, so Paul wouldn't necessarily need to clarify which James it was he met with.

 

Your argument "Given the context of starting with his actual immediate family, it makes no sense for there to be a switch in context to extended relatives or friends when His brothers and sisters are listed right after." doesn't make sense to me. If Jesus doesn't have any literal brothers and sisters, then right after you've mentioned His parents, the next closest relatives would indeed be uncles, aunts, cousins etc. (and, of course, step-siblings, if Joseph was previously married). If you're trying to say, "Hey, this guy is claiming to be God, but we know all his family members," then it seems reasonable to point out, "Look, he has a huge family network of uncles and cousins who are all biologically related to him."

 

 

It is true that "firstborn" may or may not imply any future children after the first one. In Luke 2:7 refers Jesus as "the firstborn." However, in the chapter before it in Luke 1:57 it refers to Elizabeth and Zacharias' only child as "son." That doesn't prove Mary had other children but the implication is stronger to that idea than her not having any more children.

 

Like you say, that doesn't prove Mary had other children. It just says, Elizabeth had a son. "First-born", as I said, is a word which holds a lot of weight to it, like the fact that first-borns are the ones who are consecrated to God.

 

 

It is also true that the word "until" doesn't always mean something happened after the fact. But when "until" is preceded by a negative ("knew her not"), it always implies that a negated action took place later. Also, Matthew 1:25 is used in connection in Matthew 1:18 which says. "Before they came together, she [Mary] was found to be with child of the Holy Spirit." The phrase "came together" means a physical union in a sexual sense (it also means orgasm too. lol). We know that Mary was a virgin at least up until the birth of Christ. It's likely that Matthew uses "till" and "before" to emphasize a opposite post-condition to a virgin state.

 

Your argument "When 'until' is preceded by a negative it always implies that a negated action took place" seems to be based more on the semantics of the English language, not Greek. (I'm not an Ancient Greek scholar, of course, so I can't argue one way or the other on how Greek works, but you'd really need an Ancient Greek expert to clear this one up).

 

"Came together" means to come together in a sexual sense? I would think it would be referring to how they had yet to live together, since as you know, that's how the Jewish marriage ceremony worked at the time - you were legally married, but it wasn't until later that you shared a house. Some translations will say Mary and Joseph were "betrothed", but legally, they were already married. Is the phrase "to come together" used anywhere else as a metaphor for sex? Usually, the Bible uses "to know" or "to lie with".

 

 

Mary said, "How shall this be, since I know not man?" That is in the present tense. Obviously that would be the natural response because she hadn't had sexual relations at the point. If she was planning on never having sex or somehow took a vow of celibacy, then she would have said something like, "How shall this be, since I will never know man?" We've already established that forgeries like the PoJ is not a reliable support for any sort of vow of celibacy that Mary may or may not have made. Finally, if Mary and Joseph didn't have sex, then they would be disobeying Old Testament command to be fruitful and the New Testament command to not deprive each other sexually. Therefore, they would be sinning, which runs into all sorts of theological incompatibilities if you were also to believe in the Immaculate Conception.

 

 

But the angel doesn't say, "Mary, you are going to become pregnant right this second," or "You're already pregnant." The angel says, "You will have a son." That's future tense, and the angel doesn't give any date of when this will happen, just that it is going to at some point. So even if Mary was planning to have sex later in her marriage, it wouldn't make sense to ask how she could become pregnant - it'd be obvious. I think "I know not man" isn't just saying, "At this point in time, I know not man" but rather, as a nun might say, "I know not man" - it's a statement about Mary herself, not just the point in time she's at in her life.

 

Also, whilst "Be fruitful and multiply" is generally true for ordinary married couples, I don't think it works to try to apply that to an extraordinary circumstance, like a family in which you have a child who is also God. We're not dealing with ordinary circumstances here. Personally, I don't see how you could be any more fruitful that to have given birth to Jesus, who in turn gives life to everyone in the world.

 

And it's wrong for a couple to deprive each other sexually. It's certainly not wrong if the couple freely choose not to have sex.

 

 

In Matthew 26:31,56 and in John 7:5, Jesus' family and apostles fled and deserted him. Since John was the only one who remained at Jesus' side at the cross, he would be the logical choice to entrust Mary into his care.  I mean would you entrust your own mother to a family member who abandoned you? I certainly wouldn't. I'd rather place my trust in a family friend who was there for me in hard times. Furthermore, Jesus says in Matthew 12:48-50 that anyone who does the will of the Father is his brother, sister and mother. You and I and anyone else who puts their faith in Him is just as much part of Jesus' family as His own blood relatives.

 

I think that's a very weak argument. Would I entrust my mother to my own brother over my best friend? Of course I would - my brother would have a natural obligation to look after her, because she'd be his mother, who gave birth to him and raised him. My best friend might be more loyal, but it's only right to say to my brother, "Look, you've disappointed me, but she is your mother and therefore it is only right that you spend the rest of your life making sure she's looked after." In a Jewish culture, I'm pretty sure there would be legal responsibilities, too. Even more so if Jesus could see into His brother's heart - His brother presumably wants to take care of Mary, and would be devastated if Jesus decided without even consulting him that a friend was better suited to look after her than her own flesh and blood. I highly doubt Jesus would do such a thing unless His brother were evil and was going to mistreat Mary, not just because he got scared and ran away. And this decision would last even after he'd returned to Jesus and Jesus had forgiven Him - he'd still have to carry the shame (and, frankly, devastation) that his mother wasn't going to be living with him, but with his friend. The others who ran away are all forgiven and return to their leadership positions in the Church, but he still doesn't get his mother back? Again, I highly doubt that's something Jesus would do. Far more likely that there were no other brothers to look after Mary.

 

 

Yeah well, there were also numerous Church Fathers, Catholic theologians, popes and saints who didn't believe in many dogmas of the Church today. The difference is the Reformers never claimed infallibility like the Church does. So at least the Reformers have the luxury of being wrong.

 

You're saying "numerous", Vince, but I can't find that. Even in the very early days, there was support for the perpetual virginity of Mary, and as far as I can tell, it only seems to have grown, to the point where it seems to be nearly unanimous by about the 7th century all the way up to the 16th. The Protestant reformers believed it.Some Lutherans and Anglicans still believe it, as do the Eastern Orthodox. It seems like the major rejection of it by Protestants seems to be a combination of rejecting anything not explicitly spelled out in the Bible, and a dislike of anything that seemed to legitimise priestly celibacy or that venerated Mary. Like throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

 

 

Is it fitting for the King of kings, the Alpha and the Omega to be born into poverty in a smelly, dirty manger? Is it fitting for God Himself to be tortured, beaten, mocked and executed in disgrace? Not at all. So it's fallacious to base the Perpetual Virginity on the idea that it's just not fitting. Jesus deserves all the praise and glory that is due to Him, yet He chose to humble Himself and become one of us to give His life in the most horrific way possible.

 

I'm not basing the perpetual virginity on the fact that anything else is "not fitting". I'm just pointing out that it is fitting. 

 

 

More importantly, sex within marriage is quite the opposite of anything remotely a sin. God created it and commanded it. He would not create anything that was inherently "dirty." In fact, in Ephesians 5:31-32 says, "For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh. This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church.” Sexual relations is symbolic to Christ's relationship with the Church. How could that be anything but beautiful and holy?

 

Oh, come now, Vincey, you know I didn't say "Sex within marriage is a sin" and you know that I'm the last person in the world who would do so. Of course it's beautiful and holy. But compared to being overshadowed by the Holy Spirit, impregnated with the very Son of God, and your body becoming a living tabernacle for God's Son? Yes, sex with a human being is a step down from that. Again, it's not an argument in and of itself, but all I'm doing is pointing out that it's fitting.

