Not too long ago I posted a blog titled Defensores Fidei Foundation (DFF) versus Catholic Answers (CA). In that blog I mentioned a glaring contradiction between camps on the relationship of the people mentioned in Matthew 13:55. According to Atty Llasos of DFF, these are all Christ’s cousins while CA’s Jason Evert says that it is not a Catholic teaching that these were Christ’s cousins.
Atty. Llasos posted his response in the comments section and in his blog last February 14, 2009. Before he responded to the issue of the article, Atty. Llasos wrote his disappointment with me stating that I had betrayed him because I had posted that article without even waiting for his response to my question which I previously sent by email. Before we deal with the real issue, which is about the Perpetual Virginity of Mary, let me enumerate some facts concerning my email exchanges with Atty. Llasos which led up to his accusations that I allegedly betrayed him:
A. There were questions which I emailed to Atty. Llasos before I wrote the article:
1. I often quote Matthew 13:55 and other similar verses to prove that Mary had other children. I know about the Roman Catholic defense about the Jews having the same Hebrew terminology for brother and relatives, ach. We know very well that the New Testament was written in Greek and adelphos is the term they use to refer to a brother while anepsios for relatives.
Despite the Greek word used and the context, you still contend that it is not referring to uterine brothers. You argued:
It should be borne in mind that it is part of the culture in Palestine even to this day that people who are related by blood live in a given community. They practice communal living (“kibbutz” system).
The Evangelists and other New Testament writers simply wrote down the common expression of the Jews. They had the Jewish mindset although they wrote in Greek. In other words, the Evangelists were using the common parlance among the Jews at that time. Jesus, James, Joses, Judas and Simon simply called each other “ah.” They knew that Jesus was an only child and assumed every body else knew.
Now, if your argument is based on the kibbutz system, then Matthew left something out in 13:55 and 56. It mentions Christ's parents and proceeds to detail his supposedly cousins. If neighbor’s account of Christ’s family was indeed based on communal living like you theorized, how come the parents of James, Joses, Judas, Simon and the sisters are not mentioned? Did the neighbor who questioned Jesus forget about Cleophas and his wife Mary whom you said are the parents of James and Joses? It's a bit illogical to mention Christ's parents and then proceed immediately to cousins by overlooking the parents of those cousins who are supposed to be in the kibbutz system.
2. Moving on, one of my tendencies to quote Paul for using anepsios in Colossians 4:10 to say that the NT writers in fact made a distinction between siblings and relatives despite of their audience, but you had this argument:
It should be borne in mind that it is only in Colossians 4:10 that the word anepsios is used. Remember that the Epistle to the Colossians was written by the Apostle Paul, a Jew from Tarsus (Acts 21:39 , 22:3) who was in fact a Roman citizen (Acts 22:25 -29). The Apostle Paul wrote to the Colossians (who were certainly not Jews but Gentiles) in their own Greek language.
The Jews, unlike the Greeks, use circumlocution to express their idea or concept of cousin for the simple reason that they have no word for cousin.
As I understood it, you argue that if the NT writers are speaking to Jews they use circumlocution, while not so if speaking to Gentiles. For me, your argument has gone too far to the point of being biased. I don't think you will be consistent when your theory is compared with other verses. If I were to quote Galatians 1:19 which says: But I did not see any other of the apostles, only James the brother (adelphos) of the Lord, how come Paul made use of adelphos instead of anepsios to the Greek-speaking Galatians? Why only to the Colossians did Paul make use of anepsios? Furthermore, why was James called as “the brother of the Lord”? You never mentioned the reason.
How about Luke? According to the Catholic Encyclopedia he is both Greek and Gentile. His books were written to Theophilus, who may be another Greek. If we read Acts 1:14 it appears that he didn't use anepsios like Paul did in Colossians. Since Luke is both Greek and Gentile, don’t you think he would use anepsios more often than the Jewish NT writers?
3. You also made an account of the supposedly cousins of Jesus. About Jude, you mentioned that he was a brother of James and a son of Mary the wife of Cleophas. But how come he wasn't mentioned in Mark 15:40 but only James and Joses? Let's also not forget about Simon. Your sources tell you that he was also a son of Mary the wife Cleophas. Again, how come Mark left him out in 15:40? Can you explain that?
These questions were sent last December 1, 2008. I did promise him that he could take his time to answer those questions which are up to now have not yet been answered.
B. I posted the said article which only points out a contradiction between DFF and CA. Minutes after posting the blog, I emailed him these new questions last February 5, 2009:
If I read it correctly, the author states that it is not the Catholic's position that the brothers mentioned in Matthew 13:55 are cousins of Jesus. However, in your blog you explained that these were his cousins.
I am wondering if the position written in article of Catholic Answers is the official one or recognized by the Vatican. If not, then can it be implied that both of your explanations are private interpretations that your church criticizes against Evangelicals. If they are private interpretations and contrary to one another, how do you resolve this conflict?
