Christian Apologetics Society

Jesus replied, "You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God."
- Matthew 22:29

Isaiah 55:11
So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; It shall not return to Me void, But it shall accomplish what I please, And it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it
Gen 1:3
Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light
Matthew 26:26
And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to the disciples and said, “Take, eat; this is My body."
Malachi 1:11
My name will be great among the nations, from the rising to the setting of the sun. In every place incense and pure offerings will be brought to my name, because my name will be great among the nations," says the LORD Almighty.
John 20:23
If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.
James 5:16
Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.
James 2:14
What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him?
Luke 20:38
For He is not the God of the dead but of the living, for all live to Him.
Rev 21:27
Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb's book of life.
1 Cor 3:15
If any man's work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire.
Psalm 51:5
Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin my mother conceived me.
John 3:5
Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.
Titus 3:5
Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost;
1 Timothy 3:15
but if I am delayed, I write so that you may know how you ought to conduct yourself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.
Acts 22:16
And now why tarriest thou? arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord.

Apologetics - Perpetual Virginity of Mary

One of the reasons, there aren't daily updates to the CAS blog is that I devote considerable time responding to apologetic errors on other blogs. This morning, I discovered a well meaning Christian, who obviously spends much time dwelling in and on the Word, posting against the Christian doctrine of the Perpetual Virginity of Mary. Yes, I said Christian. The doctrine of the Perpetual Virginity of Mary is a universal Christian doctrine dating back to the earliest days of the Church. It is not uniquely Roman Catholic.

Our earnest brother (or sister) in Christ says "...we gather that Jesus had at least four brothers and some sisters from Mary, his mother! Mary was not a perpetual virgin." Our brother bases his arguement on Matthew 13:55 and Mark 6:3.

    ”Is not this the carpenter’s son? Is not his mother called Mary? and his brethren, James, and Joses, and Simon, and Judas?”
    Matthew 13:55

    “Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary, the brother of James, and Joses, and of Juda, and Simon? and are not his sisters here with us?”
    Mark 6:3

Of these passages, our brother says; "The context alone provides plain evidence that Christ had actual blood brothers and sisters. The Catholic Church, however, denies the context." Does the Catholic Church deny that context? Absolutely! Not just the Catholic Church at Rome, but all the Eastern Catholic Churches as well.

Does any other Christian Church deny the context? Why yes, thank you for asking. All of the Orthodox Churches also deny the context and hold the Christian doctrine of the perpetual virginity of Mary.

Did any of the Reformers deny the context and hold the doctrine of the perpetual virginity of Mary? Yes, all of them did.

Luther wrote on the Virginity of Mary: "It is an article of faith that Mary is Mother of the Lord and still a virgin.(Weimer's The Works of Luther, English translation by Pelikan, Concordia, St. Louis, v. 11, pp. 319-320; v. 6. p. 510.)

John Calvin wrote of Mary's perpetual virginity: "Helvidius displayed excessive ignorance in concluding that Mary must have had many sons, because Christ's 'brothers' are sometimes mentioned." {Harmony of Matthew, Mark & Luke, sec. 39 (Geneva, 1562), vol. 2 / From Calvin's Commentaries, tr. William Pringle, Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1949, p.215; on Matthew 13:55}

Ulrich Zwingli wrote of Mary's perpetual virginity: "I firmly believe that Mary, according to the words of the gospel as a pure Virgin brought forth for us the Son of God and in childbirth and after childbirth forever remained a pure, intact Virgin." (Zwingli Opera, Corpus Reformatorum, Berlin, 1905, v. 1, p. 424.)

John Wesley wrote of Mary's perpetual virginity: "The Blessed Virgin Mary, who, as well after as when she brought him forth, continued a pure and unspotted virgin." (Wesley, Letter to a Roman Catholic, 1749)

Why do most of the world's Christians still continue to hold and teach the doctrine of the perpetual virginity of Mary? Because denial of the doctrine pulls the rug out from beneath the doctrine of the divinity of Christ. Islamic apologists, atheists, and cultists see the denial of Mary's perpetual virginity as the gateway to disproving the divinity of Christ. They argue, if Mary had seven children and these six are human, then the seventh is human as well. Therefore, Christianity is a sham as it is built on a lie. God is one and there is no Trinity. Allah Ahkbar!

The denial of the perpetual virginity of Mary was a heresy made popular by Helvidius during the early Christian Church. My favorite reply to Helvidius was made by the one man who surely knew the true context of Matthew 13:55 and Mark 6:3. Jerome. Yes, the very same Jerome who translated the Bible from Greek and knew the meaning of adelphos. Jerome's Against Helvidius is the classic apologetic for the doctrine of the perpetual virginity of Mary. Its a shame that more Christians have not read it. Our brother doesn't even mention Jerome in his apologetic for the heresy.

However, Jerome was not alone and apologies were written by: Athanasius (Alexandria, 293-373); Epiphanius (Palestine, 315?-403);Augustine (Numidia, now Algeria, 354-430); and Cyril (Alexandria, 376-444).

So how do we as modern day Christians follow Jerome, the early Church fathers, and the Reformers in responding to those mis-informed brothers and sisters (adelphos) that have rediscovered the error of Helvidius and now embrace a dangerous heresy? Bible believing Christians, knowing the inerrency of scripture, should respond with charity and kindness by focusing on these main points:

First it is important to note that the Bible does not say that these "brothers and sisters" of Jesus were children of Mary. Only Jesus is said to be the son of Mary.

Second, the word for brother (or sister), adelphos (adelpha) in Greek, denotes a brother or sister, or near kinsman. Our brother in Christ stated "In the Greek text, the word “brother” is adelphos, which literally means “from the womb,” indicating these are Christ’s brothers from His mother." But how is adelphos actually used in scripture?

In the Bible, the word adelphos is used for:
(1) male children of the same parents (Mt 1:2);
(2) male descendants of the same parents (Acts 7:23);
(3) male children of the same mother (Gal 1:19);
(4) people of the same nationality (Acts 3:17);
(5) any man, a neighbor (Lk 10:29);
(6) persons united by a common interest (Mt 5:47);
(7) persons united by a common calling (Rev 22:9);
(8) mankind (Mt 25:40);
(9) the disciples (Mt 23:8); and
(10) believers (Mt 23:8).
(From Vine's Expository Dictionary of Biblical Words, Thomas Nelson, Publisher.)

Third, a strong proof text against the Helvidian Heresy is John 19:26-27.

    When Jesus therefore saw his mother, and the disciple standing by, whom he loved, he saith unto his mother, Woman, behold thy son! Then saith he to the disciple, Behold thy mother! And from that hour that disciple took her unto his own home.
    John 19:26-27

Jesus, the perfect Jewish son and fulfiller of the Law of Moses, would not have violated Jewish law by giving his mother over to the care of John if Mary had any other children. Our brother may have overlooked John 19:26-27 or not connected the passage with Matthew 13:55 and Mark 6:3 since they are all in different books.

Many modern Christians in their zeal to disprove Catholicism are embracing dangerous heresies that our early Church fathers fought hard to extinguish. Christians must be careful to learn the history of Christianity and what doctrines have always been held by Christians. There are numerous collections of non-canonical writings by the earliest Christians available to us. I often use the Christian Classics Ethereal library collection. If you have not discovered this treasure of ante-Nicene Bible commentaries and "Sunday school" lessons, I encourage you to visit and read.

Source: Was Mary A Perpetual Virgin?

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