Thursday, October 22, 2009

Tradition and its decay

Tomorrow is the feast of St. James. As I don't come into the office on Fridays, I did the reading from the Treasury of Daily Prayer for Friday this morning as well. It noted that some modern folks today think that James was the biological brother (or half-brother, to be technical) of Jesus. Paul calls him the brother of our Lord in Galatians 1:19 (ton adelpon - the brother).

Now, the Treasury also notes that in the Early Church there was the tradition that James was actually just a kinsman, perhaps a cousin, who was perhaps even raised with Jesus, but not a biological relative.

I am somewhat dubious of this tradition, in spite of its antiquity, and here is why.

When we think back to a tradition we can see arising in, say, the year 300, we think, "Wow, this is incredibly old." However, I would say that it is also nearly 240 years after the writing of Scripture.

To put that time span in perspective - consider how we as Americans treat the Declaration of Independence or the Constitution. Have not traditions about these arisen that sort of directly contradict their intention? I worry about the creation of or distortion of tradition within the Christian faith as well. . . especially as we see over and over in the Old Testament that it doesn't take long for people to start wandering off or following cleverly devised myths.

This is not to say that believing that James is a cousin is impious. . . but that isn't how the Scriptures describe him. And while there may have been wonderful, pious reasons for asserting that adelphon really meant merely cousin a few years down the road. . . is your pious story the way things are?

The changes via "interpretation and precedent" to the Constitution are not necessarily insidious - they were done not by cackling fiends but by people who thought they were doing something good. But things got changed. Likewise, I think sometimes with our own pious traditions the same things may have occurred.

117 comments:

Anonymous said...

This idea that James was a cousin of Jesus probably also developed along with the belief of the perpetual virginity of our Blessed Mother Mary. Again this state of virginity was a later tradition also I believe.

Rev. Gregory W. Brown [Brown the Elder]

Kathy said...

There are plenty of arguments that Jesus did not have biological brothers one being that Aramaic did not have a word for cousin. So Jesus' cousins would have been called his brothers.

Also, if Jesus had had biological brothers, he wouldn't have had to give his mother to John from the cross in order for her to be taken care of.

Rev. Eric J Brown said...

Kathy,

The idea that Jesus would only give Mary's care over to John if he had only siblings and not cousins is. . . well. . . if Aunt Mary is a widow without kids, you'd take care of her. This is not just a matter of a need for physical care, but also a matter of things spiritual. James, at the time, was not yet in a proper position to care for Mary Spiritually - hence, on to John.

In fact, I end up finding this really to focus on the interaction between the Apostles (and the Apostolic Writings) and the Church.

Pastor D said...

The insistence that Mary remained a virgin and thus had no more children is a popular teaching coming from somewhere in our Synod. Someone has stolen my church and I don’t like it! A clear reading of the Scriptures tells us otherwise. The battle over the Bible continues in our Synod to this day. In the 70’s the virgin birth of Christ was denies. Now the perpetual virginity of Mary is upheld. Why can’t we simply have Scripture speak for itself? In the end both sides deny its power. Twenty years ago we had to argue with those who took away from Scripture. Now we must argue with those who add to Scripture.

On it goes…

Christopher D. Hall said...

Pastor D--I'm afraid it's the LCMS that has changed here. The perpetual virginity is referenced in the SA and firmly preached by Luther and countless other early Lutherans.

What's more, Scripture must be interpreted, and the fact is, early Church Fathers--actuall still speaking Koine Greek, can faithfully read passages referring to what the NIV translates as "brother(s)" and understand them differently. It's a fact, and if they were abusing the language, everyone would have realized it.

Point being--modern LCMS tradition, along with Protestant tradition is opposite of what was held by Lutherans and the Fathers who spoke the language natively, and in some cases, were just a few generations removed. That doesn't make it correct prima facie, but we must realize the relative innovation of this position.

That's for you, too, Brown ;)

Father Hollywood said...

Dear Pastor D:

I agree. "Someone has stolen my church and I don't like it!"

All of the Lutheran systematicians until the 20th century taught the perpetual virginity - including Walther.

Pieper's Dogmatics teaches the perpetual virginity (Vol 2, p. 308 ff). In fact, here is Pieper from pages 238-9):

"If the Christology of a theologian is orthodox in all other respects, he is not to be regarded as a heretic for holding that Mary bore other children in a natural manner after she had given birth to the Son of God. In his Systema (I, 259) Quenstedt gives this matter careful consideration. But we must emphatically object when those who assume that Jesus had natural brothers pride themselves on their more delicate 'exegetical conscience' and disparage those who hold the opposite view. They certainly cannot prove their view from Scripture..."

Father Hollywood said...

Correction, that citation should say "pages 308-9." Mea culpa. I don't know whether to blame my aging eyes or inability to touch-type. :-)

Rev. Eric J Brown said...

Chris,

Part of my point is that we lump such a large time into "Early Church" that we forget the actual amount of time that passes -- it's all early church to us, it's all koine Greek -- yet, we are talking about a span that is longer than the existence of our country.

and Hollywood,

Pieper seems to teach that rejecting the perpetual virginity is an acceptable theory - and that neither can be proved from Scripture. So I would suggest that his admonition against those who do not hold to the perpetual virginity also be extended to those who might become prideful on their greater personal piety and also filial piety towards the fathers.

Rev. Eric J Brown said...

Additional Note:

Origen (Commentary on Matthew) claims that Ignatius of Antioch held to the perpetual virginity because of this passage from Ephesians 19:1 - "And hidden from the prince of this world were
the virginity of Mary and her child-bearing and
likewise also the death of the Lord
". However, this passage links the virginity to the birth of Christ. . . Origen takes it to mean a perpetual virginity (hidden by her marriage to Joseph).

Tertullian (end of 2nd Century), however, holds to the idea that there was indeed a true virgin birth, but that with His birth, this comes to an end (basically, what I would hold to).

My simple contention is that by the 3rd Century when Origen writes - much time has passed, and things can be read into things. Today, we just assume that the government ought to provide welfare. . . was that the case 60 years ago? This is to say nothing of what those living 160 years ago would have thought of that.

Christopher D. Hall said...

Eric--300 years is nothing, especially when the Holy Spirit is with them, and their express desire is not to innovate or change the faith. My grandfather told me stories of Frank James (of the Gang), that he heard first-hand from his uncle. And should I live to be 80, I will be able to tell my grandchildren about events that happened 173 years ago--minor events that hold little importance as opposed to eternal things. My grandchild could likewise tell his grandchildren about events that happened 243 years before. And remember, then it was an oral culture. It is conceivable that an old man in 250 AD could say his grandfather personally knew Polycarp--or St. John, for that matter.

Secondly, yes, languages change. But Chrysostom, for instance knew Koine better than any scholar today. You can't deny it. And you also cannot deny that that only Protestant translators 1000 years after Koine was spoken decided that Jesus had half-brothers.

But your argument re: the government is a straw man. We know that we are changing the intent and direction of our country. We know the history, we can see the changes, and some people like them.

But with the Church you have men and women who were intentionally preserving the tradition--that which was handed down, not to alter, but to fully confess it. Their intent was not to have a "living government" or but to preserve the truth that the Apostles knew. You cannot compare the two.

Ultimately, I think this is a matter of what your weltanschauung is and who you believe. I'd rather stand with all believers for 1500+ years than with modern scholars with an anti-catholic agenda. That's just me ;)

Rev. Eric J Brown said...

See, I'm not convinced that there weren't agendas even in the early Church - and I see the praise of virginity as a lifelong ideal increase right along side of the introduction of the talk of perpetual Virginity for Mary.

As a counter example - consider Pastor Dahling's lament that his church is being stolen from him. Why does he see that - not because of the antiquity of the contention - but because for but a few decades this is what was taught. In less than a century, a new tradition is established, contrary to what came before. I see no reason to think that such did not happen in the early Church as well -- I see in the Epistles problems like unto the problems of today.

++++++++++

For me, this drives to what is authoritative. I don't care nearly as much about who says something as why they say it -- I'm not going to value a secondary source above a primary source, and Scripture is the primary source. IF something is said that isn't in Scripture - I want to know why - what convinces -- and there is enough debate about Mary's virginity before it wins out for me to say that it is not conclusive - especially as it is argued on not on the basis of Scripture but on pious tradition.

(begin the bombast) Prove the perpetual virginity! Convince me how this is in line with the Scriptures! Tell me how this is in line with what the Scriptures teach concerning the estate of marriage! Tell me not who else believed it, hide not behind their skirts! Be the man! Show me why it is the superior claim!

Father Hollywood said...

Dear Eric:

I don't feel qualified to put words in Dr. Pieper's mouth. I'm just quoting what is in his book.

Father Hollywood said...

Dear Eric:

I can't prove one way or the other from the Bible alone, just as I cannot prove Hebrews is Scripture and 1st Clement is not.

There is a place for tradition.

That, after all, is how Dr. Luther justified infant baptism, since there are no conclusive proof texts.

We aren't Baptists, Eric.

Rev. Eric J Brown said...

Dear Larry,

You are going to compare the idea of the perpetual virginity to infant baptism in terms of Scriptural reliability? I mean, even the simple synodical catechism creates an argument for why infant baptism is correct (children are included in "all nations", the promise is for you and your children, children are sinful and in need of forgiveness as Scripture clearly shows, Christ does say "suffer the little children to come unto Me").

There is a logical consistency where infant baptism fits with the Scriptural depiction of what Baptism is and what benefits in brings - benefits that children need as well.

I do assume that you teach your confirmands this rather than simply saying, "infant baptism is the tradition of the Church."

I am not asking for a simple verse that proves Mary to be semper virgo - but rather, how does the idea that Mary is semper virgo jive with the rest of the doctrines of Scripture? This is odd to me - I can be almost tarred and feathered for asserting that there are times when Christians may use birth control to avoid pregnancy, because people are adamant that children are to be the natural God-given fruit of marriage. . . um. . . unless you are Mary. St. Paul says that spouses are not to withhold themselves from each other. . . apparently unless you are Mary. Jesus defines marriage as a man leaving his father and mother and the two becoming one flesh. . . um, unless you are Mary.

I also don't see how Mary being semper virgo even upholds or corresponds to a biblical ideal of chastity and virginity - because biblical chastity and virginity was not a matter of spouses withholding themselves, but rather a matter of not being married.

How is Semper Virgo in line with biblical teachings on what Marriage is, what chastity is? If it is not in-line with what the Scriptures teach, then I think it comes too close to what the Formula warns us of:

"On account of this old Adam, which still inheres in the understanding, the will, and all the powers of man, it is needful that the Law of the Lord always shine before them, in order that they may not from human devotion institute wanton and self-elected cults [that they may frame nothing in a matter of religion from the desire of private devotion, and may not choose divine services not instituted by God's Word]" - Epitome 6:4

Father Hollywood said...

Dear Eric:

A lot of things in the Christian faith "don't make sense." You seem to want a logical, systematic argument for it. It is a historical matter. It is like St. Paul being a martyr. We accept it as a tradition, when there is nothing in Scripture to even support believing that Paul did not apostacize and is now in hell.

Using only Scripture, we can't even prove Mary is not in hell.

Nevertheless, we all refer to Paul as "St. Paul" and our confessions make the unscriptural assumption that Mary is in heaven.

I am simply reiterating the fact that the Church has always taught SV - including the Church of the Augsburg Confession. We have accepted it the same way that we have accepted Paul's martyrdom - that in until the "age of reason," higher criticism, and skepticism became the rule.

It is funny how Lutheran pastors won't flinch at teaching that Paul was a martyr, but they gag on anything having to do with God's mother.

Rev. Eric J Brown said...

Dear Larry,

There is much in the Christian faith that doesn't make sense in terms of "paradox" - in terms of mystery and wonder. But the Christian faith is internally consistent.

Can I prove that Paul was martyred on the basis of Scripture - no. But, the Scriptures teach that he was imprisoned for the Gospel, and Scripture also teaches that Christians will have to face martyrdom -- hence, the tradition that Paul was martyred (and celebrated as such) is consistent - even though to the world's way of thinking celebrating such a thing would make sense. Paul's martyrdom ends up serving as an example of what we too may be called to face.

And note - I am not suggesting that we should not call Mary "St. Mary" - or even the Blessed Virgin (a title I like). It's just that in presenting the semper virgo (which was disputed in the Early Church - I can't think of anyone who denied Paul's martyrdom), we see not the paradoxes and mysteries of the faith (we do with the virgin birth, that is a paradox and mystery, but with the semper virgo. . .)- we see exceptions and contradictions.

My point is this - I do not trust a historical tradition that I see first mentioned in Origen as being of a necessity - of being on the lines of that which the Church has "always" confessed. And so, not seeing that, I wish to see how this supposed historical truth (for which I find scant evidence) fits in with Christian Doctrine.

Infant Baptism makes sense doctrinally speaking. The marytrdom of the Apostles makes sense doctrinally speaking (although some of what is said about their martyrdom may be. . . not accurate - at least the idea flows).

How does a woman who is in the estate of marriage withholding herself from her husband fit in with what the Scriptures teach marriage to be? How does it fit with what the Scriptures teach virginity and chastity to be?

Father Hollywood said...

Dear Eric:

You wtite:

"How does a woman who is in the estate of marriage withholding herself from her husband fit in with what the Scriptures teach marriage to be? How does it fit with what the Scriptures teach virginity and chastity to be?"

I never realized I said this. I must be losing my memory. That doesn't sound like something I would say.

What I said was that this is something the Church has simply taught as a fact - like St. Paul's martyrdom - from its earliest days. Actually, Irenaeus (the disciple of Polycarp the disciple of John, Mary's guardian) said that Mary remained a virgin. It has been nearly universally taught in historic churches ever since, including Lutheran churches.

There may be no deeper meaning behind it at all. Just as a friend of mine, a widower, married later in life and because of his age and physical condition has never "consummated" the marriage. And yet he and his wife live happily in the wedded estate. They were not making a theological statement. And yet, they are truly married. There are also people who are handicapped that are married, and yet they enjoy the bliss of married life. Maybe it's more difficult for a young person to see marriage in any other way than sexually - and our culture is dominated by the youth culture.

Church tradition has taught, that like my friend, Joseph was a widower who took a younger wife, and that he and God's mother did not consummate their marriage - which fits in well with the Scriptural accounts of 1) No mention of Jesus's siblings when our Lord was 12 years old, 2) Joseph not being present during our Lord's ministry and crucifixion, and 3) Our Lord giving His mother to John.

In our day and age, we find it inconceivable (pun not intended) that a man and a woman can live together without having sex. In our day, we're even bombarded with smarmy distasteful commercials and warnings about four-hour physical complications and seeing one's doctor.