 

One more thing: if I weren't Catholic, and were trying to find out whether or not Mary was a virgin her whole life, I don't see how I could possibly do it based on the Bible alone. I do think the evidence for my side is stronger, but a Protestant could quite reasonably claim, "Well, I interpret these passages of the Bible to say something different." Most of the verses can be argued either way, as you've shown. Does that passages in Psalms 69 apply to Jesus or not - well, you can argue either way. Are those biological brothers, or not - again, it could go either way. Even your argument about Jesus leaving Mary to John because His brothers ran away - well, I don't think it's a good argument, but it's not impossible. It could be true.

 

This is exactly why I think Protestantism and Sola Scriptura don't work. It's not enough to just say, "Just read the Bible, and you'll get everything you need to know from there." You can argue both for and against the Trinity, for goodness sake, if all you're reading is the Bible. Some things aren't obvious. You need another authority to interpret the Bible and clarify moral teachings.

 

xxx

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Jegsy Scarr, on 06 May 2015 - 4:41 PM, said:

 

It probably wouldn't have been a sin per se for him to have consummated the marriage to Mary, but it'd be very unfitting - she's been chosen to bear God's son, and her body has become God's physical temple. It's fitting for her to remain a virgin, for God alone.

 

 

Invincible, on 06 May 2015 - 10:57 PM, said:

 

Is it fitting for the King of kings, the Alpha and the Omega to be born into poverty in a smelly, dirty manger? Is it fitting for God Himself to be tortured, beaten, mocked and executed in disgrace? Not at all. So it's fallacious to base the Perpetual Virginity on the idea that it's just not fitting. Jesus deserves all the praise and glory that is due to Him, yet He chose to humble Himself and become one of us to give His life in the most horrific way possible.

 

I think I'll have to side with Jegs on her point about Mary's Perpetual Virginity; although, I do agree with you Vince that is  unfitting that Jesus be mocked, beaten,and to die on the cross and yet he chose to humble himself and become one of us and in the process to suffer and die on the cross (a death that was reserved for criminals). 

 

Here's my argument:

 

    Question: Why is there a virgin birth?

Well, if you think about it, Jesus could have come into the world another way (he wouldn't need to be born).  Yet,  he choose to be born of a virgin. Why? Well, I think it would make sense to say Jesus needed to be born from a woman who is very good to bring him into this world. If the woman wasn't very good ( didn't possess human purity), there would be difficulty: namely, how could he be sinless if he was born from a sin-laden humanity?  If he was born of a sinful woman, wouldn't he partake in the guilt and sin that is shared by all humanity? So, there is a problem here: How could God become man and yet be a sinless man? First of all, he had to be man in order that he might be involved in someway in our humanity and take upon himself sins. But, at the same time, though Jesus had to be a perfect man he couldn't be a sinful man - a sinless man. He had to be outside the "current" of sin that has infected humanity. For example, imagine a ship that is sailing through foul waters heading into clear waters. In order for the two waters to not mix, a lock is placed between the two waters. The ship comes into the lock where the foul waters are separated , then the ship is lifted into the clear waters. Thus, Jesus somehow had to be related ( in so much as he was a man) to the sin of humanity and at the same time he had to be sinless so that he wouldn't need redemption but be the Redeemer. Now, the lock that lifted Jesus from the "current" of sin  and made him the sinless man was the virgin birth. 

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Your argument "When 'until' is preceded by a negative it always implies that a negated action took place" seems to be based more on the semantics of the English language, not Greek. (I'm not an Ancient Greek scholar, of course, so I can't argue one way or the other on how Greek works, but you'd really need an Ancient Greek expert to clear this one up).

 

"Came together" means to come together in a sexual sense? I would think it would be referring to how they had yet to live together, since as you know, that's how the Jewish marriage ceremony worked at the time - you were legally married, but it wasn't until later that you shared a house. Some translations will say Mary and Joseph were "betrothed", but legally, they were already married. Is the phrase "to come together" used anywhere else as a metaphor for sex? Usually, the Bible uses "to know" or "to lie with".

 

Couldn't resist :) I studied Ancient Greek for four years at school, I just enrolled for a BA in Ancient Greek and I read daily hymns and prayers in the original language. I'm by no means a scholar, so take what I'm about to say with a grain of salt, but I do have a pretty good level in the subject.

 

In this passage, the word used for "until" is Ï€Ïιν, which means "before", "preceding", "previously", "sooner" (you'd sooner waste hundreds of dollars than win the lottery). Though one of the events is sometimes a wish or a warning, as in the example I gave above, mostly they are both real events that can be measured in time.

 

Examples from my dictionary (Le Grand Bailly, Hachette, 2000, p.1621-1622):

"I won't let her go; old age will reach her first in my palace."

"The prodigy that had previously happened"

"You won't gain anything by weeping over your son, you won't resuscitate him; you would sooner suffer another tragedy."

"I will not rest before I have completely beaten the Trojans."

 

So in the case of Matthew 1:18, it simply means that they discovered Mary was pregnant before anything happened between them. Whether the "before" action ended up happening isn't mentioned.

 

The second word I'd like to bring up is "come together". In the Greek text, this is συνελθεῑν, which means "meet", "unite", "reunite", "come together as one group/family/community". It can also be used as a euphemism to describe a man and a woman having sex, but the general idea is that two things that were previously separate become one. For example, a man and a woman moving into the same household. It's not an explicitly sexual verb.

 

That said, from what I've understood, Catholics (and maybe other Christians, I don't know) believe that sex is the act that fully unites a married couple. I seem to recall someone (Jegsy?) saying that before a married couple have intercourse, they're married but not "fully one". So if that is what you believe, in this case, the interpretation that ÏƒÏ…νελθεῑν refers to sex makes a lot of sense.

 

Now that that's cleared up, I'll let you go back to your debate :P If you need more Ancient Greek translations, I'm always here!

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Ooh, I should have asked you about the Greek! Thanks!

 

 

That said, from what I've understood, Catholics (and maybe other Christians, I don't know) believe that sex is the act that fully unites a married couple. I seem to recall someone (Jegsy?) saying that before a married couple have intercourse, they're married but not "fully one". So if that is what you believe, in this case, the interpretation that ÏƒÏ…νελθεῑν refers to sex makes a lot of sense.

 

Well, the expression used would be husband and wife becoming "one" or "one flesh", but there's obviously only so far you can take that. Yes, they physically join together, and there's the creation of one complete reproductive system, and it's a deep spiritual connection, but it's obviously not a literal thing. You still have separate souls, and you obviously don't turn into some androgynous creature like Hermaphroditus and Salmacis (she is one messed up nymph).

 

I mean, like I said, the idea of Mary being a consecrated virgin isn't something that's definitively taught by the Church, just that it's a possibility. There are still those who believe in Mary's perpetual virginity, but believe that Mary and Joseph were originally planning a regular marriage, and just changed their minds when they discovered they'd been chosen to be the mother and foster-father of God's Son. I still think the phrase "How can this be since I know not man" is a suggestion towards consecrated virginity, but either position works. So I guess the phrase "came together" could work either way.

 

xxx

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Psalm 69 also contains many verses that don't fit the messianic prophecy. For example, verse 11 has the speaker wearing sackcloth, and we have no references in the Gospels to Jesus wearing sackcloth. There are lots of verses where the speaker is asking God to save them from deep waters, and that they are sinking beneath the waves, something we know Jesus did the exact opposite of. Most importantly, verse 5 has the speaker talking about the wrongs he has done God, and that certainly can't be Jesus, because we know He never sinned.

 

Not every verse fits the messianic prophecy. We're not supposed to take the speaker of the psalm as being Jesus - some are the words of the psalmist, and some will be poetic images and language which is supposed to apply to anyone who's in a similar situation of calling for God's aid and protection.

 

 

Somehow I figured you'd point that out, even though I provided the NT verse that fulfilled it. So I'll go more in depth to show this particular passage is indeed a messianic prophecy. If we look at the following verse in Psalm 69:9, "for the zeal of your house consumes me, and the insults of those who insult you fall on me."

 

The first half of the verse was fulfilled in John 2:15-17 when Jesus was clearing the temple market, "So he made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple area, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. To those who sold doves he said, 'Get these out of here! How dare you turn my Father's house into a market!'  His disciples remembered that it is written: 'Zeal for your house will consume me.'"

