He Knew Her Not Until

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And he knew her not till she brought forth her firstborn son:
and he called his name Jesus.
Matthew 1, 25
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Most Protestants, those who deny the Perpetual Virginity of Mary and wish to believe that Mary and Joseph had conjugal relations and children of their own after the birth of Jesus, often cite Matthew 1:25 as a proof-text against this ancient Catholic dogma. The problem with this, however, is they try to support their belief by super-imposing a modern English use of the preposition “until” on the sacred text. Yet, to understand what Matthew is saying in the above passage we must examine what the Hebrew and Greek meanings are for this word, since the Gospel wasn’t originally written in modern English, but in Hebrew-Aramaic, and then translated into Koine Greek. Matthew himself was a Jewish Christian, and he addressed a Hebrew audience when he wrote his gospel.

Unfortunately, the meanings of words or phrases in the Bible are often lost in subsequent translations. So, let us examine this word in its original form for ourselves and see what the sacred author means to say. For a moment, let us forget what this passage appears to mean by our common use of the word “until” in casual, modern everyday English.

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The Semitic and Greek words for “until” or “till” (‘ad/ heos) refer to the period that precedes an event. These prepositions do not function to imply what might come after it. What matters is only what happens before the event in question occurs. So, let us begin by looking at a couple of passages in the Hebrew Old Testament to see how this grammatical exponent is designed to function and convey meaning. The following verses translated from Hebrew into English are taken from the King James Bible.

לְדָוִ֗ד מִ֫זְמֹ֥ור נְאֻ֤ם יְהוָ֨ה ׀ לַֽאדֹנִ֗י שֵׁ֥ב לִֽימִינִ֑י עַד־אָשִׁ֥ית אֹ֝יְבֶ֗יךָ הֲדֹ֣ם לְרַגְלֶֽיךָ׃

A Psalm of David. The LORD said unto my Lord, Sit thou at my right hand,
until I make thine enemies thy footstool.
– Psalm 110, 1

The preposition ‘aḏ (עַד) literally means “up to the time of”. This Messianic prophecy is referring to the period when Jesus shall sit at the right hand of God before or up to the time his enemies are made his footstool. Obviously, the author doesn’t intend to imply that Jesus will no longer be sitting at the right hand of God after his enemies are made his footstool. Similarly, nor does Matthew mean to imply that Joseph had conjugal relations with Mary after Jesus was born. All he means to say is that the couple had no marital relations up to the time of Jesus’ birth. Matthew originally wrote his gospel for Jewish Christians in Hebrew Aramaic, so the Greek copy reflects his native language.

לְמִיכַל֙ בַּת־שָׁא֔וּל לֹֽא־הָ֥יָה לָ֖הּ יָ֑לֶד עַ֖ד יֹ֥ום מֹותָֽהּ׃ פ

Therefore, Michal the daughter of Saul had no child unto the day of her death.
– 2 Samuel 6, 23

Again, we have the preposition ‘ad, only the English translation is less ambiguous with the word “unto” instead of “until”. In the Hebrew, this verse literally reads: “up to”, “to”, or “until” (the day of). It is obvious that Michal couldn’t have had any children after her death. But that is beside the point. The only thing that matters is what the author intends to say, that Michal was childless up to the day of her death, without any further irrelevant implications.

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Surely, Matthew has no reason to express himself as to imply that Joseph had no marital intercourse with Mary until after Jesus was born to get his gospel message across to his audience. All he should say is what he explicitly intends to say which is relevant to the gospel, that Joseph and Mary had no conjugal relations ‘before’ or ‘up until’ Jesus was born. He is underscoring the truth of the Incarnation, which wasn’t easy for many Jews to reconcile with their idea of the one God. If he is implying anything, it is that Mary conceived Jesus by the supernatural power of the Holy Spirit. This implication or hidden premise is contained in the statement that Joseph and Mary had no marital relations up to the time of Jesus’ birth and is relevant to what Matthew is proposing.

