Mary Ever-Virgin
by Sebastian R. Fama

Some say that Mary had children other than Jesus.  They cite several passages of Scripture that supposedly say as much.  One example is Matthew 1:24-25, which reads, "When Joseph awoke, he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took his wife into his home.  He had no relations with her until she bore a son, and he named him Jesus."


The word "until" seems to indicate that after the birth of Jesus there were normal marital relations.  However, the Greek word heos (ἕως) which is translated as until, does not imply that anything happened after Jesus' birth, nor does it exclude it.  The point of the verse is that Joseph was not responsible for the conception of Jesus.


The word "until" is used this way elsewhere. In reference to John the Baptist, Luke 1:80 states: "The child grew and became strong in spirit, and he was in the desert until the day of his manifestation to Israel."  Does this mean that once he appeared publicly he left the desert?  It might appear so, but Jesus says otherwise in Luke 7:24: "When the messengers of John had left, Jesus began to speak to the crowds about John.  'What did you go out to the desert to see, a reed swayed by the wind?'" John had already begun his ministry back in chapter 3. Here we are in chapter 7, and he is still in the desert.


Luke 2:7 is often pointed to as evidence that Mary had other children. It reads: "And she gave birth to her firstborn son." If Mary had a first born wouldn't that indicate that she had at least a second born? Not at all. In Hebrew culture the term first-born is simply a title for a woman's first child. If she only had one child he would still be her first-born. There is a perfect example of this in Numbers 3:40: "The Lord then said to Moses, 'take a census of all the first-born males of the Israelites a month old or more, and compute their total number.'"  How many of those one month old babies do you suppose had younger siblings? I think it would be accurate to say, none of them. And yet they are still referred to as "first-born."

But what about the verses that speak about the brothers and sisters of Jesus? For instance, Matthew 13:55-56: "Is He not the carpenter's son? Is not His mother named Mary, and His brothers James, Joseph, Simon and Judas? Are not His sisters all with us?" Could Matthew be referring to Jesus' cousins? Although both Greek and English have a word for cousin, Aramaic, the language spoken by Jesus, does not. Hence the words brothers and sisters are used. These terms can also be used to refer to friends. Observe how Jesus himself uses the word "brothers" in Matthew 28:10 and see what happens in verse 16: "Then Jesus said to them, 'Do not be afraid. Go tell my brothers to go to Galilee, and there they will see me'...The eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain which Jesus had ordered them." Were the disciples His siblings? Of course not!

A comparison of the three gospel accounts of the women at the foot of the cross demonstrates that James and Joseph, two of the named brothers, are the sons of Mary and Cleophas (Matthew 27:56, Mark 15:40, and John 19:25). This Mary is obviously not the mother of Jesus, as she is mentioned in addition to her. Another obvious reason is the fact that Jesus' mother was married to a man named Joseph, not Cleophas.

In Mark 6:3 Jesus is called "THE" son of Mary not "A" son of Mary. Elsewhere, Mary is called the mother of Jesus, but never the mother of anybody else. Even Protestant reformers such as Martin Luther, John Calvin and Ulrich Zwingli taught that Mary remained a virgin. They believed that it was the clear teaching of Scripture.

In Luke 1:30-35, we find the following: "Then the angel said to her, 'Behold you will conceive in your womb and bear a Son, and you shall name Him Jesus.'… But Mary said to the angel, 'How can this be, since I have no relations with a man?'  And the angel said to her in reply, 'The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.'" Mary's statement would make no sense unless she intended to remain a virgin. The angel said; "you will conceive" not you have conceived. Surely Mary knew the facts of life. If she were to conceive, her normal thought would have been that at some future time she would have relations with a man. Her protest could only have meant that she was a virgin and that she would like to keep it that way.  The angel's reply is an assurance that such would be the case. Mary's point becomes even more obvious when you consider the fact that she was already betrothed to Joseph.

Additional evidence can be found at the foot of the cross. In John 19:26-27 we find: "When Jesus saw His mother and the disciple there whom He loved, He said to His mother, 'Woman, behold your son.' Then He said to the disciple, 'Behold your mother.' And from that hour the disciple took her into his home." If Jesus had brothers and sisters, why did He entrust the care of His mother to the Apostle John?

Copyright © 2001 

For Further Study

The Early Church Fathers on Mary's Perpetual Virginity  (Free)
The Mother of God by Steve Collison (Free)
Books - Meet Mary - Getting to Know the Mother of God by Mark Miravalle and  Mary, the Second Eve by John Henry Newman and Mary and the Fathers of the Church by Fr. Luigi Gambero.
CD - Hail, Holy Queen: The Mother of God in the Word of God by Scott Hahn
Footprints of God: Mary with Stephen Ray

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