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Did Jesus have Siblings?

Ezekiel 44:2 "And he said to me, "This gate shall remain shut; it shall not be opened, and no one shall enter by it; for the LORD, the God of Israel, has entered by it; therefore it shall remain shut."


It is often argued by non Catholics that Jesus had siblings. The purpose of this argument is to directly attack what the Church teaches regarding the Blessed Virgin Mary, and indeed her continued virginity. This document will examine the verses commonly used by proponents of these arguments and demonstrate why the arguments, when held to scrutiny, simply do not give the needed support. Further along, the constant reaffirmation of Mary's continued virginity will be discussed, and even supporting quotes from the protestant reformers will be presented, showing their support of the belief in Mary's perpetual virginity.

The Virgin Birth in Sacred Scripture

The miraculous birth of Jesus Christ to the Blessed Virgin Mary is a fundamental Christian tenet that transcends denominational boundaries. Below is the scriptural basis for this Christian belief.

Isaiah 7:14 Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign. Behold a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son and his name shall be called Emmanuel.

Matthew 1:18
Now the generation of Christ was in this wise. When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child, of the Holy Ghost.

Matthew 1:19 Whereupon Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not willing publicly to expose her, was minded to put her away privately.

Matthew 1:20 But while he thought on these things, behold the Angel of the Lord appeared to him in his sleep, saying: Joseph, son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife, for that which is conceived in her, is of the Holy Ghost.

Matthew 1:21 And she shall bring forth a son: and thou shalt call his name Jesus. For he shall save his people from their sins.

Matthew 1:22 Now all this was done that it might be fulfilled which the Lord spoke by the prophet, saying:

Matthew 1:23 Behold a virgin shall be with child, and bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.

Matthew 1:24 And Joseph rising up from sleep, did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him, and took unto him his wife.

Matthew 1:25 And he knew her not till she brought forth her first born son: and he called his name Jesus.

Luke 1:26 And in the sixth month, the angel Gabriel was sent from God into a city of Galilee, called Nazareth,

Luke 1:27 To a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David: and the virgin's name was Mary.
Nicene Creed (325), Constantinopolitan Creed (381)
"... Who for us men and because of our salvation came down from heaven and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary and became human."

Objections to Perpetual Virginity Addressed

Catholic, Orthodox, and other Christians also believe that Mary remained a virgin for the rest of her life. The following portions of this document addresses common objections and the scripture used to that effect.

"Until" (Greek: "heos", Hebrew: "ad")

The Greek and Hebrew use of the words heos and ad respectively (rendered in various translations of the bible as "until", "til", "unto" or "before") do not imply anything about what happens after the time indicated. In the case of scripture, there is no necessary implication that Joseph and Mary had sexual contact or other children after Jesus, simply because some translations render the word as "until" (or similarly).

Matthew 1:25 And he knew her not till (heos) she brought forth her first born son: and he called his name Jesus.

2 Samuel 6:23 
Therefore Michol the daughter of Saul had no child to (Hebrew: ad) the day of her death.

Hebrews 1:13 But to what angel has he ever said, "Sit at my right hand, till (heos) I make thy enemies a stool for thy feet"?

1 Timothy 4:13 
Till (heos) I come, attend to the public reading of scripture, to preaching, to teaching.

Brothers Sisters and Cousins (Greek: "adelphoi, adelphe")

The Greek word that English translators render as "brethren" is "adelphoi". It's feminine counterpart is "adelphe". Other variations include "adelphai", "adelphos", and "anespios".

It is important to note that the Bible does not say that these "brothers and sisters" of Jesus were children of Mary.

Second, the word for brother (or sister), adelphos (adelpha) in Greek, denotes a brother or sister, or near kinsman. Aramaic and other Semitic languages could not distinguish between a blood brother or sister and a cousin, for example. Hence, John the Baptist, a cousin of Jesus (the son of Elizabeth, cousin of Mary) would be called "a brother (adelphos) of Jesus." In the plural, the word means a community based on identity of origin or life. 

