Jesus' brethren and Mary's Virginity


#1

Acting on Malia’s advice, I’m starting a new thread…

The Protestant belief that Joseph did not not honor Mary’s perpetual viginity has always bothered me. If the Holy Spirit overshadowed Mary, and she conceived of the Holy Spirit, that is, in a very real sense, the “marital act”…the Holy Spirit impregnated her. Mary is a Virgin bride, chosen from all eternity to be the spouse of the Holy Spirit, to be the Mother of God. What could be more beautiful?
Since God is eternal and immortal, and the Holy Spirit was not the person who died on the cross (and besides, the Protestant belief is that Jesus had sibling before he started his ministry)…if Mary had “relations” with Joseph, would that not make her a bigamist? Or was she fornicating when she conceived Jesus? I* **do not ** * mean this in any disrespectful sense, but that is where the logic takes me. It’s just that she can’t have 2 spouses (in the sense of “knowing”), and she can’t take a second if the first is still living.
I understand and fully agree with the Churches perpetual teaching on Mary’s Virginity.
My question is with modern day Protestants that say that Mary had other children by Joseph. How do they rationalize 2 spouses…
Do they deny that Mary was ever the Spouse of the Holy Spirit? She would have had children by 2 different persons, the Holy Spirit and then Joseph. How do they get around the fact that that would require either “fornication” (albeit in a spiritual sense with the Holy Spirit in that they did not “have sex”…that’s the *Ever * Virgin part, but she **was ** impregnated in a very physical sense) or bigamy (2 spouses).


#2

I look forward to seeing the replies:thumbsup:

Malia


#3

I believe the western church accepts the tradition of the brethern of Jesus as being cousins and extended family while the eastern church accepts the tradition that they were step brothers, i.e. Joseph was a widower when he married Mary and had children from his first wife.
But whichever tradition you accept neither contradicts the perpetual virginity of Mary.
Also even Martin Luther, John Calvin, and Ulrich Zwingili all believed in and stated that Mary was ever virgin.


#4

This old quote comes to mind:

" If the mother of Christ were before you, would you touch her? "

Nice post.

In Christ.

Andre.


#5

Grace & Peace!

Catilieth, these are some good questions. I consider myself catholic, though you would probably call me protestant…regardless, I have a few thoughts on this that may be helpful…

Personally, I venerate Our Lady as perpetually virginal and am, for the most part, not interested in Roman Catholic arguments against Protestants who believe she is not, nor am I interested in Protestant arguments against Roman Catholics who believe she is. Whether or not Holy Mary had sexual congress with St. Joseph is (perhaps oddly), immaterial to me. Mary’s perpetual virginity, to me, describes a spiritual reality in which she fully lives. Whether or not she had other children does not change this fact–so personally, I’m indifferent to the arguments one way or the other as they mostly concentrate on her material virginity and tend to ignore the truth of her spiritual virginity. You could argue that her material virginity must follow from her spiritual virginity, and that’s a fine argument. But I do not think that she must remain childless after Christ in order to be perpetually virgin.

Again, personally, I don’t think she did have other children and I subscribe to the catholic/orthodox view that those described as brothers were cousins. But if someone offered me some sort of irrefutable proof to the contrary, my world would not be shattered. The spiritual truth of Mary’s perpetual virginity is, to me, greater than the material fact of her physical virginity which, after all, could only be a sign of her spiritual virginity.

Let us also remember that a complex of symbols and ideas meet in the person of the Theotokos. She represents the soul of all believers–we are required to give birth to Christ in our souls, we are required to nourish the body of Christ in the world, and at the last day, it is the power of our Lord, the Spouse and Lover of our souls, who will draw us to Himself and crown us with His grace. Mary is also virgin nature–creation undefiled by sin. It is the nature of creation to bring forth and make present its Lord. Mary does this perfectly and we are called to do the same. Mary’s call is our call, too, and in Mary we can see the fulfillment of Christian hope–union with God through Christ in the Holy Ghost.

For me, none of this changes if Mary had other children. Indeed, if Mary was married to Joseph, I cannot see how marital relations with him would have defiled her in any way (unless sex itself is tainted–and we know that sex in itself is not wrong or wicked). And if we agree that all of our souls are espoused to God, then we must also agree that marriage in the material realm, in order for it not to be institutionalized unfaithfulness to God, must be a mirror of that relationship between God and the soul. It is possible for us to love God through our spouses–and in so doing, we find that we love each other all the more. I don’t see how this model of relationship (which could include sex without sin) is in any way representative of unfaithfulness to the Spirit to whom we are all rightfully espoused by virtue of simply being made human.

