Dear Dr. Luginbill:
Haven't written for a while... I'm trying to get my head around the issue of apostasy, particularly when it occurs during the tribulation. I read you information in the CT series, and it all sounds very logical, but what occurs to me is a question that been in my old head for quite awhile regarding this time, and that is why Christians of that period seem to have to endure so much persecution betrayal etc. whereas, perhaps Christians who live not too long before them escaped any such persecution by living before it all begins or have died without seeing it ( the apostasy)? It sounds like a issue of unfairness... Am I missing some important concept? Also could you point to your writings on Apostasy prior to the Tribulation (in the time we now live)?
Another question not related: I know you say in many places that we are here on earth to make a decision about who we will serve, Christ or Satan. I been raised Lutheran so my understanding of the Lutheran understanding of this process would say that we cannot come to faith on our own understanding or will, but that the Spirit must work in us to bring us to Christ. So even if we humans may say that it was our decision, in reality it was the Spirits work in us that is the author of our salvation. Does that differ from your understanding?
Thanks so much for all you do , I would have no other source that I'm aware of that that's so blessed by God at helping us.
Good to hear from you, my friend.
On the issue of fairness, what we can say is that God is absolutely fair. He cannot be unfair to anyone in any way, not even a tiny little bit because He is perfect in character, being God. So if anything seems to us to be unfair, it is possible that perhaps we don't know everything that God knows – in fact of course that is always the case and to a very large degree. We often don't have a complete picture of what is going on even in our own hearts, but He who made the universe in the blink of an eye and who has ordained every single thing that has or ever will happen is so much greater than we can imagine in every respect that it is folly to try and even get our heads around the disparity.
What we CAN do is trust Him. In fact, that is what life is all about: the choice of trusting or not trusting. That is what faith is, believing things we cannot see or verify by empirical means. Remember too that while we see these things in broad terms, that is, in terms of groups, God sees things in terms of individuals. So this question can only be fairly addressed by comparing one individual to another individual; and when it comes to looking at any particular individual we will have to confess that there are plenty of things we do not know about that individual, even if he/she is near and dear. How much less will we be able to fairly compare him/her to someone else? If anyone had a case when it comes to claiming unfair treatment, it was Job – but we know with the benefit of the book of Job that he was actually being complimented and blessed. So even in the case of ourselves – and in fact especially in the case of ourselves, we need to be VERY careful about calling "unfair!" when we are hurting or suffering.
This is one of the main ways we grow spiritually – by undergoing testing – and this is one of the main ways that mature believers glorify God. This fair/unfair question is also the wrong way to look at the world – for a believer. We are not here to "have a good time" or to "live a good life". We are all soldiers in the army of Jesus Christ and our Commanding Officer is using us in the perfect way to advance His cause, building up the Church, spreading the gospel, and glorifying the Father and Himself through our witness to the world – the seen and the unseen. If we become entangled in worldly, civilian matters, we are not likely to please our Commander (2Tim.2:4). That doesn't mean we can't, or shouldn't, or in many cases don't have to do things that others do in the world. But it does mean that our entire purpose here is absolutely and fundamentally different from that of the unbeliever, and we forget that principle and fail to live by it to our spiritual peril.
The second question is related. Calvinists too stress the work of God in salvation and all other things. That is fine. Without Him, we are all lost. The problem I have with this school of thought is that it tends to de-emphasize what we do. That too is understandable for Lutheranism and Calvinism, since both needed to set the record straight versus Roman Catholicism which made it all about us with not much of God in the picture at all – and in a wrong and legalistic way. The truth is the truth. Knocking out any aspect of it or overemphasizing or de-emphasizing any important aspect of it will always lead to a false picture. Without the Spirit, no one could know the truth in the first place: He is the Evangelist in Chief. Without the Lord Jesus dying for us, there would be no means of salvation. Without the Father giving us new life, none would be saved. But we still have to accept the Gift when He is presented to us; rejecting the Gift or refusing to accept Him is the prideful attitude of the unbeliever who chooses self over God. It's not an accident or a "sovereign choice" of God in the sense of not allowing the unbeliever a fair chance: Christ died for the person's sins so that said person could be saved . . . but we have to put our trust, our spiritual allegiance so to speak, in Jesus Christ.
Yours in our dear Lord and Savior.
John Calvin writes that the employment of musical instruments in corporate worship was part of the Old Testament dispensation, but completely inappropriate in the dispensation of grace. What do you think?
Would that he had put more time into eschatology than worrying about this. This
is part of the (understandable) reaction to Roman Catholicism where high ritual
has replaced anything related to the Bible or its teaching. Ironically (and
sadly), ritual is the only thing most Calvinist groups have left – except to
squabble over TULIP (about which they are mostly wrong too of course).
In Jesus our dear Savior,
Hello Dr. Luginbill,
I have been reading your emails, and lots of them from other interested folks and thoroughly enjoy them; I also study them and get tremendous help and insight into the scripture.
One of your emails "Why English only Approaches to Bible Interpretation are Dangerous, I found the very interesting statement":
"Without any question, therefore, monogenes is the Greek translation of yachiyd, so that whatever yachiyd means ("one and only") is precisely what monogenes is meant to mean, namely, "one and only" or "precious and unique", but not anything to do with "begotten": despite the etymology of the Greek adjective, usage determines meaning, not etymology. As I say, it would all be much ado about nothing except for the fact that improper translation has led some to misunderstand the divinity of Jesus Christ, since anyone "begotten" has both a beginning and a superior creator, neither of which things is true of our Lord Jesus."
I learned this years ago since I was confronted a time or two by a Jehovah
Witness, the false cult which believes that Jesus was created. It brought back
some memories of what I had discovered years ago about these cults, especially
RC. Thanks so much for making these emails public so that others and myself can
learn from them some valuable lessons and scriptural knowledge. The KJVonlyites
might get some help from this, since they believe that the translation of KJV is
the only "inspired" translation of scripture! How deceived we can become if we
are not watchful and careful to properly discern the Word of God. I am not
implying that I have it all together, I just know a "few" things, and am praying
to understand and learn much more, before Jesus' return to earth.
The message on Sunday went very well, and was hopefully received by all. The inspiration of the Holy Spirit is what I need and pray for, and He was certainly present in a big way. Thanks for your great reply, I really, really, appreciate it immensely.
P.S. Just finished reviewing most of your email response to the inquirer who had questions about RC doctrine. Here is what you wrote in one of your responses:
"However, every single Roman Catholic expatriate with whom I have ever talked about this matter has affirmed for me that 1) they were not saved while in that religion, and that 2) they felt that salvation within the Roman Catholic church was in fact an impossibility. At the very least, any contact with it or its false doctrines is fraught with spiritual danger."
I was not saved while in RC's 2. I also never heard salvation being preached in
the RCC. I did not know what it was. I asked myself "Saved from what". I can
still remember when told my ___ that "I was missing something in my life, and
did not know what it was, but I was determined to find out." This was just
beginning of my journey. I was a very devout RC. So, in light of what you stated
about Mary not being the Mother of God, I have two comments:
1. If Mary is the Mother of God, who is the Father of God. This is the question I asked myself, many times while an RC.
2. What did Mary mean when she made the proclamation in Luke Chapter 1 and verse 47. If she was born without sin, then why is she proclaiming that she "rejoices in God her Savior"?
One other comment: No, you cannot break the demonic hold on Catholics who don't want to or are unwilling to know the truth. Yes, it is this demonic oppression, and in some cases I believe some possession, that keeps them from believing.
My testimony is rather long, so I won't take up your precious time. I was set free of RC'ism at a bus stop. Yes a bus stop. You are doing extremely good in your responses concerning RC'ism.
Keep up the good work. I have gone through much of the same during my walk with Christ, but yours is on a much larger scale than mine was.
Catholics are sometimes very hard if not impossible to reach. As you know, it takes the Holy Spirit of God to break that bondage which exists in there minds as they are brain-washed, believe they are sooooo brain-washed which keep them bound.
I encourage you my brother, don't stop sharing the Word of Truth. Preach it even if they don't listen Just like God tells Ezekiel in Chapter 3 and verse 11.
I know that this is referring to a different situation, but I think it applies to the Rc's.
Appreciate you much brother,
Thanks so much for these emails, my
friend! I'm thrilled to hear your testimony and I know others are too. I
took the liberty of sending your two observations on Mary to our friend
in the UK who is in the process of writing up a long critique against
"Mariolatry" (five parts now posted
at the link). I'm sure he'll find them helpful.
Good to hear your teaching is going well!
Keeping you in prayer for that day by day, my friend. And thanks so much for all of your encouraging words.
In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,
Calvinists and Arminians, in not too many words, disagree with the purpose of election. Calvinists say that God chooses some but not others because he is then glorified by that choice. Arminians say that God uses his foreknowledge to pick some but not others because people need to choose out of their own will to go to Heaven.
But why could it not be the case that God elects for the sake of his glory, and the means he is glorified is by the exercise of free will? Then both would be correct. "for the sake of his glory" and "for the establishment of free uncoerced choice" would be referring to one and the same.
Your observation is of course correct and essentially what is taught at Ichthys (see the link: BB 4B: Soteriology). But as far as these two groups are concerned and any effort at peace-making between them, this proverb applies:
He who passes by and meddles in a quarrel not his own
Is like one who takes a dog by the ears.
