Perpetual Virginity of Mary

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Contents

Biblical Defense

Adelphos: Brothers and Sisters of Christ

Several scriptures mention the brothers & sisters (adelphos) of Christ.

Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother [adelphos] of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? And are not his sisters [adelphai] here with us?
- Mark 6:3 (also Matthew 13:55)
So his brothers said to him, "Leave here and go to Judea, that your disciples also may see the works you are doing. For no one works in secret if he seeks to be known openly. If you do these things, show yourself to the world." For not even his brothers [adelphoi] believed in him.
- John 7:3-5
All these with one accord were devoting themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers [adelphois].
- Acts 1:14
Do we not have the right to take along a believing wife, as do the other apostles and the brothers [adelphoi] of the Lord and Cephas?
- 1 Corinthians 9:5
But I saw none of the other apostles except James the Lord's brother [adelphon].
- Galatians 1:19

Objection

In the New Testament, adelphos is used 343 times and is used to refer to spiritual brothers and blood brothers. The most natural reading of these verses would be to read them as blood brothers as well.

An exact greek word for cousins exists (anepsios). This word is used 1 time in the New Testament - but it was not used here. (Colossians)

Likewise, a word for kinsman/relative exists (suggenes). This word is used 12 times in the New Testament, but is not used here. (Luke, Acts, Romans, and once in Mark and John)

Reply

Jesus and the New Testament authors frequently quote from the Greek translation of the Old Testament, called the Septuagint. (One example: In Matthew 21:16 Jesus cites Psalm 8:2, which says “ordained praise” in the greek Septuagint, but “ordained strength” in the Hebrew)

In this Greek translation of Old Testament, adelphos is used as relative (Gen 14:14, Gen 29:15), as well as close friends (2 Samuel 1:26, 1 Kings 9:13), as well as allies (Amos 1:9).

Therefore, we must consider what the word would have meant to the New Testament authors. As they primarily used the Greek Old Testament, and the usage of the word in the Greek Old Testament was far wider in meaning than simply brothers, we should assume the same for the New Testament usage of the word.

I am inclined to agree with those who declare that 'brothers' really mean 'cousins' here, for Holy Writ and the Jews always call cousins brothers. 
- Martin Luther, Sermons on John, chaps. 1-4
Under the word 'brethren' [adelphos] the Hebrews include all cousins and other relations, whatever may be the degree of affinity.
- John Calvin, Commentaries On The Gospel Of John, 1-11, specifically John 7:3 (page 201)

Psalm 69 (a Messianic Psalm)

4They that hate me without a cause are more than the hairs of mine head: they that would destroy me, being mine enemies wrongfully, are mighty: then I restored that which I took not away.
 
5O God, thou knowest my foolishness; and my sins are not hid from thee.
 
6Let not them that wait on thee, O Lord God of hosts, be ashamed for my sake: let not those that seek thee be confounded for my sake, O God of Israel.
 
7Because for thy sake I have borne reproach; shame hath covered my face.
 
8I am become a stranger unto my brethren, and an alien unto my mother's children.
 
9For the zeal of thine house hath eaten me up; and the reproaches of them that reproached thee are fallen upon me.
 
- Psalm 69:4-9

Objection

Psalm 69 is a messianic Psalm about Jesus.

But the word that is written in their Law must be fulfilled: 'They hated me without a cause.'
- John 15:25, quoting Psalm 69:4
His disciples remembered that it was written, "Zeal for your house will consume me."
- John 2:17, quoting Psalm 69:9

Therefore, Psalm 69:8 must be referring to Jesus and his mother Mary, which says:

I am become a stranger unto my brethren, and an alien unto my mother's children.

My mother's children here is unambiguous, and clearly means other sons of Mary.

Reply

The proposed argument supposes that because Psalm 69:4 and Psalm 69:9 refer to Jesus, all of Psalm 69 must refer to Jesus (thus including Psalm 69:8).

Following that argument, Psalm 69:5 must also refer to Jesus, which says:

O God, thou knowest my foolishness; and my sins are not hid from thee.

But that's nonsense, as Christ is sinless.

The error in this argument is a misunderstanding of what Messianic Psalms are.

Messianic psalms blend the present concerns of the Psalmist with foreshadowing of Christ.

Not every element of a messianic Psalm need be true of Jesus.

