Joseph’s Children in the Light of Sacred Tradition and Scripture

Joseph’s Children in the Light of Sacred Tradition and Scripture

This section will examine the claims of Orthodoxy that James, Joseph (Josiah), Simon, and Judas were not sons conceived by Mary, but rather the elder sons of Joseph from his first marriage.

Bishop Nikolai asserts that these other sons of Joseph came from an earlier marriage, in which he also had several daughters:

“Not only was he made worthy of the Kingdom of God but also his sons and daughters were. What father would want anything more than that his son would be an apostle of Christ? And Joseph had two sons who were apostles.”

But, not all the “holy fathers” concur with the idea that they were children of Joseph.
Orthodox Church historian Eusebius Popovic tells us in his General Church History:

“In place of His brothers and sisters at the time of His death, Jesus commanded His disciple John to perform the duties of a spiritual son in relation to his mother Mary. From this event, the oldest church tradition interpreted it one way, while the oldest apocryphal gospel interpreted it another way. Rather than understanding these other siblings to be the children of Mary, some thought they were children of Joseph from an earlier marriage, while others considered them to be the children of Cleopas and Mary the ‘sister’ of the Mother of the Lord.”

It is obvious that there has not been unanimous agreement on the Orthodox view that Joseph had children from a prior first marriage (even today, not everyone agrees with this supposition). Consequently, we can conclude that the information Bishop Nikolai has communicated is not verified facts, but rather a matter of debate even among sincere members of the Ecumenical Church.

Although no consensus exists among the holy fathers on the identity of whose children are the brothers and sisters of Jesus, it is obvious that they will definitely not admit the possibility that these brothers and sisters are the children of Mary born in marriage to Joseph. If they admitted this case, then the entire teachings of the traditional churches of the East and the West regarding the “Mother of God” would be devastated. After all, it is not at all clear how the Orthodox and Roman Catholic theologians arrive at the conclusion that these children cannot claim both Joseph and Mary as parents, but instead they attribute them as “second class relatives”. Specifically, their arguments rely on the words in the Greek New Testament text used to describe Jesus’ brothers and sisters as close relatives (brothers and sisters in the example of uncles, cousins, etc.). Former Catholic James G. McCarthy responds to the Roman Catholic belief (which is identical to that of Orthodoxy) in his book The Gospel According to Rome, which was translated into the Croatian language:

“While it is true that the Greek words ‘adelphos’ (brother) and ‘’adelpha’ (sister) can be interpreted in a broader sense at times, the primary meaning of these words refers to those that have common parents. Unless the context otherwise demands [that one should] apply a secondary meaning, one [should] apply the primary meaning of the words. If the Holy Spirit had intended for Christians to venerate Mary as the ‘perpetual Virgin’, then surely there never would have been any mention of His relatives without explanation of why they were called His brothers and sisters. Then, the Holy Spirit could have explicitly said they were not brothers and sisters and, in fact, could have used two other Greek words. When Paul calls Mark the nephew of Barnabas (Colossians 4.10), he uses the Greek word ‘anepsios’. Luke uses the word ‘sungenis’ in a general reference to the fact that Mary and Elizabeth were relatives (Luke 1, 36).”

Looking ahead of what was just quoted, it would be interesting to observe the age of the brothers of Jesus from the perspectives of the Bible and sacred tradition. Namely, as we shall see, the data coming from this study once again confirm the claim of Holy Scripture that it was Mary who gave birth to these children through her marriage to Joseph.

“In the house of Joseph, the All-Holy Virgin continued to live as she did in the Temple of Solomon, occupying her time in the reading of Sacred Scripture, in prayer, in Godly-thoughts, in fasting and in handiwork. She rarely went anywhere outside the house nor was she interested in worldly things and events. She spoke very little to anyone, if at all, and never without special need. More frequently she communicated with both of Joseph’s daughters.”

“James is called the Lord’s brother because he was the son of the righteous Joseph, the betrothed of the Most-holy Theotokos. When the righteous Joseph was near death, he divided his estate among his sons, and wanted to leave a portion to the Lord Jesus, the son of the Most-holy Virgin, but all the other brothers opposed this, not regarding Jesus as their brother. James greatly loved Jesus and declared that he would include Jesus in his share. That is why he is called the Lord’s brother. From the beginning, James was devoted to the Lord Jesus. According to tradition, he traveled to Egypt with the Most-holy Virgin and Joseph, when Herod sought to slay the newborn King… The Lord numbered him among His Seventy Apostles… He was Bishop of Jerusalem for thirty years and zealously governed the Church of God… James was sixty-six years old when he suffered for Christ.”

These texts and traditions lead us to one main conclusion: all of the brothers (and sisters) of the Lord Jesus Christ were older than Him. The first text says that when the 15-year-old Mary came to the house of Joseph, the old man, he already had adult daughters. The other texts (the Prologue for October 23 as well as December 26) state that James, the brother of the Lord, was already an adult man (a full-grown man) at the time of Jesus’ birth.

The sacred tradition of the Orthodox Church adheres to the belief that Joseph was eighty years old when he took custody of Mary. If we assume that Joseph had married his first wife between the age of 20 and 30 years old (although it was custom in Jewish society for men and women to marry at a much younger age), and then she gave birth to her children over the next thirty years, then it would be quite realistic to expect that his youngest child during the birth of the Savior would be about 20 years old and the eldest about 50 years old (which would mean that all the children from his first marriage would have been older than the mother of Jesus). If this were the case, which is precisely what sacred tradition would lead us to believe, then these logical conclusions would strongly contradict what is written in Scripture.

When he wrote his first Epistle to the Corinthians in about 55 A.D., the Apostle Paul mentions the Lord’s brothers (i.e., all other sons of Joseph were called “brothers of the Lord”, not only James) as itinerant preachers of the gospel:

“Do we have no right to eat and drink? Do we have no right to take along a believing wife, as do also the other apostles, the brothers of the Lord, and Cephas? Or is it only Barnabas and I who have no right to refrain from working?”

The reason for citing these verses is that they directly mention the brothers of the Lord who were married and traveled together with their wives on missionary trips (v.5). At the time Paul wrote this letter, according to the tradition of the Eastern Church, the Lord’s brothers would have between 80 and 110 years old. Yet, Paul highlights them as active preachers who travel with their wives. Now Luke 2:36-37 tells us that the prophetess Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, was 84 years old at the time of Christ and considered very old. It is highly unlikely that the brothers of the Lord could have been much older than Anna, nor thereby could they have been very active in the apostolic ministry. On the other hand, this writing of the Apostle Paul makes sense if James and the other sons of Joseph were also offspring of Mary who were born after Jesus came into the world! Even Bishop Nikolai, probably inadvertently, gives us the correct age when James suffered martyrdom, by which date we can also determine when he was born.

