Wednesday, March 28, 2007

The Perpetual Virginity Of Mary

I recently finished reading Steve Hays' reply to Philip Blosser on the subject of sola scriptura. Steve makes many good points, and I highly recommend reading it. In the coming days, I want to add some comments to Steve's, primarily concerning the church fathers. Blosser made a lot of false or misleading claims about the fathers, often without providing many details to interact with. I want to emphasize or expand upon some of the points Steve made.

Near the end of his response to Blosser, Steve spends several pages on the issue of the perpetual virginity of Mary. The issue isn't of much significance in itself, but becomes more significant in light of the claims some groups, like Roman Catholicism, make about subjects like tradition and church infallibility. It's also a significant issue in that there's a common perception that the historical record leans heavily in favor of the doctrine. We often hear of how large numbers of church fathers and other prominent figures in church history, including Protestant reformers, believed in it.

In reality, however, the doctrine is an illustration of the fact that what the earliest generations of Christians believed sometimes conflicts with what later generations believed. Focusing on later church history, while ignoring or neglecting earlier sources, leads to a distorted conclusion. Steve discussed the most significant evidence in detail, and I won't be repeating everything he said. I would second his recommendation that people read the work of Eric Svendsen on this issue, as well as the work of Roman Catholic scholars like John Meier. As Steve's citation of Meier illustrates, and as Eric Svendsen's work documents in more detail, the Biblical evidence not only doesn't support the doctrine, but even leans heavily against it. The other first century source we have on the subject, Josephus, also contradicts the doctrine, as John Meier mentions in Steve's citation.

Something Steve doesn't directly address, however (though it's addressed indirectly through his recommendation of Eric Svendsen's work), is evidence against the doctrine in early post-apostolic sources. Just as some readings of the gospels and other New Testament documents are more probable than others, the same is true of the writings of later sources. If we don't begin with the assumption of a tradition of the perpetual virginity of Mary, then sources such as Hegesippus and Tertullian read more naturally as having rejected the concept than as having accepted it. See, for example, Eric Svendsen's discussion of such sources in his Who Is My Mother? (Amityville, New York: Calvary Press, 2001).

Proponents of the doctrine often point to Jerome's work against Helvidius, an opponent of the doctrine, as an illustration of how the early church believed in the perpetual virginity of Mary and considered opposition to it unacceptable heresy. Yet, the sources Steve discusses and the ones I've mentioned above (Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Paul, Josephus, Hegesippus, etc.) predate Jerome by a century or more. And while Jerome reacted to Helvidius in a highly negative manner, a contemporary of Jerome took a different approach. Basil of Caesarea commented that the view that Mary had other children after Jesus "was widely held and, though not accepted by himself, was not incompatible with orthodoxy" (J.N.D. Kelly, Early Christian Doctrines [San Francisco, California: HarperCollins Publishers, 1978], p. 495).

36 comments:

  1. The best argument against PV is the adelphos argument. Heos hou has been defeated, at least in an undercutting way as shown by Pacheco and his crew.

    But anyway, I will just recommend Richard Bauckham's work when it comes to the adelphos argument. I know that Meier replied to him, but Bauckham's arguments seem to be more persuasive.

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  2. Scott McKnight said, "Third, what about “he had no union with her until she gave birth” in Matthew 1:25. This expression in Greek, heos hou, often implies a changed condition when the condition is met. (That is, “he did not know before birth but did after the birth.”) There are times when that condition is changed, but there are some instances when the condition does not change (thus, he would not have then known her). It is possible, then, from grammar, to argue that Joseph did not know her before the birth but did after the birth, and it is possible from grammar to argue that Joseph did not know her before birth and neither did he after the birth. It is not air-tight; Roman Catholics and Protestants simply need to admit this."

    http://www.jesuscreed.org/?cat=31&paged=3

    His musings seem to be fair. (and not just because he is more sympathetic to the Catholic point of view)

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  3. Eric Svendsen's heos hou argument is a joke. When someone comes along 2000 years later and supposedly finds something in the grammar that the native speakers themselves never noticed, then we know we are witnessing scholarship gone mad.

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  4. Apolonio said:

    "Heos hou has been defeated, at least in an undercutting way as shown by Pacheco and his crew."

    For those who don't know, John Pacheco is a Catholic apologist who used to work with Robert Sungenis. He's not a scholar with any relevant specialization in this field.

    And I don't know what you mean, Apolonio, by "at least in an undercutting way". Historical judgments are matters of probability. Showing that a phrase is used in a particular way by a source outside of the timespan Eric Svendsen was studying, for example, can only, at best, make an interpretation that was highly unlikely less highly unlikely. If that's what you mean by "undercutting", then you aren't saying much, and the reference to "defeating heos hou" is absurd.

    I haven't followed the exchange between Meier and Bauckham. I can't comment on it.

    I'm aware of comments like Scot McKnight's, but I doubt that he's done anything comparable to the depth of research Eric Svendsen has done on the passage. In one of the threads (http://www.jesuscreed.org/?p=1157), McKnight thanks a reader for bringing Eric's book to his attention and comments that he wasn't aware of it. Comments like the ones you've quoted from McKnight are common in such an ecumenical age, particularly if the scholar in question isn't even aware of some of the most significant data. McKnight's reference to "air-tight" conclusions is, again, irrelevant, given that the issue is probability. McKnight goes on to comment, once again using the "air-tight" phrase:

    "The NT evidence is not air-tight; anyone who thinks it is overstates the evidence. I think 'brother' and 'firstborn,' when combined, lean in the direction of marital relations of Mary and Joseph. I don’t think 'until,' on its own, helps much. If combined with 'brother' meaning 'blood-brothers' and 'firstborn' of Joseph being an issue, then 'until' certainly would mean what Helvidius said it meant."

    If McKnight agrees with me, Steve Hays, Eric Svendsen, John Meier, etc. regarding the probable conclusion to the matter, then what's the significance of whether he thinks that heos hou is "air-tight" or even whether he agrees with Eric Svendsen's conclusions on the probable meaning of that phrase (without having read Eric's work)?

    The page you linked to on McKnight's web site has a lot of material on Mary. I haven't read all of it. Some of the threads have dozens of responses from readers. But from what I have read, it seems that McKnight was unaware of some significant information. Still, he comes to the same general conclusion I did.

    You tell us:

    "The best argument against PV is the adelphos argument."

    We should keep in mind that a variety of terms are relevant to this discussion (why "firstborn" was used, why "cousin" wasn't used, why "relative" wasn't used, etc.). It's not as if Catholics only have to explain why they're defending the use of one or two less natural interpretations. Rather, they have to explain why they're supporting a view that involves multiple Biblical authors intending multiple less natural readings of multiple phrases when they had multiple other phrases available to them that they could have used instead and do use in other passages. The concept that multiple Biblical authors believed in the perpetual virginity of Mary, yet never explicitly expressed that belief and instead repeatedly chose terminology pointing in the opposite direction while rejecting other terminology they could have used and do use elsewhere, terminology that would have been more supportive of the perpetual virginity concept, is dubious.