I don’t know if any of this is particularly helpful to you, but these are my thoughts.

Under the Mercy,
Mark

Deo Gratias!


#6

Gal 1:18-19 shows a great example of how the term “Brethren” is used.

" Then, after three years, I went to Jerusalem to see Peter, and I tarried with him fifteen days - But other of the Apostles, I saw none, except for James, the brother of the Lord"

Now there were 2 Apostels named James,

James the son of Zebedee and James the son of Alphaeus. James of Zebedee was beheaded in AD 44, so the only James Paul could have met was James of Alphaeus.

So unless Mary was an adultress with Alphaeus (which no Christian can hold to); the title given James as “brother of the Lord” was meant to describe that of close companionship, or possibly a family relationship such as cousin.


#7

Quote from p.38 “Why Do Catholics Do That?” by Kevin Orlin Johnson:

…the Gospel of Pseudo-Matthew, which runs some tweny chapters on the childhood of Christ has something to say about this. When the widower Joseph was selected by his blooming staff and the dove that “came forth and flew to his head”, he said, “I am an old man and have sons; why do you entrust this young girl to me?” - which puts an interesting spin on Mt 12:46, Mk 6:3, and Jn 7:5, doesn’t it?


#8

Guys, I don’t need explanations as to why she is a perpetual virgin…i completely understand it and believe it. What I am asking is how the opposite would be justified.

Deo Volente understood the question. Deo Volente, I have a question for you. How is one spiritually a virgin but not actually a virgin? A human person is both body and soul. A body without a soul is a corpse. A soul without a body is a ghost. If the soul is holy, the body is holy (which is why Catholics venerate the relics of the Saints). One cannot divorce body from soul. If I sin with my body, the sin affects my soul. If I fornicate, it is both spiritual and physical. The only way to be a spiritual virgin and not a physical virgin is if coitus was forced upon me against my will, as in rape. But if I consent to intercourse, by definition I am no longer a virgin, spiritually or otherwise. To be as you imply would be for Mary to lie with her body…to become one with Joseph physically, but not in any other way. It doesn’t wash…too much like saying that I am a spiritual vegetarian while I eat meat. Either I am a vegetarian or not. I am not both.


#9

Grace & Peace!

[quote=Catilieth]How is one spiritually a virgin but not actually a virgin?
[/quote]

This is a good question, Catilieth, and I’m afraid my anwer will be somewhat esoteric.

I’m thinking of the Neo-Platonic fathers and saints: Origen, Clement of Alexandria, Augustine, Dionysius the Areopagite etc. Christianity seems to me to include this assumption–that a movement in the material universe is a reflection of a movement in the spiritual. The “actuality” of anything derives it’s actual-ness from the spiritual, not from the physical. The physical is the handmaid of the spiritual–it receives the impress of the spiritual. As such, to be “actually a virgin” is to be spiritually a virgin–actuality begins in the spiritual realm and manifests in the physical.

Moreover, following this thought process, whether or not one is physically a virgin is not necessarily an indication of spiritual virginity–of actual virginity. A sinful thought indulged will taint the soul and compromise one’s spiritual virginity.

And of what does spiritual virginity consist? The attitude of Virgin Nature to God–the attitude of the Virgin Mary to the word of the Angel–Let it be done unto me according to thy will. Spiritual Virginity is the disposition of the soul to the constant movement and reception of the Holy Spirit. The Saints have this grace. Our Lady had it in abundance and it characterized her whole life, from Conception to Assumption, and characterizes still her reign as Queen of Heaven with her Son. Her material virginity, for me, has little to do with this fundamental truth of her existence. She is Perpetually Virgin. The only way, for me, that a case for her material virginity can be sensibly made (given the Christian understanding of the hierarchy of the worlds), is if it were a sign of her spiritual virginity.

And this may be somewhat confusing. I think it is within the rights of the church to declare her material virginity as a truth, even if it is not a fact. Because it would represent a manifestation in her legend of the abiding truth of her spiritual virginity and would, again, serve as a sign of that spiritual virginity–an invitation to us to consider the truth of her relationship with God. Again, if someone proved to me that she was not, factually, a material Virgin, it would not change, for me, the truth of her Perpetual Virginity.

