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How Did Mary Give Birth Yet Remain a Virgin?

Short answer, Mary did not give birth and remain a virgin. Scripture is clear that after she gave birth to Jesus, she and Joseph started a family and were blessed by God with four more sons and several unnamed daughters.

The idea of Mary remaining a perpetual virgin was invented by an unknown Egyptian writer who created a document known as the Protoevangelium of James. This pseudo biographical work was written in 145 A.D. and has been universally classified by Biblical scholars as fictional. There are other published works of fiction attributed to various Apostles. These are fictitious novels written to pique the interest of Christians who would then purchase them. The Protoevangelium of James was clearly designed by its author to enhance the role of Mary in Christian tradition. Among its many claims concerning the life of Mary, it stated that she was a virgin before, during and after the birth of Jesus, and remained that way until her death. This idea of Mary, as a perpetual virgin, was seen by some Church leaders as a way to resolved an unsettling idea.

The Gospels and Paul stated that after the birth of Jesus, Mary apparently had sexual relations with Joseph and give birth to at least six more children. Even though the ability to produce a large family was seen by Jews as a blessing from God, this was not deemed appropriate in the case of Mary. Instead, this idea was seen by some early pious Church leaders as scandalous and degrading to her memory. Giving birth to the world’s Saviour was seen as the highest honor any woman could attain. So, the idea that Mary would then taint her reputation by lowering herself to have continual relations with a sinful man, and give birth to sinful children was seen by some theologians as Mary demonstrating a cardinal nature. They wanted her memory to be recognized as a sin-free perfect woman who gave birth to a sin-free perfect man who self sacrificed Himself in order to save mankind from the judgement of sin which is death.

Therefore, over the next three hundred and eighty years, two camps of thought slowly began to developed on this subject. Mary either went on to create a family with Joseph as stated in the Gospels, or she remained a virgin for the rest of her life. In 553 A.D., the Council of Constantinople took a vote on this issue and decide to give Mary the title of Perpetual Virgin even though Scripture was clear that she was a virgin only up to the birth of Jesus (Matthew 1:25). Even though the four Gospels, the Book of Acts and the letters of Paul do not mention this incredible miracle of perpetual virginity, the majority of council members preferred to see Mary in this beatific state. Even though the preponderance of multiple Scripture passages state that Jesus had siblings, they still wanted Mary to be remembered in this way.

Today, the Catechism of the Catholic church teaches that by the grace of God, “Mary remained free of every personal sin her whole life long”. Even though Mary states in Scripture that she is in need of a Saviour (Luke 1:47-48). The Catholic {Universal} Church now teaches a doctrine in which Mary, by giving birth to Jesus the Son of God, was now in fact the Mother of God and thus the Queen of Heaven. This doctrine also states that at the end of her life, she bodily ascended into Heaven as did her Son Jesus.

The simple truth is, Mary was a very special young woman chosen personally by God to have the honor of giving birth to His only begotten biological Son. After she accomplished this covenant she had agreed to with God, she was then free to live out her life among family and friends (Luke 1:38). She and Joseph were consummate loving parents who raised Jesus under the law of Moses. During the next thirty years, Jesus worked with Joseph in his shop while Mary raised four other sons and at least two daughters (Matthew 13:55; Mark 6:3). This is the accepted view by the majority of most modern Protestant Churches and the Modern Catholic Church. The concept of Mary as a perpetual  virgin is taught by some protestant churches but primarily by the High Church Lutheran, the Roman Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church.

The Greek word adelphoi used in Scripture to describe Jesus’ siblings makes it clear that Mary and Joseph were their biological parents. Scripture also tells us that Mary did not have these children until after Jesus was born (Matthew 1:25). Luke calls Jesus Mary’s first born (Luke 2:7). Mary’s sons were named James (The Just), Joses {Joseph}, Simon and Jude (Matthew 13:55; Matthew 27:56; Mark 6:3; Mark 15:40; Mark 15:47; Acts 1:14). The famous Jewish historian Flavius Josephus wrote that James was Jesus’ biological brother as did the Apostle Paul (Galatians 1:19). In fact, two of His brothers became Apostles after His resurrection. So, in order to try and explain away Mary having other children with Joseph, the early church invented the following scenarios.

First, they countered the multiple Scriptural verses involving Jesus’ siblings by explaining these siblings in two different ways. The Eastern Orthodox Church viewed these siblings as Jesus’ adopted half siblings by way of a previous marriage of Joseph in which his wife died. The Roman Catholic Church views these siblings as cousins of Jesus. They theorized that the women named Salome was one of Mary’s sisters. She married a man named Zebedee and they had two sons named James (The Great) and John. These two brothers were therefore cousins of Jesus and ultimately became two of the 12 Apostles. However, Scripture clearly lists the above mentioned four males as the biological sons of Mary and Joseph. Thus, they are step siblings to Jesus as Mary was their shared birth mother and Joseph their biological father.

