Perpetual Virginity of Mary


The Catholic Church says, “The deepening of faith in the virginal motherhood led the Church to confess Mary’s real and perpetual virginity even in the act of giving birth to the Son of God made man. In fact, Christ’s birth “did not diminish his mother’s virginal integrity but sanctified it.” And so the liturgy of the Church celebrates Mary as Aeiparthenos, the “Ever-virgin” (CCC #499).”

Did Mary, the mother of God, have other children besides Jesus? And if so, how could she be a virgin her entire life? In the Gospel of Matthew 1:21-25, it speaks about an angel coming to Joseph and telling him that he should not be afraid to take Mary as his wife because the child she had conceived was from the Holy Spirit. The angel went on to say, “When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took his wife, but knew her not until she had borne a son; and he called his name Jesus (1:24-25).” A person might look at this passage and conclude that Mary abstained from sexual relations with Joseph until after Jesus was born, but must have had relations afterward. But this in fact, in no way implies that Mary and Joseph had conjugal relations afterward.

If we look to the Old and New Testaments, we find this phrase and that preposition used many times as an idiomatic expression. For example; lets say one person says to his friend, “Until we meet again, God bless you.” Does that mean, because he said the word until, that the opposite is true? Does that mean he hopes his friend is blessed by God until they meet again, but after, that he should be cursed? No, not at all. It is simply a way of emphasizing the immediate. He is emphasizing that he wants God to bless him, not what goes on after that.

One passage from the Old Testament, 2 Samuel 6:23, it says: “And Michal the daughter of Saul had no child until the day of her death.” In this statement, does that mean she will have children after her death? Of course not. So, what about the New Testament? Well, in 1 Cor 15:25, St. Paul writes that “…[Jesus] must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet.” Does this mean that He will stop reigning after He puts his enemies under his feet? Of course not.

thCABH90Y3The other issue that keeps people from embracing Mary’s perpetual virginity is Scriptures use of the words “brothers” and “sisters.” In the New Testament alone, we find 10 instances where “brothers” and “sisters” of the Lord are spoken about (Matt. 12:46; Matt. 13:55; Mark 3:31–34; Mark 6:3; Luke 8:19–20; John 2:12, 7:3, 5, 10; Acts 1:14; 1 Cor. 9:5). We have to realize that there was no word for cousin, or for nephew or niece, or for aunt or uncle in ancient Hebrew or Aramaic – the words that the Jews used in all those instances were “brother” or “sister”. The term “brother” (Greek: adelphos) has a wide meaning in the Bible. It doesn’t just mean full brother or half-brother. The same goes for “sister” (adelphe). For example, in Gen. 14:14, Lot was called the brother of Abraham, even though he was the son of Haran. Lot was actually Abraham’s nephew.

Some people will point to the Gospel of Mark as proof that Jesus did have blood brothers when he writes; “Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon…(Mark 6:3).” The James and Joses identified in Mark 6:3 as the “brothers” of Jesus, indeed had a mother named Mary, but it was not the same Mary who was the mother of Jesus, as we see in Mark 15:40, “There were also women looking on from afar, among whom were Mary Mag′dalene, and Mary the mother of James the younger and of Joses, and Salo′me.” Someone might ask “What about Judus and Simon?” Well, if two of the four “brothers” of Jesus listed in that verse are actually cousins of Jesus, then doesn’t it make perfect sense that the other brothers listed there are cousins as well? Think about it, if Judas and Simon were also sons of Mary, wouldn’t they have been listed first instead of James and Joses?

It is also important to note that when Jesus uses the term “brothers and sisters,” he is not using it in a literal sense (blood brothers and sisters). In the Gospel of Mark it says: “And his mother and his brethren came; and standing outside they sent to him and called him. And a crowd was sitting about him; and they said to him, “Your mother and your brethren are outside, asking for you.” And he replied, “Who are my mother and my brethren?” And looking around on those who sat about him, he said, “Here are my mother and my brethren! Whoever does the will of God is my brother, and sister, and mother (Mark 3:31-35).” Many people today also use the term “brother” and “sister” in the same way (“my brother/sister in Christ”).

The Catechism of the Church states:

“Against this doctrine the objection is sometimes raised that the Bible mentions brothers and sisters of Jesus. The Church has always understood these passages as not referring to other children of the Virgin Mary. In fact James and Joseph, “brothers of Jesus”, are the sons of another Mary, a disciple of Christ, whom St. Matthew significantly calls “the other Mary”. They are close relations of Jesus, according to an Old Testament expression (CCC #500).”

Until next time, God bless.

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