Additionally, the word adelphos is used for 

  1. Male children of the same parents (Mt 1:2);
  2. Male descendants of the same parents (Acts 7:23); 
  3. Male children of the same mother (Gal 1:19); 
  4. People of the same nationality (Acts 3:17); 
  5. Any man, a neighbor (Lk 10:29); 
  6. Persons united by a common interest (Mt 5:47); 
  7. Persons united by a common calling (Rev 22:9); 
  8. Mankind (Mt 25:40); (9) the disciples (Mt 23:8);
  9. Believers (Mt 23:8).

(From Vine's Expository Dictionary of Biblical Words, Thomas Nelson, Publisher.)

Matthew 12:46 As he was yet speaking to the multitudes, behold his mother and his brethren (adelphos) stood without, seeking to speak to him.

Matthew 12:47 And one said unto him: Behold thy mother and thy brethren (adelphos) stand without, seeking thee.

Matthew 12:48 But he answering him that told him, said: Who is my mother, and who are my brethren (adelphos)?

Matthew 12:49 And stretching forth his hand towards his disciples, he said: Behold my mother and my brethren (adelphos).

Matthew 12:50 For whosoever shall do the will of my Father, that is in heaven, he is my brother (adelphos), and sister (adelphai), and mother.

Mark 3:31 And his mother and his brethren (adelphos) came; and standing without, sent unto him, calling him.

Mark 6:3 Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother (adelphos) of James and Joses and Judas and Simon, and are not his sisters (adelphai) here with us?" And they took offense at him.

Luke 8:19 And his mother and brethren (adelphos) came unto him: and they could not come at him for the crowd.


Luke 1:36 

And behold thy cousin Elizabeth, she also hath conceived a son in her old age: and this is the sixth month with her that is called barren.

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 But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and thou, being once converted, confirm thy brethren (adelphos).

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 Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount that is called Olivet, which is nigh Jerusalem, within a sabbath day's journey.

Acts 1:13 
And when they were come in, they went up into an upper room, where abode Peter and John, James and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James of Alpheus and Simon Zelotes and Jude (the brother) of James.

Acts 1:14 All these were persevering with one mind in prayer with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brethren (adelphos). 

Acts 1:15 
In those days Peter rising up in the midst of the brethren (mathetes/disciples), said (now the number of persons together was about an hundred and twenty):

The gathering here of Jesus' "brothers" amounts to about 120. That is a lot of "brothers." Brother means kinsmen in Hebrew.

Acts 7:26 
And the day following, he shewed himself to them when they were at strife and would have reconciled them in peace, saying: Men, ye are brethren (adelphos). Why hurt you one another?

Acts 11:1 
And the apostles and brethren (adelphos), who were in Judea, heard that the Gentiles also had received the word of God.

Acts 13:15 
And after the reading of the law and the prophets, the rulers of the synagogue sent to them, saying: Ye men, brethren (adelphos), if you have any word of exhortation to make to the people, speak.

Acts 13:38 

Be it known therefore to you, men, brethren (adelphos), that through him forgiveness of sins is preached to you: and from all the things from which you could not be justified by the law of Moses.

Acts 15:3 

They therefore, being brought on their way by the church, passed through Phenice and Samaria, relating the conversion of the Gentiles. And they caused great joy to all the brethren (adelphos).

Acts 15:23 
Writing by their hands: The apostles and ancients, brethren (adelphos), to the brethren of the Gentiles that are at Antioch and in Syria and Cilicia, greeting.

Acts 15:32 
But Judas and Silas, being prophets also themselves, with many words comforted the brethren (adelphos) and confirmed them.

Acts 28:17 
And after the third day, he called together the chief of the Jews. And when they were assembled, he said to them: Men, brethren (adelphos), I, having done nothing against the people or the custom of our fathers, was delivered prisoner from Jerusalem into the hands of the Romans.

Acts 28:21 
But they said to him: We neither received letters concerning thee from Judea: neither did any of the brethren that came hither relate or speak any evil of thee.

These are some of many other examples where "brethren" does not mean blood relations.

Romans 9:3 

For I wished myself to be an anathema from Christ, for my brethren (adelphos): who are my kinsmen according to the flesh:

Paul uses "brethren" and "kinsmen" interchangeably. "Brothers" of Jesus does not prove Mary had other children.

Genesis 11:26 

And Thare lived seventy years, and begot Abram, and Nachor, and Aran.