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  5. Orthodoxos:

    With the caveat that I've not read Svedsen's book (though I have read summations of his argument found in some of the replies to his critics he has posted on his site), and so cannot evaluate the argument specifically . . .

    You're right. The argument is implausible on its face. Even if he has found contemporaneous literature that supports such a narrow grammatical construction, what of that? Does that make the construction the rule? I hardly think so. Particularly, as you note, it would mean that the construction (and the grammar rule supposedly at its root) was unknown a mere few centuries later. After all, if Helvidius had it right, then why didn't he throw the grammar right back in Jerome's face? I mean, if it didn't occur to the contemporaneous critics, why should we take Svedsen's word for it?

    Furthermore, this amounts to also being able to say that we know precisely what was on St. Matthew's mind as he penned his Gospel--and that what was on his mind can be proven by extrabiblical sources regarding grammar, rather than on what St. Matthew himself wrote.

    But let's grant Svedsen his argument that the heos hou is precisely the grammatical construction he is arguing for. What does this do? Why it does pretty much what Scott McKnight says it does: neither side gets any traction for the grammar doesn't require the loss of Mary's virginity. It simply makes it possible.

    From this point, Svedsen's, or anyone else's, conclusions regarding PV is utterly dependent upon arguments not founded on heos hou, such as sola (or solo) scriptura, the role of liturgical and patristic texts, and the history of the dogma.

    And on these last, I'm quite happy to say, PV is early and solid. (The adelphos argument notwithstanding.0

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  6. Orthodox writes:

    "Eric Svendsen's heos hou argument is a joke. When someone comes along 2000 years later and supposedly finds something in the grammar that the native speakers themselves never noticed, then we know we are witnessing scholarship gone mad."

    How do you supposedly know that "the native speakers themselves never noticed" what Eric Svendsen documented? He makes his judgments based on ancient usage of the terminology. The fact that the perpetual virginity of Mary became widespread later in church history, with many of the doctrine's advocates not knowing the Biblical languages and living hundreds of years later under significantly different influences, isn't of much evidential value relative to what Eric has documented.

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  7. Benedict Seraphim wrote:

    "After all, if Helvidius had it right, then why didn't he throw the grammar right back in Jerome's face? I mean, if it didn't occur to the contemporaneous critics, why should we take Svedsen's word for it?"

    Helvidius lived hundreds of years after the Biblical writers. Surely you're aware of the fact that many examples of the use of terminology changing over time have been documented, including in timespans shorter than the one between the apostle Matthew and Helvidius. And we don't know much about Helvidius anyway. We have a response to him by Jerome.

    You write:

    "I mean, if it didn't occur to the contemporaneous critics, why should we take Svedsen's word for it?"

    Nobody said to "take Svendsen's word for it". The reason why his book is more than one page long is because he gives us more than "his word".

    You write:

    "Furthermore, this amounts to also being able to say that we know precisely what was on St. Matthew's mind as he penned his Gospel--and that what was on his mind can be proven by extrabiblical sources regarding grammar, rather than on what St. Matthew himself wrote."

    If we can't "know precisely what was on St. Matthew's mind", then how can we interpret anything he wrote or what any other author has written? And how do you think we know what various Greek terms, constructions, etc. meant? We don't begin our understanding of the language over again every time we get to a different writer. Some writers might use terminology in an unusual manner, but the burden of proof is on those who argue for an unusual usage. If "extrabiblical sources" support Eric Svendsen's reading (he also cites Biblical sources), would you explain why we shouldn't consider that fact supportive of his conclusion?

    You write:

    "Why it does pretty much what Scott McKnight says it does: neither side gets any traction for the grammar doesn't require the loss of Mary's virginity."

    Again, McKnight agrees with my overall conclusion. And the issue isn't what's "required". The issue is probability.

    You write:

    "From this point, Svedsen's, or anyone else's, conclusions regarding PV is utterly dependent upon arguments not founded on heos hou, such as sola (or solo) scriptura, the role of liturgical and patristic texts, and the history of the dogma. And on these last, I'm quite happy to say, PV is early and solid. (The adelphos argument notwithstanding."

    That's an assertion, not an argument.

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  8. Jason:

    The issue is, indeed, probability. Svedsen, and his co-PV critics, stack the argument (illegitimately) by focusing on one single issue. They have not defeated PV, they have only, at best, changed one claim from deductive certainty to a very slight inductive doubt. Whoop de doo.

    I know Svedsen loves hyperbole, but he, and his co-laborers, have not defeated PV.

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  9. There's a pattern to the commenters:

    i) They don't interact with my arguments.

    ii) Or the arguments of Engwer.

    iii) Or the arguments of Svendsen.

    iv) Or the arguments of Meier.

    Apolonio says he finds Bauckham's arguments more persuasive than Meier's, but he doesn't say why.

    Meier's argument is by no means limited to the phrasing in Mt 1:25.

    The commenters also retreat into an appeal to the ambiguity of the construction. But assuming that the construction is ambiguous, this is hardly a reason to affirm that Mary was a perpetual virgin. At most, that would be a reason to suspend judgment.

    To appeal to the uncertainty of the construction, and then use that as a pretext to raise the question of Mary's perpetual virginity to the status of dogmatic certainty, is a contradictory mode of reasoning.

    If the evidence is uncertain, then our position should be uncertain; not: our evidence is uncertain; therefore, it's certain that Mary was a lifelong virgin.

    If the evidence is uncertain, then that hardly warrants a certain conclusion.

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  10. Steve:

    You whine about people not interacting with your argument. But then you go on--as I've noticed is the habit of the posters on this site and Svedsen, too--to mischaracterize the argument.

    You state:

    To appeal to the uncertainty of the construction, and then use that as a pretext to raise the question of Mary's perpetual virginity to the status of dogmatic certainty, is a contradictory mode of reasoning.

    If the evidence is uncertain, then our position should be uncertain; not: our evidence is uncertain; therefore, it's certain that Mary was a lifelong virgin.

    If the evidence is uncertain, then that hardly warrants a certain conclusion.


    This is not the argument, thank you for the straw man.

    Furthermore, your construction begs the question as to whether PV is settled on solo scriptura. It's not.

    It has already been admitted that the argument is an inductive one, not a deductive one--thus the issue is on probability, the strength of which is necessarily determined by extra-argument presuppositions.

    Svedsen, and a similar very narrow contingent of PV critics, assume that the answer can only authoritatively be answered by solo scriptura. Poppycock. The assumption is, as you should know, self-refuting.

    But once you engage non-scriptural parameters, you take the argument into another realm.