If we know the fact that the Lord Christ was born probably around 4 or 5 B.C. , then that means His public ministry began around 27 A.D. when He was 30 years old. The Lord publicly preached about three and a half years, and His earthly ministry concluded at His death in 31 A.D. According to Bishop Nikolai and historical records, in that same year, He founded the first Christian church in Jerusalem where the first overseer (i.e. bishop, which means “overseer” among the main elders of the church) was the Lord’s brother James. The fact cited by Bishop Nikolai shows that James was only 63 years old at the time of his martyrdom. According to the historians Joseph Flavius (first century A.D.) and Eusebius, bishop of Caesarea (fourth century A.D.) , the oversee of the church of Jerusalem was killed in 62 A.D., which is consistent with the thesis that James served in the church for thirty years. But if these dates are accurate (and certainly that they are), then simple math would lead us to the conclusion that James, the brother of the Lord, was born in 1 B.C., approximately three years after the birth of Lord Jesus Christ. This calculation is completely in line with the Bible which claims that Jesus was Mary’s
firstborn son, and after His birth, Mary gave birth to several other sons and daughters. Consistent with this data, the brothers of the Lord at the time of Paul’s first epistle to the Corinthians would have been between 35 and 55 years of age. This age bracket seems much more consistent with Paul’s description of them as being active in missionary travels accompanied by their wives.

But, there is still more evidence that confirms the historical fact that Jesus of Nazareth had younger brothers and sisters who were the children both of Mary and Joseph. One such testimony comes from one of the ancient messianic psalms penned by God’s anointed servant, David, King of Israel. As is known, King David as God’s prophet predicted many events in the earthly life of the Lord Jesus Christ and described them in the Old Testament. For example, David predicted the way that Christ would suffer during His death as well as His resurrection from the dead.

These verses from the Psalms of David, which are listed in the previous footnotes, will serve as proof of my next claim. Psalm 69:8 refers to the Lord Jesus Christ, i.e. a prophecy about Him from ancient times. King David wrote this verse to predict the fact that the Lord Christ will not be accepted as the promised Messiah of Israel even in His own home, i.e. among His close blood relatives in the household. John wrote this:

“His brothers therefore said to Him, ‘Depart from here and go into Judea, that Your disciples also may see the works that You are doing. For no one does anything in secret while he himself seeks to be known openly. If You do these things, show Yourself to the world.’ For even His brothers did not believe in Him.”

However, the events which took place in the home of Jesus of Nazareth, which included unbelief and mockery from His closest relatives, David foretold by the prophetic Spirit centuries earlier. Speaking on behalf of the Jewish Messiah, who was the father and Messiah (as in anointed – the Anointed True Messiah Christ) the son of Jesse said:

“I have become a stranger to my brothers, And an alien to my mother’s children…”

This verse from the Psalm mentioned above stresses that the Messiah would be rejected even by the sons of His own mother, i.e. by His very own brothers! The proof of this verse from Psalm 69 refers just to Jesus Christ and not to David himself (as the Orthodox would likely protest). The following verse, which is interconnected to the previous verse, demonstrates the link to the Messiah:

“Because zeal for Your house has eaten me up, And the reproaches of those who reproach You have fallen on me.”

Anyone who reads the Holy Scriptures knows this verse, as it is, indeed, “split” into two parts and quoted in the New Testament. This verse exclusively relates to the ministry of Jesus the Son of God. By applying this verse to the Savior Jesus, the apostles describe for us the Lord of life:

“Now the Passover of the Jews was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. And He found in the temple those who sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the money changers doing business. When He had made a whip of cords, He drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and the oxen, and poured out the changers’ money and overturned the tables. And He said to those who sold doves, ‘Take these things away! Do not make My Father’s house a house of merchandise!’ Then His disciples remembered that it was written, ‘Zeal for Your house has eaten Me up.’”

“For even Christ did not please Himself; but as it is written, ‘The reproaches of those who reproached You fell on Me.’”

Even after all the previously presented Biblical and historical facts, it might be possible that Orthodox theologians would still need more evidence that Jesus’ mother Mary had other sons and daughters. Psalm 69:8 clearly describes the rejection of the Messiah by His very own brothers born of the same mother as Jesus. Note also that the verse is written in the third person. “He” cannot refer to David, as David is the author of the Psalm. He would have written “I”, not “he”. But for those who still seek more evidence, here is further proof.

Nowhere do the Old Testament books of Samuel, Kings, and Chronicles mention such a fate for David. Furthermore, based on the speeches of Peter and Paul in the book of Acts, it is obvious that the Psalms refer to Jesus as prophet and king (Ps. 16:10; Acts. 2:26-31, 13:35-37). Even in spite of referring to them in the first person, the David Psalm describes the incorruptibility of the Messiah’s body and His resurrection from the dead. Given that King David had physically died a long time ago, they consider the prophecies to refer to the Lord Jesus Christ. The same also applies to the Messiah’s garments, and men throwing dice for them (Ps. 22:18), as well as other prophecies. All these statements are fulfilled one hundred percent only in the life of Christ the Lord. Therefore, Psalm 69:8, together with verse 9, which is also directly linked to Jesus, refer exclusively to Him and His brethren in the body (half-brothers born of His mother). Jesus’ own half-brother subjected Him to unbelief and mockery (consistent with John 7:5).

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The Historical Setting of the Introduction of the Doctrine of Mary’s Perpetual Virginity Was Introduced into Christian Dogma

The Historical Setting of the Introduction of the Doctrine of Mary’s Perpetual Virginity Was Introduced into Christian Dogma

Holy Tradition informs us that not only did Mary conceive Jesus and retain her virginity, but she remained a virgin during and after childbirth. Bishop Nikolai writes:

“When the Most-holy Virgin immaculately gave birth to the Lord and Savior, Salome came to visit her. She was amazed that such a young girl could give birth without the aid of a midwife, swaddle the Child herself, and beside all of that still be on her feet. When it was explained to Salome that this birth was of God and not man, that it was immaculate and without pain, and that the Virgin Mother remained a Virgin after birth as she was before birth, Salome did not believe it, but rather she stretched out her hand to the body of the Most-holy Virgin to examine it, after the custom of a midwife, and to find out if this was indeed so. And because of her unbelief and insolence, a punishment befell her: her hand was seized and withered. The aged woman was greatly frightened by the miracle and lamented over her withered hand. However, when she touched the Divine Child later, her hand was restored to health like it was before. Thus, Salome believed in the virginity of the Most-pure Virgin Mary and in the Divinity of Christ.”

It is completely evident that in the absence of God-inspired biblical texts to prove their beliefs, Orthodox teachers are forced to resort to very dubious sources of tradition. Previously, I have already explained in sufficient detail the teaching of sacred tradition about Mary and her children, so there is no further need to dwell on that issue. Suffice it to say only that the evangelists never mention these “miracles” of the “drying up” and healing of the hands of Mary’s judgmental midwife during the Lord’s birth. Such a “miracle” would have come to the attention of the New Testament writers had it truly occurred.