Genesis 11:27 

And these are the generations of Thare: Thare begot Abram, Nachor, and Aran. And Aran begot Lot.

Genesis 11:28 

And Aran died before Thare his father, in the land of his nativity in Ur of the Chaldees.

Lot is Abraham's nephew ("anepsios")

Genesis 13:8 
Abram therefore said to Lot: Let there be no quarrel, I beseech thee, between me and thee, and between my herdsmen and thy herdsmen: for we are brethren.

Genesis 14:14 
Which when Abram had heard, to wit, that his brother Lot was taken, he numbered of the servants born in his house, three hundred and eighteen, well appointed: and pursued them to Dan.

Genesis 14:16 
And he brought back all the substance, and Lot his brother, with his substance, the women also, and the people.

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.

Genesis 29:15 
He said to him: Because thou art my brother, shalt thou serve me without wages? Tell me what wages thou wilt have.

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

Deuteronomy 23:7 
Thou shalt not abhor the Edomite, because he is thy brother: nor the Egyptian, because thou wast a stranger in his land.

1 Chronicles 15:5 
Of the children of Caath, Uriel was the chief, and his brethren a hundred and twenty.

1 Chronicles 15:6 
Of the sons of Merari, Asaia the chief, and his brethren two hundred and twenty.

1 Chronicles 15:7 
Of the sons of Gersom, Joel the chief, and his brethren a hundred and thirty.

1 Chronicles 15:8 
Of the sons of Elisaphan, Semeias the chief: and his brethren two hundred.

1 Chronicles 15:9 
Of the sons of Hebron, Eliel the chief: and his brethren eighty.

1 Chronicles 15:10 
Of the sons of Oziel, Aminadab the chief: and his brethren a hundred and twelve.

1 Chronicles 15:11 

And David called Sadoc, and Abiathar the priests, and the Levites, Uriel, Asaia, Joel, Semeia, Eliel, and Aminadab:

1 Chronicles 15:12 
And he said to them: You that are the heads of the Levitical families, be sanctified with your brethren, and bring the ark of the Lord the God of Israel to the place, which is prepared for it:

1 Chronicles 15:13 
Lest as the Lord at first struck us, because you were not present, the same should now also come to pass, by our doing some thing against the law.

1 Chronicles 15:14 

So the priests and the Levites were sanctified, to carry the ark of the Lord the God of Israel.

1 Chronicles 15:15 
And the sons of Levi took the ark of God as Moses had commanded, according to the word of the Lord, upon their shoulders, with the staves.

1 Chronicles 15:16 
And David spoke to the chiefs of the Levites, to appoint some of their brethren to be singers with musical instruments, to wit, on psalteries, and harps, and cymbals, that the joyful noise might resound on high.

1 Chronicles 15:17 
And they appointed Levites, Hemam the son of Joel, and of his brethren Asaph the son of Barachias: and of the sons of Merari, their brethren: Ethan the son of Casaia.

1 Chronicles 15:18 
And with them their brethren: in the second rank, Zacharias, and Ben, and Jaziel, and Semiramoth,

Jeremiah 34:9
That every man should let his manservant, and every man his maidservant, being Hebrew man or a Hebrew woman, go free: and that they should not lord it over them, to wit, over the Jews their brethren.

Nehemiah 5:7 
And my heart thought with myself: and I rebuked the nobles and magistrates, and said to them: Do you every one exact usury of your brethren? And I gathered together a great assembly against them,

"brethren" means kinsmen. Hebrew and Aramaic have no word for "cousin."

2 Samuel 1:26 
I grieve for thee, my brother Jonathan: exceeding beautiful, and amiable to me above the love of women. As the mother loveth her only son, so did I love thee.

1 Kings 9:13 

And he said: Are these the cities which thou hast given me, brother? And he called them the land of Chabul, unto this day.

1 Kings 20:32 

So they girded sackcloths on their loins, and put ropes on their heads, and came to the king of Israel, and said to him: Thy servant, Benadad, saith: I beseech thee let me have my life. And he said: If he be yet alive, he is my brother.

Again we see that "brethren" can even be one who is unrelated (no bloodline), such as a friend.

2 Kings 10:13 

He met with the brethren of Ochozias, king of Juda, and he said to them: Who are you? And they answered: We are the brethren of Ochozias, and are come down to salute the sons of the king, and the sons of the queen.

