Wednesday, 16 April 2014

John Hagee & Anti-Catholicism

Click Here if you cannot see this video.

Anti-Catholicism is nothing new. It began in the Western world during the Protestant Reformation.  Martin Luther was the first to foment this terrible ideology with his claims that the pope is the Antichrist, and the Catholic Church is the "Mystery Babylon" written of in the Book of Revelation. Luther had nothing to back this claim, other than his own ideology, but it served a purpose. It frightened the bejeebers out of German Catholics who quickly converted to Luther's form of Christianity for fear of being associated with the Antichrist. It also justified the theft of Catholic properties by German princes as well as the persecution of Catholic political enemies. It was very useful propaganda you see.

Quickly Luther's papal-antichrist cabal was picked up by other Protestant "reformers." Nowhere was this bogeyman from bogeyland tactic more readily employed than in England, where Catholics and Protestants contended for the royal crown. Eventually, Protestants won the day in England, and as a result, Luther's papal-antichrist rhetoric took root. For a few hundred years, Catholicism was virtually illegal in Britain (England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland). Catholics were persecuted there. England also engaged in wars against Catholic countries in the following centuries, and once again, Luther's papal-antichrist bogeyman came in very handy. It's much easier to kill Catholic Spaniards and French when you believe they are serving the Biblical Antichrist you see.

In truth, Luther simply invented the papal-antichrist cabal to serve his own purposes.  It justified his religious schism with Rome, and solidified his position as a permanent religious leader in Germany. I don't think Luther ever imagined how far this babylonian-antichrist rhetoric would go. Politicians of the day couldn't resist. They, and those who followed them, employed it to its full potential. People were persecuted because of this propaganda. They were denied religious services and derided for their beliefs.  Their religious properties were stolen, and they were made to be second-class citizens.  Yes, some were injured and even killed in the name of this propaganda.

As centuries passed, people added to the tall tales of the fabled papal-antichrist. False stories were invented about the inquisitions and crusades. Endless justification was made for the persecution of Catholics. Even the British colonies in North America were initially no safe refuge for Catholics. Eventually, the colony of "Mary Land" (now known as Maryland) was created as a place where Catholics could live in relative peace. Even then however, such peace was often short-lived.  The British colonists in America were no better than their Protestant counterparts in Britain when it came to their mistreatment of Catholics. However, as colonists were forced to try to live in peace with Amerindians (Native Americans), they eventually began to adopt a more tolerant attitude toward Catholics, at least on an official government level. You see, what most history books don't tell you is that many of the Amerindians (Native Americans) were already Christians by the time the English set up their colonies on the Eastern seaboard of North America. They were originally evangelised by French Catholics you see. Many brave French Catholic priests came to this continent years before English Protestant ministers.  Consequently, many of the so-called "savages" in North America were actually devout Catholics. Now some tribes retained their Native American spiritualism, but a good number of tribes were also Catholic. British colonists gradually began to adopt more tolerant views of Catholics (and Jews) as time passed, at least on a government level.  On a public and social level, prejudice remained, and the papal-antichrist fable continued to rear its ugly head.

On this blog, and in my book "Catholicism for Protestants," I have demonstrated that it is literally IMPOSSIBLE for the pope to ever be the Antichrist. For if he ever takes on the characteristics of Antichrist, he automatically ceases to be pope, indeed he would be an "antipope" which means he was never pope to begin with. Martin Luther was just plain wrong. The entire premise he bases his argument on is fatally flawed (as are most of the premises for many of his teachings), but this is where lousy logic will get you.  I'll demonstrate once more why the pope cannot be the Antichrist...
QUESTION: Is the pope the Antichrist? 
ANSWER: While this question may seem ridiculous to many people, you might be surprised to discover just how many Protestants actually believe it, or are at least suspicious of it.  The notion comes from the first Protestant reformer himself – Martin Luther – in the sixteenth century, who asserted that the office of the papacy is the Antichrist.  That's not to say any particular pope, but the office of the papacy itself. So when German Protestants began to mix with English Protestants in the United States during the nineteenth century, you can imagine what an explosive combination this created.  As new American-style Protestant denominations were formed, the office of the papacy went from being the Antichrist on a purely philosophical level, to the actual incarnation of evil itself!