Proverbs 26:17 NKJV
Yours in our dear Lord Jesus,
Hello Dr. Luginbill,
Just read some of the emails on your article on "Only-Begotten, Mother-of-God, On-this-Rock".
My wife and I were both "Roman" Catholic's, but were saved many years ago and left that Church. It is a religion that is full of heresy and false doctrine and idol worship, etc. worship of dead people they (call saints). We knew nothing of the Bible at that time, except that verse in John 3:7 where Jesus says "you must be born again".
I agree with all that you write in this article about the so-called doctrine of the Catholics, and would encourage you to continue to spread the truth as you have been. Catholic people are totally ignorant of the Bible, and are told what to believe contrary to what God's Word says, and swallow it without question, because they (we) were taught that only the Catholic priests could interpret it. I can attest to many false-hoods in this church, as my wife and I were part of it for decades; I grew up trying to be a devout Catholic; but one day I learned the truth and I was totally devastated by it. I have always had a difficult time understanding how anyone who is really saved can remain in such a church as this, or in any other church, and there are many, who are not teaching God's Word.
So, my friend, please never give up proclaiming the truth as you do, for it is touching many, many lives; and I am one of them.
May Our Lord Jesus Christ bless you richly for all that you do for Him.
Thanks so much for these powerful comments, my friend! I have to say
that almost every former R.C. I know who is now a believer says the same
exact things, almost verbatim. So that tells you something indeed!
I plan to keep at this until the Lord takes me home . . . or I see Him return face to face. Either way, everything ahead is going to be glorious.
Your friend in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,
St. Julio Augusto di Lopez climbed a mountain to offer a bowl of
guacamole in tribute to a statue of Virgin Mary. But the spirit of Mary
entered the statue and was not pleased with the offering, so the spirit
proceeded to turn Julio into a bull. It was necessary for the priests to
go into the village and gather money to appease the spirit of Mary. On
then Julio regained his human form, resulting in a ceremonial bonfire
and dance in the garden grooves with the priests and laity.
The above story was made up, but given the sorry state of the RCC church, could you honestly say that it would sound out of place?
I knew it was phony at "guacamole", but I defer to your superior feel for what
that religion accepts (since you are a refugee from it). I'm not sure it's a
"sorry state" but rather the "normal state" for a religion which is
conglomeration of all manner of contradictory things – which most only share in
common that they are not biblical in any way.
In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,
Thanks be to God for your evident love for Biblical Truth. I found you
by Googling for info regarding the meaning kecharitomene which I found
at your link. Out of this word the Catholics (whose church is the most
manifest deformation of the NT church) extrapolate Mary being sinless
from birth, arguing, as here, "that it is in the Greek perfect tense,
denoting that the state of grace began in past time, by a completed
action (hence "fully" accomplished), whose results continue in the
In response to which I have often provided your refutation of this, with due accreditation (and I like your copy policy), but I would like to ask of there is anything in the RC polemic (linked to above) that you would address further:
Although the same or similar words, "full" or "filled" with grace, are used for Jesus, Mary, and Stephen, it does not mean exactly the same for all three. If it did, we'd be in the position of saying that the blessedness of Jesus, Mary, and Stephen are indistinguishable, identical – which they are not, as I'm sure you'll agree.
How can they be distinguished, then?
The Greek grammar shows how.
"Kecharitomene" is applied to Mary, "pleres charitos" to Jesus and, "pleres pisteos" to Stephen. (I just looked that up in the Greek Interlinear NT online. Right. And "pleres pisteos" can better be translated "full of faith, or "full of belief.")
Kecharitomene is a Greek perfect, passive, participle, which could literally be translated "having been graced," since the root of the word is "charis", which means grace. Ephesians 1:6, which refers to Jesus Christ, uses the aorist, active, indicative echaritosen, meaning "he graced."
See the difference? Mary, passive voice, "She received grace"; Jesus, active voice, "He graced." This is due to the fact that Jesus is a Divine person; Mary is a human person, a creature and handmaid.
In Luke 1:28 "Kecharitomene" is nominative or titular, since it follows the greeting "Chaire" ---"Hail [name or title] --- thus the name would normally be capitalized in English translations.
The unique feature of "Kecharitomene" is that it is in the Greek perfect tense, denoting that the state of grace began in past time, by a completed action (hence "fully" accomplished), whose results continue in the present. A suitable translation to denote all these features might be "Fully-Graced One." The Greek passive voice denotes that Mary received the title from an outside source, in this case, Almighty God.
(BTW, "pleres pisteos" the term used for Stephen, also implies a gift from an outside source, that is, again, faith as a gift and initiative of God.)
All God-given changes of name or title in the Bible indicate the person's status as seen by God, the person's predestined giftedness in order to be equipped to play their role in God's plan:
Abram ---Abraham (Father of Nations)
Sarai ---Sarah (Princess)
Jacob ---Israel (Wrestles with God)
Simon ---Cephas (Rock)
The same is true when Mary is addressed (nominative or titular) as Kecharitomene (Fully-Graced One).
It's the only place in the Bible --- the only place in all of Greek literature ---where the root word charitoo is used in exactly this way, as a form of address. It's unique. It doesn't make her equal to God (passive voice: it's been done unto her) and not identical to what's said of Stephen, because it's
past (the state of grace completed in past time),
perfect (a completed and accomplished action),
continuing (its results continue into the present),
nominative (name/ title bestowed by an outside agent, in this case, God.)
This unique neologism Kecharitomene is the best Greek word that could have been invented by Divine inspiration to indicate Mary's sinlessness, her being equipped to play her role as the natural source of Christ's human nature, His flesh: human, yet untainted by sin.
It's brilliant. No other Greek formulation could have conveyed it all.
Thanks for anything further you would add to this. And feel free to join the forum if you have time,
Thanks. Grace and peace thru Jesus the Lord. www.peacebyjesus.com
Thank you for your kind words about this ministry – good to make your
Pretty much all I personally have to say on this topic is included in the link you have found (Mary full of Grace?), but also in the links that will be found at the bottom on that posting.
This is not an apologetics site but a Bible teaching site where issues are tackled from the viewpoint of what the Bible actually says . . . rather than running down rabbit holes refuting wrong things that are said by various and sundry groups, religions and individuals. I will copy a friend of mine who is currently working on some apologetics issues related to your question and will let you know if he can be of any assistance.
Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,
Thanks so much for your response. I have not seen anything from the friend you copied in, but have found other material in your linked pages to be edifying, including on the Hebrew Matthew. You may not see your site as an apologetics site but as a Bible teaching site it necessarily is. Thanks again. With Catholics, after vainly trying to support traditions of men (including praying to created beings in Heaven, which is unseen despite over 200 prayers by believers to Heaven) from Scripture, and trying to make the deuteros part of the body of Scripture proper which the Lord invoked, then they appeal to oral tradition, out of which hat they can pull theological rabbits. But writing is God's manifest means of preservation and standard for obedience, (Exodus 17:14; 34:1,27; Deuteronomy 10:4; 17:18; 27:3; 31:24; Joshua 1:8; 2 Chronicles 34:15,18-19; Ps. 19:7-11; 119; John 20:31; Acts 17:11; Revelation 1:1; 20:12, 15; Matthew 4:5-7; 22:29; Lk. 24:44,45; Acts 17:11) by which all is to be tested by.
Repent ye therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out (Acts 3:19) www.peacebyjesus.com
You're very welcome, friend!
Thanks for your good words and for these very interesting and helpful comments.
Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,
Thank you for the information. But I would want to know if it is right to bow or kneel down on graven images as what the roman Catholics do. Thanks again.
This is just one thing the R.C. religion does which is completely
contrary to the Bible. As I have said many times, I have known many
refugees from the R.C. religion in my day, and they all say that it is
impossible to be saved in that "church", because it is a religion of
salvation by works. Whereas true Christianity is a relationship with
Jesus Christ which is given to us by God "by grace" and appropriated
"through faith" without works "lest any man should boast" (Eph.2:8-9).
Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,
Hello Dr. Luginbill,
I was just looking at John Chapter 6 and verse 53:
"Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in yourselves."
I remembered that you taught on this in your study of "Christology", so I was
able to refer back to it again, because I am teaching on John Chapter 6 on this
very subject. Your explanation of this most confusing verse, as you say,
blasphemingly interpreted by RC's, gives a vivid easy understanding to what this
I discovered something else that I never saw before, in reading this Chapter. In Verse 40:
"For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who behold the Son ad believes in Him will have eternal life, and I Myself will raise him up on the last day".
As I read this verse, the last part of it jumped out at me, "on the last day". I
had never noticed this before. He is an amazing God we serve. The last day, as
you have outlined in one of your studies, give another reason why the pre-trib
rapture and resurrection folks are totally wrong in their thinking. There is
only one resurrection of the righteous, and it takes place at the beginning of
the "Last Day".
As I said, I am ever amazed at our Great and Almighty God.
The Blessings of the King of Kings who is soon to return, be to you my friend,
It is a great pleasure to see your spiritual growth and also your coming
into a ministry of your own. Therein is great reward.
In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,
Hi Dr Luginbill,
Had some questions for you when you get a chance.