As demonstrated earlier, the first century Church had completely different teaching about Mary than those in the Orthodox Church would have us believe. (This chapter will deal with this subject in more detail.) However, it is necessary to understand the historical setting when this doctrine appeared in Christian dogma.

Starting with the second century after Christ and the ceasing of apostolic prophecies, false teachings began to seep into the Church. One of these teachings was the interpretation which came from some of the church fathers that Adam’s wife Eve, the mother of all human beings, committed the first sin not by eating the fruit from the Tree
of the Knowledge of Good and Evil (Gen. 3:6), but rather by having sexual intercourse with the serpent (i.e. Satan). These religious authorities began to teach the concept that Mary was Eve’s counterpart. Death came through Eve and life through Mary. Eve gave birth by the words of the serpent, while Mary conceived “by the words of the Lord.”

For the church fathers who interpreted the sin of Eve to be adultery, the virginity of Mary stood in opposition to the immorality of Eve. Her sin and perverted sexuality contrasted with the faith and virtue of Jesus’ mother. Already at the end of the second and early third century, the emergence of monasticism in certain Christian circles corresponded with a special exaltation of the concept of the life of celibacy. Church fathers including Ambrose, Athanasius, Cyprian, and Jerome made Mary out to be a model of Christian virginity. At the end of the fourth century (383 A.D.), Jerome wrote the work in which he claimed that Jesus was the only child of Mary, while he considered the brothers and sisters of Jesus mentioned in the gospels to be more distant relatives. By the middle of the fifth century, Mary was proclaimed “Immaculate” (a Perpetual Virgin). In the year 649 (in the sixth century), her permanent virginity was proclaimed as official church dogma.

Therefore, it is clear that the teaching of the perpetual virginity of Jesus’ mother derived from the minds of later church leaders and not from the Holy Scriptures. This conclusion is completely true, and the following text from Orthodox literature will further demonstrate it. In it we clearly see that the Eastern Church finds support in its belief, first of all, in the apocryphal texts and specific interpretation of certain texts of the Bible. In truth, neither has anything to do with Jesus or Mary. Here is the interesting text from an Orthodox magazine:

“With the name of the Most Holy Virgin, and only with Her name, are two Divine attributes:
She is eternally a Virgin (Innocent Girl) and She gave birth to God, She is the Theotokos.

No one else has these attributes, nor will any other woman have them, nor anyone who ever existed on this earth.

The Eternal Virginity of the Most Holy Mother of God is threefold: She was a Virgin when she conceived God’s Son, She remained a Virgin during the birth of Her Son, and She remains a virgin after He was born. ‘A Virgin conceiving, a Virgin bearing, a Virgin pregnant, a Virgin bringing forth, a Virgin perpetual,’ says the inspired Blessed Augustine. About Her Virginity, Isaiah prophesied: ‘Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel.’ The Holy Prophet Moses on Mount Sinai saw the burning bush that was not consumed and from there the Angel of the Lord spoke to him. This burning bush symbolizes the Most Holy Mother of God; just as the bush burned, but was not consumed, so also the Most Holy conceived, gave birth, and still remained a Virgin. As the Divine Word moved into Her without breaking the seal of Her virginity, so He also enabled her to give birth without violating Her virginity. The Holy Prophet Ezekiel had a vision of the east gate and was told, ‘This gate shall be shut; it shall not be opened, and no man shall enter by it, because the LORD God of Israel has entered by it; therefore it shall be shut.’ Regarding this holy place, [John] the Damascan interpreted as follows: ‘As the LORD kept a Virgin the One who conceived Him, He also kept Her virginity inviolate when He was born. He only went through the gate and kept it closed.’ The Canonical books of the New Testament books and the more apocryphal gospels support the dogma of the perpetual virginity of the Most Holy Mother of God.”

We offer a few brief comments on this excerpt. First, it is true that the prophet Isaiah prophesied that the Messiah Jesus would be born of a virgin without intercourse with a man, just as the apostle Matthew confirms in his gospel (Mt. 1:22-3). However, neither the prophet Isaiah nor the apostle Matthew state anywhere the idea that this girl will remain a Virgin after His birth (in terms of her whole hymen remaining intact). Furthermore, the texts from Isaiah and Matthew do not confirm the so-called “church dogma” that the Messiah is the only child of His mother. One cannot simply read into the Bible that interpretation which the Word does not support. A faithful interpreter of the Bible can only read what the Bible clearly presents in its own text. The only thing that was important to Isaiah and Matthew is the emphasis on the fact that Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit in a completely supernatural way. Neither Isaiah nor Matthew promoted teaching that Mary’s hymen remained “unbroken”.

However, we notice that the text of the magazine states that the authority of this Orthodox teaching rests not upon the first century apostolic accounts inspired by God. Rather, Orthodoxy bases its teaching of Mary upon “inspired” interpretation of the blessed Augustine who lived in the fourth and fifth century after Christ, therefore, more than four hundred years after the birth of the Lord Messiah. It is even a more blatant example of distorting the Book of Ezekiel when the magazine alleges the passage refers to the Mother of Christ. Nor does it properly cite examples from the apostolic writings (in contrast to the justifiable citation of Isaiah from the Matthew text). The interpretation of St. John of Damascus is as close to truth as the sky is to the land. Let us prove the following facts from the Old Testament books.

First, in order to gain the proper understanding of this passage, we need to read it in its proper context. From the perspective of Orthodox theologians who read into Ezekiel 44:2 the bride, they should carefully read the whole context of chapters 40-48. If they had done so, they would have recognized that the prophet describes in these chapters the vision of the future restored Temple of Jerusalem, and the residence of God’s glory among His people, Israel. According to the historical record in Ezekiel 40:1, Ezekiel received this vision in 572 B.C. This vision occurred twenty-five years after the partial scattering of the Jews from Judea over the Babylonian Empire by Nebuchadnezzar in 597 B.C., i.e. fourteen years after the final destruction of Jerusalem and the beautiful temple of Solomon’s temple in 586 B.C.

The reason for the scattering of the Jews among the Gentiles and the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple stems from complete national apostasy from their Lord and their wide acceptance of idolatrous customs over several centuries previously. After the union of David and Solomon’s empire broke up into two parts, Jeroboam, the ruler of the northern kingdom, legislated idolatry and introduced idols of pagan deities into his own territory (1 Ki.12:26-33). Shortly thereafter, the southern territory fell into apostasy as a result of popular rejection of repentance preached by Old Testament prophets. The northern kingdom suffered defeat at the hands of Assyria in 722 B.C., while the southern kingdom finally succumbed to Babylon in 586 B.C., when Jerusalem was looted and the temple collapsed to the ground.