Next, they had to deal with how Mary, born in original sin as are all people, could have given birth to a sin-free Jesus. To do this, the Church invented a scenario in which Mary herself was immaculately conceived. While Scripture does say that Mary’s mother immaculately conceived, the Greek word used for this conception implies God supernaturally allowed her, at an advanced age, to become pregnant by way of her husband. However, the Catholic Church felt compelled to interpret the conception of Mary in such a way that she was conceived and born free from original sin. Then, at the age of three, her parents entrusted Mary to the Temple priests in Jerusalem to be raised for the next nine years under the highest standards of chastity. In this way, the Church could logically explain how Mary, born free from sin, could rightfully carry and give birth to a sin-free Jesus. This idea was taken directly from the noncanonical Protoevangelium of James which is considered by modern scholars as wholly an imaginative fiction. Yet it has had more influence on Christian ideas because it was accepted as truth by the Catholic Church. For example, on November 21st, the Catholic and Orthodox Churches celebrate the memory of the Presentation of Mary in the Temple as described in the factious document. But today we know with absolute certainty that young girls were never presented, let alone raised from the age of 3 to 12 years old in the Temple by priests.

The Church was desperate to find a way to break the ancient sin chain from father {Adam} to child. This was because, in ancient times, it was thought that the mother’s blood was circulated though the child to provide nutrients. So, if Mary had a sin nature, then it was also in her blood and would therefore have infected Jesus. However, today we know that the blood of the mother does not mix with the blood of the fetus. Please see related: How Ancients thought Babies were Conceived”. So, this entire web of fiction was completely unnecessary. As the old saying goes, Oh what tangled webs we weave when first we practice to deceive. Still, the Roman Catholic Church holds fast to this belief as well as over one hundred other Scripturally unsupported beliefs.

Later, when Mary turned thirteen, she was said to have been instructed by the Temple priests to marry Joseph. The Temple priests carefully selected him due to his virtuous lifestyle and the fact that he was in his eighties. Therefore, he only needed Mary to assist him with the activities of daily living as his advanced years made him incapable of producing any more children. Again, no part of this story is listed in the Gospels, the Book of Acts nor the writings of Paul.

In order to explain how Mary could give birth yet remain a virgin, another scripturally unsupported miracle theory was created. It states that when Jesus was born, He passed through Mary like a ray of sunshine passing through a pane of glass. In this way, she both gave birth yet remained a virgin. And because she had no other children after Jesus, she remained a perpetual virgin.

The truth is, Mary was probably thirteen when she was engaged and fourteen when she gave birth. We can know this is true because many ancient Jewish writings cite the age of thirteen to be the best age for a female to marry. Many first century female graves excavated in Israel have engraved on their ossuaries their age at marriage. And a large number list their age as thirteen. It was also at this age that a female could now decide on their own who they wanted to marry. Further, they were no longer obliged to consent to an arranged marriage, especially to someone they did not approve of. We can also know that Joseph was at least nineteen when he wedded Mary. Scripture tells us that he and Mary made the trip to Bethlehem alone and registered themselves with the census and tax registrar(s). According to Mosaic Law, he would have been required to be at least twenty years of age to qualify as a legal adult participant in this civil registration act (Deuteronomy 1:39; Numbers 14:29; 26:2; 32:11).

So, the preponderance of Scriptural evidence shows that while Jesus was supernaturally conceived in His divinity, He was naturally born in His humanity. We also know that Mary was born with the same sin nature as all people. She admits to this in Scripture when she says “… my spirit has rejoiced in God my Saviour indicating that she knew she also needed a Saviour (Luke 1:47-48). Mary was born in the usual way and married a young Joseph. In fact, their family homes in Nazareth have been authenticated, preserved and are located literally across the street from each other. Thus, they were childhood neighbors, became engaged at the traditional ages prescribed by Jewish tradition and got married. While she immaculately conceived Jesus so as to not pass on the sin curse of Adam to Him (Luke 1:35), she gave birth in the usual way (Luke 2:6). We can know this because the Apostle John saw in a vision the birth of Jesus and wrote about it in the Book of Revelation (Revelation 12:1-2).

We can now know for certain from Scripture and historians, that Jesus had other biological brothers and sisters. Also to be considered is the fact that in the first century, seven out of ten children did not survive until adulthood. Therefore, it was imperative that Mary have children after Jesus was born to help provide support for her in her old age and as a widow.

On a closing note, children taking care of their aged parents was the Social Security System in first century Israel as well as worldwide. Therefore, the last child born was always referred to by the parent as, the child of my old age.

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