perpetual virginity of Mary..T or F?

This is one doctrine that I always had conflict with. Growing up Baptist, it was always taught that Christ had half brothers and sisters. We believed in the virgin birth of Christ but Mary did not remain a virgin after. Catholic teaching, as well as some other faith traditions, say she was a perpetual virgin.

Jesus’ brothers are mentioned in several Bible verses. Matthew 12:46, Luke 8:19, and Mark 3:31 say that Jesus’ mother and brothers came to see Him. The Bible tells us that Jesus had four brothers: James, Joseph, Simon, and Judas (Matthew 13:55). The Bible also tells us that Jesus had sisters, but they are not named or numbered (Matthew 13:56). In John 7:1-10, His brothers go on to the festival while Jesus stays behind. In Acts 1:14, His brothers and mother are described as praying with the disciples. Later, in Galatians 1:19, it mentions that James was Jesus’ brother.

Roman Catholicism states that these “brothers” were actually Jesus’ cousins. However, in each instance, the specific Greek word for “brother” is used. There is a Greek word for cousin, and it was not used. Further, if they were Jesus’ cousins, why would they so often be described as being with Mary, Jesus’ mother? There is nothing in the context of His mother and brothers coming to see Him that even hints that they were anyone other than His literal, blood-related half-brothers.

Another argument is that Jesus’ brothers and sisters were the children of Joseph from a previous marriage, before he married Mary. An entire theory of Joseph’s being significantly older than Mary, having been previously married, having multiple children, and then being widowed before marrying Mary. The problem with this is that the Bible does not even hint that Joseph was married or had children before he married Mary. If Joseph had at least six children before he married Mary, why are they not mentioned in Joseph and Mary’s trip to Bethlehem (Luke 2:4-7) or their trip to Egypt (Matthew 2:13-15) or their trip back to Nazareth (Matthew 2:20-23)?

I would love to get the thoughts of other non Catholic Christians as well as non Christians about this subject. :thumbsup: Look forward to reading them.

The Perpetual Virginity of Mary has been affirmed by the Church both in the East and in the West since the 2nd century – at the latest. This teaching was implicit in the Statement of Faith at the 2nd Council of Nicaea in AD 787. It was also accepted by the major reformers (Luther, Zwingli, Calvin, etc.) This teaching was not an issue at the time of the Reformation; it was not until after the Reformation that some Protestant Christians began to doubt and then deny this doctrine.

You are correct in noting that there are two major theories regarding this doctrine. In the East, the tendency is to believe the “older Joseph” theory; in the West, the tendency is to believe the “cousin” theory. There are strengths and weaknesses in both theories, and the Church does not require a belief in one vs. the other – only in the truth of the doctrine itself.

The “Protevangelium of James”, which dates to around the middle of the 2nd century, is an example of the “older Joseph” theory. While it is not canonical, it does provide a valuable historical “snapshot” of pious belief in the early Church.

I do believe there is scripture to support the idea of Mary having children after Jesus. I don’t see anything in scripture that would lead me to believe she didn’t. I believe she and Joseph were actually married, and as such would have had relations after the birth of Jesus. In fact, that was a defining feature in Jewish culture, or so I’ve found in research.

I also think that helps explain James as the head of the organized church in Jerusalem.

I knew the early reformers still held to the PV of Mary. Would love to hear from those that do not believe in such a doctrine. I could go either way on the issue. I do not feel it is a major thing in the path of salvation as to whether or not she remained a virgin. If she did or did not, Christ is still Christ.

You are correct in noting that there are two major theories regarding this doctrine. In the East, the tendency is to believe the “older Joseph” theory; in the West, the tendency is to believe the “cousin” theory. There are strengths and weaknesses in both theories, and the Church does not require a belief in one vs. the other – only in the truth of the doctrine itself.

I know an Eastern Catholic that believe the “brothers” were cousins and a Roman Catholic that believes they were step siblings so I get what you are saying. :slight_smile:

The “Protevangelium of James”, which dates to around the middle of the 2nd century, is an example of the “older Joseph” theory. While it is not canonical, it does provide a valuable historical “snapshot” of pious belief in the early Church.

I personally love that book.

For starters, the LDS view takes the verses about Jesus’s brothers at face value and assumes they are children of Mary’s and Joseph’s.