This notion has become very popular among some Baptist, Evangelical and Pentecostal groups in the United States, and is a bit humorous when you really stop and think about it.  Before we start levelling the accusation of "Antichrist" at anybody, or any office, it might help to actually understand what the Bible has to say about it.  After all, the whole idea of "Antichrist" is a Biblical concept.   
So what does the Bible say about the Antichrist?  Well, for starters, the Bible tells us that the "spirit of antichrist" was alive and well even during the Apostolic age (1st John 2:18).  It also tells us that in order to be antichrist in any way, one must deny that Jesus of Nazareth is the promised Jewish Messiah (1st John 2:22).  One must also deny that God the Son came to earth in the form of flesh and blood (1st John 4:3; 2nd John 1:7).  These are the only four times the word "antichrist" appears in the Scriptures.  So based on the Biblical definition, to be an antichrist (or even THE Antichrist) one must deny that Jesus of Nazareth is the promised Messiah and one must deny that God the Son came to earth in the form of human flesh.  Sorry, that's just the Biblical definition, and since the term "Antichrist" is a Biblical term, just like the term "Christ" itself, it has no real meaning outside this Biblical definition. 
Now since every pope since the time of St. Peter has affirmed that Jesus of Nazareth is the Messianic Son of God, that sort of disqualifies every pope in history from being an antichrist.  Of course, the office of the papacy itself was literally founded on Saint Peter's affirmation that Jesus of Nazareth is the promised Messianic Son of God (Matthew 16:15-19), so that disqualifies the papal office from being antichrist.  Since the pope literally teaches, and his office is literally founded upon, the belief that Jesus of Nazareth is the Messianic Son of God, it is literally impossible (in every Biblical sense) for the pope, or his papal office, to be the Antichrist in any way.  Again, sorry, but the Bible speaks for itself here.  To assert that the pope or the papacy is somehow, in any way, the Antichrist, is to completely deny the plain and clear teaching of the Bible on this matter.  Now, if some people want to go ahead and call the pope the Antichrist anyway, then they can go ahead, but in doing so, the rest of us need to understand they are directly contradicting the Bible when they do this.

In the video above, Evangelical Pastor John Hagee regurgitates the same tired anti-Catholic propaganda of Martin Luther. However, he adds something to it which is really quite common among Protestant Fundamentalists today. In doing so, Hagee aligns himself with Jehovah's Witnesses, Seventh Day Adventists and a host of other radical anti-Catholic groups. I've posted the above video for reference sake. I imagine most of my readers will not be able to tolerate watching the whole thing. It's really quite sad. However, what I wish to point out here is that nothing, and I mean literally nothing, John Hagee is saying here is new. It may be new to the people in the audience, or to the many fans he has on television, but what he's saying is actually not very new at all. It's really quite old you see. The basic premise of it goes back to Martin Luther, but that's just the basic premise. All the juicy stuff comes from another source in the middle 19th century -- a fellow by the name of Alexander Hislop.

Alexander Hislop
The Father of Modern Anti-Catholicism
Alexander Hislop was a 19th century minister in the Free Church of Scotland. He was known primarily for his outspoken vitriol against the Roman Catholic Church.  Hislop published a few books, but his most famous was "The Two Babylons: Papal worship Proved to be the worship of Nimrod and His wife." The entire book can be viewed online at this anti-Catholic website HERE. To simplify, Hislop's premise is that the entire Roman Catholic religion is really just an extension of ancient Paganism, whitewashed in a grand conspiracy to appear Christian when it's really not. (Not even Martin Luther would be so bold as to suggest that!) Hislop asserts that the whole thing originated with the ancient King Nimrod of Babel and his wife Samarimus. From this he extrapolates an elaborate web on interconnection between every Pagan religion in the Western world, resulting in the final culmination of Roman Catholicism, wherein people are taught to worship the pope, and Mary, who is in actuality just a personification of Nimrod's wife Samarimus.

"Two Babylons"
Published in tracts between 1853-1858
Then as a book in 1919.
I read the book back in the 1990s when I was an Evangelical, and I found something very curious about it.  Whenever, Hislop made a fantastic claim, he would cite a reference in a footnote.  Most people don't read footnotes, but I do. So naturally I checked it out. I was astonished to find that the vast majority of his footnotes did not cite other sources, but rather cited himself on another page in the same book. These were cross-references, not source citations, which means that Hislop was effectively admitting (in his own writing) that he had no sources -- other than himself.  At that point I dismissed his book, and within about a year, I dismissed his whole Catholicism-Paganism conspiracy.  Within about another two years, I became a Roman Catholic Christian. I'm not alone. While others may not have made the journey into the Catholic Church, there are plenty who have openly criticised the works of Alexander Hislop.  On page 135 of Bill Ellis' book "Raising the Devil," Hislop's book is described as conspiracy theorist propaganda having "sketchy knowledge of Middle Eastern antiquity with a vivid imagination." I couldn't think of a better description myself.

In the video of Hagee above, I noted more errors than I could count, not only in what Hagee says Catholics believe, but also historical errors as well. I'm not talking about little historical errors. I'm talking about enormous ones! For example; Hagee describes Emperor Constantine as the first Catholic pope.  Constantine was a general and a politician.  He was not a member of any clergy.  He was never a priest.  He was never a bishop, and he certainly was never a pope! Nowhere is he even listed in the Catholic Church's index of popes. This is an egregious historical error, and I do mean epic! Yet, not only does Hagee just carry on as if nothing is wrong, but his audience just nods and listens attentively. I think this demonstrates something. In order for this kind of ridiculous propaganda to take root in society, and for people like John Hagee to become wildly successful, you need to have a population that is woefully ignorant of history. I doubt any single person in Hagee's audience could tell you who canonised the Bible in AD 400.  They probably wouldn't even know the Bible was canonised in AD 400.  I doubt ten people in that audience could even tell you what the word "canonised" means.  This is what I'm talking about.  The American Christian population is so completely uneducated about Christian history that they will literally fall for anything.  There is no way Pastor John Hagee could be a success in America if Americans actually knew their Bible and the history behind it.