1. I suppose it’s potentially a two part question. I had a friend suggest our minds are transformed after we die so that we know everything. One of their arguments was the rich man and Lazarus and how the rich man knew he was talking to Abraham. Total knowledge had been downloaded into his head in the after life and that’s how he recognized Abraham. I’ve always been under the impression our minds are the same when we cross over and we’ll still have to work and study to know things, just without satanic influence and being in the presence of god to make huge differences.
If our minds are transformed with a download of knowledge when we die then both my questions are answered, but if not, how did the rich man know who Abraham was? Perhaps the rich man’s spiritual knowledge was robust enough to assume the man Lazarus was next to was indeed Abraham?
2. Came across a catholic mindset that tries to support their use of tradition. The author cites 2 Thes 2.15 & 3.6 as support that the Church has scripture AND tradition. I know the author is taking the verses out of context but what are the traditions these verses are specifically referring to?
3. Another catholic argument from the same author cites 1 Tim 3.15 as an argument against sola scriptura. The pillar and foundation of truth is the church. Reading the verse I don’t see support for a specific church but perhaps Paul is talking more abstractly that the church is the vehicle through which these things happen?
4. Another weird catholic argument in favor of the pope comes from Matt 16.17-19 where Jesus gives Peter the keys of the kingdom. Here, Jesus is referring to Isaiah 22.20-22 where Hezekiah replaced his old prime minister with a new one named Eliakim. Everyone could tell which one of the cabinet members was the new prime minister since he was given the ‘keys of the kingdom’. By entrusting Peter the ‘keys of the kingdom’, Jesus established the office of prime minister for administering the church as his kingdom on earth. The keys are a symbol of Peter’s office to be handed off to his successors through time. I don’t believe this guy is right but can these verses be connected at all or is it easily refuted?
As always, your materials are top notch and mean a lot to me. I appreciate your hard work and tireless diligence to keep producing and helping others. Your ministry is hugely important.
Good to hear from you, my friend.
As to your questions, the first one is interesting and involves speculation.
1) We have no idea what eternity will be like beyond the small but wonderful bits of information scripture gives us. One reason for that no doubt is that we couldn't really appreciate it before the fact of actually being in a resurrection body and seeing God face to face.
But as it is written: "What the eye has not seen and the ear has not heard, and [what] has not entered the heart of man, [these are the very] things which God has prepared for those who love Him"
1st Corinthians 2:9
We will certainly know more in eternity.
For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known.
1st Corinthians 13:12 NKJV
How we get this knowledge is not made clear but I would be surprised if some of
it is not just immediate but other things are learned at leisure. After all, God
is "bigger" than we have any idea at present, and it will take an eternity to
get to know everything about Him, I'd wager.
The other three are "old chestnuts" the RC church is always trotting out, and are easily dispensed with:
2) 2nd Thessalonians 2:15 and 3:6 both say "traditions received from us" – meaning from Paul personally. So this argument assumes that the RC church has the same authority as Paul has, and that is ludicrous. They claim this, but it is not true of course. We are all priest of God through Jesus Christ (e.g., Rev.1:6) and have no need of intermediaries – especially non-believers. Any "tradition" is only as good as its source. Buddhists have traditions too, and Mormons and Muslims. The Bible is the only source of "truth handed down" which can be trusted.
3) Here's a translation:
[I write these things to you so that] if I am delayed you may know how [believers] ought comport themselves in a house of God which is a church (or "an assembly") of the living God, [that is] a pillar and support for the truth.
1st Timothy 3:15
Notice that Paul is talking about individual local assemblies and telling
Timothy how people ought to behave therein, making the point that truth – that
is, hearing it and learning it – is the whole reason for assembly.
4) Here's a key passage on that:
And when I saw Him, I fell at His feet as dead. But He laid His right hand on me, saying to me, "Do not be afraid; I am the First and the Last. I am He who lives, and was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore. Amen. And I have the keys of Hades and of Death."
Christ "has the keys"; we only have the use of the keys as those who belong to Christ as Peter did as one who belonged to Christ. Also, Christ was speaking to Peter here but was not giving him alone the keys anymore than to any of us who follow Him. That is made clear from this passage:
Assuredly, I say to you (plural), whatever you (plural) bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you (plural) loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.
Matthew 18:18 NKJV
We all (plural) use the keys when we share the gospel with others that they too
may enter the blessed kingdom of heaven.
Thanks for the kind words (Ps.115:1)!
In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,
Hello Dr. Luginbiill,
I have just read one of your responses to an email recipient about the following subject: Only-Begotten, Mother-of-God, On-this-Rock.
I found it extremely interesting and somewhat frustrating and here is why. As you know, I came out of Catholicism many years ago and I really feel your frustration in your responses.
Just wanted to encourage you to continue corresponding, as I know you will; because some Catholics are extremely difficult to deal, having done so with minimal success. I have been successful, not me but God, in getting them to realize that what the Bible says is the truth, not what RC tradition says.
Eventually, it was God by His Holy Spirit who opened my eyes to the truth of His Word. This adventure began at a Catholic "Marriage Encounter" when God really dealt with my heart about my marriage. I cannot even begin to explain it.
Secondly, I attended a Catholic retreat at a Jesuit retreat house, of all places, and there God "Set me free" from all the false doctrine via a book titled "Babylon Mystery Religion" which compared the Catholic belief with what the Bible says, and I used a Catholic Bible to verify that what the book said was really quoted in the bible.
I had a miraculous conversion from Religion to Christianity to say the least.
Just again want to encourage you with these facts and let you know that what you say about those who have supposedly had an encounter with the living Savior and yet are staying in the RC church completely baffles me. Never did understand why; they eventually, as the "Parable of the Sower" states, fall away because of the Word and persecution.
Indeed, the RC church is full of hypocrisy and false doctrine which is so sad for those who are in it, and for those who stay in it.
I believe the Holy Spirit moves on them just like He did on me, but they are unresponsive to His beckoning.
So, my friend, I am so grateful for your Website teachings that I am unable to express my feelings. You should surely be honored, so I honor your endeavor and your diligence; the Scripture says" Give honor to whom honor is due", and rightly so. God gets the glory.
For His Glory,
I very much appreciate your solid and insightful testimony, my friend. It agrees completely with that of every other refugee from that religion I have ever met. All religions – and even genuinely Christian "traditions" and denominations – have their problems. I was reading today about Josiah's cleansing of the country when he heard the words of the book found in the temple (2Ki.23:1ff.). All the idolatry that had grown up in a land supposedly at one time godly! Evil sneaks in incrementally into most groups, it seems, until it has leavened the whole lump.
“Come out from among them
And be separate, says the Lord.
Do not touch what is unclean,
And I will receive you.”
2nd Corinthians 6:17 NKJV
Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,
Hello again Dr. Luginbill,
The teaching session are going very well. I have them twice per week; once in the Chapel here at the Retirement Community, and once via Facebook (Messenger). I have 9 - 11 people who do come faithfully. I really don't like to have more than 10 or so which gives time for questions, comments and replies.
I am preaching on Sunday Mornings, and am thoroughly enjoying, though I really do love teaching more than preaching, because that is my gifting.
We have anywhere between 15-20 every Sunday. Everyone seems to enjoy the subject matter; I do incorporate much of the material from your Website that I have studied. There is much they don't know, and have not heard in their churches, (Methodist, Presbyterian, Catholic, United Church of Christ, etc.), but I keep plugging away and trying to help of course, with the anointing of the Holy Spirit.
I have been wanting to preach/teach on the subject: "Except ye eat my flesh and drink my blood, ye have no part in me", but have been a little reluctant because I want to go slow on the Catholic's and not scare them away. I realize that I must follow the leading of the Holy Spirit, and have been praying that He will prepare their hearts to receive understanding and acceptance.
But this is only one of the subjects I would like to present among the many false doctrines of the Roman Catholic system. The reason for this is I know how deceived I was when I was Roman Catholic, and I would want others to be set free also.
Any suggestions you may have on this subject would be really appreciated.
Looking to Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith.
That's wonderful, my friend! Good for you! There is great eternal reward
in ministering the Word as you are doing.
As to your question as to how best to approach those who might be offended by the truth, Roman Catholics in particular, I don't have the best sense of that religion, but there are a number of individuals with whom I have contact through Ichthys who are "exes" and I would be happy to put you in touch, if interested. My initial reaction is twofold: 1) on the one hand, I don't believe in soft-peddling the truth, especially in any way that might dilute it or give the wrong impression (far less saying anything actually counter it); 2) on the other hand, depending on what you are teaching, there is no reason to go out of your way to antagonize or upset people by cramming something down there throats you know they will find offensive (especially if it is "off topic" to the lesson you are trying to teach). We see how our Lord handled this sort of thing in the perfect way: He never backed off of the truth; but He also found ways, speaking in parables and the like, to avoid directly confronting those who were not receptive when there was nothing to be gained from the confrontation. It is a balance that takes some wisdom and spiritual maturity to achieve, but I am confident that in the Spirit you will be led to achieve it. The main thing is to continue doing what you are doing in the godly way you are doing it, and trusting the Lord to work out the kinks.
I will make a point of remembering this in prayer.
Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,
Hello my friend Dr. Luginbill,
Thank you so much for your advice. I felt reluctant about presenting this in a Sermon format and decided not to present it as yet. I totally agree with your assessment of not backing away from the Truth; which I have never done, I tell it like it is and was told by a fellow minister (?) that I was preaching (to hard) and should lighten up a bit, like (tip toe through the tulips) so to speak. I am quite familiar with the RC doctrine since I was a former one, so this subject if presented in the wrong way (not compromise), it can be offensive, especially to an RC, who accept whatever a priest says as the truth, but they themselves have been duped.
