Mary -- Eternally Virgin"

Scripture tells us that Mary, chosen by God to be the agency by which the Word would be incarnated, was a virgin when the Holy Spirit came upon her.

And in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God unto a city of Galilee, named Nazareth, To a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin's name was Mary. And the angel came in unto her, and said, Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women. And when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and cast in her mind what manner of salutation this should be. And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God. And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end. Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man" And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.--Luke 1:26-35

Pope John Paul II once declared:

The Church has always professed her belief in the perpetual virginity of Mary. The most ancient texts, when referring to the conception of Jesus, call Mary simply "virgin", inferring that they considered this quality a permanent fact with regard to her whole life. . .

The expression "ever virgin" was taken up by the Second Council of Constantinople (553), which affirms: the Word of God, "incarnate of the holy and glorious Mother of God and ever virgin Mary, was born of her" (DS 422). This doctrine is confirmed by two other Ecumenical Councils, the Fourth Lateran Council (1215) (DS 801) and the Second Council of Lyons (1274) (DS 852), and by the text of the definition of the dogma of the Assumption (1950) (DS 3903) in which Mary's perpetual virginity is adopted as one of the reasons why she was taken up in body and soul to heavenly glory.--Pope John Paul II, General Audience, August 28, 1996; reported by Catholic Information Network

Biblical Christianity accepts the biblical account of Mary's virginity prior to the natural birth of Jesus Christ. However, they do not hold to the fantasy that Mary continued to eschew normal marital relations with her husband Joseph throughout her life. Scripture clearly states that Jesus was not the only child Mary bore. For example, when Jesus taught in His hometown synagogue, the people who knew Him and His family were astonished at His words.

And it came to pass, that when Jesus had finished these parables, he departed thence. And when he was come into his own country, he taught them in their synagogue, insomuch that they were astonished, and said, Whence hath this man this wisdom, and these mighty works" Is not this the carpenter's son" is not his mother called Mary" and his brethren, James, and Joses, and Simon, and Judas" And his sisters, are they not all with us" Whence then hath this man all these things" And they were offended in him. But Jesus said unto them, A prophet is not without honour, save in his own country, and in his own house.--Matthew 13:53-57

How does the RCC deal with such glaring contradictions between it's own dogma and the Word of God? Why, she sets her most imaginative spin-doctors to the task of "discovering" a "better" meaning in the sacred Scriptures.

John Paul II explains away the conflict thusly:

It should be recalled that no specific term exists in Hebrew and Aramaic to express the word "cousin", and that the terms "brother" and "sister" therefore included several degrees of relationship. In fact, the phrase "brothers of Jesus" indicates "the children" of a Mary who was a disciple of Christ (cf. Mt 27:56) and who is significantly described as "the other Mary" (Mt 28:1). "They are close relations of Jesus", according to an Old Testament expression (Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 500).--Pope John Paul II, General Audience, August 28, 1996; reported by Catholic Information Network

John Paul II drew from the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) to support his claim that the “brothers of Jesus” mentioned in the Scriptures were, in reality, His “close relations.” Unfortunately, neither the Pope nor the Catechism identify that “Old Testament expression,” so that we might examine it for ourselves.

With his declaration that "no specific term exists in Hebrew and Aramaic to express the word "cousin", the pontiff establishes the major premise of a syllogism. This was followed by the minor premise, "and that the terms "brother" and "sister" therefore included several degrees of relationship". He then presents his conclusion: "They are close relations of Jesus, according to an Old Testament expression." This appears to be sound, deductive reasoning worthy of a man who holds a doctorate in philosophy (Phenomenology). However the syllogism is false.

