Answering the rebuttals of a Catholic apologist, #32: “The Lord’s Brothers”

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”

25 thoughts on “Answering the rebuttals of a Catholic apologist, #32: “The Lord’s Brothers”

  1. Some fathers believed in her perpetual virginity but explicitly mentioned that it was more of a pious belief and NOT a dogma of faith.

    Basil of Caesarea (329-379): “[The opinion that Mary bore several children after Christ]…does not run counter to faith; for, virginity was imposed on Mary as a necessity, only up to the time that she served as an instrument for the Incarnation, while, on the other hand, her subsequent virginity had no great importance with regard to the mystery of the Incarnation.” Homilia in sanctam Christi generationem, PG 31:1468.(See. footnote 174 of Juniper B. Carol, O.F.M., ed., Mariology(Milwaukee: Bruce, 1955), Vol. 2, p. 277).

    Juniper B. Carol, O.F.M. : “The author [Basil] also focuses his attention on the possibility of conjugal relations between Mary and St. Joseph after the birth of Christ; he rejects this possibility, but not by appealing to dogmatic belief; he has no consciousness of any obligation from this angle, and evengenerously admits that there is no such obligation; faith, he candidly admits, demands only that we believe in the permanence of Mary’s virginity up to (and including) the incarnation; after the virginal conception there is no obligation imposed by faith.” Juniper B. Carol, O.F.M., ed., Mariology (Milwaukee: Bruce, 1955), Vol. 2, pp. 276-277.

    Juniper B. Carol, O.F.M: For, it is evident from this discourse that in a region of the Greek world, apparently Asia Minor, an important Churchman, without any doubt the Archbishop of Caesarea, St. Basil, did not hold the perpetual virginity of Mary as a dogmatic truth, nor did his metropolitan Churches. Juniper B. Carol, O.F.M., ed., Mariology(Milwaukee: Bruce, 1955), Vol. 2, p. 277.

    This priest was honest enough to admit that the source of this doctrine was an apocryphal work called the protoevangelium of James.

    By Fr. Felix López, SHM

    Even though this section is dedicated to the study of Mary in the writings of the Church Fathers, we cannot forget to mention this apocryphal writing which faithfully brings together the common piety of the first Christian generations.

    The Apocrypha, from the Greek apo (far) and krifos (hidden), are writings that the Church has not approved as canonical, that is, they have not been recognized as inspired by God. Usually, they were falsely attributed to known authors, such as an apostle, in order to give them credibility.

    …..One of the aspects that stands out in the Protoevangelium is the subject of the Perpetual Virginity of Mary.

    From the Protoevangelium of James we can conclude that, although its narration is a bit fantastic, it is not a heretical writing and it reflects the common faith in the virginal conception and birth of Christ. This writing aided the development of the dogma of Mary’s Divine Maternity and her Perpetual Virginity. Despite the fact that Pope Gelasius decreed the Protoevangelium to be noncanonical at the end of the 5th century, it was still used in the Byzantine liturgy for readings on Marian feast days. There are some feasts in the current liturgical calendar of the Roman rite which proceed from information found in the Protoevangelium of James, such as the feast of St. Joachim and St. Anna (July 26th), the Nativity of Mary (September 8th), or the Presentation of Mary in the Temple (November 21st).

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I was speaking with a Maronite, last week about Mary. . He almost had a heart attack when I said that Mary had other children. By the time we discussed praying to Mary he couldn’t take it anymore. If he could he would’ve punched me. As it was he went red in the face and crossed the street. Tradition knows no bounds. So sad 😞
    Thank you for this post Tom. I have saved it for future reference.
    Looking forward to your next post on this subject.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Crissy. Yes, I have also encountered Catholics who are extremely devoted to Mary. From my observations, I would guess that around 50% of Catholic “religious devotion” is directed towards Mary, she being viewed by many Catholics as the more tender, sympathetic mediator. When I was a young Catholic, I wasn’t attracted to Marianism at all. In my young mind, I remember reasoning, “Why pray to the second-string when I could pray directly to the “Big Guy” Himself? I don’t say that pridefully, but it’s just a memory of my quirkiness. Perhaps the Holy Spirit was illuminating truths to me even back then.
      Thank you for the support and encouragement, sister!

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  3. It seems the Catholics are just like atheists: ABusing the meaning of “brother” with a meaning that’s contrary to the best choice of meaning according to its context. The term brother probably refer to physical brother in light of the word “mother” referring to blood relations which I see the apologist also twists its meaning. Good post brother!

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  4. Great summary, Tom! The lengths the RCC is willing to go to protect Mary’s virginity is worse than I realized. I am starting to get annoyed when I read conservative evangelical writings who are quoting Pope Francis or former popes. Maybe that attitude is wrong but nothing in this book lines up with my beliefs! I also don’t think this author did justice to what adoption meant in Israel and in the Greco-Roman world at large. I agree with Jim wholeheartedly on his assessment of the term brother. Tom, I love your twisted pretzel analogy. That is what my brain becomes as I try and process all of this. I am SO thankful for the work, time and effort you give this series! Love and blessings to you and Corrine!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Mandy! Yes, it’s quite amazing to witness the contortions the RCC must perform to justify and defend its Marianism. I appreciate your perseverance in following along with me. Most evangelicals aren’t interested in these kinds of doctrinal debates. They’re not hearing about these issues from their pastors. And speaking of that…
      RE: evangelicals quoting popes
      That grieves me to no end! Differences about Mary and other doctrines aside, there is a fundamental difference between Gospel Christianity and the RCC regarding justification that is irreconcilable. Popes, prelates, and Catholic apologists are unabashedly upfront about their belief in justification (and hence, salvation) by sacramental grace and merit. They don’t attempt to hide this. It’s not something they apologize for.
      Thanks for your support and encouragement, Mandy! And blessings to you and Nathan!


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