Elizabeth, Mary's 'sister' or 'cousin'?


#1

In yesterday’s Gospel,(Luke chapter 1) I noticed that Elizabeth is referred to as Mary’s ‘relative’. Some translations say ‘cousin’. We all know her as Mary’s cousin, right?
Was the same word used when the Bible refers to Jesus’ brothers and sisters? I mean, in the original Hebrew or Greek, was the word ‘sister’ used to refer to Elizabeth and Mary’s relationship? I’d like to know because it can help defend Mary’s perpetual virginity.
I often refer to the verse in Genesis that calls Lot, Abrahm’s brother, when we know he was his nephew. Another verse from the NT would be an additional help.
I posed this question to the apologists, but haven’t seen any new posts, so I thought I’d try you guys. Thanks!


#2

It’s not the same word. The word used in Luke 1:36 is the Greek word suggenes, which is usually rendered kinsman or cousin; persons of a close but undefined family relationhip.

The word used for Jesus’ “brothers” in, for example in Matthew 12:46-47, is adelphos. It has a very broad meaning and is used for everything from brothers germane (as in refering to Peter and Andrew in Matthew 10:2), or as in brothers in the faith, like in Matthew 7:4.

For more info on this, see the Catholic Answers tract:
"Brethren of the Lord"
catholic.com/library/Brethren_of_the_Lord.asp


#3

[quote=Fidelis]It’s not the same word. The word used in Luke 1:36 is the Greek word suggenes, which is usually rendered kinsman or cousin; persons of a close but undefined family relationhip.

The word used for Jesus’ “brothers” in, for example in Matthew 12:46-47, is adelphos. It has a very broad meaning and is used for everything from brothers germane (as in refering to Peter and Andrew in Matthew 10:2), or as in brothers in the faith, like in Matthew 7:4.

For more info on this, see the Catholic Answers tract:
"Brethren of the Lord"
catholic.com/library/Brethren_of_the_Lord.asp
[/quote]

Well put. :thumbsup:


#4

I don’t think Mary had any siblings…


#5

[quote=RCCDefender]I don’t think Mary had any siblings…
[/quote]

Wouldn’t it have been a bear, growing up with a sister who never sinned? :smiley:

DaveBj


#6

[quote=DaveBj]Wouldn’t it have been a bear, growing up with a sister who never sinned? :smiley:

DaveBj
[/quote]

Yea, God knew what He was doing. :thumbsup:

Kotton :stuck_out_tongue:


#7

[quote=DaveBj]Wouldn’t it have been a bear, growing up with a sister who never sinned? :smiley:

DaveBj
[/quote]

No kidding, who would you have to blame things on :confused: :stuck_out_tongue:


#8

[quote=DaveBj]Wouldn’t it have been a bear, growing up with a sister who never sinned? :smiley:

DaveBj
[/quote]

How 'bout being married to a woman who never sinned and having a stepson who never sinned?

Joseph must’ve been given LOTS of graces!


#9

[quote=RCCDefender]I don’t think Mary had any siblings…
[/quote]

I think it was in St Catherine Emmerich’s writings, where she says that Mary had several siblings. Does anyone else remember that? It doesn’t make it gospel, but it’s fun to think about…a sister who never sinned! That’s gotta be rough!!


#10

[quote=Fidelis]It’s not the same word. The word used in Luke 1:36 is the Greek word suggenes, which is usually rendered kinsman or cousin; persons of a close but undefined family relationhip.

The word used for Jesus’ “brothers” in, for example in Matthew 12:46-47, is adelphos. It has a very broad meaning and is used for everything from brothers germane (as in refering to Peter and Andrew in Matthew 10:2), or as in brothers in the faith, like in Matthew 7:4.

For more info on this, see the Catholic Answers tract:
"Brethren of the Lord"
catholic.com/library/Brethren_of_the_Lord.asp
[/quote]

Thanks, Fidelis…do you know about the Hebrew or Aramaic words used to describe Elizabeth?


#11

Difficult living with those who “never sinned?”

Hey, guys, didn’t you see the article about Pope Benedict speaking earlier this week, when he said that living a virtuous life was NOT BORING?

That we didn’t have to experience rebellion against God to have a “full human experience?”

I love, love, LOVE that man. “Never sinning” is what the human experience was meant to be in the first place, and what it CAN be with the help of our models Mary and Jesus.

Not that I am being a wet blanket (I hope), and the comments were amusing, but I do want to, as it were, present the “other side of the story”, the side which should be emphasized more often, the “positive” aspects of being “full of grace”.

