See Details Below
The Perpetual Virginity of Mary
|The first thing to be asked regarding the idea of the perpetual virginity of Mary the mother of Jesus is this: what biblical evidence is there that she remained a virgin? Does the Bible teach that her maidenhead was miraculously preserved during the birth process? Does the Bible teach that she and Joseph abstained from sexual intercourse after she had given birth and observed the forty days of ritual purification? The unequivocal answer to these questions is “No, there is no evidence whatsoever in the Bible that Mary remained a virgin either in the biological sense after giving birth, or in the sense of sexual relations after the forty days of purification.”
Sola Scriptura does not mean that we are not guided by things other than the Bible, but it does mean that only Scripture can bind our consciences because Scripture is the only word that God has declared infallible. We are indeed helped in our understanding of Scripture by what those who have gone before us have taught. We are helped in our understanding of Scripture by what others have written, but we are not theologically helped by the writings others when they simply make up doctrine out of the air.
Now, I submit that the doctrine of the perpetual virginity of Mary is simply made up out of the air. Please prove to me from the Bible that Mary remained a virgin.
The second thing to be asked regarding the perpetual virginity of Mary is this: does it go contrary to a straightforward reading of the biblical evidence? The answer here is “Yes, a straightforward reading of Scripture gives us to understand that Mary lost her virginity by having sexual relations with her husband forty days after giving birth.”
That clearly is what Matthew is affirming in Matthew 1:25, where he writes that Joseph did not have sexual relations with Mary until after she had given birth to the Lord Jesus. Now, if we had any biblical texts that asserted that Mary remained a virgin, we might look for some other meaning to Joseph “knowing” Mary, or we might say that Matthew does not go on explicitly to tell us the details of what happened next, as if we should expect the Bible to read like a Harlequin romance. But we don’t find any evidence in the Bible whatsoever that Mary remained a virgin after the forty days. Therefore, there is no reason to reject the straightforward reading of Matthew 1:25. Matthew is the first person who teaches that Mary lost her virginity after the birth of Jesus.
Thirdly, confirming what Matthew wrote in 1:25 is the statement that Jesus had brothers and sisters. Not only Matthew (Matthew 12:47; 13:55, 56.), but Mark (Mark 3:31, 32; 6:3.), Luke (Luke 8:19, 20.), John (John 7:5.) and Paul (Galatians 1:19.) all tell us this. (Repeating somewhat from above) Now, if we had any biblical texts that asserted that Mary remained a virgin, we might look for some other meaning to the word “brother” or “sister”. But we don’t find any evidence in the Bible whatsoever that Mary remained a virgin after the birth of Jesus. Therefore, there is no reason to reject the straightforward reading of these verses that Jesus had both brothers and sisters. People have advanced the idea that these brothers and sisters of Jesus might be his cousins or Joseph’s children by a previous marriage, even though there is no biblical evidence whatsoever, nor any historical evidence whatsoever, that Joseph was married before being married to Mary. But, again, there is no biblical teaching whatsoever that Mary remained a virgin after giving birth to Jesus, and so an honest reader must conclude that Mark, Luke, John and Paul join Matthew in teaching that Mary lost her virginity after the birth of Jesus.
The fourth thing to be asked regarding the perpetual virginity of Mary has to do with the nature of marriage itself: were Mary and Joseph actually married according to the Bible? The answer here again is “Yes, they were married.” But biblical marriage involves two things: one verbal, the other physical. The verbal aspect of the marriage covenant involves the affirmation of a life-long commitment in the presence of family and friends; it is always public. The physical aspect of the marriage covenant is always private (though with the physical evidence of the marriage having actually taken place being publicly available.). The physical aspect involves the “cutting” of the covenant by means of sexual intercourse. (Read here for a fuller demonstration of this from the Bible.) Unless both of these elements are present, there is no biblical marriage. Sexual intercourse without the public affirmation of commitment to marriage is simply fornication. And the public affirmation without the cutting of the covenant by means of sexual intercourse is no marriage at all according to the teaching of Scripture.
Furthermore, regular renewal of the cutting of the marriage covenant is the duty of every married person according to 1 Corinthians 7:1-5. Had Mary abstained from sexual intercourse with Joseph after the prescribed period, she would have been living in sexual sin. God’s commandments are not only about not doing things; they involve duties to act as well. In effect, a perpetually virgin Mary would be a woman who lived in adultery, in the sense that she would have regularly failed to do the duty implicit in the seventh commandment.
As we have seen, the mother of our Lord was not always a follower of Christ: in her weakness she was sinfully influenced by the cynicism of her other sons (John 7:3-5.), as is clearly seen in the incident recorded in Matthew 12:46-50; Mark 3:20, 21 and Luke 8:19-21. But while Mary had doubts and was not perfect, she was not an exceptionally sinful woman, which is what she would have been had she remained a virgin: the doctrine of the perpetual virginity of Mary is an assault on the character of the mother of our Lord.
Without biblical evidence that Mary remained a virgin after giving birth to Jesus, these texts cited above irrefutably rebut the notion of the perpetual virginity of Mary. Give me a statement from the Bible that Mary remained a virgin, and I will mail you a check for one thousand dollars.
Scripture Quotations Mentioned Above
Matthew 1:25 But he had no union with her until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.