How can the Catholic Church teach that Mary was a virgin after the birth of Jesus Christ when there are references in scripture to the "brothers and sisters" of Jesus Christ? There are portions of scripture that refer to "brothers and sisters" of Jesus Christ. These passages seem to contradict the church's teaching that Mary remained a virgin after the birth of Jesus Christ. Because of these references in the bible to "brothers and sisters" of Christ some bible interpreters claim and maintain that the Blessed Virgin Mary had a number of children after Jesus. They support their claim with the following passages from the bible:
Despite all-these quotations given above which talk about the brothers and sisters of Jesus or the children of Mary, the Catholic Church, affirms that, the Blessed Virgin Mary never had any other children after Jesus. The teaching of the church confirms that Mary was a virgin in her conception of Jesus (Matt 1:18, Luke 1:34-36) and remained a virgin to the end of her earthly life. She died at a mature age of about sixty-nine years. I shall endeavor to give the names of all the parents of all those mentioned in the above quotations who are described as children of Mary or brothers and sisters of Jesus.
Right from the beginning of creation, it was God's plan (Is. 7:14) to choose Mary as the Mother of Jesus. God himself prepared her adequately for the stupendous honour as the Mother of Jesus alone, who is also God, the second person of the Trinity. This remarkable woman, of God's own choice, was therefore born free from sin (Immaculate Conception), because the child that would be born by her would be holy. "And so the child will be holy and will be called the Son of God. (Lk. 1:35)
Based on the above quotation, the fundamentalists believe that Mary had other children, as Jesus was her first born. It is true that the term "first born" is the title given to the first child of all parents, whether other children followed or not. In the Jewish tradition, the oldest son, whether he is the first-born or not was very important in the family, because he would inherit the tradition and possessions of his father. This is also true in our country here in Ghana. So the term "first born" meant simply the fact that she was a virgin when Jesus was born.
The Scriptures affirm (Matt. 1:18, Matt. 2:11, Lk. 2:6-7) that Mary was the mother of Jesus "through the Holy Spirit" and therefore if he was her "first-born", then she had always been a virgin, and she remained a virgin to the end of her earthly life. It is believed that before Joseph took Mary as his wife, Mary had a vow to remain a virgin all her lifetime.
"But how can this come about since 1 am a virgin". (Lk. 1:34) Would Mary being so close to the incarnate God. and who was very much aware that the child she was carrying in her arms, was the Son of God, would she so easily break her own vow? Remember again that. Joseph was also very much aware that (he child he and Mary were having was Holy and the son of God and that Mary his wife, was a holy woman, a virgin. "Her husband Joseph, being a man of honour" (Matt. 1:19).
"As the Jewish feast of Tabernacles drew near, his brothers said to him". (.In. 7:2) "Not Even his brothers, in facts, had faith in him". (In. 7:5) ". However, after his brothers had left for the festival" (In. 7:10)
The Scriptures, according to the use at that time, described Jesus' relatives as his Brothers, James (the Great), Simon (Zcloles), Jude also called Judas or Thaddaeus, James the Less and Joseph also called Josses or Joset, are all described in the Scriptures as the brothers of Jesus or children of Mary. These are not brothers from the same mother and father with Jesus but close relatives. Brothers and sisters, in those days, meant a close relative in that country. In the same way that Akan language, in this country, has no proper word for a cousin, therefore, "brother" or "sister" is used to describe such a close relative. St. Paul in his letters to the Romans, addressed (hem as: "Brethren". That is adopted brothers and sisters in Christ. So also St. Peter, when he addressed the congregation before the election of Matthias as an apostle said: "Brothers, the passage of Scripture had to be fulfilled " (Acts 1:16).
The word "brothers" is used here to describe a relationship in Christ. "Accordingly A brain said to Lot; Let there be no dispute between me and you, nor between my herdsmen and yours, for we are brothers " (Gen. 13:8). The word "brothers" is again used here to describe the relationship between Abram and Lot. Bui the Scriptures tell us that Abram was Lot's uncle and not brother in its proper use.
Cousins are usually regarded always as brothers and sisters; and when a man says: "my brothers" he means those people closely related him. Now if it is true that Christ had a number of blood brothers and sisters, that is brothers and sisters from the same mother and same father. He would not have left His mother in the care of a comparative stranger at the time of His death on the cross, lie gave His mother to the earc of John the Evangelist, in those touching words from the cross: "Seeing his mother and the disciple he loved standing near her, Jesus said to his mother, 'Woman this is your son. Then to the disciple he said; 'This is your mother'. And from that moment the disciple made a place for her in his home". (Jn. 19:26-27).
St. Luke tells us that John (the 1 Evangelist) was the son of Zebedee and the brother of James (the Great), both being partners of Simon (Peter), and these three were among the apostles of Christ. (Lk. 5:1 OX 'The wife of Zebedee with whom he had his children, Jamas and John was called Salome or Mary Salome. St. Mark also says the same thing: "Going on a little further he saw James, son of Zebedee and his brother John. He called them at once and leaving their father Zebedee in the boat with the men he employed, they went with him". (Mk. 1:19-20).
Therefore James and John who are spoken of as the brothers of Christ are neither the sons of Joseph nor of Mary, even if it were possible to think that the Blessed Virgin Mary could marry again after the death of her husband Joseph. It is known that Joseph was alive when Jesus was twelve years old. Jesus, however, began his public life at the age of thirty.
Supposed Joseph had died, when Christ was fifteen years old, which is putting it at the very early age, and His mother, the Virgin Mary, married again, then the oldest child of this supposed marriage would be about fourteen years old when Christ began his public ministry at the age of thirty. This would mean that the apostles like John who were close to His age, Simon Peter being much older, could not have been real sisters or brothers from the same parents of Christ.
