Did Mary have other children?
Summary: Christians disagree on this question. Some Christians (Evangelicals) believe that yes, Mary had other children after Jesus was both. Others (Catholics, Orthodox) believe that Mary had only one child (Jesus) and did not in fact have marital relations with Joseph. This article discusses why Christians disagree on what seems to be a simple question.
It seems like a simple and basic question: “Did Mary have other children?” It is almost the same question as “Did Jesus have uterine brothers and sisters?”
For many Christians, the answer is obvious, because there are several references to people called “brother(s)” and “sisters” of Jesus, for instance in Mark 6:3:
KJV Mark 6:3 Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary, the brother of James, and Joses, and of Juda, and Simon? and are not his sisters here with us? And they were offended at him.
This verse seems to settle things for many readers of the Bible. Jesus did have brothers and sisters, which means that Mary had other children after Jesus was born. Some also point to Matthew 1:25 which reads:
KJV Matthew 1:25 And [Joseph] knew her not till she had brought forth her firstborn son: and he called his name JESUS.
This seems so plain, in English at least, that many Christians (mostly Evangelicals) wonder who in his or her right mind who would want to dispute this.
However, Orthodox and Catholic Christians disagree. They point out to many verses supporting the opposite viewpoint, and insist that the Greek word “adelphos / adelphoi / adelphe” cannot mean “uterine half-sibling” as some Christians insist. In fact, they can point out (truthfully) that the Greek word “adelphos / adelphoi / adelphe” never means “uterine half-sibling” in the Old Testament, and that one has to look at all the Biblical data (regarding Joseph, James, etc) as well as the witness of the Early Church to properly identify who these people really were.
In the end, there are 3 views on the question:
– The Helvidian view (that Mary did have other children after Jesus, with Joseph) is held by most Protestants and Evangelicals
– The Hieronymian view (named after St Jerome), that the “adelphoi” were cousins of Jesus is held by most Roman Catholics
– The Epiphanian view (named after St Epiphanius, that these “adelphoi” were paternal (adoptive) half-siblings of Jesus (born of Joseph before he was engaged to Mary) is the view held by the Orthodox Church.
For a detailed study, a recent discussion of the question is the book “Aiparthenos | Ever-Virgin? Understanding the Orthodox Catholic Doctrine of the Perpetual Virginity of Mary, the Mother of Jesus, and the Identity of James and the Brothers and Sisters of the Lord”
An interesting and unusual Protestant perspective can be found here: http://www.aleteia.org/en/religion/article/a-protestant-defense-of-marys-perpetual-virginity-4803001
For a radio debate on this topic, please visit http://www.theopologetics.com/2015/01/31/episode-119-sing-we-the-virgin-mary/