The Temple of God, which represented the place where the glory of the Lord was supposed to be manifested as a sign of His presence among His chosen people , was demolished. Similar to the time of Samuel when the Ark of the Covenant was stolen by the Philistines and transferred to the pagan temple of their idols, the people could also say, “The glory has departed from Israel, for the ark of God has been captured.” (1 Sam. 4:22)

The vision of Ezekiel, described in chapters 40-48, is set while the people had been weeping about their captivity for years, with Jerusalem and the temple lying in ruins. The Lord reveals to His servant future restoration. He strongly emphasizes that the time will come when His glory once again will dwell among the Jewish people assembled in the country. The Lord also discloses to the prophet the smallest details of the dimensions of the future temple and all its auxiliary facilities, and tells him the Israelites will once again worship and revere Him. After God shows Ezekiel the vision of how the future temple (along with the surrounding area) will be arranged, the Lord commands Ezekiel examine and measure the dimensions of the wall on all sides surrounding the Temple complex. On this wall there were three doors of equal size facing the north, south and east. While one could enter through any of these doors by walking straight up to the temple court, i.e. the altar where sacrifices were performed, the very doors of the entrance to the sanctuary (the first room in the temple reserved for priests) and the most holy things faced in the direction of the eastern wall. It is from this direction, the east, that the prophet Ezekiel saw the return of the long lost glory of God to the temple:

“Afterward he brought me to the gate, the gate that faces toward the east. And behold, the glory of the God of Israel came from the way of the east. His voice was like the sound of many waters; and the earth shone with His glory… And the glory of the LORD came into the temple by way of the gate which faces toward the east. The Spirit lifted me up and brought me into the inner court; and behold, the glory of the LORD filled the temple.”

After Ezekiel received some commandments that are related to the future regulation of worship, the Lord just spoke the text that is the subject of our study, which refers to the prohibition against passing through the eastern gate of the future prophecy once the glory of God re-enters the Temple:

“Then He brought me back to the outer gate of the sanctuary which faces toward the east, but it was shut. And the LORD said to me, ‘This gate shall be shut; it shall not be opened, and no man shall enter by it, because the LORD God of Israel has entered by it; therefore it shall be shut.’”

So based on the contextual analysis of Ezekiel, how is it possible that anyone could read into these verses a meaning that the prophecy never intended in the first place? How can anyone turn the gate of the Temple of God into the womb (more technically, the hymen, birth canal, and uterus) of Mary, mother of the Lord Jesus Christ?

However, if the Orthodox want to still persist in asserting that the prophecies of the east gate on the wall of the Temple of Jerusalem, through which the glory of the Lord will enter only in the future , symbolizes Mary’s female sexual organs (the next step in the logic of this misinterpretation of the holy fathers), they will have to answer some more, and one could even say, somewhat bizarre questions. One question, for example, would relate to the remaining two gates on the wall of the future temple in Jerusalem. Unlike the eastern gate through which only the Lord’s glory would pass, many godly worshipers would be able to continuously enter and leave the Temple (Ez. 46:8-10). Which of Mary’s other bodily organs do these other gates represent? Also, if we accept the Orthodox belief that the east gate symbolizes Mary’s womb, which gave birth to the Lord Jesus Christ, how would Orthodoxy explain the meaning of the next verse 43? Who then is the “prince” who is permitted to sit in the gate and eat bread there and to enter and exit through the north or south gate? Of course, it logically follows that the Orthodox would be unable to give meaningful answers to these questions, because their teaching clearly is unfounded. Their teaching relies upon the distortion of Biblical texts outside of their proper contexts.

After everything that we have learned about the true meaning of Ezekiel’s visions, we can only conclude that the argumentation of Orthodoxy, in the absence of biblical evidence to confirm their doctrines, is forced to resort to distorting verses and prophecies and misquoting verses completely out of their actual context. Such desperation clearly indicates their helplessness and inability to contradict the crystal clear teaching of the Bible that Mary gave birth to other children after Jesus was born. Of course, this fruitless effort by the Orthodox to deny the clear teaching of Scripture clearly cannot even compare to the grave they have dug for themselves in equating sinless Mary with the burning bush where Moses encountered the Angel of the Lord in the Old Testament (Ex. 3:1-10).

Such comparison of various biblical events and personalities, which in general have nothing to do with one another (such as the burning bush that is not consumed with Mary, the mother of the Lord Jesus) are used deliberately to rationalize and preserve the unbiblical doctrines of the so-called “Church of Christ” (Orthodox Church) regarding the perpetual virginity of Mary.

However, as much as the holy fathers try to compare Mary with bushes and temple gates, it still remains unclear why they could not find other comparisons. For example, what about the ass of Balaam, the only animal that God created, at some point it spoke with a human voice and communicated to a stubborn prophet a meaningful message (Num. 22)? The logic would follow that just as the ass was permitted only one time in its life to speak in a human voice, so Mary was the only one worthy to give birth to the Son of God once, and afterward could never have any more children again. Well, perhaps we can breathe a sigh of relief that the Orthodox apologists have not completely fallen into such blasphemy and lunacy.

Our long study of the tradition held by the Eastern Church has nearly touched on most of the beliefs that are related to Jesus’ mother. As was the case until now, once again we will demonstrate that Orthodox doctrine is completely contrary to Biblical revelation.

The Assumption of the Holy Mother of God

The Assumption of the Holy Mother of God

The belief of the Orthodox Church, which finally crowned Jesus’ mother on the throne as the Heavenly Queen and Mediatrix, and which has no foundation in Scripture, is the doctrine of Mary’s Resurrection and Assumption into Heaven. Here is a narrative from sacred tradition:

“John had a home on Zion in Jerusalem in which the Theotokos settled and remained there to live out the end of her days on earth. By her prayers, gentle counsels, meekness and patience, she greatly assisted the apostles of her Son… On one occasion, the Archangel Gabriel appeared to her and revealed to her that within three days she will find repose. The angel gave her a palm-branch to be carried at the time of her funeral procession. She returned to her home with great joy, desiring in her heart once more to see in this life, all of the apostles of Christ. The Lord fulfilled her wish and all of the apostles, borne by angels in the clouds, gathered at the same time at the home of John on Zion. With great rejoicing, she saw the holy apostles, encouraged them, counseled them and comforted them. Following that, she peacefully gave up her soul to God without any pain or physical illness. The apostles took the coffin with her body from which an aromatic fragrance emitted and, in the company of many Christians, bore it to the Garden of Gethsemane to the sepulcher of [her parents], Saints Joachim and Anna. By God’s Providence, they were concealed from the evil Jews by a cloud. Anthony, a Jewish priest, grabbed the coffin with his hands with the intention of overturning it but, at that moment, an angel of God severed both his hands. He then cried out to the apostles for help and was healed since declaring his faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. The Apostle Thomas was absent, again according to God’s Providence, in order that a new and all-glorious mystery of the Holy Theotokos would again be revealed. On the third day, Thomas arrived and desired to venerate [kiss] the body of the Holy All-pure one. But when the apostles opened the sepulcher, they found only the winding sheet and the body was not in the tomb. That evening, the Theotokos appeared to the apostles surrounded by a myriad of angels and said to them: ‘Rejoice, I will be with you always’. It is not exactly known how old the Theotokos was at the time of her Falling Asleep but the overwhelming opinion is that she was over sixty years of age.”