[quote=Catilieth]If I fornicate, it is both spiritual and physical. The only way to be a spiritual virgin and not a physical virgin is if coitus was forced upon me against my will, as in rape. But if I consent to intercourse, by definition I am no longer a virgin, spiritually or otherwise.
[/quote]

I think the danger in what you’re saying here is that you seem to equate sex in itself with sin. I don’t think all sex is fornication. The love that Mary and Joseph may have shared (and again, I don’t believe that they did have sex, but for argument’s sake…) is love shared within the bonds of marriage. Knowing, as we do, that Our Lady did not sin, any sexual relations she may have shared with Joseph would have been loving and sin-less, and would not have defiled her soul in any way.

Under the Mercy,
Mark

Deo Gratias!


#10

[quote=Deo Volente]Grace & Peace!

I think the danger in what you’re saying here is that you seem to equate sex in itself with sin. I don’t think all sex is fornication.

!
[/quote]

I think you misunderstand me, sex is not sinful. Like all of nature and the created world, it is morally neutral. It’s what/how one does things that would be sinful. If I were to violently shove you to the ground the action is morally neutral. To determine if it is sinful, you would have to look at my intent…was I angry and intended to hurt you, or was I pushing out of danger?

Sex between spouses with it’s proper context and intent is holy. It mirrors in an imperfect way the oneness of the triune God…two persons/one flesh : three persons/one God. And this union is until death do part. Which is why, at least from where I see it, Mary could not (as distinct from did not ) have had that sort of union with the Holy Spirit (children is the fruit of the union between spouses) and also have had the same union with Joseph.
To do both seems to me either fornication on the one hand or adultery on the other.


#11

[quote=Catilieth]Guys, I don’t need explanations as to why she is a perpetual virgin…i completely understand it and believe it. What I am asking is how the opposite would be justified.
[/quote]

I don’t think there is a way to justify the opposite position. The Church teaches it, I believe it. I can’t understand any other position.


#12

[quote=Brendan]Gal 1:18-19 shows a great example of how the term “Brethren” is used.
[/quote]

And in Acts 1:12-15, there is a gathering of about 120 “brothers” of Jesus. That’s not “Mary Ever Virgin”, that’s “Mary Ever Pregnant” :smiley:


#13

[quote=RCCDefender]I don’t think there is a way to justify the opposite position. The Church teaches it, I believe it. I can’t understand any other position.
[/quote]

Then why do nearly all Protestants believe otherwise? I am asking them to explain how they can justify that belief. Deo Volente has offered an interesting view.

As a Catholic I have never had the slightest doubt about this. That is not my question.


#14

[quote=Catilieth]Then why do nearly all Protestants believe otherwise? I am asking them to explain how they can justify that belief.
[/quote]

As far as I can tell, any Protestant who concludes that Mary did not REMAIN a virgin, following the birth of Jesus is most likely basing this belief on the following three bits of scripture (at least one of which, I’ve already seen quoted in this thread):

“Is not this the carpenter’s son? Is not his mother called Mary? And his brethren, James, and Joses, and Simon, and Judas?”
[right]Matthew 13:55 [/right]

“Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary, the brother of James, and Joses, and of Juda, and Simon? And are not his sisters here with us? And they were offended at him.”
[right]Mark 6:3 [/right]

“But other of the apostles saw I none, save James the Lord’s brother.”
[right]Galatians 1:19[/right]

Now, I thought that somebody on this thread made a good point earlier by saying that Joseph already had offspring at the time when he married Mary, so those who identified Jesus as having brothers and sisters could have just been ignorant in whom James, Joses, Simon, Juda(s) and the two unnamed “sisters” really were (…if you think about it, unless born from Mary, none of those brothers or sisters would have been remotely related to Jesus at ALL).

I think it’d been conjectured that the brothers and sisters mentioned were Joseph’s children, yet when I checked the Catechism, they gave a different explanation:

[size=2]“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 - Pg. 126, #500). [/size]

So, according to the Vatican, they aren’t of *Joseph’s *lineage either; rather of some other person who happened to share the virgin mother’s name: Mary. I never even knew that was what the church taught (…See? I learn something new everyday). :slight_smile:

If you were to ask a Protestant about that passage of the Catechism, they’d probably demand Biblical proof, since the collection of relevant scriptures in Matthew 12 are seemingly clear that this wasn’t some other Mary at all. I’m sure the Vatican’s got a good explanation for why they believe as they do, but frankly, I’m not sure what it is. (continued below)


#15

In my experience, Christians are focused enough on Jesus not to become too concerned with disputes or claims regarding Mary or the Saints, so even if Mary did bear children, the most important thing for a Christian to know is that she didn’t bear children until AFTER giving birth to Jesus.

That’s key with Christians as we, likewise, firmly believe that Jesus was born of a virgin, and though we might not give Mary as much attention as Catholics do, we love and respect her all the same.

