Debating Bible Basics Duncan Heaster  


12-1-3-2 Was Mary A Perpetual Virgin?

The answer to this question is absolutely. The scriptures cannot prove the issue either way… As we can see, the catholic interpretation of Mary is thoroughly rooted in the scriptures

This is mutually contradictory. If the Bible doesn’t clearly say whether Mary had other children or not, then how can it then be claimed by Mr. Bartlett that the Catholic view is rooted in Scripture?

I am aware that the references to the “brothers” of Jesus are read by the Catholics as meaning His relatives / cousins- even though there is a distinctly different Greek word translated “cousin” in Col. 4:10. But this is by no means certain. Psalm 69 is full of reference to Jesus, and is quoted in several parts of the New Testament about Him (Jn. 2:17; 15:25; Rom. 15:3; Mt. 27:34; Acts 1:20). Verse 8 speaks of how “I am become a stranger unto my brethren [= Jn. 7:5], and an alien unto my mother’s children”. This would support the more natural reading of the NT texts as meaning that the “brothers” of Jesus were indeed the children of Mary. He was her first son (Lk. 2:7), and Joseph did not have intercourse with her until she had brought forth Jesus (Mt. 1:25). She rejoiced in “God my saviour” (Lk. 1:47), and she seems to call Jesus her “Lord” in the same passage. Note that Jesus was Mary’s ‘firstborn’ son. The Greek prototokos is used, rather than a word [monogenes] which could easily have been used if Jesus had been her only child (Lk. 2:7). And observe that when Luke wants to speak of an only child, he does so specifically (Lk. 7:12; 8:42).

As I showed in my first statement, Jesus was the son of David and Abraham through Mary. Therefore she too was one of their descendants. She was therefore also “in Adam”, and “in Adam all die” (1 Cor. 15:22). She needed redemption- hence her thankfulness for a saviour. She brought the sin offering for her purification as required by the Law on childbirth (Lk. 2:22-24 cp. Lev. 12:6-8). Augustine said that Mary’s flesh was “flesh of sin” and that “Mary, springing from Adam, died because of sin”. If the Catholic is to interpret the Bible in accordance with the views of the early fathers, then he or she has to deny the later Catholic pronouncements about her immaculate conception.

This idea that Mary was sinless led to the statement by Pope Pius 12 in 1950, that Mary’s body rose from the grave shortly after her death and she ascended to Heaven. But the Bible knows nothing of this. If Mary died, then she was mortal. And why was she mortal? Because she was a descendant of Adam. So she could not have been somehow separate from the rest of the human race. There is no way that Catholics can claim that this feature of their belief about Mary has any Biblical support. It is purely church dogma.

The Weakness of Mary

The following incidents all reflect the weakness of Mary’s understanding, and the need for Jesus to almost rebuke her at times. I quote these to show us her humanity, so that by her being the more real, she might be the more credible and inspiring to us:

When the shepherds came to worship, Mary pondered within herself what it all meant, as if she was now rather lacking in comprehension (Lk. 2:19).

12 years later, when Jesus is lost in the temple, she scolds Him that his father [Joseph] and her have been seeking for Him. Hence Jesus gently rebuked her that He was about His true Father’s business, in His true Father’s house. Her description of Joseph as “thy father” is surely worthy of the Lord’s rebuke. She had allowed the views of the world to influence her view of the Lord. Jesus told them that they should have sought Him in His true Father’s house- and this may not only be a reference to the temple, but to the way in which they had assumed He was somewhere with the house / family of Joseph in the convoy; and perhaps they had gone round Joseph’s relatives in Jerusalem hunting for Him.

Mary and Joseph were “amazed” (Lk. 2:48). She shared Joseph's amazement; and the word is only used of the amazement / incomprehension of the crowds- Mt. 7:28; 13:54; 19:25; 22:33; Mk. 10:26. Slowly she became influenced by the world's view of her son- not totally, but partially, to the extent that she lost that keen perception and height of spiritual ambition which she had earlier had.

Lk. 2:50 records that “she understood not”, using the same phrase as is on the lips of the Lord in Mt. 13:13, speaking of those without who " hear not neither do they understand”; and ominously, Mary stood without and asked to see Jesus, only to be told that His real mothers were those women sitting around Him listening to His words. When she stands outside the house asking to speak with Jesus, she is identified with her other children who considered Jesus crazy. Jesus says that His mothers are those who hear the word of God and do it. There is a rather unpleasant connection between Mk. 3:32 “they stood without” and Mark 4:11 " unto them that are without, all these things are done in parables" . And further, Lk. 13:25 speaks of how the rejected shall stand without [same words] knocking and asking to speak with the Lord.

The incident at Cana shows her lack of perception of the true nature of her son’s work at that time. He hadn't done any miracles before, so was she asking Him to begin His ministry with a miracle? She knew He had the power to do them- she had perceived that much. When the Lord explains to her that His hour has not yet come, He is clearly alluding to His death. For this is how “the hour” is always understood in John’s Gospel (Jn. 4:21, 23; 5:25, 28, 29; 7:30; 8:20; 12:23, 27; 13:1; 16:25; 17:1). So Jesus replies to Mary’s nudge ‘make them some wine!’ by saying that the time for His death has not yet come- she was premature in her request, she didn’t fully understand. Note how He assumes that by ‘wine’ she means His blood. He assumes she is on a higher level of spiritual symbolism than she actually was.

The Bible reading Catholic will simply find that the actual Biblical account of Mary is simply at variance with the dogmas of their church. And thus they are thrown up against a tremendous question, of eternal import: to accept the word of God, or the word of men. Our prayers, our love, our desire, are firmly with all those who now perceive that choice.

Duncan Heaster