Matthew 1:25, heōs

When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife, but knew her not until [heōs] she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus.
- Matthew 1:24-25

Objection

In saying "knew her not until she had given birth to a son", this implies Mary and Joseph had customary marital relations after the birth of Jesus.

Reply

The word "until" [greek: heōs] does not imply Mary and Joseph had customary marital relations after the birth of Jesus.

Jerome in 383 AD gives many examples in scripture where the proposed interpretation of the greek word heōs results in nonsense:

Lo, I am with you always, even unto [heōs] the end of the world. 
- Matthew 28:20

Will the Lord then after the end of the world has come forsake His disciples?

"For he must reign, till [heōs] he has put all enemies under his feet?" 
- 1 Corinthians 15:25

Is the Lord to reign only until His enemies begin to be under His feet, and once they are under His feet will He cease to reign?

Similar nonsense appears in the Septuagint for Isaiah 46:4, Psalm 123:2, 2 Samuel 6:23, Genesis 8:7, and Deuteronomy 34:6.

The inference [Helvidius] drew from it was, that Mary remained a virgin no longer than till her first birth, and that afterwards she had other children by her husband... No just and well-grounded inference can be drawn from these words.
- John Calvin, Works, Volume 31, Harmony of the Evangelists #25 (page 107)
The form of expression used by Matthew is the common idiom, as if I were to say, "Pharaoh believed not Moses, until he was drowned in the Red Sea." Here it does not follow that Pharaoh believed later, after he had drowned; on the contrary, it means that he never did believe. Similarly when Matthew [1:25] says that Joseph did not know Mary carnally until she had brought forth her son, it does not follow that he knew her subsequently; on the contrary, it means that he never did know her.  
- Martin Luther, That Jesus Christ was Born a Jew
Our reply is briefly this,--the words knew and till in the language of Holy Scripture are capable of a double meaning. As to the former, he himself gave us a dissertation to show that it must be referred to sexual intercourse, and no one doubts that it is often used of the knowledge of the understanding, as, for instance, "the boy Jesus tarried behind in Jerusalem, and his parents knew it not." Now we have to prove that just as in the one case he has followed the usage of Scripture, so with regard to the word till he is utterly refuted by the authority of the same Scripture, which often denotes by its use a fixed time (he himself told us so), frequently time without limitation, as when God by the mouth of the prophet says to certain persons, [Isaiah 46:4] "Even to old age I am he." Will He cease to be God when they have grown old? And the Saviour in the Gospel tells the Apostles, [Matthew 28:20] "Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world." Will the Lord then after the end of the world has come forsake His disciples, and at the very time when seated on twelve thrones they are to judge the twelve tribes of Israel will they be bereft of the company of their Lord? Again Paul the Apostle writing to the Corinthians [1 Corinthians 15:23-25] says, "Christ the first-fruits, afterward they that are Christ's, at his coming. Then cometh the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father, when he shall have put down all rule, and all authority and power. For he must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet." Granted that the passage relates to our Lord's human nature, we do not deny that the words are spoken of Him who endured the cross and is commanded to sit afterwards on the right hand. What does he mean then by saying, "for he must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet"? Is the Lord to reign only until His enemies begin to be under His feet, and once they are under His feet will He cease to reign? Of course His reign will then commence in its fulness when His enemies begin to be under His feet. David also in the fourth Song of Ascents [Psalm 123:2] speaks thus, "Behold, as the eyes of servants look unto the hand of their master, as the eyes of a maiden unto the hand of her mistress, so our eyes look unto the Lord our God, until he have mercy upon us." Will the prophet, then, look unto the Lord until he obtain mercy, and when mercy is obtained will he turn his eyes down to the ground? although elsewhere he says, [Psalm 119:123] "Mine eyes fail for thy salvation, and for the word of thy righteousness." I could accumulate countless instances of this usage, and cover the verbosity of our assailant with a cloud of proofs; I shall, however, add only a few, and leave the reader to discover like ones for himself.