Married life was quite different in the days when marriages were somewhat arranged, when dowries changed hands, and when a girl getting married was a matter of survival.

Even in more recent times, we have seen elderly war pensioners marrying young girls and passing along their pensions. Such things might be scandalous today, but they were not all that uncommon among veterans of the War Between the States.

I side with the ancient fathers, the reformation fathers, and the Lutheran confessions on this one. I think it is a matter of submission to our fathers in the faith - just like I believe my own dad when he teaches me traditions in our family. The Church is also our family, and I'm just not willing to call 99% of our fathers in the faith liars because my reason doesn't like what they have to say.

Rev. Eric J Brown said...

And when did I say that our fathers in the faith were "liars"? Rather this - I do not fully trust the tradition, nor do I see it to be of the important.

You do make a good point - it is conceivable that Mary may have married an elderly Joseph, and that there marriage was never consummated. I will even gladly concede that this could be the case.

However, this is not discussed as though it is a simple matter of historical note with no bearing upon theology. It is not treated as though it has no theological import. It ought to be a matter of simple indifference, not great passion and dogma.

So why is it so important to hold on to?

Father Hollywood said...

Dear Eric:

I'm not going to speak for the fathers, for Luther, for Chemnitz, for the confessions, for Walther, nor for Pieper - but it is important to me because it signifies a shift from trusting our fathers to viewing them with suspicion, if not outright scorn.

It closely correlates temporally and logically with the rise of skepticism and higher criticism. It also reveals a deep individualism, and is often a fig leaf for Nuda Scriptura.

As Krauth taught us, the Lutheran reformation differed with that of the Reformed insofar as we (Lutherans) keep traditions unless they contradict the Bible, whereas the Reformed approach was to reject traditions unless they are in the Bible.

I find the fact that the default position on this issue has not merely shifted, but has done a 180 (to the point where a pastor says "Somebody stole my church" when the "somebody" is simply holding the same position as Pieper's Dogmatics) to be indicative of a culture shift within Lutheranism - a shift toward a Reformed view of the Reformation and a reflection of individualism and rational interpretation.

It reflects a Protestant notion that the Bible created the Church, rather than the view that the Holy Spirit created both Church and Bible and gave the latter as a gift to the former.

I think it is also a manifestation of what Lewis called "chronological snobbery."

Unless it contradicts Scripture or is proven false, I'm going to hold the default that our fathers and mothers in the faith, our very links to the apostles, are the ones who are right - not our cynical, sexed-up, skeptical, anti-traditional, my-Bible-and-me culture.

Rev. Eric J Brown said...

Dear Larry,

And here you and I put a larger focus on differing concerns. Your thoughts center around respect for tradition - I worry about two things, both related on this topic - a respect for Scripture but also a worry about a binding of conscience.

As regards my first - on the basis of what we see in Scripture, I am somewhat dubious of the Semper Virgo -- not only because of the clearest way of understanding "adelphon" as brother, but Matthew 1:25 -- that until, that 'ews -- that implies normal relations. As such, I do worry that this tradition comes quite close to contradicting Scripture (as well as the above concerns about how it treats marriage. . . and as a note, Scripture tends to be blunt when no sex is had - I am thinking of the girl who kept King David warm in his old age).

As regards the second, tradition is to be a guide, to illuminate - to provide access and understanding of God's Truth. It is not a tyrant to be kowtowed to. Yes, Lutherans respect tradition, but we also acknowledge that humans and councils, those very people entrusted with tradition, can err - and thus there is the very real possibility of err within tradition.

When we assert that we must follow tradition simply because it is tradition, we end up binding consciences -- and that is something even Pieper does not do - he even allows one who rejects the Semper Virgo to stand, as long as he is not haughty. Now, it seems as though some wish to make the Semper Virgo some sort of litmus test as to see whether or not they are really "Confessional" (and to the extent that this has been done - indeed, the church has been stolen!)

I fear that we may, in our zeal to defend tradition against those who off-hand reject it, may turn tradition into a task master we serve unthinkingly.

And by the by Larry, again, thank you - this has been an enjoyable conversation.

Father Hollywood said...

Dear Eric:

"Binding of consciences" is the new "Pietism" - a sloppy label applied to anything we don't happen to like.

I bound no-one's conscience.

I simply reported what the fathers of the Church have said, followed by what I believe. You are the one who raised the question and asked for an explanation of its defense. When I did just what you asked, out comes the "binding of conscience" card.

You should also be on guard against binding the conscience toward ambivalence. I don't tell anyone how or what to believe. I just happen to believe what every Lutheran dogmatician until the 20th century believed.

Some pastors even openly reject Apology XXIV. I'm in no position even as a fellow member of synod to bind anyone's conscience on even something like that. We even have members of synod openly advocating women's ordination - and no-one in the synod is even in a position to bind their consciences.

To quote Ted Nugent, "It's a free-for-all."

tueschristus said...

Lively discussion indeed! I hope you don't mind a WELS pastor weighing in.

First, I think Matthew 12 is one of the strongest Scripture passages that speaks to Jesus having brothers. "Your mother and brothers are at the door." If "brothers" is just "cousins," doesn't it take something away from Jesus' statement that "Here are my mother and my cousins!"? I understand the use of the Greek word, but Jesus doesn't call us "cousins." He calls us "brothers," that is, we share a common Father.

But even if we allow for an exception to the obvious reading of the text, I would have an easier time accepting the perpetual virginity of Mary if tradition merely reported it as a historical (and irrelevant) fact. But we all know that tradition has placed Mary on a higher pedestal than the Scriptures themselves have placed her, with devastating results.

It would also help if tradition had been consistently reliable, and if historical events were not so often embellished.

(I think, e.g., that Polycarp was most probably martyred, but I don't believe the account of his flesh not burning or of a dove flying out of his pierced body). Isn't it amazing how Satan, so soon after the death of the apostles, was able to trick the saints into such extravagant devotion toward the saints, and to such a mythical treatment of history? Isn't this part of the "mystery of lawlessness" that was already at work during apostolic times, but was being "restrained" by the authority of the apostles? Isn't this what grew and grew until "tradition" produced the pantheon of 16th century saints? Is it so hard to believe that, with all the myths that tradition has floated to overemphasize Mary, her perpetual virginity may have been one of them?

The further we get away from the Word, the more shaky is the ground we stand upon. Those traditions that flow from the Word are the treasures of the Church (the Divine Liturgy being at the top of the list). Those traditions that build skyscrapers upon non-Scriptural foundations...well...

Was it Irenaeus who tried to describe so meticulously how Jesus could even pass through Mary's womb without rupturing her virginity? This is what I mean by skyscrapers built on non-Scriptural foundations.

I can't think of how the SV tradition has added anything to the Church. I can only think of how it has caused harm, and how it distracts from Christ. Having lived as a missionary in Latin America, I have little patience even for innocent devotion to the Blessed Virgin (a title which is only used correctly by confessional Lutherans.)

On the other blog (4+20+) there was a comment that illustrated just where this doctrine finds its logical conclusion. "Mary is the Mother of us all." What unScriptural, eisegetical, Satanic Dreck!

Eric, I think you've made some great points in your comments, far better than the ones I've made. In no way do I mean to disparage Mary for the saint she was, nor do I disagree lightly with faithful fathers in the Church, or with brothers (cousins?) who are convinced that Mary remained a virgin. The Scriptures cannot be broken. But popes, councils and even Lutheran dogmaticians can err. In any case, Mary's perpetual virginity is utterly irrelevant to our justification and to our sanctification. It's when people try to make it relevant that it becomes a problem.

That's how I see it. Sorry to be so long-winded.

Rev. Eric J Brown said...

Larry,

What do you mean you cannot bind consciences as regards women's ordination? You are a bishop of God's flock, entrusted with the proclamation of God's Word in its truth and purity. When one speaks against the Scripture, you are by all means to bind their conscience (and thus, I can assume that you are speaking merely ironically, speaking to the way in which people will cry, "Don't bind my conscience" as the cover for all sorts of wickedness -- otherwise, if you actually think you cannot or should not, I exhort you, make the brothers to remember God's truth, as we are instructed by Paul so to do! Speak with the authority you have been given about the things which you have been given to speak.)

Rev. Eric J Brown said...

A second thought.

This is the problem of Confessional Lutheranism. We see people falling into error, and we set our standards, like our Lutheran father did - thinking to set a new level of what is right, what is good.

A good Lutheran only does _____ - where the blank might be something silly, or even something good. He'll use the TLH, or he chants, or only uses DS3, or holds the SV, or what have.

Our job, though, is not to try and make a more pure church, to establish a more perfect union (as we Americans seem to think we need to) - it is to remain faithful to the God, to remain faithful to the Word. Where the Word is silent - where we do not stand on the clear, logical interpretation of Scripture - it has to remain free. We can discuss what is wiser, something's merit, but it must remain free.

But when something is scriptural, when it deals with the Word, then we are to accept nothing less than complete agreement, complete subservience to the Word. And we are to speak the Word, over and over, and over - to confess Christ before men again and again and again.

This is what we have forgotten.

Rev. Eric J Brown said...

To the WELS Pastor,

You are more than welcome - two of my best members here were sheltered in the WELS for many years when they lived in an area where Missouri was lax.

Personally, I think Missouri should wash their hands of the ELCA and it's pomp (and sadly, the rest of my family excepting my parents) and seek to restore the Synodical Conference (and if we can pull off a New-Ohio from the ELCA, thanks be to God - but if not. . . oh what of that, oh what of that?).

I hope you enjoy reading here and at 4-20. I don't recall Ireneaus being the one who talked about the birth of our Lord that way.

Rev. Eric J Brown said...

Finally, a good quote from Luther, one which I remember noting when I first read it. I will highlight part at the end:

Now just take a look at the perverse lauders of the mother of God. If you ask them why they hold so strongly to the virginity of Mary, they truly could not say. These stupid idolators do nothing more than to glorify only the mother of God; they extol her for her virginity and practically make a false deity of her. But Scripture does not praise this virginity at all for the sake of the mother; neither was she saved on account of her virginity. Indeed, cursed be this and every other virginity if it exists for its own sake, and accomplishes nothing better than its own profit and praise. The Spirit extols this virginity, however, because it was needful for the conceiving and bearing of this blessed fruit. Because of the corruption of our flesh, such blessed fruit could not come, except through a virgin. Thus this tender virginity existed in the service of others to the glory of God, not to its own glory. If it had been possible for him to have come from a [married] woman, he would not have selected a virgin for this, since virginity is contrary to the physical nature within us, was condemned of old in the law [cf., e.g., Isa. 4:1; Judg. 11:37-38], and is extolled here solely because the flesh is tainted and its built-in physical nature cannot bestow her fruit except by means of an accursed act. Hence we see that St. Paul nowhere calls the mother of God a virgin, but only a woman, as he says in Galatians 3 [4:4], “The Son of God was born of a woman.” He did not mean to say she was not a virgin, but to extol her virginity to the highest with the praise that is proper to it, as much as to say: In this birth none but a woman was involved, no man participated; that is, everything connected with it was reserved to the woman, the conceiving, bearing, suckling, and nourishing of the child were functions no man can perform. It is therefore the child of a woman only; hence, she must certainly be a virgin. But a virgin may also be a man; a mother can be none other than a woman. For this reason, too, Scripture does not quibble or speak about the virginity of Mary after the birth of Christ, a matter about which the hypocrites are greatly concerned, as if it were something of the utmost importance on which our whole salvation depended. Actually, we should be satisfied simply to hold that she remained a virgin after the birth of Christ because Scripture does not state or indicate that she later lost her virginity. We certainly need not be so terribly afraid that someone will demonstrate, out of his own head apart from Scripture, that she did not remain a virgin. But the Scripture stops with this, that she was a virgin before and at the birth of Christ; for up to this point God had need of her virginity in order to give us the promised blessed seed without sin. (“That Jesus Christ Was Born a Jew” [1523], Luther’s Works, Vol. 45 [Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1962], pp. 205-06)

Father Hollywood said...

Dear Tueschristus:

You write:

"Mary's perpetual virginity is utterly irrelevant to our justification and to our sanctification."

As a fellow Lutheran pastor, I see this as a problem that plagues us all regardless of synod: Gospel Reductionism.

Reducing everything in this way has led to things like the jettisoning of the Third Use of the Law by liberals in the LCMS and the acceptance of female laymen officiating at the "Eucharist" among conservatives (WELS).

It has ultimately led to gay clergy in the ELCA. After all, what does any of this matter so long as the Gospel is proclaimed, so the argument goes.

I think we need to take heed of the whole council of God rather than play the dangerous game of Gospel Reductionism. It has done far more damage among us Lutherans than the four centuries (16th-19th) of the universal belief in the perpetual virginity of Mary combined.

Father Hollywood said...

Dear Eric:

You ask:

"What do you mean you cannot bind consciences as regards women's ordination?"

I mean in the real world that is the reality.

No pastor or congregation has ever been expelled from the synod or defrocked for advocating women's ordination.

In fact, every year, some members of synod actually publish memorials in the convention workbook.

You're a circuit counselor. Are you going to "bind their conscience?" Are you going to initiate ecclesiastical charges?

We can use high-falutin' theological jargon until the Lord returns, but the bottom line is that just about anything and everything is permitted in the LCMS.

Consciences run free in our mutual confession and synod as we "walk together."

This very argument has been made by several of our brethren who have defected the LCMS. And it all boils down to our Gospel Reductionism and the polity that has become dogmatized by some in our confession.

Bottom line: in the LCMS, no conscience is bound regarding women's "ordination."

Father Hollywood said...

Dear Eric:

You cite Luther: "For this reason, too, Scripture does not quibble or speak about the virginity of Mary after the birth of Christ, a matter about which the hypocrites are greatly concerned, as if it were something of the utmost importance on which our whole salvation depended. Actually, we should be satisfied simply to hold that she remained a virgin after the birth of Christ because Scripture does not state or indicate that she later lost her virginity."

Exactly.

And who has made it an issue? Who has made it important? I have never preached a sermon on it, conducted a Bible or Confessions study on it, nor even put up a blog post about it. I have never required anyone to believe it, nor condemned anyone for even opposing it rigorously.

You are the one making it an issue. You are the one who raised it and asked for reasons.

Believe me, I have been attacked for it - even though I'm simply saying the same thing as our fathers in the faith.

The part of Luther's quote that you did not put in bold says that since it isn't explicit one way or the other in Scripture, we might as well accept the Church's tradition. This is the Reformation principle that separates us from the Reformed.