 

The second half is fulfilled in Romans 15:3, "For even Christ did not please himself but, as it is written: 'The insults of those who insult you have fallen on me.'”

 

So you see, Psalm 69:8-9 are messianic prophecies because they have been attributed to Jesus in the NT. Therefore, the many mentions of Jesus' brothers are Mary's sons as said in verse 8.

 

 

I think it's unlikely that the term "apostles" is being used as a general term. Paul is talking about going "up to Jerusalem" right after his conversion, at an early date, and he's going to get approval lest he "should be running or had run in vain". I think it's far more likely he's going to see the Apostles as in "the twelve".

 

We also know that James the son of Zebedee was martyred early on, so Paul wouldn't necessarily need to clarify which James it was he met with.

 

Your argument "Given the context of starting with his actual immediate family, it makes no sense for there to be a switch in context to extended relatives or friends when His brothers and sisters are listed right after." doesn't make sense to me. If Jesus doesn't have any literal brothers and sisters, then right after you've mentioned His parents, the next closest relatives would indeed be uncles, aunts, cousins etc. (and, of course, step-siblings, if Joseph was previously married). If you're trying to say, "Hey, this guy is claiming to be God, but we know all his family members," then it seems reasonable to point out, "Look, he has a huge family network of uncles and cousins who are all biologically related to him."

 

 

 

Okay, let's assume that James the son of Zebedee has been martyred at this point. We still have James son of Alphaenus and James the Just to contend with. If Paul was just talking about the Twelve, he wouldn't need to identify James with "the Lord's brother" because the son of Alphaenus was the only James left alive of the Twelve. So he must be talking about James the Just, the Lord's brother.

 

Now I'd like to bring up Jude 1, "Jude, a servant of Jesus Christ and a brother of James." He's not the brother of James, he is a brother of James, which implies he had others. 

 

That fits Matthew 13:55, "Isn’t this the carpenter’s son? Isn’t his mother’s name Mary, and aren’t his brothers James, Joseph, Simon and Judas?"

 

Jude and Judas could be two separate people or the same person with interchangable names. Whatever the case, it is very likely that the Jude and James in Jude's epistle are also Jesus' brothers as well. The son of Zebedee and Alphaenus do not have a brother named Jude that we are aware of.

 

 

To address your uncles or cousin's argument, in other places in Matthew we see the Greek term "adelphos," which means brother to describe blood siblings. For example, in Matthew 4:18, Peter and Andrew are identified as sibling brothers. How do we know they are blood siblings? In verse 21 shortly after, we see John and James called brothers and it says they share the same father, Zebedee. There is no suggestion that Peter and Andrew has a different brother relationship than that of John and James. Likewise Matthew, the same inspired author made no suggestion of any change in context in Matthew 13:55 regarding Jesus' brothers. The only way you're going to get some other relatives in there is by some preconceived notion.

 

The fact is that unlike Hebrew, there is a separate word for cousin in Greek which is "anepsios." That word is used in Colossians 4:10. Then we also have "suggenes" which is a general term for extended relatives that is used in Mark 6:4, which is used in contrast to prophet's immediate household. Matthew could have used any of these words but he didn't. The Holy Spirit inspired him to write "brothers." It's clear given the pattern that Jesus had actual blood brothers and sisters.

 

 

Your argument "When 'until' is preceded by a negative it always implies that a negated action took place" seems to be based more on the semantics of the English language, not Greek. (I'm not an Ancient Greek scholar, of course, so I can't argue one way or the other on how Greek works, but you'd really need an Ancient Greek expert to clear this one up).

 

"Came together" means to come together in a sexual sense? I would think it would be referring to how they had yet to live together, since as you know, that's how the Jewish marriage ceremony worked at the time - you were legally married, but it wasn't until later that you shared a house. Some translations will say Mary and Joseph were "betrothed", but legally, they were already married. Is the phrase "to come together" used anywhere else as a metaphor for sex? Usually, the Bible uses "to know" or "to lie with".

 

 

 

Fair enough. Let's call impasse on this one since neither you or I are Greek scholars and we run the risk of going in circles. Though I do appreciate CrystalFaerie's input  :)

 

 

 

Jegsy Scarr, on 07 May 2015 - 9:34 PM, said:snapback.png

 

 

But the angel doesn't say, "Mary, you are going to become pregnant right this second," or "You're already pregnant." The angel says, "Youwill have a son." That's future tense, and the angel doesn't give any date of when this will happen, just that it is going to at some point. So even if Mary was planning to have sex later in her marriage, it wouldn't make sense to ask how she could become pregnant - it'd be obvious. I think "I know not man" isn't just saying, "At this point in time, I know not man" but rather, as a nun might say, "I know not man" - it's a statement about Mary herself, not just the point in time she's at in her life.

 

Also, whilst "Be fruitful and multiply" is generally true for ordinary married couples, I don't think it works to try to apply that to an extraordinary circumstance, like a family in which you have a child who is also God. We're not dealing with ordinary circumstances here. Personally, I don't see how you could be any more fruitful that to have given birth to Jesus, who in turn gives life to everyone in the world.

 

And it's wrong for a couple to deprive each other sexually. It's certainly not wrong if the couple freely choose not to have sex.

 

 

 

 

 

Mary and Joseph were betrothed but not actually married at this point yet. Though in Jewish culture it was not uncommon for sexual relations to happen during this stage, But the fact remains that she answered in the present tense, which implies she understood that the conception would be relatively soon thereafter. The most you can prove is that she and Joseph abstained from sex during their betrothal and not after. Plus if Mary took a vow of celibacy then she wouldn't have married at all. Getting married to Joseph would only raise the risk of her breaking the vow. That would be like vowing to abstain from alcohol your whole life yet owning a wine cellar in your own house. You're just tempting yourself.

 

If we were to believe that Joseph had children from a previous marriage, then it's logical to conclude that he had at least some sort of sexual appetite. But that's beside the point.

 

 

Jegsy Scarr, on 07 May 2015 - 9:34 PM, said:snapback.png

I think that's a very weak argument. Would I entrust my mother to my own brother over my best friend? Of course I would - my brother would have a natural obligation to look after her, because she'd be his mother, who gave birth to him and raised him. My best friend might be more loyal, but it's only right to say to my brother, "Look, you've disappointed me, but she is your mother and therefore it is only right that you spend the rest of your life making sure she's looked after." In a Jewish culture, I'm pretty sure there would be legal responsibilities, too. Even more so if Jesus could see into His brother's heart - His brother presumably wants to take care of Mary, and would be devastated if Jesus decided without even consulting him that a friend was better suited to look after her than her own flesh and blood. I highly doubt Jesus would do such a thing unless His brother were evil and was going to mistreat Mary, not just because he got scared and ran away. And this decision would last even after he'd returned to Jesus and Jesus had forgiven Him - he'd still have to carry the shame (and, frankly, devastation) that his mother wasn't going to be living with him, but with his friend. The others who ran away are all forgiven and return to their leadership positions in the Church, but he still doesn't get his mother back? Again, I highly doubt that's something Jesus would do. Far more likely that there were no other brothers to look after Mary.

 

 

It is not a weak argument at all. First, if you're going to argue that the legal responsibility disproves Mary having other children, that poses a problem. To be consistent, that would also disprove Jesus' "brothers" being extended relatives or Joseph's children from a previous marriage. Otherwise the legal responsibility would fall on them and not John.

 

As I said before, Jesus clearly taught that being a spiritual family is greater than blood relations in Matthew 12:48-50. Jesus' brothers were unbelievers, even to the point of joining up with Mary to hinder His ministry in Mark 3:31-35. Sure His brothers could provide for Mary in a physical sense, but they would be detrimental to her spiritual needs, which is far more important than her physical needs. On the other hand, John has been described as "the disciple whom Jesus loved." He was an intimate friend and was faithful to Jesus when the other Apostles abandoned Him. Given the complete package that John could offer over the brothers, the choice is quite clear and easy.