There is no archeological or other support for the supposition that the Book of Matthew was written either in Hebrew or Aramaic. The Pope's premise appears to be founded in the Catholic interpretation of a few words written by a little-known early bishop, Papias of Hierapolis. Papias' magnum opus is lost, but a few isolated fragments have survived as quotations in the writings of other early churchmen. The linchpin of the Catholic "hint" that the accounts - particularly Matthew - in which references to Jesus' brothers and sisters may be found were written in Hebrew or Aramaic appears to be a single sentence by Papias:

16 Now this is reported by Papias about Mark, but about Matthew this was said, Now Matthew compiled the reports in a Hebrew manner of speech, but each interpreted them as he could.[Emphasis in original]

17 He himself used testimonies from the first epistle of John and similarly from that of Peter, and had also set forth another story about a woman who was accused of many sins before the Lord, which the Gospel according to the Hebrews contains. And let these things of necessity be brought to our attention in reference to what has been set forth. - Papias, An Exposition of the Lord's Reports, Vol. 4; quoted in Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History 3.39.1-7,14-17; on the website External Evidence in Synoptic Source Criticism; (c) 1999/203 Stephen C. Carson

What was Papias telling us when he wrote, "Now Matthew compiled the reports in a Hebrew manner of speech, but each interpreted them as he could"" Should "in a Hebrew manner of speech" be interpreted as meaning that Matthew wrote his Gospel in the Hebrew language" Could he have been saying that Matthew arranged his material as did Jewish writers" Either or both possibilities could be right, but do they constitute undeniable evidence that the Evangelist wrote in Hebrew or Aramaic?

A well-respected Jewish historian informs that, by the time of Christ, Hebrew was no longer spoken by Jews, either Palestinian or of the Dispersion.

The language spoken by the Jews was no longer Hebrew, but Aramaean, both in Palestine and in Babylonia; in the former the Western, in the latter the Eastern dialect. In fact, the common people were ignorant of pure Hebrew, which henceforth became the language of students and of the Synagogue. Even there a Methurgeman, or interpreter, had to be employed to translate into the vernacular the portions of Scripture read in the public services, and the addresses delivered by the Rabbis.--Alfred Edersheim, The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, Book I, Chap. 1, p. 10

There seems to be little doubt that the Tanakh (AKA the Old Testament) was written in the Hebrew language, or that Hebrew was the language used by Rabbis in Synagogue and students in the shul. Koine, or vulgar Greek was the lingua franca of the eastern Mediterranean region, and likely was understood by the majority of Jews in the region, but the popular language of Palestine was Aramaic. As Edersheim writes:

If Greek was the language of the court and camp, and indeed must have been understood and spoken by most in the land, the language of the people, spoken also by Christ and His Apostles, was a dialect of the ancient Hebrew, the Western or Palestinian Aramaic. It seems strange, that this could ever have been doubted. A Jewish Messiah Who would urge His claim upon Israel in Greek, seems almost a contradiction in terms. We know, that the language of the Temple and the Synagogue was Hebrew, and that the addresses of the Rabbis had to be 'targumed' into the vernacular Aramaean - and can we believe that, in a Hebrew service, the Messiah could have risen to address the people in Greek, or that He would have argued with the Pharisees and Scribes in that tongue, especially remembering that its study was actually forbidden by the Rabbis"--Edersheim, Op. cit., Book II, Chap II, p. 131

What have we learned from Edersheim thus far? We are told that Hebrew was no longer the language of the people, having been replaced by Aramaic by the time of Christ. We are told that Greek likely was understood and spoken by most in the Jewish homeland. We are told that, in Synagogue services, Torah was read in Hebrew and then translated into the vernacular for the people's understanding. We are told that Rabbis taught in Hebrew and that, again, their words were translated into the vernacular for the edification of those in attendance. We are told that Rabbis had forbidden Jews from studying Greek.

The Evangelists were neither Rabbis nor theology students, and one of them was a Greek, so it seems quite unlikely to me that they would have written their Gospels in Hebrew, a language no longer understood by the common Jewish people, and probably hardly at all by Gentiles. To me it also seems unlikely that the Evangelists wrote in Aramaic, for their message would have been lost on Gentiles to whom that was a foreign tongue and, once again, one of the Evangelists was not Jewish but Greek and likely would have lacked familiarity with the Aramaean language. There seems to have been but one language in almost universal use throughout the eastern Mediterranean region and that was Koine, or common Greek.

I believe that the Gospels, and all the other Books of what we know as the New Testament, were written in Koine, the language that would have made their contents readily understandable by the greatest number of people. That the books of the Jewish Bible were written in Hebrew should not be doubted, for they were originally written for and delivered to the Hebrew nation.