:slight_smile:


#12

If you read the Protoevangelium of James (not inspired writing but nevertheless interesting) which tells of the birth of Mary, her mother Anna was childless before Mary and had no further children.
It also mentions Elizabeth as a kinswoman.


#13

[quote=Philomena]I think it was in St Catherine Emmerich’s writings, where she says that Mary had several siblings. Does anyone else remember that? It doesn’t make it gospel, but it’s fun to think about…a sister who never sinned! That’s gotta be rough!!
[/quote]

I believe you are correct. If my memory serves it was an older sister. Of course that’s private revelation versus Gospel. I wonder if any of us have a blood line that goes back to Mary’s older sister? Now that might make for an interesting work of fiction.


#14

[quote=Philomena]Thanks, Fidelis…do you know about the Hebrew or Aramaic words used to describe Elizabeth?
[/quote]

Luke’s Gospel, which is the only one to mention Elizabeth, was written in Greek. It is my understanding that the Hebrew/Aramaic term translated into the Greek adelphos also is a catch-all term for “kinsmen.” Otherwise they were forced to use a clumsy circumlocution like “the son of the sister of my mother.”

As for the Blessed Virgin having siblings, we read in John’s Gospel: “But standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene” (John 19:25).


#15

[quote=Fidelis]Luke’s Gospel, which is the only one to mention Elizabeth, was written in Greek. It is my understanding that the Hebrew/Aramaic term translated into the Greek adelphos also is a catch-all term for “kinsmen.” Otherwise they were forced to use a clumsy circumlocution like “the son of the sister of my mother.”

As for the Blessed Virgin having siblings, we read in John’s Gospel: “But standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene” (John 19:25).
[/quote]

Wow, you know, I don’t think I ever noticed that about Mary’s sister! Is ‘sister’ actually used there and not ‘kinsmen’?


#16

[quote=Fidelis]Luke’s Gospel, which is the only one to mention Elizabeth, was written in Greek. It is my understanding that the Hebrew/Aramaic term translated into the Greek adelphos also is a catch-all term for “kinsmen.” Otherwise they were forced to use a clumsy circumlocution like “the son of the sister of my mother.”

As for the Blessed Virgin having siblings, we read in John’s Gospel: “But standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene” (John 19:25).
[/quote]

Slightly digressing but the part you highlight implies that the sister of Mary is Mary the wife of Clopas when in fact many theologians disagree over whether this verse is talking about 3 women or 4 women.


#17

Seems to be pretty consistent across various translations:

Standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary of Magdala. (NAB)

Now there stood by the cross of Jesus, his mother and his mother’s sister, Mary of Cleophas, and Mary Magdalen. (DRV)

So the soldiers did this. But standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Mag’dalene. (RSV)

Now there stood by the cross of Jesus his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Cleophas, and Mary Magdalene. (KJV)

Therefore the soldiers did these things. But standing by the cross of Jesus were His mother, and His mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. (NASB)

Again, however, the Greek word used for sister in John, adelphe, is based on adelphos, a catch-all term for “kinsmen.” It could be translated as kinsman, but as we can see, translators have consistently rendered the word in this verse "sister.’


#18

[quote=thistle]Slightly digressing but the part you highlight implies that the sister of Mary is Mary the wife of Clopas when in fact many theologians disagree over whether this verse is talking about 3 women or 4 women.
[/quote]

That’s true: because of the lack of puncuation in the original, there is no consensus so we can legitimately take it either way. Personally, in the face of alternate interpretations, I always prefer to stand with the tradition of the early Church, especially the one’s closet to the time of the Apostles.


#19

[quote=Fidelis]That’s true: because of the lack of puncuation in the original, there is no consensus so we can legitimately take it either way. Personally, in the face of alternate interpretations, I always prefer to stand with the tradition of the early Church, especially the one’s closet to the time of the Apostles.
[/quote]

A literal translation of the original Greek of John 19:25 states.

But by the cross of Jesus were the Mother of Him AND the sister of the Mother of Him, Mary the wife of Cleopas AND Mary the Magdalene.”

The precise positioning of the ANDs in the Greek makes it clear that there were three women called Mary here, not four, and that Mary the wife of Cleophas is called the Virgin Mary’s “sister”.

This tells us two interesting things.

  1. Comparing crucifixion accounts we can see that Mary of Cleophas is the same as the mother of Joses and James. Therefore the identity of the mother of Jesus so-called “brothers” Joses and James is revealed. They are cousins of Jesus.

  2. Since very few people have two daughters and call them both Mary, it is virtually certain that the word “sister” in this verse does not mean sibling. Again it is clear that the word translated “sister” actually means cousin or close-kinswoman.


#20

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