 

Jegsy Scarr, on 07 May 2015 - 9:34 PM, said:snapback.png

You're saying "numerous", Vince, but I can't find that. Even in the very early days, there was support for the perpetual virginity of Mary, and as far as I can tell, it only seems to have grown, to the point where it seems to be nearly unanimous by about the 7th century all the way up to the 16th. The Protestant reformers believed it.Some Lutherans and Anglicans still believe it, as do the Eastern Orthodox. It seems like the major rejection of it by Protestants seems to be a combination of rejecting anything not explicitly spelled out in the Bible, and a dislike of anything that seemed to legitimise priestly celibacy or that venerated Mary. Like throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

 

I was referring to other Catholic dogmas actually. But I won't get into all that because that would require another new thread and several pages worth of thread just for one post from me.  :P

 

Jegsy Scarr, on 07 May 2015 - 9:34 PM, said:snapback.png

I'm not basing the perpetual virginity on the fact that anything else is "not fitting". I'm just pointing out that it is fitting. 

 

 

Whoops, that was a typo. Didn't meant to add the word "not." lol

 

 

Jegsy Scarr, on 07 May 2015 - 9:34 PM, said:snapback.png

Oh, come now, Vincey, you know I didn't say "Sex within marriage is a sin" and you know that I'm the last person in the world who would do so. Of course it's beautiful and holy. But compared to being overshadowed by the Holy Spirit, impregnated with the very Son of God, and your body becoming a living tabernacle for God's Son? Yes, sex with a human being is a step down from that. Again, it's not an argument in and of itself, but all I'm doing is pointing out that it's fitting.

 

I know what  you said and I am fully aware you agree with me regarding sex. I'm just simply going off your point when you said, "It probably wouldn't have been a sin per se." You just made it sound like it would be something almost neutral, neither good nor sinful.  Maybe that wasn't your intention, all I'm saying is that is how it came off. If anything, I'd argue combining two beautiful things together makes it even better. Having the Holy Spirit endow in you and joining sexually to symbolize Christ's relationship with the Church.

 

Jegsy Scarr, on 07 May 2015 - 9:34 PM, said:snapback.png

One more thing: if I weren't Catholic, and were trying to find out whether or not Mary was a virgin her whole life, I don't see how I could possibly do it based on the Bible alone. I do think the evidence for my side is stronger, but a Protestant could quite reasonably claim, "Well, I interpret these passages of the Bible to say something different." Most of the verses can be argued either way, as you've shown. Does that passages in Psalms 69 apply to Jesus or not - well, you can argue either way. Are those biological brothers, or not - again, it could go either way. Even your argument about Jesus leaving Mary to John because His brothers ran away - well, I don't think it's a good argument, but it's not impossible. It could be true.

 

This is exactly why I think Protestantism and Sola Scriptura don't work. It's not enough to just say, "Just read the Bible, and you'll get everything you need to know from there." You can argue both for and against the Trinity, for goodness sake, if all you're reading is the Bible. Some things aren't obvious. You need another authority to interpret the Bible and clarify moral teachings.

 

Well first I think you may misunderstand what Sola Scriptura actually means. It doesn't mean that the Bible is theonly source of authority, it simply means it is the final authority. We can still reference tradition, councils, history, creeds, patristic writings etc to help us understand our faith. But those things are simply subject to Scripture to be tested. That was the view of the Reformers. It was nothing like the "Bible only and nothing else" evangelicals that you see today.

 

I as a Protestant can flip it around and say the Catholic system is really not too different from the Protestants. The difference is the Catholic Church has a more pronounced hierarchy. The pope and the bishops don't receive brand new revelation, they simply clarify and dogmatize what has allegedly always been believed by the Church. They don't just wake up one day after receiving a vision from God and "It's all clear now!" They come to their conclusion the same way as anyone else, by studying the Bible and other materials. So no matter which system you're using, it all comes down to their own reasoning.

 

It's also interesting what Jimmy Akin once said on his website:

 

Quote

 

The Church has not established the correct interpretation of the great majority of Scripture passages. It has taught that Scripture and the faith do not conflict, so if you know your Catholic faith well then that will help you discern what a particular passage of Scripture DOESN’T mean, but it normally will not help you identify precisely what it DOES mean. Consequently, there is always risk of error in Scripture interpretation. We can’t eliminate that risk.

 

So basically we have one of the finest apologists admitting that a Catholic can never be 100% he or she has the correction interpretation even with the Church's guidance. So by the Catholic standard, I have no reason to take any biblical interpretation from any apologist seriously because even they cannot be completely sure of it. Or worse, a hundred years from now the Church could finally infallibly define said interpretation with a completely opposite meaning.

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    Question: Why is there a virgin birth?

Well, if you think about it, Jesus could have come into the world another way (he wouldn't need to be born).  Yet,  he choose to be born of a virgin. Why? Well, I think it would make sense to say Jesus needed to be born from a woman who is very good to bring him into this world. If the woman wasn't very good ( didn't possess human purity), there would be difficulty: namely, how could he be sinless if he was born from a sin-laden humanity?  If he was born of a sinful woman, wouldn't he partake in the guilt and sin that is shared by all humanity? So, there is a problem here: How could God become man and yet be a sinless man? First of all, he had to be man in order that he might be involved in someway in our humanity and take upon himself sins. But, at the same time, though Jesus had to be a perfect man he couldn't be a sinful man - a sinless man. He had to be outside the "current" of sin that has infected humanity. For example, imagine a ship that is sailing through foul waters heading into clear waters. In order for the two waters to not mix, a lock is placed between the two waters. The ship comes into the lock where the foul waters are separated , then the ship is lifted into the clear waters. Thus, Jesus somehow had to be related ( in so much as he was a man) to the sin of humanity and at the same time he had to be sinless so that he wouldn't need redemption but be the Redeemer. Now, the lock that lifted Jesus from the "current" of sin  and made him the sinless man was the virgin birth. 

 

How can Jesus be born of a sinner and not be tainted by sin, you ask? Because He is God and nothing can harm or taint His holy and divine spirit. 2 Corinthians 5:21 says, "God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God." This is the whole point of the Gospel itself. Jesus came to be the only perfect and sinless sacrifice for our sins. If He can bear the weight of the world's sin on His shoulders, why can't be protect Himself from the sin of His mother?

 

Arguing that Jesus couldn't possibly have been born from a sinner is to say that God can't do something and I don't think anyone wants to imply that. But let's say it wasn't possible and He had to have been born from another sinless being. Then Mary would have had to have a sinless mother and so would her grandmother and for all generations before. We would have an entire lineage of sinless beings if not the entire human race. That would defeat the purpose of Jesus coming to this world in the first place.

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Somehow I figured you'd point that out, even though I provided the NT verse that fulfilled it. So I'll go more in depth to show this particular passage is indeed a messianic prophecy. If we look at the following verse in Psalm 69:9, "for the zeal of your house consumes me, and the insults of those who insult you fall on me."

 

The first half of the verse was fulfilled in John 2:15-17 when Jesus was clearing the temple market, "So he made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple area, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. To those who sold doves he said, 'Get these out of here! How dare you turn my Father's house into a market!'  His disciples remembered that it is written: 'Zeal for your house will consume me.'"

 

The second half is fulfilled in Romans 15:3, "For even Christ did not please himself but, as it is written: 'The insults of those who insult you have fallen on me.'”

 

So you see, Psalm 69:8-9 are messianic prophecies because they have been attributed to Jesus in the NT. Therefore, the many mentions of Jesus' brothers are Mary's sons as said in verse 8.

 

But those are clear references to Psalms 69:9 - John and Paul actually say "as it is written" and quote directly from the Psalm. But verse 8 isn't quoted from. You said that verse 8 "I have become a stranger to my brethren, an alien to my mother’s sons." is fulfilled by John 7:5 "For even His brothers were not believing in Him." If it's a reference to Psalm 69:8, then why doesn't John quote the verse, like he does in John 2:15-17.