St. Mark again speaks of the morning of the Resurrection when Mary, the mother of James (the Great), went with Mary Magdalene to the tomb (Mk. 16:1). This was Mary Salome described as sister or cousin of Mary, the mother of Christ. James and John were the sons of Zebedee, while Jude also known as Judas or Thaddaeus, Simon also called Simon Zelotcs, and James also described as James the Less, were the sons of Alpheaus the brother of Joseph, the foster father of Jesus. (Mk. 3:18-19) Mary Cleophas was the wife of Alphaeus with whom he had his three children Jude, Simon and James. Alphaeus again had another child with his first wife who is St. Matthew also called the Lcvi, one of the twelve apostles of Christ. (Mk. 2:14).
Other versions of the Bible also talk about Joseph or loses or Josct as one of the brothers of Jesus. (Matt. 1355, Mk. 6:3) 'This Joseph or Joset or loses is the son of Bliezer in the genealogy of Christ (Lk. 3:29).
"I lis sisters, too, are they not all here with us? (Matt. 1 3:56).
"Your mother and brothers and sisters are outside asking for you .......... Anyone who does the will ofdod, that person is my brother and sister and mother". (Lk. 3:32 & 35). Apart from the term "sister" being mentioned in a group quotation as stated above, there is not a specific woman's name mentioned in the Gospels as a sister of Jesus. As lie himself declared, anybody who does the will of God is his sister: That means a spiritual sister in Christ.
Now with the explanation given above it is clear that all those men described as the children of Mary or brothers and sisters of Jesus are in fact relatives of Jesus and not his brothers and sisters from the same parents. Therefore Christ is the only son of Mary born "through the Holy Spirit". (Matt. 1:18). The Scriptures affirm that Christ was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit which "overshadowed" Mary without the intervention of any human father. St. Mathew makes this point clear in the context of Joseph's dream. (Matt. 1 :20-25). St. Luke also again confirms this same fact in the angelic response to Mary's question: "But how can this come about, since I am a virgin" (Lk. 1 :34).
Contrary to what others say about the Blessed Virgin Mary, our Catholic Faith proclaims that Mary gave* birth to Jesus in a virginal way. That means that Mary brought forth Jesus without the loss of her virginity, even as she conceived him without loss of her virginity. His birth is truly a miraculous birth. Christ is truly our brother born also of an ordinary woman Mary, like our own mothers. Therefore Jesus was the only son of Mary. Joseph was not his father in the natural sense of the word, but Jesus as a man was the natural son of Mary by the "Power of the Holy Spirit." It was humanly very necessary that Mary should have a husband as a protector on earth, otherwise scandalous tongues would scandalized her name, if her child did not have a visible father. Hence the choice of Joseph as a foster father and protector of the child Jesus and His Mother Mary, because, "Her husband Joseph being a man of honour". (Matt. 1:19). At first was reluctant to accept Mary as his wife when he found her "with child" because he was sure that he had not had any sexual relation with her. But when the truth was revealed to him in a dream, he quickly accepted her willingly as his wife. (Matt. 1 :20-21)
Some other critics claim that St. Joseph the foster father of Jesus, husband of, Mary, was a widower, who had several children before he betrothed the Blessed Virgin Mary. This claim can never be true. The Scriptures, being the inspired work of God and also being always definite and frank in its statement,- would definitely have added to the name Joseph:
"Joseph the widower, the father of several children." had it been true, furthermore, the Scriptures would surely have talked about the sons and daughters of
Joseph, since the other relatives of Jesus and Mary were spoken about frequently in the Gospels.Christ was always spoken of, in the Gospels as the "Son of the carpenter", and not as "one of the sons", or even as "one of the children" of the carpenter; and because the man of the family was the most important person. Joseph's children would certainly have been mentioned, if he had any other children at all. Yet Jesus was always called the "Son of the carpenter". "This is Joseph's son, surely", (l,k. 4:23). "Surely this is Jesus Son of Joseph ". "We know his father and mother". (.In. 0:42).
Note that there is no mention made in any account of the Nativity of Christ, of any other members of Joseph's family who went with them to Bethlehem to be enrolled in that city of David. Joseph's sons and daughters would certainly have been obliged to enroll with their father in the same city, for a father always compelled his children to go with him for the enrollment at Bethlehem.
Furthermore, if Joseph had daughters or even daughters-in-laws, would he have allowed Mary to have gone through all that ordeal of child delivery, with no other woman around? Yet the Gospels do not say that there was anyone with Mary and Joseph on the night of the Nativity. We must therefore dismiss the idea that the man who had the sacred trust of watching over the infant God, had other children at that time or at any time of his earthly life. "Her husband Joseph, being a man of honour " (Malt. 1:19).
The question that Mary had other children after Jesus is being propagated by agnostics, fundamentalists and other critics of the Catholic Faith, who doubt the holiness and the perpetual virginity of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The Catholic Church however teaches that Mary was a virgin, before, during and after the birth of Christ.
I have tried in this article to give you the full detail of all the relatives of Jesus as shown in the Genealogical table attached. This shows that though Jesus Christ is God yet he is also a true man like anyone of us; a man from a family. He came from the house of David so also was His mother Mary (Matt. 1:1). The Gospels did not only talk about the nuclear family members of Christ namely Joseph, Mary and Jesus in its accounts, but also mentioned the names of His extended family members cousins, Aunties, Uncles and others.
This shows the importance the Bible attaches to the family. The family is not just made up only of father, mother and children but also cousins ("Brothers and Sister") 'Aunties, Uncles, Nephews and others. All these are important family members. By this account the Bible recognizes nuclear and extended families as one family.