Sunday, 25 March 2012

Joseph the Pedophile: A Case of Christian Hypocrisy?

This argument has become very popular with followers of Islam and their non-Muslim apologists. I've seen it posted on many forum discussions and it almost always leads to the critic's silence. When discussing Islam, tu quoque is to be expected. After all, their is no logical way one could defend a faith as flawed as Islam, without resorting to fallacies. It doesn't even surprise me that the accusations against Joseph are patently false, there is no religion out there nearly half as abhorrent as Islam, so it takes a few lies and distortions to even get close. However, what did surprise me is how incompetent many Christians were at defending their own beliefs. American Christians, the group of Christians most active on the net, seem to be collectively suffering from Zion fever, a condition which leaves them able to argue in defense of nothing else but the modern state of Israel.

From WikiIslam:

Mary married 90-year-old Joseph when she was 12-14, so Joseph was a pedophile too
Everyone who makes this claim, cite the same New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia page. What they do not mention is that this page begins by warning readers, "the apocryphal literature is full of details, the non-admittance of these works into the Canon of the Sacred Books casts a strong suspicion upon their contents".
According to Wikipedia, apocrypha is defined as "spurious", "of questionable authenticity", and "Christian texts that are not canonical." Thus they can be considered as the Christian equivalent of da`if (weak) or maudu (fabricated) hadith.
Something that is non-canonical is not binding on a follower and can be ignored. There is no authoritative Christian text which state Mary's age. Claims about her age are, at best, educated guesses, but guesses none-the-less. Bukhari and Muslim, on the other hand, are canonical Islamic writings of the utmost religious authenticity, accepted by approximately 90 percent of the world's Muslims.
Even if we do accept this tu-quoque logical fallacy as a valid argument, there remains several problems. The first being the fact that the New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia page does not say Mary married Joseph when she was aged 12 to 14.
What it actually says, after warning readers once again that the stories are "unreliable", is that Mary was 12 to 14 at the time of the choosing of candidates, and the Annunciation (the announcement by the angel Gabriel to the virgin called Mary, that she would conceive and become the mother of Jesus) took place two years later. This would make Mary 14 to 16 at the time of her marriage, not 12 to 14, or 9, as was the case between Muhammad and Aisha. She would have been a teenager of child-bearing age, not a pre-pubescent pre-teen child.
Another problem is that the theological significance of Joseph and Muhammad to the Christian and Islamic faiths are incomparable. Unlike the Muslim view of Muhammad, Christians do not consider Joseph to be an uswa hasana (excellent model of conduct). Joseph's moral character holds no importance within Christian theology. He could have been insane and it would not matter to a Christian.
Then there is the fact that, according to both the Christian scriptures and the Islamic ones, Mary was a virgin when she conceived and gave birth to Jesus; therefore, her relationship with Joseph could not have been a sexual one until after Jesus' birth, making her possibly 17 years of age at the time the marriage was eventually consummated, if ever.
Indeed, the same New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia page continues the narrative of Joseph's life by stating both Mary and Joseph entered the marriage with the understanding that it was never to be consummated.
Mary's Perpetual virginity, the belief that Mary remained a virgin her entire life, is an essential article of faith for the majority of the worlds Christians (including the Roman Catholic, Anglo-Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, and Oriental Orthodox Christians). It is even held by some Muslims.
Finally, the most decisive argument against the claim that Joseph was a pedophile is the fact that the same non-canonical writings which are used to gather information on Joseph and Mary's age, also confirm Mary's status as "ever virgin" (in The History of Joseph the Carpenter, Jesus says on Joseph's death "my mother, virgin undefiled").
Catholic & Eastern Churches believe pedophile Joseph is a Saint, that's the same as an Uswa Hasana in Islam
A saint and an uswa hasana are nothing alike. The entire Islamic faith, almost all of its laws, rituals, and moral principles, are defined by the uswa hasana's actions. A saint has no similar function in Christianity. Their actions do not determine Christian laws, rituals, or moral principles in any way. Joan of Arc and countless others are Catholic saints too, but that means very little to how one practices Christianity.
Muhammad is the central figure of Islam, Joseph is not the central figure of Christianity. Islam wouldn't exist if Muslims decided Muhammad was immoral. On the other hand, for Christians of any stripe, Joseph is a "non entity" as far as its theology is concerned. The closest analogy to Muhammad and an uswa hasana in Christianity is the figure of Jesus, and very few non-Christians would argue that their view of Christians and Christianity would not improve if his followers behaved more like him.
In addition, it is the same Catholic and Eastern Churches which consider Joseph a saint, who also hold to the belief of Mary's perpetual virginity. Since Mary's ever-lasting virginity is an integral part or "pillar" of their faith, and most modern theologians think the Pope could reverse a sainthood without undermining the Church's doctrines, it's not hard to imagine what would have become of Joseph's saint status if he did have intercourse with Mary.
Furthermore, as has already been stated in the previous section, Joseph cannot be labeled as a pedophile by anyones standards because there is no authoritative, or even apocryphal, Christian text that state an adult Joseph had sex with a child Mary. Therefore, even if the status of saint was equivalent to that of an uswa hasana, it would not matter to a Christian or help Muslims in excusing the actions of Muhammad.

Adding to the above text:

  • A pedophile by its very definition means someone who is sexually attracted to pre-pubescent children. Teenagers of child-bearing age are not pre-pubescent.
  • Even if Joseph was a pedophile, a Christian could not be accused of hypocrisy for criticizing Muhammad's pedophilia. For them to be hypocrites, it is Jesus' actions, not Joseph's, which would have to mirror Muhammad's. This is because all critics, including Christians, criticize the founder of Islam, not the founder's father.