Many Christians believe that Mary was a virgin only until Jesus Christ was born.  However, many other Christians believe that Mary was a virgin not just until Jesus was born, but all her life.  Which belief does the Bible support?

The following scriptures pertain to this matter.  [Note:  When we quote Scripture in this article, we use the wording in the New King James Version of the Bible.]

Matthew 1:25: [Joseph] did not know her [Mary] till she had brought forth her firstborn Son. And he called His name Jesus.

Matthew 13:55: [With regard to Jesus, the people in the synagogue asked,]” Is this not the carpenter’s son? Is not His mother called Mary? And His brothers James, Joses, Simon, and Judas?”

Mark 6:3: [With regard to Jesus, the people in the synagogue asked,] “Is this not the carpenter, the Son of Mary, and brother of James, Joses, Judas, and Simon? And are not His sisters here with us?”

The website Bibleinfo assesses Matthew 13:55 and Mark 6:3 as follows:

There has been much discussion through the centuries as to the exact relationship of these men to Jesus. So the question remains, did Jesus have siblings?  Three principal views have been advanced:

(1) that they were Jesus’ actual siblings/brothers, that is, half-brothers, sons of Joseph and Mary (and therefore younger than Jesus);

(2) that they were His stepbrothers, that is, children of Joseph by a previous marriage (and thus all older than He and not His blood relatives at all);

(3) that they were the cousins of Jesus on the mother’s side, according to some, or on Joseph’s side, according to others.

Most Protestants have the first of these views.  They believe Matthew 1:25 infers that Joseph did have a sexual relationship with Mary after she married him, which was subsequent to her giving birth to Jesus Christ.  And, to some extent, this view is supported by both Matthew 13:55 and Mark 6:3, which indicate that Jesus had four brothers and several sisters.

However, some people argue that Joseph was a widower before he married Mary and that Jesus’ brothers and sisters were Joseph’s children by his prior marriage (i.e., they were not born to Mary).  However, there is no indication in the Bible that Jesus Christ’s brothers and sisters were children of a first marriage by Joseph or even that Joseph had a previous marriage.

As for the belief that the other children in the household of Joseph and Mary were actually cousins of Jesus Christ, why would both Matthew 13:55 and Mark 6:3 say that these children were Jesus’ brothers and sisters, rather than saying that they were His cousins?   In this regard, Ron Rhodes, Th.D. asserts on page 273 of his book titled Reasoning from the Scriptures with Catholics,

[T]here was a perfectly appropriate word in the Greek language that could have been used in the biblical text for “cousin” (anepsios), but this word is not used [in not only Matthew 13:55, but also in John 2:12; John 7:5; Acts 1:14; and Galatians 1:19, all of which mention one or more of Jesus’ brothers].

Colossians 4:10 . . . gives us an example of the apostle Paul making reference to “Mark, the cousin of Barnabas,” showing us that in the New Testament a distinction between brothers and cousins was made.

Likewise, the website Answers in Genesis states,

Some have suggested these brothers and sisters [of Jesus Christ] were cousins or more distant relations. If true, why didn’t the writers use the Greek term for cousins (anepsios)? The Greek word did exist and was used in Scripture (Colossians 4:10). If they were more distant relatives, then why not use a Greek word that meant relatives (suggenes), such as the one describing Mary and Elizabeth’s relational status in Luke 1:36? Why did Matthew and Mark use the words most commonly translated as brothers (adelphos) and sisters (adelphe)?


We have found no compelling reason to believe that Mary was a virgin throughout her entire life.  We believe that the Bible makes it sufficiently clear that Mary was a virgin only until she married Joseph, which was after Jesus was born.

Does it matter whether or not Mary remained a virgin throughout her life?  We think it does matter.  By regarding a marriage without sex as though it demonstrates an extraordinary degree of righteousness, the belief that Mary remained a virgin her entire life has resulted in many Christians giving her what can be regarded as glorification, an honor that is for God alone, not for Mary or any other person.

Furthermore, there is no valid reason for believing that abstaining from sex in a loving marriage relationship between a man and woman results in either person being more righteous than they would be otherwise.  Also, sex in a loving relationship between such a man and woman does not result in either person being less righteous.  To the contrary, a loving sexual relationship between a man and his wife is likely to facilitate the ability of each of them to be more righteous, because they will be less likely to try to satisfy their sexual desires in sinful ways.