In the original Greek translation of the Gospel of Matthew, the word for “until” is heos or ἕως. Not unlike the Hebrew preposition, the word references the period leading up to an event in question. It literally means “up to the time of” or “hitherto” without necessarily implying anything unrelated that might come after. Matthew is strictly concerned with how Mary and Joseph related to each other prior to the conception and birth of Jesus. This is evident by the fact that the author quotes Isaiah 7:14 in vv. 22-23. His main point is that Jesus is indeed the long-awaited Messiah of the Hebrew people, but he isn’t of paternal human lineage as the Jews expect. If the evangelist meant Joseph did not know his wife “until after” the birth of Jesus, we would have έως ότου instead. Simply put, the Greek word for “until” does not mean “until after” but rather “up until”.

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Nevertheless, some Protestants adamantly maintain that, because the original Greek text reads heos hou (ἕως οὗ), it follows reference to the time after the birth of Jesus can be made. The phrase heos hou (up to the time of – that) somehow lends them the notion that Joseph did not have sexual relations with his wife Mary until “after” she had brought forth her firstborn son. The Greek text literally reads: “And (he) knew her not until that she had brought forth a son.” However, the demonstrative “that” is being used to emphasize the couple had no conjugal relations up until that time Mary had brought forth Jesus. In other words, she did not conceive her son by her husband’s seed. The use of the negative form – “knew her not until” – really makes no difference. It simply means the couple had no marital relations up to the time Jesus was born, and so, Joseph wasn’t his real father.

Anyway, many Protestants contend that the grammatical structure of the verse (heos hou) indicates that the action or state (Mary’s virginity) of the first clause discontinues after the event (birth of Jesus).  However, heos hou can be used interchangeably with heos and mean the same thing “up to the time of.” We find another example in the NT: ‘But when Paul had appealed to be kept in custody for the decision of the emperor, I commanded him to be held until (heos hou) I could send him to Caesar” (Acts 25:21). We know for a fact that the apostle remained in custody after he was sent to Caesar; he was held while en-route to Rome (Acts 27:1) and for a short time after he arrived there (Acts 29:16). Thus, the action of the main clause (the command to be held in custody) did not necessarily cease upon the pivotal event (being sent to Caesar) in the linear course of time. Paul was no more sent to Caesar free of his chains than Mary was no longer a virgin sometime after the birth of Christ.

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Still, one could easily have the impression that Matthew is implying Joseph and Mary had marital relations after Jesus was born, when he reads the text in modern English and even with preconceived notions. But the word “until” does not reference the future in the ancient Greek and Hebrew languages, and it might not even in modern English use, depending on the speaker’s intention. For instance: “After the teacher had left the classroom, the students did not make any noise until he returned.” The speaker could mean in all probability that the students worked quietly after the teacher left the classroom and continued to work quietly before or up until he returned. He doesn’t necessarily have to mean that the students became noisy after the teacher returned.

Likewise, Matthew mustn’t necessarily mean to say that Mary and Joseph had no conjugal relations until ‘after’ Jesus was born (Joseph did not know Mary – he knew her not – until (heos hou) the birth of her firstborn son.) but must mean they never “came together” before he was conceived to underscore the Messiah’s divinity. After all, the couple had celebrated their second and final marriage ceremony (Nisuin) by the time Jesus was born. He was understood to be “the carpenter’s son” (Mt 13:55). It is important for us, therefore, to ask ourselves what it is that Matthew primarily intends to say to his audience without having to needlessly infer anything mundane before we presumptuously venture to force our interpretation on the text to suit our own religious or cultural bias.

“And when he had taken her, he knew her not, till she had brought forth her first-born Son.’ He hath here used the word till,’ not that thou shouldest suspect that afterwards he did know her, but to inform thee that before the birth the Virgin was wholly untouched by man. But why then, it may be said, hath he used the word, till’? Because it is usual in Scripture often to do this, and to use this expression without reference to limited times. For so with respect to the ark likewise, it is said, The raven returned not till the earth was dried up.’ And yet it did not return even after that time. And when discoursing also of God, the Scripture saith, From age until age Thou art,’ not as fixing limits in this case. And again, when it is preaching the Gospel beforehand, and saying, In his days shall righteousness flourish, and abundance of peace, till the moon be taken away,’ it doth not set a limit to this fair part of creation. So then here likewise, it uses the word “till,” to make certain what was before the birth, but as to what follows, it leaves thee to make the inference.”
St. John Chrysostom, Gospel of Matthew, V:5
(A.D. 370)
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And Mary said to the angel:
How shall this be done,
because I know not man?
Luke 1, 34
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Salve Regina!

