Mary is Mother of the Lord and still a virgin. …Christ… came forth from a womb left perfectly intact. ~ Martin Luther, Weimer’s The Works of Luther
The deepening of 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. ~ Catechism of the Catholic Church, 499
The Catholic Church and Luther Agree
The Catholic Church and Martin Luther agree upon a lot more topics than I had ever imagined, one of them being the perpetual virginity of Mary.
But did Protestant belief in the perpetual virginity of Mary end with Martin Luther in the 1500s? No. Look at this quote from legendary Protestant Minister, John Wesley.
I believe that He was made man… born of the blessed Virgin Mary, who, as well after as before she brought Him forth, continued a pure and unspotted virgin. ~ John Wesley, 1749
Let’s examine the perpetual virginity of Mary from Scripture.
From The Bible
A popular paradigm taught in American Christianity is that Jesus had biological brothers. The Bible actually mentions the brothers of Christ, so it’s a slam dunk, right?
Isn’t this the carpenter’s son? Isn’t his mother’s name Mary, and aren’t his brothers James, Joseph, Simon and Judas? Aren’t all his sisters with us? Where then did this man get all these things?” And they took offense at him. ~ Matthew 13:55-57
Not so fast. Words spoken by Jesus Christ himself as he hung on the cross torpedo any notion that he had biological brothers. Jewish culture dictated that since Jesus was the oldest brother, his death would transfer care for Mary to his younger brothers. This cultural mandate was rooted in the moral law itself.
Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you. ~ Exodus 20:12
So, as Jesus was moments from death, he certainly would have called over his four biological brothers and told them to take care of their mother because Jewish culture and moral law dictated it, right?
When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple [John] whom he [Jesus] loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, “Dear woman, here is your son,” and to the disciple [John], “Here is your mother.” From that time on, this disciple [John] took her into his home. ~ John 19:26-27
Why does Jesus have John take Mary if Jesus had four biological brothers???
No Biological Siblings
Mary had no children after Jesus. Christ had no biological siblings. So who were these “brothers” and “sisters” mentioned by Matthew (and Mark)? For one possibility, we look once again to the writings of the early church.
Early Church Writings
A startling realization for me was that the body of popular reading materials in American Christian circles tends to be very new– books such as The Shack, The Secret, and Left Behind, all written in modern times.
What’s more, extra-biblical sources are cited from many Christian pulpits (far too often in my opinion), and these sources are almost always either modern-day authors, or authors who date only back to the 1500s. Rarely are sources quoted from the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, or 4th century.
Could it be that those earliest sources are not quoted because they would reveal that the Church launched by Jesus and the Apostles looked nothing like many American Christian churches today? Could it be that those earliest sources are not quoted because the Church launched by Jesus and the Apostles looked unbearably Catholic?
Part II is on the way. Thank you for reading.
Protestants, Catholics, and Orthodox Christians are my brethren in the Lord Jesus Christ. I have learned much from all three groups. I have had family members in all three groups. And I have been greatly blessed by all three groups. I view each group as a sibling in the same family. We all call on the name of the same Lord Jesus Christ.
…whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved. ~ Acts 2:21