With that issue behind us, let us return to the Pope's address, in which he sought to support Catholic claims that their Mary was eternally virgin by inferring that the mention of Jesus' brothers and sisters in Scripture actually referred to His close relations. John Paul II said, "no specific term exists in Hebrew and Aramaic to express the word "cousin," an allegation often made by Catholic apologists. In support of his statement, JP2 mentioned paragraph 500 of the Catholic Catechism.

500 Against this doctrine the objection is sometimes raised that the Bible mentions brothers and sisters of Jesus.[157] The Church has always understood these passages as not referring to other children of the Virgin Mary. In fact James and Joseph, "brothers of Jesus", are the sons of another Mary, a disciple of Christ, whom St. Matthew significantly calls "the other Mary".[158] They are close relations of Jesus, according to an Old Testament expression.--Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC), 2nd Ed., (c) United States Catholic Conference, Inc

O! How often I have heard or read the argument that neither Aramaic nor Hebrew have a specific term to express "cousin"? Likely those who read here have been exposed to this cast-in-stone Catholic claim. Have you ever checked it out for yourself? In an online Peshitta Lexicon and Concordance, one discovers that indeed there was a word for “cousin” in Aramaic and it may be found in Colossians 4:10 in the Peshitta. [On the home page, click Tools, the Lexicon, then type cousin in the search box.]

For those interested in pursuing this argument, I here provide two Hebrew words and their English translations:

= Brother (

= Cousins (Ibid)

Do you reckon those Catholics who defend Mary's virginity by claiming there is no word for brother in Hebrew are merely deceived, or are they blowing smoke out of their behinds?

That is not much of an argument, when compared to the clear words of Scripture. Jerome, Doctor of the Church, came up with a much more inventive, though somewhat bizarre, explanation:

James, who is called the brother of the Lord, surnamed the Just, the son of Joseph by another wife, as some think, but, as appears to me, the son of Mary sister of the mother of our Lord of whom John makes mention in his book, after our Lord's passion at once ordained by the apostles bishop of Jerusalem, wrote a single epistle, which is reckoned among the seven Catholic Epistles and even this is claimed by some to have been published by some one else under his name, and gradually, as time went on, to have gained authority. Hegesippus who lived near the apostolic age, in the fifth book of his Commentaries, writing of James. says "After the apostles, James the brother of the Lord surnamed the Just was made head of the Church at Jerusalem. . . (Philip Schaff, Ed., The Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, 2nd Series, Vol. 3., Jerome, Lives of Illustrious Men, Chap 2, p. 728)

Well, Jerome may have been creative in developing this forced response to explain away the clear meaning of Scripture, but that did not prevent him from referring to James as "the brother of the Lord."

There is a letter in which this same Clement writing to JAMES THE LORD'S BROTHER, gives an account of the death of Peter, and says that he has left him as his successor, as ruler and teacher of the church;. . . But it is time that we should pay attention to the beginning of Clement's own narrative, which he addresses to James the Lord's brother. (Philip Schaff, Ed. The Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 3, Jerome, The Preface to the Books of Recognitions of St. Clement, p. 1135-6) (Emphasis not in original)

Clement was a Bishop of Rome and, if we are to believe the Catholic fable, also pope and ruler over all the Christian church. (This is not true, by the way, being just another creative concept of the ever-inventive Roman church). But to play the Devil's advocate for a moment, does it not appear at least a little strange that one whom Catholics revere as the third (or fourth, depending upon whose reckoning you accept) ruler of the universal church addressed a letter to "James the Lord's brother"? This letter is one of the documents offered to validate Rome's claim to having always been viewed as the seat of authority for the Christian church.