So, as we did with the previous “celebrations of the Mother of God”, so this case will also demonstrate the utter inconsistency of these beliefs in relation to the apostolic New Testament writings.

We start from the previous assertion that Mary lived more than 60 years. If this statement is correct (and this is the only statement that could be in accordance with the Bible), it means that she died between 35-50 A.D., which assumes she was between 15-20 years when Jesus was born – which is very likely. This would mean that Jesus’ mother died before any of the books of the New Testament were written, e.g. during the time when Christ’s teachings were still transmitted via word of mouth. Shortly afterwards, the apostles began to record the epistles and other canonized works. The first question that arises is this: why did the apostles not write a single word about Mary’s Assumption, which, apparently, would have been a very important event for the salvation of the whole world? Such an event would have been much fresher in memory than those events from the time of Jesus’ childhood, youth and messianic ministry!

The book of Acts describes the events that transpired from Christ’s Ascension, roughly 31 A.D., to Paul’s time in Rome around 60 A.D. So what is believed to be the “Assumption” would have occurred roughly midway through this time period. Regarding the alleged “Ascension of the Virgin”, we can safely say it would have been considered a super miraculous even for that time period.

Despite the great miracles performed by the apostles, such as, for example, the healing of the paralytic at the entrance to the temple, the deaths of Ananias and Saphira, the martyrdom of Stephen and his vision of the glory of God and Christ in heaven, the healing of the lame at Lystra, healings by the shadow of Peter and the handkerchief of Paul, the narrative of the Resurrection and Ascension of the Theotokos contains several major miracles within just one event. We read about the angelic proclamation of the death of Mary, the apostles riding on the clouds to be in her presence, and the preaching to the apostles by a woman who was terminally ill.

However, this was not the end of the miracles. The most amazing ones are yet to follow. After the death of Mary, the apostles put her body in a coffin (though Jewish tradition and custom tells us that people at that time in Israel used open burial a lot more often than closed coffins; burial was not done in coffins, but by laying the body in a curved funeral dress in a tomb carved in rock) from which an aromatic fragrance emitted and was concealed from her enemies by a cloud. Also, we have the hands of Anthony the priest that were cut off and then healed. (This incredible event resembles the slashing and subsequent healing of the ear of Malchus, slave to the High Priest in Lk. 22:49-51 and Jn. 18:10.) This tradition in many respects mirrors events in the gospels, such as the absence of Thomas from the burial and assurance of the resurrection. Of course, the greatest sacrilege is the episodes ascribing to Mary “omnipresence” – a property which no created being possesses, but only God. What else could that sentence attributed to Mary mean: “Rejoice, I will be with you always”? Compare Mary’s “omnipresence”, which is solely a divine attribute to that which the Lord Jesus Christ applied to himself in Matthew 28:20, when he said: “And surely I will be with you always, even to the end of the age.”

The wise Solomon in his prayer said:

“O LORD, God of Israel, there is no God like you in heaven above or on earth below—you who keep your covenant of love with your servants who continue wholeheartedly in your way… But will God really dwell on earth? The heavens, even the highest heaven, cannot contain you. How much less this temple I have built!”

The Psalmist also declares that God is present everywhere:

“O LORD, You have searched me and known me.
You know my sitting down and my rising up;
You understand my thought afar off.
You comprehend my path and my lying down,
And are acquainted with all my ways.
For there is not a word on my tongue,
But behold, O LORD, You know it altogether.
You have hedged me behind and before,
And laid Your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
It is high, I cannot attain it.

Where can I go from Your Spirit?
Or where can I flee from Your presence?
If I ascend into heaven, You are there;
If I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there.
If I take the wings of the morning,
And dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
Even there Your hand shall lead me,
And Your right hand shall hold me.
If I say, “Surely the darkness shall fall[a] on me,”
Even the night shall be light about me;
Indeed, the darkness shall not hide from You,
But the night shines as the day;
The darkness and the light are both alike to You.”

Therefore, anyone other than the Lord who makes a claim that he (or she) will be with his disciples everywhere and in every place – this person must be omnipresent and also omniscient, all-wise, omnipotent, etc. Someone has calculated that in the present
time, from the mouths of one billion and three hundred million Roman Catholic and Orthodox believers (because they all pray to God), each second of time ascend into Heaven about fifty thousand prayers – from all over the world. It is certain that no one except the Triune God can process so much information in seconds and at the same time.

The last thing I want to point out to solve the mystery of the “Assumption” is the prayer pronounced by the apostles after they saw Mary ascending. This short prayer (which is much more like a cry for help) follows:

“The apostles cried out, ‘Most Holy Mother of God, help us!’”

As stated previously, Scripture not only tells us nothing about this complex event, but nowhere does it ever mention that the first Church ever named Mary “Theotokos”. Not one of the verses of the New Testament that mention the mother of Jesus , be they spoken or written by the apostles, evangelists, or other figures mentioned in the Bible, ever refer to Mary except simply by her first name, without any other epithets. If it had been customary to refer to Mary as “the Mother of God”, then one must wonder why the apostles never recorded it anywhere in the New Testament.

The German author Ernst Benz, an excellent scholar of Orthodox theology, wrote
his book The Spirit and Life of the Eastern Church in gratitude to his “very valuable living and dead teachers of the Orthodox Theological Institute in Paris. He mentions the following:

“The development of the title Mother of God as ‘Blessed Virgin’ – Theotokos – and
the evolution of the respective dogmas comprise one of the most astonishing events in the history of the ancient church. The New Testament provides only insignificant bases for this development, indeed, proofs for the creation of a special title for Mary are quite insufficient, because in contrast to Jesus Christ, who is in the center and foreground of all four gospels, Mary is completely in the background. The gospels clearly show that Jesus’ development as a preacher of the kingdom of God took place in very sharp opposition to his family, which, according to Mark’s Gospel, was so skeptical of his mission that they considered him crazy (Mk. 3:21). Consistently, all the Gospels suggest that Jesus was separated from his family and that, also, his disciples attached value to that separation. John’s gospel also contains traces of very tense relations between Jesus and his mother. However, Mary appears twice without naming labels as the mother of Jesus, however, Jesus himself regularly does not mention her name and addressed her by the word ‘woman’, which, according to Jewish custom, was unusually offensive. It is a hard word – ‘ Woman, what does your concern have to do with Me?’ (Jn. 2:4) This is the most powerful expression of conscious distancing.”