 

The words aren't even the same. Psalm 69:8 says the speaker has become "a stranger" and "an alien". That's not the same as someone not believing in you. It's not obvious that it's a reference to verse 8, which I think means John would have had even more reason to quote from the Psalms - otherwise, the reader isn't going to get the parallel.

 

 

Okay, let's assume that James the son of Zebedee has been martyred at this point. We still have James son of Alphaenus and James the Just to contend with. If Paul was just talking about the Twelve, he wouldn't need to identify James with "the Lord's brother" because the son of Alphaenus was the only James left alive of the Twelve. So he must be talking about James the Just, the Lord's brother.

 

Now I'd like to bring up Jude 1, "Jude, a servant of Jesus Christ and a brother of James." He's not the brother of James, he is a brother of James, which implies he had others. 

 

That fits Matthew 13:55, "Isn’t this the carpenter’s son? Isn’t his mother’s name Mary, and aren’t his brothers James, Joseph, Simon and Judas?"

 

Jude and Judas could be two separate people or the same person with interchangable names. Whatever the case, it is very likely that the Jude and James in Jude's epistle are also Jesus' brothers as well. The son of Zebedee and Alphaenus do not have a brother named Jude that we are aware of.

 

To address your uncles or cousin's argument, in other places in Matthew we see the Greek term "adelphos," which means brother to describe blood siblings. For example, in Matthew 4:18, Peter and Andrew are identified as sibling brothers. How do we know they are blood siblings? In verse 21 shortly after, we see John and James called brothers and it says they share the same father, Zebedee. There is no suggestion that Peter and Andrew has a different brother relationship than that of John and James. Likewise Matthew, the same inspired author made no suggestion of any change in context in Matthew 13:55 regarding Jesus' brothers. The only way you're going to get some other relatives in there is by some preconceived notion.
 
The fact is that unlike Hebrew, there is a separate word for cousin in Greek which is "anepsios." That word is used in Colossians 4:10. Then we also have "suggenes" which is a general term for extended relatives that is used in Mark 6:4, which is used in contrast to prophet's immediate household. Matthew could have used any of these words but he didn't. The Holy Spirit inspired him to write "brothers." It's clear given the pattern that Jesus had actual blood brothers and sisters.

 

Can I be honest? I don't think either of us can prove anything here. If you assume that "brother" means "Mary's son", then all of your arguments work. But if you assume that "brother" means either "Joseph's son" or "a more distant male relative", then all of your arguments work to prove my case. I don't think either of us can win this one.

 

 

Mary and Joseph were betrothed but not actually married at this point yet. Though in Jewish culture it was not uncommon for sexual relations to happen during this stage, But the fact remains that she answered in the present tense, which implies she understood that the conception would be relatively soon thereafter. The most you can prove is that she and Joseph abstained from sex during their betrothal and not after. Plus if Mary took a vow of celibacy then she wouldn't have married at all. Getting married to Joseph would only raise the risk of her breaking the vow. That would be like vowing to abstain from alcohol your whole life yet owning a wine cellar in your own house. You're just tempting yourself.

 

If we were to believe that Joseph had children from a previous marriage, then it's logical to conclude that he had at least some sort of sexual appetite. But that's beside the point.

 

 

Vince, you're arguing, "Because she answered in the present tense, that means she knew conception would be soon after and not later." That's a circular argument. I'm pointing out that the angel said nothing that implies conception would be soon, just that it was going to happen, so if you were planning to have sex, it's odd that you'd ask "How can this be" - after all, angels tell a lot of people in the Bible that they're going to have a baby, and in all other cases, it's as a result of just having sex. There's no precedence for a virginal conception, so asking how it will happen suggests sex wasn't planned. But you're arguing, "Well, she must have known conception was to take place soon, because she answered 'I know not man', and therefore she must have known conception was to take place before she was due to have sex." You're asserting the very thing you're trying to prove.

 

And as I said, if Mary did take a vow of consecrated virginity, then it's not a case of, "Well, getting married means she'd be more likely to break that vow." Getting married would have been required by the temple authorities, so that the husbands would act as a protector. As for that being "tempting yourself", only if you're actually attracted to each other. If Joseph was much older, and saw Mary as more of a daughter or a sister to him than a wife, then it's probably not going to be a problem. 

 

 

It is not a weak argument at all. First, if you're going to argue that the legal responsibility disproves Mary having other children, that poses a problem. To be consistent, that would also disprove Jesus' "brothers" being extended relatives or Joseph's children from a previous marriage. Otherwise the legal responsibility would fall on them and not John.

 

As I said before, Jesus clearly taught that being a spiritual family is greater than blood relations in Matthew 12:48-50. Jesus' brothers were unbelievers, even to the point of joining up with Mary to hinder His ministry in Mark 3:31-35. Sure His brothers could provide for Mary in a physical sense, but they would be detrimental to her spiritual needs, which is far more important than her physical needs. On the other hand, John has been described as "the disciple whom Jesus loved." He was an intimate friend and was faithful to Jesus when the other Apostles abandoned Him. Given the complete package that John could offer over the brothers, the choice is quite clear and easy.

 

I disagree. Extended family don't have the same responsibilities that sons do. Responsibility, yes, but not as strong as if this were your own mother who'd given birth to you. It wouldn't be as problematic to have a friend look after your mother if there were no other sons who would do so.

 

 

I know what  you said and I am fully aware you agree with me regarding sex. I'm just simply going off your point when you said, "It probably wouldn't have been a sin per se." You just made it sound like it would be something almost neutral, neither good nor sinful.  Maybe that wasn't your intention, all I'm saying is that is how it came off. If anything, I'd argue combining two beautiful things together makes it even better. Having the Holy Spirit endow in you and joining sexually to symbolize Christ's relationship with the Church.

 

I'd say this just comes down to a difference in opinion between you and me. For example, the Catholic Church has both celibate and married priests. You'd probably argue, "Married priests are better, because it's beautiful to dedicate your life to God and to your family, and for children to have the example of a father serving God." I'd argue, "Unmarried priests are better, because it's beautiful to see a man who's given his entire life to God, forsaking personal pleasure and fulfilment, so that he can serve God and his congregation with all his body and soul and mind and heart." Neither or us are right: it's just a matter of opinion.

 

 

So basically we have one of the finest apologists admitting that a Catholic can never be 100% he or she has the correction interpretation even with the Church's guidance. So by the Catholic standard, I have no reason to take any biblical interpretation from any apologist seriously because even they cannot be completely sure of it. Or worse, a hundred years from now the Church could finally infallibly define said interpretation with a completely opposite meaning.

 

But the Church can't just define a Bible verse to mean something completely opposite from what it's always been taken to mean - that would ignore Sacred Tradition. The few verses that have been defined, for example, Matthew 16:18, defined as referring to Peter's authority - that verse has always been considered to show that. They couldn't just, for example, say, "Oh, that means 'Peter, you're actually insignificant and don't matter to God's plans at all'", because that would violate what Sacred Tradition has held for centuries.

 

 

How can Jesus be born of a sinner and not be tainted by sin, you ask? Because He is God and nothing can harm or taint His holy and divine spirit. 2 Corinthians 5:21 says, "God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God." This is the whole point of the Gospel itself. Jesus came to be the only perfect and sinless sacrifice for our sins. If He can bear the weight of the world's sin on His shoulders, why can't be protect Himself from the sin of His mother?

 

Arguing that Jesus couldn't possibly have been born from a sinner is to say that God can't do something and I don't think anyone wants to imply that. But let's say it wasn't possible and He had to have been born from another sinless being. Then Mary would have had to have a sinless mother and so would her grandmother and for all generations before. We would have an entire lineage of sinless beings if not the entire human race. That would defeat the purpose of Jesus coming to this world in the first place.