    As I said, PV is well-established. Heck, it was witnesses in the mid- to late second century, it's got liturgical evidence, and so on.

    But go ahead and tilt at your windmills.

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  11. BENEDICT SERAPHIM SAID:

    “Steve: You whine about people not interacting with your argument.”

    i) I don’t have a problem with people who ignore my arguments. That’s a backdoor admission of defeat on their part.

    I’m simply drawing attention to their abject failures.

    ii) And they don’t just ignore my arguments. As I pointed out in my original statement, they are also ignoring the detailed arguments of Svendsen, Engwer, and Meier.

    “But then you go on--as I've noticed is the habit of the posters on this site and Svedsen [sic.], too--to mischaracterize the argument.”

    An assertion, not an argument.

    “This is not the argument, thank you for the straw man.”

    Another sheer assertion on your part. At least you’re consistently anti-intellectual.

    “Furthermore, your construction begs the question as to whether PV is settled on solo scriptura.”

    I’ve defended sola Scriptura on many occasions.

    “It's not.”

    A question-begging negation.

    Are your fingers hooked into your brain when they type these tendentious statements, or are they autonomous with respect to higher cortical functions?

    “It has already been admitted that the argument is an inductive one, not a deductive one--thus the issue is on probability, the strength of which is necessarily determined by extra-argument presuppositions.”

    And what are your “extra-argument presuppositions”? Moreover, do you have any reasons to offer for your “extra-argument presuppositions?”

    “Svedsen [sic.], and a similar very narrow contingent of PV critics, assume that the answer can only authoritatively be answered by solo scriptura. Poppycock.”

    An adjective in lieu of an argument.

    “The assumption is, as you should know, self-refuting.”

    i) Another orphaned assertion in search of a supporting argument. Your fideism is batting a thousand.

    ii) I’ve addressed the charge of self-refutation on more than one occasion—such as my reply to Blosser.

    “But once you engage non-scriptural parameters, you take the argument into another realm.”

    In your case, the realm of make-believe and pious fraud.

    “As I said, PV is well-established. Heck, it was witnesses in the mid- to late second century, it's got liturgical evidence, and so on.”

    Yes, it’s well-established in 2C Gnostic apocryphal sources. Very impressive pedigree. Excellent example of how quickly tradition can go off the rails.

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  12. Ah, Steve, thank you for confirming each particular instance of my descriptions of your posting on this site. Name-calling, ad hominem, straw men--you did it all in one response.

    Good show.

    And, I notice, you completely avoided the difference between deduction and induction and the strength (or, rather, weakness) of such an inductive argument as your anti-PV rant depends upon. You shifted the burden to me, but what is in question is not MY argument for PV but your rant against it. You've made claims that anti-PV is a knockdown/dragout. Sh'yeah! Right! So . . .

    Here are the facts:
    1. You cannot establish, on the basis of Scripture alone, that Mary ever ceased to be a virgin, which, to refute PV, your argument requires.
    2. You may have argued for sol*a* scriptura elsewhere, but what your argument necessitates is sol*o* scriptura, for, the moment that you admit *anything* extra-scriptural as evidence into the argument, you have self-refuted the basis for the argument.
    3. Whether or not Protoeuangelium is canonical, furthermore, begs the question as to what constitutes evidence for or against the argument. Once again, you limit, without justification, the evidence to sol*o* scriptura.
    4. The absolute *best* your case can argue from is silence with regard to contemporaneity to the Apostles. And arguments from silence are filled with presuppositions demanding justification. Whoops. Which you don't work to substantiate.

    No, Steve, your adolescent name-calling and hyperbole is only to mask, consciously or not, that you think you've actually done something, which you haven't: defeat PV.

    I don't have to sift through Svedsen's work--though if anyone wanted to send me a free copy, I'll take a look at it--to point out the flaws in your argument. And you should know, if you're as big a player as you make yourself out to be, one doesn't have to defeat the premises to refute the logic.

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  13. Can anyone tell what Benedict means by "solo scriptura"? Is he just mocking "sola scriptura" or does he think he makes a genious point butchering Latin?

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  14. BENEDICT SERAPHIM SAID:

    “And, I notice, you completely avoided the difference between deduction and induction and the strength (or, rather, weakness) of such an inductive argument as your anti-PV rant depends upon.”

    i) I’ve dealt with the status of probabilistic arguments in my replies to Blosser and “Orthodox.”

    ii) Catholics and Orthodox are not exempt from probabilistic arguments themselves, as Engwer, I, and others have pointed out on many occasions.

    A high-churchman needs to make a historical case for the claims of his respective church. His patristic and conciliar sources are not self-interpreting.

    Neither Catholicism nor Orthodoxy is an axiomatic system—a la classic foundationalism.

    “You shifted the burden to me, but what is in question is not MY argument for PV but your rant against it.”

    You have your own burden of proof to discharge.

    “1. You cannot establish, on the basis of Scripture alone, that Mary ever ceased to be a virgin, which, to refute PV, your argument requires.”

    My argument doesn’t require apodictic proof. The onus is not on me to disprove a factual claim. The onus is not on me to disprove the existence of Bigfoot.

    i) The question is merely one of what quality of evidence we have for believing in something, as well as the counterevidence.

    ii) You have yet to interact with the specific arguments I presented in reply to Blosser. This, once more, is a tacit admission of defeat on your part.

    “2. You may have argued for sol*a* scriptura elsewhere, but what your argument necessitates is sol*o* scriptura, for, the moment that you admit *anything* extra-scriptural as evidence into the argument, you have self-refuted the basis for the argument.”

    This is a caricature of sola Scriptura which I already addressed in my replies to Blosser and “Orthodox.”

    You seem to think you can jump into an ongoing debate without having to acquaint yourself with the preexisting material.

    “3. Whether or not Protoeuangelium is canonical, furthermore, begs the question as to what constitutes evidence for or against the argument.”

    The problem with the Protoeuangelium isn’t limited to its noncanonical character, but to its pseudonymous and heretical character. But maybe you’re a Gnostic.

    “Once again, you limit, without justification, the evidence to sol*o* scriptura.”

    Once again you’re ignorant of my stated position, as well as my supporting arguments, for sola scriptura.

    “The absolute *best* your case can argue from is silence with regard to contemporaneity to the Apostles.”

    The NT is not silent on PV. The NT evidence weighs against PV.

    And even if the NT were silent, then we should reserve judgment rather than dogmatize.

    “And arguments from silence are filled with presuppositions demanding justification. Whoops. Which you don't work to substantiate.”

    I’ve justified my presuppositions in reply to Blosser, among others. You continually advertise your ignorance of your opponent’s argument.

    “I don't have to sift through Svedsen's [sic.] work--though if anyone wanted to send me a free copy.”

    True, you don’t *have* to sift through his work. If, however, you’re going to comment on the quality of his argumentation in said-work, then you are intellectually obligated to read it before you judge it so that you actually know what you’re talking about.

