Perpetual Virginity of Mary?

Yea or Nay?  Do you believe she remained a virgin her whole life and only Jesus developed in her womb?  I was surprised to find out that the three big Reformers Luther, Calvin and Zwingli all believed in this and were actually pretty adament about it. 

These are the arguments for it:

IV. Mary is Ever Virgin

Exodus 13:2,12 - Jesus is sometimes referred to as the "first-born" son of Mary. But "first-born" is a common Jewish expression meaning the first child to open the womb. It has nothing to do the mother having future children.

Exodus 34:20 - under the Mosaic law, the "first-born" son had to be sanctified. "First-born" status does not require a "second" born.

Ezek. 44:2 - Ezekiel prophesies that no man shall pass through the gate by which the Lord entered the world. This is a prophecy of Mary's perpetual virginity. Mary remained a virgin before, during and after the birth of Jesus.

Mark 6:3 - Jesus was always referred to as "the" son of Mary, not "a" son of Mary. Also "brothers" could have theoretically been Joseph's children from a former marriage that was dissolved by death. However, it is most likely, perhaps most certainly, that Joseph was a virgin, just as were Jesus and Mary. As such, they embodied the true Holy Family, fully consecrated to God.

Luke 1:31,34 - the angel tells Mary that you "will" conceive (using the future tense). Mary responds by saying, "How shall this be?" Mary's response demonstrates that she had taken a vow of lifelong virginity by having no intention to have relations with a man. If Mary did not take such a vow of lifelong virginity, her question would make no sense at all (for we can assume she knew how a child is conceived). She was a consecrated Temple virgin as was an acceptable custom of the times.

Luke 2:41-51 - in searching for Jesus and finding Him in the temple, there is never any mention of other siblings.

John 7:3-4; Mark 3:21 - we see that younger "brothers" were advising Jesus. But this would have been extremely disrespectful for devout Jews if these were Jesus' biological brothers.

John 19:26-27 - it would have been unthinkable for Jesus to commit the care of his mother to a friend if he had brothers.

John 19:25 - the following verses prove that James and Joseph are Jesus' cousins and not his brothers: Mary the wife of Clopas is the sister of the Virgin Mary.

Matt. 27:61, 28:1 - Matthew even refers to Mary the wife of Clopas as "the other Mary."

Matt. 27:56; Mark 15:47 - Mary the wife of Clopas is the mother of James and Joseph.

Mark 6:3 - James and Joseph are called the "brothers" of Jesus. So James and Joseph are Jesus' cousins.

Matt. 10:3 - James is also called the son of "Alpheus." This does not disprove that James is the son of Clopas. The name Alpheus may be Aramaic for Clopas, or James took a Greek name like Saul (Paul), or Mary remarried a man named Alpheus.




V. Jesus' "Brothers" (adelphoi)) = Cousins or Kinsmen

Luke 1:36 - Elizabeth is Mary's kinswoman. Some Bibles translate kinswoman as "cousin," but this is an improper translation because in Hebrew and Aramaic, there is no word for "cousin."

Luke 22:32 - Jesus tells Peter to strengthen his "brethren." In this case, we clearly see Jesus using "brethren" to refer to the other apostles, not his biological brothers.

Acts 1:12-15 - the gathering of Jesus' "brothers" amounts to about 120. That is a lot of "brothers." Brother means kinsmen in Hebrew.

Acts 7:26; 11:1; 13:15,38; 15:3,23,32; 28:17,21 - these are some of many other examples where "brethren" does not mean blood relations.

Rom. 9:3 - Paul uses "brethren" and "kinsmen" interchangeably. "Brothers" of Jesus does not prove Mary had other children.

Gen. 11:26-28 - Lot is Abraham's nephew ("anepsios") / Gen. 13:8; 14:14,16 - Lot is still called Abraham's brother (adelphos") . This proves that, although a Greek word for cousin is "anepsios," Scripture also uses "adelphos" to describe a cousin.

Gen. 29:15 - Laban calls Jacob is "brother" even though Jacob is his nephew. Again, this proves that brother means kinsmen or cousin.

Deut. 23:7; 1 Chron. 15:5-18; Jer. 34:9; Neh. 5:7 -"brethren" means kinsmen. Hebrew and Aramaic have no word for "cousin."

2 Sam. 1:26; 1 Kings 9:13, 20:32 - here we see that "brethren" can even be one who is unrelated (no bloodline), such as a friend.

2 Kings 10:13-14 - King Ahaziah's 42 "brethren" were really his kinsmen.

1 Chron. 23:21-22 - Eleazar's daughters married their "brethren" who were really their cousins.

Neh. 4:14; 5:1,5,8,10,14 - these are more examples of "brothers" meaning "cousins" or "kinsmen."

Tobit 5:11 - Tobit asks Azarias to identify himself and his people, but still calls him "brother."

Amos 1: 9 - brotherhood can also mean an ally (where there is no bloodline).