 

Yeah, I have to say I agree with Vince on this one. Again, it's not necessary for God to have saved Mary from falling into Original Sin, only fitting. For example, Catholics will see the Ark of the Covenant as an Old Testament type for Mary - the Ark was made of purest materials and carried the law inscribed in stone, the urn filled with manna, and the rod of Aaron the high priest; Mary was made without the stain of original sin and carried the law made flesh, the living Bread, and the eternal high priest. But, as Vince says, she didn't have to be without sin for Jesus to inherit a pure human nature, otherwise Mary's mother would also have to be without sin, and her mother, and so on.

 

xxx

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Here's a situation I heard of a while back that interested me. This middle aged couple is devoutly Catholic; they have the 10+ kids to show for it. Their marriage has utterly fallen apart, but they have not legally divorced. Instead, they live separate lives in two different states over a thousand miles apart. As far as anyone knows, they have not had any other relationships since the marriage effectively ended. In your opinion, would you say they are doing something wrong according to Catholic doctrine? Or, since they have not divorced or had any other relationships, are they simply making the best of a bad situation within the guidelines of Catholic beliefs?

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Here's a situation I heard of a while back that interested me. This middle aged couple is devoutly Catholic; they have the 10+ kids to show for it. Their marriage has utterly fallen apart, but they have not legally divorced. Instead, they live separate lives in two different states over a thousand miles apart. As far as anyone knows, they have not had any other relationships since the marriage effectively ended. In your opinion, would you say they are doing something wrong according to Catholic doctrine? Or, since they have not divorced or had any other relationships, are they simply making the best of a bad situation within the guidelines of Catholic beliefs?

 

In and of itself, it's not a sin for them to live separately. They've likely got some very good reason for it, and since they're both devoutly Catholic, as you say, they've probably discussed this with a priest. Separation can sometimes be needed so that the spouses can get some distance and think about things, and hopefully get back together in the future (as long as it's safe to do so, etc.). Something really serious, like one spouse cheating on another, it might just be too difficult for them to ever be reconciled.

 

The only issue I can think of would be that if their children are still minors, they'd need to take into consideration what's best for them. For example, I've got a friend whose parents split up a few years after she was born. They were both Catholic, and they didn't divorce or get into a relationship with anyone else. They just had issues they couldn't sort out. They arranged to have the daughter live with her mother, and visit her father at weekends, and they both stayed friends, didn't badmouth each other in front of their daughter, and so on. It worked out really well for them. 

 

You know, the sacrament of marriage isn't just about husband and wife living together and having a sexual relationship and raising children in the faith. Probably most importantly, it's about making a commitment to your spouse before God that you'll do your very best to help them in their journey to Heaven. So in some cases, that might mean you have to agree to separate, if that's what's going to be best for them. Again, hopefully there might be a way to get back together, but it's not always possible.

 

xxx

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I just got my latest edition of the Gun Owners of America newsletter in the mail. It has an article on the last page called "Pope Francis Libels Gun Owners". It is available on the gun owners website at https://www.gunowners.org/news06242015.htm.

 

In the article, Pope Francis was quoted as saying, "“It makes me think [of] people, managers, businessmen who call themselves Christian, and they manufacture weapons.  That leads to a bit of distrust, doesn’t it?â€

 

Larry Pratt, author of the article, and Executive Director of the Gun Owners of America, asked the rhetorical question if the pope was prepared to sent the Swiss Guard's guns back to the manufacturers.

 

In another article, here, http://www.ammoland.com/2015/06/pope-francis-says-youre-not-christian-if-you-own-a-gun/#axzz3kYSm6LRP it says "He also criticized those who invest in weapons industries (gun owners), saying “duplicity is the currency of today … they say one thing and do another.â€

 

I understand that this isn't Catholic dogma. I understand that this isn't one of his infallible teachings. I understand that this is simply his opinion. But I suspect that this is going to do a lot of damage to his reputation in America, where a sizeable number (if not a solid majority) of church-going Catholics are political Conservatives who own guns.

 

I think it is appalling that the leader of the Church would question the Christianity of companies who manufacture and sell a perfectly legal product, and law abiding gun owners. Granted, I still go to church, and I will honor all of the Catholic dogma, but I think that the pope is going about this all wrong, and could be seriously hurting the Church within America.

 

Any thoughts?

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I just got my latest edition of the Gun Owners of America newsletter in the mail. It has an article on the last page called "Pope Francis Libels Gun Owners". It is available on the gun owners website at https://www.gunowners.org/news06242015.htm.

In the article, Pope Francis was quoted as saying, "“It makes me think [of] people, managers, businessmen who call themselves Christian, and they manufacture weapons. That leads to a bit of distrust, doesn’t it?”

Larry Pratt, author of the article, and Executive Director of the Gun Owners of America, asked the rhetorical question if the pope was prepared to sent the Swiss Guard's guns back to the manufacturers.

In another article, here, http://www.ammoland.com/2015/06/pope-francis-says-youre-not-christian-if-you-own-a-gun/#axzz3kYSm6LRP it says "He also criticized those who invest in weapons industries (gun owners), saying “duplicity is the currency of today … they say one thing and do another.”

I understand that this isn't Catholic dogma. I understand that this isn't one of his infallible teachings. I understand that this is simply his opinion. But I suspect that this is going to do a lot of damage to his reputation in America, where a sizeable number (if not a solid majority) of church-going Catholics are political Conservatives who own guns.

I think it is appalling that the leader of the Church would question the Christianity of companies who manufacture and sell a perfectly legal product, and law abiding gun owners. Granted, I still go to church, and I will honor all of the Catholic dogma, but I think that the pope is going about this all wrong, and could be seriously hurting the Church within America.

Any thoughts?

I think this is a case where the media takes Pope Francis' words out of context.

Here is the speech he gave to the meeting of the young people in Turin that the articles reference:

http://visnews-en.blogspot.com/2015/06/meeting-with-young-go-against-grain.html

In that talk, a central theme in his speech was he was telling the young people of Turin to go against the grain, swim against the tide. How do they do that? Pope Francis mentioned three things: love, life, and friends and a common denominator they all share is the desire to live. Pope Francis said that love sacrifices itself for others. Love is service. He gives an example of Jesus washing his disciples feet as an example of love. However, Pope Francis brought up the point about their being distrust in life and whether it is worth living in love. Here is the paragraph that the media quotes:

Very often we breathe an air of distrust in life. There are situations that make us think, 'But is it worth living like this?'. I think of the wars in this world. At times I have said that we are living a third world war, but in pieces. There is war in Europe, there is war in Africa, there is war in the Middle East, there is war in other countries ... But can I trust in a life like this? Can I trust world leaders? When I go to vote for a candidate, can I trust that he or she will not take my country to war? If you trust only in men, you have lost! Think of the people, leaders, entrepreneurs, who say they are Christians and then produce weapons! They say one thing and do another. Hypocrisy … But we see what happened during the last century: in 1914, or rather in 1915 precisely. There was the great tragedy in Armenia. Many people died. I do not know how many, but certainly more than a million. Where were the great powers of the time? They looked away. Why? Because they were interested in war: their war! And those who died, they were second class people, human beings. Then, in the 1930s and 1940s, the tragedy of the Shoah. The great powers had photographed the railway lines that carried the trains to the concentration camps, such as Auschwitz, to kill Jews, and also Christians, Roma, homosexuals, to kill them there. But tell me, why did they not bomb them? Interests! And soon after, almost at the same time, there were the lagers in Russia: Stalin … how many Christians suffered and were killed. The great powers divided Europe like a cake. Many years had to pass before reaching a certain 'freedom'. There is the hypocrisy of speaking about peace and producing arms, and even selling weapons to this one, who is at war with that one, and to that one who is at war with this!”

In this paragraph, he was talking about arms dealers and genocide and he wasn't referencing law abiding gun owners or privately owned legal firearms. The "great tragedy in Armenia" was a genocide. "The Shoah" was the Holocaust. Pope Francis isn't talking about you or me owning a legal firearm for sport, hunting, or self-defense. He's talking about war and genocide. Did he say that clearly? No, but in his speeches he has said things that are off the cuff and impromptu and the media sometimes grabs onto his remarks.