I, for one, would lose absolutely no respect for Mary and Joseph whatsoever, knowing that they enjoyed healthy, loving marital relations with each other once our Savior was born. If I may share a popular bit of Scripture:

[size=2][font=Palatino Linotype]“Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost. Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not willing to make her a public example, was minded to put her away privily. But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the LORD appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost.”
[right]Matthew 1:18-20 (bold mine)[/right]

[left][/left]

Now, I’m guessing that the Roman Catholic Church interprets, “…before they came together,” to mean “…before they could ever come together in their lifetimes.” but the only thing that Scripture really proves is that Mary hadn’t consummated her marriage with Joseph at the time that the Holy Spirit would fill her womb. It doesn’t give any restrictions to Mary once Jesus was born.

Joseph was assured that he needn’t fear in keeping her as his wife because the Holy Spirit had given Mary the new Life in her womb, not another man. Correct me if I’m wrong, but the angel of the LORD appeared a FEW times to Joseph, yet I don’t once remember a decree from the angel, warning him never to touch her once Jesus was born. Somebody in this thread said something about who would touch Mary, knowing that she gave birth to Jesus. Well… her husband, right? Who else would have that permission to touch her but her husband?

[/font][/size]
Mary was chosen when she was a virgin, but having her remain a virgin for the rest of her life would not have had** any** impact on our salvation. That would be like saying that the Ten Commandments became null and void when Moses misused the power of the LORD by striking the rock (Numbers 20:7-12).
**

So, unless you happen to encounter an antagonist’s Protestant who wants to go twelve rounds with you over the Catholic Church’s teaching on a perpetually virgin Mary, the majority of Christians will be fine with you believing what you want about Mary, as long as you don’t lose sight of the fact that Jesus is our only Savior.
:amen:


#16

Luke 6:15-16 reveals that James and Joses, though elsewhere called “brothers” of Jesus, are here shown to be the sons of Alphaeus whose wife Mary was actually the blessed Virgin Mary’s sister, or perhaps her cousin (cf John 19:25). These “brothers” were actually Jesus’ cousins. The term “brother” is often used to mean “cousin” or some other type of kin in scripture.

In addition, if Jesus had other siblings, why would he entrust his mother to John instead of a member of his family? This would have been highly irregular…

Moreover, many churches today address members of the congregation as brother so-and-so or sister so-and-so. They do not mean that the person is biologically their brother.

What it all really comes down to is authority. Catholics believe the teaching authority that Jesus gave us in the Church. Protestants want to have their own authority to interpret the Scriptures in any way they see fit. The Bible itself warns that it can be misinterpreted.


#17

[quote=Catilieth]Sex between spouses with it’s proper context and intent is holy. It mirrors in an imperfect way the oneness of the triune God…two persons/one flesh : three persons/one God. And this union is until death do part. Which is why, at least from where I see it, Mary could not (as distinct from did not ) have had that sort of union with the Holy Spirit (children is the fruit of the union between spouses) and also have had the same union with Joseph.
To do both seems to me either fornication on the one hand or adultery on the other.
[/quote]

This is exactly why I believe that the perpetual virginity of Mary is absolutley necessary.
Also, IMHO, the whole doctrine of the Virgin Birth is endangered the moment we begin to step away from Mary’s perpetual virginity. At least, this is what I learned growing up in the Methodist tradition. (One pastor went so far as to suggest that not only was she always a virgin, not only did she never have children, but he personally believed that she could not have had children, even if she had had an ordinary marital relationship with Joseph.
He thought that she was only able to become pregnant by supernatural means…I’m still thinking that one over).

In any case, I think that your statement, quoted above, does a very good job of explaining my own thinking on the subject.


#18

This is something, just the other night I was reading an old Bible because I did not have mine with me, and it was the first time I have read Jesus’ brethren. My Bible says the brothers and sisters of Jesus. Well, brethren is not siblings, it is a group of people that are united because of a common thread. Such as brethren in Jesus Christ.

Thank you for the enlightenment. :thumbsup:


#19

I think instead of comparing beliefs of “Christians” and Catholics, it would be more accurate to compare the beliefs of Protestants and Catholics, since all Catholics are Christians (most protestants are christians too, but not all).


#20

After Mary gave birth to Jesus she DID have sexual relations with Joesph and gave birth to at least 6 other children. The half brothers are named in the Bible and His sisters, at least two, are just mentioned as “sisters.” The Catholic church has tried to cover this up by trying to confuse their members but the “original Greek” language in the Bible is specific and leaves no doubt. The Bible is God-breathed and without errror!


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