    You seem to think that you can just wing it by making fact-free claims about your opponents.

    All you’ve demonstrated thus far is that a know-nothing can believe in PV. Not much of a recommendation for PV.

    “I'll take a look at it--to point out the flaws in your argument.”

    How are you in a position to prejudge the outcome before you read the book?

    BTW, there’s also his online debate with Owen.

    “And you should know, if you're as big a player as you make yourself out to be, one doesn't have to defeat the premises to refute the logic.”

    You fail on both counts. All assertion, no argument.

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  15. Well, Steve, you continue the straw man exercise. You're good at it, I can tell.

    So, please, once again, quit running and trying to hide behind all the logorrhea: deal with the induction. All you do is swat it away.

    Which is what happens when you have a weak argument: talk loudly and bombastically, create diversions and straw men, whine about how no one deals with your "argument" (which only means they don't follow your instructions for dealing with you argument), and assert that the other guy is just making assertions.

    You've been doing this for years, I know, so you have the practice down pat.

    Let me point out to you where your argument fails--on its own terms:

    "You have your own burden of proof to discharge."

    I'm not asserting PV--though I happen to take is as true and ancient. I'm asserting your argument is weak and ineffective.

    "My argument doesn’t require apodictic proof. The onus is not on me to disprove a factual claim. The onus is not on me to disprove the existence of Bigfoot."

    I never said it did (*cough* straw man *cough*). What I said was the probability is weak. You attempt to refute PV by limiting the evidence--which weakens your case since your justification for so doing is also weak. A probabilistic argument is only as strong as its weakest argument. If your argument can gain strength only by limiting evidence, it's a weak argument.

    "This is a caricature of sola Scriptura which I already addressed in my replies to Blosser and “Orthodox.”"

    No, you're caricaturing what I said. I made a distinction (I've done so already a few times in this comment thread) between sol*o* (strong) and sol*a* (weak) scriptura. Your argument requires sol*o* scriptura to be a strong probabilistic argument. By admitting sol*a* scriptura (weak), you weaken your argument.

    "The problem with the Protoeuangelium isn’t limited to its noncanonical character, but to its pseudonymous and heretical character. But maybe you’re a Gnostic."

    Poisoning the well. Does Proto. testify to the existence of the belief PV? Sure does. By itself the evidence needs to be sifted. Did (proto-)orthodox deny PV? Then Proto. is irrelevant. But there is no denial of PV contemporaneous with Proto. And even a liar can tell the truth.

    "And even if the NT were silent, then we should reserve judgment rather than dogmatize."

    Another presupposition that has not been justified. Question begging all over the place here.

    "True, you don’t *have* to sift through his work. If, however, you’re going to comment on the quality of his argumentation is said-work, then you are intellectually obligated to read it before you judge it so that you actually know what you’re talking about."

    I don't have to sift through *his* work to comment on *your* argument.

    If you want me to reply to *his* work, send me a copy.

    As to failing on refuting the premises: how could I fail in something I've not attempted? That's like saying I've "failed" to successfully be elected President of the U.S. Um, sure, Sparky. But here's a clue: I haven't even run.

    But as you well know, even if you have true premises, you argument can still fail.

    I have shown how it's failed--though you've done a good job of saying "Huh-unh."

    If I can see that the logic of the argument fails, why would I then waste my time going through thousands of words that I know will not result in a (probabilistically) true conclusion?

    Finally, here's a tip: the more you come off as a flip bully, the less seriously you need to be taken. If you have a serious argument to make, engage your critics. By summarily dismissing them--even if you use a bunch o' words to do it--as I've shown you to have done, you simply point out that your argument is a chimera.

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  16. Benedict Seraphim said:
    ---
    You attempt to refute PV by limiting the evidence--which weakens your case since your justification for so doing is also weak. A probabilistic argument is only as strong as its weakest argument. If your argument can gain strength only by limiting evidence, it's a weak argument.
    ---

    Hey, you convinced me. I think, therefore, you should not limit the evidence to what the Catholic Church says on PV. I think you should include what atheists, Muslims, New Agers, Neo-Cons, relativists, Mormons, Vulcans, and Ted Kaczynski think about it. Otherwise, you're just being a "solo Catholica" and are merely limiting evidence because your argument is so weak....

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  17. Peter:

    Your reductio is clearly absurd.

    Although if you wanted to beef it up into a valid argument, I'll look at it.

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  18. Benedict's tripe is a perfect example of a big mouth with no arguments. Stop clogging up the combox unless you're going to make a substantive argument for your position. You're all cop-out thus far, and it's just embarrassing for anyone who agrees with you to hear your attempted defense of the position.

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  19. Benedict Seraphim said:
    ---
    Your reductio is clearly absurd.
    ---

    Maybe that's why it's called reductio ad absurdum.

    Of course, you completely miss the reason why this reductio works against your claims. If you were consistent with your claims, you'd have to accept my reductio ad absurdum; but you cannot accept my reductio ad absurdum, so you must remain inconsistent with your claims.

    The fact is that for all your harping on Protestants engaging in "solo Scriptura" you likewise limit what you consider to be infallible evidence. The argument does not lie in the fact of limitations on what you consider relevant; it lies in whether one should or should not consider a certain source to be relevant.

    Simply mocking someone for having limitations to what they consider infallible evidence leaves you open to the same mockery in return. Hence: Reductio ad absurdum.

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  20. This is sort-of off topic from the debate over Svendsen's book, but...

    When was the first reference in the early church made to Mary's PV?

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  21. Mary:

    Cool yer jets.

    Peter:

    Your reductio doesn't in fact work and here's why:

    You, Steve & Co. reject not only extrabiblical non-Xn sources, you reject extrabiblical Xn sources; whereas I do not reject the extrabiblical Xn sources. So your reductio doesn't work because it overreaches, whereas I remain consistent in my criteria.

    You know, ya'll kill me, really, you think yer all dat 'n a bag-'o-chips, but once you get challenged on the merits, then you retreat into bullying, name-calling, ad hominem, straw men, and so forth.

    If I were able to psychoanalyze your contributions, I'd saw ya'll're deeply insecure.

    But, hey, good luck anyway.

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  22. Benedict Seraphim said:
    ---
    You, Steve & Co. reject not only extrabiblical non-Xn sources, you reject extrabiblical Xn sources; whereas I do not reject the extrabiblical Xn sources. So your reductio doesn't work because it overreaches, whereas I remain consistent in my criteria.
    ---

    A) My reductio didn't over-reach; it went exactly where you stand. It's like this:

    "[Me], Steve & Co." hold to an infallible source. You say we should hold to certain other non-infallible sources as if they were infallible. I point out that you do not hold to every possible non-infallible source that is out there, and yet you are complaining because we do not hold to any non-infallible sources. Thus the point of the reductio.