As you also say, I ask the Lord to guide me by His Holy Spirit in both what I preach and teach. All of what I have been presenting so far seems to have been accepted. I am always aware of what His Word says in Galatians 5:10, and that I must take His leading in all things.
I have a question on the following Scripture which says the following:
"But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light that is in you is darkness, how great is the darkness"
The last part of this verse in Matthew 6:23b puzzles me. Can you please
clarify for me? Appreciate it very much.
Reviewing your study on "The Seven Churches of Revelation". Fascination to say the least as they all are. Glory to God for your ministry which has revealed much truth not only to me, but a multitude of believers.
Yes, I would like to get it touch with the "exes" and get their input which would be great.
Thanks again Dr. Luginbill for your kindness as always.
Your friend and Brother is Jesus,
There is much about this topic of rejecting the truth and hardening the
heart at the link:
"Phase One Hardening of the Heart: Darkening of the Truth" (in BB
4B). The only way "light" can become "darkness" is by hearing the truth,
the light, and rejecting it, turning it into "darkness" by refusing to
believe it. So if someone listening to our Lord being illuminated with
the light of the truth by the Holy Spirit still chose to reject Him (as
many sadly did), that person was worse off than never having heard the
truth in the first place, the light being rejecting and being "dark" to
the person refusing it – and how great such darkness is.
Thanks for all your good words, my friend. Praying for your ministry.
In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,
One more issue that I wanted to ask you for guidance on. I have just
finished my rebuttal of the Catholic notion of "holy tradition" as being
of equal authority to the scripture (CCC 80, 81, 82, 83, etc.). This is
a complicated question and I marvel at Satan's guile of exploiting every
single hole or chink to spread his lies. When writing about the cult of
Mary I have often found myself in a situation where I knew something is
clearly false - and yet exposing it as such is not always easy. The
"holy tradition" is exactly this sort of snake - somewhat vague,
slippery and evasive. I'm doing my best to pin it down and pierce
1) One of the verses talking about the traditions, often quoted by the Catholics in this context is 2 Thessalonians 2:15 (NASB):
15 So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught, whether by word of mouth or by letter from us.
a) NIV SB says that "Until the NT was written, essential Christian
teaching was passed on in the "traditions", just as rabbinic law was" –
could you clarify this? What does it mean that the teaching was passed
on in "traditions"?
b) I wonder whether "from us" refers only to the letter, or also to the traditions received through the word. If the latter is the case, then it would also be a clear case of Paul telling the Thessalonians to hold on to specifically what he taught them but I'm not sure if the language allows for that.
On 2 Thessalonians 2:15: Cambridge makes a good case that ἡμιν indeed refers to both and provides a good reference to 1 Corinthians 11:2:
In traditions which you were taught there is no suggestion of the Romanist idea of Tradition, conceived as an authority distinct from the written Word of God; for the Apostle continues, whether by word or latter of ours (the pronoun belongs to both nouns). He bids them hold by what he had taught, whether it came through this channel or that, provided it were really from himself (comp. 2 Thessalonians 2:2, and ch. 2 Thessalonians 3:14; 2 Thessalonians 3:17). He is now beginning to communicate with the Churches by letter, and stamps his Epistles with the authority of his spoken word. The sentence asserts the claim of the true Apostolic teaching, as against any who would “beguile” the Church away from it. Comp. 1 Corinthians 11:2 : “I praise you that in all things you remember us, and hold fast the traditions, even as I delivered them to you.”
1 Corinthians 11:2 New American Standard Bible (NASB)
2 Now I praise you because you remember me in everything and hold firmly to the traditions, just as I delivered them to you.
c) Finally, the reference is to specific teachings that the
Thessalonians were to hold on to - not to some vague, vast body of
traditions circulating around.
I am drawing the following conclusions regarding these traditions:
a) They seem to have been delivered by Paul specifically as he taught the Thessalonians, which is made clear in the verse.
b) The question of authorship of traditions taught is crucial, as Paul seems to be addressing the issue of false teaching coming from other sources in almost every single epistle. This only strengthens the point that although some teaching from him would have be given in oral form, Thessalonians and all other churches were to rely on such teaching only when it was given by Paul in person and not freely accept whatever came to them from other sources. Truth was back then under constant attack from Jewish legalists, other false teachers, pagans, etc., and there is no evidence in the New Testament of some oral teachings being passed on from one church to another, as these could have been twisted. Now of course, this would inevitably happen and everyone should spread the gospel and help their brothers and sisters grow in the truth - the point is that this was not the way in which authoritative apostolic teaching was to be disseminated. There is evidence that this was to happen with authorized epistles (Colossians 4:16), but it is clear that apostles or true early teachers would be much less willing to rely on body of oral tradition being passed around and labelled as coming from them.
c) The above means that although oral teaching constituted a part of the whole body teaching delivered by him and other apostles in some of the early churches (just as some truth would be disseminated through spiritual gifts such as prophecy and tongues), beyond what has actually been written in scripture, this oral teaching cannot now be traced back for us to be able to claim that this or that tradition came from apostle Paul and forms a part of what the Catechism calls "sacred tradition". These teachings were oral and were not preserved - what was preserved is the scripture. The rest opens the door to speculations and potentially accepting false and uninspired teachings.
d) If God wished to preserve certain truths in the form of "tradition", then He had every power to do that. Instead, He preserved the scriptures. As for the "traditions", we are completely in the dark as to what that is in the first place and which snippet of teaching that may be located somewhere could have come from a reliable source and which was authored by someone who had nothing to do with the truth.
e) A point could also be added that the word παραδοσις literally means "handing over" - something that has been handed over, given - not something that has been taken out of from nowhere or appeared without any trace of origin.
I know that the "sacred tradition" is only aimed at giving a window to accept unscriptural teachings that may support Catholic dogmas, but I wanted to present an explanation of the nonsense, falsehood and danger of it in the best way. Let me know your thoughts on the above and whether you would add anything else here.
A few verses to support this argument:
1) Gospel coming from Paul in word, power and the Holy Spirit.
1 Thessalonians 1:5 New American Standard Bible (NASB)
5 for our gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction; just as you know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake. (Romans 15:18-19)
2) Thessalonians hearing the word of God directly from Paul.
1 Thessalonians 2:13 New American Standard Bible (NASB)
13 For this reason we also constantly thank God that when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but for what it really is, the word of God, which also performs its work in you who believe.
3) As above - instruction and commandments given to Thessalonians directly from Paul.
1 Thessalonians 4:1-2 New American Standard Bible (NASB)
4 Finally then, brethren, we request and exhort you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received from us instruction as to how you ought to walk and please God (just as you actually do walk), that you excel still more. 2 For you know what commandments we gave you by the authority of the Lord Jesus.
4) Paul adds the mark of authenticity - why do that if all the traditions circulating around were true and the Thessalonians were free to accept any teaching - written or spoken?
2 Thessalonians 3:17 New American Standard Bible (NASB)
17 I, Paul, write this greeting with my own hand, and this is a distinguishing mark in every letter; this is the way I write. (1 Corinthians 16:21; Galatians 6:11; Colossians 4:18)
5) Paul tells the Thessalonians: "Now we request you, brethren, with regard to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him, 2 that you not be quickly shaken from your composure or be disturbed either by a spirit or a message or a letter as if from us" and then asks "Do you not remember that while I was still with you, I was telling you these things?" Clearly there would have been no need for this request and reminder if the "holy tradition" in circulation was all from God.
2 Thessalonians 2:1-5New American Standard Bible (NASB)
1 Now we request you, brethren, with regard to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him, 2 that you not be quickly shaken from your composure or be disturbed either by a spirit or a message or a letter as if from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come. 3 Let no one in any way deceive you, for it will not come unless the apostasy comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, 4 who opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, displaying himself as being God. 5 Do you not remember that while I was still with you, I was telling you these things?
6) Again - tradition received specifically from Paul.
2 Thessalonians 3:6 New American Standard Bible (NASB)
6 Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep away from every brother who leads an unruly life and not according to the tradition which you received from us.
7) Exhortation to stay away from false teaching, which again clearly shows that what the Church was to follow were the authentic teachings of the apostles and this hardly encourages drawing from some traditions of unknown origin. Opposition of true teaching is often mentioned (2 Timothy 4:14-15).
Acts 20:29-30 New American Standard Bible (NASB)
29 I know that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; 30 and from among your own selves men will arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them.
8) Paul exhorts Timothy to stay away from false teaching.
1 Timothy 1:3-7 New American Standard Bible (NASB)
3 As I urged you upon my departure for Macedonia, remain on at Ephesus so that you may instruct certain men not to teach strange doctrines, 4 nor to pay attention to myths and endless genealogies, which give rise to mere speculation rather than furthering the administration of God which is by faith. 5 But the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. 6 For some men, straying from these things, have turned aside to fruitless discussion, 7 wanting to be teachers of the Law, even though they do not understand either what they are saying or the matters about which they make confident assertions.
