Did Mary Have Other Children
By: Rev. Sam Harris
|By: Rev. Sam Harris; ©2002|
|Was Jesus mother, Mary, a “perpetual virgin,” as the Roman Catholic Church states, or did she have other children after Jesus was born, as the Scriptures indicate? Rev. Harris looks into this question.|
Did Mary Have Other Children?
I have a close friend who, after being a Protestant all of her life, has joined the Catholic Church. We have had some long discussions over this and the difference in beliefs. There are, obviously, some things with which we agree, but there are also some areas in which I really struggle with the Roman Catholic doctrine. Let me just mention one: the RC’s view of the Virgin Mary. The reason I pick this particular doctrine is their belief that she remained a Virgin all of her life and had no more children. This sticks out in my mind as I was just reading in Mark 6:3, which speaks of the four brothers and sisters of Jesus. Can you help me on this?
For help on this question, I obtained a copy of the “Handbook for Today’s Catholic,” a Redemptorist Pastoral Publication, the latest edition published in 1991. Like Protestants, the Catholics believe that Mary was a virgin when Jesus was born, conceived by the Holy Spirit.
The prophecy that Jesus would be born of a virgin is found in Isaiah 7:14— “Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she shall call him ‘Immanuel’.” The Hebrew word used in this passage is almah, which is translated “virgin.” In the New Testament, both Matthew and Luke speak of the virgin birth of Jesus. Matthew 1:23 quotes Isaiah 7:14 and, in Luke, an angel appears to Mary telling her that she would conceived and bear a Son, and she would name him Jesus. Mary asks of the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” (Matt. 1:31) The angel responds that the “Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and for this reason the holy offspring shall be called the Son of God.” (Vs. 35) The Greek word for virgin is parthenos.
At this point, both Protestants and Catholics agree. Disagreement comes, however, when the Catholics state that Mary remained physically a virgin for the rest of her life, and she was exempt from any trace of original sin. This is what they call the “Immaculate Conception.”
There are a number of additional issues that we could deal with, but you asked specifically about Jesus having brothers and sisters. The following passages refer to Jesus’ siblings:
Matthew 13:55 & 56. This passage refers to Jesus visiting his hometown of Nazareth and many in the community took offense at His being there. “Is not this the carpenter’s son? Is not His mother called Mary and His brothers, James and Joseph and Simon and Judas? And His sisters, are they not all with us?” Notice that this passage specifically speaks of Mary as HIS mother and HIS brothers and HIS sisters. “His” is the Greek word autos, a person pronoun which shows possession—it’s used the same way in both Greek and English. (Cf. Mark 6:3)
In the “Essentials of Faith” of my denomination, we believe that “All Scripture is self-attesting being Truth, requires our unreserved submission in all areas of life. It is the infallible Word of God…. The Bible, uniquely and fully inspired by the Holy Spirit, is the supreme and final authority on all matters on which it speaks.”
If I affirm this, and I do, then I must believe that the Holy Spirit inspired Matthew and Mark as they wrote the above passages, and they are truth. The Holy Spirit not only inspired the words but also the grammar of these passages. Therefore, I must accept their inspired word as the final authority—Jesus had brothers and sisters and Mary was the Mother of all of them. There is no further explanation that can be found in Scripture.
For further study on the similarities and differences between Protestants and Catholics, please consult other articles found in this online magazine. Hope this has been helpful.