Since we have demonstrated that even this Orthodox tradition has nothing in common with the divine Biblical accounts, we now can work with the historical facts that can disclose the source of the origin and beliefs of the majority church in Serbia on the issue of the “Mother of God.”

Pagan Origins of the Mother of God

Pagan Origins of the Mother of God

“In one sense, it is comparable – by the religious and mythological context of the archetypical personality of the Virgin Mary (who from that century at the Ephesian Synod was pronounced to be Theotokos), it could have been, we believe, converted into the cult of the Mother of God which had already been prepared in the traditional religions of the East and the West. In various ancient cultures, both Oriental and Hellenized, she was known as Isis, Aphrodite, Inana, Sybil, Maya, or Shakti.”

The successors to the apostles, the elders of the fellowships at that time, in many cases proved negligent in maintaining the “faith once and for all delivered unto the saints”, and in the early church communities there began to sprout beliefs that had not originally been Christian, but had origins in the pagan religions of the people and various philosophical movements. One such belief was the proclamation of Jesus’ mother as Mother of God and Queen of Heaven.

God’s fiercest enemy, Satan, knew the Lord’s prophecy about the birth of the Savior from the womb of a virgin mother and planned for centuries a vicious hoax.

As was the case in the fallen world before the Flood, and even after the great catastrophe of the Flood, the devil seduced people with pagan polytheism. One of the characteristics of paganism in ancient Sumer was the mockery and imitation of the divine Trinity, in the form of the triad of gods who are named Nanna (Sin), Inanna, and Utu (Shamash). Nanna was the “god of the moon” and the father of Inanna and Utu. Inanna was actually the planet Venus (the Dani star), the goddess of fertility, love, and war, and Utu was the sun god.

Professor Miroslav Markovic in his Study of Classical Religion, speaks about the Greek goddess Aphrodite and notes that it does not come originally from its local area areas (from Greece), but was “imported” from the Middle East:

“So let us start from the beginning. A long time ago (circa 3000 B.C.) there lived in the Mesopotamian cities of Uruk and Babylon a powerful Sumerian goddess named Inanna. She had many lovers, but her beloved was a mortal shepherd named Dumuzi. Unfortunately, Dumuzi died young. Starting around 2400 B.C., the Akkadian name of this goddess is Esh-tar, and the Babylonian name is Ishtar.”

“Now let us turn to the ancient Aphrodite, also known as the Sumerian goddess Inanna and the Akkadian Ishtar. She was a powerful goddess of sexual love and fertility since the beginning of the third millennium B.C. But as war was the main activity of every king of Assyria, and as Ishtar was his divine spouse, she felt it her duty as his wife to become the goddess of war. She followed her husband to the military expeditions to ensure success of his many conquests. The third feature was for her to become the ‘Queen of Heaven,’ which shows that Ishtar was identified with the planet Venus.”

So this goddess Ishtar was called the “Queen of Heaven” and had a significant role in the Pantheon of the gods at that time. Encyclopedia sources tell us that this goddess was portrayed mainly in statues as a mother holding in her arms a little male child. This goddess was probably known before the dispersion from the area of the Tower of Babel (Gen. 11), such that all the tribes brought with them its worship cult following the confusion of their languages. Thus, each nation continued to submit to the Queen of Heaven, just under a different name. In China, it was known as Sheng-mu (Holy Mother). She was depicted with a child in her arms and rays of glory around his head. The old Germans worshiped the Teutonic virgin goddess Hertha which is also shown with a child in her hands. The Scandinavians knew this goddess under the name of Disa, the Etruscans Nutria, and the Druids Virgo Partitura (Mother of God). The Indians had several of these “divine Mothers” – Krishna, the son of Devaki, and Isi with the child Iswary. The Greeks knew the heavenly queen as Aphrodite, the Romans Venus, in Asia Cybele. The Egyptians celebrated the Mother Goddess Ist (Isis) and her child as Horus. The Old Testament Israelites knew her as Astarte, which came from the religion of the Phoenicians.

Speaking about Adonis, the lover of the Greek goddess Aphrodite, historian N.A. Kuhn tells us some of the characteristics of the goddess:

“Aphrodite was originally a goddess of the sky – which sent the rain – and also, it seems, the goddess of the sea. In the myth of the goddess, Aphrodite really showed the impact of the East, mostly from the cult of the Phoenician goddess Astarte. Aphrodite, however, gradually became the goddess of love. God of love is Eros – Amor – her son.”

“The Greeks borrowed the myth of Adonis and Aphrodite from the Phoenicians. The name Adonis is not of Greek origin, but Phoenician, and means ‘lord’. However, the Phoenicians borrowed this myth from the Babylonians: the myth of the Babylonian goddess of love Ishtar and her beautiful son Tammuz, who died and every spring would resurrect.”

Over a period of several centuries, with short breaks when they were ruled by God-fearing kings, the Israelites worshiped the pagan gods Baal and Ashtar (Queen of Heaven) instead of Yahweh God (Jehovah):

“Then the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the LORD, and served the Baals; 12 and they forsook the LORD God of their fathers, who had brought them out of the land of Egypt; and they followed other gods from among the gods of the people who were all around them, and they bowed down to them; and they provoked the LORD to anger. 13 They forsook the LORD and served Baal and the Ashtoreths.”

It is tragic that those who had God’s Law (i.e. the Scriptures) and knowledge of the true God still turned their backs on Him and served pagan idols. Moreover, under the influence of paganism, the wise Solomon, king of Israel, fell because of his attraction to his many pagan wives, who later caused him to minister at the altar of Ashtar i.e. the Queen of Heaven:

“For Solomon went after Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians, and after Milcom the abomination of the Ammonites. Solomon did evil in the sight of the LORD, and did not fully follow the LORD, as did his father David.”

At the time of God’s prophet Jeremiah (7th and 6th century B.C.), the Lord used sharp words to warn the Israelites of their apostate behavior. Among other things, he warned them not to worship or serve the “Queen of Heaven”:

“Therefore do not pray for this people, nor lift up a cry or prayer for them, nor make intercession to Me; for I will not hear you. Do you not see what they do in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem? The children gather wood, the fathers kindle the fire, and the women knead dough, to make cakes for the queen of heaven; and they pour out drink offerings to other gods, that they may provoke Me to anger.”

The end result of rejecting worship of the True God and glorifying the false Queen of Heaven was not exactly a happy one for the Jews. The Lord allowed the Babylonians to conquer their land, kill many of the Israelites, and take the rest into slavery.

Mary, the Mother of Jesus, as “Queen of Heaven”

Mary, the Mother of Jesus, as “Queen of Heaven”

“Having conquered the natural death of humanity in Her Ascension, She was not abandoned to decay, according to church belief, She was resurrected by Her Son after three days, and dwells in his celebrated body of His right hand in heaven as Queen of Heaven.”