However, I don't want to just pick on Pastor Hagee. He's not alone. Just as his ministry is completely unoriginal, and a knock off of anti-Catholics who came before him, so there are many more who are doing the exact same thing. Some of them have television, radio and Internet ministries. Others are just country preachers who have a single pulpit and a small congregation.  There are many to be sure, but all of them have one thing in common. They all draw on both Martin Luther and Alexander Hislop as their primary source of information.  Even today's modern anti-Catholic books, videos and audio series draw heavily upon Luther and Hislop -- mostly on Hislop.

I want to go back to a commandment for a moment here.  It's the eighth commandment according to the Catholic way of counting them, and ninth according to the common Protestant way of counting them.  It says this: "You shall not bear false witness against your neighbour." For about five-hundred years now, Protestant leaders have been bearing false witness against Catholics and the Catholic Church, all in the name of religion. I think after half a millennium it really needs to stop. They bear false witness about what we believe. They bear false witness about what we practise. They bear false witness about our leaders. They bear false witness about what we did in history. The bear false witness about the origin of our beliefs and leaders. It goes on, and on, and on, and on... for five-hundred years!  One would think the lies would start to get old.  Granted, most people don't know they're lies.  Because of their ignorance of religion and history, they've simply swallowed false propaganda and regurgitated it.  Yet with each new generation these fables are revived with new vigour and told to people who think it's all brand-spanking-new revelation. Seriously, if your pastor is basing your religious teachings on bald-faced lies about another religion, it might be time to find a new pastor. Since when is bearing false witness part of the Christian gospel?

Now don't get me wrong. The Catholic Church is not totally innocent here. We Catholics have our share of naughty history in dealing with Protestants. However, for the most part, Rome has owned up to this. In the Second Vatican Council, the bishops of the Catholic Church plainly stated that men on both sides were to blame for the division between Catholics and Protestants.  The Vatican has condemned anti-Protestantism, and commanded that Protestants be respected as Christians, and that ecumenical relations be opened with them. Yes, we Catholics haven't been perfect little angels, but at the same time, we've also owned up to our mistakes.  John Hagee has likewise repented of, and renounced, some of the above video recorded statements he's made about the Catholic Church as demonstrated in this signed letter here. I would hope the majority of Evangelicals would follow this example and do the same.


Click Image to Learn More
Highly recommended by priests and catechists, "Catholicism for Protestants" is a Biblical explanation of Roman Catholic Christianity as told by Shane Schaetzel -- an Evangelical convert to the Catholic Church through Anglicanism.  The book is concise and formatted in an easy-to-read Question & Answer catechism style.  It addresses many of the common questions Protestants have about Catholicism. It is ideal for Protestants seeking more knowledge about the Catholic Church, and for Catholics seeking a quick refresher course on fundamental Catholic teaching. It's an excellent book for Catholics and Protestants alike!


Monday, 7 April 2014

The End of Christian America

Martyrdom of a Mexican Priest in 1927 during the Cristeros War
This priest was executed simply for obeying the Catholic Church after the Mexican government told him not to.
April 7, 2014 may now be remembered as the date in which Christians began to lose their freedom of religion in the United States....
( — The U.S. Supreme Court Monday has declined to hear Elane Photography v. Willock, the case of a photographer who was told by the New Mexico Supreme Court that she must, as “the price of citizenship,” use her creative talents to communicate a message with which she disagrees or suffer punishment.... 
....“Americans oppose unjust laws that strong-arm citizens to express ideas against their will,” added Senior Counsel David Cortman. “Elaine and numerous others like her around the country have been more than willing to serve any and all customers, but they are not willing to promote any and all messages. A government that forces any American to create a message contrary to her own convictions is a government every American should fear.” 
read more here
It's not over mind you, a few similar cases are still pending, but this is a very ominous sign. Whenever the U.S. Supreme Court refuses to hear a case, it has the de facto effect of upholding the lower court's previous ruling. Now the Supreme Court can later overrule that ruling with another similar case, so we could say there is still a glimmer of hope. However, one would think this particular case would be a very fast and easy one to settle. One of the reasons why the Supreme Court refused to hear it could be because it will soon issue a ruling on the Obamacare HHS mandate that forces private companies to pay for "medical services" (abortion and contraception) they morally object to. The effect of this ruling could bleed over into cases such as this one. For example; if the Supreme Court sides with Hobby Lobby and strikes down the HHS mandate, then the effect of that case would be to vindicate Elane Photography and uphold the owner's religious freedom in this and all similar cases. If on the other hand, the Supreme Court sides with the Obamacare HHS mandate, then that would indicate that the Supreme Court has sided AGAINST religious freedom not only on the HHS mandate issue, but in the case of Elane Photography as well, and all similar cases.  So this case now in the Supreme Court (Hobby Lobby v. Obamacare) has everything riding on it.

