Day 71: Mary’s Virginity (495-501)

Prayer by Fr. Mike:  “Father in heaven, we praise you and give you glory. We thank you so much for bringing us to this day. We thank you for continuing to just illumine our minds and open up a path before us. We know, Lord God, that your Word is a lamp into our step and light into our path. We know that your Word is in Sacred Scripture. And also your Word is that Second Person of the Trinity, the Word become one of us. We know that our Lord God, you Lord God, light our way in the midst of darkness. Whether that be darkness of not understanding, darkness of confusion, darkness of difficulty, darkness of suffering and grief, Lord God you continue to light our way. Walk with us today and guide us today. Be the lamp unto our feet today. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen”

Mary’s Perpetual Virginity

-Notes compiled by Andrew Adamany

Part I: Why Does Mary’s Perpetual Virginity Matter as a Dogma?

First reason, it simply matters because it is true as a matter of historical fact, universally attested to by the early Church Fathers and even the Protestant Reformation Fathers.  It only became widely contested in recent centuries due to modern translations referring to Jesus’ kinsmen/ brethren (relatives) as “brothers.” 


Second, Her perpetual virginity matters in regards to her special vocation:  by remaining a virgin, she thus remained fully undivided in her devotion to the Lord in a special way as the mother and nurturer of our Lord, to prepare him for his ministry and the mission he came into the world for.

“The unmarried woman is anxious about the affairs of the Lord, how to be holy in body and spirit; but the married woman is anxious about worldly affairs, how to please her husband.  I say this for your own benefit, not to lay restraint upon you, but to promote good order and to secure your undivided devotion to the Lord.”

(1 Corinthians 7:34-35)

Though she was married to Joseph, as the Protoevangelium of James shows, their marriage was primarily so that her needs would be provided for as a dedicated virgin to the Lord.  This allowed for her to be both married, and remain fully devoted to the Lord as his mother.

But more so, Mary’s Perpetual virginity matters eschatologically in the same way the other Marian Dogmas do.  It, like her Immaculate Conception and Assumption, point to what we all look forward to with the Second Coming: 

“We look forward to the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come. Amen”  (Nicene Creed)

At the Second Coming, our bodies will be resurrected into a glorified state reunited with our souls.  As a result we will be bodily in heaven, immaculately pure, we will not be joined in marriage with each other:

For in the resurrection of the dead, they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven.” (Matthew 22:30)

So we know that in heaven, we will be bodily resurrected and reunited to our souls, transformed to a glorified immaculate state, and will be like angels in heaven, ever-virgins, fully devoted to the Lord akin to what Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 7:34-35.

And where Jesus serves as the first fruits to what we have to look forward to at his Second Coming in these same ways, Mary is his gift of added assurance that these promises are not just for the divine like Jesus, but also for us mortal humans.

PART II:  Scriptural Evidence of Mary’s Perpetual Virginity

There are three major passages in the New Testament that, when read in light of the Old Testament, point to Mary being ever-virgin:  Joseph in Matthew 1, Mary in Luke 1, and Jesus in John 19:

Joseph- The Gospel of Matthew

One major theme of Matthew’s entire Gospel is to show how Jesus is the Messianic King of the line of David through Joseph, who Matthew described as a just man and the angel addressed as “Son of David” (Matthew 1:19-20)

When David returned to Jerusalem, he continued to provide for his ten concubines, but he no longer had relations with them, in accordance with the Mosaic Law of Deuteronomy 24:1-4, because Absalom had relations with them, making it publicly known he had taken them for his own. 

Looking forward to the New Testament, David's descendant Joseph would find out from the angel that his wife Mary was with child by the Holy Spirit. Assuming Joseph intended to have relations with new bride (which the next section may show to not even be the case), knowing now that Mary has been consecrated, not to a mere mortal man, but to the Holy Spirit, and being a just man who adhered to the Law, would continue to follow the Law like his ancestor and provide for her every need, but not have relations with her.  This, to me, is a model example of the sacrificial love a bridegroom makes for his bride, putting her and God before his own desires. The same sacrificial love Christ the Bridegroom makes for his bride the Church.

Mary- The Gospel of Luke

Although more modern translations of Matthew 1 and Luke 1 said Mary and Joseph were “betrothed,” the Jewish tradition of betrothal was not like our modern concept of engagement. The original Greek more accurately translates to “espoused,” meaning by law, Mary was already Joseph’s wife (recall the angel refers to Mary as Joseph’s wife in Matthew 1:20).  The Jewish custom was the married couple could not consummate until the husband had prepared their new home to bring his wife under.

Understanding that at Mary was indeed the wife of Joseph at the time of the Annunciation in Luke 1, it becomes puzzling that Mary would respond to the news of conceiving a child, which the Douay Rheims Translation more accurately translates as "How shall this be done, because I know not man." As Dr. Brant Pitre points out in his book "Jesus and the Jewish Roots of Mary," to "know man" meant to have sexual relations.  Mary saying “I know not man” can be contrasted to when Lot offered his two daughters to the mob in Sodom when he said they "HAVE NOT KNOWN man."  Lot’s statement refers only to their past experience up to the moment of the statement as if to say, “they have not had sexual relations with a man yet,” leaving open the possibility that they may have relations in the future.  By Mary saying, “I know not man,” she effectively says, “I do not have sexual relations with a man,”  akin to saying “I don’t smoke.”

