The dogma of Mary’s perpetual virginity says that she remained a virgin till the end of her life. The Catechism explains:
“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. In fact, Christ’s birth ‘did not diminish his mother’s virginal integrity but sanctified it.’ And so the liturgy of the Church celebrates Mary as Aeiparthenos, the “Ever virgin.” (p 122)
Many Catholics ask why we do not hold to this dogma. The reason is because it lacks any justifiable evidence, so it would be irrational and irresponsible to believe it. It’s just like asking me if I believe in the tooth fairies and I say “No” and then I’m told to “Prove it.” Prove what? The burden of proof is not on me to disprove the existence of tooth fairies. I don’t believe in them for the simple reason that there is no credible evidence to support their existence. I don’t have to produce an evidence against their existence.
The same applies to the perpetual virginity dogma. It’s the Catholics making the claim who need to prove it. Bible believing Christians are not under any obligation to disprove a dogma for which there’s no evidence in the first place. However, we can point to several facts that invalidate this belief so much that it can only be believed by those who are deeply committed to the fictions of Rome.
1. God had predicted that Mary would have other children and the Messiah would have brothers: “I am become a stranger unto my brethren, and an alien unto my mother’s children.” (Ps 69:8-9). The Catholic dogma can only be sustained by ignoring this Bible prophecy.
2. If the birth of Jesus didn’t “diminish his mother’s virginal integrity” as the above quote says, then what does this denote? Does it mean that Jesus passed through the birth canal without rupturing the hymen? Did He temporarily dematerialize or was it the hymen that momentarily dematerialized for this to be possible? Or was Jesus born without passing through the birth canal? How was he born then? Through a miraculous C-section or teleportation? To suggest that Jesus circumvented the normal birthing process is Biblically objectionable.
3. Jesus is called Mary’s “firstborn son” (Mt 1:25) and the natural conclusion is that she had other children. The Greek word for firstborn (prototokos) is used here. If Jesus had been the only son Mary had, the Greek word used would have been “monogenes” which means “only.” It occurs as “only son” (Lk 7:12) “only daughter” (8:42) or “only child” (9:38).
4. The Gospels plainly state that Jesus had four brothers (mentioned by name) and at least 3 sisters (Mt. 13:55,56, Mk 6:3). Catholic apologists love to parrot Jerome, who claimed that these were actually Christ’s cousins. It is argued that Matthew and Mark had to use the Greek word for brother/sister (adelphos/adelphai) because neither Hebrew nor Aramaic had a word for “cousin” and the Jews had the custom of referring to all relatives as brothers/sisters. They cite examples from the Septuagint, but none from the New Testament, because there are none.
In Colossians 4:10, the right Greek word for cousins (anepsios) was used for Barnabas’ cousin, so the Catholic argument falls apart. The New Catholic Encyclopedia admits that the Greek words adelphos and adelphai “have the full meaning of full brother and sister in the Greek-speaking world of the Evangelist’s time and would naturally be taken by his Greek reader in this sense. Towards the end of the 4th century (c 380), Helvidius in a work now lost, pressed this fact in order to attribute to Mary other children besides Jesus so as to make her a model for mothers of large families. St Jerome, motivated by the Church’s traditional faith in Mary’s perpetual virginity wrote a tract against Helvidius (A.D 383)…” (Vol. IX, 337)
5. If the Bible writers were using the same words for relatives and brothers interchangeably, the Greek word syggenon would have been used in Luke 21:16, not adelphoi. The facts show that “cousins” and “brothers” were not used interchangeably. If the word “mother” is taken literally in Matthew 13:55-56, why not the word “brethren?” Catholics can only resort to such semantic juggling because of their commitment to perpetual virginity in spite of contrary evidence.
6. Mary and her other children are introduced as “His mother and His brethren” (Mt. 12:46-50, Mk. 3:31, Jn. 2:12), indicating that they were her children in her care, or if grown, traveling with her as part of the immediate family. There is no way that the children of some other woman would be following Mary as “His brethren.”
