SPLIT: Did Jesus have brothers? The perpetual virginity debate.

The church teaches that Mary, who is to be called blessed, was ever a virgin. But in the Gospels she has 4 sons mentioned and the word “sisters” used talking about Jesus. Now i know that the word Brother can be used to mean cousin, but the word for sisters can only be translatted to mean sister. Holy Spirit does not confuse people. So lets look at why Mary has to be a eternal virgin. I don’t find anything in Scripture that says if she was or was not that will add to my salvation.

One was mentioned as the “sister” of Jesus, Salome. She was the daughter of Mary the wife of Cleophas who was also the mother of James and Joseph.

Scriptural argument and proof:



Enjoy the reading.

Is Jesus the Messiah or not? I’d say that question cuts DIRECTLY to your salvation. Since He is the Messiah, then this prophecy:
must be fulfilled. There is no gate in Jerusalem that only Jesus entered through. The only “gate” that could fulfill that prophecy is Mary, and only if She is ever-virgin.

Even the 3 pillars of the reformation…Luther, Calvin, and Zwingli all preached Mary was both mother of God and perpetual virgin.
The Perpetual Virginity of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Joseph may have been a widower and might have had sons and daughters from an earlier marriage, who would be recognized as Jesus’ brothers and sisters. This would obviate the question.

I think there is a suggestion of this in some of the non-inspired early Church writings, but can’t recall the reference.

Never in the Gospels did it say that anyone was a son of Mary aside from Jesus. Read again, they were always referred to as the brothers and sisters of Jesus Christ, but never the sons and daughters of Mary. Only Jesus was ever referred to as the son of Mary.

The long standing tradition in the East is that Joseph is an older widower who had 6 children with a previous wife. These are the brothers and sisters of Jesus.

The belief is based on Tradition, not Scripture. While the details have been written down on text that did not make the Biblical Canon, the belief has been there for quite a while and is held to this day mostly by the Eastern Churches.

A very simple explanation for the whole scenario is that Joseph was a widower, who already had several children. This explains Jesus’ brothers and sisters. Joseph happened to be the only bachelor in town, so when Mary came of age, the local Rabbi pushed Joseph to marry her, Jospeh was not too thrilled with the idea (been there/done that, don’t need another mouth to feed) explains Josephs’ reluctance. Also when she turns up pregnant Joseph is not overly irked (she’s just a kid, you know how they get into mischief).
He doesn’t take all of it too seriously until the angel has a chat with him.
He never has sex with her because of “pick one”, too old, not interested, she’s God’s gal,
like a daughter, whatever the reason that explains the “ever virgin”. That is also why he is not present in any of the rest of Jesus’ life, he has died of old age.

Here’s an article on the subject - St. Jerome and Origen disagreed strongly with the “Joseph as widower” story:


He wan’t the only bachelor in town. The priests of the temple wanted had to remove Mary from the temple because she was of age, and the concern is that women of age may lose their virginity which then would defile the temple. But they wished to preserve the virginity of the temple virgins so they sought older widowers who have no interest in having children (and probably have no ability to do so anyway) to take her as a wife (but in reality be more of a guardian). So they called all the old widowers in town to the temple, and the Holy Spirit showed the priests a sign that Joseph is the chosen one (a dove landed on Joseph). And thus Mary was betrothed to Joseph.

Joseph was indeed irked that Mary was pregnant because of the trouble it would bring to him. After reading the Protoevangelium of James, Joseph’s reactions and emotions in the Gospels made sense to me. Also it seems that Joseph handled the situation more maturely. A younger man would have made a big fuss of the issue and ratted Mary out to the pharisees who would have stoned her to death. Joseph seemed to proceed cautiously even though he was distraught by the events.

The Jews at that time still went by their tribal identity. All the persons in your tribal group were your brothers and sisters. It’s why many Christians call each other brother and sister–because the Christian family is the family of Christ, yes? The brothers and sisters mentioned need not have been directly related to Jesus, as we see from other references to these people mentioned in various parts of the Gospel accounts.

As to why it is important to our salvation, you hit upon a very important point, one that even many Catholics are unaware of, and that is that all Marian doctrines/dogmas are taught by the Church because they tell us something about Jesus, her Son, and not because they honor her, although they do that, too. Most Protestants never think about why the Catholic Church teaches the things it does about Mary, but only assumes it must be wrong merely because they haven’t explored those questions for the same reasons.