I'm simply agreeing with Luther and the Church as my default. But then people hysterically say that their Church has been stolen. Maybe we all need to do a little more homework on the matter before mischaraterizing others.

William Weedon said...

A study of the Marys of the NT sheds much light. I often think that a verse ignored in this discussion of James is Mark 16:1. We are told that going to the tomb early on Easter are Mary Magdalene, *Mary the mother of James*, and Salome. Would you not agree, Pr. Brown, that if this Mary is the mother of our Lord, identifying her as "the mother of James" as she visits the tomb is most odd? Would she not be identified as "Jesus' mother"? The natural reading would seem to me to be that Mary (whom St. John in 19:25 as His mother's sister) is indeed mother of James, and that James is our Lord's brother in the sense that it is still common to use the word "brother" for children raised in the same household. I believe the NT data supports the Church's tradition on this, and is not in tension with it unless you fail to look at ALL the NT passages. FWIW.

Paul Rydecki (tueschristus) said...

Eric,

Thanks for the kind welcome. I, too, long for the day when ELCA is removed from Missouri's extended fellowship. I would be eager to work at restoring the Synodical Conference. I, too, have had members sheltered under Missouri's wing, and a few decades ago, it was in an LCMS church where baptismal waters first covered me.

I couldn't find the Irenaeus quote I thought I remembered. There was a Valentinian heresy that had Christ passing through Mary like water through a pipe. Jerome had lots to say about Mary's perpetual virginity, but again, he seemed to build his argument for it around the philosophy that 1) since virginity is preferable to married intercourse and 2) since Mary was such a devout Christian, therefore Mary remained a virgin.

I think your Luther quote hit the nail on the head. It's his simple, unquestioning acceptance of Scripture, coupled with his critical respect of the Church past, that has been a mark of the Lutheran church ever since.

Paul Rydecki (tueschristus) said...

Father Hollywood,

(sorry if this comment posts twice, computer issues)

I enjoy reading your blog, too.

You know, you didn’t like Eric playing the “binding consciences” card, but then you go and play the “Gospel Reductionism” card. For crying out loud, can we just stick to playing a little Sheepshead instead?

Let me clarify. I was not saying that “nothing matters as long as Jesus and I are OK.” Nor was I saying that we have to reinterpret Scripture to make it fit with our idea of the Gospel. Whatever Scripture says is binding. Nothing can be removed or interpreted away. Period. Nothing can be discarded from the Confessions, to which we’ve bound ourselves with a quia subscription. Period. Every teaching of Scripture is relevant, far more so than any touching or funny story I could come up with on Sunday morning.

However, in this particular case, the Scriptures do not establish anything. Nor do any Scriptural principles come into play. As Luther rightly said, the Scriptures establish that Mary was a virgin prior to and up until the birth of Christ. After that, there are plausible speculations either way. If Mary remained a virgin after the birth of Christ, the Scriptures do not teach us anything by it. We are not directed to seek anything from her, or to imitate her virginal devotion. My faith is not affected in the least bit if Mary and Joseph had other children together, or if Mary remained a virgin forever. In that sense, it’s irrelevant. (To us, I mean. Mary’s life of service to her Savior mattered a great deal to Him, however she carried it out).

As for WELS playing with fire, yes, it has happened and could continue to happen if sins are not dealt with. I read your Girls Gone Wild and was appalled to learn of women communing women, and just as appalled at how the Q&A was worded. I don’t know who writes those responses, but all I can say it, it’s not “WELS doctrine embedded in stone.” The case you mentioned, as far as I know was a very isolated case. That doesn’t make it OK, it just means that WELS isn’t “quite ready” to ordain women just yet, nor do I see that on the horizon (dv). There are rogues in every synod, as I’m sure you know.

That doesn’t mean we can let our guard down. I appreciate the warning about GR.

Father Hollywood said...

Sheepshead just doesn't sound like a card game to me. It sounds more like a brand of beer or cheese, or an English pub. ;-)

Paul Rydecki said...

These things are not mutually exclusive. A game of Sheepshead may well include all of the above (although it'd probably be a Wisconsin pub).

Deacon Latif Haki Gaba, SSP said...

Fr. Brown:

You say you like the title "the Blessed Virgin." I would like to challenge your thinking on this, for I completely fail to see how that title is compatible with the idea that she lost her virginity. Why call her something that you only think she was until maybe her early teen years?

You also say that Mary's ever-virginity was disputed in the Early Church. Who denied it, even before the year 300, except heretics?

Carl Vehse said...

"All of the Lutheran systematicians until the 20th century taught the perpetual virginity - including Walther."

This may not be the case, unless one is referring to scholastic theology.

In his The True Visible Church: an essay for the convention of the general Evangelical Lutheran Synod of Missouri, Ohio, and Other States, for its sessions at St. Louis, Mo., October 31, 1866 (translated by J.T. Mueller, Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1961, p. 107) C.F.W. Walther quotes Johann Conrad Dannhauer (1603-1666) from his Hodosophia christiana sine theologia positive (11, p. 667):

“An article of faith is not a gloss, assertion, or opinion for which there is no clear and definite passage in Holy Scripture. Such, for example, are the questions concerning the time of the world’s creation, whether it took place in spring or in fall; the day and year of Christ’s birth; the perpetual virginity of the blessed Virgin after His birth; the soul sleep, and other matters in which men might exercise their wits. But these dare not be forced upon others as sacred teachings of the church. Such excrescences occur in scholastic theology by the wholesale, where one tries to milk a he-goat, while another endeavors to catch the milk in a sieve.”

In Lehre und Wehre, July-August 1888, pp. 198-204, (translated by W.H. McLaughlin), Franz Pieper, who was a student of and later taught with Walther at the seminary, discusses Walther's views on semper virgo and "open questions":

Walther acknowledged the existence of "open questions," but in an entirely different sense. He wishes to have the term "open question" used as synonymous with "theological problems." Hence open questions are to him such as God's Word leaves open questions which indeed arise in connection with the discussion of the Christian article's of faith, "but which find no solution in God's Word." (L.u.W. 14,33.) Walther insists most strenuously that open questions in this sense be acknowledged, and this for the very purpose that the Scripture principle may remain inviolate. For if one should wish to "close" a question which God's Word leaves open, then one would be adding to the Scripture. He writes: "What is not contained and decided in God's Word must also not be equated with God's Word and thus added to God's Word. But this would take place if orthodoxy should be made dependent upon any doctrine not contained in God's Word and the denial of it should be given church-divisive significance. Open questions in this sense are therefore all doctrines which are neither positively nor negatively decided by God's Word, or such by the affirmation of which nothing which Holy Scripture denies is affirmed , and by the denial of which nothing which Holy Scripture affirms is denied" (L.u.W, 14,33). Among such open questions Walther, with the older theologians, reckons also the following: Whether Mary gave birth to other children after Christ (the Semper virgo); whether the soul is imparted to every man through propagation from his parents, as flame from flame (per traducem, traducianism), or through creative infusion (creationism); whether the visible world will pass away on the last day according to its substance or only according to its attributes, etc.(L.u.W.,14,34). On the other hand Walther insists most strenuously that nothing shall be declared an open question and treated as such which is clearly taught in God's Word and thus decided by God's Word.” [Emphasis added]

Father Hollywood said...

Dear Carl:

My view is identical with Walther's: I believe in semper virgo. I do not require others believe it to be called "Christian" or "Lutheran.

Do you believe in semper virgo like CFW Walther, or do you deny it like, say, Robert Schuller? ;-)

Carl Vehse said...

Like Walther, Dannhauer, and other Lutheran theologians, I believe that whether Mary gave birth to other children after Christ (the Semper virgo) is an open question. I also believe it is at the most, a pious opinion, and that if taught as doctrine, semper virgo is being taught as false doctrine.

But given the large amount of Scriptural evidence of Mary's children after Jesus, the fulfilled Christological prophesies in Psalm 69:7-9, the utter lack of any Scripture evidence for semper virgo and clauso utero (one is useless without the other), I am starting to lean toward the view of semper virgo expressed in Walther's quote from Dannhauer:

"Such excrescences occur in scholastic theology by the wholesale, where one tries to milk a he-goat, while another endeavors to catch the milk in a sieve.”

Carl Vehse said...

tueschristus: "First, I think Matthew 12 is one of the strongest Scripture passages that speaks to Jesus having brothers."

Not according to the Semper Virgo Translation of the Bible, where in Matthew 12:48-50, it has Jesus replying:

"Who is my mother, and who are my cousins or stepfather's children from a previous marriage? Here are my mother and my cousins or stepfather's children from a previous marriage. For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my cousin or stepfather's son or daughter from a previous marriage and mother."

Father Hollywood said...

Dear Carl:

You are tap-dancing around the question.

Walther clearly confessed semper virgo as true, though he did not impose it on others.

This is exactly my belief, and it is different than yours.

Unless, of course, you confess semper virgo, which you seem not to.

Father Hollywood said...

Of course, when Jesus spoke English (joke indicator on) it sounded more like Beowulf.

Words simply have different meanings and different nuances in different languages. This is how Lot is called Abraham's brother and Abraham's nephew. I have never heard anyone blasphemously mock that passage of Scripture, though I have heard skeptics cite it as a "contradiction."

Our antecedents understood that Hebrew and Greek are not German and English, which is why all (*all*) of our fathers in the faith - including Luther, Melanchthon, Chemnitz, Gerhardt, Walther, and Pieper believed in semper virgo.

But then again, maybe they were all just idiots, morons, simpletons, or just plain garden-variety Romanizers.

Somehow, I don't think they were either ignorant or papistic.

Father Hollywood said...

It is not unreasonable or unLutheran to believe in semper virgo. In fact, it is the historic default Lutheran belief.

But it is unreasonable and unLutheran to mock semper virgo or to imply that belief in semper virgo is wrong or evil, or that it requires a false reading of the Bible. To do so is to dogmatize something not in Scripture and to indict nearly every Lutheran theologian over the course of four centuries.

Carl Vehse said...

"It is not unreasonable or unLutheran to believe in semper virgo. In fact, it is the historic default Lutheran belief."

Now we see the tap-dancing: Believe in semper virgo. On what basis?

Scripture? There is none, though plenty of Scripture to suggest otherwise.

Reason? If there were reason, one wouldn't need to simply believe.

Lutheran Confessions? Only Selnecker's altered version. And Pieper could not then call orthodox those who do not believe semper virgo other than an open question.

That pretty much leaves the trinity of Tradition, Pietism, and Sophistry.

So, whatever floats your boat... as long as your belief in semper virgo is not one of Sola Scriptura doctrine.

Rev. Eric J Brown said...

Boy. . . I run around for a simple, little day. . . sheesh!

A few things:

Larry,

Yes, I would bind consciences as regarding women's ordination. If one in my circuit were to advocate it, I would oppose him to his face and repeatedly, and also inform the district president so that he does not unwittingly foist his name upon another congregation seeking to issue a call. For a congregation, I would seek to have it expelled.

As for the congregation that puts it in every year, what I have heard is that they do not hold for this, but they want it definitively voted down. Is that truth or a cover - I don't know - and as I do not know them, I wouldn't be able to say either way. It would remain to those in their circuit or district to be the point in admonishment there.

Also - if the Semper Virgo is just a historical point without theological import and implication then not holding to it cannot be Gospel reductionism for you yourself have said it has nothing to do with the Gospel. I call Red Herring.

Now, if you wish to say that it is disrepectful, dismissive of tradition, arrogant, and the like - so be it.

Also, you say that I am making an issue of this - (You are the one making it an issue. You are the one who raised it and asked for reasons. ) I simply have said that I am dubious of the tradition of SV and at 4-20 (where you have not posted, by the by) asked why people thought it was important-- and indeed, the point of the original post here was not a rant against some supposed wickedness - but rather a simple reminder that we should examine tradition. My original post did not even mention directly Mary's virginity.

Rev. Weedon,
Or, by identifying Mary as the mother of James could simply be pointing out why Peter would have deferred to James while in Jerusalem.

You bring forth a contention, but not proof - but that has been part of the point, it cannot be proved or disproved. I side with Tertullian on this one.

Latif,

Because, she is the Virgin Mary. That is why we have any note of her - she is the Virgin who conceived whom all generations call blessed. That remains true even should she have many other children. It is the title which she has, which focus upon.

As for who denied it before 300 - the references I have seen are fragments of Papias and Origen for and Tertullian against. Part of my initial point of this entire post is that we just don't see this put forth as part of the Christian doctrine really before Origen -- and if Origen is the propagator - who else taught it besides one who disfigured himself in his misguided love of virginity? I find one who castrates himself for chastity's sake not to be a sure source of tradition, as he most obviously misinterpreted things (and denied the 6 day creation. . . would you count him among the heretics?)

Father Hollywood said...

Carl wrote:

"That pretty much leaves the trinity of Tradition, Pietism, and Sophistry."

So Carl calls Luther, Chemnitz, Walther, and Pieper worshipers of a false trinity, as well as sophists and pietists.

Wow. As Sir Harry Flashman said: "Even I was appalled. But only for a moment."

And Selneckee did not "alter" anything. There are variations all over the Lutheran confessions between the Latin and German. But nevertheless, they were all published together as *the* Book of Concord.

There is also a crystal-clear confession of semper virgo in the German of FC SD 8:24. But since the English version of the Book of Concord was good enough for Jesus and Luther, I suppose it should be good enough for us. ;-)

Paul Rydecki (tueschristus) said...

Father Hollywood: "There is also a crystal-clear confession of semper virgo in the German of FC SD 8:24."

I'm afraid this is far from "crystal-clear."

"...welcher seine göttliche Majestät auch in Mutterleibe erzeigt [hat], daß er von einer Jungfrau unverletzt ihrer Jungsrauschaft geboren [ist]; darum sie wahrhaftig Gottes Mutter und gleichwohl eine Jungfrau geblieben ist."

"...who demonstrated his divine majesty even in his mother's womb in that he was born of a virgin while leaving her virginity intact; therefore she [was] truly God's mother and, at the same time, remained a virgin."

I'm not sure which phrase you think makes semper virgo "crystal-clear." The last line doesn't say she remained "semper virgo." Just that she was a "virgin mother," something altogether unheard of since the beginning of time. This would not make any sense if it were referring to perpetual virginity, since that would be no miracle of Christ, which is the main point of 8:24. The miracle was in the virginal conception and birth, not in a special piety chosen by her or for her afterward.

Father Hollywood said...

"eine Jungfrau geblieben ist"

The tense of the verb is crystal clear in German. "gebleiben ist" is poorly translated as "remained." It is better translated (as McCain's translation reads: "and yet has remained a virgin."