Her Firstborn Son

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While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.
Luke 2, 6-7
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Primogeniture is the right, by Jewish law or custom, of the legitimate, firstborn son (bekhor) to inherit his parents’ entire or principal estate in preference to daughters, younger sons, stepsons, and illegitimate sons. Even the son of a deceased elder brother inherits before a surviving younger brother of his father by right of substitution of the deceased heir. The legal, social, and religious features of this institution were reflected in the norms and practices of ancient Hebrew society. Mosaic law granted the firstborn male a privileged status with respect to the rights of inheritance and cultic regulations.

A son might also refer to his own status as firstborn son when addressing his father (Gen. 27:19, 32). The composition of Biblical genealogies illustrates that the status of the bekhor was a pervasive feature of Israelite social life. In many of them, there is a formula which specifies the status of the first named son. Even in genealogies which do not specifically indicate the status of the first son listed, it was understood that he was the firstborn son. There are indications in the Bible that primogeniture carried certain duties and privileges in addition to the estate rights (Gen. 27; 48:13; Judg. 8:20; 1 Chron. 26:10) [cf. Jewish Virtual Library: Firstborn].

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St. Luke has primogeniture in mind with respect to Jesus when he writes “she gave birth to her firstborn son.” Yet many Protestants who aim to prove from sacred Scripture that Mary never remained a virgin after the birth of Jesus often cite this passage. They argue, in a numerical sense, that if Jesus were her first child, then naturally she must have had a second, third, or even fourth child together with her husband Joseph. But even though the firstborn son would logically have to be the first son that was born, the one who “opens the womb” as the “first issue”, it doesn’t necessarily mean that his parents subsequently had other children, sons or daughters. Recall that the firstborn son was entitled to a double portion of his father’s entire estate without any fraction provided he had no younger brothers.

Moreover, John the Baptist was the firstborn son (bekhor) of Zachariah and Elizabeth, but he was their only offspring. Elizabeth was aged and barren, but God intervened only so that she would conceive and bear Christ’s forerunner. It wasn’t for her becoming fertile, though her womb was made fertile by God on this occasion. The same can be said for Sarah who conceived Isaac, her only son. Isaac prefigures Jesus, as Sarah prefigures Mary. Both Sarah and Mary had only one child, a firstborn son who was rightfully entitled to the inheritance of his father’s estate as principal heir without any competition (Gen. 21:9-10; Lk. 1:31-33). Jesus is the offspring or seed of the free promised Woman who did not conceive and bear children (Ishmaels) in slavery to sin (Gen 3:15). Mary and Joseph could not have had their own children together without disfiguring God’s perfect plan, seeing the Lord’s handmaid is Sarah’s anti-type.

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Hence, Luke refers to Jesus as Mary’s firstborn son (bekhor) in the sense that our Lord is principal heir and successor of his heavenly Father’s family. As YHWH is head of His chosen people, the Israelites, in the Old Dispensation so, in the New Dispensation, Christ is the Head of his Church and the first fruit of the children of the resurrection in his heavenly kingdom (1 Cor. 15:20-28). As his brothers and sisters by our baptism, we have been granted a share in his inheritance (Rom. 8:17). The only other children Mary has begotten are we who bear testimony to Christ and keep God’s commandments (Rom. 8:29; Rev. 12:17). We are the offspring of the Woman of promise along with Jesus (Gen. 3:15; Rev. 12:1-5), though spiritually. In labour, Mary bore us as she sorrowfully stood beneath the Cross with no other uterine offspring of hers alongside, but with the Disciple who represents all faithful Christians (Jn. 19:26-27).