King Ahaziah's 42 "brethren" were really his kinsmen.

1 Chronicles 23:21 
The sons of Merari: Moholi, and Musi. The sons of Moholi: Eleazar and Cis.

1 Chronicles 23:22 
And Eleazar died, and had no sons but daughters: and the sons of Cis their brethren took them.

Eleazar's daughters married their "brethren" who were really their cousins.

Nehemiah 4:14 
And I looked and rose up: and I said to the chief men and the magistrates, and to the rest of the common people: be not afraid of them. Remember the Lord who is great and terrible, and fight for your brethren, your sons, and your daughters, and your wives, and your houses.

Nehemiah 5:1 
Now there was a great cry of the people, and of their wives against their brethren the Jews.

Nehemiah 5:8 
And I said to them: We, as you know, have redeemed according to our ability our brethren the Jews, that were sold to the Gentiles: and will you then sell your brethren, for us to redeem them? And they held their peace, and found not what to answer.

Nehemiah 5:10 
Both I and my brethren, and my servants, have lent money and corn to many: let us all agree not to call for it again; let us forgive the debt that is owing to us.

Nehemiah 5:14 
And from the day, in which the king commanded me to be governor in the land of Juda, from the twentieth year even to the two and thirtieth year of Artaxerxes the king, for twelve years, I and my brethren did not eat the yearly allowance that was due to the governors.

More examples of "brothers" meaning "cousins" or "kinsmen."

Tobit 5:11
So going in he saluted him, and said: Joy be to thee always.

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

Amos 1:9 
Thus saith the Lord: For three crimes of Tyre, and for four I will not convert it: because they have shut up an entire captivity in Edom, and have not remembered the covenant of brethren.

Brotherhood can also mean an ally (where there is no bloodline).

First Born (Greek: "protokos")

The Greek word prototokos (Hebrew בּכור - bekôr  bek-ore', Strongs H106 ) is used of Christ as born of Mary and of Christ's relationship to His Father (Col 1:25). As the word does not imply other children of God the Father, neither does it imply other children of Mary. The term "first-born" was a legal term under the Mosaic Law (cf. Exodus 6:14) referring to the first male child born to Jewish parents regardless of any other children following or not. Hence when Jesus is called the "first-born" of Mary it does not mean that there were second or third-born children.

Biblical Precedent:

Collosians 1:25 Whereof I am made a minister according to the dispensation of God, which is given me towards you, that I may fulfil the word of God:

Exodus 6:14 These are the heads of their houses by their families. The sons of Ruben the firstborn (בּכור) of Israel: Henoch and Phallu, Hesron and Charmi.

St. Luke 2:7 And she gave birth to her first-born (prototokos) son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.

Protestant Reformers on Mary's Perpetual Virginity

The protestant reformers affirmed their belief in Mary's perpetual virginity. Below are quotes demonstrating this fact.

Martin Luther (Lutheranism)

"In this work whereby she was made the Mother of God, so many and such great good things were given her that no one can grasp them. ... Not only was Mary the mother of him who is born [in Bethlehem], but of him who, before the world, was eternally born of the Father, from a Mother in time and at the same time man and God."1

"It is an article of faith that Mary is Mother of the Lord and still a virgin. ... Christ, we believe, came forth from a womb left perfectly intact."2

"Christ, our Savior, was the real and natural fruit of Mary's virginal womb . . . This was without the cooperation of a man, and she remained a virgin after that."3

"Christ . . . was the only Son of Mary, and the Virgin Mary bore no children besides Him . . . I am inclined to agree with those who declare that 'brothers' really mean 'cousins' here, for Holy Writ and the Jews always call cousins brothers."4

"A new lie about me is being circulated. I am supposed to have preached and written that Mary, the mother of God, was not a virgin either before or after the birth of Christ . . ."5

Jaroslav Pelikan (Lutheranism)

"Luther . . . does not even consider the possibility that Mary might have had other children than Jesus. This is consistent with his lifelong acceptance of the idea of the perpetual virginity of Mary."6

John Calvin (Calvinism)

"It cannot be denied that God in choosing and destining Mary to be the Mother of his Son, granted her the highest honor. ... 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." (Calvini Opera, Corpus Reformatorum, Braunschweig-Berlin, 1863-1900, v. 45, p. 348, 35.) 

