Joseph and Mary had sex after Jesus was born. Scripture says so. There is no biblical evidence for the perpetual virginity of Mary. It is an ad hoc Catholic and Orthodox dogma alien to Scripture. The Bible mentions Jesus’ brothers and sisters!
When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife, but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus.Matthew 1:24-25
“Knowing” someone is a euphemism that means having conjugal relations (sex) with them.
All three Synoptic Gospels mention Jesus’ mother with His brothers.
While He was still speaking to the crowds, behold, His mother and brothers were standing outside, seeking to speak to Him.Matthew 12:46
Then Jesus’ mother and brothers arrived. Standing outside, they sent someone in to call him.Mark 3:31
Now Jesus’ mother and brothers came to see him, but they were not able to get near him because of the crowd.Luke 8:19
In Matthew 13, the Bible reveals the names of four of Christ’s physical blood brothers. It also reveals he had more than one sister. This information is revealed to us in the comments made by those in Nazareth, who knew Jesus and his family for many years, in response to his profound and unique teachings at a local synagogue.
From where did this Man (Jesus) receive this wisdom and these works of power? Is this not the carpenter’s son? Is not His mother called Mary, and His brothers James and Joses and Simon and Judas? And His sisters, are they not all with us?Matthew 13:55-56
We find additional evidence that Jesus did have brothers in the book of Acts. His remaining eleven disciples he personally taught (Judas had committed suicide), after witnessing his ascension to the Father (Acts 1:4 – 9), went back to Jerusalem. While they waited in the city for the promised Holy Spirit (verses 4 – 5), they gathered to pray together with the following people.
All these were steadfastly continuing with one accord in prayer and supplications, together with the women, including Mary, the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers,Acts 1:14
Mary, being a healthy and normal Jewish wife was obedient to God and obeyed the creation mandate, by the time her firstborn son’s ministry started, had given birth through Joseph to at least four other boys and at least two girls for a family composed of at least seven children!
The primary objection to the notion of Mary having other kids with Joseph is the extra-biblical dogma that Mary was a lifelong consecrated virgin. There is absolutely zero support in Scripture for such an idea. It goes against everything we’re told about Mary and Joseph and what we know from linguistic, historical, and cultural studies. We can clearly see how the notion of an ever-virgin Mary is alien to Scripture and is an ad hoc dogma being imposed upon Scripture. Oh, Catholics and Orthodox will make complex cases citing Scripture to support this dogma, but their gymnastics are apparent and go against the plain meaning of Scripture.
I’ve even had Catholics and Orthodox tell me the idea of Mary and Joseph having sex is “revolting” to them. They say that Joseph would never “defile” Mary in that way. What does Scripture say about sexual relations between a man and his wife?
Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous.Hebrews 13:4
So we see that sex between a husband and wife is not a defilement. It is proper and good. Scripture even says that husband and wife are one flesh and it says that they should not deprive each other of their conjugal rights!
Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.Genesis 2:24
This is quoted verbatim in Ephesians 5:31.
Now concerning the matters about which you wrote: “It is good for a man not to have sexual relations with a woman.” But because of the temptation to sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband. The husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights, and likewise the wife to her husband. For the wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. Likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. Do not deprive one another, except perhaps by agreement for a limited time, that you may devote yourselves to prayer; but then come together again, so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.1 Corinthians 7:1-5
I think another reason for this kneejerk reaction to the idea of Mary and Joseph having sex is the unbiblical cultus of Mary that has developed over the centuries (it’s found nowhere in Scripture). Many Catholics and Orthodox have an unhealthy and unbiblical view of Mary, and have a fixation on her as this perfectly pure and holy goddess-like being that never sinned (blasphemy since Christ alone was without sin), and was ever-virgin. They also pray to Mary as if she is a deity. I noticed anecdotally speaking that if you challenge such people on these unbiblical dogmas about Mary they will become very upset. The Catholic church even goes so far as to make the Marian dogmas de fide – articles of faith. Meaning one must believe in them to be saved. So their salvation is tied to unbiblical Marian beliefs.
The Catholic/Orthodox argument that Jesus had no blood siblings is extremely weak! The common and primary usage of the Greek term is biological brother, not cousin! There is a Greek word for cousin and it wasn’t used.