In any event, by the prescriptions of the Mosaic law, a father was obligated to acknowledge his firstborn son as principal heir. Christ’s heavenly Father did this when a voice came out of the heavens at the time of our Lord’s baptism: “This is my beloved son, in whom I am well pleased.” (Mt. 3:17; cf. Lk. 2:49). God did so again at the time of Jesus’ transfiguration on Mount Tabor (Mt. 17:5). In turn, Jesus acknowledged his own status as the firstborn Son of his Father after Caiaphas asked him, “Are you the Messiah, the son of the blessed One?” Our Lord responded, for which reason he was sentenced to death and finally received his eternal inheritance, “I am. And you shall see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of the power of God and coming with the clouds of heaven” (Mk. 14:61-62; cf. Dan. 7:13.

“It helps us to understand the terms ‘first-born’ and ‘only-begotten’ when the Evangelist tells that Mary remained a virgin ‘until she brought forth her first-born son’ [Matt. 1:25]; for neither did Mary, who is to be honored and praised above all others, marry anyone else, nor did she ever become the Mother of anyone else, but even after childbirth she remained always and forever an immaculate virgin.”
Didymus the Blind, The Trinity 3:4
(A.D. 386)

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A garden enclosed is my sister, my spouse;
a spring dried up, a fountain sealed.
Songs of Solomon 4, 12
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Salve Regina!

The Son of Mary

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Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary, the brother of James, and Joses, and of Jude, and Simon? and are not his sisters here with us? And they were offended at him.
Mark 6, 3
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This verse from the Gospel of Mark is often cited by many Protestants to support their objection to the Catholic dogma of the Perpetual Virginity of Mary. They draw their faulty conclusion by singling out words or terms that catch their attention and apply a modern English semantic or idiomatic usage to them to accommodate their preconceived notions. In the above verse, the two words that draw their attention are “brother” and “sisters.” They presume these terms mean uterine siblings, as they customarily do in modern English and Western culture, and so they adopt this verse as a proof-text against the Catholic de fide doctrine of Mary Ever-Virgin.

However, the word “brother” ( ach/אָח ) had a broad semantic range in ancient Hebrew culture. It did not apply only to male uterine siblings. In Genesis 3:18, for instance, the word is being used to describe the relationship between Abraham and Lot, who were in fact uncle and nephew: ‘So Abram said to Lot, “Let’s not have any quarreling between you and me, or between your herdsmen and mine, for we are brothers.”’ The same goes for the Hebrew word “sister” (achoth/אָחוֹת ). The word did not apply only to female siblings in the immediate family, but also to members of the extended family and even a tribe. We read in Songs 4:12: ‘A garden enclosed is my sister (achoth), my spouse; a spring dried up, a fountain sealed.’ A man, such as King Solomon, could even call his wife sister when expressing his deep affection for her. Thus, we mustn’t carelessly ignore the broad Semitic idiomatic usage of the words “brother” and “sister” when reading the Bible, which often must be read through Jewish lenses – even the New Testament.

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Returning to the Gospel of Mark, we see with certainty that the author retains the broad Semitic idiomatic usage of the word “brother” (adelphos/ἀδελφός) in his writing, even though the sacred text has been originally written in Koine Greek. Most of his audience were Hellenistic Jews who would have understood the evangelist’s use of diction. This is evident in Mark 6:17-18: ‘ For Herod himself had given orders to have John arrested, and he had him bound and put in prison. He did this because of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife, whom he had married. For John had been saying to Herod, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.”’ Are we to presume, in accord with our language culture, that Herod Antipas and Philip were uterine brothers? Certainly not! Herod Antipas was the son of Mariamne the Hasonean, Herod the Great’s second wife. Philip the Tetrarch (Herod Philip 1) was the son of Cleopatra of Jerusalem, Herod’s fifth wife.

And so, the two men are half-brothers, having the same father but different mothers. Mark employs the Semitic idiomatic term because there is no single word for half-brother or step-brother in Hebrew and Aramaic. Unfortunately, some Protestants overlook or choose to ignore this passage when citing Mark 6:3 (cf. Mt 12:46-50) as a proof-text against the Catholic dogma of Mary’s perpetual virginity. And they fail to notice or choose not to note that these supposedly biological brothers and sisters of Jesus are never called sons and daughters of Mary in the New Testament, though only Jesus himself is explicitly referred to as her son or male offspring (Mk 6:3; Lk 2:6; Jn. 2:1; Acts 1:14).

