The Age Long Debate: Yes! Mary Had Other Children

By Rev. Fr. Victor Okhiria

 

INTRODUCTION

For centuries the Catholic Church has set aside the entire month of May to honour the Blessed Virgin Mary, a tradition that has roots both in ancient Greece and Rome. The month of May was recognized as the season of the beginning of new life. In the Greek world, May was dedicated to the goddess Artemis and associated with fecundity, while the Roman culture linked the month of May to Flora, the goddess of bloom and blossoms which is the brain behind the tradition of ludi florales {or floral games} that occurred at the near end of April as preparation for entering into the month of May. Having said this, it gives the impression that this ancient tradition of connecting May with new life and fecundity, led to a realization that May is very much the month of motherhood. This alludes to the reason why Mother’s Day is celebrated in many countries and cultures in the month of May usually the second Sunday of the said month. The connection between motherhood and May led Christians eventually to adopt May as the Month of Blessed Mary ever Virgin since this new beginning in nature reminds us of the life she gave to Jesus. In the Catholic Tradition, the Blessed Virgin Mary occupies a very symbolic pride of place in her History, Worship and Theology. Her prominence stems from the very beginning in the Proto Evangelium {First Gospel} as found in Genesis 3:15; the beginning of the salvation plan of humanity has the Virgin Mary in picture. She is the mother of Jesus the Messiah who restores humanity to right relationship with God. In all of the reconciliation processes, Blessed Mary is very operational together with her Son, hence it is almost incomplete to talk about salvation history without her. However, there has been a burning issue not just from the fact that Genesis alludes to the Virgin Mary giving birth to the Redeemer, but that Scripture mentions some persons as the ‘brothers and Sisters’ of Jesus, which by way of inference therefore, according to some interpretation, she had other Children apart from Jesus. The stand of the Catholic Church has been and will be that the Blessed Virgin Mary was and remains a virgin, that is, before and after the birth of Jesus. Irrespective of this avowal many still proclaim that this is not appropriate and champion the contrary. This thought continues to ensue from the mind and heart of those who wish to question the perpetual Virginity of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Therefore at this point the sentiments behind such thinking as found in two categories of people are worthy of note. Firstly, the category of persons in want of answers. The Catholic Church is FULL of answers and answers that not only make sense but are faithful and true. Yet without patience and openness of mind to search for and accept these truths, the inquirer will remain unsettled.

Inquirer: Could it be that Catholics who leave the Church have not found answers to burning questions that stir up within them about their faith? Pastor: Maybe yes. Inquirer: Is it the case that the Church does not have answers to these crucial questions, for example, this age long question about Mother Mary and other children?

Pastor: Certainly, the Church has the answers.

Inquirer: So why the exodus of some faithful from the Church or dissatisfaction they experience?

Pastor: A couple of reasons abound; it is either because they have an idea of ‘this is how it should be’ and when the Church’s answers do not seem to align with preconceived thought, they simply reject it. OR they have not searched adequately for the right answers. As I have mentioned earlier, a certain level of patience and openness of mind to search for and accept these truths are important. A closed mind never gets anything in and out. Why search outside for answers about the Church when you have a Church that is full of answers? However, I must say that Pastors of Souls need to do more to engage the culture of our time to reaffirm the faith as handed down to us by the early Church as they received from Jesus. We also must do our bit to provide the answers in a rather simple but profound manner.

Inquirer: That is absolutely fine.

Pastor: Okay then, back to the discussion about this issue and the sentimentalities. Secondly, it is true that some attitudes that becloud questions about the Blessed Virgin Mary are found in the category of persons who are usually not driven by a sincere search for truth and illumination but are wound up by the bandage of prejudice and unfounded scorn to the person of the Blessed Mother.

Irrespective of these varied sentiments, this article in the Spirit of Charity attempts to clarify this dispute and affirm the Truth. It will be very necessary to have a Bible on the side.

