Question: The Bible speaks of the "brothers of Jesus." A priest told me that Mary had children beside our Lord. Is he correct?
Answer: Matthew 12, 1 Corinthians 9, and Acts 1 each contain a phrase referring to the "brethren" of Jesus. For an explanation, we defer to the convert-apologist, David Goldstein:
The question as to who are the "brethren" to whom you refer, is not absolutely certain. The claim made that they were children of Joseph by and earlier marriage has been dismissed as untenable. Being older than Jesus, as they would have to be, our Lord could not be the "first-born," heir to the throne of David, as He is listed in the genealogies, if he had brothers through Joseph, according to the Jewish Law. It is generally believed that James (afterwards Bishop of Jerusalem), Joseph, Simon, and Jude were cousins of Jesus. They are held to be sons of Mary, the wife of Cleophas (also called Alpheus), who was the Blessed Virgin's cousin. They could not be called cousins. for there is no such word in the Hebrew or Aramaic language, hence the word cousin is not in any part of the Old Testament. The writers of Holy Writ were compelled to use the word "Ah" to describe kinsmen, which translated literally is brother. Calvin, the father of Protestant theology, in refuting Heldvidius, who maintained that the brethren referred to uterine brothers, said: "We have already stated that according to the Hebrews all relatives are called brothers."
One thing is certain, it would not have been within the province of Jesus on the Cross to place His mother in the care of St. John if He had brothers (St. John 19:26, 27). Again, Jesus, and He alone is called in the Bible "the son of Mary" (St. Mark 6: 3).
The question is settled for Catholics, not merely by their study of the matter, but by the infallible authority of their Church, expressed in its definition of the Virgin Birth, at the 5th General Council of Constantinople (553 A.D.), and the Lateran Council at Rome (640 A.D.).
Why would anyone want to question the perpetual virginity of the Blessed Mother? Only those seeking to undermine the entire Catholic Faith would do such a thing. Perhaps Pope St. Siricius (389-98) had your priest in mind when he wrote:
"For if they accept the doctrine on the authority of priests that Mary had a number of children, then they will strive with greater effort to destroy the truths of the faith."
1. Jesuit Fathers of St. Mary's, The Church Teaches (TCT) (B. Herder, 1955;
TAN 1973) #505, p. 205.
2. David Goldstein, What Say You? (St. Paul MN: Radio Replies Press, 1945, p.
3. TCT #502, p. 204.
1. Jesuit Fathers of St. Mary's, The Church Teaches (TCT) (B. Herder, 1955; TAN 1973) #505, p. 205.
2. David Goldstein, What Say You? (St. Paul MN: Radio Replies Press, 1945, p. 171.
3. TCT #502, p. 204.