The word of God says in Genesis, [Genesis 35:4, Septuagint] "And they gave unto Jacob all the strange gods which were in their hand, and the rings which were in their ears; and Jacob hid them under the oak which was by Shechem, and lost them until this day." Likewise at the end of Deuteronomy, [Deuteronomy 34:5-6] "So Moses the servant of the Lord died there in the land of Moab, according to the word of the Lord. And he buried him in the valley, in the land of Moab over against Beth-peor: but no man knoweth of his sepulchre unto this day." We must certainly understand by this day the time of the composition of the history, whether you prefer the view that Moses was the author of the Pentateuch or that Ezra re-edited it. In either case I make no objection. The question now is whether the words unto this day are to be referred to the time of publishing or writing the books, and if so it is for him to show, now that so many years have rolled away since that day, that either the idols hidden beneath the oak have been found, or the grave of Moses discovered; for he obstinately maintains that what does not happen so long as the point of time indicated by until and unto has not been attained, begins to be when that point has been reached. He would do well to pay heed to the idiom of Holy Scripture, and understand with us, (it was here he stuck in the mud) that some things which might seem ambiguous if not expressed are plainly intimated, while others are left to the exercise of our intellect. For if, while the event was still fresh in memory and men were living who had seen Moses, it was possible for his grave to be unknown, much more may this be the case after the lapse of so many ages. And in the same way must we interpret what we are told concerning Joseph. The Evangelist pointed out a circumstance which might have given rise to some scandal, namely, that Mary was not known by her husband until she was delivered, and he did so that we might be the more certain that she from whom Joseph refrained while there was room to doubt the import of the vision was not known after her delivery.
- Jerome, The Perpetual Virginity of Blessed Mary: Against Helvidius

Miscellaneous Defense

On the cross, Jesus entrusts his mother Mary to his disciple John. If Mary had other sons, it seems strange and out of character that Jesus would have gone out of his way to disregard family ties and commit a grave dishonor to his brothers by entrusting his mother to another man.

When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, 'Woman, behold, your son!' Then he said to the disciple, 'Behold, your mother!' And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home.
- John 19:26-27

When Jesus went to the temple at the age of 12, there is no mention of other children in his family.

Now his parents went to Jerusalem every year at the Feast of the Passover. And when he was twelve years old, they went up according to custom. And when the feast was ended, as they were returning, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem. His parents did not know it, but supposing him to be in the group they went a day's journey, but then they began to search for him among their relatives and acquaintances, and when they did not find him, they returned to Jerusalem, searching for him. After three days they found him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. And all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers. And when his parents saw him, they were astonished. And his mother said to him, "Son, why have you treated us so? Behold, your father and I have been searching for you in great distress." And he said to them, "Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father's house?" And they did not understand the saying that he spoke to them. And he went down with them and came to Nazareth and was submissive to them. And his mother treasured up all these things in her heart.
- Luke 2:41-51

In scriptures even when Jesus is referred to as the son of Mary, Jesus' brothers are never referred to that way.

"Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? And are not his sisters here with us?" And they took offense at him.
- Mark 6:3

Jerome's Cousin Theory

In 383 AD, Jerome wrote The Perpetual Virginity of Blessed Mary: Against Helvidius. In this work, he gives an extensive biblical defense of the idea that Jesus’ adelphos were his cousins. Let us now examine this argument.

NOTE - give this as a plausible theory, that accounts for all the evidence.

Mary of Clopas

We start with the Holy Family: Mary, Joseph and Jesus.

And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child.
- Luke 2:4-5

Next we note that Mary, the mother of Jesus had a sister named Mary of Clopas.

...but standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother and his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene.
- John 19:25

Eusebius (a church historian around 323 AD), quotes an older Chronicler named Hegesippus who died in 180 AD. From Hegesippus we see that Clopas was a brother of Jesus, which makes Mary of Clopas more specifically the sister-in-law of Mary, the mother of Jesus.

For Hegesippus records that Clopas was a brother of Joseph.
- Eusebius (323 AD) in his Church History (Book III), Chapter 11

Thus so far we have a family tree like so:

Cousin1 n.png

Children of Mary of Clopas

We have three gospel accounts that mention women looking on the cross as Jesus is crucified.

In the Gospel of John, we see that there are three people named Mary standing by the cross: the mother of Jesus, Mary Magdalene and Mary of Clopas. Furthermore, John tells us that Mary the mother of Jesus had a sister named Mary of Clopas (who was thus Jesus' aunt).

but standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother and his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. 26When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son!” 27Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!” And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home.
- John 19:25-27

In the Gospel of Mark, we see a group of women looking on the cross from afar off, two of which are identified as Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James the less and of Joses. As the passage goes on, we see the "Mary the mother of James the less and of Joses" further described as "Mary the mother of Joses" (Mark 15:47), "Mary the mother of James" (Mark 16:1). Never once is this Mary referred to as Mary, the mother of Jesus.