So, unless Mary lost her virginity between 1577 and now, she still remains a virgin, according to the Book of Concord, anyway.

Paul Rydecki said...

Sorry, my friend. I admit my German has taken backseat to Spanish over the past several years, but I, too, have studied ecclesiastical German for many years.

The German past perfect tense is not the equivalent of the English past perfect tense. Not by a long shot. The German past perfect is the normal tense to use for past events. Many German dialects don't even use the preterite. I'd have to recheck this, but I'd say the Confessions use BY FAR the past perfect for most past constructions.

The next paragraph, 8:25, says that "Christ didn't simply die as any other man." "...da er nicht schlecht wie ein anderer Mensch gestorben ist." Same exact tense as "geblieben ist." Do you want to translate that "has remained dead" (and therefore remains dead?). I didn't think so.

But I reiterate my former point as well: 8:24 is making the point that Christ showed his majesty in the virgin birth. It says nothing about Mary's piety afterwards. That has nothing to do with the context.

Father Hollywood said...

Dear Paul:

You write:

"Christ didn't simply die as any other man." "...da er nicht schlecht wie ein anderer Mensch gestorben ist." Same exact tense as "geblieben ist." Do you want to translate that "has remained dead" (and therefore remains dead?). I didn't think so."



Uh, there is nothing to do with "remaining" in the verb "gestorben" - unlike the verb "geblieben."

Deacon Latif Haki Gaba, SSP said...

Fr. Brown:

I must say it really strikes me as awkward and strange to call Mary Virgin when you only think she WAS virgin, in the past tense. The whole line of thought that "Virgin" is an honorary title, like the innovative notion advanced lately that Mary is ever-Virgin "liturgically," but not historically, bears the burden of much greater explication than I have seen.

Regarding the early church, Origen, with his obvious flaws, cannot be set up as the "propagator" of Mary's ever-virginity, and thereby knocked down along with the semper virgo as the mere product of such a man. Origen, rather, continues the tradition, the origins of which precede any explicit defense of it. My challenge to you is to produce the names, not of promoters, for they are not the ones in the minority, but to produce the names, and defend the doctrine and character of the deniers in the early church.

Paul Rydecki said...

OK. You want to translate "geblieben ist" as "has remained," with an English perfect tense. This implies action in the past that continues into the present, not unlike a Greek perfect tense.

To be consistent, you should translate "gestorben ist" as "Christ has not simply died as any other man." Again, the perfect tense implies past action that continues (remains?) into the present.

I could have chosen hundreds of examples in the Confessions in which the German perfect is equivalent to the English past (not perfect), but for the sake of time, I just went to the very next paragraph in the FoC. A better English translation of "gestorben ist" is "died," or in this case, "didn't simply die."

What I'm saying is that "geblieben ist" should better be translated in English with a regular past tense, "remained." That is by no means a poor translation. In fact, McCain's translation seems to indicate (at least to me) an SV agenda, since it's not the clearest translation of the original (either grammatically or contextually).

And if there were any doubt whether this German perfect should be translated with an English perfect or English past, the context makes it "crystal clear." The paragraph highlights the miracle of the virgin birth ("remained"), not the ongoing state of Mary's virginity after Christ's birth ("has remained").

Paul Rydecki said...

And need I mention that pesky Latin past tense "mansit," which, if the Confessors had intended to confess the semper virgo, they could have easily rendered in the present tense, "manet," or in the perfect, "mansa est"? But since they themselves put the Formula into Latin, any lack of clarity for us in the German, if there had been any, is cleared up.

You think I should tell McCain so he can make the correction? ;)

He hasn't liked some of my comments about TLSB.

Rev. Eric J Brown said...

Tertullian, in "Against Marcion" (IV, 19) seems to state that the brothers who were calling out for Christ (along with His mother) were His brothers - and this is from around 206-207.

I can't find anything earlier than that. What can you find earlier that claims the Semper Virgo -- we see Alexandria in the 3rd Century begin to teach this way. . . and hence, I am somewhat dubious given Alexandria flights of fancy when it comes to chastity.

Anonymous said...

Would someone please cite as many known instances as possible (either from Scripture or not) in which "adelphos" means "cousin"? (The references to Jesus' adelphoi are excluded from this, as they are the references in question.) Keep in mind what the 3rd ed. BDAG has to say on the matter: "Passages like Gen 13:8; 14:14; 24:48; 29:12; Lev. 10:4; 1 Ch. 9:6 do not establish the meaning 'cousin' for adelphos" (18).

If Luke had meant to refer to Jesus' "cousins" in Lk. 8:19ff, wouldn't he have used the word "suggenhs" as he did in Lk. 1:36 to refer to Elizabeth?

If Luke had meant for "adelphos" to mean "cousin," then why does he make a differentiation between "adelphwn" and "suggenwn" in Lk. 21:16?

If Mark had meant for "adelphos" to mean "cousin," then why did he refer to "suggeneusin" in Mk. 6:4?

Bottom line: "adelphos" does not mean "cousin."

I don't care if you want to contend that Jesus' "brothers" are really Joseph's sons from a previous marriage. Just please, don't use poor exegesis to make your point that they aren't His biological brothers.

Father Hollywood said...

Dear Paul:

You write:

"And need I mention that pesky Latin past tense "mansit," which, if the Confessors had intended to confess the semper virgo, they could have easily rendered in the present tense, "manet," or in the perfect, "mansa est"? But since they themselves put the Formula into Latin, any lack of clarity for us in the German, if there had been any, is cleared up.

You think I should tell McCain so he can make the correction? ;)

He hasn't liked some of my comments about TLSB."



Why do you call "mansit" pesky?
"Mansit" in Latin is in the perfect tense. It can be translated into English either as "she remained" or "she has remained."

The funny thing about the German is the reaction if you show it to a Lutheran who does *not* believe in semper virgo. Their reaction is sometimes disbelief that the Lutheran confessions would actually say this. At very least, you'll get raised eyebrows.

But it should not be a shock, since we know that the Lutheran confessors all historically believed this.

Even Hermann Sasse, who did not himself believe in semper virgo, candidly admitted that FC SD VIII:24 clearly confesses the perpetual virginity.

I think I trust Dr. Sasse with both the German language and the lack of an agenda to force semper virgo onto the text.

I'll let you try to convince Paul McCain that it says what modern Protties would like it to say instead of what the Lutheran fathers wrote. ;-)

Father Hollywood said...

Dear Anon:

ἀδελφός can mean full brother, half brother, kinsman, fellow man, associate, or even fellow believer.

St. Paul uses the term all the time in a broader sense than a biological full or half brother.

A kinsman might be a cousin, or an uncle, or a nephew, or many other more distant relations than full or half siblings.

We tend to use "brother" much more restrictively and narrowly in English, though we too use the term figuratively. When a guy slaps another guy five and says: "Sup bra?", we don't jump to the conclusion that they share maternal and or paternal ancestry.

The bottom line is that Scripture is unclear. There is no mention of any other children of the Virgin Mary, but only speculation.

Both interpretations are in a sense "pious opinions".

Deacon Latif Haki Gaba, SSP said...

Anonymous:

St. John tells us in Jn 19:25 that two of the three Marys at the cross were adelphe. Are you supposing them to have been sisters in the narrow sense, with the same name? Other examples certainly can be raised in the scriptures and in classic literature, but I just thought of that one.

Father Hollywood said...

Jerome, in his debate with Helvidius (whom Luther would call "stupid" for denying semper virgo), cites Ignatius, Polycarp, Irenaeus, Justin Martyr, and "many other apostolic and eloquent men" as having taught the perpetual virginity over and against Helvidius' use of Tertullian.

St. Jerome was not accused of lying or making this up. Polycarp and Irenaeus, in particular, are of interest because of their connection to St. John, the surrogate son of the Virgin Mary.

Anonymous said...

Hollywood and Gaba,

"Adelphos" could mean "kinsman" if there was some textual indicator that marked it as such a meaning. The BDAG (which I consider to be far more authoritative on the matter than either of you) at best says that in a small number of cases (none of which are Scriptural) "oi adelphoi sou seems to be more general='your relatives.'" Seems to be is hardly definitive, especially when it goes on to state that the Scriptural usage in the Old Testament does not establish that "adelphos" means "cousin."

Besides, you completely glossed over and ignored that Luke uses "suggenhs" in his book AND he uses it in the same sentence as "adelphos." That's hardly compelling evidence to suggest that he really meant "suggenhs" when he referred to Jesus' "adelphoi." And by "hardly compelling evidence" I mean to say that it actually refutes your claim that "adelphos" actually means "suggenhs."

Like I said previously, I don't care if you want to argue that "adelphos" means "half-brother," i.e., Joseph's children from a previous marriage. There are conclusive examples of "adelphos" meaning "half-brother" in the Septuagint, especially in the genealogies.

But Luke's usage completely forbids having "adelphos" mean "suggenhs." And since Scripture interprets Scripture, the same holds true for the parallel accounts in Matthew and Mark as well as the reference to Jesus' mother and brothers in John 2.

Rev. Eric J Brown said...

Latif,

I thought of a best way of phrasing my thoughts on why I think it is fine to refer to Mary as the Blessed Virgin. It relates to Office. She is the Virgin, she held that office. Whether she has been. . . retired from that office, it is still fine to call her by that title -- just as I would call President Bush President Bush, even though he is no longer President. It is quite common to refer to someone by the title of an Office they had, even if they no longer possess the office in question.

P.S. I think you may be off in your comment against Mary having a sister named Mary as we see in Jn 19:25. First, in the ancient world the repetition of a name was much more common. Also, your comment kind of cuts off the point that Rev. Weedon was trying to make earlier.

Rev. Eric J Brown said...

Anon (and please ID yourself, by the by), you write:

But Luke's usage completely forbids having "adelphos" mean "suggenhs." And since Scripture interprets Scripture, the same holds true for the parallel accounts in Matthew and Mark as well as the reference to Jesus' mother and brothers in John 2.

You are slightly off here on two points.

First, this is a slight misuse of the idea of Scripture interprets Scripture -- we don't use that to assume that just cause a word means X here that it must mean and be used in the exact same way in another part of Scripture.

Second, Luke's usage (which I think you are spot on with) doesn't conclusively prove anything about Mark or John -- but what it does demonstrate is that Luke knew the Greek word for Cousin and expected his readers to know the word for Cousin as well. Thus, we can say that if Luke had meant to just talk about Jesus' cousins (and not brothers), he would have said as much. However, to say that this proves this usage in John and Mark is wrong -- it merely provides strong evidence against the contention that "adelphos" is just an aramaic usage. It could be - but it is not a consistent usage - and therefore, as it is not inline with the simple Greek usage the burden of proof falls upon those who would argue that it is an aramaic usage.

Excellent point - don't push it too far, otherwise your flaws may be blown out of proportion and your (quite excellent) point may be ignored.

Rev. Eric J Brown said...

One other thing, jumping to Matthew 1:25. This is part of Luther's defense against understanding this phrase to imply that after Christ's birth Joseph did know Mary.

Luther writes:
Elsewhere in Scripture the same manner of speech is employed. Psalm 110[:1] reads, “God says to my Lord: ‘Sit at my right hand, till I make your enemies your footstool.’” Here it does not follow that Christ does not continue to sit there after his enemies are placed beneath his feet. Again, in Genesis 28[:15], “I will not leave you until I have done all that of which I have spoken to you.” Here God did not leave him after the fulfilment had taken place. Again, in Isaiah 42[:4], “He shall not be sad, nor troublesome, till he has established justice in the earth.” There are many more similar expressions, so that this babble of Helvidius is without justification; in addition, he has neither noticed nor paid any attention to either Scripture or the common idiom.

As I was reading this, I noted something that Luther does that actually I found to be slightly exegetically sloppy. He ignores the verb tense.

The examples he cites are all examples where the verb is in the future - I will not leave, he shall not be. . . all future action. With Matthew 1:25, it is past - Joseph did not. . . until.

Because it is past tense, that until does have a sense of change to it that is very strong. (It also can be used as a point of change for the future as well - consider Luke 24:49 - wait in Jerusalem until you receive power from on high)

I think Luther was slightly sloppy here.

Paul Rydecki said...

Fr. Hollywood,

(Shooting for a record number of comments on Eric's blog. How far do we have to go?)

So your point is, both the Latin and the German perfects could be translated as English perfects, or could be translated as English pasts. How does this make anything crystal clear? The context will make it so.

Is your point that, since Lutherans have so often held to the semper virgo, ergo, that must be what they intended to confess in 8:24, regardless of the context of 8:24? That's kind of backwards logic, don't you think?

You can point to Sasse or McCain all day long. But I ask you, how does the context of 8:24 have anything to do with Mary's piety? Seriously. How about a little exegesis of FC 8:24 instead of eisegesis?

And by the way (separate question), why would our forefathers have made a confession regarding an open question anyway? It kind of takes away from the solid, Scriptural confession they made throughout the rest of the book if they were really trying to make here a confession about something that Scripture DOESN'T clearly teach.

Father Hollywood said...

Dear Paul:

You write:

"So your point is, both the Latin and the German perfects could be translated as English perfects..."



No. They should not be "translated" into English except as an aid. These documents were written in German and in Latin, and really should be read as such and understood as such. This is the tragedy that has resulted from our dumbed-down education. Unlike me, our predecessors had to go to the seminary already understanding Hebrew, Greek, Latin, and German.

When pastors could *read* German and Latin (and I don't mean translate word by word and parse with Bible Works software), they, to a man, understood what the Latin and German were conveying.

Perfect tenses do not work the same in all languages. This is the primary error of working with English. And this is why we (at least for the time being) still insist that pastors at least learn Greek. It matters. If it didn't matter, if an English translation were all we needed, we would drop the biblical languages all together. But we don't.

But we have dropped the confessional languages as a requirement.



You write:

"Is your point that, since Lutherans have so often held to the semper virgo, ergo, that must be what they intended to confess in 8:24, regardless of the context of 8:24? That's kind of backwards logic, don't you think?"



No. It says what it says. We know what these men believed and intended when they wrote it. If you don't want to believe it, don't. I have never called you a heretic. But I have been accused of sophistry and pietism for believing it. Not one single person who denies semper virgo refuted that charge.


You write:

"You can point to Sasse or McCain all day long. But I ask you, how does the context of 8:24 have anything to do with Mary's piety? Seriously. How about a little exegesis of FC 8:24 instead of eisegesis?"


I said nothing about Mary's piety. Whether or not one has other children is not a matter of piety. The text says "She has remained a virgin." We don't have the authority to change it.