I promised again that he could take his time answering that question. However, when I posted the blog before emailing the new questions I had no intention of putting an end to our email exchanges. The article I posted is not sufficient to report the outcome of our email exchanges since the questions have not been answered. The article is only exposing a contradiction, period. It does not give any comments to the earlier set of questions emailed to Atty. Llasos.
I will leave it to the readers to decide. Now, let me respond to his rebuttal.
He begins by stating:
I noticed that RODIMUS was only interested in my conclusion. He did not even bother to contest, much less refute, the premises on which I predicated my conclusion. It seems to me that my friend’s desire is merely to involve me in contradiction.
Guess again, Atty. Llasos. If you would recall the questions I emailed you last December 1, 2008, those questions are not only for asking but also for refuting; and I think you know that. Atty. Llasos proceeded with how the Aramaic terminology for brother works, but that was already addressed to my questions above.
Atty. Llasos asserted that I misread the statement of Mr. Evert, author of the CA article:
RODIMUS made a serious misreading of Mr. Evert’s statement. RODIMUS claims that Mr. Evert “made it clear that in Matthew 13:55, these men were not Christ's cousins; it's a misconception RODIMUS.” RODIMUS’ conclusion is not accurate. He clearly misrepresents Mr. Evert’s view. Mr. Evert did not categorically say, as RODIMUS would have us believe, that Jesus brothers are not His cousins. In fact, all that Mr. Evert is saying is that “we can’t tell if any of the ‘brothers’ were cousins.”
This analysis is myopic because Atty. Llasos response is concentrated on the statement, He made it clear that in Matthew 13:55, these men were not Christ's cousins, which is not the only thing I am trying to convey in the article. If you will read on in the blog article I further wrote:
Oh no! I thought it is not the Catholic's position that these men were cousins.
Also from the question I sent to him by email which was sent AFTER the article was posted:
If I read it correctly, the author states that it is not the Catholic's position that the brothers mentioned in Matthew 13:55 are cousins of Jesus.
Therefore, I understood Mr. Evert’s position.
Atty. Llasos tries to get out of his predicament by saying his and Mr. Evert’s position are offering alternative approaches on defending the Perpetual Virginity of Mary:
Simply, there is no contradiction between Mr. Evert’s statement and my conclusion. Both are actually correct. So, Mr. Everet is correct in saying that that it is not the official Catholic position that the “brothers” of Jesus are not actually his cousins because as we can see, the official position of the Catholic Church mentioned in the Catechism is that these “brothers” are “close relations of Jesus” and did not use the word “cousins” to refer to them. However, my position is also correct because “cousins” are also “close relations.”
That is what Mr. Evert and I precisely did! We presented alternative arguments. These alternative arguments in no way compromise the thesis that the “brothers” of the Lord were not children of Mary.
Not so fast, Atty. Llasos. Mr. Evert said, we can’t tell if any of the ‘brothers’ were cousins. Why were you able to tell that these were his cousins? That is why I am asking if what you and Mr. Evert has written are PRIVATE INTERPRETATIONS, which we Evangelicals are being criticized of. Moreover, if it is not the official position of your church that the brothers are cousins, then why are you teaching that they are cousins? Of course you will try to escape to a loophole by saying:
Mr. Evert and I are in full agreement that the so-called “brothers” of Jesus are not the children of Mary.
The way I understand it no matter what the explanation is, it is acceptable as long as the bottom line remains the same which is the brothers of Jesus are not Mary’s children.
This reminded me of a funny story about a defense lawyer who is trying to win an acquittal for his client on the charges of murder. The said defense lawyer brought in two witnesses who will testify that his client, the accused, was not in the murder scene which is in Makati. The first witness testified that the accused was in Quezon City. The second witness testified that the accused was in Pasig. Of course the Prosecution questioned the testimonies of the two witnesses due to inconsistency. The defense lawyer reasoned out, “Who cares? The important thing is that my client wasn’t in Makati where the murder was committed.” This is exactly what Atty. Llasos is trying to do.
Atty. Llasos further stated that there are many ways to skin a cat. Unfortunately, his way of skinning the cat is also skinning the other person who is skinning the same cat. By concluding that these brothers were cousins whereas it is not the Catholic position, anyone can say the theories concocted are not only contradictory but are also self-serving.
Now, Atty. Llasos presented historical evidences that the Perpetual Virginity of Mary was believed even by the Reformers Luther, Zwingli, and Calvin. While it may be true that these Reformers believed Mary’s perpetual virginity, one has to consider their circumstances during their time. These men were reforming a 1,200 year old church from which they came (I say 1,200 year old church because I believe that the Church of Rome was founded only after 300AD and the reformation occurred after 1500AD). The focus of the Reformers was on the Lord Jesus Christ. They made sure that Christ was the one deified and not Mary. The process of changing wasn’t overnight and the task of reforming may have been extended to their successors.
