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.