The Bible tells us that Jesus had four brothers: James, Joseph, Simon, and Judas (Matthew 13:55). The Bible also tells us that Jesus had sisters, but they are not named or numbered (Matthew 13:56). In John 7:1-10, His brothers go on to the festival while Jesus stays behind. In Acts 1:14, His brothers and mother are described as praying with the disciples. Galatians 1:19 mentions that James was Jesus’ brother. The most natural conclusion of these passages is to interpret that Jesus had actual blood half-siblings.
Some Roman Catholics claim that these “brothers” were actually Jesus’ cousins. However, in each instance, the specific Greek word for “brother” is used. While the word can refer to other relatives, its normal and literal meaning is a physical brother. There was a Greek word for “cousin,” and it was not used. Further, if they were Jesus’ cousins, why would they so often be described as being with Mary, Jesus’ mother? There is nothing in the context of His mother and brothers coming to see Him that even hints that they were anyone other than His literal, blood-related, half-brothers.
A second Roman Catholic argument is that Jesus’ brothers and sisters were the children of Joseph from a previous marriage. An entire theory of Joseph’s being significantly older than Mary, having been previously married, having multiple children, and then being widowed before marrying Mary is invented without any biblical basis. The problem with this is that the Bible does not even hint that Joseph was married or had children before he married Mary. If Joseph had at least six children before he married Mary, why are they not mentioned in Joseph and Mary’s trip to Bethlehem (Luke 2:4-7) or their trip to Egypt (Matthew 2:13-15) or their trip back to Nazareth (Matthew 2:20-23)?
There is no biblical reason to believe that these siblings are anything other than the actual children of Joseph and Mary. Those who oppose the idea that Jesus had half-brothers and half-sisters do so, not from a reading of Scripture, but from a preconceived concept of the perpetual virginity of Mary, which is itself clearly unbiblical: “But he (Joseph) had no union with her (Mary) until she gave birth to a son. And he gave Him the name Jesus” (Matthew 1:25). Jesus had half-siblings, half-brothers and half-sisters, who were the children of Joseph and Mary. That is the clear and unambiguous teaching of God’s Word.https://www.gotquestions.org/Jesus-siblings.html
The usual word in the Greek language for “brother” is adelphos. It possesses the same latitude of application that the English word possesses. Hence, it can refer to a person who shares the same religion (a spiritual brother). It can refer to a person who shares the same citizenship—a fellow countryman. It can refer to an intimate friend or neighbor. All of these uses are self-evident, and do not encroach upon the literal use of the term.
By far the most prominent use of the term is the literal sense—a blood brother or half-brother, the physical son of one’s mother or father. With reference to the physical brothers of Jesus (i.e., the sons of Joseph and Mary conceived after the birth of Christ), the literal sense is clearly in view in the following passages: Matthew 12:46-48 (the parallel in Mark 3:31-32); Matthew 13:55-56 (the parallel in Mark 6:3; in both passages, “sister” also is used in the literal sense); John 2:12; John 7:3,5,10; Acts 1:14; and Galatians 1:19. Even a casual reading of these verses demonstrates that Jesus had literal, physical brothers. The only reason the face-value import of these verses would be questioned is to lend credence to the post facto Catholic Church doctrine of the perpetual virginity of Mary.
At least two assertions have been advanced by those who wish to discount the existence of Jesus’ brothers, and thereby defend the doctrine of Mary’s perpetual virginity. One attempt seeks to broaden the meaning of the Greek word for “brother” to mean “cousin.” According to this view, the “brothers” of Jesus were actually His cousins—the children of Mary’s sister. The assertion that “brother” has this enlarged meaning is made largely on the basis of the Greek translation of the Old Testament (the Septuagint). The Septuagint translators sometimes used the Greek word for brother (adelphos) in Old Testament passages in which a near relative or kinsman, who was not technically a physical brother, was under consideration. This claim is true. The Hebrew term for brother (‘ach) occasionally was used to refer to a more remote descendant from a common father who was not technically a brother (Gesenius, 1979, p. 27; Harris, et al., 1980, 1:31; Botterweck, 1974, 1:190). For example, Laban, Jacob’s uncle, was referred to as Jacob’s “brother” (Genesis 29:12,15). Likewise, Abram’s nephew Lot was said to be Abram’s “brother” (Genesis 14:14,16).