"On the perpetual virginity of Mary, "Calvin routinely brushes aside the difficulties sometimes raised from "first born" and "brothers of the Lord."" 
(O'Carroll, M., 1983, Theotokos, M Glazier, Inc.: Wilmington, DE, p. 94.)

"Helvidius displayed excessive ignorance in concluding that Mary must have had many sons, because Christ's 'brothers' are sometimes mentioned."
(Harmony of Matthew, Mark & Luke, sec. 39 (Geneva, 1562), vol. 2 / From Calvin's Commentaries, tr. William Pringle, Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1949, p.215; on Matthew 13:55)

[On Matt 1:25:] The inference he [Helvidius] drew from it was, that Mary remained a virgin no longer than till her first birth, and that afterwards she had other children by her husband . . . No just and well-grounded inference can be drawn from these words . . . as to what took place after the birth of Christ. He is called 'first-born'; but it is for the sole purpose of informing us that he was born of a virgin . . . What took place afterwards the historian does not inform us . . . No man will obstinately keep up the argument, except from an extreme fondness for disputation.

(Pringle, ibid., vol. I, p. 107)

Under the word 'brethren' the Hebrews include all cousins and other relations, whatever may be the degree of affinity.

(Pringle, ibid., vol. I, p. 283 / Commentary on John, (7:3) )

Ulrich Zwingli (Swiss Reformer)

"It was given to her what belongs to no creature, that in the flesh she should bring forth the Son of God."
(Zwingli Opera, Corpus Reformatorum, Berlin, 1905, v. 6, I, p. 639.)

"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."
(Zwingli Opera, Corpus Reformatorum, Berlin, 1905, v. 1, p. 424.) 

"I esteem immensely the Mother of God, the ever chaste, immaculate Virgin Mary ...; Christ ... was born of a most undefiled Virgin."
(Stakemeier, E. in De Mariologia et Oecumenismo, Balic, K., ed., Rome, 1962, p. 456.) 

"The more the honor and love for Christ grows among men, the more esteem and honor for Mary grows, for she brought forth for us so great, but so compassionate a Lord and Redeemer."
(Zwingli Opera, Corpus Reformatorum, Berlin, 1905, v. 1, pp. 427-428.) 

"He turns, in September 1522, to a lyrical defense of the perpetual virginity of the mother of Christ . . . To deny that Mary remained 'inviolata' before, during and after the birth of her Son, was to doubt the omnipotence of God . . . and it was right and profitable to repeat the angelic greeting - not prayer - 'Hail Mary' . . . God esteemed Mary above all creatures, including the saints and angels - it was her purity, innocence and invincible faith that mankind must follow. Prayer, however, must be . . . to God alone . . . 

'Fidei expositio,' the last pamphlet from his pen . . . There is a special insistence upon the perpetual virginity of Mary."
(G. R. Potter, Zwingli, London: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1976, pp.88-9,395 / The Perpetual Virginity of Mary . . ., Sep. 17, 1522) 

Zwingli had printed in 1524 a sermon on 'Mary, ever virgin, mother of God.' 

{Thurian, ibid., p.76} 

I have never thought, still less taught, or declared publicly, anything concerning the subject of the ever Virgin Mary, Mother of our salvation, which could be considered dishonourable, impious, unworthy or evil . . . I believe with all my heart according to the word of holy gospel that this pure virgin bore for us the Son of God and that she remained, in the birth and after it, a pure and unsullied virgin, for eternity. 

{Thurian, ibid., p.76 / same sermon}

Heinrich Bullinger

    Bullinger (d. 1575) . . . defends Mary's perpetual virginity . . . and inveighs against the false Christians who defraud her of her rightful praise: 'In Mary everything is extraordinary and all the more glorious as it has sprung from pure faith and burning love of God.' She is 'the most unique and the noblest member' of the Christian community . . .

    'The Virgin Mary . . . completely sanctified by the grace and blood of her only Son and abundantly endowed by the gift of the Holy Spirit and preferred to all . . . now lives happily with Christ in heaven and is called and remains ever-Virgin and Mother of God.'