PREMISE

The key Biblical passages that fuel this question and doubt are Matthew 13:55-56 “Is not his mother called Mary? And are not his brethren James and Joseph and Simon and Judas? And are not his sisters with us?” And Mark 3:32 “And a crowd was sitting about him; and they said to him, “Your mother and your brethren are outside asking for you.” However, there will be a need to compare a lot of Biblical references which include Matthew 13:55-56; 27:56, 61; 28:1; Mark 15:40, and John 19:25. Again, have a Bible on the side:

ARGUMENT 1

By cross referencing Matthew 27:56 and Mark 15:40, it is clear that James and Joseph mentioned in Matthew 13:55 together with Simon and Jude as Jesus’ brothers are also called the sons of Mary. Following from the above, James and Joseph are called Jesus’ brothers in Mark 6:3 and Matthew 13:55. Yet Matthew 27:56 and Mk 15:40 describe a different Mary as their mother. She is Mary the mother of James and Joseph in Mt. 27:55-56 and Mark 15:40 refers to her as Mary the mother of James the less and of Joses. She is also called the other Mary in Matthew 27:61 and 28:1, and identified again as Mary the wife of Clopas in Jn 19:25. Therefore, (i) Mary the mother of James the less and of Joses {Joseph}; (ii) The other Mary (iii) Mary the wife Clopas, all refer to the ONE and same person and NOT the Blessed Virgin Mary {BVM}. She {BVM} is not the mother of James, Joseph, Simon and Judas, therefore they could not be the blood brothers of Jesus.

Inquirer: This is amazing. But the caption of the article reads ‘Yes! Mary had other Children’, you definitely do not mean Mary the Mother of Jesus?

Pastor: That is absolutely correct. It is only a ‘twisted’ way of representing the facts and truth without altering them so that you are provoked to finding out the details. The Bible makes it clear that Mary {also called by different appellations as clearly exposed} is the mother of James and the others as mentioned above. A careful reading through this article shows that when reference is made to Mary the Mother of Jesus above, she is addressed as ‘Blessed Mary, Virgin Mary, and Blessed Virgin Mary’ clinically distinguishing her from the other Mary. So, if the topic reads Mary had other children and she did, it is not the Blessed Virgin Mary it refers to.

ARGUMENT 2

Doing a solid cross referencing of the synoptic Gospels of Matt 27:55-56 and Mk 15:40, there is a record of a group of women standing far off {the place of crucifixion} who had followed Jesus from Galilee, namely: Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Joseph {also the wife of Clopas} and the mother of the sons of Zebedee {Salome}. While these Gospels have a record of three women at the Cross, the Fourth Gospel has a record of the beloved disciple and four women standing at the foot of the cross, namely: the mother of Jesus {BVM}, his mother’s sister {Salome}, Mary the wife of Clopas and Mary Magdalene. {cf. John 19:25} Salome may well be the wife of Zebedee, the father of the apostles James and John, which would make them the cousins of Jesus. James the son of Salome is not the same as James the son of Mary wife of Clopas hence the distinction, Mary the mother of James the less {cf. Mark 15:40}. Matthew 13:55-56 and Mark 6:3 mention Simon, Jude, James and Joseph, calling them Brothers of Jesus. Since we know for sure at least that James and Joseph are not Jesus’ blood brothers, the most likely interpretation of Matthew 13:55 is that all these brothers are cousins or distant relatives, according to the linguistic conventions of the Old Testament.3 At the very least, the term brother is not determinative in and of itself.