On a personal level, I have zero confidence in the United States Supreme Court. If they rule in favour of Hobby Lobby on religious freedom, I suspect it will be a watered-down ruling that will still diminish religious freedom in some way.  If it actually rules fully in favour of religious freedom, then I will be shocked and consider it a fluke of history. We are after all, talking about the same branch of government that gave us Dred Scott v. Sandford and Roe v. Wade. The first ruling led to the Civil War and the second produced a holocaust of 40 million dead babies. When we examine the history of the US Supreme Court we find that it is far more apt to produce evil than good. So with that reputation under its nine robes, I think we can have reasonable expectation of this branch of government doing something particularly dastardly in this high profile case. So when it comes to the US Supreme Court, I pray for the best but expect the worst.

My own pessimism aside, let's look at what our role as Christians will be in the years ahead, regardless of the US Supreme Court's decision. For our role as Christians (particularly Catholic Christians) does not change.

It is simple really. We need to stop framing our thoughts, views and actions in terms of our own "freedom" or "liberty."  As we will soon learn, one way or another, "freedom" and "liberty" in a secular sense is determined entirely by the whim of those in government, even if they are supposedly "dignified" judges in dirty black robes. Your "freedom" and mine means nothing to them.  Your "liberty" is simply what they decide it to be. So when we frame our defence in terms of "freedom" and "liberty" we automatically lose, if not now than later, because these are abstract concepts entirely dependent on those in charge. I find it amusing that Christians are so eager to point to the United States Constitution, or the Declaration of Independence, as their defence in such cases. Freedom of religion may have meant one thing in George Washington's time, but guess what? George Washington isn't here any more, and neither is Thomas Jefferson or Benjamin Franklin. Those folks, for all of their writings and sacrifices, can't help us these days, as the United States government has proved time and time again.  Appeals to religious freedom are eventually destined for failure, if not now then someday. There is only one defence that will work, but to make it work, it will require sacrifice.

The defence that every Christian must appeal to is "religion" itself, not "religious freedom."  That's right. The defence every Christian must appeal to, whether it be the right to speak for or against some things, or the right to pay or not pay for some things, or the right to do or not do some things, is simply "religion."  That's it. Not "religious freedom" but "religion" -- period. Christians, especially Catholic Christians, need to be as bold as Muslims by citing our "religion" alone for the reason why we say and do things. Yes, our society and government will persecute us for this. They will fine us, take away our licenses and perhaps even jail us for this.  Yes, we will receive the scorn of our culture for this.  They will call us "bigots" and "fascists" and "obsolete" and whatever other epitaph they can dream up.  Some of us will be laughed at.  Some of us will be yelled at.  Some of us will even be beaten for this. It's called martyrdom people! And this is a concept Christian Americans have a really hard time wrapping their minds around. This is how Christians win.  We win in the short term by pleasing God with our personal sacrifices for his Son.  We win in the long term because the blood of the martyrs becomes the seeds of the Church. Every time in history when martyrs have sacrificed themselves for his Son, God has rewarded their sacrifice with the eventual revival of the Church and its inevitable victory over oppressive governments and society. Look at what happened with ancient Rome. I tell you, perhaps within our lifetimes, we may see a revival of Christianity in the Middle East not seen in over a thousand years!  Why?  Because Christians are sacrificing themselves there.  The same goes for China.  Their sacrifices will not go unnoticed by God.

Christians here in the United States need to be willing to do the same thing.  Our focus should not be avoiding persecution, but rather inviting it with our loyalty to Christ. Let us show the world, and history, by using our own sacrifices as an example, just how intolerant and hateful Secular Humanism is. Let us show the world, and history, through our martyrdom (financial, legal and even physical) jut how hateful Washington DC, and our state governments, really have become toward Christianity. This is the way to victory, it is the only way to victory there is.  Indeed, it is the only way to victory there ever was.

From now on, whenever asked why we believe homosexuality is wrong, we should simply answer, "because our religion tells us so" and leave it at that. When asked why we won't pay for abortion and contraception, we should just answer "because our religion tells us so" and leave it at that. From now on whenever the government says we have to do something that violates our beliefs we should simply answer "we can't, because our religion tells us so" and leave it at that, willing to pay whatever fine, sacrifice whatever license, and serve whatever time in prison is necessary.  Let us keep track of it, document it, and tell the world through the Internet and every media available. Let us simply be martyrs and show the world how intolerant a Secular Humanist society and government really is.  Let history be its judge and let our sacrifices be our gifts to God. If, by a fluke of nature, the US Supreme Court rules in our favour, then we have that favour -- for now. (In time that will change.) If on the other hand, the more likely scenario occurs wherein the Supreme Court rules against us, then our actions do not change. We simply continue to do everything the way we have been doing, all in the name of religion, simply because our religion tells us so, and for no other reason. Let us break the government's law, when it is unjust, and allow ourselves to be martyrs because of it, as our sacrifice unto God.