You write:

"And by the way (separate question), why would our forefathers have made a confession regarding an open question anyway? It kind of takes away from the solid, Scriptural confession they made throughout the rest of the book if they were really trying to make here a confession about something that Scripture DOESN'T clearly teach."


You will have to ask them. They believed it. They confessed it. I do too. Nobody is forcing you to do the same. My default position is what our fathers taught. They knew the Bible, the fathers, Greek, German, Latin, and the minds of the original reformers far better than I do.

I keep hearing that this is an "open question" but then I hear words like "sophistry" and "pietism" and "eisegesis." I wish you guys would make up your minds!

Rev. Eric J Brown said...

Larry,

I don't think you are a sophist or a pietist.

I might call you a romantic - in the sense that you long for a more ancient day that would not have the problems of this one (where as I would say, "True, that day wouldn't have my cultural hang-ups - they would just have cultural hang-ups and blind spots of their own -- look at the mental gymnastics they unnecessarily go through on Semper Virgo -- I wonder if that is just them accommodating their culture. . . )

I used to be much more of a romantic. To do things like the Fathers did - be they the American Fathers, or the Lutheran Fathers, or the church Fathers. I would sit and think how lovely it would be to have been there then instead of the messy here and now, when we understand neither politics or religion.

Then I became a historian. Then I considered what things like the Whiskey Rebellion and Marbury vs. Madison actually said about what those days really were like. Then I considered the theological debates of the Reformation, and saw how messy and nasty it was. Then I considered the same with the Early Church -- indeed, even with the Church when Paul and John are writing -- people are bewitched, antichrists are all ready at work.

I long to be as wise as my fathers. I know that I am just as prone to err as they were, though. There is no golden age for me to romantically return to, and thus I am left facing the problems of the day. . . and I am content. These troubles are sufficient enough for me.

I take what wisdom I can learn - and then go on. Over-bold? Perhaps - but Luther did say to sin boldly, yet believe even more boldly. I think that is sage advice.

And thus, as far as the Semper virgo, unless you can convince me on the basis of Scripture and clear reason -- I don't buy it -- for even counsels and Popes and Luther have erred.

And what worries me most, Larry, about your arguments, is that when they all boil down, they are the same Eck leveled against Luther - would you disagree with such men as Aquinas and Abelard? Yes, Luther would, on the basis of St. Paul.

Rev. Eric J Brown said...

One note:

The text says "She has remained a virgin." We don't have the authority to change it.

Does the text say "she has remained a virgin forever"? Does it say "she has remained a virgin, until her days of purification were past"? Nope - even having given birth she remained a virgin - that is what the text says - no more - and neither side can.

Paul Rydecki said...

Fr. Hollywood,

I share your concern for the languages. I, too, lament the fact that German and Latin are going, going, almost gone from the WELS worker training college, and are seldom referred to at the seminary anymore. Greek and Hebrew are still going relatively strong (I think) at our college and seminary.

I'm not one for parsing or interlinear translation. I'm not one for isolating a text and pulling more out of a word than the author intended, just because it's grammatically possible. I'm not one for dumbing down our education, either. Languages took up the majority of my studies in college, because I love them. I also love speaking some of them.

As one who does read German in the German, I'm not as interested in translating into English as understanding the meaning, which we, on this blog, are trying to discuss in English, which is why I kept pointing to the context of 8:24. I don't accuse you of pietism or sophistry or stupidity. I know you're sincere in your opinion on Mary, and there's nothing wrong or evil about it.

And I do leave this matter as an "open question." By pointing out that your Confessions reference isn't as crystal clear as you stated it to be, I'm not trying to close the question on Mary's perpetual virginity. It's just not the topic of discussion in 8:24.

And I also think our forefathers were wise to keep their opinions about Mary's perpetual virginity out of the confessional writings that bound the churches together in doctrine.

As my old German professor used to teach us, our forefathers reserved the word "glauben" almost exclusively for matters that are solid and sure, not as we do in English ("I believe," i.e., "I think, I hold to the opinion that"). This is why, when they spoke of what the sectarians "believed," they didn't say "glauben," but "sie halten dass..."

SV or not SV cannot be a matter of "glauben" but must remain for us this side of heaven a matter of "halten."

Deacon Latif Haki Gaba, SSP said...

Fr. Brown:

I have not yet had my espresso this morning, so I confess I need help seeing how my point about the "sisters" in Jn 19 contradicts Fr. Weedon's point about Mark 16, unless you are assuming that the Theotokos is one of the Marys present in Mrk 16. I do not find that to be self evident.

Also, I understand your argument about Virgin being a title meant to honor a virginal office from which she retired. What I wonder is who has ever held this line of thinking, until very recent times? Anyone? in the early church? the early medieval age? late medieval age? Reformation? Luth orthodoxy? Luth Pietism? 19th cent Confessional age?

Carl Vehse said...

Jumping to Matthew 1:25 ("he had no union with her until she gave birth to a son") again as Rev. Brown did (Nov.2, 3:27 PM), the context from earlier verses is important. This includes Joseph doing what the angel of the Lord "commanded" (vs. 20, 24) and "took Mary home as his wife." The literal and normal understanding of "as his wife" was also alluded to in v. 18 ("to be married to Joseph, but before they came together").

So, within eight verses we have four separate statements dealing with the marriage of Mary and Joseph; one statement was a specific command by an angel). Three present the normal understanding of marriage. The fourth one explains the one oddity of the marriage prior to the birth of Christ.

Beyond an indicated temporary ("before", "until") exception prior to the birth of Jesus, there is no indication in any of these verses, or elsewhere, that the marital relationship between Mary and Joseph after the birth of Jesus was to be any other kind than what Jesus described in Matthew 19.

Father Hollywood said...

Dear Carl:

You make a very good argument from logic and the English translation of the Bible as filtered through the modern viewpoint of marriage.

Francis Pieper (whose dogmatics are studied by every seminary-trained LCMS pastor) takes a different tack, that of a less modern view unhitched from the way the English language works:

"But we must emphatically object when those who assume that Jesus had natural brothers pride themselves on their more delicate 'exegetical conscience' and disparage those who hold the opposite view. They certainly cannot prove their view from Scripture, at least not from the "till" (heos ou, Matt 1:25) and the "first born" (prototokos, Luke 2:7). In his Harmonia Evangelica (ad Matt 1:25) Chemnitz shows that heos ou, donec, priusquam, which mean "until then" or its equivalent, do not declare that the things that did not take place 'till then' did occur at a later time. Chemnitz proves this fact, on the one hand by Gen 19:22, Lev 12:4, Acts 25:16, and on the other, by Gen 8:7, 1 Sam 15:35, 2 Sam 6:23, Matt 28:20, and similar passages. This second group of passages Chemnitz correctly describes as follows: 'It denies the past without determining the future.' Meyer agrees as regards the heos ou, but holds that the prototokos entitles him to conclude that Mary gave birth to other children besides Christ. Chemnitz, however, says of "first-born" (prototokos): 'The answer is simple; for in the Law, when they are commanded to offer the first-born to the Lord, the sense is not that there must be born another after the first. Not only is he called "first-born" after whom others are born, but rather he before whom none was born, even though he be the only child.' Decisive proof cannot be supplied even from the passages that mention 'brothers' and 'sisters' of Christ, such as Matt 12:46ff, 13:55ff, John 2:12, 7:3ff, Gal 1:19. Since the question is purely a historical one, it is best not to spend too much time on it." (Christian Dogmatics, II:308-309)

I don't offer this as some kind of proof of semper virgo nor of trying to "bind consciences." After all, Pieper's Dogmatics is not part of our Lutheran Confessions, nor are all the writings of all of our great theologians.

Rather, I offer it as a defense of those who confess semper virgo that this is the default historical position of Lutherans for centuries. There is nothing wrong, shameful, Romanist, pietistic, sophistic, or anything of the sort. Men have had their reputations trashed for confessing nothing other than what our Lutheran fathers believed. This is wrong, sinful, and something that is to be repented of!

I think it is edifying to have a discussion about it, even rigorous debate. But it is unLutheran for either side to vilify the other side for holding to one or the other. I am not seeing the advocates of semper virgo turning it into a dogma or mocking or attacking the reputations of those who disagree. But I am seeing this happen in reverse - which is to mock and deride Luther, Melanchton, the authors of the Formula of Concord (including Chemnitz), Gerhard, Quenstedt, Wlather, and Pieper - all with a facile wave of the hand and a tone of superiority. I just don't know how any of us can claim a superior knowledge of the Bible and confessions over these men. Their collective testimony is very powerful to me.

I agree with Pieper on this: "If the Christology of a theologian is orthodox in all other respects, he is not to be regarded as a heretic for holding that Mary bore other children in a natural manner after she had given birth to the Son of God. In his Systema (I, 59) Quenstedt gives this matter careful consideration." (Pieper II:308).

I do think both sides ought to concede this point.

Carl Vehse said...

The quote from Pieper dealing with Mt. 1:25 does not discuss the other Chapter 1 verses in context, but its conclusions are similar to the previous quote from Pieper, "Among such open questions Walther, with the older theologians, reckons also the following: Whether Mary gave birth to other children after Christ (the Semper virgo)."

Rather, I offer it as a defense of those who confess semper virgo that this is the default historical position of Lutherans for centuries"

Confess it to be a historical position of Lutherans for centuries? Well, historically, yes. But a position of what? A clear teaching of God's Word? A Lutheran Confessional doctrine? A conclusion based on logic? A pious opinion held by Luther and others? A tradition which Lutherans should hold as a pious belief if they really are to be considered true Lutherans?

I would supplement Pieper's negation regarding heretics with the positive statement that a Lutheran whose Christology is orthodox, and who holds the opinion that Mary had other children, is orthodox.” Objecting to this supplement implies that the objector holds SV as a (false) doctrine.

Rev. Eric J Brown said...

Latif,

No, no, no - not that Weedon contradicts himself, but you dismiss the idea brought forth by Rev. Weedon that on the basis of John we can surmise that James and Jude were what we would call cousins, but really the daughter of her sister Mary. The thrust of his arugmentation was precisely that Mary the mother of our Lord has, on the basis of John 19, a sister named Mary - and that it is this other Mary who is the mother of James and Jude. So, yes, they would have to both be sisters -- and having children of the same name is plausible (as would be an in-law -- suppose the 2nd Mary is Joseph's sister. . . Mary's sister-in-law -- that would make both being named Mary quite understandible even to us today).

I've got a fever coming on and some nausea - I apologize if that rambled.

Deacon Latif Haki Gaba, SSP said...

Regarding early wirnesses to Mary's perpetual virginity, a discussion of this sort really ought not ignore the Protoevangelium of James. It is worthy of consideration here, not because of its canonical status (most writings of the early church lack canonical status), not because every detail is historically reliable, but because it it a clearly articulated witness to Mary's perpetual virginity, a witness that was not condemned by the church, but reflects its thinking. Johannes Quasten says of it in his first volume that "The principal aim of the whole writing is to prove the perpetual and inviolate virginity of Mary before, in, and after the birth of Christ."

The Protoevangelium of James was probably written around 120, or certainly by 150, according to Miri Rubin (Mother of God: A History of the Virgin Mary), in other words, it falls within the living memory of those who knew the Beloved Disciple, and the Mother of God herself. All things considered, the lack of identity of the author is but a minor problem here, a mere annoyance.

One of the ways the Protoevangelium of James promotes Mary's lifelong virginity is with its claim that she was given to the temple and became a vowed, consecrated virgin. A life of consecrated virginity was not unique. Today such a thing is viewed as extremely odd and suspicious, at least by Protestants and many Lutherans, but it is a vocation that men and women have received in every age.

Rev. Eric J Brown said...

Latif,

This is just a straight question, not a challenge. Assuming that Mary was dedicated within the temple, how does that assertion correlate within Jesus handing her care over to John?

I ask because it is commonly argued that this handing over to John is a sign that Jesus had no brothers, otherwise they would have cared for her. However, if Mary was a consecrated virgin, wouldn't that mean her care would belong to the temple?

And I don't view virginity with skepticism - or even that one who was married but widowed would cease sexual activity (indeed, I expect it!) - but rather to have that within marriage itself seems quite odd.

Also, according to the proto - when was Mary given to the temple? Was this before her betrothal to Joseph -- and if so, how does that fit in? Wouldn't a later betrothal mandate a forgoing of the preceding dedication.

Deacon Latif Haki Gaba, SSP said...

Fr. Brown:

She was given to the temple at an early age. I don't have it in front of me right now, and must catch the bus soon, but I can say that as I recall, her mother & father disagreed about when they should take her to the temple, one arguing for taking her at, I think about age two, and then finally agreeing to wait another year. It was at age twelve that the temple priests decided that it was time for her to have a guardian, someone to be husband to her, who would solemnly agree to protect her virginity. That man, of course, was St. Joseph. At her Divine Son's passion, Joseph was almost certainly departed from this world, and the natural caretaker and companion for her would be John, beloved of the Lord. Sorry, gotta go. But I might be "here" later.

Paul Rydecki said...

She was given to the temple at an early age. I don't have it in front of me right now, and must catch the bus soon, but I can say that as I recall, her mother & father disagreed about when they should take her to the temple, one arguing for taking her at, I think about age two, and then finally agreeing to wait another year. It was at age twelve that the temple priests decided that it was time for her to have a guardian, someone to be husband to her, who would solemnly agree to protect her virginity.

A perfect example of a skyscraper built on a foundation other than that of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus nowhere to be found as the chief cornerstone.

There's a reason why the Holy Spirit was so concise in what he did inspire to be recorded: the other events surrounding the life of Christ (or those who knew him) were not to concern us, and will remain spurious until the end of time.

It's just these kinds of myths that led the Church further and further away from the Scriptures, until Sola Scriptura became nothing more than a distant memory.

Immaculate Conception, anyone?

Father Hollywood said...

Dear Paul:

By the same token, there are indeed unscriptural assumptions that we all take for granted.

- When we refer to Paul as "St. Paul" and presume he is in heaven (not to mention being a martyr). Scripture is silent on this matter, yet we do have a default position as the Christian Church.

- When we confess that Blessed Mary prays for the church. The Bible says nothing at all about her even being in heaven, let alone praying for us. Scripture is silent about whether or not Mary died in the faith. I believe she did without reservation, though I cannot cite chapter and verse. This is our unscriptural "assumption."

- When we confess the anonymous letter to the Hebrews as Scripture, but not the Letter of Polycarp to the Philippians.

- When we confess John's Gospel and his three epistles as God's Word without reservation, and yet avoid drawing any doctrine exclusively from the Book of Revelation.