{In Hilda Graef, Mary: A history of Doctrine and Devotion, combined ed. of vols. 1 & 2, London: Sheed & Ward, 1965, vol.2, pp.14-5}


The following is research by Dave Armstrong It has quotes from early reformers and influential Evangelicals:

    Whatever may be the position theologically that one may take today on the subject of Mariology, one is not able to call to one's aid 'reformed tradition' unless one does it with the greatest care . . . the Marian doctrine of the Reformers is consonant with the great tradition of the Church in all the essentials and with that of the Fathers of the first centuries in particular . . . . .

    In regard to the Marian doctrine of the Reformers, we have already seen how unanimous they are in all that concerns Mary's holiness and perpetual virginity . . .

{Max Thurian (Protestant), Mary: Mother of all Christians, tr. Neville B. Cryer, NY: Herder & Herder, 1963 (orig. 1962), pp. 77, 197}

    The title 'Ever Virgin' (aeiparthenos, semper virgo) arose early in Christianity . . . It was a stock phrase in the Middle Ages and continued to be used in Protestant confessional writings (Luther, Calvin, Zwingli, Andrewes; Book of Concord [1580], Schmalkaldic Articles [1537]).

{Raymond E. Brown et al, ed., Mary in the New Testament, Phil.: Fortress Press / NY: Paulist Press, 1978, p.65 (a joint Catholic-Protestant effort) }

    Mary was formally separated from Protestant worship and prayer in the 16th century; in the 20th century the divorce is complete. Even the singing of the 'Magnificat' caused the Puritans to have scruples, and if they gave up the Apostles' Creed, it was not only because of the offensive adjective 'Catholic', but also because of the mention of the Virgin . . .

    [But] Calvin, like Luther and Zwingli, taught the perpetual virginity of Mary. The early Reformers even applied, though with some reticence, the title Theotokos to Mary . . . Calvin called on his followers to venerate and praise her as the teacher who instructs them in her Son's commands.

{J.A. Ross MacKenzie (Protestant), in Stacpoole, Alberic, ed., Mary's Place in Christian Dialogue, Wilton, Conn.: Morehouse-Barlow, 1982, pp.35-6}

John Wesley (Methodism)

"The Blessed Virgin Mary, who, as well after as when she brought him forth, continued a pure and unspotted virgin."
("Letter to a Roman Catholic" / In This Rock, Nov. 1990, p.25)

The constant faith of the Church

Great teachers of the Church from at least the fourth century spoke of Mary as having remained a virgin throughout her life:

    • Athanasius (Alexandria, 293 - 373)
    • Epiphanius (Palestine, 315? - 403)
    • Jerome (Stridon, present day Slovenia, 345? - 419)
    • Augustine (Numidia, now Algeria, 354 - 430)
    • Cyril (Alexandria, 376 - 444)
    • and others.

Early Christian writings from the first centuries

Athanasius: "Let those, therefore, who deny that the Son is by nature from the Father and proper to his essence deny also that he took true human flesh from the ever-virgin Mary" (Discourses Against the Arians 2:70 [A.D. 360]).

Epiphanius of Salamis:"... the Son of God . . . who for us men and for our salvation came down and took flesh, that is, was born perfectly of the holy ever-virgin Mary by the Holy Spirit" (The Man Well-Anchored 120 [A.D. 374]). ..."And to holy Mary, [the title] ‘Virgin’ is invariably added, for that holy woman remains undefiled" (Medicine Chest Against All Heresies 78:6 [A.D. 375]).

Hilary of Poitiers:  "If they [the brethren of the Lord] had been Mary’s sons and not those taken from Joseph’s former marriage, she would never have been given over in the moment of the passion [crucifixion] to the apostle John as his mother, the Lord saying to each, ‘Woman, behold your son,’ and to John, ‘Behold your mother’ [John 19:26–27), as he bequeathed filial love to a disciple as a consolation to the one desolate" (Commentary on Matthew 1:4  

Didymus the Blind: "It helps us to understand the terms ‘first-born’ and ‘only-begotten’ when the Evangelist tells that Mary remained a virgin ‘until she brought forth her first-born son’ [Matt. 1:25]; for neither did Mary, who is to be honored and praised above all others, marry anyone else, nor did she ever become the Mother of anyone else, but even after childbirth she remained always and forever an immaculate virgin" (The Trinity 3:4 [A.D. 386]).