1 Timothy 6:3-5 New American Standard Bible (NASB)
3 If anyone advocates a different doctrine and does not agree with sound words, those of our Lord Jesus Christ, and with the doctrine conforming to godliness, 4 he is conceited and understands nothing; but he has a morbid interest in controversial questions and disputes about words, out of which arise envy, strife, abusive language, evil suspicions, 5 and constant friction between men of depraved mind and deprived of the truth, who suppose that godliness is a means of gain.
1 Timothy 6:20-21 New American Standard Bible (NASB)
20 O Timothy, guard what has been entrusted to you, avoiding worldly and empty chatter and the opposing arguments of what is falsely called “knowledge”—21 which some have professed and thus gone astray from the faith. Grace be with you.
2 Timothy 1:12-14(NASB)
12 For this reason I also suffer these things, but I am not ashamed; for I know whom I have believed and I am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him until that day. 13 Retain the standard of sound words which you have heard from me, in the faith and love which are in Christ Jesus. 14 Guard, through the Holy Spirit who dwells in us, the treasure which has been entrusted to you.
The Catholic reasoning goes as follows (https://www.catholic.com/tract/apostolic-tradition):
Is Scripture the sole rule of faith for Christians? Not according to the Bible. While we must guard against merely human tradition, the Bible contains numerous references to the necessity of clinging to apostolic tradition. Thus Paul tells the Corinthians, "I commend you because you remember me in everything and maintain the traditions even as I have delivered them to you" (1 Corinthians 11:2), and he commands the Thessalonians, "So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by letter" (2 Thessalonians 2:15). He even goes so far as to order, "Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep away from any brother who is living in idleness and not in accord with the tradition that you received from us" (2 Thessalonians 3:6). To make sure that the apostolic tradition would be passed down after the deaths of the apostles, Paul told Timothy, "[W]hat you have heard from me before many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also" (2 Timothy 2:2). In this passage he refers to the first four generations of apostolic succession—his own generation, Timothy’s generation, the generation Timothy will teach, and the generation they in turn will teach. The early Church Fathers, who were links in that chain of succession, recognized the necessity of the traditions that had been handed down from the apostles and guarded them scrupulously, as the following quotations show.
I'm not going to waste our time on the fathers, but I would think that
all the arguments made in this satanic paragraph - to call it by its
name - have been addressed in the points I have made. One more
conclusion worth noting is that the Catholic argument is circular - "How
do we know that the tradition we believe is "sacred" and comes directly
from the apostles? We know it because we believe it and if we as the
Catholic Church believe it, then it is a proof by itself". This
reasoning is present throughout the encyclical.
Let me know your thoughts.
In the grace of our Lord,
As to your disquisition on the RC tradition argument, it is excellent
(and now posted at the link: The Cult
of Mary)! Are you including this (pretty much verbatim) in your
text? It is an important questions not just for the RC's. Liberal
Protestants use similar arguments to undermine the text of scripture and
claim that "original Christianity" contained a core kerygma which
they, bless their hearts, are trying to recover (and getting tenure,
good positions, awards and accolades, by doing so).
And you've hit on the nub of the issue too: it's all about the PROVENANCE of the tradition and the AUTHORITY of that provenance. So if we could be sure that the tradition came from Peter himself or Timothy himself, etc., then we would have satisfied both elements. Clearly, neither the person nor the chain back to the person is possible to establish in the RC model. Also, while I too find the fathers a monumental waste of time, I do know something about the literature, and I think it is fair to say that the number of traditions which are claimed to go back to anyone with apostolic authority are nearly nonexistent. What they really mean by this is that if any church father said anything remotely like what we want to claim at this moment, then that is more than sufficient; that is to say, if the idea (whatever it is) exists anywhere in any RC literature, then by some mumbo jumbo it is just as good as if it is one of the Pauline epistles.
The other problem with their argument theologically speaking is that the injunctions Paul gives on this topic (e.g., 2Thes.2:15) apply ONLY to THAT congregation at THAT time. Just as when Paul gives orders to "greet so and so with a holy kiss", that is not something we can do literally – because we don't even know so and so who has been with the Lord for nearly two thousand years by now. Some things in the epistles are only meant for us by application. Just as we should greet other Christians today (not necessarily kissing them – that was a cultural thing), so we should do our best to keep good teaching in mind – as in recommending your ministry or Curt's Bible Academy (link) or mine to others. But that is not the same thing as equating them with scripture. Far from it. When the epistle in question was written, the canon had not been finished or circulated, so good teaching – from a known source and verifiably attributable to him – was an important element in this transitional period; the same with interpreting tongues and prophecy which are also no longer present in the Church. The effect of the passages you collect – which make it clear that the thrust of Paul's words on this subject are directed much more towards warding off false teaching of just the sort the RC church is commending – make the issue crystal clear. Nice job!
Keeping you in my prayers for your health and welfare in all things, my friend.
In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,
Thank you for your helpful comments, Professor. Yes, this will be
included in the argument and after your comment I will definitely add
the distinction between provenance and authority. Exactly - Paul is
specific and your point of applicability is also very useful, so I will
add it to the text as well. Overall, when reading through the epistles,
the thrust of Paul's teaching is clear - that believers in all these
churches should hold on to the authoritative teaching (mainly coming
from himself or from his closest associates, like Timothy) and stay away
from anything else as the Church was being attacked from all directions
from the moment it came to existence.
This is the next section I will forward to you, but it has become a chapter within a chapter. I am spending time on it, since it is probably one of the most important - if not the most important part of the entire study - establishing the authority of the scripture and rebutting the notion of "tradition" as being of equal authority. It is a bit of work. There is just one part of what you wrote that I didn't understand:
What they really mean by this is that if any church father said anything remotely like what we want to claim at this moment, then that is more than sufficient; that is to say, if the idea (whatever it is) exists anywhere in any RC literature, then by some mumbo jumbo it is just as good as if it is one of the Pauline epistles.
As to "one part of what you wrote that I didn't understand", what I mean is that the RC church uses this argument as a plastic escape clause to teach whatever they please whenever they please, and in fact that are little concerned with diligently attempting to actually trace back some teaching as far back as possible, and that when they do trace, as in some of your examples, the trace never actually gets back any closer than 500-1000 years from the people who actually heard Paul and co.
I am praying that this academic year does not burden you so as to slow down your production. I wish you could take a step back from your secular commitments so as to be able to devote even more time to teaching and it seems the opposite is happening.
I encountered a difficulty today about which I thought I would write to you. I'm in the process of writing next chapter of the rebuttal of the cult of Mary which is devoted to the disapproving the teaching of perpetual virginity. Overall, it is evident that one has to first adopt this false teaching in order to then arrive at interpretations of pertinent scriptures which defend this view. There is, however, one argument which I'm at the moment struggling to respond to, and as much as possible, I would like to address all of the key ones.
A view has been developed by some church fathers that our Lord's brothers listed in several places were his kinsmen rather than literal brothers. It is obvious that this view does require interpretational gymnastics, but one point, made by Jerome, among others, goes as follows:
By comparing Matthew 27:56, Mark 15:40, and John 19:25, we find that James and Joseph — mentioned in Matthew 13:55 with Simon and Jude as Jesus' "brothers" — are also called sons of Mary, the wife of Clopas. This other Mary (Matt 27:61, 28:1) is called our Lady's adelphe in Jn 1:25 (it isn't likely that there were two women named "Mary" in the same [nuclear] family — thus, even this usage apparently means "cousin" or more distant relative). Matthew 13:55-56 and Mark 6:3 mention Simon, Jude, and "sisters" along with James and Joseph, calling all adelphoi. Since we know for sure that at least James and Joseph are not Jesus' blood brothers, the most likely interpretation of Mt. 13:35 is that all these brothers are "cousins," according to linguistic conventions (David Armstrong, A Biblical Defence of Catholicism. First Books edition, no date given, pp. 141-142).
I've been researching the issue of our Lord's brothers, the identity of Mary's sister, Clopas, Alpheus, etc. It is, as you know, quite difficult and the scriptures don't give much information. I was trying to find an argument showing that James and Joseph listed among our Lord's brothers and those listed as sons of the Mary the wife of Clopas are not the same persons. This has proved difficult. Of course, what is above stated that " for sure that at least James and Joseph are not Jesus' blood brothers" is a pure conjecture, but I'm struggling to expose it as false.
It could be possible to show if Alphaeus and Clopas could be clearly identified as one person. This is because James the son of Alphaeus was an apostle (Matthew 10:3; Mark 3:18; Luke 6:15) which could not be reconciled with him being an unbelieving brother (John 7:5). But, it seems impossible to ascertain whether Alphaeus and Clopas are the same person or not. There is also the issue that these would have been quite common names. Professor - is there some sort of way out of this?
In the grace of our Lord,
I was hoping to hear from you. How are you doing?
As for my situation, I know that the Lord makes a way through the storm, heavy or light – thank you for your prayers!
On your question, of course the R.C. church had to find some way to explain this clear scriptural refutation of their idiotic position. Being hung up on virginity is actually a hold over from Greek religion where that is highly valued for women who are somehow "special" (some goddesses are, but also human beings are honored for this in some cults, and virginity is a very big issue in Greek romance literature as well). Since the fathers who advanced this silly theory came from that milieu, it is easy to see how they would not want their goddess/special holy woman to be inferior to the Greek exemplars in this regard. I have written some things on this; I will give you the links but also attempt to address the particular passages/questions you have listed here:
More on brother vs. cousin
First, I think if a person will quickly peruse the passages where Jesus' brothers (and sisters) are mentioned, it will become clear that the circumstances, especially when viewed as a totality, will not admit to cousins being always in such close proximity to Mary and Jesus, while brothers and sisters present no problem – except for the R.C. false doctrine (cf. Matthew 12:46-49; Mark 3:31-34; Luke 8:19-31; 2:12; 7:3-5; 7:10; Acts 1:14; 1Cor.9:5). The last passage is particularly important:
Don’t we have the right to take a believing wife along with us, as do the other apostles and the Lord’s brothers (adelphoi) and Cephas?