So, what was his speech telling the young people? Pope Francis was saying to go against the grain you need three things: to understand the meaning of love, trust in life, and the importance of sharing ideals.

In the first paragraph, he explained the meaning of love. In the second paragraph, he created a shift "very often we breathe an air of distrust in life" and gave an example of the wars in the world (the genocide and arm dealers). In the third paragraph, he talked about that even though there is distrust in life, there is waste. He then gives the example of the student who is unemployed, who cannot study who lives with the shame of feeling unworthy because he doesn't have a job and doesn't earn life. In the fourth paragraph, he talked about easing the sense of distrust in life by connecting with others through shared ideals.

I know many people reading my post aren't Catholic but I thought I would give a detailed outline of what Pope Francis was saying in his speech to disprove the nit picking the media is doing here.

Last point to make here: Pope Francis was making an impromptu speech and not an Ex-Cathedra statement.

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Last point to make here: Pope Francis was making an impromptu speech and not an Ex-Cathedra statement.

 

Correct. Normally the Church doesn't make dogmatic rulings related to politics. The closest thing that you have is the Church declaring that abortion is equivalent to murder, and should be outlawed.

 

I guess the quote sounds less sinister in the context of the whole speech. Still a bit alarming, though, if you consider the fact that everybody who purchases a firearm is still supporting a firearm company. It's that kind of quote that had the GOA (Gun Owners of America) upset.

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I don't know if this been asked, but why don't Catholics use birth control? Why do they view every sperm and egg sacred? I heard that sex is for creating babies(which it is) and Catholics should be open to conceiving every time they have sex. Even condoms is forbidden.

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I don't know if this been asked, but why don't Catholics use birth control? Why do they view every sperm and egg sacred? I heard that sex is for creating babies(which it is) and Catholics should be open to conceiving every time they have sex. Even condoms is forbidden.

Actually, the Church allows birth control; the birth control the church allows is Natural Family Planning. Why? The church is against unnatural forms of birth control (e.g. condoms) because using a condom is against the nature God has given us. What is this nature? For men and women, there is a natural longing to love and to be loved. These expressions of love are naturally fulfilled in a marriage. A love that is without reservation, faithful, lifelong, and open to new life.  When a human being becomes baptized, this inclination towards married love becomes something deeper, it becomes a vocation. Our ideal for marriage and married love then is raised higher because Christ has entered our life (we recognize his example of love in giving himself as our redeemer) and therefore the demands placed on marriage and married love is higher. Our expression of love then grows in depth and meaning.   In the complete sex act found in marriage, man and woman gives themselves totally to each other and from this unity new life forms. What a unnatural form of birth control does is destroy the procreative potential of the sex act which is a unique sign of married love. Furthermore, when man and woman complete the sex act found in marriage, there is not only a physical unity but a symbolical one. Symbolically, in the bodily union, they are called to renew their original promises of married love, which is to take each other for better or for worse, to be as one until death. Unnatural birth control contradicts this symbolical unity by saying something to this effect, " I take you for better but not for the imagine worse of parenthood."

 

As to why Natural Family Planning is an approved birth control method by the Church, here is Jeg's response found in this thread (she explains it better than i can):

 

Well, there is one form of birth control that the Church has no problems with a couple using. It's called Natural Family Planning, and basically works by keeping track of a woman's fertility cycle so that if the couple have a serious reason why they can't have children at that time, they simply abstain from sex during the period of the month when the wife is fertile. This method, when used correctly, has been shown to be more effective at avoiding pregnancy than condoms or the contraceptive pill.

 

NFP isn't considered a type of contraception because the couple aren't doing anything to deliberately sterilise the sexual act. God designed women to only be fertile a few days every month, and it's fine for a couple to make use of this fact if they have a good reason to not have a baby at that time. It could be because of health reasons, or financial reasons, or even just to space out their family. Basically, as long as they're not using it for selfish reasons, or because they believe babies are "burdens" and they just want to have sex without the "consequences" of a family, or whatever.

 

And aside from the religious reason, there's a heck of a lot of great reasons to use NFP. Here's a link to one website I like...

 

http://www.1flesh.org/

 

This is kind of long, but if you've got the time, it's a really great talk about contraception, NFP and other related issues:

 

[EDIT: They've removed the video. This one is almost exactly the same, just an updated version. I say this because, if I just replaced the video, you'd think I was a time traveller, or something, posting in 2012 a video from 2014…]

 

Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b0s-4voe4gY

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I don't know if this been asked, but why don't Catholics use birth control? Why do they view every sperm and egg sacred? I heard that sex is for creating babies(which it is) and Catholics should be open to conceiving every time they have sex. Even condoms is forbidden.

 

Slayer's posted some good stuff, and I've said quite a lot about contraception and NFP in this thread already, but if there's anything else, let me know! I'll just address some of the main points...

 

As Slayer said, Catholics can use NFP. Strictly speaking, NFP is a type of birth control, since you're using it to space or avoid pregnancy (but then, it depends on how you're using the term "birth control", I guess). Catholics can use NFP as long as they've got a serious reason to avoid getting pregnant (e.g. can't afford another baby, have just had a baby, etc.). NFP isn't classed as contraception, because contraception would be defined as, any action taken before, during, or after the sexual act which was deliberately intended to render it sterile. In other words, God gave fertility as a gift, and you can no more deliberately make yourself infertile than you could deliberately blind yourself.

 

The only thing you can do is respect the natural times of infertility that God's given you - women weren't designed to be fertile every single day, but only a few days every month, for about 35 years of her life, and are usually infertile for several months after giving birth. So with NFP, you're identifying when a woman is fertile and infertile so you can act accordingly. Even then, you've got to have a good reason for avoiding pregnancy, and not be acting for selfish reasons. It's fine to say to God, "We respect our fertility, and we're going to keep having sex to strengthen our marriage and express our love for each other when we're not fertile, but right now with our money worries we just can't manage another baby." It's not okay to tell Him, "Well, fine, we won't use contraception, but we don't want another baby right now. Otherwise, we won't get to go to luxury resorts any more, because they only take children over three in the Kids' Club. But we'll keep enjoying sex nonetheless."

 

Incidentally, the Church doesn't have a list of "acceptable reasons to use NFP". Couples are expected to use their own common sense, perhaps consult with a spiritual director for advice, but ultimately, it's going to be between them and God, because there aren't any outsiders who can judge whether their reason to avoid pregnancy is "good enough". "Fear of morning sickness" might seem a trivial reason for most couples, but if the wife has extreme emetophobia and has panic attacks just thinking about being sick, then that might be a perfectly good reason to avoid having a baby for a while.

 

Okay, I don't think this question has come up before, so I'll just make this clear...

 

Catholics do not believe that "every sperm (or egg) is sacred". They're just cells in the body. They're no more or less sacred than any other bodily cell. If they were, then you couldn't have sex when a woman wasn't fertile, including after the menopause, or even delay getting married until you were older, because of all the wasted sperm and egg cells that would be dying off. The closest you'll get to "every sperm is sacred" is Catholics who say that fertility is a great gift from God, and shouldn't be taken lightly, but there's no belief that every individual gamete matters. 

 

The phrase "every sperm is sacred", to the best of my knowledge, is originally from a Monty Python sketch. Monty Python are a British comedy group, who once had a sketch in which a Catholic couple with sixty-three children are forced to sell their kids for scientific experimentation because they can't afford to look after them. The father, when asked why he doesn't use contraception then launches into the song, "Every Sperm is Sacred", which contains lines such as, "If a sperm gets wasted, God gets quite irate," and "You're a Catholic the moment Dad came."

 

It is, to be quite frank, a load of anti-Catholic drivel. But the phrase "every sperm is sacred" appears to have caught on. Apparently, the song gets sung outside abortion clinics by pro-choice protesters who are presumably oblivious both to the fact that the song isn't accurate, and that unborn children aren't sperm cells.

 

xxx

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Hi Jegsy (and the other secret Catholics out there  :superwaiter:)!