Likewise, before the year 1600AD people believed that all planets revolve around the Earth until Galileo discovered it was not so. The New Catholic Encyclopedia even stated:
In these circumstances, Galileo, hearing that some had denounced his doctrine as anti-Scriptural, presented himself at Rome in December, 1615, and was courteously received. He was presently interrogated before the Inquisition, which after consultation declared the system he upheld to be scientifically false, and anti-Scriptural or heretical, and that he must renounce it.
However, the people today know through science that the planets in our solar system revolve around the sun. Some Roman Catholics would respond by saying that the conflict with Galileo’s discovery was more of science and not a dogma or the popes at that time were speaking as private theologians (thus, not official). But they can’t deny that the Roman Catholic Church was involved in denouncing Galileo’s discovery which gives plenty of room to say that it was a doctrinal issue. (I will be writing later on articles about Papal Infallibility bloopers). It took a while for people to adapt to Galileo’s discovery.
Atty. Llasos further attempted to refute my consideration of Matthew 13:55 as comprehensive by saying:
In fact, a parallel verse in Mark 6:3 refers to Jesus as “THE son of Mary.” The article “the” is significant in Greek because it signifies “the one and only.” Jesus, being the Son of Mary, means that He is Mary’s only Son in the same manner that Jesus, being the Son of God, means that he is the only-begotten Son of the Father.
While the article “the” can signify the one and only, it doesn’t always mean that way in other sentences. In John 4:5, Joseph is mentioned to be THE SON of Jacob, are we to conclude that Jacob had no other children? Moreover, Jesus was referred as “a son” in Luke 1:31 and not “your only child”, so why not conclude Mary has other children subsequent to Christ?
Finally, Atty. Llasos is confident that the perpetual virginity of Mary is irrefutable that he challenged me to answer these questions:
1) Where in the Bible does it say that “Mary had other children aside from Jesus?”
2) Where in the Bible does it say that “Mary is the mother of the brothers of Jesus?”
If I understand it correctly, in order for Atty. Llasos to be convinced that Mary had other children, he wants Bible verses that say these people are Mary’s children. He is still not convinced of the Greek word adelphos and the context of Matthew 13:55. He wants it clear that these people were born from Mary. I’m sorry to say that the above questions of Atty. Llasos are born from prejudice.
Let me prove that. The Bible mentions of Lazarus, Martha and Mary Magdalene in Luke 10, John 11-12. We all know that these people have a sibling relationship. The Greek words used are adelphos for Lazarus while adelphi for Martha and Mary Magdalene. The Catholic Encyclopedia confirms the following:
Lazarus - This personage was the brother of Martha and Mary of Bethania
Martha - ... by St. John when he tells us that "Jesus loved Martha, and her sister Mary, and Lazarus"
Mary Magdalene - the sister of Martha and Lazarus
Unless the Catholic Encyclopedia itself was originally written in Aramaic, it’s safe to say that they verify the sibling relationship with the use of the English words brother and sister and not cousins or relatives.
How does this concern Atty. Llasos? The Bible does not mention that the three are children of the same parents. Neither were their parents are mentioned in the Bible. Since the parents are unidentified, would Atty. Llasos say that they are cousins just like what he theorize to the brothers of Christ? Would he even follow the theory of Mr. Evert that it not the Catholic position that the three are cousins? If he ever accepts that the three have a sibling relationship, then why is he being rough on the brothers of Christ by implying that it is not enough that they are called brothers and that we should show they are Mary’s children? Prejudice at its best.
Now Atty. Llasos may say he knows that Lazarus, Martha, and Mary Magdalene are siblings because of historical evidence. But that would put Mr. Evert’s position in jeopardy because the Roman Catholic scholars have exerted effort to identify the relationship of the three but failed to do so in the brothers of Christ. Wouldn’t that be ironic? A supposedly 2,000 year old infallible Roman Catholic Church cannot identify the actual relationship of the brothers of Christ in Matthew 13:55 but was able to verify that Lazarus, Martha, and Mary Magdalene are siblings despite the lack of biblical information concerning their parents.
Theories concocted by men often lead to inconsistencies when it tested. Mary had other children after the virgin birth of Christ. Matthew 13:55-56 has stated this to be so. Sadly, Roman Catholics offer different perspectives on the verse which lead to complications. The Bible was not meant to adjust to the desires of men, but men should adjust themselves to the Bible. If we only let the Bible speak for itself, Roman Catholics would renounce the Perpetual Virginity of Mary.
Author’s note: Atty. Llasos has still to answer the questions I emailed him months ago. Although I have speculations on his delayed response, I shall not put my comments in writing.