The Journal of Biblical Accuracy

On the perpetual virginity of Mary (PDF) PDF version

On the perpetual virginity of Mary

The perpetual virginity of Mary, the mother of Jesus Christ, is a fundamental doctrine in certain Christian traditions. But is this doctrine based on the Bible? Does the Bible support the view that Mary stayed a virgin perpetually? As we will see the answer is negative. To start with let’s go to Matthew 1:25. There we read:

Matthew 1:25
"and [Joseph] did not know her [Mary] TILL she had brought forth her FIRSTBORN Son. And he called his name Jesus"

The phrase “did not know her” refers clearly to sexual relationships. This becomes very clear by looking at the occurrences of this phrase in the Bible. Just to give some examples:

Genesis 4:1
“Now Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain”

Genesis 4:17
“And Cain knew his wife, and she conceived and bore Enoch”

1 Samuel 1:19-20
“And Elkanah knew Hannah his wife, and .. Hannah conceived and bore a son, and called his name Samuel.”

See also Genesis 4:25, Genesis 38:26, Judges 11:39, Judges 19:25 and 1 Kings 1:4, for more similar Bible references. It is clear from these references that when the Word of God tells us that Joseph "did not know Mary till she had brought forth her firstborn Son" it means that he did not have sexual relationships with her, TILL she gave birth to Jesus. From this statement it is clear that he "knew" her, he had such relationships with her, AFTER the birth of Jesus. Mary was indeed virgin when she gave birth to Jesus. Jesus’ birth was a virgin birth, the only virgin birth ever. But the Scripture is clear that after that, Joseph “knew Mary”, i.e. he had sexual relationships with her. Therefore Mary was not perpetually a virgin. Now is the fact that she was not a virgin perpetually i.e. that she and Joseph had sexual relationships after the birth of Jesus, abnormal? NO! They were a married couple and according to the Word of God, sex is part of a marriage (I Corinthians 7:1-5). The opposite i.e. if Mary, though married to a man, remained perpetually a virgin, as some denominations teach, would be abnormal. Sex in the marriage is absolutely normal!

Apart from the above, there are more proofs against the supposed perpetual virginity of Mary. In fact one more proof is in the above given text of Matthew 1:25. There Jesus is referred as Mary’s FIRSTBORN son. If Jesus was the only son of Mary, as tradition assumes, could he be ever referred as her firstborn? No. Being the firstborn assumes that you have other siblings among whom you are the firstborn one. If your parents do not have any other children then you are the “only child” and not the “firstborn child”. Again just a look at some examples in the Bible is enough to prove it. Isaac was the only son of Abraham and Sarah. When God told Abraham to sacrifice Isaac here is what He told him:

Genesis 22:2
"Take now your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you."

Isaac is referred as Abraham’s only son. Imagine if instead of this, God said “take your firstborn son”. This would not be correct, for making somebody firstborn within a family, always assumes that there is a second born.

Returning to Jesus he was the firstborn of Mary. Therefore, Mary had, after Jesus’ birth, other children, as a product of her marriage with Joseph. In fact, the Bible also tells us the names of those children. The relative record is in Matthew 13 where we read:

Matthew 13:54-55
"When he [Jesus] had come to his own country, he taught them in their synagogue, so that they were astonished and said, "Where did this man get this wisdom and these mighty works? Is this not the carpenter's son? Is not his mother called Mary? And his brothers James, Joses, Simon, and Judas? And his sisters, are they not all with us?...."

The Word of God names 4 half-brothers of Jesus and it also tells us that he had a plural number of half-sisters. That Jesus had siblings is also obvious from Matthew 12:47:

Matthew 12:47
“Then one said to Him, "Look, Your mother and Your brothers are standing outside, seeking to speak with You."

To explain away the above and to support the doctrine of the perpetual virginity of Mary, some denominations have come up with the theory that these were children of Joseph from a past marriage. This however is nothing else than a purely unscriptural assumption. If Joseph had ever children and in fact so many from a past marriage why this is not mentioned in the Word? Where were these children when he went with Mary to Bethlehem? Where were they when he went to Egypt with Jesus and Mary? The answer is simply nowhere. These are not children of Joseph from another marriage but his children from his marriage with Mary.

To sum it up: the doctrine of the perpetual virginity of Mary is a doctrine that has no foundation in the Word of God. Mary was indeed virgin when she gave birth to Jesus but she did not stay a virgin perpetually. She and Joseph got married and after the birth of Jesus, Joseph “knew her” and she bore to him kids. Is there anything bad in this? NO. This is all natural. God designed sex and having kids for marriage. This is His plan. In contrast, a perpetually virgin, yet married to a man, Mary would be completely unnatural. Furthermore we have shown that, despite tradition being very loud supporting the doctrine of Mary’s perpetual virginity, this is not a doctrine the Word of God knows about. A perpetually virgin Mary is not the Mary of the New Testament. Instead the Mary of the New Testament, is a very godly woman that gave birth (the only virgin birth) to our Lord Jesus Christ and subsequently made a family with Joseph, her husband and a very godly man too.

Anastasios Kioulachoglou