The whole discussion on the
virginity of Mary" goes beyond a minor technicality
of Scripture. It has far-reaching ramifications. Let us discuss
It is quite clear that Catholicism
does teach the idea of Marys perpetual virginity.
The authoritative and contemporary Catechism of the Catholic Church (1994)
declares, "The deepening of faith in the virginal motherhood
led the Church to confess Marys real and perpetual virginity
even in the act of giving birth to the Son of God made man.
In fact, Christs birth did not diminish his mothers
virginal integrity but sanctified it. And so the liturgy
of the Church celebrates Mary as Aeiparthenos, the Ever-virgin" (p.
126). The same Catechism quotes Augustine (d. 430)
as teaching that Mary "remained
a virgin in conceiving her Son, a virgin in giving birth to
him, a virgin in carrying him, a virgin in nursing him at
her breast, always a virgin" (p. 128). One Catholic authority
states, "The Church has consistently taught the perpetual
virginity of Mary: she was a virgin before, through and after
the conception and birth of Christ" (Our Sunday Visitors
Catholic Encyclopedia 1991, s.v., "Virgin Mary").
What does Scripture say?
Definitely the Bible affirms that Jesus was born of Mary
and this young woman was
a virgin at the time of His birth. Gabriel, the angel of
the Lord, announced to Mary that she would bear a Son who
actually be the very Son of God (Luke 1:26-33). Marys
question to this heavenly messenger seems quite clear: "How
can this be, since I am a virgin?" (Luke 1:34). This
was not asked with a degree of unbelief or consternation as
might have been found in the question of Zacharias to the
same angel (Luke 1:18ff). Marys question was simply
a request for information or clarification.
At this time, Mary was engaged,
but not fully married. "When His mother Mary has been
betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she
was found to be with child by the Holy Spirit" (Matt. 1:18). At this
time, Mary was engaged but was not fully married. The couple
had not "come together" yet. Notice this in other
translations: "before they came together" (Marshalls
Greek/English), "before they came together" (KJV,
RSV, NIV). Interestingly, the Jerusalem Bible (a Catholic
version) says, "before they came to live
together." Can it be that Catholic teaching has influenced
this rendering? After all, orthodox Catholics do not believe
that Mary and Joseph actually "came together" at
all in physical union as husband and wife.
It certainly would be logical,
reasonable, and expected that Mary would ask a question
about how such
a conception would take place. How could she bear a son during
this period between betrothal and the sexual relationship
of marriage? It was impossible. She knew that she was still
a virgin: she had not yet "known" a man sexually.
How, then, could she have a child during her virginity?
other words, how could she have a child before she and
Joseph "came together" in sexual relationship?
Instead of this suggesting a hypothetical "vow" as
Catholic apologists would suggest, it points in the opposite
direction: she had every intention of entering a normal marriage
and bearing children the normal way.
What further evidence that
Scripture offer? Scripture speaks of the "brothers" of Christ (Matt.
12:46, 47; Mark 3:31, 32) and the "sisters" of
Christ (Matt. 13:56; Mark 6:3). His brothers were James,
Simon, and Judas (Matt. 13:55; Mark 6:3). These brothers
were mentioned in various scriptures (cf. John 7:3-5; Acts
12:17; 15:13; 21:18; 1 Cor. 9:5; 15:7; Gal. 1:19; 2:9, 12;
James 1:1; Jude 1:1). Instead of Mary remaining a virgin
the birth of Christ, it would appear that this virtuous woman
had five sons and at least two daughters!
It is also important to realize that the Greek
term adelphos literally means "brother." Arndt
and Gingrich (A Greek-English Lexicon of the New
Testament) renders it "brother." "Adelphos
is compounded from delphys, the womb, and the copulative
a, and hence means one born from the same womb" (The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology).
Thus, "Adelphos is used first of all for physical
brother, and adelphe for a physical sister" (Ibid.).
Although the term can have a wider meaning in (descendant
of the same parents, a person of the same nationality,
a near kinsman or relative, etc.), it generally should be
taken in the literal sense, as "male children of the
Today, Orthodox churches contend that the
brothers and sisters of Jesus were actually children of Joseph
from a previous marriage. The Roman Catholic Church teaches
that they were cousins of the Lord and not true brothers and
sisters, children of Mary and Joseph. While this interpretation
does go back to the early post-apostolic church, Tertullian
(ca. 160--220) wrote of Joseph and Mary's own children (Ibid.).
Probably the "kinship" argument would not have
arisen if there was not the desire to preserve Mary's perpetual
The reason that Catholics
cannot give up this doctrineregardless of evidenceis quite
simple: The existence of their church and the reliability
of their history depends on it. (My supposition is that, in
some degree, a denial of the "doctrine of the perpetual
virginity of Mary" would also seriously undermine the
reliability of the Eastern Orthodox churches, since they
so much emphasis upon uninspired and fallible tradition.)
Why do I make this point about Catholicism?
If Mary did not remain a virgin after Jesus birth, then the papal pronouncements concerning
the "Virgin Mary" have been wrong, incorrect,
and actual lies. All of the "apparitions" (appearances)
of the "Virgin Mary" over the centuries to Catholic
mystics have been deceptive as well (see Quite Contrary
by Timothy Kauffman, Apparitions at Medjugorje: Divine
or Demonic? by Russell K. Tardo, and Mary: Another
Redeemer? by James R. White).
(2) Perpetual virginity
of Mary has been a foundation of the imposed celibacy
of the Catholic priesthood
and order of nuns. Not only is imposed celibacy a false
teaching (1 Tim. 4:1-3), but Scripture requires the exact
opposite: "Bishops" (KJV) or, better, "overseers"
(NASB, Greek) must be married men (1 Tim. 3:1-2; Titus 1:5-7),
just as "deacons"(KJV) or, "servants" (Greek)
must be married (1 Tim. 3:12). Catholicism teaches the
exact opposite of Scripture.
(3) If the pronouncements
of the so-called "Popes" (Matt. 23:9) have
been wrong in regard to Mary and imposed celibacy, then
they are not true spokesmen
for God and nothing else they have promulgated through
the centuries is dependable (unless it was found earlier
(4) If "papal" pronouncements
are proven fallacious, then the entire basis of the Catholic
religion is missing. Every other false teaching also falls:
the "veneration" (worship) of Mary, the "bodily
assumption" of Mary into heaven, the "co-redeemer"
and "co-mediator" status of Mary, the "immaculate
conception" and sinlessness of Mary, and many other
doctrines of Mary (i.e., Marian doctrines), not to speak
of dozens of other teachings in other doctrinal categories.
(5) If Mary did not remain
a virgin, over one billion followers are found to be
in a false cult. Instead
of the "only true Church of Jesus Christ," Catholicism
becomes a false way of salvation, a false "plant"
which Christ Jesus will one day be "uprooted" (Matt.
Karl Keating is a leading
Roman Catholic apologist. He is intelligent, he writes
fluently, and his influence is
extensive. He, along with other Catholic defenders, must
strongly support the doctrine of Marys perpetual virginity regardless
of the weighty Scriptural arguments against this. If he fails
to do sowith vigor and convictionhis whole
church is shown to be wrong and he personally is declared
to be a false teacher.
The issue of Marys continued virginity
goes far beyond a point of Biblical interpretation for Catholicism.
The Roman Catholics eternal salvation is at stake.