Was James not the son of Mary?


Read the whole post.  It talks about that.



When Fundamentalists study the writings of the Reformers on Mary, the Mother of Jesus, they will find that the Reformers accepted almost every major Marian doctrine and considered these doctrines to be both scriptural and fundamental to the historic Christian Faith.

Martin Luther:

Mary the Mother of God

Throughout his life Luther maintained without change the historic Christian affirmation that Mary was the Mother of God:

"She is rightly called not only the mother of the man, but also the Mother of God ... It is certain that Mary is the Mother of the real and true God."1

Perpetual Virginity

Again throughout his life Luther held that Mary's perpetual virginity was an article of faith for all Christians - and interpreted Galatians 4:4 to mean that Christ was "born of a woman" alone.

"It is an article of faith that Mary is Mother of the Lord and still a Virgin."2

The Immaculate Conception

Yet again the Immaculate Conception was a doctrine Luther defended to his death (as confirmed by Lutheran scholars like Arthur Piepkorn). Like Augustine, Luther saw an unbreakable link between Mary's divine maternity, perpetual virginity and Immaculate Conception. Although his formulation of the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception was not clear-cut, he held that her soul was devoid of sin from the beginning:

"But the other conception, namely the infusion of the soul, it is piously and suitably believed, was without any sin, so that while the soul was being infused, she would at the same time be cleansed from original sin and adorned with the gifts of God to receive the holy soul thus infused. And thus, in the very moment in which she began to live, she was without all sin..."3


Although he did not make it an article of faith, Luther said of the doctrine of the Assumption:

"There can be no doubt that the Virgin Mary is in heaven. How it happened we do not know."4

Honor to Mary

Despite his unremitting criticism of the traditional doctrines of Marian mediation and intercession, to the end Luther continued to proclaim that Mary should be honored. He made it a point to preach on her feast days.

"The veneration of Mary is inscribed in the very depths of the human heart."5

"Is Christ only to be adored? Or is the holy Mother of God rather not to be honoured? This is the woman who crushed the Serpent's head. Hear us. For your Son denies you nothing."6 Luther made this statement in his last sermon at Wittenberg in January 1546.


John Calvin: It has been said that John Calvin belonged to the second generation of the Reformers and certainly his theology of double predestination governed his views on Marian and all other Christian doctrine . Although Calvin was not as profuse in his praise of Mary as Martin Luther he did not deny her perpetual virginity. The term he used most commonly in referring to Mary was "Holy Virgin".

"Elizabeth called Mary Mother of the Lord, because the unity of the person in the two natures of Christ was such that she could have said that the mortal man engendered in the womb of Mary was at the same time the eternal God."7

"Helvidius has shown himself too ignorant, in saying that Mary had several sons, because mention is made in some passages of the brothers of Christ."8 Calvin translated "brothers" in this context to mean cousins or relatives.

"It cannot be denied that God in choosing and destining Mary to be the Mother of his Son, granted her the highest honor."9

"To this day we cannot enjoy the blessing brought to us in Christ without thinking at the same time of that which God gave as adornment and honour to Mary, in willing her to be the mother of his only-begotten Son."10

Ulrich Zwingli:

"It was given to her what belongs to no creature, that in the flesh she should bring forth the Son of God."11

"I firmly believe that Mary, according to the words of the gospel as a pure Virgin brought forth for us the Son of God and in childbirth and after childbirth forever remained a pure, intact Virgin."12 Zwingli used Exodus 4:22 to defend the doctrine of Mary's perpetual virginity.

"I esteem immensely the Mother of God, the ever chaste, immaculate Virgin Mary."13

"Christ ... was born of a most undefiled Virgin."14

"It was fitting that such a holy Son should have a holy Mother."15

"The more the honor and love of Christ increases among men, so much the esteem and honor given to Mary should grow."16

We might wonder why the Marian affirmations of the Reformers did not survive in the teaching of their heirs - particularly the Fundamentalists. This break with the past did not come through any new discovery or revelation. The Reformers themselves (see above) took a benign even positive view of Marian doctrine - although they did reject Marian mediation because of their rejection of all human mediation. Moreover, while there were some excesses in popular Marian piety, Marian doctrine as taught in the pre-Reformation era drew its inspiration from the witness of Scripture and was rooted in Christology. The real reason for the break with the past must be attributed to the iconoclastic passion of the followers of the Reformation and the consequences of some Reformation principles. Even more influential in the break with Mary was the influence of the Enlightenment Era which essentially questioned or denied the mysteries of faith.

Unfortunately the Marian teachings and preachings of the Reformers have been "covered up" by their most zealous followers - with damaging theological and practical consequences. This "cover-up" can be detected even in Chosen by God: Mary in Evangelical Perspective, an Evangelical critique of Mariology. One of the contributors admits that "Most remarkable to modern Protestants is the Reformers' almost universal acceptance of Mary's continuing virginity, and their widespread reluctance to declare Mary a sinner". He then asks if it is "a favourable providence" that kept these Marian teachings of the Reformers from being "transmitted to the Protestant churches"!17

What is interpreted as "Providence" by a Marian critic may legitimately be interpreted as a force of a very different kind by a Christian who has recognized the role of Mary in God's plan.