 

I have a question that's been on my mind for a while, so I thought I'd resuscitate this thread. It relates to a bit of a difficult and even controversial subject, so please bear with me. I don't mean it against Catholics or Catholicism - actually, I'm hoping to get an answer that will make me appreciate/accept you more :)

 

Due to my studies, I've had to deal a lot with the events of the Late Roman Empire and especially the conflicts of religion that arose. The most well-known of those is, of course, the martyrisation of Christians by polytheistic Romans. Now that was a terrible thing and as a polytheist myself, if I could undo it, I would. People shouldn't be killed just for their beliefs. But what followed is what I'm currently having trouble with - once the Christians came to power, the tables turned and it was the polytheistic Romans who were being killed. I had no idea until just recently on what scale these killings were done. Some part of me probably thought that, once the Christians were in the majority, the rest of the population just happily converted. Turns out that's far from what happened. Even I, a polytheist and ancient history student, had no idea.

 

A whole lot of horrible things were done to people on both sides in those days, and I'm not trying to put the blame on one side or the other or to justify one's crimes by saying the other's were worse. My question relates specifically to the Church's position on this. I know that a lot of Christians were sanctified during this period, and while a lot of them were martyrs - which I agree is a perfectly justified reason for sainthood - some were also people who actively oppressed the polytheists, practised forced conversion and even killed people. A few examples would be St Ambrose, St Theophilus, St Cyril of Alexandria, who was possibly involved in the murder of the philosopher Hypatia and certainly benefited from it, and even St Constantine the Great, who gave the order to destroy and pillage Roman temples (the priests likely didn't fare too well either).

 

So my question is: how do you feel about people who actively participated in the genocide of an entire religion being honoured and sanctified by the Church?

 

I know that every religion has done bad things and that holding them against common believers like you and me only serves to divide us further. Deciding that I hate all Catholics because of the Early Church is like deciding I hate all Muslims because of Daesh, all white Americans because of the slave trade, or all Germans because of the Holocaust. Still, the fact that some of these saints, whose destruction of my religion and its brother faiths was so thorough that nobody dared openly follow them for fifteen hundred years, and that even now, those who do are viewed with confusion and sometimes even hostility, are still revered by the Catholic Church, doesn't sit well with me. But like I said, I do want to bridge the gap between our faiths, so I was wondering what you would have to say :)

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I've got to be honest, I don't know much about any of this. I've tried to do some research, but I can't say I'm finding the information I'm looking for. So I guess I'll have to speak more generally on the subject, and hope that's okay for you.

 

(Oh, I will clarify that the Catholic Church doesn't recognise Constantine the Great as a saint, although I think the Orthodox do. But that's beside the point...)

 

Anyway, I'll say this. If someone is recognised as a saint, it doesn't mean that they lived perfect lives. It doesn't even mean that they didn't ever do evil things. To be very technical about it, all it means is that by the time they died, they'd managed to sort their lives out at least enough to get to Heaven, and then they managed to get some miracles attributed to them later.

 

I think there's an issue a lot of the time with how the saints get portrayed in Catholic writings. If you've ever read any of the little children's books about saints, they're sickly-sweet sometimes with just how lovely and perfect these saints were. I guess they're supposed to be inspiring kids as role models, but they tend to give the impression to people that the saints actually were perfect. There's a quote from Catholic Dorothy Day: "I have since heard a priest friend of ours remark gloomily that one could go to hell imitating the imperfections of the saints."

 

The thing is, of course, that you rarely hear about any of that stuff, because biographers didn't always record it. You'll hear about saints like St Augustine, living his playboy lifestyle, and St Paul, persecuting the early Christians, because they're all part of the story of how they later turned their lives around. However, you don't tend to hear about things they didn't openly atone for, or even sins they were still struggling with till the day they died. The most obvious example I guess would be the lives of Christian martyrs - no one much cares what they did with their lives. You could have some guy running a slave trade or a meth lab up to the day he died, and it all comes down to that final decision to give up his life for his faith. And then if you're a biographer looking to make the guy into a role model for Christians, you'll search his history looking for that time he gave alms to the poor, or that time he saved a child from being prostituted, or whatever, and ignore the rest.

 

And I'd imagine that's even more true when the saint is living in a society where they don't even question what they're doing as being wrong. Our ideas of what is and isn't moral behaviour for a soldier has developed over time, as has how we view the use of torture. I can't think of any saints off the top of my head, but I think slavery would also be a similar issue. A lot of Catholic saints who were relatively rich in their lives probably owned slaves (even if not recorded), and depending on when they lived in history, a lot of them wouldn't even have seen it as a problem. If you'd asked them, "Why do you own slaves if you're a Catholic?" they'd likely have been puzzled: "Well, slavery is just a part of any society, and that's just how it is. The slaves get mistreated sometimes, and that's wrong, but it's just how society works. It's my job as a good Catholic to be the best master I can, and treat my slaves well and treat them as my brothers and sisters." I heard the Christian speaker NT Wright compare it to how society might view cars in a hundred years: "How could all these so called good people knowingly own and use machines that were poisoning our environment and have really caused a problem for future generations?" And if you ask the 21st century saints, you'd get a similar answer, "Oh, well we didn't like cars, no, but that was just how society worked, and you needed to own a car to get around."

 

I can think of a few saints off the top of my head who did pretty problematic stuff. You've got saints like St Rose of Lima, who disfigured her face with lye to try to ward off male admirers - um, yeah, I think you'll find that giving yourself chemical burns counts as grievous bodily harm, and is definitely a sin. You've got St Nicholas (aka Santa Claus), who apparently had an argument with the heretic Arias at a council meeting. He punched him in the face (I just looked it up, and apparently historians think it's apocryphal. So if it's not true, then not only was Nicholas in the habit of punching folk he disagreed with so much that he became famous for it, but that he actually ended up getting admired for doing it and therefore the biographers kept it in their accounts). My favourite (?) story is from St Thomas More, who died a martyr at the hands of King Henry VIII. There is a contemporary account, about how a friend of his wanted to marry one of Thomas's two teenaged daughters. Thomas took him upstairs to where his daughters were sleeping in their bed, and just pulled the covers off them (they were wearing short shifts that had crept up while they were sleeping, so they were effectively naked from the armpits down, and had to quickly roll over onto their fronts to hide themselves). He then told his friend to pick which daughter he wanted to marry, and his friend gave the daughter he preferred a slap on the ass (and even added a remark to Thomas that he'd seen them on both sides now, that this was the one he liked the look of the best). It's not exactly father-of-the-year stuff.

 

Anyway, I realise that's not really addressing your question directly. I'm sorry I can't find the info I need, so I'll keep looking. I agree, I hate hearing about stuff Catholics have done. I guess it happens with all religions, but it's still painful to hear about.

 

xxx

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Thanks a lot, Jegsy. You've helped me understand and feel much better about the subject :)

 

I didn't know that the saints weren't supposed to be perfect. I thought that they were people who were so awesome and flawless that they were guaranteed to have gone to Heaven - though I guess that just shows my lack of knowledge :P It does make sense that they weren't perfect. None of us human beings are, really, even our greatest role models.

 

I guess the whole point, then, is not what the saints did, but how they strove to be better people despite it and to serve their faith. I can understand that. I really like Emperor Julian, for example, for what he did for my own religion - but that doesn't make what he did to Christians okay (he didn't actively harm them, but he did make it more difficult for them to get an education and a good job). I would still feel uncomfortable actually sanctifying him, but I can understand the logic behind it.

 

You've got St Nicholas (aka Santa Claus), who apparently had an argument with the heretic Arias at a council meeting. He punched him in the face (I just looked it up, and apparently historians think it's apocryphal. So if it's not true, then not only was Nicholas in the habit of punching folk he disagreed with so much that he became famous for it, but that he actually ended up getting admired for doing it and therefore the biographers kept it in their accounts).

 

 

Haha, yes, I've heard that and it always makes me laugh. Imagine what Christmas would be like if we'd kept that part of the story… "Kids, be good and go to bed early. Otherwise, Santa Claus will punch you in the face."  :lol:

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