by Dr. Brian Kopp
Exodus 13:2,12 - Jesus is sometimes referred to as the 'first-born' son of Mary. But 'first-born' is a common Jewish expression meaning the first child to open the womb. It has nothing to do the mother having future children.
Exodus 34:20 - under the Mosaic law, the 'first-born' son had to be sanctified. 'First-born' status does not require a 'second' born.
Ezek. 44:2 - Ezekiel prophesies that no man shall pass through the gate by which the Lord entered the world. This is a prophecy of Mary’s perpetual virginity. Mary remained a virgin before, during and after the birth of Jesus.
Mark 6:3 - Jesus was always referred to as 'the' son of Mary, not 'a' son of Mary. Also “brothers” could have theoretically been Joseph’s children from a former marriage that was dissolved by death. However, it is most likely, perhaps most certainly, that Joseph was a virgin, just as were Jesus and Mary. As such, they embodied the true Holy Family, fully consecrated to God.
Luke 1:31,34 - the angel tells Mary that you 'will' conceive (using the future tense). Mary responds by saying, “How shall this be?” Mary’s response demonstrates that she had taken a vow of lifelong virginity by having no intention to have relations with a man. If Mary did not take such a vow of lifelong virginity, her question would make no sense at all (for we can assume she knew how a child is conceived). She was a consecrated Temple virgin as was an acceptable custom of the times.
Luke 2:41-51 - in searching for Jesus and finding Him in the temple, there is never any mention of other siblings.
John 7:3-4; Mark 3:21 - we see that younger 'brothers' were advising Jesus. But this would have been extremely disrespectful for devout Jews if these were Jesus’ biological brothers.
John 19:26-27 - it would have been unthinkable for Jesus to commit the care of his mother to a friend if he had brothers.
John 19:25 - the following verses prove that James and Joseph are Jesus’ cousins and not his brothers: Mary the wife of Clopas is the sister of the Virgin Mary.
Matt. 27:61, 28:1 - Matthew even refers to Mary the wife of Clopas as 'the other Mary.'
Matt. 27:56; Mark 15:47 - Mary the wife of Clopas is the mother of James and Joseph.
Mark 6:3 - James and Joseph are called the 'brothers' of Jesus. So James and Joseph are Jesus’ cousins.
Matt. 10:3 - James is also called the son of “Alpheus.” This does not disprove that James is the son of Clopas. The name Alpheus may be Aramaic for Clopas, or James took a Greek name like Saul (Paul), or Mary remarried a man named Alpheus.
Jesus’ 'Brothers' (adelphoi)) = Cousins or Kinsmen
Luke 1:36 - 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 - 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 1:12-15 - the gathering of Jesus’ “brothers” amounts to about 120. That is a lot of “brothers.” Brother means kinsmen in Hebrew.
Acts 7:26; 11:1; 13:15,38; 15:3,23,32; 28:17,21 - these are some of many other examples where “brethren” does not mean blood relations.
Rom. 9:3 - Paul uses “brethren” and “kinsmen” interchangeably. “Brothers” of Jesus does not prove Mary had other children.
Gen. 11:26-28 - Lot is Abraham’s nephew (”anepsios”) / Gen. 13:8; 14:14,16 - 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.
Gen. 29:15 - Laban calls Jacob is “brother” even though Jacob is his nephew. Again, this proves that brother means kinsmen or cousin.
Deut. 23:7; 1 Chron. 15:5-18; Jer. 34:9; Neh. 5:7 -”brethren” means kinsmen. Hebrew and Aramaic have no word for “cousin.”
2 Sam. 1:26; 1 Kings 9:13, 20:32 - here we see that “brethren” can even be one who is unrelated (no bloodline), such as a friend.
2 Kings 10:13-14 - King Ahaziah’s 42 “brethren” were really his kinsmen.
1 Chron. 23:21-22 - Eleazar’s daughters married their “brethren” who were really their cousins.
Neh. 4:14; 5:1,5,8,10,14 - these are more examples of “brothers” meaning “cousins” or “kinsmen.”
Tobit 5:11 - Tobit asks Azarias to identify himself and his people, but still calls him “brother.”
Amos 1: 9 - brotherhood can also mean an ally (where there is no bloodline).
Mary is Ever-Virgin
"And indeed it was a virgin, about to marry once for all after her delivery, who gave birth to Christ, in order that each title of sanctity might be fulfilled in Christ’s parentage, by means of a mother who was both virgin, and wife of one husband. Again, when He is presented as an infant in the temple, who is it who receives Him into his hands? Who is the first to recognize Him in spirit? A man just and circumspect,’ and of course no digamist, (which is plain) even (from this consideration), lest (otherwise) Christ should presently be more worthily preached by a woman, an aged widow, and the wife of one man;’ who, living devoted to the temple, was (already) giving in her own person a sufficient token what sort of persons ought to be the adherents to the spiritual temple,—that is, the Church. Such eye-witnesses the Lord in infancy found; no different ones had He in adult age." Tertullian, On Monogamy, 8 (A.D. 213).
