Perpetuation of Virginity

Hey ya’ll! I was hopping ya’ll could help me understand the understanding that Mary remained a virgin. I have found my research on Mary to be very enjoyable and greatly enjoy the reverence Catholicism gives her.

I have read this (link) article and while it answers many questions, it doesn’t address two seemingly contrary scriptures. So I figured I’d ask here!

The first is Galatians 1:18-19:

[quote=Galatians 1:18-19]Only after three years did I go up to Jerusalem to confer with Cephas, and I stayed with him fifteen days. But I saw none of the other apostles except James, the Lord’s brother.

Why would Paul differentiate James as the brother from Cephas, who is a brother in Christ, if there was not a difference between the literal brotherhood and a fraternal brotherhood?

This distinction is again in 1 Corinthians 9:5:

[quote=1 Corinthians 9:4-6]Have we no right to food and to drink? Have we no right to take along a believing wife, as do the other apostles and the Lord’s brothers and Cephas? Or are Barnabas and I the only apostles who must work for a living?

Why are the brothers of the Lord separated as distinct from the Apostles and Cephas?

For me, Paul’s apparent distinctions are a hurdle in accepting a position of perpetual virginity. Any insight would be appreciated!

The same word in Hebrew could describe a brother or a cousin.

So you believe that he is referring to the cousins of the Lord?

I don’t have an opinion on what it is referring to-- could be cousin, step brother, other relative, or merely a friend. Scholars differ on the interpretation and I thought the articles I linked to summarize it nicely.

I only know what it is not referring to: a son of Mary the mother of Jesus.

Here is how I look at it: 100 years from now someone is going to read some document of mine where I have referred to my aunt Debbie. When my descendant talks about my Aunt Debbie some other member of the family is going to say “I don’t know who Debbie is, but she wasn’t 1ke’s aunt-- because 1ke’s Mom was an only child”

So my Aunt Debbie is actually my Mom’s second cousin-- my second cousin once removed. But in the south, many times extended family elders are referred to by children as “aunt” this or that.

Christ did not speak Greek, he taught his disciples in their own language, ancient Aramaic. There is not a word in that language for step-brothers or other family relatives such as cousins. Greek obviously has a word for cousin as Luke wrote of Mary visiting her cousin Elizabeth. but Aramaic, no. There was much conjecture in the early Church that Joseph had been previously married and had children from a previous marriage. I think this was a point in the Protoevangelim of James, though I’m not sure, that is something that comes from a secondary source. In that vein, James and the other brothers and sisters of Jesus mentioned in Scripture takes on a different light and supports the Catholic concept of Mary’s perpetual virginity.
Another bit of conjecture on the subject is the last verse in the first chapter of Matthew’s gospel which says something to the effect that Mary had no relations with Joseph until she entered his home (not verbatim) The word “until” is used here. A word that has a couple of meanings.
Until - time up to a certain point.
Until - a point of demarcation.
If I said to you, “I won’t touch another drink until the day I die,” do you expect me to open a can of Bud in my coffin? That word “until” has caused many an argument on the point of Mary’s virginity.

My :twocents:

Another theory I’ve heard is that St. Joseph may have been a widower who already had children when he was wed to the Blessed Virgin. These children were raised alongside our Lord, and under the law were His siblings.

We know that St. Joseph had already died prior to the crucifixion, so it’s not outside the realm of possibility that he was a good deal older than Mary.

This is a pretty good article.

Also, **tradition **says that Joseph was selected because his staff bloomed a lily…the symbol of purity…and therefore deemed suitable for Mary. Both remaining pure.


…as I’ve offered before… do you consider Jesus to be Just?

…would a Just man take His mother from the care of His blood siblings in order to give her to one of His Disciples?

…how many Laws would Jesus not be breaking?

  • Love Yahweh God above all and your neighbor as yourself.
  • Do not repay evil with evil.
  • Pray for those who persecute you.
  • If, while bringing your offering to the Temple, you remember that your brother has something against you; leave the offering there, go and reconcile with your brother, then return and make the offering…

…these are just a few examples of how bad Christ would have been had He had blood siblings and have had rid them of their obligation to care for their mom!

How hypocritical would it have been for Jesus to forgive those who unfairly imprisoned, beat, tortured, taunted, and crucified Him while keeping His own blood siblings from their mom… because they did not “believe” in Him?

…then we have the issue of terminology… as I understand it all relations were seen as “brother” or “sister;” consider how many “fathers” the Jewish people had: ‘our father, Abraham, Jacob, Isaac…’ Was Abraham the father of Jesus’ contemporaries? So there is both a religious and a familial use of terms that does not reflect direct blood relations.

…when Jesus was twelve, where were all these brothers and sisters of His? Scriptures do not mention Jesus being followed by any of these purported siblings when he took off; nor does Scriptures mention how the other children were left behind in Nazareth as the family, minus the “x” number of children that were left behind, took to the trek to Jerusalem (about twelve day’s travel to and fro + the incidental stay or delay to and fro)–this grave responsibility was simply whitewashed?