Ambrose of Milan: "Imitate her [Mary], holy mothers, who in her only dearly beloved Son set forth so great an example of material virtue; for neither have you sweeter children [than Jesus], nor did the Virgin seek the consolation of being able to bear another son" (Letters 63:111 [A.D. 388]).

Pope Siricius I: "You had good reason to be horrified at the thought that another birth might issue from the same virginal womb from which Christ was born according to the flesh. For the Lord Jesus would never have chosen to be born of a virgin if he had ever judged that she would be so incontinent as to contaminate with the seed of human intercourse the birthplace of the Lord’s body, that court of the eternal king" (Letter to Bishop Anysius [A.D. 392]).

Origen: ...And I think it in harmony with reason that Jesus was the firstfruit among men of the purity which consists in [perpetual] chastity, and Mary was among women. For it were not pious to ascribe to any other than to her the firstfruit of virginity" (Commentary on Matthew 2:17 [A.D. 248]). [A.D. 248], Hilary of Poitiers [A.D. 354],

Augustine: "In being born of a Virgin who chose to remain a Virgin even before she knew who was to be born of her, Christ wanted to approve virginity rather than to impose it. And he wanted virginity to be of free choice even in that woman in whom he took upon himself the form of a slave" (Holy Virginity 4:4 [A.D. 401]). ..."It was not the visible sun, but its invisible Creator who consecrated this day for us, when the Virgin Mother, fertile of womb and integral in her virginity, brought him forth, made visible for us, by whom, when he was invisible, she too was created. A Virgin conceiving, a Virgin bearing, a Virgin pregnant, a Virgin bringing forth, a Virgin perpetual. Why do you wonder at this, O man?" (Sermons 186:1 [A.D. 411]). ..."Heretics called Antidicomarites are those who contradict the perpetual virginity of Mary and affirm that after Christ was born she was joined as one with her husband" (Heresies 56 [A.D. 428]).

"That same power which brought the body of the young man through closed doors, brought the body of the infant forth from the inviolate womb of the mother."

Leporius: "We confess, therefore, that our Lord and God, Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, born of the Father before the ages, and in times most recent, made man of the Holy Spirit and the ever-virgin Mary" (Document of Amendment 3 [A.D. 426]).

Cyril of Alexandria: "[T]he Word himself, coming into the Blessed Virgin herself, assumed for himself his own temple from the substance of the Virgin and came forth from her a man in all that could be externally discerned, while interiorly he was true God. Therefore he kept his Mother a virgin even after her childbearing" (Against Those Who Do Not Wish to Confess That the Holy Virgin is the Mother of God 4 [A.D. 430]).

Pope Leo I: "His [Christ’s] origin is different, but his [human] nature is the same. Human usage and custom were lacking, but by divine power a Virgin conceived, a Virgin bore, and Virgin she remained" (Sermons 22:2 [A.D. 450]).

Council of Constantinople II: "... the Word of God ... came down from the heavens and was made flesh of holy and glorious Mary, mother of God and ever-virgin, and was born from her,..." (Anathemas Against the "Three Chapters" 2 [A.D. 553]).

Magisterium of the Church

 Council of Constantinople II (553 - 554) twice referred to Mary as "ever-virgin."

Additional Arguments

"In the English language we say "I
am hungry" and we say "I am human." One state of being is temporary and the other is permanent. "Being hungry" is temporary but "being human" is ongoing. Greek has two different words for the temporary and permanent states. Mary used the permanent state of the verb "I am a virgin" which meant that her virginity would be ongoing. Why didn't she use the temporary state of the verb in the phrase "I am a virgin" since she was about to be married? Catholics think she knew it would be a chaste marriage.