"For if Mary, as those declare who with sound mind extol her, had no other son but Jesus, and yet Jesus says to His mother, Woman, behold thy son,’ and not Behold you have this son also,’ then He virtually said to her, Lo, this is Jesus, whom thou didst bear.’ Is it not the case that every one who is perfect lives himself no longer, but Christ lives in him; and if Christ lives in him, then it is said of him to Mary, Behold thy son Christ.’ What a mind, then, must we have to enable us to interpret in a worthy manner this work, though it be committed to the earthly treasure-house of common speech, of writing which any passer-by can read, and which can be heard when read aloud by any one who lends to it his bodily ears?" Origen, Commentary on John, I:6 (A.D. 232).
"Therefore let those who deny that the Son is from the Father by nature and proper to His Essence, deny also that He took true human flesh of Mary Ever-Virgin; for in neither case had it been of profit to us men, whether the Word were not true and naturally Son of God, or the flesh not true which He assumed." Athanasius, Orations against the Arians, II:70 (A.D. 362).
"And when he had taken her, he knew her not, till she had brought forth her first-born Son.’ He hath here used the word till,’ not that thou shouldest suspect that afterwards he did know her, but to inform thee that before the birth the Virgin was wholly untouched by man. But why then, it may be said, hath he used the word, till’? Because it is usual in Scripture often to do this, and to use this expression without reference to limited times. For so with respect to the ark likewise, it is said, The raven returned not till the earth was dried up.’ And yet it did not return even after that time. And when discoursing also of God, the Scripture saith, From age until age Thou art,’ not as fixing limits in this case. And again when it is preaching the Gospel beforehand, and saying, In his days shall righteousness flourish, and abundance of peace, till the moon be taken away,’ it doth not set a limit to this fair part of creation. So then here likewise, it uses the word “till,” to make certain what was before the birth, but as to what follows, it leaves thee to make the inference." John Chrysostom, Gospel of Matthew, V:5 (A.D. 370).
"Thus, what it was necessary for thee to learn of Him, this He Himself hath said; that the Virgin was untouched by man until the birth; but that which both was seen to be a consequence of the former statement, and was acknowledged, this in its turn he leaves for thee to perceive; namely, that not even after this, she having so become a mother, and having been counted worthy of a new sort of travail, and a child-bearing so strange, could that righteous man ever have endured to know her. For if he had known her, and had kept her in the place of a wife, how is it that our Lord commits her, as unprotected, and having no one, to His disciple, and commands him to take her to his own home? How then, one may say, are James and the others called His brethren? In the same kind of way as Joseph himself was supposed to be husband of Mary. For many were the veils provided, that the birth, being such as it was, might be for a time screened. Wherefore even John so called them, saying, For neither did His brethren believe in Him." John Chrysostom, Gospel of Matthew, V:5 (A.D. 370).
"But those who by virginity have desisted from this process have drawn within themselves the boundary line of death, and by their own deed have checked his advance; they have made themselves, in fact, a frontier between life and death, and a barrier too, which thwarts him. If, then, death cannot pass beyond virginity, but finds his power checked and shattered there, it is demonstrated that virginity is a stronger thing than death; and that body is rightly named undying which does not lend its service to a dying world, nor brook to become the instrument of a succession of dying creatures. In such a body the long unbroken career of decay and death, which has intervened between the first man and the lives of virginity which have been led, is interrupted. It could not be indeed that death should cease working as long as the human race by marriage was working too; he walked the path of life with all preceding generations; he started with every new-born child and accompanied it to the end: but he found in virginity a barrier, to pass which was an impossible feat." Gregory of Nyssa, On Virginity, 13 (A.D. 371).
"[T]he Son of God...was born perfectly of the holy ever-virgin Mary by the Holy Spirit..." Epiphanius, Well Anchored Man, 120 (A.D. 374).
"The friends of Christ do not tolerate hearing that the Mother of God ever ceased to be a virgin." Basil, Homily In Sanctum Christi generationem, 5 (ante A.D. 379).