- When we confess 2 Maccabees as Scripture while not drawing any doctrine from the book.

We base our dogma on God's inerrant, infallible Word - while by the same token, the issue of what constitutes God's Word is based on the consensus of the Church and the tradition handed over to us from the apostles and their successors.

So it is hypocritical for us to claim we rely only the the Bible and nothing else.

Paul Rydecki said...

Fr. Hollywood:

By the same token, there are indeed unscriptural assumptions that we all take for granted.

I'm afraid we don't all take all the things you mentioned for granted, and taking something for granted isn't the same as confessing it as truth.

First, I don't confess that Mary prays for the church. You do? Is that common in the LCMS? I do confess that Christ is the one Mediator between God and man, and is at God's right hand interceding for us, and that the Spirit of Christ intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express.

I don't confess 2 Maccabees as inspired Scripture, but as pious literature. Is that common in the LCMS?

As for Paul, I speak as if he is in heaven because the Scriptures leave him wasting away in prison as a believer who knows that he has "fought the good fight, finished the race, kept the faith," knowing that "there was in store for him the crown of righteousness which the Lord would award to him on that day."

If he renounced the faith before he died and went to hell, that's not my concern, nor am I his judge. I would be breaking the 8th Commandment against him if I questioned his faith without any evidence that I should. I just speak of him as Scripture speaks of him, i.e., as a believer. Same with Mary and all the other believers.

As for determining which books make up the Holy Scriptures, that's a completely different issue.

I don't even know what to say about your claim that belief in Sola Scriptura is hypocritical. To "rely on the Bible" means that it remains the only sure foundation for our faith. "All men are like grass... but VDMA."

Father Hollywood said...

Dear Paul:

You ask: "First, I don't confess that Mary prays for the church. You do? Is that common in the LCMS?"


Yes. It's in the Apology (XXI:32): "blessed Mary prays for the church." And it is as common as pastors taking their ordination vows.

You write:

"I don't confess 2 Maccabees as inspired Scripture, but as pious literature. Is that common in the LCMS?"



I did not say "inspired" Scripture (its status, like that of the antilegomena books, such as Hebrews, James, II Peter, Revelation, etc.) is up for grabs, and we don't rely on these books unilaterally for doctrine without support from the homolegoumena.
2 Maccabees is explicitly called "scripture" in the Large Catechism II:36, Apology XXI:9 (while here denying that this scripture may speak authoritatively on its own) - and btw, Tobit is also cited in the Apology (IV:277-279, though it is not considered authoritative on its own).

And technically speaking, Paul believed himself to be saved at the time he wrote this. I realize I am playing devil's advocate here, but I am making the point that we have no concrete scriptural evidence that he is in heaven. I believe and confess that he is, and I believe he was martyred in Rome - even without a proof text.


You write:

"your claim that belief in Sola Scriptura is hypocritical".


I never said that. What I said was: "So it is hypocritical for us to claim we rely only the the Bible and nothing else."

I am criticizing "nuda scriptura" - which is relying on the Bible and nothing else. We Lutherans do not do this. We have the creeds and confessions guiding our interpretation, as well as the tradition of the Church when it comes to which writings we hold to be inspired and which of those we hold to be unilaterally authoritative.

Under Walther's presidency, we had a case where an LCMS pastor denied the canonicity of Revelation. He was charged with false doctrine, but acquitted. We do not compel pastors to accept the canonicity of the antilegomena nor of the apocrypha.

Paul Rydecki said...

Fr. H,

(I will be the thorn in your flesh by the time we hit Eric's record for comments.)

It's in the Apology (XXI:32): "blessed Mary prays for the church."

First, I found it in XXI:27. And what I found was "Ut largiamur, quod beata Maria oret pro ecclesia..."

"Ut largiamur" does not mean "We grant" or "granted." It means "even if we grant." The same is true for the German, "Ob nun gleich Maria...für die Kirche bittet..." "Even if Mary does pray for the church..."

In other words, "Even if (for the sake of argument, you stubborn saint lovers!) we grant that Mary prays for the church (which, here we are neither affirming nor denying), does she do anything whatsoever to help with our salvation? Absolutely not."

The same concessive clauses are used in Apology XXI: 8-9. The Latin translates, "Even if we concede that the saints pray for the church in heaven..." Or the German "also mögen für die ganze Kirche die Heiligen im Himmel bitten..." "The saints may pray for the whole Church in heaven..."

So in subscribing to the confessions upon my ordination, I most certainly did not subscribe to a teaching that Mary or the saints certainly pray for the church. Just that they may. We don't know. Scripture doesn't say.

But at my ordination, I did subscribe to the 66 canonical books of Scripture. Nothing was said about homolegoumena or antilegomena at my ordination. I'm surprised that's not true in Missouri.

Again, as I've said, I'd like to make a distinction between what I "believe, teach and confess" on the basis of Scripture, and what conclusions I may draw on my own (or with help) apart from Scripture.

I wonder if Luther would have found a distinction between "Sola fide" and "nuda fide." I'm not sure I buy the argument that the Confessions guide our interpretation of Scripture. They are the norma normata, not the norma normans. But I firmly believe, teach and confess that anyone who is properly guided by Sola Scriptura must arrive at the same conclusions as our Confessions.

Father Hollywood said...

Dear Paul:

"Ut" does not mean "if we believed this for the sake of argument but we don't believe it."

"Ut" means "like" or "as." "Si" means "if" and there is no "si."

Also, in Ap XXI: 9 we read:

"De sanctis etsi concedimus, quod sicut [which is even stronger than "ut"] vivi orant pro ecclesia in genere, tametsi testimonium nullum de mortuis orantibus exstat in Scripturis, praeter illud somnium sumptum ex libro Machabaeorum posteriore, 2 Macc 15:14"

"Although, concerning the saints we concede that, just as, when alive, they pray for the Church universal in general, albeit no testimony concerning the praying of the dead is extant in the scriptures except the dream taken from the Second Book of Maccabees (15:14)."

There is nothing that could be interpreted as "for the sake of argument" in the "concedimus." That's just not what the text says at all. And the "sicut" does not mean "si ut," rather it means "in the same manner as" or "just as." It is the same word used in the Lord's Prayer: "sicut in caelo et in terra" ("on earth as it is in heaven"). I don't think any Christian would interpret our Lord as saying: "On earth as it would be for the sake of argument in heaven if we believed that, but we don't."

This "sicut" is a beautiful testimony that what our Lord says is true in His Prayer, and that there is only one Church, and she is united eternally in prayer and worship even though she is divided temporally by the grave.

The differentiation between antilegomena and homolegoumena is built-in to our confessions. The Book of Concord (following the catholic principle of consistency with the Church from the past) never bases doctrine solely on the former, nor on the Apocrypha - though both are called "scripture" and both are appealed to as secondary witnesses of the undisputed books.

Pieper explains this dogmatic differentiation in his dogmatics - which I don't have at my fingertips.

In the LCMS we are indeed free to reject the canonicity of the books that were disputed by the fathers. Personally, I accept these books - but there is nothing in Holy Scripture itself that says there are 66 books and identifies those books. We did not get the table of contents from scripture alone.

"Norma normata" has two parts. They are normed by scripture, but they are also a norm. If we believe they are a correct exposition of Scripture, we have nothing to fear by using them as a hermeneutical lens through which to read the Bible. It is a hermeneutical circle. One can certainly read the entire Bible with the confession of the Nicene Creed illuminating his view of Scripture. For example, "and his kingdom shall have no end" corrects the heresy of chiliasm (warmed over today as dispensationalism), even though the (disputed) Book of Revelation says there will be a 1,000 year reign.

Since the creed is reliable, it becomes a lens through which we read the Bible. For the Bible is the norming norm, and is without error as the Word of God.

Those who believe the BOC contains errors will certainly reject it as norma normata. Ditto for those with a quatenus subscription - though they pick and choose the parts they like.

As far as that distinction, I believe Luther did. He upheld "faith alone" and then proceded to say that "faith is never alone." This is analogous to the distinction of "nuda" vs. "sola" scriptura.

Deacon Latif Haki Gaba, SSP said...

Dear Paul:

My reference to the protogospel of James is not meant as a building my view of Mary upon an apocryphal document. Rather, it is valuable in this discussion because the antiquity of the Church's belief in Mary's perpetual virginity has been challenged. It has been suggested, eg., that one is hard pressed to find it ante-AD 300 or so. Unfortunately, this writing is too often overlooked, or dismissed. But it cannot be ignored as though it didn't exist. The perpetual virginity of Mary was absolutely not a product of the 4th century, but was taught by word of mouth (preached) to the first couple of generations, until the need finally arises for it to be argued and recorded in a more explicit manner. If we are to look only at teachings that are explicitly taught and recorded in the same days as the events they reflect themselves, then we would have to disregard the Gospel as we have it in the entire New Testament, for it took years for those writings to get around (and many more for them to be put together in a NT).

Deacon Latif Haki Gaba, SSP said...

Paul:

You bring up the immaculate conception of Mary, as though, what? it were some kind of unLutheran way of thinking? If it is unLutheran to hold such a view, you bear the intellectual burden of defending that claim.

Rev. Eric J Brown said...

Larry,

Not to jump in too much your conversation - but there is a difference between conceding something and confessing it. One yields, allows - believe this if you wish (however, to go beyond this goes beyond what we will concede -- so one may believe that the Saints pray for the Church as they did in life -- but to go beyond this is not allowable).

I would have thought that a good old Southern boy like you would be all over a "cede" word >=o)

Deacon Latif Haki Gaba, SSP said...

In summing up Mary's presentation in the temple earlier, I forgot to mention the reason why she couldn't simply remain in the temple her whole life. It would have been impossible, indeed, a scandal, for a woman after having come of age, to stay on in the temple. Leviticus is especially helpful in this regard.

Paul Rydecki said...

Fr. H,

I'm not sure why you cut out the pertinent part of your quote from Ap. XXI:9.

"De sanctis etsi concedimus, quod, sicut vivi orant pro ecclesia universa in genere, ita in coelis orent pro ecclesia in genere..."

"Regarding saints, even if we concede that, just as they pray for the universal church in general while they are alive, so in heaven they may (subjunctive) pray for the church in general..." "Orent" does not have to be subjunctive with concedimus. It could have been indicative, but it's subjunctive because it's only a possibility.

The German confirms the uncertainty contained in this subjunctive with the modal verb "mögen." "They may pray for the church..."

You make a big deal of "sicut," but "sicut" refers to the prayers of saints (all of us) while alive. Such prayer is sure and certain. And it's possible that "just as" saints pray for others during life on earth, they "may" also pray in heaven.

And in XXI:27, "ut" clauses in general use a subjunctive (largiamur) because of the uncertainty of them. "Ut" does not equal "since." Every Latin dictionary I've seen has "even if" as a meaning for it.

I'm sorry, friend, but the context of XXI:8-13 has nothing to do with the unity of the Una Sancta. It's a beautiful thought you have about the saints on earth and in heaven praying together, a thought that is taught elsewhere, but it has nothing to do with the context here, nor with the grammar.

I'll debate languages with you all day long, but it's time for catechism class.

And Eric, butt into the conversation all you want! It is your blog, after all.

Rev. Eric J Brown said...

Latif,

Was there a custom of virginal service outside of the temple? I don't know of any that I can think of?

Paul Rydecki said...

Latif:

You bring up the immaculate conception of Mary, as though, what? it were some kind of unLutheran way of thinking? If it is unLutheran to hold such a view, you bear the intellectual burden of defending that claim.

Yes, the immaculate conception of Mary is entirely unlutheran and unscriptural. That is, it goes against the Scriptures and is to be regarded as a doctrine of the devil.

I need no intellectual proof. I'll use Scriptural proof.

Psalm 51:5
Genesis 8:21
John 3:6a
Romans 5:12

The virgin birth of Jesus must be so earnestly defended for this very reason, because original sin is passed on to every human being born in the natural way. But God made a way for his Son to be born a man without the stain of original sin by causing him to be born of a virgin, not of a man and a woman.

Deacon Latif Haki Gaba, SSP said...

Fr. Brown:

You write, "Tertullian, in "Against Marcion" (IV, 19) seems to state that the brothers who were calling out for Christ (along with His mother) were His brothers - and this is from around 206-207."

I could be wrong, but it seems to me at first glance that Tertullian here is simply saying that these "brethren" were real kinsmen, real "brethren," in the face of Marcion's gnosticizing. That does not, however, establish that he thought them to be brothers in our narrow sense of the term.

Also, I asked if you knew of any orthodox deniers of Mary's ever-virginity in the early church. Tertullian's standing in the church technically disqualifies him.

Deacon Latif Haki Gaba, SSP said...

Fr. Brown:

You ask, "Was there a custom of virginal service outside of the temple? I don't know of any that I can think of?"

I'm not completely sure what you mean by 'service' outside the temple. At the moment i can say this, while Mary lived in the temple, besides prayer, she and her fellow virgins would have been placed into service doing things like making veils, etc. After her betrothal and marriage, her vow of virginity remains, even though she is now in the world.

Deacon Latif Haki Gaba, SSP said...

Paul:

You say, "Yes, the immaculate conception of Mary is entirely unlutheran and unscriptural. That is, it goes against the Scriptures and is to be regarded as a doctrine of the devil. I need no intellectual proof. I'll use Scriptural proof."

First, it is rather silly to say a teaching can be scriptural but not intellectual. Be that as it may, I do disagree with your claim that Mary's immaculate conception is contradicted by the passages you cite. To argue this is really to argue a matter not intended for this blog post. Maybe we could take it somewhere else.

Finally, your claim that it is a doctrine of the devil seems to put the Blessed Reformer, and many other great saints in a bad place. Don't get me wrong, I don't hold to the immac. conception because of Luther, but I will say that when you thus condemn Luther, you also condemn me. For I am guilty of the same belief.

Deacon Latif Haki Gaba, SSP said...

Here is your quote for the day from BML: "in the very moment in which she began to live, she was without all sin." Also consider his commentary on the Ave in his Personal Prayerbook.

Rev. Eric J Brown said...

Latif,

I have never heard of any former temple virgin being married and yet expecting to maintain virginity. Can you cite any other example of this practice from anywhere? It seems. . . far fetched to me.

Deacon Latif Haki Gaba, SSP said...

Fr. Brown:

I not only don't know of any other virgins who were later married, I don't even know of any other virgins in Mary's day by name. That doesn't mean we don't of their existence. We know of Mary's name because she was a rather famous virgin. Most virgins are called to not only virginity, but also a humbly anonymous life.