    You gave no argument for why any non-infallible source should be examined--you simply said there were some (you didn't even list them). My reductio met you exactly where you were; therefore, it served it's point.

    B) It's not like I'm arguing for the validty of my reductio; I'm merely pointing out to you that you have no basis to dismiss it since it is identical to the "argumentation" you put forth.

    You said:
    ---
    You know, ya'll kill me, really, you think yer all dat 'n a bag-'o-chips, but once you get challenged on the merits, then you retreat into bullying, name-calling, ad hominem, straw men, and so forth.
    ---

    Guess you were looking in the mirror again. You should learn to differentiate between your behavior and other people's.

    You said:
    ---
    If I were able to psychoanalyze your contributions, I'd saw ya'll're deeply insecure.
    ---

    :-o

    How did you know that my sole purpose in life is to care about what you think of me?

    ReplyDelete
  23. BENEDICT SERAPHIM SAID:

    “You, Steve & Co. reject not only extrabiblical non-Xn sources, you reject extrabiblical Xn sources; whereas I do not reject the extrabiblical Xn sources.”

    Another bubblehead heard from. Needless to say, I don’t reject either Christian or non-Christian sources. My position on this is widely documented.

    What I reject is the uncritical use of tradition, as well as elevating tradition to a status on par with Biblical authority. Once again, I’ve said this many times in many places.

    I believe that Jason has the same position. And I seriously doubt that Peter’s position is any different from ours.

    Benedict swoops in as the ignoramus-du-jour, without having done any background study on what I or other T-bloggers believe, and starts popping off with one howler after another.

    “You know, ya'll kill me, really, you think yer all dat 'n a bag-'o-chips, but once you get challenged on the merits, then you retreat into bullying, name-calling, ad hominem, straw men, and so forth. If I were able to psychoanalyze your contributions, I'd saw ya'll're deeply insecure.”

    And while we’re on the subject of psychoanalysis, Benedict suffers from an acute case of Valley Girl Syndrome, commonly abbreviated as Val-Syn or VGS for short.

    Patients who suffer from this chronic and generally incurable condition imagine that they were born with an inalienable right to unconditional stroking and pampering no matter how disreputable their arguments—if one can even call them arguments.

    BTW, only sissies whine about bullies.

    ReplyDelete
  24. Benedict Seraphim wrote:

    "Svedsen, and his co-PV critics, stack the argument (illegitimately) by focusing on one single issue. They have not defeated PV, they have only, at best, changed one claim from deductive certainty to a very slight inductive doubt....I don't have to sift through Svedsen's work--though if anyone wanted to send me a free copy, I'll take a look at it--to point out the flaws in your argument....If you want me to reply to *his* [Eric Svendsen's] work, send me a copy."

    His last name is Svendsen, not "Svedsen". You accuse Eric Svendsen of "focusing on one single issue" related to the perpetual virginity of Mary, and you go on to tell us what you think of his analysis of that one issue. But then you tell us that you haven't read his work. Then you tell us that you'll reply to his work if somebody sends you a copy of it. How can you claim to know that Eric "focuses on one single issue" and comment on his analysis of that issue, then tell us that you haven't read his work and would need somebody to send you a copy before you could reply to his work?

    If you had read what Eric has written, maybe you would realize that he doesn't just address Matthew 1:25. He addresses a wide variety of issues related to the perpetual virginity of Mary and other Marian doctrines. He goes through every relevant passage in the New Testament, and he addresses some of the patristic data. Not only have you not read his work, but you don't even understand what it's about.

    You write:

    "Heck, it was witnesses in the mid- to late second century, it's got liturgical evidence, and so on....Whether or not Protoeuangelium is canonical, furthermore, begs the question as to what constitutes evidence for or against the argument."

    The document you're citing is a historically unreliable apocryphal document of the second century. And it doesn't explicitly advocate the perpetual virginity of Mary, so if you're going to argue that it implies the doctrine, then you can't object to such appeals to probable implications from us when we interpret other sources. As Eric Svendsen explains:

    "Both the Protevangelium of James and the Infancy Gospel of Thomas are on Bauckham's own admission 'certainly works of imagination, not of historiography'...In any case, the assertion that Joseph had other children by a previous marriage is not equivalent to the assertion that the 'brothers of Jesus' in the NT are foster/adoptive brothers. Mary could still have had other children after the birth of Jesus, and none of the sources cited above denies that she did. While portions of the Protevangelium of James seem to imply that Mary was perpetually a virgin, it does not clearly express a view on it....Meier characterizes the Protevangelium of James as 'a wildly imaginative folk-narrative that is outrageously inaccurate about NT events as well as things Jewish,' Ibid., 16. Similarly, J.K. Elliott, The Apocryphal New Testament (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1993), tells us in his preface to the Protevangelium of James that its historical value is 'insignificant' (51), citing numerous inaccuracies and inconsistencies. Graef, who is sympathetic with the Roman Catholic view of Mary, notes that it betrays 'great ignorance of Jewish conditions' and is therefore of 'little theological significance' (36)." (Who Is My Mother? [Amityville, New York: Calvary Press, 2001], pp. 103-104, n. 92 on p. 298)

    Besides, I and the people I've cited have given examples of both first and second century sources whose testimony is contrary to the perpetual virginity of Mary. Sources such as the gospel authors, Paul, Josephus, Hegesippus, and Tertullian carry much more weight than a document like the Protevangelium of James.

    Not only does the Protevangelium of James not explicitly state that Mary was a perpetual virgin, but section 17 even makes a reference to Joseph's sons without mentioning any daughters. Yet, we know that Jesus had sisters (Mark 6:3). If Joseph had sons from a former marriage, but not daughters, then where did the daughters come from? Section 18 refers to "his [Joseph's] two sons", but we know that Jesus had more than two brothers (Mark 6:3).

    I don't know all of the details of your view of Mary. Judging from your interactions with Orthodox, you seem to be Eastern Orthodox. Do you accept everything the Protevangelium of James reports about Mary? It suggests that Mary hadn't made any vow of perpetual virginity, since she wonders if she'll conceive by means of sexual relations (11). She also seems to be more ignorant of what God is doing in her life than many people who hold a high view of Mary suggest (13). If you're going to single out the alleged implication of perpetual virginity, while rejecting some of the other implications or assertions of the document, then on what basis do you do so?

    You refer to "liturgical evidence", but cite no sources. If the doctrine was part of a widespread early liturgy, then why do early sources like Tertullian and the "many" Basil of Caesarea refers to reject it? And why does Basil comment that such a rejection is acceptable within orthodoxy? The liturgy you're referring to must not have carried much weight with these people.

