Many Christians believe that Mary was a virgin only until Jesus was born. However, many other Christians believe that Mary was a virgin not just until Jesus was born, but all her life. Which position does the Bible support?
Let’s consider several scriptures that 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 view. They believe Matthew 1:25 infers that Joseph did have a sexual relationship with Mary after she gave birth to Jesus. Furthermore, their view is supported by both Matthew 13:55 and Mark 6:3, which indicate that Jesus had four brothers and several sisters.
Nevertheless, 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’ brothers and sisters were children of a first marriage by Joseph or even that Joseph had a previous marriage.
As to the view that these other children in the household of Joseph and Mary were actually cousins of Jesus, why would both Matthew 13:55 and Mark 6:3 say that they were His brothers and sisters, rather than His cousins? In this regard, Ron Rhodes, Th.D. says 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 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 credible reason to believe that Mary was a virgin throughout her entire life. The Bible makes it sufficiently clear that Mary was a virgin only until she gave birth to Jesus, following her marriage to Joseph.
Does it matter whether or not Mary remained a virgin throughout her life? 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 is likely to result in giving her undeserved glorification, because the Bible does not support such a belief.
Abstaining from sex in a loving relationship between a man and woman who are married to each other does not by itself result in either person being more righteous than they would be otherwise. And, conversely, having sex in a loving relationship between a man and woman who are married to each other does not result in either person being less righteous. In fact, a loving sexual relationship between a man and his wife is likely to enable one or both of them to be more righteous, because they will be less inclined to satisfy their sexual desires in sinful ways.