Cyril of Jerusalem writes:

But now is Christ risen from the dead, the first fruits of them that are asleep; - And He was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve; (for if thou believe not the one witness, thou hast twelve witnesses;) then He was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; (if they disbelieve the twelve, let them admit the five hundred;) after that He was seen of JAMES, HIS OWN BROTHER, and first Bishop of this diocese. Seeing then that such a Bishop originally saw Christ Jesus when risen, do not thou, his disciple, disbelieve him. But thou sayest that His brother James was a partial witness; afterwards He was seen also of me Paul, His enemy; and what testimony is doubted, when an enemy proclaims it" I, who was before a persecutor, now preach the glad tidings of the Resurrection. (Philip Schaff, Ed., The Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 7, S. Cyril, Archibishop of Jerusalem, Lecture 14 P. 269) (Emphasis not in original)

Did you notice Cyril's clear statement, "He was seen of James, HIS OWN BROTHER"? Can any words be more clear" Can there be any legitimate understanding of these words other than what they plainly say"

Eusebius, Bishop and church historian, wrote:


FIRST, then, in the place of Judas, the betrayer, Matthias, who, as has been shown was also one of the Seventy, was chosen to the Apostolate. And there were appointed to the diaconate, for the service of the congregation, by prayer and the laying on of the hands of the apostles, approved men, seven in number, of whom Stephen was one. He first, after the Lord, was stoned to death at the time of his ordination by the slayers of the Lord, as if he had been promoted for this very purpose. And thus he was the first to receive the crown, corresponding to his name, which belongs to the martyrs of Christ, who are worthy of the meed of victory. Then James, whom the ancients surnamed the Just on account of the excellence of his virtue, is recorded to have been the first to be made bishop of the church of Jerusalem. THIS JAMES WAS CALLED THE BROTHER OF THE LORD BECAUSE HE WAS KNOWN AS A SON OF JOSEPH, AND JOSEPH WAS SUPPOSED TO BE THE FATHER OF CHRIST, BECAUSE THE VIRGIN, BEING BETROTHED TO HIM, "WAS FOUND WITH CHILD BY THE HOLY GHOST BEFORE THEY CAME TOGETHER," as the account of the holy Gospels shows. But Clement in the sixth book of his Hypotyposes writes thus: "For they say that Peter and James and John after the ascension of our Savior, as if also preferred by our Lord, strove not after honor, but chose James the Just bishop of Jerusalem." But the same writer, in the seventh book of the same work, relates also the following things concerning him: "The Lord after his resurrection imparted knowledge to James the Just and to John and Peter, and they imparted it to the rest of the apostles, and the rest of the apostles to the seventy, of whom Barnabas was one. But there were two Jameses: one called the Just, who was thrown from the pinnacle of the temple and was beaten to death with a club by a fuller, and another who was beheaded." Paul also makes mention of the same James the Just, where he writes, "Other of the apostles saw I none, save James the Lord's brother. (Philip Schaff, Ed., The Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol 1, The Church History of Eusebius, Book 2, Chap 1, pp. 182-3) (Emphasis not in the original)

Let's look at this more closely. Eusebius explains that James the Just is called brother of the Lord because he is a son of Joseph, who was husband to Mary, who gave birth to Jesus. If we are to accept this account AND the accounts of Jerome and John Paul II, then that would mean Joseph either 1) had at least two wives, or 2) kept a mistress whom he impregnated, or 3) divorced Mary, mother of Jesus, to marry Mary, sister of Mary, mother of Jesus. That reads like the plot to a daytime soap opera.

Leo the Great, another Bishop of Rome, referred to James the Just as the brother of the Lord:

For it is evident that after the incarnation of the Lord no one can be saved, even of those who hold His faith, who have not the life of faith; since it is written, They acknowledge that they know God, but in deeds they deny Him (Titus 1:16). And John says, He that saith that he knows Him, and keepeth not His commandments, is a liar (1 John 2:4). JAMES ALSO, THE BROTHER OF THE LORD, writes saying, Faith without works is dead (James 2:20). If, then, believers now are not saved without good works, while the unbelieving and reprobate without good action were saved by our Lord descending into hell, then the lot of those who never saw the incarnation of the Lord was better than that of these who have been born after the mystery of His incarnation. (Philip Schaff, Ed., The Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, 2nd Series, Vol. 12, The Letters and Sermons of Leo the Great, Epistle 15, pp. 919-20) (Emphasis not in the original)

Some may argue that these writers were just men and, as are all men, not infallible. On the other hand, Catholicism teaches that the pronouncements of general councils are to be considered infallible. Let us turn to the findings of one such council:

. . . For also JAMES, THE BROTHER, ACCORDING TO THE FLESH, OF CHRIST OUR GOD, to whom the throne of the church of Jerusalem first was entrusted, and Basil, the Archbishop of the Church of Caesarea, whose glory has spread through all the world, when they delivered to us directions for the mystical sacrifice in writing, declared that the holy chalice is consecrated in the Divine Liturgy with water and wine. And the holy Fathers who assembled at Carthage provided in these express terms: "That in the holy Mysteries nothing besides the body and blood of the Lord be offered, as the Lord himself laid down, that is bread and wine mixed with water." Therefore if any bishop or presbyter shall not perform the holy action according to what has been handed down by the Apostles, and shall not offer the sacrifice with wine mixed with water, let him be deposed, as imperfectly shewing forth the mystery and innovating on the things which have been handed down (Philip Schaff, Ed., The Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, 2nd Series, Vol. 14; The Seven Ecumenical Councils of the Undivided Church, The Canons of the Council in Trullo; Often Called The Quinisext Council, A.D. 692, Canon 32, p.716) (Emphasis not in original)

John Chrysostom, famed orator and preacher, provides additional information concerning James' relationship to Mary, mother of Jesus:

And many women were there beholding afar off, which had followed Him, ministering unto Him, Mary Magdalene, and MARY THE MOTHER OF JAMES, AND JOSES, and the mother of Zebedee's sons." . . . And these first see Jesus; and the sex that was most condemned, this first enjoys the sight of the blessings, this most shows its courage. And when the disciples had fled, these were present. But who were these" HIS MOTHER, FOR SHE IS CALLED MOTHER OF JAMES, and the rest. (Philip Schaff, Ed., The Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, 1st Series, Vol. 10, Chrysostom: Homilies on the Gospel of St. Matthew, Homily 5, . pp. 1087-8) (Emphasis not in original)

Clement of Alexandria appears not to have held to the same opinion of James' relationship to the Lord as does John Paul II:

Jude, who wrote the Catholic Epistle, the brother of the sons of Joseph, and very religious, whilst knowing the near relationship of the Lord, yet did not say that he himself was His brother. But what said he" "Jude, a servant of Jesus Christ," - of Him as Lord; but "the brother of James." For this is true; he was His brother, (the son) of Joseph.(A. Roberts and J. Donaldson, Ed., The Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 2, Fragments of Clemens Alexandrinus, Comments on the Epistle of Jude, p. 1164)

Still not fully convinced" How about one last bit of "evidence" allegedly from a contemporary of James the Just"

His friend Ignatius to John the holy presbyter.

If thou wilt give me leave, I desire to go up to Jerusalem, and see the faithful saints who are there, especially Mary the mother, whom they report to be an object of admiration and of affection to all. For who would not rejoice to behold and to address her who bore the true God from her own womb, provided he is a friend of our faith and religion" And in like manner [I desire to see] the venerable James, who is surnamed Just, whom they relate to be very like Christ Jesus in appearance, in life, and in method of conduct, as if he were a twin-brother of the same womb. They say that, if I see him, I see also Jesus Himself, as to all the features and aspect of His body. Moreover, [I desire to see] the other saints, both male and female. Alas! why do I delay" Why am I kept back" Kind teacher, bid me hasten [to fulfill my wish], and fare thou well. Amen. (A. Roberts and J. Donaldson, Eds., The Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 1, A Second Epistle of Ignatius to St. John, p. 241)

It appears that the great majority of church historians consider the above letter to be a forgery, created at some later time in church history. Be that as it may, I find it interesting in that it certainly suggests that there was a school of thought within the Church that held James the Just to be related to Jesus by natural birth.

There is no scriptural support for the Catholic dogma of Mary's perpetual virginity, and it is quite clear that a number of early church fathers, including a couple of Catholicism's popes, accepted that Jesus was not her only child. Whether Roman theologians are confused, deceived or deliberately lying is something that perhaps only God can truly know. However, if the infallible Magisterium can be wrong on the issue of the eternal state of Mary's hymen, then should it not be considered they are also wrong on other foundational issues of the Catholic faith"

Look to the Scriptures for truth that is not dependent upon the inventiveness of men.

"And the brethren immediately sent away Paul and Silas by night unto Berea: who coming [thither] went into the synagogue of the Jews. These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so. " (Acts 17:10-11)

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