    ReplyDelete
  25. >How do you supposedly know that "the native
    >speakers themselves never noticed" what Eric
    >Svendsen documented? He makes his judgments
    >based on ancient usage of the terminology. The fact
    >that the perpetual virginity of Mary became
    >widespread later in church history, with many of the
    >doctrine's advocates not knowing the Biblical
    >languages and living hundreds of years later under
    >significantly different influences, isn't of much
    >evidential value relative to what Eric has
    >documented.

    First of all, the perpetual virginity is a provably a truely ancient belief, dating at least to the early 2nd century. And the fact that in 2000 years of this belief, right from the 2nd century till now, no native Greek speaker, noticed that this was contradicted by scripture, totally defeats this proposition.

    And if you're going to make some stupid comment that koine Greek had changed a couple of hundred years later, I would have to point out that koine Greek was never particularly consistent in the ancient world, differing by region. It's more likely to have differed by region in the same period than to have differed a few hundred years later.

    ReplyDelete
  26. Orthodox wrote:

    "First of all, the perpetual virginity is a provably a truely ancient belief, dating at least to the early 2nd century. And the fact that in 2000 years of this belief, right from the 2nd century till now, no native Greek speaker, noticed that this was contradicted by scripture, totally defeats this proposition."

    You need to document your assertions. The earliest people who knew Greek and might have explicitly commented on the perpetual virginity of Mary didn't explicitly comment on the subject. But we can still make a probability judgment as to what view the early sources seem to have held.

    Contrary to what you suggest, we don't need later sources to interpret the New Testament for us. Nor do we need later sources to interpret somebody like Josephus or Tertullian for us. We can read their writings ourselves and make judgments about their beliefs. You've done nothing to refute what I and others have argued about how such sources viewed Mary.

    You write:

    "And if you're going to make some stupid comment that koine Greek had changed a couple of hundred years later, I would have to point out that koine Greek was never particularly consistent in the ancient world, differing by region. It's more likely to have differed by region in the same period than to have differed a few hundred years later."

    Again, you need to document your claims rather than just asserting them. People like Eric Svendsen and John Meier make their judgments according to how the language is used in a large number of Biblical and non-Biblical documents. If you want us to believe that every relevant New Testament document (the gospels, Acts, 1 Corinthians, and Galatians) was written in a region that had an unusual use of every relevant Greek term, then you need to offer evidence to that effect. You can't just assume without evidence that every one of these New Testament documents was written in a region of the world that differed from the common usage of every term in question.

    How do you explain a document like Luke's gospel, which repeatedly uses the term "relative", even distinguishing between "brothers" and "relatives" (21:16), yet uses "brothers" to refer to Jesus' siblings? Did Luke believe in the perpetual virginity of Mary, yet repeatedly chose to use terminology that would suggest the opposite while refraining from using terminology he does use elsewhere, terminology that wouldn't be so misleading? Luke was willing to qualify his description of Joseph as "supposedly" the father of Jesus (3:23), even though the earlier references to the virgin birth made it obvious that Joseph wasn't Jesus' father biologically. Yet, Luke never adds such qualifiers regarding Jesus' siblings. Again, did Luke believe in the perpetual virginity of Mary, yet repeatedly used terminology that suggested the opposite and repeatedly refrained from adding clarification that he did add when discussing a similar subject?

    ReplyDelete
  27. >Contrary to what you suggest, we don't need later >sources to interpret the New Testament for us... We
    >can read their writings ourselves and make
    >judgments about their beliefs.

    Wow, you can read it yourself, you don't need other sources...

    >People like Eric Svendsen and John Meier make their
    >judgments according to how the language is used
    >in a large number of Biblical and non-Biblical
    >documents.

    Other sources!!!

    This is the same methodology as the "Jesus ossuary". You don't believe Jesus was raised, so you go hunting around the ossuaries looking for ones with the names you want. Then you reverse engineer some statistics based on limited information to make it prove whatever you wanted it to prove.

    Never mind that there is no evidence in the history of the world showing that Greek speakers had any knowledge of this. Never mind that no Greek speakers ever doubted this teaching on the basis of this Greek meaning what Svendson says. And when Greeks DO comment on it, they say the exact opposite of him.

    >If you want us to believe that every relevant New
    >Testament document (the gospels, Acts, 1
    >Corinthians, and Galatians) was written in a
    >region that had an unusual use of every relevant
    >Greek term, then you need to offer evidence to
    >that effect.

    Firstly YOU have to prove that there IS a pan regional understanding. Clearly there isn't a pan-tine understanding as the ECFs comment on the passage that is DOESN'T mean what Svendson says. Now if pan-time refutes him, it's up to him to prove pan region as well. It's not good enough to just assume it.

    >How do you explain a document like Luke's
    >gospel, which repeatedly uses the term "relative",
    >even distinguishing between "brothers" and "
    >relatives" (21:16), yet uses "brothers" to refer to
    >Jesus' siblings?

    Because they were step brothers.

    ReplyDelete
  28. Orthodox writes:

    "Wow, you can read it yourself, you don't need other sources"

    Just as you rely on your own interpretations of Ezekiel 11, Matthew 16, John 16, patristic documents, etc.

    You write:

    "Other sources!!!"

    Here we have another example of your failure to even understand what issues are being discussed. I didn't argue that people like Eric Svendsen and John Meier are needed to understand documents like the gospels. Citing sources you agree with isn't equivalent to claiming that we can't be confident about our interpretation of a document unless that source tells us what the document means.

    You write:

    "This is the same methodology as the 'Jesus ossuary'. You don't believe Jesus was raised, so you go hunting around the ossuaries looking for ones with the names you want. Then you reverse engineer some statistics based on limited information to make it prove whatever you wanted it to prove."

    The comparison is more applicable to you than to me. You're the one arguing that a married Jewish woman of the first century A.D. was a perpetual virgin. You're the one arguing that multiple terms used by multiple authors in multiple contexts shouldn't be interpreted in accordance with standard usage of that terminology. You're the one "engineering" things so as to arrive at your desired conclusion. When people like Eric Svendsen and John Meier take the terminology in its most common sense, while you and those arguing on your side repeatedly assert an uncommon sense of the terminology without any significant evidence and make appeal to sources like the Protevangelium of James, you're the ones who are engaging in unnatural "engineering". Just as the promoters of the alleged tomb of Jesus placed so much emphasis on a post-apostolic apocryphal document, you're doing the same with the Protevangelium of James. I would say that your analogy is more applicable to you than to me.

    You write:

    "Never mind that there is no evidence in the history of the world showing that Greek speakers had any knowledge of this."

    You're ignoring what I've already said on this subject. The linguistic evidence that people like Eric Svendsen and John Meier have appealed to is itself evidence of what Greek speakers thought of the terminology in question.

    You write:

    "Never mind that no Greek speakers ever doubted this teaching on the basis of this Greek meaning what Svendson says."