Above is a photograph of a Mexican priest who was executed (martyred) during the Cristeros War in the 1920s.  Let this man be our guide and example.  During the 1920s the Mexican government thought it could take over all the religious activities of the Mexican people. People were told they could not go to mass except on days the Mexican government approved.  Priests not native to Mexico were expelled from the country, in the hope of gaining more control over the clergy.  Some priests resisted, broke the law, and remained in Mexico as Church law dictates, so they could serve their flock by saying mass, baptising children, and performing weddings.  For breaking the Mexican government's unjust laws, these priests were executed (martyred), and thousands of Mexican Catholics joined them in martyrdom, as their bodies hung from telephone polls all across the country.  Yes this really happened.  Look it up.  This is the price of Secular Humanism running amok in Mexico.  Now we see it beginning to run amok in the United States.  If Mexican Catholics can give their very lives, and sacrifice everything for the sake of their religion, what then are American Christians (especially Catholic Christians) ready to do?  Are American Christians as brave and as faithful as Mexican Christians?  Perhaps now we shall see.


Click Image to Learn More
Highly recommended by priests and catechists, "Catholicism for Protestants" is a Biblical explanation of Roman Catholic Christianity as told by Shane Schaetzel -- an Evangelical convert to the Catholic Church through Anglicanism.  The book is concise and formatted in an easy-to-read Question & Answer catechism style.  It addresses many of the common questions Protestants have about Catholicism. It is ideal for Protestants seeking more knowledge about the Catholic Church, and for Catholics seeking a quick refresher course on fundamental Catholic teaching. It's an excellent book for Catholics and Protestants alike!


Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Mary's Virginity and the Brothers of Jesus

"The Annunciation" by Henry Ossawa Tanner, AD 1898
During the last few hundred years it has become in vogue for some Protestant Christians to not only question the virginity of Mary, but to actually oppose it openly and militantly. Many traditional Protestants have gone the way of doubting the virginity of Mary altogether, relegating it to an early Christian myth. Meanwhile most of the more contemporary Evangelical Christians firmly adhere to the virginity of Mary during Christ's conception on up to his birth, but vigorously deny her virginity thereafter. This article will demonstrate why both assumptions are wrong.

The former assumption, that Mary's virginity is a myth, lacks all historical evidence. It is simply an assumption based entirely on modernist doubt.  I suppose if one wants to build one's faith on modernist doubt, have at it. In time however, it won't be long before one is questioning everything else in the gospel, then ultimately the gospel itself. Thus the progression of modernism in Christianity has always been from denial of little things, to the denial of big things, and on to the denial of everything. If this is the path one finds one's self on, don't let me stop you. This blog is about real history, real science and real tradition. If these things are a problem for you, there is nothing I can do. So maybe you should simply move on. If however, you're interested in real history, and what we really know about Mary and Jesus' brothers through the only records that tell about them (Scripture and early tradition) then this blog is for you.

When we look at characters in the Bible, holy men and women of God, we need to understand that everything we know about them comes from two sources. The first source is the writings of Holy Scripture itself.  The second source is the writings of the early Christians, that while they may not be infallible like Scripture, they do give us a clear image of what the early Christians believed. My father always taught me that the best way to understand history is to go to what he called "original source documentation."  What does that mean?  It means going to the writings of the people who lived closest to the historical event. Fortunately for us, the early Christians were prolific writers, and some of their stuff has survived to this very day, was translated into English, digitised and can now be read in historical archives in libraries and on the Internet. Outside of these records we have no knowledge of what the early Christians believed or how they interpreted the Scriptures. That's right, outside of these writings, we have nothing. This is it. If you want to know what the early Christians thought, then you can read it in their own words. If you're not interested in their writings, or are apt to dismiss them, then you'll have to deal with the fact that you have no information about the early Christians and therefore you know virtually nothing about them.

Many of today's Evangelical Christians usually fall into this trap, but often enough, they are completely oblivious to it. The common Evangelical narrative goes something like this...
Mary was a virgin when the Angel Gabriel announced the birth of Christ to her. She remained a virgin all through her pregnancy and Joseph did not have intercourse with her. Then after Jesus was born, Mary and Joseph had sex. We know this because the Bible tells us that she only remained a virgin "until" she gave birth to Jesus, implying that she ceased to be a virgin after. The Bible also makes references to the "brothers" and "sisters" of Jesus Christ, even naming some of them. Therefore, we know, based on the Bible Alone, that Mary ceased to be a virgin after the birth of Jesus, had normal sexual relations with Joseph, and produced a number of younger siblings of Jesus Christ.
Okay, there are several problems with this narrative, but before I demonstrate that I want to emphasise that this is an extremely popular narrative which is almost universally accepted in Protestantism (both traditional and Evangelical). Now some traditional Protestants have ceased to believe in the virgin birth altogether, but the Evangelicals vigorously defend that, at least insofar as Mary remaining a virgin prior to the birth of Jesus. The Evangelicals almost universally subscribe to the narrative above. Aside from a small group if high-church Anglicans, and perhaps a few traditional Lutherans, almost every Protestant in the world accepts the above narrative as Biblical and historical truth. So with that said, lets look at all the Biblical "evidence" Protestants use to support the idea that Mary had sex sometime after the birth of Jesus Christ.