"But as we do not deny what is written, so we do reject what is not written. We believe that God was born of the Virgin, because we read it. That Mary was married after she brought forth, we do not believe, because we do not read it. Nor do we say this to condemn marriage, for virginity itself is the fruit of marriage; but because when we are dealing with saints we must not judge rashly. If we adopt possibility as the standard of judgment, we might maintain that Joseph had several wives because Abraham had, and so had Jacob, and that the Lord’s brethren were the issue of those wives, an invention which some hold with a rashness which springs from audacity not from piety. You say that Mary did not continue a virgin: I claim still more, that Joseph himself on account of Mary was a virgin, so that from a virgin wedlock a virgin son was born. For if as a holy man he does not come under the imputation of fornication, and it is nowhere written that he had another wife, but was the guardian of Mary whom he was supposed to have to wife rather than her husband, the conclusion is that he who was thought worthy to be called father of the Lord, remained a virgin." Jerome, The Perpetual Virginity of Mary Against Helvedius, 21 (A.D. 383).
"Imitate her, holy mothers, who in her only dearly beloved Son set forth so great an example of maternal virtue; for neither have you sweeter children, nor did the Virgin seek the consolation of being able to bear another son." Ambrose, To the Christian at Vercellae, Letter 63:111 (A.D. 396).
"Her virginity also itself was on this account more pleasing and accepted, in that it was not that Christ being conceived in her, rescued it beforehand from a husband who would violate it, Himself to preserve it; but, before He was conceived, chose it, already dedicated to God, as that from which to be born. This is shown by the words which Mary spake in answer to the Angel announcing to her conception; How,’ saith she, shall this be, seeing I know not a man?’ Which assuredly she would not say, unless she had before vowed herself unto God as a virgin. But, because the habits of the Israelites as yet refused this, she was espoused to a just man, who would not take from her by violence, but rather guard against violent persons, what she had already vowed. Although, even if she had said this only, How shall this take place ?’ and had not added, seeing I know not a man,’ certainly she would not have asked, how, being a female, she should give birth to her promised Son, if she had married with purpose of sexual intercourse. She might have been bidden also to continue a virgin, that in her by fitting miracle the Son of God should receive the form of a servant, but, being to be a pattern to holy virgins, lest it should be thought that she alone needed to be a virgin, who had obtained to conceive a child even without sexual intercourse, she dedicated her virginity to God, when as yet she knew not what she should conceive, in order that the imitation of a heavenly life in an earthly and mortal body should take place of vow, not of command; through love of choosing, not through necessity of doing service. Thus Christ by being born of a virgin, who, before she knew Who was to be born of her, had determined to continue a virgin, chose rather to approve, than to command, holy virginity. And thus, even in the female herself, in whom He took the form of a servant, He willed that virginity should be free." Augustine, Of Holy Virginity, 4 (A.D. 401).
"Where are they who think that the Virgin’s conception and giving birth to her child are to be likened to those of other woman? For, this latter case is one of the earth, and the Virgin’s is one from heaven. The one case is a case of divine power; the other of human weakness. The one case occurs in a body subject to passion; the other in the tranquility of the divine Spirit and peace of the human body. The blood was still, and the flesh astonished; her members were put at rest, and her entire womb was quiescent during the visit of the Holy One, until the Author of flesh could take on His garment of flesh, and until He, who was not merely to restore the earth to man but also to give him heaven, could become a heavenly Man. The virgin conceives, the Virgin brings forth her child, and she remains a virgin." Peter Chrysoslogus, Sermon 117, (A.D. 432).
"And by a new nativity He was begotten, conceived by a Virgin, born of a Virgin, without paternal desire, without injury to the mother’s chastity: because such a birth as knew no taint of human flesh, became One who was to be the Saviour of men, while it possessed in itself the nature of human substance. For when God was born in the flesh, God Himself was the Father, as the archangel witnessed to the Blessed Virgin Mary: because the Holy Spirit shall come upon thee, and the power of the most High shall overshadow thee: and therefore, that which shall be born of thee shall be called holy, the Son of God.’ The origin is different but the nature like: not by intercourse with man but by the power of God was it brought about: for a Virgin conceived, a Virgin bare, and a Virgin she remained." Pope Leo the Great (regn. A.D. 440-461), On the Feast of the Nativity, Sermon 22:2 (ante A.D. 461).
"The ever-virgin One thus remains even after the birth still virgin, having never at any time up till death consorted with a man. For although it is written, And knew her not till she had brought forth her first-born Son, yet note that he who is first-begotten is first-born even if he is only-begotten. For the word 'first-born' means that he was born first but does not at all suggest the birth of others. And the word till’ signifies the limit of the appointed time but does not exclude the time thereafter. For the Lord says, And lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world, not meaning thereby that He will be separated from us after the completion of the age. The divine apostle, indeed, says, And so shall we ever be with the Lord, meaning after the general resurrection." John of Damascus, Orthodox Faith, 4:14 (A.D. 743).
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