However, it must be noted that the decision of the Septuagint translators to adjust to the nuances of the Hebrew term does not prove that the Greek term adelphos had the meaning of “cousin” in the passages referring to Jesus’ kinsmen. After listing a few Old Testament verses where a broader meaning than strictly “brother” is in view, Bauer noted that such passages “do not establish the meaning ‘cousin’ for adelphos; they only show that in rendering the Hebrew ‘ach, adelphos is used loosely in isolated cases to designate masculine relatives of various degrees” (Arndt and Gingrich, 1957, p. 15, emp. added). In other words, no linguistic justification exists to support the notion that adelphoi could refer to the “cousins” of Jesus. The Septuagint translators employed adelphos for ‘ach in those passages where additional contextual evidence clarified the intended meaning. No such contextual evidence exists in the allusions to Jesus’ brothers in the New Testament, and is therefore an irrelevant comparison.
When we come to the New Testament, where the reference to the brothers of Jesus occurs, Von Soden correctly listed only two possible meanings for adelphos, namely, “either ‘physical brotherhood’ in the strict sense or more generally the ‘spiritual brotherhood’ of Israelites or Christians” (Kittel, 1964, 1:144). A broadened meaning for adelphos (to refer to a cousin) does not exist in the New Testament. As Walther Gunther clarified: “In no case in the New Testament can adelphos be interpreted with certainty in this sense” (Brown, 1975, 1:256). That’s putting it mildly. McClintock and Strong explained: “[W]hen the word is used in any but its proper sense, the context prevents the possibility of confusion…. If, then, the word ‘brethren’…really means ‘cousins’ or ‘kinsmen,’ it will be the only instance of such an application in which no data are given to correct the laxity of meaning” (1968, 895, emp. in orig.). Lewis stated even more decisively: “ ‘Brothers’ (adelphoi) never means ‘cousins’ in New Testament Greek” (1976, 1:181, emp. added). Indeed, the Greek language had a separate and distinct word for “cousins”—anepsioi (e.g., Colossians 4:10). When a nephew was meant, the relationship was clearly specified (e.g., Acts 23:16). To summarize: “There is therefore no adequate warrant in the language alone to take ‘brethren’ as meaning ‘relatives,’ and therefore the a priori presumption is in favor of a literal acceptation of the term” (McClintock and Strong, 1:895).
Further, when referring to Jesus’ brothers, the expression “his brothers” occurs nine times in the Gospel accounts and once in Acts. In every instance (except in John 7:3,5,10), the brothers are mentioned in immediate connection with His mother, Mary. No linguistic indication whatsoever is present in the text for inferring that “His brothers” is to be understood in any less literal sense than “His mother” (see Alford, 1980, pp. 152-154). Likewise, the contemporaneous Jews would have construed the terms “brothers” and “sisters” in their ordinary sense—like our English words—unless some extenuating circumstance indicated otherwise. No such circumstantial indication is present.
Additionally, if the phrase “brothers and sisters” means “cousins” in Matthew 13:55-56 and Mark 6:3, then these “cousins” were the nephews and nieces of Mary. But why would the townspeople of Nazareth connect nephews and nieces of Mary with Joseph? Why would the townspeople mention nephews and nieces at all while omitting other extended family relatives? The setting assumes that the townspeople were alluding to the immediate family of Jesus. Barnes noted that to recognize these brothers and sisters as the sons and daughters of Joseph and Mary is the “fair interpretation,” and added, “the people in the neighbourhood [sic] thought so, and spoke of them as such” (1977, 1:150). As Matthews commented, “Joseph, Mary, and their children were recognized as a typical family of Nazareth, and when Jesus began his unusual career, they merely asked if He was not a member of this family mentioning their names. If these children were nephews and nieces of Mary, why are they always associated with her and not with their mother?” (1952, pp. 112-113, emp. added).
A second assertion maintains that the brothers and sisters of Jesus were the children of Joseph by a previous marriage. Of course, this alleged prior marriage is without any biblical support whatsoever. The New Testament is completely silent on the matter. To postulate its occurrence, at best, is to introduce a question regarding Joseph’s own marital eligibility in his relationship with Mary.
