The following is taken from the body of a recently asked question asking how many in the New Testament are called or actually claim to be the brother or sister of Jesus Christ. It is not scoped for Catholic answers only but it is asked by a Catholic and from a Catholic perspective:

Regardless of the doctrine of the Perpetual Virginity of Mary acknowledged as dogma by most Christians, which would necessitate a different interpretation of the words "brother" and "sister"

It appears by this statement as though Roman Catholics, by necessity, assign interpretations to words in Scripture based upon Dogmatic statements made from Rome rather than their plain biblical usage. The Perpetual Virginity of Mary was dogmatized in 553 in Constantinople but it had been talked about within the church since it's possible earliest witness in the apocryphal Protogospel of James (circa 150). The Assumption of Mary, however, wasn't dogmatized until 1950 and, arguably has no biblical attestation.

I don't know if there are any specific words in Scripture whose meanings, by necessity, must be interpreted differently due to accepting the dogma of Mary's Assumption but theoretically it is possible. Do Roman Catholics, by necessity, assign meanings to words in the Bible based upon dogmatic statements made hundreds and even thousands of years after the Apostles were finished writing Scripture? Is this really how Roman Catholics interpret Scripture?

  • In the linked question you quoted from, the OP is not necessarily speaking in terms of Catholicism. If you state: "it appears by this statement as though Roman Catholics, by necessity assign interpretations to words in Scripture based upon Dogmatic statements made from Rome rather than their plain biblical usage," is not correct. The question was not even tagged Catholicism! I feel you are reading into something that is not there. Could be wrong, but I would like to voice my concerns here about your question. The OP is not quoting Catholic sources, but simply putting out a question.
    – Ken Graham
    Commented Feb 23, 2023 at 14:21
  • @KenGraham I understand your concern. OP references "the Perpetual Virginity of Mary acknowledged as dogma by most Christians". Are there Christians other than Catholic that acknowledge Dogma? Commented Feb 23, 2023 at 14:46
  • The Eastern Orthodox Churches believe this, as well as some other denominations. The perpetual virginity of Mary is a Christian doctrine that Mary, the mother of Jesus, was a virgin before, during and after the birth of Christ. In Western Christianity, the Catholic Church adheres to the doctrine, as do some Lutherans, Anglicans, Reformed, and other Protestants. Shenouda III, Pope of the Coptic Orthodox Church, affirmed the teaching, and Eastern Orthodox churches recognize Mary as Aeiparthenos, meaning "ever-virgin".
    – Ken Graham
    Commented Feb 23, 2023 at 14:52
  • @KenGraham I understand there are different traditions that accept certain teachings but this question doesn't incorporate just one teaching. It has to do with interpreting Scripture by any Dogma. Commented Feb 24, 2023 at 12:32

2 Answers 2


Given that a dogma is something that is known to be true, how can it not be involved with the interpretation of Scripture?

For instance, I personally believe in the laws of physics and in particular the one about gravity, so when I read:

And he brought him to Jerusalem, and set him on a pinnacle of the temple, and said unto him, If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down from hence:
— Luke 4:9

my belief in gravity forces me to interpret this as a suggestion to commit an almost certainly fatal act, and not as a suggestion to fly around like Superman.

When Satan continues:

For it is written, He shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee: And in their hands they shall bear thee up, …

I can see it only as confirming that interpretation.

It would not occur to me to think that my interpretation is wrong. But if I considered that it might be wrong, and even if I eventually concluded that it was wrong, it still wouldn't affect my belief in gravity; it was only my application of gravity to this situation that was wrong.

In the case of Jesus having siblings from his mother though, a belief in her perpetual virginity would not only make one conclude that any references to siblings must be figurative, any doubt about this interpretation would also cast doubt on the perpetual doctrine. And since that is known to be true, the doubt can be removed from the interpretation too.
(If "A is false" implies that "B is false", and B is known to be true, then A must be true.)

Everything we learn or conclude must be based on what we already know to be true.