Although nowhere do the writers of the gospels ever suggest even the slightest idea that Jesus’ mother could be the “Queen of Heaven”, the Orthodox Church considers its reverence for Mary as correct and faithful. It is obvious that the history of the church at some point adopted syncretism, i.e. the fusion of pagan ideas with Christian belief. Ernst Benz confirms specific examples of syncretism:

“It is instructive that the cult of the Mother of God gained strong momentum at a time when Constantine gave official state recognition to the Christian church by making it the official religion of the Empire and when the pagan masses of the Roman Empire began to have access to the church. The peoples of the Mediterranean and the Middle East, whose piety and religious awareness over thousands of years created a large cult of the mother-goddess and divine virgins – which developed from the ancient folk religions of Babylon in the mystery cult of Ashtarte during the Hellenistic periods and resulted in devotion to the cult of the goddess as a voluntary, uniting factor for all peoples and nations – could not accept exclusively the rule of God the Father and the strict patriarchal structure of the Jewish concept of God as captured in early Christian teaching. By the thousands they requested deity worship through the cult of devotion to the Great Virgin and Mother to be also in the Christian Church, despite unfavorable conditions, a new opportunity for expression was found in devotion to the Virgin Mother of God, which produced the mysterious union of the divine Logos with human nature. The spontaneous impulse of folk piety, which was penetrated by this direction, went far ahead in the practice and doctrine of the Church.”

It is fascinating to read the information from Professor Miroslav Markovic that confirms the strong influence of paganism on the development of doctrine about the Mother of God:

“It logically follows that the ‘queen of heaven,’ is the planet Venus, the morning star (Phosphoros) and Hesperus (Hesperos), the goddess Ishtar-Aphrodite-Ashtarte with power over the sea. It chases away the storm clouds and stills the waves. Therefore, it became the protector of sailors and received the epithets Pontia, Euploia and Limenia (“goddess of navigation, happiness, and peaceful harbor”).

The early Christian Virgin Mary inherited the functions of Aphrodite as ‘the Queen of Heaven’ (regina caeli), Ruler of the Sea (Venus Marina), and the protector of sailors. Even to today, many rural churches on the Aphrodite island nation of Cyprus under the name of Theotokos pray to the Panagia Aphroditissa (‘most holy Aphrodite’).”

Icons of the Most Holy Mother of God (Queen of Heaven)

Icons of the Most Holy Mother of God (Queen of Heaven)

Mother Goddess, among the nations where it was known, was called “Mylitta”, which in translation means “intercessor”. Therefore, it is not surprising that they call Mary “intercessor” in Orthodoxy, though such a name has no Biblical basis. History also claims that at the time of the paganization of Christianity, the Egyptian Church bishops issued a special decree where they renamed the statues of Isis and Horus as Mary and Jesus, without any break in continuity. In this way, the pagan icon worshipers continued to worship the same images only with different names.

Ernst Benz gives us very useful information about the time of the first Icon of the Mother of God:

“Regarding the image of Mary, there is nothing clearly defined directly in the New Testament. Assumptions for the creation of icons of the Mother of God were devised only in the Mariology of the fourth century. The New Testament gives very few physical details about Mary. The Eastern Orthodox Church has numerous legends about Mary, which primarily focuses on the amazing appearance of the miraculous image of the Mother of God.”

What is particularly important is that the Orthodox icons of Mary generally depict her holding Jesus in her arms. These portraits are identical to those of the Queen of Heaven with her divine child as seen in many, previously listed, old religions and cults. (If you were to visit the home of followers of Hare Krishna, you would most likely see, among other images, one of the virgin Devaki with her son, which is similar to the Orthodox icons of Mary and Jesus.) On one icon called “Holy Virgin Giving Breast Feeding”, Mary is shown to breastfeed the baby Jesus. Professor Markovic says a few words:

“Lastly, my argument concerns the motifs, ‘Mother and Child’, Aphrodite and Eros… We are here restricted to the so-called type “curotrofni” representation of the goddess, that is, Aphrodite with the baby Eros on her breasts, which was on the side… The goddess of love and her babies have become a popular theme in Greek art… Painted vases from the Lipari Islands (330 B.C.; LIMC 1238) shows a happy mother breastfeeding her baby, Venus lactans. Similar terracotta from the British Museum shows the same position Isis lactans (first century B.C.), with the great Egyptian goddess Isis breastfeeding the baby Harpocrates (in Egypt, “the baby Horus”). Our next step is to compare Isis lactans from Karanisa in Egypt (around 300 A.D.) with Maria lactans (Virgin Mary breastfeeding Christ), with bas-reliefs from Medinet Madi (about 500 A.D., now in Berlin): they are identical, the only important difference is that the artist drew two crosses for Mary.

The conclusion is clear: the type of archaeological Venus lactans influenced the type of Isis lactans, and this influence is reflected again in the early Christian icons as Maria lactans (i.e. the Orthodox icon of “Holy Virgin Giving Breast Feeding”)… To take a step further – kampanska oinochoe (around 350 BC, now in Paris, LIMC 1241) shows how Aphrodite adores her son Eros, just as Mary adores her baby Jesus in the most famous Russian icon, the Virgin of Vladimir, which was painted by a Byzantine artist about 1125 (now in the church in the Kremlin). In short, religious traditions have long histories, and many versions of Aphrodite were transferred to the Virgin Mary.”

Conclusion

Our conclusion would be identical to that presented by the above author. Based on a detailed study of Scriptural texts that speak of Jesus’ mother Mary, and the views of pagan religion, we can safely conclude that the beliefs of Orthodox Christianity are not based on the teachings of God’s inspired and infallible Word. With sorrow, we must note that the theologians and believers mentioned in this branch of the Christian faith are sorely misinformed and misguided by the teachings of the “holy fathers”, who seduced them to pursue this path.

The Israelites in the Old Testament time were warned by the prophet of God that to revere the Queen of Heaven violates the will of the Almighty:

“…all the proud men spoke, saying to Jeremiah, ‘You speak falsely! The LORD our God has not sent you to say, ‘Do not go to Egypt to dwell there’… As for the word that you have spoken to us in the name of the LORD, we will not listen to you! But we will certainly do whatever has gone out of our own mouth, to burn incense to the queen of heaven and pour out drink offerings to her, as we have done, we and our fathers, our kings and our princes, in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem. For then we had plenty of food, were well-off, and saw no trouble.”

I sincerely hope that a certain percentage of my Serbian people will realize that the Word of God is very clear, and that those who continue to violate His will, such as those during the time of Jeremiah, the Lord will later punish with His holy wrath.

In addition to these truths proven about the beliefs of Eastern churches along with other historical facts in consideration of its other dogmas , once again we emphasize the point that the Orthodox Church is definitely not an extension of the first apostolic Church founded by Christ.