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Catholics reasonably maintain that James, Joses, Jude (Thaddeus), and Simon were cousins of Jesus. Three of them, save Joses (Joseph), were also apostles of his. ‘And he appointed the twelve: Simon (to whom he gave the name Peter), and James, the son of Zebedee, and John, the brother of James (to them he gave the name Boanerges, which means, “Sons of Thunder”); and Andrew, and Philip, and Bartholomew, and Matthew, and Thomas, and James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddeus, and Simon the Zealot; and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him’ (Mk 3, 16-19). These three apostles are grouped together in the same order, just as they are in 6:3, because they are biological brothers whose father or step-father isn’t Joseph but Alphaeus/Clopas, his brother. Meanwhile, they are ranked in order according to their age from eldest to youngest. It would certainly be an incredible coincidence if Jesus had uterine brothers not only with the same names, but also ranking in the same order of age identically with these three apostles. Further, James and Joses are identified as being the sons of another Mary, the wife of Alphaeus/Clopas and sister-in-law of our Lord’s mother (Mk 15:40; Mt 27:56; Jn 19:25). This makes them cousins of Jesus.

Now, these “brothers” of Jesus aren’t recorded to have accompanied Mary at the foot of the cross along with the Disciple and the group of women, which is highly unusual in Jewish family culture. The reason is these ‘brothers’ are apostles and cousins of Jesus and are in hiding after they fled from the Garden of Gethsemane when he was arrested (Mk 14:50; Jn 20:19). Protestants, however, contend or presume that our Lord’s brothers refused to attend his execution because they had disowned him for his madness and did not come to believe in him until after his resurrection (Acts 1:14). But if this were so, Jesus would not have entrusted his beloved disciple with the care of his mother (Jn 19:26-27). Surely, he would have foreseen the eventual conversion of his male siblings, who under Mosaic law were required to look after their widowed mother, if this were the case.

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Apparently, John was prompted and morally encouraged by the Holy Spirit to be present with Mary beneath the cross as the corporate personality of the Church. The Blessed Virgin’s other children are those who give testimony to Jesus by their acts of faith and keep God’s commandments (Rev 12:17). This is what Jesus meant by calling his mother “Woman” from the cross before he addressed his beloved disciple and brother of his in spirit (Rom 8:29). Mary became John’s mother and he, by his faith, her son in God’s family which transcends all biological blood ties and national boundaries (Mt 12:47-50).

That the apostle James (the Less/Younger/Just) is referred to as “the brother of the Lord” is clear in the following passage: ‘Then after three years I did go up to Jerusalem to visit Cephas and stayed with him fifteen days; but I did not see any other apostle except James the Lord’s brother’ (Gal. 1:18-19). The term apostle may indeed apply to any disciple or follower of Christ. But given the context in the above passage, it refers to one who belongs to the Twelve, the college of the Apostles, of which Peter (Cephas) and James, son of Alphaeus, are members. They are in the same league together, so to speak. Ironically, when Protestants refer to this event to prove that Jesus had a brother by the name of James, in support of Mark 6:3, they ignore verse 18.

Thus, this James who Paul mentions is acknowledged to be an apostle in the same capacity as Peter is. So, when Paul goes to Jerusalem, he sees just two of the Twelve, namely Peter and James the Less (also called the Just), the Bishop of Jerusalem. In other words, he does not see any of the apostles besides Peter and James. Only Peter and James are present from among the Twelve when Paul goes to Jerusalem. James, Joses, Jude, and Simon are called “brothers” because there is no single word for cousin in the Hebrew-Aramaic language.

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The Galilean Aramaic term for cousin is בר דוד or bar duḏ, which literally stated means “Uncle’s-son”. Jeremiah uses the term, ben dodo, “son of his uncle” (Jer. 32:8). Of course, the son of an uncle is a male cousin, so this term is a circumlocution, not a word as are son (ben) and uncle (dodo). A circumlocution is several words that are used where a fewer number or only one word should or could be used. Syriac Aramaic does have a related word for cousin, which is achyana, but this is also used for kinsfolk in general, not just specifically for a cousin. The Jennings Lexicon of the Peshitta translates achyana as kinsman or cousin.