Tough to be dogmatic about that one.

Ezek. 44:2 - Ezekiel prophesies that no man shall pass through the gate by which the Lord entered the world. This is a prophecy of Mary's perpetual virginity. Mary remained a virgin before, during and after the birth of Jesus.

Ezekiel was not talking about Jesus.

I already know you don't believe anything in OT scripture is talking about Jesus so why did you feel the need to single out one verse in a thread about a totally different subject?  Also why do you care?  Don't you reject Judaism?

Yea...I believe that as did about 99% of Christianity throughout the centuries, up until just a few hundred years ago.

kolbe, would it harm catholic belief if mary was found to have had normal relations with joseph after the birth of christ ? Im still kind of vague on alot of catholic teachings even though Ive made the effort to understand catholicism much more than I ever have. Dan

"kolbe, would it harm catholic belief if mary was found to have had normal relations with joseph after the birth of christ ?"

That's a hard question to answer, as I'm not sure I know what you mean by "harm catholic belief". It would be the same as denying the virgin birth, etc...

"Im still kind of vague on alot of catholic teachings even though Ive made the effort to understand catholicism much more than I ever have. Dan"

You've definitely made an honest (and effective) effort to understand Catholic teaching :-)

i can't remember where i read it nor can i remember what was translated to what

but i read somewhere that "young women" or "young girl" or something like that was translated to "virgin" while rewriting the bible from one language to another

If anyone is interested in reading a Catholic defense of the perpetual virginity of the Belssed Virgin, you can here:

Here's some Scripture support of Mary, as the Immaculate Ark of the New Covenant:

Scripture addressing the "brothers" issue:

Here's what has been the beliefs of Christians throughout history:

Kolbe, I was pleasantly suprised reading An American Agnostic: Rebuilding a lost faith because I so identified with him on so many issues in his early spiritual life. I do have a hard time with some of the dogmatism of doctrines like this. Im not denying them but I run into the same problems I do with fundamentalism. Faiths crumbling with the single doctrine. Kind of an all or nothing approach. I have found a new respect for catholic concepts relating to the church as an authority but I still have many hang ups. I need to visit with a priest one of these days. Seriously.

I hope I have pointed out that this goes well beyond being just a Catholic belief.  Is it important though?  From what I can tell the issue deals with the nature of the Incarnation and whether or not matter can become holy or charged with spiritual energy like apparently the early Christians believed.  This would be the idea behind religious relics and things like prayer clothes.  If Mary's womb actually bore the Word of God then that makes here something like the new Ark of the Covenant and her womb would be like holy ground that no man would want to tread on. 

St. Kolbe,

You are sleeping at the wheel.  My first posts come from scripture Catholic.  It looks like MS is the only one who actually read through them.

Regardless of my feelings concerning Judaism, I can still argue certain ideas. My opinons are known, I simply find it strange that what most Jews would never even consider Messianic passages are constantly quoted.

It would have been incredibly odd for a couple in those days to have had only 1 child when you consider that a) 2/5 children in general did not live to adulthood, b) Jews (being descendants of Noah) are under obligation to be fruitful and multiply, c) Sons take care of their parents when their parents get old, d) there are refrences to Jesus having brothers and sisters when he was young and visiting Jerusalem. Why would Mary be looking after Jesus' cousins by herself? Where was the other mother?


It would have been even more odd for a woman to conceive without intercourse. ;-)

d) there are refrences to Jesus having brothers and sisters when he was young and visiting Jerusalem.

Where are those?  I don't understand what you are describing in terms of Mary taking care of cousins by herself or what you mean by sons take care of their parents when they are old.  That is even more evidence that if Jesus had any brothers he wouldn't have put John in charge of taking care of his mother. 

Luke 2:39-44, the group Mary was travelling with had so MANY children, she did not realize Jesus was missing until a whole day had passed (likely when it was time for dinner).

In traditional households, a son marries and he and his wife not only have children but take care of the eventually ailing parents of the husband. Since 2/5 kids died. One normally had at least 6 kids; 3 boys, 3 girls, 2-3 die before adulthood. This way at least one boy lives to adulthood who can take care of the parents. It was quite a common practice up until recently.


I don't know how you can say Mary having sex after Jesus was born would be the same as the virgin birth being false. Why would that have any bearing on the faith whatsoever? Sex is not evil, it is good and natural. If they had a good Godly marriage relationship after Jesus was born why would that be a problem for anyone?

Some of those references were interesting, some were very very weak in my opinion. But I don't care either way, makes no difference to me, but I personally believe Joseph and Mary lived as a married couple in every sense. The bible says Joseph kept her a virgin "until" she had given birth.

the rev