Saint Matthew 12:50

Brothers and Sisters,

I use the word “trouble” in the following sentence with caution because I do not wish to imply to anyone that there is anything troubling about Catholic thought.

The trouble with Catholic teaching is that it rarely fits into a soundbite.  Most often when people question Church teaching or are simply looking to understand the doctrines of the Holy Faith, they are looking for a quick, simple, and easily-repeatable answer.  Most often, any respectable explanation of the Church’s theology requires a bit more patience and time.  In fact, most of the time when Church teaching is challenged, the challenge comes from a simple Biblical verse that seems (at least at surface level) to refute or contradict the teaching of the Church.

In the weekend Gospel, we find one of the verses that is easily explained, but the explanation requires patience.  Here is the verse I mean:  is [Jesus] not the carpenter, the son of Mary and the brother of James, Joses, Judas, and Simon and are not his sisters here with us (Mark 6:3)?

This verse tells us of Christ having a number of siblings and yet we know with certainty from the Church’s definitive teaching that Blessed Mother is a virgin.  How does this work?  How can both be true?  Does this make any sense?

A simple response may suppose that Saint Joseph may have parented other children before he was the spouse of Blessed Mother.  While this may be true, we do not have any evidence either way for this possibility – nothing to say it is true and nothing to say it is false; it’s a dead end.  We do have multiple reasons to suggest that the siblings mentioned are not biological siblings.

  • Christ Himself says in Matthew 12:50 “whoever does the Will of My heavenly Father is My brother and sister and mother”
  • Saint Mark himself expands the term brother later in this very same chapter by calling Phillip the “brother” of Herod Antipas; we know that they are in fact only half-brothers; this may lend support to the idea that Saint Joseph had other children
  • the Hebrew words for siblings were often applied even to more distant relatives (cousins, nieces, nephews, and others); further, the Greek translation of the Old Testament (Septuagint) will usually translate all these familial relations with the term adelphos (meaning “brother”)

These three explanations could all be expanded into a huge books to completely explain; there are further points that also explain why Saint Mark is using sibling wordage to describe those close to Christ.  In any case, rest soundly knowing that the Church has more than done Her research and has definitively proclaimed the perpetual virginity of Blessed Mother.  It is a matter of faith, and all matters of the Holy Faith are perfectly in sync with reason.

God be near,

Father Jeremy