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[1] I will use this term to refer to those churches which are under the authority of the pope, the Bishop of Rome, since it is the branch with these which I am most concerned. This is not meant to sleight other Catholic denominations which may or may not share the positions of the Catholic Church.

[2] One theory holds that Mary took a vow of virginity in which case she could not have engaged in sexual activity with Joseph without breaking the vow. This belief will be looked at in detail later.

[3] Origen took this passage literally and castrated himself.

[4] While I would not agree with the practice since I believe that it is God’s plan that sex be limited to married couples, it was common at this time for engaged couples to have sexual relations. (They were not allowed to live together.) It must also be kept in mind that engagement was considered to be much more of a commitment than it is in our culture. A man who wished to dissolve the relationship was required to get a divorce just as if the couple had been married.

[5] Modern Hebrew has introduced a word for `cousin’ but this word did not exist when the New Testament was being written. Ancient Hebrew/Aramaic could have used “ben-dod” to refer to the son of a paternal uncle but other cousin-type relationships would not be so easily rendered.

[6] A likely explanation for this would be that, as Jerome points out, with the exception of the heretic, Tertullian, no one even suggested that Mary did not remain a virgin for her entire life until Helvidius.”Tertullian, the doughty African controversialist, beset by the necessity of combating the Docetists who held that Jesus was never truly born in the flesh, had maintained Mary’s virginity only in the conception of Jesus, and relinquished it in and after her act of actually giving birth to her Son. Later on Bonosius and the Arian Helvidius were persuaded that Mary had other children after the birth of Jesus. But almost all the Fathers ranged themselves against this opinion, which their consensus adjudged to be blasphemous. They found its refutation in the figure of Mary as the Gospel shows her to us, and in the tradition of the Church.” [Daniel-Rops, 1960:86]

[7]   “The reply which she [Mary] made to the Angel: `How shall this be, seeing that I know not man?’ would be meaningless unless it meant that she had made up her mind never to know man, that in other words, as Catholic faith expresses it, she had made a vow of virginity. Vows were regarded as having an important place in the lives of a people who were as strict as the Jews in the practice of their religion. In Deuteronomy (XXIII, 22, 24), Ecclesiastes (V, 3, 5), as well as in certain other parts of the Holy Scripture, attention is given to vows and to the matter of their regulation. In particular, it is known that Nazarites bound themselves, for a specified time, to observe chastity and certain forms of abstinence, and to restrain from cutting their hair. But did their exist a vow for women similar to that of the Nazarites among the men? Could it be possible, moreover, that such a vow would be accorded any real value inasmuch as it ran counter to the normal precept: `Increase and multiply.’ In the Mishna there is to be read a Talmudic text which formally declares: `No one may vow to transgress the presepts of the Law.’ This aspect of Jewish custom makes us realize how extraordinary and exceptional was Mary’s vow of virginity.” [Daniel-Rops, 1960:41-42]

[8] “It may be stated that at the end of the fourth century Mary’s two fundamental characteristics, her divine maternity and her perpetual virginity were part of accepted doctrine.” [Daniel-Rops, 1960:87]

[9] This was after he abandoned orthodox Christianity for the Montanist heresy.

[10] In other Greek literature the terms “adelphos homopatrios” (“brothers of the same father”) or “adelphos ook homometrios” (“brothers not of the same mother”) to refer to half-brothers who shared the same father but different mothers. Conversely, “adelphos homometrios” (“brothers of the same mother”) or “adelphos ook homopatrios” (“brothers not of the same father”) would be half-brothers of the same mother.

[11] Luther wrote “Christ our savior was the real and natural fruit of Mary’s virginal womb…. This was without the cooperation of a man, and she remained a virgin after that.” (Luther’s Works, Vol 22, 23).

[12] Calvin wrote “Helvidius has shown himself too ignorant, in saying that Mary had several sons, because mention is made in some passages of the brothers of Christ.” Calvin also translated the Greek ‘adelphoi’ as cousins or relatives.

[13] Zwingli wrote “I firmly believe according to the words of the Gospel that a pure virgin brought forth for us the Son of God and remainded a virgin pure and intact in childbirth and also after the birth, for all eternity.”

[14] Contrary to popular opinion, Catholics do not worship Mary. In fact, to do so would be a mortal sin which could cause you to spend eternity in Hell unless there was repentance.Bibliography

Birch, W. Grayson. 1960. Veritas and the Virgin. Berne, IN: Berne Witness, Inc.

Concetta, Sr., DSP. 1976. In the Light of the Bible, Vol. 1. Boston, MA: Daughters of St. Paul.

Daniel-Rops, Henri. 1960. The Book of Mary. New York: Hawthorne Books.

Graef, Hilda. 1963. Mary: A History of Doctrine and Devotion. (Vol. 1) Westminster, MD: Christian Classics

Jelly, Frederick M., OP. 1986. Madonna: Mary in the Catholic Tradition. Huntington, IN: Our Sunday Visitor, Inc.

Keating, Karl. 1988. Catholicism and Fundamentalism. San Francisco: Ignatius Press.

MacKinnon, Grace. 2003. “Mary: Really Married,” Catholic Exchange, 16 Dec 2003. (

Schreck, Alan. 1983. What Do Catholics Believe About Mary? Ann Arbor, MI: Servant Publications.

Bible versions used:

  • JB – Jerusalem Bible
  • Knox – Knox translation
  • NAB – New American Bible
  • NJB – New Jerusalem Bible
  • RSV – Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition

© 2017 Gary J. Sibio. All rights reserved.


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Written by Gary J Sibio