1st Corinthians 9:5 NIV
The only way the false theory has a right to a hearing is if someone like Paul doesn't distinguish between a brother (adelphos) and a cousin (anepsios). This would be odd on the face of it because everywhere else in the world and in human history the distinction is of course very dramatic and certainly also in the Old Testament. But here is what Paul says in another place:
Aristarchus my fellow prisoner greets you, with Mark the cousin (anepsios) of Barnabas (about whom you received instructions: if he comes to you, welcome him).
Colossians 4:10 NIV
So Paul certainly knows the difference AND does make the distinction in the
Greek vocabulary. It is impossible, based on the above, to argue rationally that
when Paul says "brother" (in e.g., 1Cor.9:5 and Gal.1:19) he really meant
Observations on the paragraph you cite: The conclusion is erroneous for several reasons. First, there are many such common names at this time (not unique to Israel or to that time and place). I can tell you from my secular research that homonyms are always tricky when it comes to personal names. There were actually a number of persons named Thucydides, for example, but the fact of having the same given name – which sounds fairly unique to those not living in that culture at the time – resulted in confusion in antiquity and still does today.
The same is true of the Bible. After all, there seem to be three "Marys" standing at the foot of the cross so that during this period we can conclude that there was a preference for choosing the "same names" as everyone else did (cf. also: Lk.1:61: "There is no one among your relatives who is called by this name" NKJV). After all, of only twelve disciples, two are named Simon and two are named Judas.
Also, there are textual issues involved in sorting out what is actually being said about who is who at the foot of the cross so that it is not the simple picture presented by the cited paragraph. For one thing, there are various forms of the name "Mary" in Greek (Maria, Mariam, Marian etc.), which may indeed represent different people. It would not seem terribly odd for sisters to be named "Miriam and Mariam", for example, though it might confuse future historians, especially if there were problems in the manuscripts with the orthography of what they received. Finally on this point, regarding John 19:25 (which is often translated "and His mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas"), it should be noted that the Greek actually says "and sister of His mother Mary, the wife of Clopas"; since "Mary" is mentioned by name previously in the verse, the insertion of the name where it is placed makes it difficult to take that name with "the wife of Clopas", so most translations probably get this one wrong. Here is my footnote on this matter in BB 4A Christology:
94. The Greek text of John 19:25 seems to equate the two [Marys], but there are obvious problems with this interpretation; i.e., two siblings with the same name, unless we are to understand two separate names behind the unified Greek transliteration (deriving Mary from the Aramaic Mari-Yah, "The LORD is My Lord" instead of the traditional "Miriam" whose root has to do with either bitterness or rebellion would certainly be attractive in the case of our Lord's mother). If "sister-in-law" is meant, then Clopas would be Jesus' uncle (or alternatively His cousin, in which case "mother of" rather than "wife of" would be the correct translation: the Greek text merely says "she of" and admits of either possibility). There is a reasonable chance that Clopas is the same person as the Cleopas of Luke 24:18; though sometimes rejected on the grounds that the latter name is Greek, the probability is that the former is as well and merely possesses a more Semitic transliteration in John (i.e., the "L" sound directly following a consonantal stop is not a normal Hebrew or Aramaic combination).
I had not taken into account the word order when I wrote this note because this
was not an issue I was running down. The word order makes the whole thing even
more dicey in regard to what is really meant. Bottom line: this is very
questionable evidence of anything, let alone sufficient reason to overturn the
universal understanding that brother means brother and cousin means cousin.
Suffice it to say that we cannot on this basis assume that adelphe means
"woman cousin" instead of "sister" and for that reason further assume that
"brother" can equally mean "cousin". Finally, I know of absolutely no
"linguistic convention" whereby we can make one word mean an entirely different
word when it usually does not and where there is a standard word for the other
concept in common use – not without some sort of signal in the text; and as
already mentioned, the passages which speak of Jesus "brothers" make more sense
(except for this false doctrine) if "brothers" are understood rather than
So I agree with you that because of commonality of names it is not a strong argument to assume that "Mary with children A and B" is the same as "Mary with children A and B and X and Y", especially given 1) the textual variants (Sinaiticus leaves out much of the critical verbiage at Matthew 19:56, for example), 2) the difficulty of orthographic similarities for actually different names; 3) the penchant for using the same or similar names to a degree beyond that with which we are familiar (the Romans of this period did the same thing, by the way); and 4) the fact that many if not most of the people with whom we are familiar in the gospels actually went by two names (e.g., Peter / Cephas – and just compare the different versions of the list of names for the twelve disciples which can only agree if we understand this principle). Add to that the fact that the exact identification of all these individuals is impossible to absolutely discern or at the very least most difficult and without general agreement (I don't know of anyone else, for example, who has correctly figured out the Mary Magdalene issue; see the links: "Mary Magdalene" and "more on Mary M."), and we have a picture while not in any disturbing to our faith, in no way supportive of the already weak on its face argument that brothers aren't brothers.
Keeping you in my prayers daily, my friend.
In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,
It's is going well. How about yourself, Professor? How is yours going? Are you still experiencing any side effects?
Firstly, thank you for a detailed answer - it's been very helpful. Of all the issues I have encountered so far, this is probably the most complicated one. And what I have discovered to a degree greater than before is how Satan attempts to take a full advantage of every such ambiguity, not leaving any window of opportunity unexploited. Catholicism has fallen into numerous such traps. It's a bottomless mire and I'm really looking forward to completing this text.
A few questions on this problem.
1. a) One of the main arguments used by the Catholics is that the word "brother" was employed in New Testament times in Aramaic according to its Old Testament usage (quoted are verses such as Genesis 13:8, 14:16, 29:15, etc.), so that the cousins would also be designated as "brothers". You have shown that this is certainly not true when it comes to Paul's usage of the word "brother", how about our Lord's Jewish opponents in verses such as Matthew 12:46, 13:55, etc.? Do you think that there was either no Aramaic to designate a relative more distant than a literal brother or that such a word was not used, as "brother" was preferred?
b) Are there any examples of "brother" being used in a non-literal sense in any of the gospels or any other part of the New Testament - but not as referring to a fellow believer, but rather to a more distant member of the family?
2. I have read the footnote (I have actually researched this particular part of Christology also before I wrote, remembering that you give this issue a very detailed treatment) and this verse does seem difficult to work out. From what I understand - please correct where needed:
a) Mary's sister and "the one of Clopas" - whether his wife or mother - are not necessarily the same person, which is suggested by a word order: ἡ ἀδελφὴ τῆς μητρὸς αὐτοῦ Μαρία ἡ τοῦ Κλωπᾶ
b) If they are not the same person and Mary of Clopas is not the sister
of our Lord's Mary, then this would mean James and Joseph are not our
Lord's family - which would make Catholic interpretation wrong.
c) If we were to take this interpretation - wouldn't it mean that this sister of Mary is not mentioned in any other account?
d) You wrote:
Suffice it to say that we cannot on this basis assume that adelphe means "woman cousin" instead of "sister" and for that reason further assume that "brother" can equally mean "cousin".
I know that Catholic argumentation takes the other Mary as the wife of
Clopas, but on the basis of her having the same name as our Lord's
mother, proposes that it's unlikely that she is a literal sister. But
based also on what you wrote in the footnote I take it that we need to
at least take such a possibility into account? Are we able to assess
what is more likely? One would think that based on them having the same
names they are probably not literal sisters, but I'm not qualified to
make the call.
3. Do you know if the scripture allows us to identify Clopas as Alphaeus?
4. Could our Lord's words from Matthew 13:57 be taken as providing evidence that it is his literal brothers and sisters who have just been mentioned, since He says "A prophet is not without honour, save in his own country, and in his own house" and since we know that His brothers didn't believe in Him (John 7:5)?
In the grace of our Lord,
I'm very happy to learn this. I'll be keeping this in prayer. I'm feeling better
and the side-effects have pretty much worn off. I should be "good to go" for the
semester which begins in two weeks.
1a) When Abraham calls Lot and his men "brothers" to Abraham and his men at Genesis 13:8 he is doing what we do in Christianity where we call each other "brother" or what many people do when they are expressing close fidelity rather than a literal biological relationship:
So they wore sackcloth around their waists and put ropes around their heads, and came to the king of Israel and said, “Your servant Ben-Hadad says, ‘Please let me live.’ ” And he said, “Is he still alive? He is my brother.” Now the men were watching closely to see whether any sign of mercy would come from him; and they quickly grasped at this word and said, “Your brother Ben-Hadad.” So he said, “Go, bring him.” Then Ben-Hadad came out to him; and he had him come up into the chariot.