7. If Mary and Joseph never consummated their marriage, then it wasn’t really a marriage after all, but an extended betrothal. Some Catholic scholars claim that Mary’s perpetual virginity is the hallmark of celibacy. How did this happen? If she took a vow of virginity and then married Joseph, this would have amounted to treachery and contempt on the marriage covenant. Even Catholicism does not allow a wife to take a vow of continence at her own pleasure. This would also have contradicted the Bible that makes it clear that marital conjugal duties are God-ordained (1Cor 7:21-24, Heb 13:4). When Mary said to the angel “How can this be since I know not a man,” she was only referring to her condition at that time (Lk 1:34).
8. Perhaps the most outstanding proof against Mary’s perpetual virginity is the “until” clause in Matthew 1:25 Joseph “knew her not until” Christ was born. The Greek word here is eos ou and its used also in Matt. 17:3, Lk 24:4a. It refers to a point in time when the action of the main verb comes to an end. For instance, the appearance of Moses and Elijah and the angels at the tomb was only for a limited situation. The event later reversed itself. In the same vein, Joseph didn’t know Mary until after she had given birth to Jesus, then they had sexual relations. To suggest he kept her a virgin all through her life is illogical.
9. Some Catholic apologists quote the apocryphal Protoevangelium of James to support this dogma. Of course James wasn’t the author of that fraud, it’s just a desperate tool Rome is forced to utilize. James is called “the Lord’s brother” (Gal 1:19) and the Bible says “His brethren” didn’t believe in Him until after His resurrection (Jh 7:3-10, Acts 1:14). This “brethren” were the other children Mary had. Even Josephus the historian affirms that Jesus had at least one brother:
“He (Ananus) converted the council of judges and brought it before the brother of Jesus- the one called ‘Christ’- whose name was James, and certain others. Accusing them of transgressing the Law, he delivered them up for stoning.” (Antiquities 20.9-1, 200-1)
Quoting the opinions of some church fathers as support proves nothing. They didn’t conduct a pelvic examination for Mary. Some of them. like Origen, Tertullian and Victorinus even rejected the belief. Yes some of the Reformers held to this heresy, but Protestants do not base their beliefs “on the consent of the Reformers” neither do we hold them as infallible. The perpetual virginity doctrine wasn’t taught until about 5 centuries after Christ and it was not until the Lateran Council (649 A.D.) that it became an official belief.
10. The legend that Joseph had other children from a previous marriage is self-refuting. If Jesus wasn’t the firstborn of Joseph, he would never had been the legal stepfather of Jesus and His ancestry would have not have been traced through Joseph (Mt 1:16). If Joseph had children before Jesus was born, then He couldn’t be the legal heir to David’s throne, which went by law to the firstborn.
The reason why Rome persists in this doctrine is because it’s too deeply rooted to be weeded out. It was aimed at modeling the Catholic Mary after the old pagan virgin goddesses like the Egyptian Isis, the Greek Artemis, the German Hertha, the Etruscan Nutria and the Druid Virgo Partitura (also called the “Mother of God”). One common thread running through these goddess figures was their designation as the virgin queen of heaven, who bore fruit although they never conceived. This pagan corruption was assimilated into the church of Rome gradually as well as their emblems.
According to a writer “the ancient portrait of Isis and child Horus was ultimately accepted not only in popular opinion, but by formal episcopal sanction, as the portrait of the Virgin and her child” (Homer Smith, Man and His Gods, 1952, 216). Neo pagans and Wiccans today signify the virgin phase of their goddess as the crescent moon.
The crescent moon symbol was also associated with Astarte, an ancient Phoenician fertility goddess. The Egyptian Isis was also represented as standing on a crescent moon with stars surrounding her head. This very same representation of the Catholic Mary are seen today in Catholic art showing her standing on a crescent moon. Of course, that is not the Mary of the Bible, but the old pagan deity in a new garb.