One of the problems with modern Lutherans trying to get their minds around this whole issue is that we need to get past the contemporary baggage with which we have clothed certain terms, like 'brother,' and like 'marriage.' Even today, however, we must admit there are many Christian marriages that are not entered into with the expectation of bearing children. There are no doubt even pastors reading this who have married couples who are in love and want to live a life of companionship, but for this reason or that will never have children.

You say virginal marriage seems far fetched to you. Okay, but please consider that it evidently wasn't far fetched to the early church, even in the second century.

Father Hollywood said...

Dear Paul:

You write:

"And in XXI:27, "ut" clauses in general use a subjunctive (largiamur) because of the uncertainty of them. "Ut" does not equal "since." Every Latin dictionary I've seen has "even if" as a meaning for it."

And you also write:

""Regarding saints, even if we concede that, just as they pray for the universal church in general while they are alive, so in heaven they may (subjunctive) pray for the church in general..." "Orent" does not have to be subjunctive with concedimus. It could have been indicative, but it's subjunctive because it's only a possibility."



You're way overgeneralizing on the subjunctive mood. It isn't as simple as plugging "may" whenever you see the subjunctive. That would make Latin way too easy and would put a lot of teachers out of work. In the case of Ap XXI:9, "orant" follows "sicut," while "orent" follows the "ita."

It's actually called a "result clause." I have a particular textbook that has a great example in both English and Latin. Consider this English sentence: "There was so much smoke that they couldn't find the door." Starting with "that" we have a result clause. In Latin, this would read: "Tantus fumus erat ut ianuam invenire non possent ("possent" is subjunctive by virtue of the result clause!). The result clause often follows words like ita (!), sic, talis, tam, tantus, and tot.

And the proof is in the pudding.

Other than your English translation above, there doesn't seem to be any others that translate "orent" as "*may* also pray in heaven."

The Triglot renders it as "they pray." Tappert: "the saints in heaven pray." McCain: "they pray." Kolb: "they pray." No translation (other than yours) inserts "may," interpreting the subjunctive as an "uncertainty."

I don't think this is quite what Dr. Sasse had in mind when he spoke of "the lonely way."

As far as "ut" goes, in my Traupmann, "even if" does not appear in the definition of "ut." But there is an example: "ut miser qui..." which is rendered as "how pitiful is the man who...." It is not translated as "how pitiful would be the man who..." or "even if the man were pitiful."

Also, our Lord's prayer "ut unum sint" come to mind. In this case, he is not saying "*even if* they may be one" - but rather, he is praying "*that* they may be one." Also, another common use of "ut" springs to mind, as in this example: "ruber ut rosa" ("red as a rose" or "red like a rose"). It doesn't mean "red even if a rose." "Ut" quite often simply means "like" or "as."

Paul Rydecki said...

Latif:
Here is your quote for the day from BML: "in the very moment in which she began to live, she was without all sin."

And here is your quote for the day from BML:

"Mother Mary, like us, was born in sin of sinful parents, but the Holy Spirit covered her, sanctified and purified her so that this child was born of flesh and blood, but not with sinful flesh and blood. The Holy Spirit permitted the Virgin Mary to remain a true, natural human being of flesh and blood, just as we are. However, he warded off sin from her flesh and blood so that she became the mother of a pure child, not poisoned by sin as we are....For in that moment when she conceived, she was a holy mother filled with the Holy Spirit and her fruit is a holy, pure fruit, at once true God and truly man, in one person." -- House Postils 3:291 (sermon from 1532)

Martin Luther contradicted himself at times. Martin Luther erred at times. I find it amazing, not that Luther still held to some of the impious myths circulated by worshipers of Mary, but that having grown up in an era of church-sponsored myths, he held to so few.

This is why I am glad I believe in Sola Scriptura and not Scriptura et Lutero et traditione et confessionibus Luteranis.

Father Hollywood said...

Dear Paul:

I think your statement: "This is why I am glad I believe in Sola Scriptura and not Scriptura et Lutero et traditione et confessionibus Luteranis" explains our disagreements.

I believe in Scripture (*because* it *is* God's Word). I believe in Luther and tradition *insofar as* they *agree* with God's Word. I believe in the Lutheran Confessions *because* they *are a correct exposition* of God's Word.

By contrast, when you place the Lutheran Confessions on the same shelf as Luther and tradition, you are showing that your view of the Book of Concord is that you believe in it "insofar as" it agrees with Scripture.

In other words, you are using "sola" to exclude the Book of Concord. The *sola* in *sola scriptura* doesn't mean we disbelieve all other witnesses than Scripture. Rather, the *sola* confesses Scriptures unique position of supreme authority as God's Word. Scripture is *sola* as a divine witness that cannot be tainted with error of any kind. But it is not *sola* in the sense that anything other than the Bible is false. That's not what *sola* means.

This is why I don't feel free to excise teachings from the Concordia that conflict with modern Protestantism. My approach to the Confessions is that they are indeed a correct exposition of Scripture. And in accordance with the principle that the Reformation was not a revolution, that we accept tradition so long as it does not contradict Scripture, I submit to the confessions, as Walther put it "without reservation."

I don't do so because the Symbols are God's Word. I do so because (quia) they are a correct exposition of God's Word, and therefore reliable. I do not feel qualified to stand in scornful judgment of my Lutheran fathers, or even mock them and hurl ugly labels at them they way some have done.

I have to be careful not to say this in Boston, but I am indeed a "quia" guy. :-)

Carl Vehse said...

From the University of Notre Dame Latin Dictionary and Grammar Aid:

"ut or uti ... (2) with subjunctive: in indirect questions, [how]; in wishes, [o that]; concessive, [granted that]; consecutive, [so that], often preceded by ita, tam, etc.; explaining or defining, [namely that]; final, [in order that] (neg. ne or ut ne); in indirect command, [that, to]; after verbs of fearing (= ne non), [that...not]." [Emphasis added]

"I am glad I believe in Sola Scriptura and not Scriptura et Lutero et traditione et confessionibus Luteranis."

A great Lutheran slogan for a t-shirt, Rev. Rydecki, but one not likely to be worn by those snorkeling in the Tiber. ;-)

Paul Rydecki said...

Fr. H,

There's nothing at all simple about the subjunctive (teachers, breathe a sigh of relief!). Actually, I was a Latin professor for awhile, so I was always thankful for the job security provided by the subjunctive.

I think you've misunderstood the use of "ita" in result clauses.

It may introduce a result clause, but it may not. When it does, it is followed by "ut" and the subjunctive:

Hoc ita tibi feci ut gauderes: I did this for you in such a way that you were happy or I did this for you in such a way so as to make you happy.

The same holds true in your "tantus...ut" example.

In the case of XXI:9, it's simple indirect discourse introduced by "quod." The "ita" serves as a simple adverb. Sicut...ita. No subjunctive called for.

Here's an example of that from Aquinus:

Sicut enim maius est illuminare quam lucere solum, ita maius est contemplata aliis tradere quam solum contemplari. (St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae 2-2, ques. 188, art. 6)

Can I help it if English translations don't catch the nuances of this particular subjunctive? As I said before, the German of the Confessors caught it just fine with the "mögen."

Did I ever say that "even if" is the only possible translation of "ut" in every instance? "Ut miser qui" and "ruber ut rosa" are not "ut" clauses, but use "ut" as an adverb. "Ut unum sit" is a purpose clause. "So that" works nicely. "Ut" only means "like" or "as" when it's used as an adverb and doesn't introduce a clause of its own.

"Ut largiamur" is not a purpose or result clause ("So that we may grant..."). It's a concessive clause, like the German equivalent.

Class dismissed. ;)

Father Hollywood said...

Dear Carl:

"...but one not likely to be worn by those snorkeling in the Tiber. ;-) "

Of course, this comment excludes everyone posting on this thread, right? I would not say that anyone who has commented here is "snorking in the Tiber." You agree, right?

Ironically, I think a lot of Roman Catholics would have no problem saying that they too do not believe in the Bible + Luther + Tradition + the Lutheran Confessions.

Actually, I've never met a Roman Catholic who *does* believe in the Lutheran Confessions, but that doesn't mean there aren't any. ;-)

Paul Rydecki said...

Fr. H,

Do you really think I would be this picky about Latin moods if I held to a quatenus subscription? If that were the case, I would simply say, "Yeah, well, I don't agree with that paragraph of the Confessions." Instead, I'm trying to point out where you're reading some confessions into the Confessions that were never there in the first place.

Sorry, but the Sola Scriptura principle does not include the Confessions. It never has. I hate to point out the obvious, but the Confessions weren't written yet when Luther stood on Scripture alone. And even after they were written, they did not supplement the "sola." It's still "sola."

This doesn't mean that "anything other than the Bible is false." Who's claiming that? Not I! I don't disbelieve anything that's (actually) written in the Confessions. Sola Scriptura means I don't stand upon the Confessions. I stand upon Scripture alone. I stand with the Confessions because they are a correct exposition of God's Word. 100%. I stand with all the many correct things Luther wrote in other places, and I stand apart from the relatively few things he wrote that contradict Scripture (like the on-again-off-again belief in the immaculate conception).

Father Hollywood said...

Dear Paul:

That's a nice theory, but here is why you need to go back to the drawing board:

The same subjunctive (orent) is also used in Ap XXI:8: "Praeterea et hoc largimur, quod angeli orent pro nobis." (Besides, we also grant that the angels pray for us). The word "largimur" is also concessive ("We grant..."). But notice that this is in no way saying we're only accepting this conditionally just for the sake of argument. To the contrary, we are saying that we *believe* it! There is even a proof text cited (Zech 1:2)!

Rather, Melanchthon is pointing out that Eck, in the typical slippery fashion of his Pontifical Confutation, is muddying the waters. Melanchthon constantly has to focus on what the controversy really is and throw out the red herrings.

So, we grant (largimur - Ap. XXI:8) that the angels pray for us, we concede (concedimus - Ap XXI:9) that the saints pray for us, and we grant (largiamur!) that blessed Mary prays for the church (Ap XXI:27). The same concessive verb (largior - in the subjunctive resulting from "ut") is used for Mary (which has no proof text) as is used for the angels (which has a proof text). The same subjuctive verb (orent) is used of the angels (Ap XXI:8) as is used (oret) of Mary (Ap XXI:27).

You can't eat your cake and have it.

If the "largiamur" and "oret" mean we don't really believe it but are merely conceding for the sake of argument alone, than the passage concerning the angels makes no sense.

Of course this whole passage is "concessive."

In fact, the "et" in Ap XXI:8 means all of the previous points were also concessive ("Besides, we also grant..."). Far from being concessions for the sake of argument, Melanchthon is pointing out (paragraphs 3-7) what was confessed in the Augustana.

Eck's 404 Articles (which the Augustana refuted) were previously citing things we did not dispute and claimed that these were disagreements among us. This is why after the Augustana was read, Duke William of Bavaria was shocked at what the "Lutherans" had confessed. Eck had lied about what Lutherans believe, tar-brushing them with everyone else.

So we concede the point that the saints pray for us. We grant that the angels pray for us. We grant that blessed Mary does as well. These points are not controverted. The point that is, in fact, under controversy is the question as to whether or not we should pray to the saints. *That* is the problem - not the fact that they pray for us.

In fact, we concede it, repeatedly! We don't concede and grant things that we don't believe in. Which is why Luther said "nequaquam largimur" in SA XII:1.

And I agree that the English does not catch all of the nuances of the subjunctive - which is why your facile insertion of "may" in your translation reflects a bias on your reading that you are imposing on the text - unless you're equally willing to insert "may" in Ap XXI:8 as well.

Again, Paul, it amazes me that it does not give you pause that no-one else inserts "may" into their translations before the word "pray."

Father Hollywood said...

Dear Paul:

You write:

"Sorry, but the Sola Scriptura principle does not include the Confessions. It never has. I hate to point out the obvious, but the Confessions weren't written yet when Luther stood on Scripture alone. And even after they were written, they did not supplement the "sola." It's still "sola."


You don't have to apologize, Paul.

Part of the confessions were most certainly extant when Luther defended Scripture: the first three Symbols in the Book of Concord. Unlike the radical reformers, Luther did not toss out the creeds. In fact, his defense of infant baptism in the Large Catechism is an argument from tradition alone. Luther does not cite a single proof text.

The same argument you are making (Luther and the Bible predate the confessions) can be made *against* Scripture. For when the Apostles were preaching the Gospel and administering the Sacraments, the New Testament had not yet been written. And yet, this in no way invalidates sola scriptura, properly understood.

My point is that "sola" does not mean "nuda." There is indeed truth outside of Scripture. We are not fundamentalists. We do not jettison the creeds. We do not believe the world is flat. Nor do we deny that 2+2=4 because it is not in the Bible.

"Sola scriptura" rather means that only the Bible speaks with the authority of God's Word and is inerrant. Just because "popes and councils have erred" does not mean that they are necessarily in error. The Nicene Creed is not in error. Can one even be a Christian and deny the Nicene Creed?

That is not what "sola" means - at least not in the way I confess it. I am not afraid to say that I believe in the ecumenical creeds and the rest of the Lutheran confessions. I could never say, as you have, that I only believe in the Bible and I do not believe in the Confessions.

I do not see it as an either/or, but rather as a both/and. And that is only possible with a quia subscription.

The Book of Concord is not a cafeteria.

Deacon Latif Haki Gaba, SSP said...

Paul:

You answered my Luther quote on Mary's immac. concep. with one that you suppose denies it. Your quote, from 1532, clearly teaches that Mary is kept free of all sin, even though it does display a slightly modified concept of exactly when her soul was cleansed of sin. An important factor to keep in mind here is that the immaculate conception has never been defined precisely, except for the definition for the Roman Catholic dogma, defined as late as 1854. I don't see Luther contradicting himself here as much as I see him, in many and various ways & writings and in virtually all segments of his career, teaching that Mary was without sin, and that her virginity before, during, and after the birth of Christ was kept inviolate.

In the Personal Prayerbook Luther has many amazing things to say about the Mother of God, including this: "She is full of grace, proclaimed to be entirely without sin- something exceedingly great. For God's grace fills her with everything good and makes her devoid of all evil." The Personal Prayerbook cannot be dismissed as "early Luther," since, while he wrote it in 1522, it was printed many times during his lifetime, with his knowledge and permission, and continued to be published long after his death.

The same year he wrote the Smalcald Articles, Luther preached this on the feast of the Visitation, "No woman is like you. You are more than Eve or Sarah, blessed above all nobility, wisdom, and sanctity."