Finally, some Protestants further contend that because Mark and Paul wrote their texts in Koine Greek, they would have incorporated the Greek word for cousin, if in fact James and his brothers were cousins of Jesus, seeing that there is such a word in the Greek language (ἀνεψιός/anepsios). However, we should keep in mind that the characters in Mark’s Gospel are themselves speaking in Aramaic, and thus as Jews would have used the idiom of their language that served as a substitute. The evangelist wrote a literary work, and diction is a literary device. And not unlike Paul, Mark was addressing an audience that mostly consisted of Jewish converts to the Christian faith who were familiar with the Semitic usage of the word brother. We know for a fact, moreover, that the Semitic usage is preserved in the Biblical Greek. Let us look at the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament, for our evidence.

The sons of Merari; Mooli, and Musi: the sons of Mooli; Eleazar, and Kis. And Eleazar died, and he had no sons, but daughters: and the sons of Kis, their brethren (brothers), took them. The sons of Musi; Mooli, and Eder, and Jarimoth, three.
– 1 Chronicles 23, 21-23

υο Μεραρ· Μοολ κα Μουσ. υο Μοολ· ᾿Ελεζαρ κα Κς. κα πθανεν ᾿Ελεζαρ, κα οκ σαν ατ υο, λλ᾿ θυγατρες, κα λαβον ατς υο Κς δελφο ατν. υο Μουσ· Μοολ κα ᾿Εδρ κα ᾿Ιαριμθ, τρες.

Hence, the Greek word for “brothers” (adelphos/ἀδελφοὶ : of the same womb) is used in sacred Scripture in reference to cousins in keeping with Hebrew parlance. The daughters of Eleazar married the sons of his brother Kish. So, all four men named in Mark’s Gospel were cousins of Jesus, which explains why James, Jude (Judas/Thaddeus), and Simon (Canaanite/Zealot) are grouped and paired together in the three lists of the Apostles in the synoptic Gospels. The reason why Simon succeeded James the Less/Just as the Bishop of Jerusalem was probably because they were either blood brothers or half-brothers and Apostles of Jesus. Some scholars contend with good reason that Alphaeus and Clopas are one and the same man, which would make the two uterine brothers. But one thing is certain, and that is James, Joses, Jude, and Simon were not male siblings of Jesus. These four men were definitely not “sons” of the Virgin Mary, but of her sister-in-law (acoth/adelphe/sister) “the other Mary,” wife of Alphaeus/Clopas, brother of Joseph.

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Suffice it to say, the Holy Family is tri-personal and a reflection of the Holy Trinity or Tri-personal God with Joseph as the father of our Lord, Jesus being his son on earth, and the Virgin Mary who is the chaste spouse of the Holy Spirit. The one family is three as the one God is three but consubstantially united.

“For if Mary, as those declare who with sound mind extol her, had no other son but Jesus, and yet Jesus says to His mother, Woman, behold thy son,’ and not Behold you have this son also,’ then He virtually said to her, Lo, this is Jesus, whom thou didst bear.’ Is it not the case that everyone who is perfect lives himself no longer, but Christ lives in him; and if Christ lives in him, then it is said of him to Mary, Behold thy son Christ.’”
Origen, Commentary on John, I:6
(A.D. 232)

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Then he brought me back to the outer gate of the sanctuary, which faces east; and it was shut. And he said to me, “This gate shall remain shut; it shall not be opened, and no one shall enter by it; for the Lord, the God of Israel, has entered by it; therefore, it shall remain shut.”
Ezekiel 44, 1-3
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Salve Regina!

A Stranger Unto My Brethren

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I am become a stranger unto my brethren,
and an alien unto my mother’s children.
Psalm 69, 8
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There is one curious passage many zealous Protestants often cite in their vain attempt to disprove Mary’s perpetual virginity and discredit the Catholic dogma. This is Psalm 69:8 which they use to demonstrate that the “brothers” of Jesus can’t be his cousins, or even three of them (James, Joses, and Simon) his apostles. But their reasoning just begs the question. They see this verse as being fulfilled in John 7:5: ‘For even his own brothers did not believe in him.’ The problem is the imposition of the modern English use of the word. They must first prove that the word “brothers” in the Gospel means biological brothers before they can arbitrarily single out and isolate this OT verse to connect it with the NT text in support of their preconceptions. If not, they are simply drawing their conclusion from what they have already concluded, that Mary did not remain a virgin after the birth of Jesus; she couldn’t have, so the reasoning goes, seeing that the gospels reveal he did in fact have ‘brothers.’ However, just because David had male siblings, it doesn’t mean that Jesus had to have them as well to be his ancestor’s royal anti-type. If that were the case, then Jesus may have had to be a sinner just like David was to exactly fit the bill.