1st Kings 20:32-33 NKJV
Abraham is most certainly not using the word as a synonym for "cousin" (the same is true of Laban versus Jacob and all such instances; Gen.14:16 is admittedly a little harder but I understand it in the same vein given that it is responding to Abraham's expression of fidelity previously). A cousin is the offspring of an uncle or aunt, and that is how true cousins are described in the OT when closeness and fidelity is not an issue:
Zelophehad’s daughters—Mahlah, Tirzah, Hoglah, Milkah and Noah—married their cousins on their father’s side.
Numbers 36:11 NKJV
The word "cousins" in English above is in Hebrew "the sons of their uncles" (<
dodth), and the word for cousin in Hebrew today – which of course has been
heavily influenced by Aramaic in its vocabulary – is from that same root. BDB is
no doubt correct in saying that sometimes 'ach can mean "relative"
generically, but it never means cousin specifically. Context must guide where
that is possible . . . in Hebrew. I know of no evidence where this same sort of
thing happens in Greek (and our passage is in Greek).
As to Matthew 12:46 and 13:55, first of all this is Greek we are reading and Greek has a word for cousin and, as far as I know, does not use the word adelphos for cousin. So it would have to be explained to me why this word is used if that is not what is meant. Clearly, the Holy Spirit did not make a mistake here. Secondly, why would Jesus' male cousins be accompanying Mary? That is at the very least more difficult to explain than if we are talking about her own children. And in Matthew 13:55-56, there are also "sisters". Asking us to believe that these are – specifically – female cousins, is asking a lot. That would be a strange thing to for these people to say since it would seem to prove very little. But, on the other hand, trying to diminish our Lord by pointing to the members of His own nuclear family seems – to skeptics – to prove that He is "just a man" like all others, since He too has a nuclear family. That argument loses force if we are talking about cousins, and there is no point in bringing in female cousins too if that was what was going on (as it surely seems to be).
b) I don't know of any such, or in Greek generally. It is very hard to prove a negative, of course. One would have to look up the millions and millions of time the word occurs in Greek and analyze each passage carefully. *The point is that to make this argument in any sort of reasonable way a person would have to adduce other passages where in Greek the word definitely means "cousin" in a technical sense. That has not been done (and, absent spending the next thirty years trying to do it for them, I don't think it can be).
2a) The verse (Jn.19:25) says that Mary has a sister, "she of Clopas" who would seem to be her husband (though it is conceivable that she is Mary's half sister); it does not necessarily call her "Mary" in this verse because of the word order.
2b) So I cannot verify that there was a person named "Mary of Clopas"; only that Mary's sister was "of Clopas".
2c) That seems to be the case but I have not studied it out and it would take a lot of time. The Interpreters Dictionary of the Bible (e.g.) has extensive articles on these individuals and mentions and includes much speculation which has ancient pedigrees. In other words, people have been opining about the "who's who?" for centuries and have not gotten to the bottom of it. Since it is so dependent upon various arguments that cannot be decisive (i.e., who is the son of Alphaeus paired with in the gospels?), and since there is no "smoking gun" one way or another, it seems that this is an argument against being dogmatic about cousins – and an argument for taking brothers as brothers: because it says brothers and because "cousins" would only make sense if such a family relationship can be established definitively which it cannot be.
2d) It's possible that she is a half sister (name is not certain and see previous comments). The point is that trying to overturn a very clear text requires very solid arguments, not what if speculations about family structure and supposed alternative use of words which cannot be definitively determined.
3) I don't think this can be determined definitively (see the IDB articles mentioned above on "Mary" and "James").
4) Excellent! This had not occurred to me. It goes hand in hand with the idea that brothers and sisters would be likely to follow Mary around but not cousins and also that skeptics would look to the nuclear family for refutation of Jesus' "special-ness" but not to a wider set of relations.
Sorry to be able to be more precise on some of these matters.
Keep up the good work, my friend!
In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,
Thank you for the detailed response, it has helped a lot. Hopefully just the last couple of clarifications.
Now there stood by the cross of Jesus His mother, and His mother’s sister, Mary the [wife] of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene.
John 19:25 KJV
The conclusions from this verse would go as follows:
a) Mary has a sister, the one "of Clopas".
b) The name of that sister may be Mary, but based on this verse we do not know for certain.
My question on this would be - can we now say that our Lord's mother's sister name is Mary based on Matthew 27:56 and Mark 15:40?
2. In 1a you wrote:
As to Matthew 12:46 and 13:55, first of all this is Greek we are reading and Greek has a word for cousin and, as far as I know, does not use the word adelphos for cousin.
What I wanted to find out on this is whether there exists a possibility
that in Matthew 13:55 the unbelievers who used the words "brothers"
spoke in Aramaic and then Matthew just faithfully rendered that into
Greek, without using a Greek word for cousin?
And on this, Professor, I should perhaps reassure you that I know what the correct interpretation is, I just want to present the best argumentation possible in my response, so I'm trying to pin all these issues down - to the degree that I can.
3. On "Interpreter's Dictionary of the Bible" - is the "New Interpreter's Dictionary of the Bible" a newer version of it? It is available in a software version, even though rather expensive:
And one can get used copies of "Interpreter's Dictionary of the Bible" by Crim, if that is the one you had in mind.
4. Apart from doing a search myself, I have also emailed the German Bible Society and - behold - I got this (attached)! One kind member of the institute sent me the entire list of manuscripts which forms a part of the 28th edition of Nestle-Aland. I now intend to do a little bit more reading on the sigla from the resources I found and then I will use this list of codices in conjunction perhaps with the more detailed description by Metzger in His book, so that these signs become more meaningful.
And on this, Professor - there is the NA28 available at a reduced price through the Bible application I use - do you think it's a good investment to make, so that I have it apart from the UBS5?
5. Would you recommend any of the following to read before I move on to the next subject in my evening study:
a) Aland, L. & Aland, B. (1989). The Text of the New Testament: An Introduction to the Critical Editions and to the Theory and Practice of Modern Textual Criticism. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans.
Apparently this particular book is supposed to contain a good list of manuscripts and their contents, so might be worth getting it just for that.
b) Ehrman, B.D. (1996). The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture: The Effect of Early Christological Controversies on the Text of the New Testament. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
c) Parker, D.C. (1997). The Living Text of the Gospels. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
d) Parker, D.C. (2008). An Introduction to the New Testament Manuscripts and Their Texts. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
I'm asking this question without the intention of becoming a textual critic - something I will not become. But if there is anything else that is worth going through for a solid foundation, I thought I would better ask.
6. In terms of moving to the next area - I can go either with ancient history (finally) or go through the Gleason's "Survey of Old Testament Introductions", which did intrigue me also after Curt's recommendation, particularly given it's closer proximity to the biblical context. As I mentioned to you, I wanted to become more familiar with the chronology and historical background of the Old Testament and this could help. If you think either of these areas should be prioritised (or maybe something else), then also let me know. I'm looking forward to any of these readings anyway.
Thank you for your help with the difficult issues on the family relationships of our Lord. Today I have largely organised my argumentation and will hopefully be able to start writing this section up soon.
In the grace of our Lord,
You're very welcome. This sort of thing is not my main area of research, as you know, so apologies for not being able to be more definitive. As to your questions:
Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Joseph, and the mother of Zebedee’s sons.
Matthew 27:56 NIV
Some women were watching from a distance. Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James the younger and of Joseph, and Salome.
Mark 15:40 NIV
These verse don't identify the second "Mary", either as our Lord's
mother Mary's relative or "of Clopas", so there is no saying that she is
the same person as the one mentioned in John 19:25 when that verse is
read correctly. All the gospels give different information about those
standing at the cross (so it is not correct to conclude that they have
to be the same person).
As to Aramaic and Matthew 13:55, there is no basis for saying at almost any point in the gospels or Acts that what was written in Greek was actually spoken in another language. There are exceptions such as when some phrases are given in Aramaic as well as in Greek or when we are told that something was said in Hebrew (which the versions incorrectly render as "in Aramaic"), or when the audience is mostly Greek (as many times in Acts) or Roman, etc. The NT is written in Greek and was inspired by the Holy Spirit; I have never seen an instance where it could be reasonably argued that "this must have been said in Aramaic because of the way Greek renders it" or, even more importantly, that "this Greek can only be understood by seeing Aramaic as the underlying text". The later is of a course a favorite game of scholars going back to the nineteenth century, but it is worse than a waste of time because it wrongly assumes that the Greek doesn't really mean what it means. I can assure you that the Greek means what it means. I'm glad you asked this question because for me this is the underlying key point: when the Greek says "brothers" it means "brothers" or, alternatively, "faithful associates", but it never means "cousins" in a technical sense, and Greek would consider it very confusing to use the word brother where cousin was meant because Greek does have a word for cousin. My sense of the issue in Hebrew is that this is pretty much the case there as well despite what those on the other side of this issue have been arguing, but that is really neither here nor there when it comes to NT passages written in Greek. In Greek, the issue is clear that these individuals are Jesus blood half-brothers, not His cousins, regardless of what the R.C. church wants to believe.
On the IDB, I do use it from time to time – mostly for issues like this because it is a pretty good synopsis of scholarship on these sorts of issues as well as a quick compendium of biblical and extra biblical sources. But it is not the only thing out there. Also very good (maybe better; I don't use it often) is the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, a work which is almost the same as IDB only more conservative AND free now online since it is in the public domain, at the link: ISBE. Since you prefer online access, his is a much better bet in my opinion.