In addition to the verses that allude to the brothers and sisters of Jesus, a corroborative verse is seen in Matthew 1:25. When Joseph awoke from a dream, wherein an angel of the Lord explained the circumstances of his wife’s pregnant condition, Matthew wrote that Joseph “knew her not until she had borne a son.” Use of the word “knew,” a common euphemism for sexual intercourse, means that Joseph and Mary abstained from sexual relations prior to the birth of Jesus. While it is true that the Greek construction heos hou (until) does not necessarily imply that they engaged in sexual relations after the birth of Jesus, the rest of the New Testament bears out the fact that where this phrase followed by a negative occurs, it “always implies that the negated action did take place later” (Lewis, 1976, 1:42, emp. added). Bruce observed: “Subsequent intercourse was the natural, if not the necessary, course of things. If the evangelist had felt as the Catholics do, he would have taken pains to prevent misunderstanding” (Nicoll, n.d., 1:69). Alford agreed: “On the whole it seems to me, that no one would ever have thought of interpreting the verse any otherwise than in its prima facie meaning, except to force it into accordance with a preconceived notion of the perpetual virginity of Mary” (1980, 1:9).
The insistence that Mary remained a virgin her entire life is undoubtedly rooted in the unscriptural conception that celibacy is spiritually superior to marriage and child bearing. In both the Old and New Testaments, the Bible speaks of marriage as an honorable institution that was intended by God to be the norm for humanity from the very beginning of the Creation (Genesis 2:24; Proverbs 5:18-19; Matthew 19:4-6; 1 Corinthians 7:2; Hebrews 13:4). Mary’s marriage to Joseph, and their subsequent production of offspring after the birth of Jesus, had the approval and blessing of heaven. To engage in hermeneutical gymnastics in an effort to protect a doctrine conceived from a misassessment of the sacred and divine nature of marriage and family is the epitome of misplaced religious ardor.
M’Clintock and Strong well summarized the evidence which supports the conclusion that Jesus had literal, uterine brothers: “[S]uch a supposition is more in agreement with the spirit and letter of the context than any other, and as the force of the allusion to the brothers and sisters of Jesus would be much weakened if more distant relatives are to be understood” (1968, 1:895). It is reassuring to know that Jesus experienced familial and fraternal ties. He had four brothers and at least two sisters (Matthew 13:55-56; Mark 6:3). He experienced what it was like to have His own brothers reject God’s truth (Matthew 12:46-50; John 7:5). Fortunately, those brothers, especially James, later embraced the truth and became active members of the church of Christ (Acts 1:14; 12:17; 15:13; 21:18; 1 Corinthians 9:5). “We do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses” (Hebrews 4:15). “Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same” (Hebrews 2:14).
Alford, Henry (1980 reprint), Alford’s Greek Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker).
Arndt, William F. and F. Wilbur Gingrich (1957), A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press).
Barnes, Albert (1977 reprint), Notes on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker).
Botterweck, G. Johannes and Helmer Ringgren (1974), Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans).
Brown, Colin, ed. (1975), The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan).
Gesenius, William (1979 reprint), Hebrew and Chaldee Lexicon (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker).
Harris, R. Laird, Gleason Archer Jr., and Bruce Waltke, eds. (1980), Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament (Chicago, IL: Moody).
Kittel, Gerhard, ed. (1964), Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans).
Lewis, Jack P. (1976), The Gospel According to Matthew (Austin, TX: Sweet Publishing Co.).
Matthews, Paul (1952), Basic Errors of Catholicism (Rosemead, CA: Old Paths Book Club).
McClintock, John and James Strong (1968 reprint), Cyclopaedia of Biblical, Theological, and Ecclesiastical Literature (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker).
Nicoll, W. Robertson (n.d.), The Expositor’s Greek Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans).
It’s very sad to see millions of Catholics and Orthodox obfuscate the truth on this topic. They have been brainwashed by their churches to ignore the plain and literal meaning of Scripture. They’ve accumulated many unbiblical doctrines as it pertains to Mary and Joseph. The best thing to do is to pray for them and keep sharing the truths of Scripture.