…here’s one final one:

…where in Scriptures does it state: ‘here are Mary’s children’ or ‘Mary’s other son/daughter?’

Maran atha!


Cousins that may have lived under the same roof (which was common), or perhaps children of Joseph from a prior marriage, who woyld be Jesus’ step brothers. Either way, people who grew up with Jesus.

I have to admit, this is something that had never occurred to me. I knew that there had to be something I was missing. Definitely something to think on!

Thank you! :smiley:

It’s interesting how one word can cause chaos. But I do think that an older Joseph with previous children fit’s very well with the understanding of Perpetual Virginity.

This is why written words, without the Apostolic Tradition, are confusing. Read Genesis 11:26-27. Abram and Lot with uncle and nephew, but in Genesis 13:8, Abraham said they were “brothers.” Read the Book of Tobit. In it, you see that a “brother” or “sister” is anyone from your tribe - and there were 12 tribes. A man married his “sister” which meant someone from his own tribe.

Erikzen. Agreed. As to what actually transpired, we don’t know. Take it on faith or don’t and move on. Sometimes the discussions/arguments go on far longer than their ability to present a clear picture. We will all find out the truth one day.

Personally, there are far more important discussions that need to be had in this society in this day and age. Discussions where all Judeo-Christian views are presented.


Hi Erikzen

Here is my take - directed to your question and two biblical references - In Galatians - why would Paul differentiate between Peter and James … Paul went to meet with Peter and spent time with Peter - the head of the Church - the Rock upon which Jesus built His Church … Paul had to do this because he needed Peter’s acceptance in order for his preaching to be accepted … this trip that Paul made was specifically to meet with Peter … and the only other person he spent time with was James - who just also happens to be a Brother in Christ … he differentiates because of the purpose for his meeting is Paul’s priority - not the literal or figurative relationships of various apostles with Christ -

Ditto the passage from Corinthians - the focus of the communication is whether Paul and Barnabas are to be treated the same as the other apostles and disciples of Jesus with the same rights and respect … the distinction here seems more like the different between the original 12 [11 after Judas’ suicide] and the other disciples of Jesus … those ‘brethren’ - but again this is not directed to answering a question regarding Jesus’ family relationships - but Paul’s relationship with the Christian community and their acceptance of him in an apostolic role.

Marian Dogma is very important for me to understand as it has always served as a significant hurdle in my understanding and further exploration of Catholicism, so, it is important to me and my exploration of your faith. I apologize if it is self indulgent and insignificant to the greater issues of the world.

I apologize if it is self indulgent and trivial in the greater scope. Marian Dogma, has always been a considerable hurdle for me in exploring the Catholic Church further. For me, these historical roadblocks are not just something I can ignore in favor of other things if I am to give things a fair shake.

The perpetual virginity of the Blessed Mother was the final hurdle for me as well.

During RCIA, I read the entire Bible (including deuterocanon) and the entire catechism. The wisdom and clarity apparent in the catechism led me to a decision: since I could perceive the wisdom and leading of the Holy Spirit in the catechism, I could , without understanding, choose to trust in the magisterium’s teaching on Marian Dogma.

After I made the decision, it became easy for me to believe. I can’t explain it, but that’s the way it worked for me.

For me, being raised, “If it ain’t in the Bible, it ain’t in the Church” has created a predisposition of “distrust” in sources that can’t or don’t pull from the Bible. In recent years that is something I have been trying to put away - there are plenty of things within Protestantism that is believed in spite of the Bible, or without clear support from the Bible. So I am approaching my hurdles with a different perspective. In this case, the Bible doesn’t state that Mary had Children other than Jesus. It appears to imply it in the verses above, but as we can see in the above posts, not even that is clear. So the question remains, what did early Christians like Paul believe? In lack of clear written evidence, traditions must be examined. It appears to me that the Tradition of both Orthodox and Catholic churches support that Mary has been viewed as perpetually a virgin, and assumed into heaven. This has to carry weight, and demands further exploration by me, because it doesn’t just come from “nowhere.”

Being shown the evidence (on this matter) that even where the Bible on the surface seems clear in the English translation, in context of language, translation, and culture it is not - I can now be much more open in mind when examining the case for Marian Dogma.

I know precisely where you’re coming from. I’ve gotten to the point where I wince when I hear the words “that’s not biblical”.

Have you read Eusebius’ “Early Church History”? It offers some excellent insight into the debates that took place in the centuries before the Bible was compiled.

Hi, Erik!

…I understand your position… however consider what you’ve stated:

“historical roadblocks”

…how far back have they existed?

…have you studied Church history (beyond the Luther experiment) in order to have/get a full measure of “fair shake?”

…have you researched how old the Marian Dogma is, it’s origins, and the reason why the Dogma was pronounced?

If you have not done so, here’s a point of reference from where to start:

There are four dogmas stating Mary’s personal relationship with God and her role in human salvation . (

…if you like a study buddy, I’ll be willing to do the research with you… you can open a thread for each of the dogmas (preferably one at a time) and we can study them.

Maran atha!


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