    It would help your credibility and Benedict Seraphim's if the two of you would stop misspelling Eric Svendsen's name before you claim to know that his arguments are wrong. It would also help if Benedict Seraphim wouldn't admit that he hasn't read Eric's work after he critiques it (inaccurately).

    You write:

    "Firstly YOU have to prove that there IS a pan regional understanding."

    You're responding to people in this forum who come from a variety of regions of the world. Have you "proven a pan-regional understanding" of the terminology we're using? If not, then how can you interact with our posts? You've repeatedly cited scripture (Ezekiel 11, Matthew 16, etc.) and apocryphal or patristic documents in support of your arguments. Have you "proven a pan-regional understanding" of the terminology used in those documents? No, you haven't. You apply a double standard. You're being dishonest. You're doing the same thing you did in our earlier discussion about prayers to the deceased. When the common usage of terminology would undermine your argument, you claim some unusual use of the terminology. When you're asked for evidence to that effect, you provide none. But if you believe that language is that fluid, an assumption that your opponents (like me) don't share, then you've created a burden of proof for yourself that your opponents don't have to carry. It's now your responsibility to prove that every person you respond to in this forum is using terminology in the way you think he is before you respond to him. It's now your responsibility to document how terms were defined in the particular part of the world where every Biblical passage, patristic document, etc. that you cite came from. Will you live up to that responsibility? Of course not. You don't believe in your own professed standards. You're dishonest. Out of one side of your mouth, you tell us that a separate vocabulary must be established for each region of the world, while, out of the other side of your mouth, you frequently interact with documents and people from a large variety of regions of the world without first providing the sort of documentation you demand from other people.

    Isn't it noteworthy that your demand for such evidence only arises when a discussion has progressed for a while and it isn't going your way? And I wonder, have you consulted sources like Eric Svendsen and John Meier to see if they do appeal to the usage of terminology in a wide variety of locations? Eric's book on Mary, for example, does appeal to a wide variety of documents coming from many regions of the world. Have you read his book?

    You write:

    "Clearly there isn't a pan-tine understanding as the ECFs comment on the passage that is DOESN'T mean what Svendson says. Now if pan-time refutes him, it's up to him to prove pan region as well."

    You're such a poor communicator, so we often have to guess at what you're trying to say. Apparently, what you're attempting to communicate is that the lifespans of the church fathers who affirm the perpetual virginity of Mary cover a large amount of time. But the lifespans of the people who denied the concept also cover a large period of time. And church fathers aren't the only relevant sources. The Greek language was used by many people, not just some church fathers. And many of the fathers lived hundreds of years after the gospels and other relevant sources were written, so they don't have as much relevance to how the terminology in question was used at the time of the writing of the gospels and other relevant documents.

    How do you know that you're interpreting the church fathers correctly? Have you done a "pan-regional" study of their terminology?

    You write:

    "It's not good enough to just assume it."

    So says the man whose posts usually consist of a series of unargued assertions.

    You write:

    "Because they were step brothers."

    And, speaking of unargued assertions, you've just given us another one. You've also failed to answer the question I asked you in my last post, regarding your claim that the perpetual virginity doctrine goes back at least to the early second century. Where's your source for that assertion?

    ReplyDelete
  29. Jason and Steve,

    I don't have time to read all the comments made, so I'll limit my response. I will send you an email about my reasons.

    Steve said, "If the evidence is uncertain, then our position should be uncertain; not: our evidence is uncertain; therefore, it's certain that Mary was a lifelong virgin."

    As a Catholic who has different presuppositions from you, we don't simply look at the Scriptures the same way. Of course presuppositions can be debated. But as a Catholic, if I believe in PV and have my reasons, if a person is trying to attack the dogma of PV, one can, as you know Steve, either respond by giving a rebutting defeater or an undercuttinig one. I believe an undercutting one is sufficient. Now, if one can show that svendsen's thesis is (at least) uncertain, then it shows that PV has not been shown to be incompatible with some evidence. More on my email.

    ReplyDelete
  30. i>Have you "proven a pan-regional understanding" of
    >the terminology used in those documents? No, you
    >haven't. You apply a double standard. You're being
    >dishonest.

    Hey, I'm not the one claiming something about koine Greek that is SPECIFICALLY denied by native speakers of koine Greek. In refutation of the Church Fathers Svendsen presents circumstantial evidence of the most flimsy kind.

    >But if you believe that language is that fluid, an
    >assumption that your opponents (like me) don't
    >share, then you've created a burden of proof for
    >yourself that your opponents don't have to carry.

    ROFLOL. You guys are the ones claiming that the koine Greek of the NT was so "fluid" that a few hundred years later, nobody understood it any more.

    >You don't believe in your own professed
    >standards. You're dishonest.

    Hey, I'm just applying YOUR standards of fluidity to the question of the level of proof you require. You're the one claiming koine Greek can't be understood by the native speakers. That give you a HUGE standard of proof to live up to.

    And I haven't even got into the actual examples of heos hou where Svendsen's thesis doesn't hold. Yes they're out there, and anyone with Google can find the articles. I can't be bothered getting into them, because the thesis is too ridiculous to even warrant a response on that level.

    ReplyDelete
  31. orthodox said:

    "Hey, I'm not the one claiming something about koine Greek that is SPECIFICALLY denied by native speakers of koine Greek. In refutation of the Church Fathers Svendsen presents circumstantial evidence of the most flimsy kind."

    Several problems:

    i) The case against PV isn't limited to Mt 1:25. This has been explained to you repeatedly.

    ii) Give us your direct quotes from the Greek Fathers who comment on the wording of Mt 1:25 and other key texts in this debate. Document exactly where, according to you, they exegete PV from the NT.

    iii) Have you actually read Svendsen?

    vi) Josephus was a 1C Jew who wrote in koine Greek. What about his usage of adelphos (as Maier has discussed)?

    ReplyDelete
  32. Orthodox continues to be careless and dishonest, ignoring much of what's already been said. He writes:

    "You guys are the ones claiming that the koine Greek of the NT was so 'fluid' that a few hundred years later, nobody understood it any more."

    Since I've cited examples of people who opposed the perpetual virginity of Mary "a few hundred years later", such as the ones Basil of Caesarea refers to, why would Orthodox claim that we argue that "nobody" understood the language? And how would a willingness to apply a less natural interpretation to some phrases prove that an entire language is understood by nobody? If Orthodox has to so badly distort his opponents' views before attempting to refute them, what should we conclude about his ability to refute what his opponents have actually argued?

    Do we today understand the general thrust of King James English? Yes. Do we therefore understand how every word or phrase was used in King James English a few hundred years ago? No. If we had some motives for interpreting some King James terms in a less natural sense, might we do so, even if we had some knowledge of the more natural understanding? Yes.

