OH BROTHER, WHAT ART THOU?
Genesis 14:12-14 (12) And they took Lot, Abram's brother's son, who dwelt in Sodom, and his goods, and departed. (13) And there came one that had escaped, and told Abram the Hebrew; for he dwelt in the plain of Mamre the Amorite, brother of Eshcol, and brother of Aner: and these were confederate with Abram. (14) And when Abram heard that his brother was taken captive, he armed his trained servants, born in his own house, three hundred and eighteen, and pursued them unto Dan. A previous meditation (5-10-06, "Caught With One's Hand in the Till") refuted one of the arguments from a Catholic apologist's attempt to defend the heresy of the Perpetual Virginity of Mary. That Catholic, though, was largely focusing on the N.T. texts which plainly speak of Jesus' brothers and sisters (obviously born to Mary) and discounting their implications by pointing out that there are some places in Scripture where 'brother' is used to refer to extended family members (GEN 14:12-14 being an example, where Abraham's nephew Lot is called his 'brother'). Ostensibly (the Catholic affirmed) this was because the Hebrew writers of both Testaments had no other way of expressing the concepts of nephews, cousins, etc. As such, he maintained that we cannot therefore conclude that Jesus had siblings on the basis of texts like MAR 6:3; GAL 1:19, etc. This method of interpreting Scripture is the error of making the exception the rule, and it underscores the importance of facilitating proper understanding by the use of primary definitions, after the manner of the Levites who "read in the book in the law of God distinctly, and gave THE sense, and caused them to understand the reading" (NEH 8:8). The primary definition of 'brother' (and the sense in which it is of common use) is: "1. The word applied to a male being to express his relationship to others (male or female) as the child of the same parent or parents. a. properly. The son of the same parents. But often extended to include one who has either parent in common with another (more strictly called half-brother or brother of the half blood...." (Oxford English Dictionary). The same principle would apply to 'sister.' Unless context or other Scripture demands it, when we read 'brother,' we should be thinking of a relationship like Cain and Abel's (the first place 'brother' appears in Scripture, GEN 4:2). Yes, there are exceptions to that rule, but that's the point---they are exceptions. Exceptions do not nullify the rule, they only prove the rule. And, it is evident that an exception to a rule cannot be the rule. What that Catholic has done is made the exception into the rule for the sake of expediency and by so doing has also made clear understanding of plain words of Scripture an impossibility. 'Brother' is indeed used in Scripture in extended or subordinate senses, an instance being the description of the relationship between Abraham and Lot in GEN 14:12-14. Oxford English Dictionary even cites that text as an example of an extended or subordinate sense of the word. But where such an extended or subordinate sense is to be understood, it is because context and/or deduction demands it. Take the example of Abraham and Lot: we properly conclude that 'brother' in GEN 14:14 is to be understood in other than the primary sense because of GEN 11:27; GEN 12:5; GEN 14:12 which plainly show that Abraham and Lot were not 'brothers' in the primary sense of the word. Rather, they were uncle and nephew. Mind you, the only way that we can conclude that Abraham and Lot were uncle and nephew is by understanding the relationship between Abraham and Haran (GEN 11:27 c/w GEN 12:5) in the primary sense of the word 'brother'. If 'brother' can mean any number of other things (uncle, kinsman, nephew, cousin, etc.) every place it appears, then the relationship between Abraham and Haran could be just about anything, making Scripture an infinite riddle and magnifying even further the errant reasoning of that Catholic. How can that Catholic conclude that Abraham was Lot's uncle since (by his 'rule of exception'), 'brother' in GEN 12:5 and GEN 14:12 cannot conclusively be proven to mean 'brother' in the primary sense of the word? Also, that Catholic was wrong about Hebrew writers of Scripture (be they writing in Hebrew or Greek) not having words for concepts like 'nephew,' 'cousin,' and so relied on 'brother' to express extended family ties. The Hebrew neked (Strong's # 5220) is the basis for 'nephew' in JOB 18:19 and ISA 14:22 and is a different word than was used for 'brother' in GEN 4:2. Also, the Greek ekgonon (Strong's # 1549) translated as 'nephew' in 1TIM 5:4 is a different word than was used for 'brother' in ACT 12:2 (speaking of the brothers James and John, the sons of Zebedee). Similar observations can be made in the Greek for 'cousin.' There is an important difference between the case of 'brother' in GEN 14:14 and 'brother' in texts like MAT 12:46; MAT 13:55-56; MAR 6:3-4; GAL 1:19, etc. In the case in Genesis, Scripture (GEN 11:27; GEN 12:5; GEN 14:12) demands that 'brother' be understood in other than the primary, normal, common sense of the word. But where is such a compelling requirement found concerning Jesus' brother(s)? That Catholic would love such a case, but it does not exist. Therefore, we conclude that the primary definition is appropriate in texts like MAR 6:3. Jesus had brothers in the same sense in which Cain and Abel were brothers. However, if 'brother' is always an indefinite, elastic term, then maybe Cain and Abel were not even brothers in the primary, ordinary sense of the word! With a little Catholic smoke and mirrors, since Scripture says that Adam had sons and daughters (GEN 5:4), and since 'son' or 'daughter' must be at least as elastic as 'brother,' then the possibilities of relationship between Cain and Abel (if any at all) are endless. Perhaps Cain was really Abel's uncle (assuming that 'uncle' is a term of any definite meaning)! For some reason the humorous country song, "I'm My Own Grandpa" comes to mind here. Taking the Catholic approach a step further in reductio ad absurdum, since 'sister' is used in a subordinate or figurative sense by Solomon to refer to his wife (SON 4:9-12; SON 5:1), we could apply that to MAR 6:3 and come to the conclusion that Jesus actually had multiple wives! Ultimately, by that Catholic's system of interpreting Scripture, the whole Book is just one big inscrutable enigma. It is for good reason that the Holy Spirit records that BABYLON THE GREAT's first name is MYSTERY (REV 17:5), for she has by her subtilty made mysteries out of the plainest of revelations, corrupting the simplicity of the gospel of Jesus Christ (2CO 11:3). The trap of making the exception the rule is not unique to the Catholic. It is by such means that Christians who compromise with Darwinian evolution read the Genesis creation account and come up with things like Gap Theory, Day-Age Theory, etc. The reason? Well, (say they) since 'day' can mean something other than an ordinary solar day (the primary definition of 'day' when referring to a unit of time), then 'day' doesn't mean an ordinary day in GEN 1. Curiously, you will note that GEN 1 is about the only place they ever make such an argument. Why don't they do so in EXO 20:9-11; JOS 6:14-15, etc.? Why is the Linguistic Gymnastics event only held in the GEN 1 arena? Answer: The compromisers' love affair with false science. The noble Bible reader has probably already guessed who first used the perverse method of Scripture interpretation called making the exception the rule in order to trip up God's people. Of course it was Satan back in GEN 3:1. God had said that Adam and Eve could eat of every tree EXCEPT one (GEN 2:16-17). Satan then made that exception into the rule, "ye shall not eat of every tree..." (GEN 3:1). May the bride of the last Adam (1CO 15:45) better defend against that ruse than the bride of the first Adam and may God's elect held captive in spiritual Babylon by her mysteries be delivered, heeding His call, "Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues" (REV 18:4).