Children of Mary

While I waited for Chris’ box to come, I started to do an amount of studying on my own.  I decided the first thing I would look into was this whole thing with Mary.  After all, that seemed the most obvious thing to disprove in all this.  Mary was only a woman who, although heroically obedient to God, was just a normal wife and mother.  Jesus was her first son, but according to Scripture Mary had other children.  Where Catholics came up with the whole Perpetual Virginity-thing was a puzzle to me.  Even more puzzling was why it had persisted for so long when it was obvious from Scripture she’d had more children.  This was to be the first time, but by no means the last, when I came face to face with how misleading assumptions can be.

So, I got out an exhaustive concordance and look up every reference to Mary.  First, of course, are all the references to Mary when the angel Gabriel appeared to her.  Okay, no new information there.  What I was looking for were the other references to her and her other children and any other places she shows up in Scripture.

Mt. 13:55-56a, “Isn’t this the carpenter’s son?  Isn’t his mother’s name Mary, and aren’t his brothers James, Joseph, Simon and Judas?  Aren’t all his sisters with us?”

Mt. 27:55-56, “Many women were there, watching from a distance.  They had followed Jesus from Galilee to care for his needs.  Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Joses, and the mother of Zebedee’s sons.”

The first reference is from when Jesus visited His hometown and few believed He was the Messiah.  The second reference is at the crucifixion.  What struck me is what might have struck you–we’re talking about more than one Mary here and those “brothers” referred to in the first verse are not necessarily Jesus’ actual brothers, but some kind of relative.

Before the time of St. Jerome (331-420 A.D.; translated the Scriptures from the original Greek, Aramaic, and Hebrew into Latin), people believed they were possibly Jesus’ step-brothers; Joseph’s children from another marriage.  Since that time, however, most have believed they were simply close relatives of some kind.  Families often lived close together often sharing a common courtyard and helping one another with work, children, etc.   If you think about the genealogies of the Scriptures, note how often someone is referred to as “son of…” when you know it would have been a great-great-great grandfather.  Our Western manner of thinking of family relationships is not how all cultures have thought of them.

My conclusion was after looking up all the verses I could find (and I invite you to do the same for your own study) was that it couldn’t be proven from Scripture that Mary had other children or not.  However, I did come across an author who pointed out two significant factors from Scripture that do point to that conclusion.

The first is from John 7:3-5, “3 Jesus’ brothers said to him, “Leave Galilee and go to Judea, so that Your disciples there may see the works You do. 4 No one who wants to become a public figure acts in secret. Since You are doing these things, show Yourself to the world.” 5 For even His own brothers did not believe in Him.”  (One interesting thing to note is that not all translations use “brothers” here, but “brethren.”  From my perspective “brethren” is more open-ended than “brothers.”)

Anyway, the author pointed out that in Middle-eastern culture, younger brothers would never speak to an older brother in this manner.  No matter what they thought of him, an older brother is given the utmost respect.  This really caught my attention because this was around the time of the hunt for Osama bin Laden.  I had watched an interview with some of his younger siblings and they would not criticize him.  I hadn’t really thought about it at the time, but after reading the author’s comment, I had to wonder if that is not still the practice in the Middle East.

The other is John 19:26-27, “26 When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom He loved standing nearby, He said to her, “Woman,[a] here is your son,” 27 and to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” From that time on, this disciple took her into his home.”

If Mary had other children to care for her (as commanded by the Law), why would Jesus make provision for her with someone outside the immediate family?  For Catholics this verse has deeper meaning than simply the care of Mary, but for now just think on this and its significance.

Well, I started this post in September and am now only finishing it.  I think I’d better quit reading other people’s blogs and work on mine! 🙂