On the clauso utero, which in my view implies the perpetual virginity, Luther in the Church Postil, which he prepared precisely for preachers to learn what and how to preach, and which he considered "the best of all his books," has this for Christmas Day, "Mary's experience was not different from that of other women, so that the birth of Christ was a real natural birth, Mary being his natural mother and he being her natural son. Therefore her body performed its functions of giving birth, which naturally belonged to it, except that she brought forth without sin, without shame, without pain, and without injury, just as she had conceived without sin. The curse of Eve did not come on her."

I don't bring these (and others could also be brought up) because I believe in scripture plus Luther. I bring them up because if you hold such marian devotion to be against the scriptures, and demonic, then you must be willing to say the same things of Luther himself.

Deacon Latif Haki Gaba, SSP said...

To Fr. Hollywood's fine comments about the relation of scripture with the confessions, and Luther, etc., I would like to add another thought. Namely, Paul, when you say, "I believe in Sola Scriptura," there is something very sloppy here at best, unhealthy at worst. For "Sola Scriptura," even understood at its best, is not something "to believe in." It is, rather, an approach, a concept. Even if I were to say that I agree with "sola scriptura," which I would only say after we agreed on the definition of terms, I would never say, nor should any theologian, than "I believe in sola scriptura." I believe in Jesus Christ, the Lord of the Church.

Father Hollywood said...

Dear Latif:

We also sing "Ye Watchers And Ye Holy Ones" in our churches (LSB 670).

In stanza 2, we laud Blessed Mary and address her as follows:

"O higher than the cherubim,
More glorious than the seraphim"

And we implore her to:

"Lead their praises:
Thou bearer of the eternal Word
Most gracious, magnify the Lord."

None of the proof texts on the bottom of the page address the issue of Mary's status as being higher than cherubs and more glorious than seraphs, nor the question as to whether or not we should be singing to her at all. The hymn is actually a version of an ancient eastern liturgical prayer, adapted to English in 1906. As a hymn sung in our churches, it has become part of our tradition, confession, and proclamation.

And yet, even upholding the unique place of God's Word ("sola scriptura") as being above all other authority in the church, we still sing this hymn, even with its "Marian devotion," in our churches. If there are Lutherans who object to this hymn, I have not heard from them. Perhaps there are.

I don't think praising the Lord's mother is demonic. I do think it is idolatry to pray to her and turn her into a goddess. But we are doing no such thing in LSB 670, nor when we grant that blessed Mary prays for the church, nor when we acknowledge her uniqueness as being the only human parent who did not pass along original sin to her Child. I don't find it at all unreasonable or unscriptural when Luther opines that the Lord Jesus mystically and miraculously sanctified Mary even before He was conceived.

He's God. He can do things like that.

As Prof. Marquart pointed out, Mary is exceptional. She is a unique case in human history. The normal rules and norms don't apply. She is God's mom, after all. And her status as the "holy mother of God" (per our confessions) is indeed by grace alone, even as we confess with St. Luke that she is "plena gratia."

May we all heed Blessed Mary's imperative to "do whatever He tells you" and pray the Magnificat with her, praising "God my Savior."

Paul Rydecki said...

Fr. H,

Gotta get to the sermon here, so don't have time to go through the Latin quotes at the moment.

Here's what's frustrating me to no end. You keep setting up a straw man and beating him to a pulp.

I don't know how many times I have to say that I don't deny something just because it's not the Bible. Can you please stop saying that?

And you're just twisting my words when you say I don't believe in the Confessions. In context, I said that I hold to a sola scriptura hermeneutical principle, not a hermeneutic that also turns Luther, tradition and the cofessions into SOURCES of doctrine that are to be believed by "good Lutherans."

When we started this discussion, all you wanted was not to be hanged (or considered "less Lutheran") for thinking that Mary was semper virgo. That seems to have evolved into a rather "more Lutheran, more quia than thou" attitude on your part toward those of us who do not hold to such things.

Now is that very nice?

William Weedon said...

Eric,

Thank you for providing the forum for such a fascinating and scholarly discussion. I thoroughly enjoyed reading through the discussion - I'd forgotten about it after my drive-by comment.

Just to question: can you find any commentator who identifies the woman in Mark 16 as the Theotokos?

Dr. Strickert,

Your snide accusation of Tiber snorkelers is unworthy of you; its simply uncharitable and untrue.

Deacon Latif Haki Gaba, SSP said...

I must admit that "Ye Watchers and Ye Holy Ones" is one of the exceptions I make to my general policy against modern hymns. We sang it again on All Saints' Feast. And regarding the Magnificat, it continues to be a treasure that is all too neglected among us. That will be the case as long as it isn't prayed every day in all our churches and schools. The Ordinary of the Church's liturgy ought to be an ordinary part of our lives. And that leads me to a quick thought about the proper of the liturgy, namely, if we were to celebrate the marian feasts more solemnly and consistently, that in itself would improve the health of our Church's view of the Blessed Virgin.

Paul Rydecki said...

Fr. H,

One last post, then I'm closing Internet Explorer, lest the sermon suffer.

Subjunctive in indirect statements and attributed thoughts. The subjunctive is sometimes found embedded in indirect statement (as in relative clauses that are part of indirect statement), or in direct statements of thoughts attributed to someone other than the speaker/writer. This becomes increasingly common in the Middle Ages, when you will regularly find the subjunctive used in indirect statement introduced by “quod.”

This matter of the angels and saints interceding for the church was the statement and thought being promulgated by the RC’s. It’s not the Lutheran Confessors’ confession in the Apology. It was a thought they were unwilling to condemn. It was a statement and thought they were willing to GRANT (more on that in a second).

The same subjunctive (orent) is also used in Ap XXI:8: "Praeterea et hoc largimur, quod angeli orent pro nobis." (Besides, we also grant that the angels pray for us). The word "largimur" is also concessive ("We grant..."). But notice that this is in no way saying we're only accepting this conditionally just for the sake of argument. To the contrary, we are saying that we *believe* it! There is even a proof text cited (Zech 1:2)!

The point you’re missing here, among others, is a rather important hermeneutical one. No passage in Scripture says the angels DO (on a regular basis) pray for the church, and therefore, no one can know, with the certainty of faith, that they do. One passage in Scripture tells of an instance when one angel DID pray for the church (“the angel of the LORD,” who, many theologians believe, was the preincarnate Christ himself, hardly any old angel). On the basis of this certain example, the Confessors were more than willing to GRANT that the angels MAY WELL pray for us still (although we have no way of knowing, or therefore believing or confessing, because the Scriptures do not tell us).

They use the exact same argument regarding the saints. We know for certain that they pray for the church while alive (Scripture directs us to do this, and we do it all the time). Therefore, we concede the possibility that they pray for the church in heaven, although we cannot know it for certain (or therefore believe or confess it as truth) because there is no Scripture passage that says they do, as Ap. XXI:9 says.

As Eric wisely pointed out a long time ago, there is a huge difference between grant/concede and confess. We grant/concede that which is POSSIBLE, but uncertain (Ap. XXI:8-9,27), in order that we may not get hung up on things that are not truly the issue at hand.

We grant/concede things, for the sake of getting at the real argument, things that other people are saying, as long as they can be understood correctly (Ap. V:105 (Of love and the fulfilling of the law). The Lutherans didn’t want to make the point that love is the “chief virtue.” The Catholics were making that point to put love above faith. But the Lutherans were willing to call love “the chief virtue,” because it can be understood correctly, according to Scripture, although not as the Catholics were defining it. Then they moved on to the real issue at hand.)

We CONFESS that which is solid and true. In SA XII:1, Luther was not even willing to grant the Papists the POSSIBLITY that “they are the church.” Not even for the sake of argument.

unless you're equally willing to insert "may" in Ap XXI:8 as well.

Yes, I would be happy to insert “may” in XXI:8. “We grant that the angels *may* pray for us.” Or, if you prefer, "We stipulate that the angels pray for us." Or if that still bugs you, "We grant [the possibility that] the angels *do* pray for us.” No, the word "possibilitas" is not there. It's included in the word "grant."

We grant that which is possible. We confess that which is certain.

Rev. Eric J Brown said...

Rev Weedon,

I might be able to find such a commentary, but I have very little care to, because as a rule of thumb exegetes are to me what lukewarm Christians are to Christ a la Rev. 3 -- they make me want to vomit >=o)

However, I suppose there would be such commentators there who do so - anyone who believes that James is the brother of Jesus through Mary would thus identify the Mary of Mark 16 as the mother of our Lord.

Carl Vehse said...

So as to not offend the Tiber River enthusiasts, here's a t-shirt for them... in colors that will go with their Mariological waterwings.

William Weedon said...

Luther on the subject might of interest as well. He was expositing John 17 when he wrote:

For who can harm or injure a man who has this confidence, who knows that heaven and earth, and all the angels and the saints will cry to God when the smallest suffering befalls him? -- Blessed Martin Luther (Sermon on John XVII)

"I in them, thou in me, we in them..." "If one member suffers, all suffer..."

Father Hollywood said...

Dear Paul:

Just to clarify, I did not conclude you hold a quatenus view because of your translation of the subjunctive. Rather, I drew that conclusion from your own statement: "This is why I am glad I believe in Sola Scriptura and not Scriptura et Lutero et traditione et confessionibus Luteranis."

To put the Confessions in the same category as Luther and tradition (which all Lutherans uphold in a quatenus manner) is, by definition, a quatenus subscription. Some Lutherans confess the BOC in a quatenus way, others in a quia way. If the confessions are in the same category as the others, what other conclusion can be drawn?

And our difference in hermeneutics of the Concordia Pia explains our different views of the faith itself - which may explain the significant differences between our synods that impair fellowship.

The tricky part is what we mean by "sola" in "sola scriptura."

A Baptist would say exactly the same thing as you have - though he means something different by "sola" than quia-confessing Lutherans do.

Unfortunately, Lutheranism has largely been influenced by Reformed and Baptist theology - including a subtle shift away from quia toward quatenus - an observation lamented by many including CFW Walther. Another way to look at this shift is a move from "sola" to "nuda" scriptura.

But I explained all of this before to no avail.

Besides, I think this discussion has reached the typical Lutheran point of acrimony, and any further discussion will not only be unfruitful but spiritually unhealthy. I appreciate our hosts patience.

So I'm going to bow out.

Pax et laissez les bons temps rouler!

Paul Rydecki said...

Fr. Hollywood,

So be it. Twist my words all you wish. But I've already explained what I meant by Sola Scriptura. I've never met a Lutheran who believes that "sola" no longer means "sola." Distinguishing it from "nuda" is nothing more than scholastic gymnastics so that you can now add the Confessions into the "sola" of "sola Scriptura," which, by definition of the word "sola," is nonsense. If Luther had added works of love into his definition of faith in that manner, we would still be Roman Catholics.

It seems you have now become judge, jury and executioner when it comes to what makes up quatenus and what makes up quia. I've said now, what, 100 times, that I believe the Confessions ARE an accurate explanation of what the Scriptures teach. You still haven't identified any teaching of the confessions that I disagree with, and I have never found any. And yet you lump me in with Baptists and ELCA because I won't agree with you that the Confessions teach something that they don't teach about the prayers of the saints, and that the Scriptures don't teach about the prayers of the saints? Now that's uncharitable.

Do I "put the Confessions in the same category as Luther and tradition"? No, not in general, and I said that many times, too. Luther has erred in some of his writings, and tradition is full of myths and heresy. The Confessions do not err.

But I don't believe in the Trinity because the Nicene Creed tells me to. I believe in the Trinity because it is a doctrine clearly taught in Scripture. I use the Nicede Creed because it is an accurate and useful summary of Scripture's teaching. The same is true regarding the Confessions.

And when someone asks me why I believe what I believe about God, about faith, about the afterlife, about justification, sanctification, and any other divine teaching, I will never ever tell them that I believe what I do because the Confessions or Luther or tradition say so. I will always tell them I believe it because the Scriptures say so. They ARE in a category by themselves. The Scriptures remain the only foundation for what we are to believe about God. That's why sola remains sola.

I, too, will bow out of this discussion, thankful to Eric for the forum, and hopeful that not all LCMS pastors and members would be so quick to throw around the quatenus label.

Father Hollywood said...

Dear Paul:

You write:

"It seems you have now become judge, jury and executioner when it comes to what makes up quatenus and what makes up quia."

There are indeed Christians who are suffering under judges, juries, and executioners. Not us here in America.

I'm one guy on a blog expressing my honest opinion. I'm no judge or hangman. You might be 100% right and I might be 100% wrong. I'm just making an honest observation.

I think it is clear that we have rather different understandings about the Lutheran Confessions and what the word "quia" means.

We are from different synods that are not in fellowship with each other. That's not a good thing, but it is a good thing that we're honest enough to see that we should not swap communion and clergy.

Having said all that, I have no doubt whatsoever that you are a faithful Christian and Lutheran, and I have no reason at all to think you are anything less than an exemplary Lutheran pastor and brother in the office.

I wish you the Lord's richest blessings as you proclaim the Gospel to your flock and serve the Kingdom.

Pax et bonum.

Paul Rydecki said...

I think we've made one thing crystal clear: if the Synodical Conference is ever to be restored, it will not be on Eric's blog. (Sorry, Eric!)

Nor on any blog, for that matter. It's too easy to talk past one another. It's too hard to respond to every point made in the 4,096 HTML characters each comment will permit. It's too easy to pontificate in front of a computer screen.

The SC broke apart when WELS left, having seen for decades the growing seeds that eventually sprouted into Seminex. The vestiges of that remain in the fellowship (in "externals" ?!?) with heterodox church bodies that many in Missouri still practice.

Are we really so far off from one another on church and ministry, on the roles of men and women, on the role of the Confessions, on fellowship in general?

I don't know. I suspect we often talk past one another and create caricatures of one another's doctrine and practice, something that the Evil One is more than happy to encourage. I fear that, when there is not unity on these issues within one's own synod (be it LCMS or WELS), the discussion may prove futile.

But I do know that, of all the churches in town, the (conservative) LCMS church, although we don't share altar or pulpit fellowship, is the only one I don't warn people against, if they're not interested in attending my WELS church. The LCMS pastor is the only one I've sent people back to who had left his church for sinful reasons seeking carnal refuge in mine, the only one I respect enough to sit down with over lunch and discuss ministry with. And it's only on a blog like this that the Lutheran Confessions can be discussed with such vigor and respect among Lutherans.

So would I like to see us commit to the hard work of restoring what has been lost, to discuss the content of the Scriptures and our confession of them, rather than get bogged (blogged?) down with labels and superficial judgments?

Yes. But it's probably going to have to start with Sheepshead. And cheese. (And possibly beer.)

Pax Christi vobiscum sit.