For about 1,500 years, the entire Christian world enjoyed a clear and perfect means of defining its doctrines. When specific, objectionable errors in practice occurred in parts of the Church five centuries ago, some men became understandably frustrated with the indifference they saw with some Church leaders. To rid themselves of these wrongs, they abandoned the Church and proceeded to form their own churches. They may have cleansed themselves of the practices they were opposed to. However, they also cut themselves off from the direct teaching authority which Christ handed to St. Peter and the apostles during his appearances in the Upper Room following His Resurrection.1
This separation made them and their successors vulnerable to even more serious teaching errors as they attempt to redefine Christianity through individual interpretation of Scripture, including claims of entirely new revelations which cannot exist.2,3
While many erroneous re-interpretations of Scriptures have ensued, this article will only address the mistaken belief that the Virgin Mary had other children after the birth of Jesus.
1) “Brothers and Sisters” and No Word For “Cousin”
Aramaic and the other Middle Eastern languages do not have a word for “cousin.” Without this word, relatives were described as combinations of brother or sister, such as a son or daughter of father’s sister, etc. Being described as a “brother” or a “sister” didn’t automatically establish a sibling relationship. The Greek “adelphos” (brother) is often used in non-blood relationships. Example, in Acts 22:13, when Ananias cured Paul of his blindness, he said: “Saul, my brother, regain your sight,” though they had different parents.4
2) Siblings Took Care of Widowed Mothers
When Jesus was on the Cross, there would have been no reason for Him to transfer the responsibility of His mother’s care to an apostle if he had siblings through her. Families took care of their own back then, which is why a widow without children is always portrayed as being so pitiful in the Bible. Also, people of that time weren’t displaced as is common today. It wasn’t as though Jesus had siblings who had taken jobs with our state department or Procter & Gamble and had left Judea for other continents.
3) “Until” Has Different Implications
Scripture says that Mary and Joseph did not have physical relations until Jesus was born (Matthew 1:25). Our use of modern English implies that a condition lasting “until” something occurs, must automatically change afterward.
The Greek “until” used in the Bible only brackets the time frame being described. It neither says nor implies anything about later.5 For example, when Jesus told us that He will be with us “until the end of the age,” are we to conclude after the end of the world He won’t be with us anymore?
4) Even an Only Child is a “First-Born”
Two points here. The term “firstborn” was a legal term referring to the child who first “opens the womb.”6 (Exodus 13:2 “Consecrate to me every first-born that opens the womb among the Israelites, both of man and beast, for it belongs to me.”)
In addition, circumcision and consecration to the Lord must occur within a short, specified time after birth. Therefore, it would be illogical that other children must follow in order to make the first child a “first-born” so that these practices could be fulfilled as required in Luke 2:21-24.6
5) Arks of the Old Covenant and of the New Covenant — Thou Shall Not Touch Either!
Most Christians know of the Ark of the Covenant as it appeared in the Old Testament. Catholics refer to the Virgin Mary as the Ark of the New Covenant. The explanation of this is well documented in Steve Ray’s article, “Mary, the Ark of the New Covenant” which appeared in the Catholic Answers Magazine, Vol. 20 No.5.
The article also mentions the death of a man named Uzzah when he touched the original Ark of the Covenant (2 Samuel 6:6-7). While the Ark itself was not God, it was a very holy object and His instructions were for it not to be touched by human hands.
Fast forward to Mary, the Ark of the New Covenant. Just like the first Ark, she was not God. However, she was holiest of all who were only human. As Steve Ray reminds us, the Ark of the Old Covenant carried “the word of God inscribed on stone,” while Mary the Ark of the New Covenant carried “the word of God in the flesh.”
St. Joseph was aware of Mary’s tremendous holiness and that she was specially chosen to give birth to God’s Son. St. Joseph respected this unique relationship to the point that he could not have had physical relations with her.
My hope is that this article is helpful to those who are unsure of Mary’s perpetual virginity.
1 – The bestowing of Christ’s authority to Peter and the apostles is mentioned in many ways familiar to the Christian. They included His naming Peter as “the rock” upon which His Church would be built. Acknowledging that some disagree with this for perceived semantic differences in interpreting the Greek used in the Bible, there are other events demonstrating how Christ handed authority of His Church to the apostles and their successors.
They include: Peter’s receiving the Keys of the Kingdom (prefigured by Isaiah 22:22, reference taken from “What Catholics Really Believe,” by
Dr. Ray Guarendi and Rev. Kevin Fete, Nineveh’s Crossing, Novi, MI, 2010), and the apostle’s receiving the Holy Spirit when Jesus breathed on them and declared that they had the power to forgive or retain sins.
The first instance of apostolic succession occurred when Matthias was chosen to replace the departed Judas (Acts 1:26). Succession has been documented many times, including “For this reason, therefore, having received perfect foreknowledge, they appointed those who have already been mentioned and afterwards added the further provision, that if they should die, other approved men should succeed to their ministry.” (Pope St. Clement of Rome, circa A.D. 80, as found in “Why Is That In Tradition,” by Patrick Madrid, Our Sunday Visitor Publishing Division, Huntington, IN, 2002)
2 – A pre-Reformation example of the effects of this: “[T]he Church is one, and as she is one, cannot be both within and without. For if she is with [the heretic] Novatian, she is not with [Pope] Cornelius. But if she was with Cornelius, who succeeded the bishop [of Rome] Fabian, by lawful ordination, and whom, beside the honor of the priesthood, the Lord glorified also with martyrdom, Novatian is not in the Church; nor can he be reckoned as a bishop, who, succeeding to no one, and despising the evangelical and apostolic tradition sprang from himself. For he who has not been ordained in the Church can neither have nor hold to the Church in any way.” (St. Cyprian of Carthage, A.D. 253, Ibid.)
3 – At the conclusion of Christ’s time on earth, revelation became complete, although its complete understanding continues over time (e.g. the naming of the Trinity to describe the three persons in one God came after the New Testament was written).
Regarding the completion of revelation: “…Christ, the Son of God made man, is the Father’s one, perfect, and unsurpassable Word. In him he has said everything; there will be no other word than this one… and no new public revelation is to be expected before the glorious manifestation of our Lord Jesus Christ. Yet even if Revelation is already complete, it has not been made completely explicit; it remains for Christian faith gradually to grasp its full significance over the course of the centuries… Christian faith cannot accept ‘revelations’ that claim to surpass or correct the Revelation of which Christ is the fulfillment, as is the case in certain non-Christian religions and also in certain recent sects which base themselves on such revelations.’” (parts of Paragraphs 65, 66 and 67 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, Liguori Publications, Liguori, MO, 1994)
4 – page 184, “What Catholics Really Believe,” Nineveh’s Crossing, Novi, MI, 2010
5—page 1010, “The New Catholic Answer Bible,” Fireside Catholic Publishing, Wichita, KS, 2005
6 – page Q-1, Ibid.
7 – pages 184-185, “What Catholics Really Believe,” Nineveh’s Crossing, Novi, MI, 2010