Eastern Orthodox Teaching on Salvation

Eastern Orthodox Teaching on Salvation

“Justification is not given once and for all, nor is it a guarantee of eternal
salvation, but it depends on how much a man will live righteously or sinfully in the future. There exists no such thing judicially that instantly converts a sinful person into a righteous one.”

“I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel, which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ.”

“Therefore, it is no wonder that the Orthodox doctrine of justification plays such a minor role. The most common presentation of the Orthodox teaching on religion by John of Damascus does not mention the concept of justification at all.”

Both the very beginning and the end of the previous chapter presented the claim that the systematic teaching of salvation as described in the Bible radically differs from what the Orthodox Church teaches. It is easy to determine which religious organizations do not teach the Biblical truth on this issue. In complete opposition to numerous quotes from Scripture that show that Christians can be assured of their eternal salvation with God now, Orthodox believers live in constant fear and insecurity. Of course, this stems from their belief that salvation is based on works of human merit, and thus they need to earn God’s favor in order to receive eternal life. Some of the works that Orthodoxy cites in order for human beings to attain the kingdom of Heaven include: baptism, communion, fasts, confession to the priests, prayers to dead saints and angels of God, prayer on behalf of the souls of dead people, and many other types of works.

Before we begin to study the issue of Eastern Orthodox doctrines of salvation, we will respond first to the criticism that Eastern Orthodox theologians hurl at evangelical Protestants. They accuse Protestants of propagating erroneous beliefs that are contrary to the Bible. Such criticisms are, of course, the result of unfounded and erroneous understanding of the texts of Scripture on the part of Orthodoxy, as will be proven.

The last chapter clearly demonstrated that the entire Bible, including both the Old and especially the New Testaments, strongly emphasizes that salvation comes only by the grace of God exclusively through faith in Christ the Savior (i.e. the birth of God in human flesh by the Holy Spirit). Despite such clear teaching, the Orthodox theologian Lazar Milin states the following complaint in his book. He uses a very narrow argument to persuade the “true believers” that Protestants (including those of evangelical persuasion) base their doctrine of salvation on an incorrect translation of the Epistle to the Romans by Martin Luther. Here is what Mr. Milin writes:

“As a matter of fact, Luther argued, and other Protestants also affirmed, that a man is justified before God only through faith in Christ and the redemption that Christ brought to suffering humanity. This is called a material principle of the Reformation. Good works are not necessary for salvation… It is interesting to study the process how Luther translated the Holy Scriptures into the German language. In Romans 3:28, the verse reads: ‘We believe, namely, that a man is justified by faith independent of works of the Law.’ Luther added to the translation an extra word: “alone”. That word corrupted the Holy Scriptures to say what Luther declared as a material principle of the Reformation: ‘Man is saved by faith alone.’… Regardless of the fact that such teaching is illogical and contrary to the Bible, it has infiltrated the entirety of Protestantism in all its forms.”

It is obvious that Milin and other Orthodox theologians, as well as ordinary Orthodox believers, believe that Protestants are wrong. They believe that Protestants are misled by Luther’s translation of the Holy Scriptures.

Is it truly possible to believe this accusation after reading the previous chapter? After we have provided scores of Biblical texts, which very clearly describe God’s way of salvation, valid for every person? Well, is there anywhere else in the Bible that states that a man can only be saved (or justified) by God through “faith alone”?

Regarding this issue, we can give a very clear answer. Even if such wording existed nowhere else in Scripture, that is, the system of salvation by faith alone, the biblical text confirms everything (with the proviso that readers understand how they were written).

However, the Lord through the Apostle Paul ensured that once and for all that the biblical text would indeed uphold the doctrine of salvation through faith alone for those who wish to accept Him and obey His Word. The apostle Paul wrote Galatians, an epistle in which he fought strongly for the purity of faith and the correct understanding of God’s gift of salvation, among other things. In describing his earlier interaction with the Apostle Peter, Paul said the following:
“But when I saw that they were not straightforward about the truth of the gospel, I said to Peter before them all, ‘If you, being a Jew, live in the manner of Gentiles and not as the Jews, why do you compel Gentiles to live as Jews?… knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, that we might be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law; for by the works of the law no flesh shall be justified. But if, while we seek to be justified by Christ, we ourselves also are found sinners, is Christ therefore a minister of sin? Certainly not!”
Perhaps you might be one of those Orthodox readers who believe that the quote cited above is simply taken from a Lutheran or other Protestant translation of the Bible. However, the translation cited above (and which is used throughout this book – unless otherwise noted) came from an original Greek Orthodox translator, a priest and professor of the Serbian Orthodox Church Seminary in Belgrade, the late Dr. Emilian M. Carnica. Besides Carnica’s translation of Galatians 2:16, there are other verses in his translation (where they clearly affirm that a man is justified by faith alone). Other translations show the same teachings. Another translator and professor of the Orthodox Theological Seminary, Dr. Dimitrije Stefanovic, in the first half of the 20th century, translated the verse of Galatians 2:16 this way:
“However, knowing that a man is justified not by works of the law but by faith alone in Christ Jesus, and we are in Christ Jesus, having believed to be justified by faithin Christ, not works of law, because by the works of the law, no one will be justified.”

Vuk Karadzic translated this verse in a very similar way:
“Since we know that a man cannot be justified by the works of the law, but only through faith in Jesus Christ, and we are believers of Jesus Christ to be justified by faith in Christ…” (Author’s emphasis.)
The following quotes come from another Serbian translation, two Croat (Catholic translations), and the final one is a Protestant (also Croatian) translation:
“But knowing that the law does not justify a man, but only faith in Jesus Christ, and to put faith in Jesus Christ, that man is justified by faith in Christ…” (Translation of Dr. Louis Bakotić. Author’s emphasis.)
“And because we know that man is not justified by the deeds of the law, but only through faith in Jesus Christ, we who are believers in Christ Jesus are justified by faith in Christ…” (Translation of Dr. Ivan Ev. Saric, the Archbishop of Vrhbosna, fifth edition,
Salzburg 1969.)
“But as we know that man is not justified by the exercise of the law, but only faith in Jesus Christ, that we have embraced the faith in Christ Jesus, then we are justified by faith in Christ … ” (Translation by Christian Bible Institute, Dr. Lјudevit Rupčić, Zagreb 1983.)
“Knowing that man still is not justified by the works of the law or otherwise, but only by faith in Jesus Christ. Since we believe in Jesus Christ, we are justified by faith in Christ…” (Zagreb edition, third edition, etc., Branko Đaković, GBV 1994).
However, despite all these clear proofs (including evidence of the truth of evangelical-Protestant beliefs about salvation, which will be explained later), Orthodox believers remain entrenched in their belief that salvation demands various pious works, even if the Bible emphasizes the contrary. The next section of this chapter will give a detailed analysis of the beliefs of Eastern Orthodox Churches and demonstrate their shortcomings to the truth of salvation as presented in God’s Word.