The first Biblical citation comes from the Gospel according to Matthew in reference to the relationship between Joseph and Mary...
"but [Joseph] had no marital relations with her until she had borne a son; and he named him Jesus." -- Matthew 1:25
Here Evangelicals like to put an emphasis on the word "until," implying that because this word is used, it means that Mary's condition as a virgin changed after the fact. However, there is a serious linguistic problem with this understanding, both with the English word "until" and with the Greek word it was translated from - heos. Neither in English nor in Greek, does the word "until" (heos) always imply that something changed after it is used. Most of the time it does, but not all of the time. For example, 2nd Samuel 6:23 says: "And Michal the daughter of Saul had no child until the day of her death."  So does that mean that Michal had children after her death?  Probably not. Matthew 22:44 says: "The Lord said to my Lord, ‘Sit at my right hand, until I put your enemies under your feet.’" So does that mean the Lord (Jesus the Son) will not sit by our Lord's (God the Father's) right hand after he puts his enemies under his feet? We have some significant theological problems if it does mean that. For the Father and the Son are two Persons of the blessed Trinity. How can the Son no longer sit at the right hand of the Father? 1st Corinthians 15:25 says that Jesus "must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet." Does this mean the Jesus will no longer reign after he has put his enemies under his feet? Again, we've got some serious theological problems if it does. Jesus is God. How can he not reign after a certain event happens? 2nd Corinthians 1:13 says: "For we write to you nothing other than what you can read and also understand; I hope you will understand until the end." So does that mean the apostle hopes we will not understand after the end -- meaning the end of the world and the last judgement? Are we to conclude that based on this usage of the word "until" the Apostle Paul only wants us to understand things until Jesus comes back, and then after that he hopes we don't understand any more? From this you can begin to see how ridiculous things get when we impose a strict single-sense meaning on the word "until" (heos). Granted, the word "until" usually means that something changes after a certain point, but it doesn't always mean that.  It can't. So to use the argument that Mary had sex after the birth of Jesus because the word "until" (heos) is used in Matthew 1:25 is a mistake. The usage of that word alone proves nothing -- neither in English nor in Greek. It simply means that Joseph did not have sex with Mary before or after she was found to be with child. It says nothing -- and I mean nothing -- about what happened thereafter. Sorry that's just English (and Greek).

Another objection is commonly raised because of the way some English Bibles translate Matthew 1:25 as "And he did not know her until she brought forth her firstborn son." The assumption here is that because the verse says "firstborn," there must have been a second-born, and a third-born, and so on.  Now that does sound logical in the modern English usage of the word. However, we are not talking about a modern people here, nor a modern culture, nor a modern linguistic usage of the term "firstborn." In ancient Jewish culture the term "firstborn" was a legal term. It literally meant the child that opened the womb. This was important for inheritance reasons, as the legal firstborn son (not daughter but son) was always the one designated to receive the inheritance from his father (Exodus 13:2, Exodus 34:20, Numbers 3:12). What this meant is that the son who was born first was called the "firstborn" regardless if there was ever a second or a third.  He was called "firstborn" immediately, even if the mother died in childbirth and never gave birth to a second or third child. The term "firstborn" was a legal term in ancient Jewish culture, and that is how the term is used here in this passage. It in no way means that a second or third child must follow. That is ancient Jewish law. Feel free to look it up, or check with a local rabbi.

