Mary, Ever Virgin


After Jesus’ birth, it seems to be widely accepted that Mary remained a virgin as Joseph’s wife, and until her death. There is nothing to support or to refute this in the gospels. When was this belief adopted? Is it to be accepted as truth, or opinion?


You can take a look at this posting, which I think it explains it pretty well.

As far as when this belief “started” - from the article

“An important historical document which supports the teaching of Mary’s perpetual virginity is the Protoevangelium of James, which was written probably less than sixty years after the conclusion of Mary’s earthly life (around A.D. 120), when memories of her life were still vivid in the minds of many.”



It is an accepted truth of the Church.


Is that it? “an accepted truth”. Surely there must be a source citation. I’m struggling to accept it, but I can see alot of down-side. Mary and Joseph, partaking of the beautiful gift of married sexual union, would be a powerfully positive example for christian families. It could put a very positive, sacred face on human sexuality; and, maybe, even steal it away for the evil mis-representations that in carries in our culture.


Actually, I think it carries a more powerful message about the beauty of Human love and commitment than the sexual side of marriage. In this day and age, people seem to think marriage is all about sex. :rolleyes:

To begin with, the Protoevangelium records that when Mary’s birth was prophesied, her mother, St. Anne, vowed that she would devote the child to the service of the Lord, as Samuel had been by his mother (1 Sam. 1:11). Mary would thus serve the Lord at the Temple, as women had for centuries (1 Sam. 2:22), and as Anna the prophetess did at the time of Jesus’ birth (Luke 2:36–37). A life of continual, devoted service to the Lord at the Temple meant that Mary would not be able to live the ordinary life of a child-rearing mother. Rather, she was vowed to a life of perpetual virginity.

However, due to considerations of ceremonial cleanliness, it was eventually necessary for Mary, a consecrated “virgin of the Lord,” to have a guardian or protector who would respect her vow of virginity. Thus, according to the Protoevangelium, Joseph, an elderly widower who already had children, was chosen to be her spouse. (This would also explain why Joseph was apparently dead by the time of Jesus’ adult ministry, since he does not appear during it in the gospels, and since Mary is entrusted to John, rather than to her husband Joseph, at the crucifixion).


Remember, celibacy is a higher call because it is in imitation of those perfected in heaven where there is no marriage.

Also, check Ezekiel 44:2 foreshadowing Mary’s ever Virginity.

And ditto Brooklyn in post #2.


Well, Christian teaching even through AD 1500 --even with the first Protestant reformers–taught that Mary was ever Virgin. So I have more trouble with people CHANGING that teaching. I really do not see any ‘positive’ teaching that came about with non-Catholic Christians ‘changing’ authentic Catholic Christian teaching.

Changing the Eucharist from the Scriptural (John 6) “Body and Blood of Christ” to a mere symbol deprived millions of the supreme nourishment Christ gave us.

Changing Mary from ever Virgin Mother to ‘just another person’ deprived millions of not just the truth of who Mary was, it also contributed to further false doctrines aimed at a forced egalitarianism, which itself aimed to turn ‘authority’ into ‘a personal decision’ and to foster anticlericalism even further.

Changing the Trinity to anything from a “Light” to a “universal” to a God with Jesus as not/God etc. has likewise (while certainly the various individuals who believe these things can be ‘good’ people) deprived millions of the truth of who God IS, fragmented Christianity, and again, attempted to paint each invididual as his or her own little authority, and their view of god his or her own personal ‘god view’ as though there is no real ‘absolute God’ and only ‘degrees’ or 'experiences.

So I would think long and carefully before I went against the very Biblically inspired people. . .from the apostles onward. . .who taught of Mary’s virginity, either ‘by letter or by word of mouth’. . .


Donald, it is a teaching of the Church that must be assented to by all Catholics. This is a very good article on the subject:

In the Church’s liturgy we pray in the penitential rite asking for the intercession of “Blessed Mary, ever virgin”; as the Church prays, so she believes.

There actually is biblical support for the Church’s teaching, but I’m not at my home computer where I have access to my files, so will post more later.


The Protoevangelium is an apochraphal book rejected by Pope Gelasius.

“As for its estimated date, the consensus is that it was actually composed some time in the 2nd century AD. The first mention of it is by Origen in the early third century, who says the text, like that of a “Gospel of Peter”, was of dubious, recent appearance and shared with that book the claim that the ‘brethren of the Lord’ were sons of Joseph by a former wife”


Under the rubric of development of doctrine, this dogma qualifies as one of those teachings that is not explicitly laid out in Scripture but that derives from the logical extension of scriptural principles. All the Marian dogmas reflect something specific about the person of Jesus Christ in the Incarnation.