If you truly ponder the meaning of who Jesus was, fully God and fully human, the Marian teachings take on another perspective. One that, if you look into it, are reasonable and in no way detract anything from Jesus but rather enhance our understanding of his life and his act of redemption.


First, we must understand that the term brother has a wide semantic range in Scripture. It can mean a uterine brother, an extended relative, or even a spiritual brother. In Genesis 13:8 and 14:12, we read of one example of brother being used to describe an extended relationship: Abraham and Lot. Though they were actually uncle and nephew, they called one another “brother.” Moreover, in the New Testament, Jesus told us to call one another “brothers” in Matthew 23:8. The passage obviously does not mean to suggest that all Christians have the same physical mother.

The problem with this scenario is that step brothers and sisters would have been the ones to look after Mary so why did Jesus entrust Mary to John?

They didn’t. Mary wasn’t their mother. Also, I’m not sure about what the particulars of 1st century Jewish culture is regarding this matter. Given this tradition has been around since at least the second century and they didn’t find it ridiculous then, what happen was probably socially acceptable at the time.

I tried to find the thread about this before but can’t. However, my understanding from memory is that it was indeed the Jewish tradition in those times for the stepchildren to look after their stepmother. It would be irrelevant that a woman was not their biological mother.
Maybe some of our Jewish friends in these forums could comment on this.

I should add that my comments above relate to the custom of the times and that if Jesus did have stepbrothers they would have looked after Mary.
This does not mean I think Jesus had step siblings. I do not believe the Protoevangelium of James. I know Mary had no other biological children but I also do not believe Joseph had children from a previous marriage.
In short, Jesus had neither blood siblings nor step siblings.

Thanks! That was quite illuminating.:thumbsup:

Joseph’s children were grown and could possibly be Mary’s age. Its not far off that they see each other as peers rather than parent-child.

Also, the tradition of an older Joseph precedes the belief in a younger Joseph. So I’ll go with what the earlier Christians has believed in, rather than something relatively new. :wink:

I did not say it was wrong. I said I believe it is wrong because the Church does not consider the Protoevangelium of James inspired in any way and does not accept what is in it. If it did it would teach that Joesph was married before and did have other children. The Church does not teach that so I go with the Church.

By the way even if what you think is correct is correct and even if they were more like peers it was still the custom to look after the woman if their father died and any blood children of the woman died.

No he didn’t have brothers or sisters.

Thus the name "The Virgin Mary"

Neither will you find the trinity taught in scripture. Yet, you believe that, right? Doctrine develops. Actually, not only does the Church teach that Mary is blessed, your very own bible does, as well. Mary is called blessed three times (“Blessed are you” “blessed is she” and “blessed is the fruit of your womb”) by Elizabeth, who was filled with the Holy Spirit when she said it (Luke 1:41-45). The Holy Spirit cannot deceive, correct?

Sons of Mary? Nowhere in scripture is Mary, mother of Jesus, mentioned as having other children. Not in Luke’s infancy narrative. Not in the flight to Egypt. Not in the return from Egypt. Not during the visit of the Magi, which was possibly two years later. Not even twelve years later, when Jesus remained behind in the Temple. Never. She is the handmaid (or bond slave) of the Lord. A maid in those days was a virgin. As a handmaiden, or a bond slave, she serves only the Lord. There was no time limit on her vow.

She served God the Father, then she served God the Son - right up to the end. As a matter of fact, Jesus had to give her John as her son, even though John’s own mother was right there! (John 19:26-27) Figure that one out. Check Luke 7:11 and following for a parallel. Man cannot serve two masters, right? Neither can woman. Are you thinking of the other Marys in scripture? There are at least four of them (Matthew 27:56, Luke 10, John 11).

Brother and sister: Both terms were used for those from the same town or village, one’s extended family, or even another of the same nationality, if they were in a foreign nation. It was thus then, and still is in much of the world. Go back to Genesis 11:27-31 Abram (Abraham) is the brother of Aram, who fathered Lot. Yet, in Genesis 13:8, Abram tells Lot (who is his nephew) “we are brothers”. Explain that one!

Something to ponder: Why is it so important that God’s chosen mother of His only Son, the self-professed bond slave of the Lord, had to cheat on her vow before God and have other children?

Of all Catholic teachings, this one was a tough issue for me - but scripture convinced me. It’s all in how you look at it.

You know, the Catholic Church might just be right on this one.

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