OceanSide church of Christ
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Mary, A Perpetual Virgin (3)
Victor M. Eskew
In this article, we want to continue our refutation of some of the doctrines regarding Mary as taught by the Catholic Church. We have already examined two teachings in previous articles: The Immaculate Conception of Mary and Mary’s Sinlessness. In this article, we will consider the Perpetual Virginity of Mary.
When Mary conceived Jesus, she was a virgin (Luke 1:34). The virgin birth was the fulfillment of an Old Testament prophecy spoken by Isaiah (Isa. 7:14; Matt. 1:22-23). The Catholic Church teaches that Mary remained a virgin for the rest of her life after giving birth to Jesus. On pages 140-141 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, we find this teaching: “The deepening faith in the virginal motherhood led the Church to confess Mary’s real and perpetual virginity even in the act of giving birth to the Son of God made man. In fact, Christ’s birth did not diminish his mother’s virginal integrity but sanctified it. And so the liturgy of the Church celebrates Mary as Aeipanthenos, the ‘Ever-virgin.’”
Is it true that Mary remained a virgin all of her life? Was Joseph deprived of having a fulfilling marital relationship with Mary because God chose her to give birth to the Christ? Let’s look at several points from God’s Word that refute the doctrine of the perpetual virginity of Mary. Matthew 1 reveals some of the events surrounding the birth of Jesus. When Joseph learned that Mary was pregnant, he was going “to put her away privily” (Matt. 1:19). An angel appeared to Joseph in a dream, however, and told him: “…fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost” (Matt. 1:20). Joseph was comforted after receiving this divine message. “Then Joseph being raised from sleep did as the angel of the Lord had bidden him, and took unto him his wife: and knew her not till she had brought forth her firstborn son: and he called his name JESUS” (Matt. 1:24-25). In verse 25, there is a little word that should not be overlooked by those who study the verse. The word is “till.” The word “till” means “up to the time of” or “until.” It also carries the definition of “before.” Thus, Matthew tells us that Joseph did not know Mary is a sexual way before she had brought forth her firstborn son. However, after Jesus was born, Joseph did partake in the sexual blessings of his marriage to Mary. This is precisely what the word “till” indicates. Up to the time of Jesus’ birth, Joseph did not engage in sexual acts with his wife. After Jesus’ birth, he did enjoy the a sexual relationship with Mary his wife.
There is another word in Matthew 1:25 that deserves our attention as well. It is the word “firstborn.” The word “firstborn” indicates that Jesus was the first of others that were born to Mary. If no other children were born to Mary, there would be no reason to designate Jesus as the firstborn. He would have been her first and only If a mother were to say to someone: “This is my firstborn child,” the person would understand that this is the first in a line of two or more. This is precisely what it means when applied to Mary.
Now that we understand the words “till” and “firstborn” in Matthew 1:25, we are not surprised to find that the Bible mentions the names of several sons born to Joseph and Mary. Matthew 13:55-56 tell us the names of four of those sons. The passage also tells us that they had daughters as well. “Is not this the carpenter’s son? Is not his mother called Mary? And his brethren, James and Joses, and Simon, and Justus? And his sisters, are they not all with us? Whence then hath this man all these things?”
The Catholic Church makes two counter arguments when Matthew 13:55-56 is brought to their attention. First, they argue that these were not literal brothers and sisters, but very close relatives. They often argue that they were the children of Mary’s sister. Therefore, they would have been Jesus’ cousins. The word “brother” in the Greek language can refer to people who are not siblings. The context and the rest of the teachings of the Scripture determine the precise definition of the word in the verse under consideration. The context of Matthew 13:55-56 reveals that Jesus had astonished those of His own community as He taught in the synagogue. The reason they were so surprised is because they knew His family. They mentioned His father. They mentioned His mother. Then, they mentioned His brothers and sisters. Are we really to think that the Jews mentioned Jesus’ father and mother, then referred to His cousins. Absolutely not! Jesus was the firstborn of several children. Those to whom Jesus spoke knew His family personally. This is why they were surprised by Jesus’ wisdom and mighty works. When we look beyond the context, we come to an interesting passage written by Paul in Galatians 1:18-19. In the verse, he mentions the name of one of the Lord’s brothers. “Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to see Peter, and abode with him fifteen years. But other of the apostles saw I none, save James the Lord’s brother.” There is no reason to assume Paul was referring to a cousin unless a person holds to the doctrine of the perpetual virginity of Mary. Paul’s mention of James only confirms what is recorded in Matthew 13:55-56.
Another argument that some Catholics make about the four sons and the daughters mentioned in Matthew 13:55-56 is that they were children of a marriage Joseph had before he was wed to Mary. There is not one shred of Bible evidence or historical evidence that Joseph was ever married prior to being joined with Mary in holy wedlock. It is amazing how people will fabricate stories to support a man-made doctrine rather than simply believing the truth found in the precious gospel. Dear readers, Mary was a virgin when she conceived the Christ. She remained a virgin throughout her pregnancy with Jesus. Once Jesus was born, she and Joseph enjoyed a normal marriage as husband and wife, including have many more children. The doctrine of the perpetual virginity of Mary is a false doctrine.