The Early Church Fathers are almost unanimous in the assertion that the birth was painless and had no loss of Mary's virginal integrity during the birth. In other words, her Hymen didn't break. St. Augustine said "Jesus passed through the womb of Mary as a ray of sun passes through glass." Pope Martin in 649 AD defined the doctrine that Mary:

  • Conceived without seed, of the Holy Ghost
  • Generated without injury (to her virginity)
  • And her virginity continued unimpaired after the birth

This was confirmed by Pope Paul IV and many others before and after. If Jesus emerged from a sealed tomb, and passed through closed doors, surely he could pass through Mary's womb without breaking her hymen and causing her pain. If pain is the punishment of original sin and birth pangs the first punishment at the fall (Gen 3) for Eve's disobedience. It follows that Mary as the new Eve, who was obedient to God (Lk 1:38), would not have suffered giving birth to the "new Adam". If Eve came out of Adam's rib with no pain while he slept, it follows that Jesus (the new Adam) came out of Mary (the new Eve) without pain." (David MacDonald, Mary's Perpetual Virginity)

Labor Pains

Opponents of Mary's perpetual virginity often cite Revelation Chapter 12. Revelation says the woman is experience labor pains. Does this contradict the Catholic position? No. As David Macdonald explains.

"There is a long answer and a short answer to that. The short is that Mary became spiritual mother to disciples of Jesus at the foot of the Cross when Jesus said to her "Woman, behold your son" (Jn 19:26). As Jesus died, a sword pierced Mary's heart (Lk 2:35). That was painful. There is physical birth and Spiritual birth. For Mary the painful part of giving birth to Jesus was on Calvary, not in Bethlehem. The book of Revelation goes on to talk about the children of the woman, being those who follow Jesus. This is the Church, and its birth was painful." (David Macdonald, ibid).

Paul and other's "Labor Pains"

Paul uses the metaphor of labor Pains in Galatians and Romans. The use of the metaphor is also present in the Old Testament.

Galatians 4:19 My little children, of whom I am in labour again, until Christ be formed in you.”

Romans 8:22 For we know that every creature groaneth and travaileth in pain, even till now.

Jeremiah 13:21 What wilt thou say when he shall visit thee? for thou hast taught them against thee, and instructed them against thy own head: shall not sorrows lay hold on thee, as a woman in labour?

Hosea 13:12
The iniquity of Ephraim is bound up, his sin is hidden.

Hosea 13:13
The sorrows of a woman in labour shall come upon him, he is an unwise son: for now he shall not stand in the breach of the children.

Micah 4:9
Now, why art thou drawn together with grief? Hast thou no king in thee, or is thy counselor perished, because sorrow hath taken thee as a woman in labour.

Micah 4:10 Be in pain and labour, O daughter of Sion, as a woman that bringeth forth: for now shalt thou go out of the city, and shalt dwell in the country, and shalt come even to Babylon, there thou shalt be delivered: there the Lord will redeem thee out of the hand of thy enemies.

The James Ossuary

"A couple of years ago a huge archeological discovery gave the world the "James Ossuary" which said "...James brother of Jesus." It was in Newsweek magazine and the Evangelical press covered the find extensively as proof that Catholics were wrong about Mary's perpetual virginity. The person who discovered the ossuary, Oded Golan, was arrested July 21, 2003 and appeared the next day in court, where police revealed forging equipment -- stencils, stones and yet-to-be-completed forgeries -- they said were found in his home, according to the Associated Press. The Israeli Antiquities Authority (IAA) found him to be part an extensive forgery ring that has sold millions of dollars of artifacts to museums. Since then news of the ossuary has quietly disappeared from Evangelical apologetics."1


X. David Macdonald, Mary's Perpetual Virginity

1. Weimer's The Works of Luther, English translation by Pelikan, Concordia, St. Louis, v. 7, p. 572.

2. Weimer's The Works of Luther, English translation by Pelikan, Concordia, St. Louis, v.11, pp. 319-320; v. 6. p. 510.

3. Luther's Works, eds. Jaroslav Pelikan (vols. 1-30) & Helmut T. Lehmann (vols. 31-55), St. Louis: Concordia Pub. House (vols. 1-30); Philadelphia: Fortress Press (vols. 31-55), 1955, v.22:23 / Sermons on John, chaps. 1-4 (1539) 

4. Pelikan, ibid., v.22:214-15 / Sermons on John, chaps. 1-4 (1539)

5. Pelikan, ibid.,v.45:199 / That Jesus Christ was Born a Jew (1523)

6. Pelikan, ibid.,v.22:214-5

This document includes research by David Macdonald, John Salza, Paul Flanagan and Robert Schihl.