Your NA28 attachment looks indistinguishable from my NA26. The value of the NA series is that they put more info in the ap. crit. (i.e., the textual notes) than the UBS does – but neither one puts everything (a knotty problem especially in the book of Revelation). Since there has been a trend in "scholarship" to increasingly put less emphasis on Sinaiticus and other older mss. and papyri, I'm guessing (though I do not know) that NA 28 would not be as useful as NA26. In any case, there are more and more mss. online, so that if one does really need to check for oneself it is more and more possible to do so and not be ap. crit. dependent. The ap. crit. is a good place to start, and if I don't see what I'm looking for in the UBS I do go to the NA (or Meyer, etc.), but sometimes there is no substitute for checking the text of e.g. Sinaiticus (at the link).
With the exception of Aland and Aland (which I have in the German version and which is not much different from Metzger's Text of the NT), I'm not familiar with any of the other books (Ehrman sounds like a biased waste of time). They might be useful, but I see this issue as being along the lines of reading only NT Greek; you'd probably be better off with a book on textual criticism on Greek generally, such as R. Renehan's Greek Textual Criticism: A Reader. Mind you, I'm not recommending you do so (it's a very dense book, even for those with Ph.D.s in Classics like myself). You've read enough of Meyer to know how this game is played in the NT. Judging the textual evidence, balancing the possible readings against the meaning of the text, and knowing what does and doesn't work in Greek are the three factors we mix. You have a better grasp of #1 than most already, a superior grasp of #2 (this is where most NT text critics mess up because they do not understand what the Bible means), and #3 only comes with reading more and more Greek (not by reading books on textual criticism).
On the other books, they are both worthy avenues to pursue. Like chicken soup, who knows if it helps, but it can't hurt.
Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,
Thank you for the ISBE link. I may get the IDB too and perhaps opt for the more reasonably priced option. I understand your points on textual criticism also.
1. As to the issue of Aramaic - am I correct to understand that you mean here that those speaking in Matthew 13:55 spoke in Greek? With regard to questioning the true meaning of the words of the Gospels, or even essentially rendering them as meaningless through the scholarship you're describing - I exactly know your point from some of the readings you have recommended to me. According to a lot of "scholarly" work nothing in the Bible means anything, but I wanted to find out about the language used by our Lord's contemporaries, as I was also assuming it was Aramaic or Hebrew.
Also - since this issue came up now, would you recommend any references to find out more about this problem? It would perhaps help me to understand what languages were used by both our Lord and His contemporaries and I haven't looked into this.
2. I read your other email and I have actually addressed the issue of κεχαριτωμονη in some depth in my text. I could send a message to your friend about it, if you wish. I haven't yet translated that part of the text into English but I was going to anyway, so I might just do it a bit sooner.
And I need to say, Professor, I did let myself be led to all these rabbit holes that you mention in the message. I don't know if this is my last apologetic text or not, but I certainly don't want to waste time on these things and I feel I probably wasted some time addressing mariolatry to such depth instead of teaching what the Word says. But now I will just finish what I started, I will try to do so as efficiently as possible and move on.
In the grace of our Lord,
You're most welcome. I think if I'd had access to the internet (or if there had
been an internet) years ago when I bought IDB I probably wouldn't have done so.
ISBE is very similar.
We all need more Greek . . . and more of all the good things you are adding daily to your arsenal. But there are only so many hours in the day and, as you mention, we are not here for 1,000 years. The time is indeed short, the workers are few, and the fields are ripe (or at least show promise of ripening once "it" begins). For what it is worth, I feel you have done a marvelous job of preparation and I am thrilled to see you engaging in ministry. My comments about apologetic "rabbit holes" have to do with my own ministry and the job I have been given to do. We all have different ministries assigned by the Lord (1Cor.12:5) and they have different parameters. You are growing into yours and that is a decidedly good thing. Just because something is hard, doesn't mean it's the wrong thing to do. On the other hand, just because something is hard, doesn't mean it's the right thing to do either. Some people are more motivated by the latter while others are put off by the former but deciding things on their true merits is the right approach in life and in spiritual matters as well.
My preference for you – and for everyone – would be to put the Bible and Bible teaching first, and try to get in as much as we can of the other things we're trying to add to improve our service/ministry daily, recognizing that we are not perfect and the every day presents its own challenges. As long as we really are fighting a good fight, we should be happy with that (this world is a spiritual battlefield after all, and combat is messy and never goes quite according to plan). And as ever, while we do need to be concerned about striving for the Lord, we should feel better about the good things we are able to accomplish more than we feel bad about the things we didn't get too (just as long as that doesn't make us lazy).
On Aramaic in this verse and elsewhere, the point is that we do not know: it could have been Aramaic, or Greek; in this case probably not Hebrew but there is much we don't know about this issue which is at this point in time impossible to find out with specificity; and this verse represents multiple individuals saying this sort of thing repeatedly and at different times rather than one person only once, so it would perhaps even be likely that it was said in several different languages (the culture of that time being bi- and even tri-lingual). All that is interesting, I suppose, but the point really is that the text is written in Greek and inspired by the Spirit as such, so that what the Greek says is what needs to be considered, and Greek convention does not seem to allow for "brothers" to mean, technically, "cousins" – much less "sisters" meaning "female cousins" in this context.
I figured you had some insight on "full of grace". It would be good of you to share it with this person, but I don't mean to put a load on you if you don't already have it ready to hand. Perhaps you could just copy this person once you get around to translating your work in the normal order of things.
Your friend in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,
Also Professor, I'm not sure what you would think of it, but this seemed one of the more comprehensive summaries of the issue we've been discussing: https://zondervanacademic.com/blog/what-language-did-jesus-speak/
This is not a bad article. People were writing books on this subject in the last
century and the evidence from scripture for multiple language use – or at least
Greek – is very strong. Pilate conversing with our Lord and with the crowd is
something that makes little sense unless Greek was common among them (there are
many such situations in the gospels and Acts which require a common language
being postulated). Peter being able to speak to those assembled outside the high
priest's house but noticed for his Galilean accent argues for Hebrew. And of
course there are phrases in Aramaic in the gospels (and Paul uses it too).
One point brought up in another such link is that when Jesus tells Nicodemus, "you must be born again" the word "again" also means in Greek "from above" (see Q/A #3 at the link: "Biblical Languages"). Clearly, that is the more important thrust of the adverb but Nicodemus took it the other way. It's hard to see how that would be possible unless the conversation was in Greek since Hebrew and Aramaic use different words for these two ideas (and in Delitzsch's translation of the NT into Hebrew he uses leme'alah "above" not "again" ('odth) – but that of course doesn't explain N's mistake in understanding of anothen as "again" when Jesus meant it as "from above"; that had to result from the conversation being in Greek where the meaning of the word could have been confused.
In other words, the best way to understand all the evidence is that most people we encounter in the gospels should be taken to be tri-lingual (unless otherwise shown by context) and that most conversations could have occurred in any of the three major languages (unless otherwise indicated by context). In practical terms for the sake of our discussion it means that we take the Greek for its face value without worrying about such "meta" issues (which are likely only to mislead our understanding even if they stoke some scholars' egos).
When, in your passage, the skeptics are recorded as speaking of Jesus' brothers and sisters, they cannot mean this in a generic way since the argument of Jesus being "only human" is based upon Him having a biological, human family, and the closer they are, the better the argument. Since the word(s) are meant thus technically, the argument would be weakened to the point of uselessness by misusing the words brother/sister if that was not what was meant because in that case it would only mean "one of us" – but then they would have said "are not WE his brothers" etc.
Your friend in Jesus Christ,
One more question on John 19:25.
Finally on this point, John 19:25 which is often translated "and His mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas", it should be noted that Greek actually says "and sister of His mother Mary, the wife of Clopas"; since "Mary" is mentioned by name previously in the verse, the insertion of the name where it is placed makes it difficult to take that name with "the wife of Clopas", so most translations probably get this wrong.
So from this I gathered that we don't know if the name "Mary" can be
taken together with "the one of Clopas", but in Christology you give
this list from it seems that the problem is that we don't know if the
words "ἡ ἀδελφὴ της μητρὸς αὐτου" should be taken with "Μαρια ἡ του
Preeminent within this group, even in respect to those mentioned by name as watching and waiting at the crucifixion, namely, Mary, Jesus' mother (Jn.19:25), her sister (Jn.19:25), Mary the wife of Clopas (who may have been Mary's sister: Jn.19:25)(94), Mary the mother of James the lesser and Joseph (Matt.27:56; or Joses: Mk15:40), Salome, the mother of the disciples James and John (Matt.27:56; Mk.15:40; cf. Lk.24:10), is Mary Magdalene.(95)
I may misunderstand something here and it is a complicated issue, but the first quote seems to suggest that we don't know if the "one of Clopas" is Mary or not, and the second proposes a different problem - we know that "Mary" is "the one of Clopas", but we don't know if she is also ἡ ἀδελφὴ της μητρὸς αὐτου.
In the grace of our Lord,
They are problems either way because Μαρια is sometimes indeclinable (the point
of the most recent observation) – which means that its case can only be derived
from context. So again, since it might go either way, this can't be used
as proof for the specious argument being adduced. Regardless of the above,
in Greek, "brother" means brother (unless it means "comrade" in which case it
cannot mean "cousin"), and "cousin" always means cousin.