Thursday, 3 March 2011

A Letter to School

As there is no Catholic school nearby (in fact the nearest good Catholic school is hundreds of miles away...), Bernie, Charlie and Dominique go to the local secondary school. It is generally very good, but every now and then something arises...


Dear Mr X


I was distressed to see, on reading one of Dominique's Year 7 RE handouts, (Unit 3 - Jesus) that it included the following:


‘He (Jesus) lived with Mary and Joseph and his brothers and sisters in Nazareth until he was baptised by John the Baptist.’


This is a highly contested, Protestant, point of view, and from a Roman Catholic position has been formally condemned as heresy as early as the First Lateran Council in 649.


The English translation of ἀδελφός ‘adelphos’ as ‘[blood] brother’ in the Gospels sits uncomfortably with its application to Lot and Abraham, and to Laban and Jacob in Genesis. Likewise, Jesus’s assigning Mary to John from the Cross clearly implies there were no blood relatives to take his place as her son.


In fact the semitic languages had no variant words for cousins and nephews, and the same word was used for all (cf Genesis examples cited), then translated into Greek as ‘adelphos’ leading to this ambiguity.


The Protestant insistence on a literal meaning of ‘[blood] brother’ for this word in the Gospels (though not in Genesis...) is a deliberate rejection of the Catholic (and Orthodox) teaching on the perpetual virginity of Mary - and is therefore also a minority view within Christianity.


I think it unfortunate (to say the least) that this should be presented as a simple fact, in passing, in a text that is not avowedly Protestant. It would be far more helpful, and more honest, to explore the divergence of interpretations - or simply to omit the contentious statement all together. I really dislike having to tell my children that what they have been taught in school is wrong...


I hope that the RE Department will look into this and decide an appropriate solution - and I would be interested to hear your response.


Yours sincerely


Ben Trovato

7 comments:

Dorothy said...

Well done - an excellent letter.

"Jesus’s assigning Mary to John from the Cross clearly implies there were no blood relatives to take his place as her son." I like this. I had always assumed that the reason for Mary's being entrusted to the care of St John was that she had been virtually cast off by her family. It seems from the New Testament references that most (though not all) of them disbelieved in Jesus's teachings. They might well have regarded her as having burnt her boats by accompanying Him. However, your inference that she had no relative who was close enough to be like a son to her, is a really helpful additional insight.

The spiritual reasons, and the immeasurable benefit to John and to us all, are of course a subject for another blog post.

Your blog is always of great interest. Long may you continue with it.

Ben Trovato said...

Dorothy

Thanks for your kind words: glad you find my musings interesting!

Richard Collins said...

Yes, an excellent letter but these days it could just as easily have been a Catholic school that taught Unit 3 (Jesus).

Ben Trovato said...

Richard,

Alas yes: as I noted, the nearest good Catholic school is several hundred miles from where we live. There are others nearer...

Elizabeth from Sussex said...

Great letter. I have saved it for the inevitable moment when my daughter will have to write to her local (Catholic!) secondary.

Left-footer said...

Excellent letter. Thank you and God bless you and your family.

Ben Trovato said...

Maybe I should copyright it and charge a commission on each use - isn't that what ICEL does?...