    Notice, also, that Orthodox still hasn't given us a source for his claim about the perpetual virginity doctrine going back to at least the early second century. Notice that he wasn't concerned about documenting the claim in the first place, then repeatedly ignored requests for documentation afterward. Notice that this is a lengthy pattern of behavior on his part. He's done similar things in other threads. For somebody who believes in justification through works, Orthodox is remarkably careless about his behavior.

    ReplyDelete
  33. I especially loved this part:
    ---
    I can't be bothered getting into them, because the thesis is too ridiculous to even warrant a response on that level.
    ---

    Surely this must be proof that Orthodox is really a plant. I mean, everyone looks at this and immediately thinks, "Orthodox is an idiot" which is transfered to Orthodox's position too. And since such a thing is so blindingly obvious, Orthodox could not intentionally hold to his view and still say such things, knowing his view would be damaged.

    Yes, he's a plant.


    Specifically, a radish.

    ReplyDelete
  34. [sigh]

    Is it up to me to educate you all and point out every error of logic?

    Jerome in Contra Helvid. i and Didymus the Blind in "The Trinity" specifically refer to the "until" passage, pointing out that it doesn't mean that she subsequently had relations.

    That Basil may have had a different opinion about Mary doesn't mean that he did so because of the Mt 1 passage.

    Thus we have explicit ancient exegesis saying that Svendsen is wrong, but nobody saying he is right.

    And Google is waiting for those who want to find the heos hou passages that refute Svendsen.

    Amazing that the protestants here are so virulent in wanting to refute the best minds of the reformation, Luther, Calvin, Zwingly, Wesley etc.

    ReplyDelete
  35. Orthodox writes:

    "Is it up to me to educate you all and point out every error of logic? Jerome in Contra Helvid. i and Didymus the Blind in 'The Trinity' specifically refer to the 'until' passage, pointing out that it doesn't mean that she subsequently had relations."

    How does citing what two advocates of the perpetual virginity of Mary believed about Matthew 1:25 "educate" us about an "error" we committed? Both men lived hundreds of years after the writing of the New Testament documents, and other people of their day and earlier generations disagreed with them about the perpetual virginity of Mary. Citing what two people believed doesn't prove your earlier assertion that "nobody" interpreted Matthew 1:25 as Eric Svendsen does. And Matthew 1:25 isn't the only relevant evidence.

    You write:

    "That Basil may have had a different opinion about Mary doesn't mean that he did so because of the Mt 1 passage."

    This issue has been discussed repeatedly, and you're still misrepresenting it. Basil of Caesarea didn't deny the perpetual virginity of Mary. He referred to the existence of many people in his day who denied it. And we don't have to know whether they "did so because of the Mt 1 passage" in order for their rejection of the perpetual virginity of Mary to have significance in this discussion.

    You write:

    "Thus we have explicit ancient exegesis saying that Svendsen is wrong, but nobody saying he is right."

    Again, the Biblical and extra-Biblical texts he cites to support his reading of the phrase in Matthew 1:25 are themselves examples of Greek writers supporting his interpretation of the phrase. Use of the language in other sources is relevant, even if those other sources aren't commenting on Matthew 1:25. And, above, you cite Jerome's comments on Matthew 1:25, which were written in response to another writer of his day who was denying Jerome's reading of that passage (Helvidius). How, then, can you claim that "nobody" in "ancient exegesis" said that Eric Svendsen's reading is correct? You aren't thinking through the implications of your own arguments.

    You write:

    "And Google is waiting for those who want to find the heos hou passages that refute Svendsen."

    You've found some people arguing against Eric Svendsen by using a Google search. Have you read his book? Are you aware that he's written responses to people like Robert Sungenis and John Pacheco?

    What are "the heos hou passages that refute Svendsen"? As I explained earlier, the issue is probability, not certainty. If language is used in a particular manner the large majority of the time, then citing exceptions that occur a small percentage of the time wouldn't change the normal meaning of the language.

    You write:

    "Amazing that the protestants here are so virulent in wanting to refute the best minds of the reformation, Luther, Calvin, Zwingly, Wesley etc."

    And you've repeatedly disagreed with the church fathers, as I've documented. If you can sometimes disagree with Irenaeus, Origen, Epiphanius, John Chrysostom, Jerome, Augustine, etc., then why can't we sometimes disagree with Protestants of earlier generations?

    I've noticed that, in addition to ignoring large amounts of other material written in response to your claims, you continue to ignore my request for documentation that the perpetual virginity of Mary was believed at least as early as the early second century. You made the claim. You didn't support it. I've repeatedly asked you for documentation. Why do you keep failing to provide it?

    ReplyDelete
  36. Apolonio said:

    Steve said, "If the evidence is uncertain, then our position should be uncertain; not: our evidence is uncertain; therefore, it's certain that Mary was a lifelong virgin."

    As a Catholic who has different presuppositions from you, we don't simply look at the Scriptures the same way. Of course presuppositions can be debated. But as a Catholic, if I believe in PV and have my reasons, if a person is trying to attack the dogma of PV, one can, as you know Steve, either respond by giving a rebutting defeater or an undercuttinig one. I believe an undercutting one is sufficient. Now, if one can show that svendsen's thesis is (at least) uncertain, then it shows that PV has not been shown to be incompatible with some evidence.

    *********

    You're using uncertainty as a wedge or crowbar to make room for PV. Several problems:

    1. There are degrees of probability and improbability. Are you staking out the position that no matter how unlikely the Catholic interpretation of the NT data, as long as there's an outside chance that the Catholic interpretation is true, extrabiblical considerations can swing the NT data over to the Catholic column?

    2. What extrabiblical data do you think is probative? Surely not 2C Gnostic apocrypha.

    And surely not the opinion of a church father like Augustine. Was Augustine in any position to know about the sex life of Joseph and Mary?

    3. To my knowledge, Catholicism denies continuing public revelation. Living tradition or sacred tradition or the development of dogma (call it what you will) is not supposed to add materially to the one-time deposit of faith.

    4. Apropos (3), no amount of extrabiblical tradition will enable you to *exegete* the virginitas in partu from the NT.

    5. Apropos (3)-(4), you are trying to make mere consistency/inconsistency the threshold for what is acceptable/unacceptable. But that won't do. In principle, a new revelation could be consistent the deposit of faith. But your position debars new revelation.

    Unless you can *exegete* the virginitas in partu from the NT, this dogma represents a material addition to the deposit of faith.

    6. There is also the question of where we affix the burden of proof. You are taking the position that in order to warrant disbelief in PV, the NT must rule it out.

    I take the position that in order to warrant disbelief in PV, I simply need insufficient evidence to believe it's true.

    For me to ethically and rationally disbelieve something, I don't necessarily need *any* evidence to the contrary. Absent or inadequate evidence is reason enough to suspend judgment.

    Now, as a matter of fact, I happen to think that there is contrary evidence—for reasons I've already given. That makes the case for PV all the worse.

    ReplyDelete