Perpetual Virginity of Mary
The perpetual virginity of the blessed virgin Mary has remained controversial to so many Christians, especially the none Catholics. Even some very few Catholics cannot really explain their faith, they get confused when they are challenged to explain it. Our none catholic friends often ask us to show them where it is in the bible as if we don’t believe in the bible, we do, and in fact very strongly. We also believe in the Sacred Tradition which existed before the bible was compiled, though not superior to the bible neither does the bible condemn the Sacred Tradition, it rather confirms it. (read more about this tradition in the column for doctrine under the title “the faith of the Catholic Church”).
The perpetual virginity of Mary has been the teaching of the Catholic Church, it is a “traditional faith” that we are very proud to preach. Our fathers in the faith preached it, we are preaching it and generations after us will preach it. Our none Catholic brothers and sisters do not accept this doctrine, they rise against it with all their strength using the scriptures to defend their arguments. Well, I do not argue about my faith, I simply teach it. Whether you accept it or not, we are brothers and sisters in faith in Christ Jesus.
Talking about the perpetual virginity of the blessed virgin Mary, the none Catholics argue that Mary was a virgin before Christ but not after Christ. They have sound arguments and scripture passages to support their points, but there is need to look deeper into the scriptures. This doctrine may sound so unbelievable to so many, yes, whatever is not possible and unimaginable for man is very possible and easy for God. They argue, using the gospel of Matthew 13:55-56 and 1:24-25.
Is not this the carpenter’s Son? Is not his mother called Mary? And are not his brethren James and joseph and Simon and Judas? are not all his sisters with us? Mt. 13:55-56.
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. Mt. 1:24-25.
The above scripture passages seem at first to give %100 support to the arguments against the perpetual virginity of Mary; yes, but don’t rush into conclusion. From the first quote (Mt. 13), it suggest that Jesus had at least six younger ones: James, Joseph, Simon, Judas and at least two sisters which counts against the doctrine of the perpetual virginity of Mary. Again, the second quote (Mt.1) suggest that after the birth of Jesus, Mary lost her virginity. Sounds logical, but lets look deeper into the scriptures.
You must have heard before now that the word “brother” in the scripture has wide meaning; it could mean siblings or distant relations. Let’s take for example the James mentioned as the brother of Jesus in Mt. 13:55. The impression we are given by those who argue against the perpetual virginity of Mary is that James and his brothers and sisters had the same father and mother with Jesus (Mary and Joseph). In Galatians 1:18-19 the bible tells us that Paul went up to Jerusalem to visit Cephas, he stayed with him for fifteen days but he was unable to see any of the other apostles except James the Lord’s brother. Here again, James is referred to as the Lord’s brother, but note that this James referred to as the Lord’s brother was an apostle. Among the 12 apostles, two were named James; one was the Son of Zebedee (Lk. 5:10) and the other, the Son of Alphaeus (Mt.10:1-3), none was the Son of Joseph, yet Paul referred to him as the brother of Jesus. Probably, James was related to Jesus and was referred to as the brother of Jesus but certainly not of the same parents. There was another Mary that was with the mother of Jesus at the foot of the cross, she gave birth to James and his brother Joseph (Mt.27:56). So, for the fact that the bible talks about the brothers and sisters of Jesus does not mean that Mary gave birth to other children. 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.
Let us look at the second scripture passage most people use against the doctrine of the perpetual virginity of Mary, that is the one quoted above, Mt. 1:24-25. Here they argue that the bible says Joseph knew her not until she had her son (first born). There are two arguments they present here: The first one is that the use of “first born” suggest that there were other children and secondly that the word “until” also suggest that a time came when Joseph knew Mary. Now let’s look at these two points separately.
The use of “first born Son” does not suggest that there were other children; no. Biblically, the name “first born Son” was special to God and to the people of Israel because God had made it so. In Exodus 13:1-2 God ordered the people to consecrate all first born to him, consecrate to me all first born; whatever is the first to open the womb among the people of Israel, both of man and of beast, is mine. So, the use of first born does not necessarily suggest that there were other children, first born were special and they were so called because they belong to God in a special way.
The use of the word “until” also does not necessarily imply that there were other children after Jesus, neither does it mean that they knew each other after that. It is part of the idiomatic expression used in the bible like in 1Cor. 15:25. Here the bible says Jesus will reign until he has put all his enemy under his feet. Does that mean then that after he had put his enemies under his feet he would stop to reign?
If Mary had other children, where were they when their “elder brother” was being arrested, tortured, crucified, and buried? He rose and ascended and nothing was said about them? where were they when Jesus handed “their mother” to John the apostle to take care of? Does it mean they had no home that Mary had to stay with the apostles? Well, the doctrine of the perpetual virginity of Mary is a dogma in the Catholic Church, it is the faith of our fathers and we are proud of it.