Ask Father Mateo

Msg Base:  AREA 5  - ASK FATHER            CIN ECHO   AMDG
  Msg No: 188.  Wed 11-13-91 23:42  (NO KILL)  (MAILED)
    From: Father Mateo
      To: Paul Meiners
 Subject: Mary: Perpetual Virginity

 Anyhow, Matthew definitely refers to "his brothers".  My question is this,
 if Jesus had blood brothers, was Mary their mother?  Did Joseph have
 another wife?  I am confused over this issue, in light of the Perpetual
 Virginity of Mary.  Please help me with this issue.
Dear Paul,
With regard to Mary's virginity, it is of Catholic faith, declared by
the 5th Ecumenical Council (A.D. 553) that she was virgin all her life
and had no other children.
Mary had entered into a unique relationship with God in becoming Mother
of the Second Person of the Trinity and giving birth to Jesus Christ.
After that, ordinary marital relations and the bearing of other
children would somehow put a man on a par with God in her life, and
other sons and daughters on the same level in that family with the
Savior of the World.  Therefore, Mary's lifelong virginity is not only
a matter of our Catholic Faith, but is also eminently reasonable.
Scripture is not decisive in this matter without the testimony of
Tradition.  The Church is the "pillar and ground of truth", as St. Paul
calls her, and she always guides herself by both these sources of God's
revelation.  Protestants look to the Bible and the Bible alone.  We
don't, and Protestants should really get used to the fact that Catholics
are Catholics.  The Church wrote the New Testament, so she feels
competent to interpret it, and that interpretation involves using
Christian tradition.
In the first three centuries, Mary's perpetual virginity was certainly
up for theological discussion.  The Gnostics, Docetists and others who
denied Christ's divinity extended their denial to this doctrine too.
Catholic writers like St. Irenaeus, St. Clement of Alexandria, and St.
Gregory of Nyssa ably explained the traditional doctrine which we hold
In this period, and still more in the fourth century, 'Ever-virgin' or
simply 'Virgin' became Mary's popular title.  This could not have
happened unless everyone was perfectly sure that her virginity was no
mere episode in her life.  The Virgin Mother of God was Mother forever.
No less was she Virgin forever.  So we prayed and so we believed in
those early days.  And so we still believe and pray today.
In the fourth century, also, we have the learned and pastoral testimony
of St. Ambrose, St. Jerome, St. Augustine, St. Peter Chrysologus and
St. Leo the Great.  The doctrine was solemnly defined in general
councils in the years 553 and 640.
There was then nothing but unanimity until the advent of the
Protestants in the 16th century.  There is also a consistent liturgical
witness to the doctrine, shared by both Catholics and Orthodox.
Protestants usually ignore Orthodox witness in Marian theology, but in
fact East and West are joined in one confession of Mary's perpetual
Virginity, a truth quietly shared in peace until the emergence of
I will try to answer you question about Jesus's brothers and sisters in
a separate message.
                                Sincerely in Christ,
                                Father Mateo
##MMR 2.38.  !link PM 10-30-91 22:17 

Msg Base:  AREA 5  - ASK FATHER            CIN ECHO   AMDG
  Msg No: 189.  Wed 11-13-91 23:47  (NO KILL)  (MAILED)
    From: Father Mateo
      To: Paul Meiners
 Subject: Jesus's Brothers and Sisters

 Secondly, I have read many mentions in the Gospel books of the brothers of
 Jesus.  In fact, there is one story told where Mary and brothers of Jesus
 come to the place where Jesus is teaching, and Jesus continues his
 teaching.  I may have this a bit wrong, I am giving it from memory, but I
 wondered upon reading this passage, if it was correct.  Did the word
 "brother" mean brother in a figurative sense?  How could Jesus have had
 blood brothers?
Dear Paul,
If Mary had no other children than Jesus, to whom does the Scripture
refer when it speaks of the brothers and sisters of the Lord (Matt.
13:55-56, Mark 6:3)?
These are near relations, but not half-brothers and half sisters of
Jesus. For,
Item:  no Bible text asserts that these people were children of Mary
       and Joseph
Item:  the Hebrew word ACHIM, which is commonly translated 'brethren'
       (or 'brothers and sister') has several other meanings than
       'children of the same parents'.  For example,
Item:  at times a relative (Gen. 12:5, 13:8, 29:12; Num. 8:26);
Item:  at times a person of the same race or from the same native
       city (Gen. 9:25; Num. 20:14);
Item:  at times a friend (2 Sam. 1:26; 1st Kgs 9:13).
The words translated "brother" and "sister" are, in Greek, members of
the ADELPH- family of cognates.  These words are used in the Koine
Dialect (the Greek of the Septuagint and the New Testament) to mean:
brother/sister, relative/kinfolk, related/associated/cognate, and
several other similar notions.  The language used in Matt. 12:46-50,
13:55-56; Mark 3:31-32, 6:3; Luke 8:19-20; John 2:12, 7:3-5; Acts 1:14;
1st Cor. 9:5, and Gal. 1:19 does not prove the existence of Jesus'
siblings.  The ADELPH- words cannot support the strain of such a
violent departure from the faith of the Church.
Happily, Matthew and Mark give us the names of the men: James and
Joseph and Simon and Jude.  Unfortunately their sisters are not named.
But the first two, James and Joseph, are sons of Mary's sister, the
wife of Cleophas, as John's gospel tells us (19:25).  They are
relatives of Jesus, called his 'brothers' by the conventions of the
language they spoke.  Presumably the others are no more closely related
to Jesus than were James and Joseph.
In summary: nothing in Scripture contradicts Mary's perpetual
virginity.  Mary and Joseph observed perfect virginity within their
In the files of this network we have two articles on this subject,
which you can download: 1) Karl Keating's BRETHREN OF THE LORD
(ANSWER15.ASC in CATHOLIC ANSWERS directory), and 2) Father Mateo's
We Catholics are of the unshakeable faith that marriage is a sacrament
of Christ; that marriage is the closest and noblest union of which
human beings are capable of among themselves; that Christ confirmed the
sanctity of marriage by making it completely shatter-proof (Matt.
19:4-9), and St. Paul made the marriage union the symbol of the union
of Christ with his people, the Church (Ephesians 5:21-32).
But the Virginity of our Blessed Mother and Saint Joseph within their
marriage delicately affirms the primacy of the spiritual in all our
human concerns.  And these two servants of God thus become models not
only for the married people, but also for those consecrated to lifelong
virginity in the Lord's service, a consecration proclaimed by Jesus
(Matthew 19:10-12) and echoed by Saint Paul (1 Cor. 7:25-38).
Thank you for your questions, Paul.  I hope you will continue to use
our information service.
                                Sincerely in Christ
                                Father Mateo