Today, we continue with our series responding to “Meeting the Protestant Challenge: How to Answer 50 Biblical Objections to Catholic Beliefs” (2019), written by Karlo Broussard. With this next chapter, the Catholic apologist continues his section on Mary as he attempts to counter evangelical Protestants’ argument that Mary was not a perpetual virgin because the Bible speaks of “The Lord’s Brothers.”
Both Catholics and Gospel Christians teach the doctrine of Jesus Christ’s virgin birth, but Catholics believe that Mary remained a virgin in perpetuity. Evangelical Protestants believe Mary entered into normal marital relations with her husband, Joseph, following the birth of Jesus, pointing to such verses as Matthew 13:55:
“Is not this the carpenter’s son? Is not his mother called Mary? And are not his brothers James and Joseph and Simon and Judas?”
The verse clearly shows that Mary bore Joseph children after the birth of Jesus.
Broussard attempts to answer Protestants’ objections with three arguments:
(1) Broussard references his Greek lexicon and points out that the Greek word translated as “brothers” in the above verse, adelphos, can mean biological, blood-brothers, but may also mean kinsmen, and can even refer to fellow-believers.
(2) Broussard points to Matthew 27:56, which refers to “Mary the mother of James and Joseph.” It’s accepted by all that the particular Mary referred to in Matthew 27:56 was not the mother of Jesus. Broussard then proposes that the James and Joseph mentioned in Matthew 27:56 are the very same James and Joseph cited in Matthew 13:55 and handily concludes that they were not, therefore, the blood-brothers of Jesus.
(3) Broussard argues that the dying Jesus would not have entrusted the care of His mother to the apostle John if she had had additional sons (John 19:26-27). Broussard includes an additional point with this argument, one that I’ve often heard from Catholic apologists. In her response to the angel Gabriel’s message that she would bear the Messiah, Mary asked, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?” (Luke 1:34). Broussard claims that Mary’s incredulous response can only be interpreted to mean that she had already taken a vow of perpetual virginity during her and Joseph’s betrothal period.
Let’s now look at Broussard’s arguments, one by one.
(1) We agree with Broussard that adelphos does not necessarily refer to blood-brothers, but according to the context used in Matthew 13:55, Joseph-Mary-brothers, it’s reasonable to assume the reference is to biological brothers. Classical Greek did have a word for “cousin,” anepsios, but this word is never used for Jesus’s brothers in the New Testament Greek text. There are several references to Jesus’s brothers in the New Testament, including Matthew 12:46, Luke 8:19, and Mark 3:31. Catholics must ask themselves why these men, if they were only Jesus’s cousins, were so often in the company of His mother?
(2) The other gospel writers help to identity the other Mary, referred to in Matthew 27:56. John identifies her as the “wife of Clopas” (John 19:25) and Mark identifies her as the mother of the apostle known as James the Younger (Mark 15:40). Broussard flouts Scriptural evidence and leapfrogs reasonable hermeneutics by concluding that the James and Joseph referred to in Matthew 13:55 are the same James and Joseph of Matthew 27:56.
(3) Jesus Christ did not entrust His mother to the care of His half-brothers because they were not believers at the time of His death.
“For even his own brothers did not believe in him.” – John 7:5
Which leads us to one of the strongest proofs for the existence of Jesus’s biological half-brothers; verse 8 from the Messianic Psalm 69:
“I have become a stranger to my brothers, an alien to my mother’s sons.”
Broussard’s second point to this argument is irrational. Mary did not question angel Gabriel’s announcement that she would bear the Christ because she had taken a vow of perpetual virginity, as the Catholic apologist fancifully posits. She questioned the message, rather, because she had not yet entered into marital relations with her betrothed husband, Joseph. Catholics must twist Scripture like pretzels in order to concoct Mary’s supposed vow of perpetual virginity from Luke 1:34.
Another text evangelicals use to show Mary wasn’t a perpetual virgin is Matthew 1:25, “but (Joseph) knew her not until she had given birth to a son.” Broussard will attempt to refute that one next week.
My, my. Broussard and Catholicism in general expend a lot of time and energy on this claim for Mary’s perpetual virginity. Why is that? In the pagan religiosity that Catholicism adapted, virginity was viewed as a spiritually superior state (see the Vestal Virgin Wiki article here). Sex was viewed as base and even “dirty.” Catholics could not envision their semi-deified Queen of Heaven, their co-mediator and co-redemptrix, as having ever been “defiled” by Joseph on the marriage bed. Yet God’s Word states that the marriage bed is undefiled when honored (Hebrews 13:4).
Next up: “He Knew Her Not…Until”