On another thread (too long to refer you to), this is being discussed in terms of how the Incarnation via the Virgin Birth is unlike pagan myths, where a god comes down to earth and either seduces or rapes a mortal woman and produces a demi-god. Jesus Christ is NOT a mythological demi-god.

To clinch this clear teaching, which is essential to understanding (as far as we CAN understand) the Trinity, it is logically held that the “overshadowing” of the Holy Spirit produced the Incarnation in a way wholly outside the normal biological process.

As a particular mark of the unique spousal relationship between Our Lady and the Holy Spirit, it is held that Joseph and Mary could not have consummated their marriage. This fact points to the greater import of marriage: that it goes beyond biology in a profound and essential way.


This is clearly a hot button issue. I, too, can see many beautiful things in the concept of Mary, Ever Virgin. I’m having difficulty with not making a distinction between what we might like to think about something of which we could not possibly know; and what is actually true. We used to pray for all the souls in purgatory, and for the babies in limbo. What was true yesterday, remains and always will be true. What one thought was true yesterday, and is not now accepted as true, was not really true yesterday. It was Opinion.


By definition, a dogma IS something we can know; it is a truth that by logical extension, by consistency with Scripture, and by theological integrity has been declared to have been divinely revealed under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, who leads the Church “into all the truth.”

We never prayed for babies in Limbo. Limbo was never dogmatically defined; it was a theological speculation, which may still be held by the faithful. We STILL pray for the souls in Purgatory.


Mercygate explained this well and I hope you now understand the difference between opinion and doctrine. The doctrine of the Perpetual Virginity of Mary is “De Fide”, which is the highest degree of certainty in the teaching of the Church and MUST be assented to by all Catholics.


I am grateful to all of you who responded to my question regarding Mary’s perpetual virginity. It’s important to consider how and why and when such beliefs were made a part of the church’s teaching; and what they do to fortify our faith.

Does it really matter? Wouldn’t the alternative story be just as beautiful and inspiring, i.e. Mary and Joseph as role models for how husbands and wifes should truly live together and love each other as God intended? They were, after all, like you and I, made in God’s own image and likeness. Would they be the very least bit less pure if they had had a married, sexual relationship?


the Blessed Virgin Mary consecrated herself completely to God which explains why she said, “how can this be since I know not man?”. Just a couple verses above it says that she was betrothed to the just man Joseph. In Jewish custom, marriage was two-phases. In the first phase, betrothal, it was “ok” to have sexual relations and the 2nd phase when was he actually brought her into his home.

The ONLY way to make sense of why Mary responded this way was if we assumed she had already consecrated herself to God and her question was justified before the Angel since if she assumed the NORMAL WAY OF HAVING A BABY, she would have had to BREAK HER CONSECRATION with Joseph, which is what ANY person would have assumed, provided they intended to have sexual relations.


Does it matter? Well it must have mattered to God, for he not only brought it about, but he also made sure that his Church received this revelation and passed it down from generation to generation.

The point is, we don’t believe it because it’s beautiful and inspiring. We believe it because it has been revealed to the Church, and we find it beautiful and inspiring.

BTW, when it is considered acceptable for a woman to bear the children of two different fathers? When the first father dies, but did God die? Perhaps when the first father abandons mother and child, but did God abandon Mary and Jesus?


But we would be deceiving ourselves. Mary did not have sexual relations. This is the truth, peace be to you.


Im with your last comments, to me that Joseph married Mary even though she was pregnant and then after continued to be “human”, despite all the problems and joys is a stronger message to me, than if Mary was perpertual virgin. Kind of takes her to this surreal image that one cannot relate to.

The fact they stuck it all out and went through it all as real ordinary, everyday people gives a person strength. And wasnt that who Jesus wanted to connect to was the average joe?


Hey! there’s a book about St. Joseph that came out recently entitled, *NOT Your Average Joe! *and he WASN’T. That’s what is so great about the saints. In one way they are ‘average’ but they live extraordinary lives in the power of Christ. As did Our Lady.


Thank you, Kitty. I was feeling quite alone and alienated from the church I love while reading the many other replies I have received. I was thinking that, perhaps, I have been hanging out with a group of strangers, and not the brothers and sisters I believed them to be.
Virgin Mary, did I read your response correctly? I have not been questioning that our Blessed Mother was a virgin when she conceived Jesus. God is Jesus’ Father. Joseph was His step-father. That is Truth. The continuing virginity of Mary and, one would assume, Joseph after Jesus’ birth may be truth; or, it may be the well-intentioned imaginings of man.

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