Now there are multiple references to the brothers or sisters of Jesus Christ. These are as follows... Matthew 12:46; Matthew 13:55; Mark 3:31–34; Mark 6:3; Luke 8:19–20; John 2:12; John 7:3-10; Acts 1:14 & 1st Corinthians 9:5.  Of course, this leads many to believe that this is irrefutable proof that Jesus had younger siblings. However, there is a problem here, and this has to do with language. While the New Testament manuscripts we have available to us today were written in Greek, that is not the native language Jesus and his apostles spoke. They all spoke Aramaic, which is a Semitic language very similar to Hebrew. Very few people speak it today, but at the time of Christ, it was very popular and widespread throughout the region. Aramaic is a primitive language and lacks words for some fine details that are taken for granted in Greek, Latin and even English. For example; Aramaic has no word for "wrist." In fact, the wrist is just considered part of the hand. This is why the Scriptures say that Jesus was pierced through the "hands" at his crucifixion, even though modern medical science tells us it would be impossible for the hands to support the weight of his body. Medical examination of the Shroud of Turin, which is believed to be the burial cloth of Jesus Christ, shows the image of a man crucified through his wrists. Most archaeologists agree that the nails were commonly placed through the wrist during Roman crucifixions. Yet to people who spoke Aramaic at that time, they would have said the nails were placed through the "hands" because the wrist was considered part of the hand. Likewise, a similar situation exists in the usage of the words "brothers" and "sisters" in the Aramaic language. The problem being that like ancient Hebrew, the Aramaic language had no words for cousins, aunts, uncles and step-siblings. They were all simply referred to as "brothers" and "sisters." There is no way that any of these verses cited above can prove that Jesus had siblings through Mary. Sorry, that's just the nature of Aramaic. In fact, the Scriptures themselves demonstrate exactly what I'm talking about here, referring to two completely different mothers for some of those named "brothers" of our Lord (Matthew 27:56 compare to John 19:25). Now granted, the New Testament manuscripts we use today were written in Greek, not Aramaic, but they were written by Aramaic-speaking people, and based on the example I just provided, it is obvious their Aramaic manner of speech carried over into their Greek writings. Besides that, there is considerable evidence that the Gospel of Matthew was originally written in Aramaic before it was translated into Greek.

So I've demonstrated here, using the Bible fully in its linguistic and cultural context, that every passage Evangelicals commonly use, to "prove" that Mary had more children after Jesus, is nothing more than an assumption that has no real Scriptural backing. However, there is a passage of Scripture that completely backs the idea that Jesus did not have younger siblings. Throughout the gospels it becomes clear that Mary is under the care of Jesus. Now this would be unheard of if Joseph were still alive. Many early writings indicate that Joseph died when Jesus was in his early teens, and this would indicate why she would fall under the care of her son from that point on. Remember, under Jewish law at that time, women had no rights. So a woman was forced to always live under the care of a man. First a woman is raised by her father. Then she goes under the care of her husband. Then presumably, if she is fortunate, she will bear sons, and if her husband dies before she does, she will pass to the care of her eldest son, unless he is unable, then to the next eldest, and so on. As Jesus was dying on the cross, he gave care of his mother to his disciple John rather than to the next male sibling in line as Jewish law would require (John 19:26-27). Are we to believe that Jesus broke Jewish Law immediately before he died? If he did, that would make him a sinner, and thus an imperfect sacrifice. No, Jesus did not (indeed he could not) break the Law of Moses, because as a Jewish man he was under the Law of Moses, and as God he could not sin. So the fact that he gave the care of his mother to somebody who was clearly not his younger sibling brother indicates that he had no sibling brothers. To say that he did is to make Jesus Christ a sinner while he was on the cross dying for our sins.

Now that we've examined the Biblical record, let's take a look at what the early Christians had to say about this matter in their own writings. There was a small book written in about AD 120 called the "Protoevangelium of James." This book has been recognised as an ancient account of early Christians beliefs concerning the lives of Mary and Joseph. The book records that Saint Anne (Mary's mother) was childless. So following the example of the Prophet Samuel's mother in the Old Testament (1st Samuel 1:11), she promised to God that if he would give her a child, she would dedicate him/her at an early age to serve in the Temple as a virgin. Both boys and girls served in the Temple as virgins since the earliest days of ancient Israel. In fact, the Old Testament records an incident wherein some of these female Temple virgins were defiled by the sons of the high priest (1st Samuel 2:22). The Protoevangelium of James tells us that Mary was dedicated by her mother Anne, to lifelong service in the Temple as a virgin. However, it was common for such virgins to be entrusted to a guardian to safeguard their virginity. This was done by marrying them to elderly widowers who already had children by their now deceased wives. The guardians were to take these virgins into their homes as their wives. Their sole duty was to guard their virginity. By being legally married to them, it prevented any younger men from daring to try to win their affections. In exchange, the elderly guardian would gain for himself a housekeeper, cook and companion. This practice was well known in first century Judaism. Because of the number of virgins serving in the Temple, their presence in Jerusalem was only required during certain times of the year. This allowed them to live in remote villages spread throughout the Holy Land for most of the year, only making occasional trips to Jerusalem during high feasts twice a year, and occasionally as needed.