And as Tim Staples points out in his book "Behold Your Mother" the original Greek did not have indefinite articles for verbs. The only way this statement makes sense is if Mary had taken a vow to afflict (deny) herself of sexual relations, which Joseph would then not have rejected at this point. This precedent is found in Numbers 30, which shows that any vow a woman made to afflict herself that her husband heard and did not reject would be perpetually binding.

As Numbers 30 shows a woman can make a vow to the Lord to afflict herself, the hebrew word for it included abstinence for sexual relations (i.e a vow of virginity).  Along with Mary's remark in Luke 1,  "I know not man,"  one of the earliest historical documents, The Protoevangelium of James (AD 2nd Century) testifies to Mary's birth and life up to the birth of Christ.  According to it, Mary's mother Anna was barren like Sarah, wife of Abraham, Hannah, and Elizabeth, Mary's cousin.  She prayed to have a child, and after the angel of the Lord appeared to her to give her the news, she vowed to give her child into the Temple's service to minister to the Lord (similar to Hannah pledging her son Samuel's life to the Lord’s service).  

The Protoevangelium of James refers to Mary as "the virgin of the Lord" when Joseph is chosen to take her as a wife and provide for her needs.  And when they find out she is with child, they are in disbelief that Joseph would have relations with her, or that Mary would forsake her virginity, even though she was legally married to Joseph.  Both of which profess their innocence and Mary swearing she is still pure "and know not a man."

Jesus- The Gospel of John

The third major passage with implicit evidence for Mary's perpetual virginity is the fact that Jesus entrusted his mother into the care of his Apostle John, when Jewish custom was that the mother would be cared for by the next oldest brother.  If there were other children born of Mary, she would have been taken into the home and care of the next oldest son, not the apostle John.

Part III:  Addressing Common Objections

Due to modern-English translations of the Bible along with modern Western culture, two main objections to Mary being ever-virgin emerged.  Here is why they ultimately don’t work, according to Scripture as a whole:

Jesus’ Brothers and Sisters?

Many might wonder why the Church could even suppose Mary is ever-virgin when the Bible talks about Jesus’ brothers by name.  Before even diving into the older english translations and original greek, one question gets easily overlooked:  

“What kind of brothers and sisters does Scripture say Jesus had?”

In Matthew’s account where witnesses in the synagogue in Nazareth mention Jesus’ “brothers and sisters,” they also call Jesus the son of Joseph the Carpenter. But that doesn’t mean he was therefore not born of a virgin. Jesus was Joseph’s adopted son, legally claimed by Joseph, and therefore called his son.  Likewise, there are similar and common scenarios where Jesus would have brothers and sisters, but still not born of Mary:

Both of these are easily just as plausible, and common, as suggesting they are Jesus’ half brothers. If you are looking for Scripture to explicitly state what kind of brothers and sisters they were to Jesus, you will find Scripture by itself to not say what kind.  What we do find throughout Scripture, especially in the original Greek, is that the greek word for “brothers”- adelphoi” was not limited to siblings, but kinsmen (The oldest english translation, the Douay Rheims, more appropriately translated this word to “brethren.”  In the Greek translation of the Old Testament, the Septuagint, Abram addresses his nephew, Lot, by this Greek word.  It bears the question: Where else are these brothers mentioned?

In the Gospel Accounts, James and Joses (James and Joseph in Matthew’s account) are only ever mentioned again in the same Gospels when their mother is mentioned, "Mary the mother of James and Joses" at the cross and at the tomb. It's rather odd that the author Mark would mention Mary to be the mother of James and Joses and not as Mary his (Jesus') mother, like John does, if it is indeed the same Mary. 

John does also mention another Mary present at the Crucifixion, and states she is the sister of Jesus' mother, and is also the wife of Clopas. 

This would imply that James and Joses are not half-brothers by Mary but kinsmen, with "adelphos" used in the same way as it was used in the Greek Septuagint in Genesis when Abram tells his nephew Lot "we are kinsmen." (Adelphoi)

Matthew 1:25 “Until”

“When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took his wife, but knew her not until she had borne a son”  (Matthew 1:24–25)

Matthew's point of writing this was not to talk about Mary and Joseph's sexual life.  It was to emphasize Jesus was without doubt miraculously born of a virgin.

Examine these verses and determine if "until" (greek: “heous” and specifically in Matthew 1:25 “heos hou”)  automatically means what was happening ended:

“But when Paul had appealed to be kept in custody for the decision of the emperor, I commanded him to be held until* I could send him to Caesar.”  (Acts 25:21)

Paul was still in custody after Festus was able to send him to Caesar, nor a guarantee that he would be released after he saw Caesar.  So "until" (*the same greek "heos hou" as Matthew 1:25) doesn't bring about an end to what was happening.

"For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet." (1 Corinthians 15:25)

Will Jesus' reign end once his enemies are destroyed, the last being "death?" (Verse 26).  Of course not.  The angel Gabriel proclaimed there would be no end to his reign, at the Annunciation:

"and he will reign over the house of Jacob for ever; 

and of his kingdom there will be no end.”  (Luke 1:33)

To use Matthew 1:25 as proof against Mary's Perpetual Virginity is rather inconclusive. But the Church has spoken definitively on the matter, with the Old and New Testament bearing witness, as well as the Early Church Fathers.


The Holy Bible (RSVCE Translation)

The Holy Bible (Douay Rheims Translation)

Interlinear Greek Bible (Strong’s Concordance)

“Jesus and the Jewish Roots of Mary” by Dr. Brant Pitre

“Behold Your Mother” by Tim Staples