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    One believes in gravity, one knows it to be true, by an overwhelming repetition of personal experience which is naturally universal to life on earth. The Perpetual Virginity of Mary is in a different category; not universally, naturally obvious. Scripture is known to be true. If something is clearly revealed in Scripture, the Goodness of God, for example, then THAT can be used to interpret other Scriptures but PVoM is not such and her Assumption into heaven is even less such. Commented Feb 24, 2023 at 12:47
  • @MikeBorden says "The Perpetual Virginity of Mary is in a different category; not universally, naturally obvious. Scripture is known to be true.", but as far as I know, for Catholics, it is known to be true. To deny its truth would be heresy. So when reading Scripture it must be understood within the limits of dogmatic truth. That is, dogma must necessarily be used by Catholics in scriptural interpretation. Commented Feb 24, 2023 at 13:30
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    From what I understand, if they say they disbelieve it they are ousted from the Church. That seems different than 'knowing' it is true. christianity.stackexchange.com/q/94622/47250 Commented Feb 24, 2023 at 13:48
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    @MikeBorden, if one disbelieves a dogma, one is a heretic, and therefore subject to excommunication. So any Catholic that interprets scripture without keeping that interpretation in line with dogma won't be a Catholic for long, The question asks "Is Roman Catholic Dogma really used, by necessity, in Scriptural interpretation?", and the answer is, "Yes, it must, by necessity.". Commented Feb 24, 2023 at 14:06
  • @MikeBorden Catholics are not ousted from the Church they separate themselves automatically from the Body of Christ by professing heresy. cf. Mystici Corporis #22
    – Glorius
    Commented Feb 25, 2023 at 17:38

Catholics do not "assign interpretations" to Scripture. It is the Church's prerogative to explain Sacred Scripture and guard the deposit of faith.

Pope Pius X, Lamentabile, The Errors of the Modernists, July 3, 1907, #22: “The dogmas which the Church professes as revealed are not truths fallen from heaven, but they are a kind of interpretation of religious facts, which the human mind by a laborious effort prepared for itself.” - Condemned

Since dogmas are truths fallen from Heaven, any true interpretation must be in accord with them.

What I assume you mean to imply by your question is that the Church somehow claims authority over the word of God, which is not true.

St. Robert Bellarmine, On The Church: On Councils, Ch. XII "Whether the authority of a Council is greater than Scripture"

(...) The heretics of this time everywhere cry out that we subject Scripture to Councils. (...) Moreover, this is not our blasphemy, but is their strawman. For Catholics do not subject the Sacred Scripture to Councils, but places it before them; nor is there any controversy on this point. But if some Catholics sometimes say scripture depends on the Church, or a Council, they do not understand this in regard to its authority, or according to what it is, but in regard to the explanation and regard to us. (...) But Councils do not have, nor write immediate revelations, or the words of God, rather they only declare what indeed the word of God is, written or handed down, and how it ought to be understood; besides, they deduce conclusions from it by reasoning. Consequently, when Councils define what are the canonical and divine books, they do not cause them to be of infallible truth, but only declare that they are such.

  • Isn't Matthew 13:55-57 interpreted a certain way because of Dogma rather than Dogma being informed by it? Commented Feb 24, 2023 at 12:51
  • @MikeBorden First about the notion that Jesus had siblings. Acts 1:12-15 says that there were 120 at Pentecost consisting of apostles (12 people), Mary (1 person), “some women” (about 12 people) and Jesus’ “brothers”—this means that the “brothers” of Jesus numbered about 95 people!!! Obviously “brothers” does not mean blood brothers. Brother means kinsman.
    – Glorius
    Commented Feb 25, 2023 at 17:45
  • @MikeBorden St. Robert Bellarmine quoted above said: "besides, they [Councils] deduce conclusions from it [Scripture] by reasoning." As already stated: "For Catholics do not subject the Sacred Scripture to Councils, but places it before them;" The meaning of Scripture is plain to any good-willed and careful reader, besides, not all Truths are contained in Scripture but some are part of oral tradition and it is in accord with Scripture. "the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things, and bring all things to your mind, whatsoever I shall have said to you."
    – Glorius
    Commented Feb 25, 2023 at 17:53
  • Well, 'adelphos' can be read literally (from the womb) or figuratively and context has much to say. Mark 13:55 uses 'adelphos' and lists only 4 names so it is incredibly unlikely that these 4 were the only male disciples (figurative kinsmen) available for reference, especially coupled with direct reference to his Dad and Mom and keeping in mind just who is making the reference: Jesus' unbelieving townsfolk wouldn't be likely to point to his disciples given the point they are trying to make. So, a good-willed and careful reading shows figurative brethren in Acts and literal brethren in Mark. Commented Feb 27, 2023 at 14:05

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