Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Mary - Still a Virgin?

Scot McKnight comments on the "perpetual virginity" of Mary. James Darlack responds with a view from Anne Rice's work, Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt.

Rice develops the story of Mary's perpetual virginity from Joseph's standpoint rather than from some view that Mary was "holier than thou." If I can recall correctly, Joseph asks in essence, "How can I 'touch' someone who has given birth to the Son of God?" From that standpoint, I guess perpetual virginity takes on a more "human" explanation. Given that Joseph could have very well fathered Jesus 'brothers and sisters' in a previous marriage, I don't have too much of a problem with the idea. Either way, my faith does not stand or fall on the concept.

This though begs the question of whether it makes sense of the language that the gospel writers use to portray Jesus' siblings? Mark 6:3 is clear:
Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon, and are not his sisters here with us?
Would this language be used of extended family? It appears, from this context, unlikely.

Richard Bauckham [Jude and the Relatives of Jesus in the Early Church (Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1990)] makes the following case for the relatives of Jesus: From the NT and other reliable early sources, especially the second-century writer Hegesippus, who preserves Palestinian Jewish Christian traditions, the following relatives from the generation of Jesus’ parents onward are known:

  • Jesus’ mother Mary and adoptive father Joseph.
  • Joseph’s brother Clopas (Hegesippus, quoted in Eusebius Hist. Eccl. 3.11; 3.32.6; 4.22.4).
  • "Mary of Clopas" (Jn 19:25) is probably his wife. He may well be the same person as Cleopas (Lk 24:18). Clopas is a Semitic name and Cleopas is a Greek name; Jews of this period frequently used both a Semitic name and a Greek name that sounded similar.
  • Elizabeth, the mother of John the Baptist, was a relative of Jesus’ mother, Mary, according to Luke 1:36 (the precise relationship is not specified).
  • Jesus’ four brothers: James, Joses (or Joseph; Joses is an abbreviated form), Judas (or Jude, an English variant of the name that is sometimes used for this brother of Jesus) and Simon (Mt 13:55; Mk 6:3).
  • Jesus’ sisters (at least two: Mt 13:56; Mk 6:3). Later sources, perhaps correctly, name them Mary and Salome (Protev. James 19.3—20.4; Gos. Phil. 59.6-11; Epiphanius Haer. 78.8.1; 78.9.6).
  • Simeon (Simon) son of Clopas (Hegesippus, quoted in Eusebius Hist. Eccl. 3.11; 3.32.6; 4.22.4).
  • Zoker and James, two grandsons of Jesus’ brother Jude (Hegesippus, quoted in Eusebius Hist. Eccl. 3.19.1-3.20.7; 3.32.5–6; and in Paris MS 1555A; Bodleian MS Barocc. 142).
  • Abris, Abraham and his son James, three descendants of the family of Jesus. They are named in medieval chronicles, which may preserve early sources, as bishops of Ctesiphon-Seleucia in central Mesopotamia in the second century.
  • Conon of Magydos, martyred in 250–51, was probably a descendant of the family of Jesus (Martyrdom of Conon 4.2).

Thus, while I can concur with Darlack's conclusion that it makes no difference to faith, the question of historical plausibility remains a serious critique of Rice's view.

UPDATE: Scot McKnight has another post which interacts with Bauckham's critique of J.P. Meier.

1 comment:

jdarlack said...

Let me restate that I lean towards the non-perpetual virginity of Mary. I just brought up Rice's thoughts because they seemed to bring a fresh take on things. Often Protestants are very quick to point out that Mary was not that holy, or that sex is not sinful, therefore she could have had a normal married relationship with Joseph. Ultimately such "arguments" are just "icing on the cake" of Scriptural evidence. Bauckham's arguments in favor the Epiphanian view are more academically interesting to me than Rice's arguments. Rice's view just made an impression on me at an emotive level.