There seems to be an aspect of Catholicism that views physical relations between husband and wife as not quite the highest of high divine law. I haven’t investigated the matter for myself, but the doctrine of Mary’s perpetual virginity, the institution of the Josephite marriage, along with celibacy of priests and bishops leads me to wonder whether in Catholicism the holiest of holy living demands that ultimately married couples at some point later in their marriage abstain from physical relations.

With regards to Mary, the Catholic belief in her perpetual virginity seems to come out of a desire to view her in the most favorable light possible. I just don’t understand how perpetual virginity fits that bill, if that is indeed the reason.

The trouble one runs into here, is that if Jesus had had biological siblings, there would have been no need for Him to give the care of Mary to the Apostle John. The next oldest brother would have taken on that role.

The other difficulty is the testimony of the early Church – from its inception. That testimony must be at least considered when attempting to interpret Scripture. And it appears that the major reformers did take that testimony seriously – in all three of the major Reformation traditions: Lutheranism, Calvinism, Anglicanism.

I guess the question that interests me, is why later Protestant Christians chose to first doubt and later deny a teaching their own leaders held dear?

Devotion to Mary is not a ‘church dividing’ issue per Lutheran-Catholic Commission on Unity.

  1. Among the saints who have played a role in
    God’s plan of salvation for humanity, Mary,
    who bore Christ, is in particular to be honored,
    as “God-bearer” (theotokos) and as “the
    pure, holy, and most blessed Virgin” (laudatissima
    virgo).

Luther and Anglicans have maintained the perpetual virginity of Mary.

Many have; many have not. But I agree that it is not likely a “church dividing” issue.

When I was at Nashotah House it was interesting to see the differing views of the students. Those (like me) who accepted the doctrine prayed “Blessed Mary Ever Virgin”; those who did not would pray “Ever Blessed Virgin Mary”.

True, but, it’s not a test of fellowship (at least in the LCMS) on the PV of Mary. I for one believe she had other children, as Sacred Scripture says that she did.

Our parish priest attended Nashotah House and spoke of the same issue. It is not a breaking issue and many go one way or the other. I guess more of a personal belief rather than doctrine.

Right. If we go by Scripture, then it states Christ had brothers.

I actually can see both sides of the argument and I really do not have an opinion one way or the other.

Whether or not Mary was an ever virgin does not help or hurt the path to salvation.

For Catholics, it’s doctrine!

Another interesting claim is that the RCC took the stance they took because if James was the brother of Christ and head of the Jerusalem Church then that would have made him the first “pope” and not Peter. The Gospel of Thomas states that Christ made James the head of the Church on earth. Not sure what religion or faith the guy is that told me that. :shrug:

He went on to state that the CC need Mary to remain a virgin so that Peter could become pope and not the brother of Christ.

Just goes to show us that there are so many arguments out there about this subject.

Both toe Batman and Dustin,

Not to nit-pick, but this is not a “Scripture says” issue. It is a matter of interpretation of Scripture, which is not necessarily the same thing (though it can be). If the matter were that simple, there would be instant church unity, because all would interpret correctly and without confusion. Sadly, this is not yet the case.

I do continue to wonder, though . . . Luther’s specialty was that of a preeminent Scripture scholar – and he accepted the Perpetual Virginity.

I know that. The doctrine is te PV. Whether or not they were step siblings or cousins depends on ones tradition.

Now that’s a notion I’ve never heard! And the Patristic Church is one of my areas of expertise!

I’m not sure the religion or faith of the guy that told you that either!:shrug:

Nit pick all ya want. :slight_smile: It keeps the conversation going.

The greek word for cousin was not used in Scripture. Not sure what was used before the Greek. :shrug:

Luther did maintain the PV of Mary as well as did the Anglican Church.

If she was not a PV, does that change our salvation?

I’m sure we both can agree that whatever is the religion, he is surely against the OHCAC. :wink:

I am also astonished by Calvin and Zwingli’s insistence on Mary’s perpetual virginity. How did that belief fall apart after the Reformation?

That is a question that does really interest me! The three major branches of the Reformation accepted it; and there were some clergy and theologians in all three traditions that continued to accept it.

When did it go? Where did it go? Why did it go?

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