The Protoevangelium of James tells us that Mary served in the Temple constantly as a young girl, from the time her mother dedicated her, at about the age of 3 years.  Mary was raised in the Temple by the priests and scribes, and the Protoevangelium records that she danced for the Lord and made all therein joyful. The high priest, Zachariah (the husband of her cousin Elizabeth), raised her as his own daughter. After the age of 12 years, it was decided that she should be married to a guardian, as this was the custom. So some years later, a number of widowers were selected as possible candidates, and Joseph of Nazareth was one of them. Joseph was an elderly widower, probably in his late forties or early fifties, who already had a number of sons and daughters by his previous marriage. Joseph was selected to become Mary's guardian-husband, and this is the commonly understood reason why the Scriptures record the "brothers" and "sisters" of Jesus Christ. They were his older step-brothers and step-sisters through Joseph. Now this makes Biblical sense because in John 7:3-10 these "brothers" of Jesus (presumably older step-brothers) speak down to Jesus, telling him what to do, and did not believe in him. In ancient Semitic culture it would have been unheard of for a younger sibling to speak to the oldest this way. Indeed, if these "brothers" were younger siblings through Mary, they would have been totally out of line here, defying everything in their culture, and Jesus could (indeed should have) scolded them for not respecting their elder sibling. However, when we plug this verse into the context of the Protoevangelium of James, it all makes sense. These were Jesus' older step-brothers through Joseph who were talking down to him. This clears up a lot of other mysteries as well. Joseph apparently died when Jesus was about twelve years old. This would have certainly been catastrophic, and mentioned in the Scriptures, if Joseph were a young man. However, Joseph was already an elderly man (by first century standards) at the time he was betrothed to Mary. Therefore, his death twelve to thirteen years later, would not have come as a shock to anyone, needing no mention in Scripture.

It was Jewish custom at that time for a betrothed couple to live together for one year before the wedding ceremony. (The wedding ceremony itself was a feast or party that could last as long as a week!) Such a living arrangement was designed to help the couple determine if they were really suitable for marriage. In other words, could they live with each other? Or did they have irreconcilable differences? Again, virtually all betrothed couples did this. During this one-year betrothal period, the couple would live in the same house, but sleep in separate rooms. Usually an older woman (such as an aunt or grandmother, etc.) would be appointed to live in the house with them as a chaperone. It was presumed that if the trio could manage to live together peacefully for a year, then a normal marriage between the man and the woman, in which just the two lived together, would be easy. All of this may seem strange to us today, but when we consider how many modern marriages end in divorce, the ancient Jewish betrothal period starts to make a lot of sense. So, we can begin to see the magnitude of the scandal when we read in the gospels that Mary was found to be with child (pregnant) during the customary betrothal period!!!

Now, stop and consider this situation please. Mary is just a 16 year old girl, and Joseph is an elderly widower in his late 40s to early 50s. Mary is a Temple virgin consecrated to lifelong prayer and service to the Lord. Joseph was selected to be her guardian-husband. His sole responsibility was to protect and preserve her virginity. Now we begin to see the magnitude of the scandal! This was truly a mess, and it explains why the Scriptures tell us that Joseph, being a righteous man, sought to have her shipped off quietly to some secluded location. However, we know the rest of the story. The angel came to Joseph in a dream and told him not to be afraid to take Mary as his wife, for the child she bore was from God.

The Protoevangelium of James goes on to tell us the rest of the story. Mary's pregnancy eventually reached the point where it could not be hidden any more. A tribunal was held in which the two were brought before a Temple priest and accused of fornication. A test was given to them, to see if their story was true, and when it was determined that they did not lie, the priest refused to condemn them. They returned home and were married privately some time later.

Certainly the whole affair was a stain on Joseph's reputation. One can only imagine what his older children must have thought, and based on what we see written in John 7:3-10 and Mark 3:21, they obviously didn't think very highly of Jesus at first.  The Protoevangelium of James is a beautiful document, and gives a very ornate and mystical vision of the period between the birth of Mary and the birth of Christ. It is not Scripture. However, the text (written in about AD 120) gives us a very clear picture of what early Christians believed and accepted as history. It is, in fact, the only historical record we have concerning the lives of these Biblical characters during this time period. To reject it is to confess we know nothing, and one opinion is just as good as another. While not elevating the text to the level of Scripture, the early Church saw it is highly important and gave it an honoured place in the early Christian patrimony. This is reflected in the words of subsequent Christian writers...
"The Book [the Protoevangelium] of James [records] that the brethren of Jesus were sons of Joseph by a former wife, whom he married before Mary. Now those who say so wish to preserve the honour of Mary in virginity to the end, so that body of hers which was appointed to minister to the Word . . . might not know intercourse with a man after the Holy Spirit came into her and the power from on high overshadowed her. And I think it in harmony with reason that Jesus was the firstfruit among men of the purity which consists in [perpetual] chastity, and Mary was among women. For it were not pious to ascribe to any other than to her the firstfruit of virginity" -- Origen, Commentary on Matthew 2:17 (A.D. 248)
"Therefore let those who deny that the Son is from the Father by nature and proper to His Essence, deny also that He took true human flesh of Mary Ever-Virgin." -- Athanasius, Orations against the Arians, II:70 (A.D. 362)
"The Son of God...was born perfectly of the holy ever-virgin Mary by the Holy Spirit." -- Epiphanius, Well Anchored Man, 120 (A.D. 374)
"The friends of Christ do not tolerate hearing that the Mother of God ever ceased to be a virgin" -- Basil, Homily In Sanctum Christi, generationem, 5 (A.D. 379)


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