Does James's bone box destroy Roman Catholic teaching of Mary's perpetual virginity?
With the Washington sniper case, a U.N. declaration on Iraq in the works, and other major stories, the discovery of James's ossuary doesn't get much press today. But where it does, the issue seems to be its implications on Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox teachings of Mary's perpetual virginity.
"The theological implications really turn on interpretation of 'brother' in the New Testament," Biblical Archeology Review editor Hershel Shanks said on PBS's Newshour (audio) last night. "If James was the son of Joseph and Mary, and a younger brother of Jesus, this has implications for the perpetual virginity of Mary. If he was an older brother, there are some scholars who say that the virgin birth was a symbolic virginity and a metaphor for purity. That's another question. And then you have the Orthodox tradition that James was the son of Joseph by a previous marriage. That would fit in with this. That's okay."
Ben Witherington explains further in a Beliefnet column:
The Aramaic word used on the ossuary, akhui, certainly means brother. The order of the words in the inscription does not indicate that Jesus was the son of Joseph. The inscription intends to make clear the two closest male blood relatives of James. It is not commenting on Jesus' relationship with Joseph, but on James' relationship to Joseph and Jesus. There is some evidence, for example in Tobit, that occasionally the word 'brother' might mean something other than full brother, but without any qualification in the inscription the presumption must be that James was related to Jesus in the same way he was related to Joseph.
Both Aramaic and Greek have a separate word for male cousins. Another Beliefnet article examines the perpetual virginity ramifications more closely. It doesn't really take sides, but does say "Catholics may be troubled by evidence corroborating scriptural accounts that Mary gave birth to additional children."
It doesn't really matter anyway, says The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. "Theologians of all stripes agree that the burial box—called an ossuary—doesn't change the argument over whether Jesus' mother, Mary, remained a virgin."
Ironically, it has put some Catholic theologians in the situation of being more skeptical of the discovery than secular archaeologists.
"This only brings to the fore again the discussion. It doesn't give any solution to it. And we don't know at this point whether it refers to Joshua—Jesus—the Son of God or if it is another Joshua," said Johann Roten, director of the International Marian Research Institute at the University of Dayton, tells the Post-Gazette.
Scott Hahn, a former evangelical Presbyterian who is now a Roman Catholic professor of theology and Scripture at the Franciscan University of Steubenville, says the greatest argument for Mary's perpetual virginity is in the Bible. At his crucifixision, Jesus sent Mary to live with John, saying "behold your mother." "Protestant and Catholic scholars agree that this would have been social nonsense," Hahn says. "It would have been illegal for Jesus to do this if he had younger brothers. They would naturally have taken Mary into their homes."
Beliefnet has also added a humor piece on what it must have been like to be Jesus' brother, but a slightly funnier version of the joke is "Jesus' Brother Bob," by the Canadian band The Arrogant Worms. (No music, but the tune is "Bringing in the Sheaves")
Muslim sues Chick-fil-A on religious bias claim
Chick-Fil-A, America's second largest fast-food chicken chain, is known for its Christian principles — especially for being closed on Sunday. In August, Weblog noted a segment on Minnesota Public Radio's Marketplace program where Chick-Fil-A founder Truett Cathy said, "I see no conflict between good business practice and solid biblical principles," he said. "You don't have to be crooked to be successful. You can make a business successful by being honest, truthful, and generous to your employees." This summer, Cathy released a new book, Eat Mor Chikin', Inspire More People, about his faith and business principles.
"In a country of many religious flavors, that attitude can cause trouble," writes Scott Barancik in the St. Petersburg Times.
On Monday, Houston resident and Muslim Aziz Latif sued the company in federal court, claiming Chick-fil-A fired him for refusing to pray to Jesus during a November 2000 training session.
President Dan Cathy told the St. Petersburg Times that "he doubted the suit's merit and that it was the first such claim he knew of against the company."
"For the most part, however, Chick-fil-A's religious inspiration has served it well," writes Barancik, "perhaps never more so than during the corporate scandals of the past year."
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