In Semitic usage, the word “brother” (ach) can mean uterine male sibling, but the Hebrew/ Aramaic word can also extend to the broader circle of male family and tribal relations in Jewish culture. The word “brothers” can refer to other male relatives, Klansmen, and even all the Israelites. If we look further into the prophetic meaning of this Messianic Psalm, we should see that the word brethren refer to the Jews who rejected Jesus as their Messiah. Members of his extended family could still very well have disowned him and been anonymously counted among them as fellow Israelites, but they would not have been alone. Christ’s passion wasn’t part of a biological family affair.

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In the Psalm’s primary context, King David is referring to himself. And what we read about David’s relations with his brothers in this psalm does foretell what our Lord shall experience in his ministry, passion, and death. But taken in its secondary context, the psalm is not alluding to any uterine brothers of Jesus. Only the original context and its primary fulfilment literally concerns David’s relationship with his blood brothers which analogically points to our Lord’s rejection by the House of Israel. This verse finds its secondary fulfilment in the Gospel of John 1:11: ‘He came to his own, but his own people did not receive him.’

We are faced with the same double-standard found in the Protestant argument, that there’s no soteriological reason for Mary being ever-virgin, and so she couldn’t necessarily have remained a virgin after Jesus was born. But if this were so, then why assume that these brothers of David point to our Lord’s siblings? Certainly, if his own brothers had in fact denounced him and called him mad, their rejection of him wouldn’t have resulted in his passion and death. Jesus was betrayed by his disciple Judas, and then tried by the Jewish Sanhedrin who compelled Pilate to sentence him to death. The Jewish mob who resented Jesus for failing to live up to their messianic expectations added fuel to the flames.

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So, these brothers that are mentioned in the Psalm do not point to any offspring of Mary but the Israelites. In the Gospel, we have “his own” [neuter: literally his own possession] and “his own people” (the Israelites, who belonged to God as his own chosen possession). Meanwhile, Israel serves as a type of David’s mother. Figuratively speaking, it was Israel which gave birth to the Messiah, and our salvation does come from the Jews. We read in Psalm 87 (86): ‘And Zion shall be called mother, for all shall be her children.’

In the Old Testament, Messianic prophecies are concerned with the salvation of humanity and are related to blessings hoped for. So, even if Jesus did have uterine brothers who rejected him, there would be no reason to prophesy any rivalry between them, for it wouldn’t have resulted in our Lord’s passion and death and thus have any soteriological significance in the least. Psalm 69:8 finds its secondary fulfilment in the rejection of Christ by the Jews. In the same Gospel, we read: ‘And he said to the Jews, “Behold your king!” They cried out, “Take him away! Take him away! Crucify him!” Pilate said to them, “Shall I crucify your king?” The chief priests answered, “We have no king but Caesar.” Then he handed him over to be crucified’ (Jn 19:14-16). In other words, Jesus was no messianic and Davidic king of theirs. Our Lord was consumed as a sacrifice by the blind religious zeal of the elders of the Temple. ‘For the zeal of thine house hath eaten me up; and the reproaches of them that reproached thee are fallen upon me’ (Ps 69, 9). The Psalm, therefore, does not refer to Joseph’s house but to the Temple in Jerusalem, the City of David (Lk 2:49). By rejecting the Son, the Jews had in fact rejected the Father (Lk 10:16).

“The friends of Christ do not tolerate hearing
that the Mother of God ever ceased to be a virgin”
St. Basil
Homily In Sanctum Christi generationem, 5
(ante A.D. 379)
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Now his parents went to Jerusalem every year at the feast of the passover.
And when he was twelve years old, they went up to Jerusalem
after the custom of the feast.
Luke 2, 41-42
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Salve Regina!