ARGUMENT 3

Let us take the bait {untrue as it is} that those people referred to as Jesus’ ‘brothers and sisters’ are children of Joseph from Mary. This would mean Jesus plus four brothers {James, Joseph, Simon, and Judas} and Sisters {plural will mean at least 2 sisters} making a total of seven {7} children. The question will be: how is it that she [BVM] managed to have all those babies in rapid succession keeping in mind that women typically did not conceive again until the nursing baby was weaned, so these babies would be about 1½ or 2 years apart. Remember that Joseph did not live to see the Public Ministry of Jesus which means he died before this time. How then is it possible to have fathered all these children before the 30th birthday of Jesus, yet when Jesus was twelve years old the sacred Scriptures records that BVM made the trip to Jerusalem for the feast of the Passover every year with JUST Joseph and Jesus, without the mention of any of his supposed siblings {See Luke 2:41-52}? Where could they have been? The answer is simply because he didn’t have any siblings from his mother, Blessed Mary.

ARGUMENT 4

Following directly from the third argument, it is absolutely unlikely that Jesus would entrust his Mother to the Apostle John at his crucifixion if indeed she {Virgin Mary} had other natural sons and/or daughters to care for her {John 19:26-27}. As Mary’s firstborn4 , Jesus is legally responsible for her welfare to ensure that she has a place to live and food to eat even after he is gone. Jesus entrusts his mother to John’s care and John takes this commission seriously.

ARGUMENT 5

This fifth argument stems from the historical account of Hegesippus, a Christian chronicler of the early Church whose major works embodied the teachings handed down in the Church through the succession of Bishops. He tells us that Clopas was the brother of Joseph, the husband of the Virgin Mary. {See Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History Book 3 chapter 11}. Since this is fact, then Mary, wife of Clopas would have been the Blessed Virgin Mary’s sister-inlaw {being married to her husband’s brother}. That would have made Mary, wife of Clopas Jesus’ aunt, and thus her sons {James, Judas, Simon and Joses} would be His first cousins.

WHAT ABOUT MATTHEW 1:25?

“But knew her not until she had borne a son, and called his name Jesus”. Does it not indicate that Joseph was intimate with BVM after she had borne Jesus? In the Bible, the use of the conjunction ‘until / till’ indicates a specified or selected period of time without any change or alteration in and reference to the future. The Biblical use of the word does not imply that the action happened later {just as it means in the modern sense of the term}. The verse only addresses what occurred up until the time Jesus was born and it does not intend to say anything about what happened afterward. In fact, if the modern sense is forced unto the Bible, some ridiculous meanings will result. For example, consider these lines below: 2 Sam. 6:23: “Michal the daughter of Saul had no children till the day of her death”. Are we to assume she had children after her death? Luke 2:36-37: “And there was a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher, she was of great age, having lived with her husband seven years from her virginity, and as a widow till she was eighty-four…” Can we infer she ceased being a widow after eighty four years of age? That will pass for a ridiculous interpretation. 1 Tim 4:13: “Until I come, attend to the public reading of scripture, to preaching, to teaching.” Does this mean Timothy should stop teaching and preaching after Paul comes? 1 Cor 15:25: “For he {Christ} must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet.” Does this mean Christ’s reign will end after he has conquered the enemies? Or does it mean his reign will have a specified period? Definitely not the case. Luke 1:33 says, “He will reign over the house of Jacob forever and of his kingdom there shall be no end.” John 9:18 “The Jews did not believe that he had been blind and had received his sight until they called the parents of the man who had received his sight”. Did the Jews believe the miracle that had happened after the discussion with and questioning of the blind man’s parents? Evidently they did not. The examples could be multiplied, but the idea is clear. Matthew in his Gospel is poised in emphasising that Joseph had no involvement in Mary’s pregnancy before the birth of Jesus.

CONCLUSION

It is with great hope that many minds will come to see the truths of the Perpetual Virginity of Mary before and after the birth of her only Son, Jesus who is called Christ. The arguments above have been chiefly based on the Sacred Scriptures, the same very Word of God that has been misinterpreted to advance the course of this misguided position. Reading the Bible from the heart of the Church is quite the ideal, for the Holy Spirit guides the Church hence the basic reason she is full of answers.

May the Holy Spirit enlighten and sanctify us all.

 

 

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