40There were also women looking on from a distance, among whom were Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James the less and of Joses, and Salome.  41When he was in Galilee, they followed him and ministered to him, and there were also many other women who came up with him to Jerusalem...

47Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses saw where he was laid.

1When the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him. 2And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb. 3And they were saying to one another, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance of the tomb?” 4And looking up, they saw that the stone had been rolled back—it was very large. 5And entering the tomb, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, dressed in a white robe, and they were alarmed. 6And he said to them, “Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen; he is not here. See the place where they laid him. 7But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going before you to Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.” 8And they went out and fled from the tomb, for trembling and astonishment had seized them, and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.

- Mark 15:40-16:8

In the Gospel of Matthew, we see a group of women looking on the cross from a distance, and three of which are identified as Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Joseph, and the mother of the sons of Zebedee. As the passage goes on, we see the "Mary the mother of James and Joseph" referred to as simply "the other Mary" (Mark 15:61, 16:1). Never once is this Mary referred to as Mary, the mother of Jesus - and it seems super unlikely that Mark would not identify her in that way, rather than simply as "the other Mary" if it was her!

50And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice and yielded up his spirit.

55There were also many women there, looking on from a distance, who had followed Jesus from Galilee, ministering to him, 56among whom were Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James and Joseph and the mother of the sons of Zebedee.

59And Joseph took the body and wrapped it in a clean linen shroud 60and laid it in his own new tomb, which he had cut in the rock. And he rolled a great stone to the entrance of the tomb and went away. 61Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were there, sitting opposite the tomb.

1Now after the Sabbath, toward the dawn of the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. 2And behold, there was a great earthquake, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled back the stone and sat on it. 3His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow. 4And for fear of him the guards trembled and became like dead men. 5But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. 6He is not here, for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. 7Then go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead, and behold, he is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him. See, I have told you.” 8So they departed quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples. 9And behold, Jesus met them and said, “Greetings!” And they came up and took hold of his feet and worshiped him. 10Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee, and there they will see me.”

- Matthew 27:50-28:10

Thus, in unifying these three gospel accounts, we see that the one whom Mark and Matthew identify as "Mary, the mother of James the less and Joseph" must be the same person as "Mary of Clopas".

Furthermore, this means Mary of Clopas is the mother of James the less, and Joseph (also called Joses).

Looking at Eusebius (church historian ~323 AD) again, we see that Clopas had another son called Symeon, "of whom the Gospel also makes mention", who "was a cousin, as they say, of the Saviour".

After the martyrdom of James and the conquest of Jerusalem which immediately followed [...] They all with one consent pronounced Symeon, the son of Clopas, of whom the Gospel also makes mention; to be worthy of the episcopal throne of that parish. He was a cousin, as they say, of the Saviour. 
- Eusebius (323 AD) in his Church History (Book III), Chapter 11

So Mary of Clopas is the mother of James the less, Joseph (also called Joses), and Symeon.

Where does the Gospel mention Symeon?

Is not this the carpenter's son? Is not his mother called Mary? And are not his brothers [adelphos] James and Joseph and Simon and Judas?
- Matthew 13:55
Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother [adelphos] of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? And are not his sisters [adelphai] here with us?” 
- Mark 6:3

Translating adelphos as cousin here, we see it fits the children of Mary of Clopas perfectly (James and Joseph and Simon), and tells us of one other child she had named Judas.

Thus so far we have a family tree like so:

Cousin2 n.png

Jesus' cousins as Apostles

James

In Galatians, we see Paul identify James, the Lord's adelphos, as an apostle.

But I saw none of the other apostles except James the Lord's brother [adelphos].
- Galatians 1:19

Looking at the list of apostles in the Gospels of Luke and Mark, we see a James the son of Zebedee (and brother of John), as well as a James of Alphaeus.

And when day came, he called his disciples and chose from them twelve, whom he named apostles: Simon, whom he named Peter, and Andrew his brother, and James and John, and Philip, and Bartholomew, and Matthew, and Thomas, and James of Alphaeus, and Simon who was called the Zealot, and Judas of James, and Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor.
- Luke 6:13-16
He appointed the twelve: Simon (to whom he gave the name Peter); James the son of Zebedee and John the brother of James (to whom he gave the name Boanerges, that is, Sons of Thunder); Andrew, and Philip, and Bartholomew, and Matthew, and Thomas, and James of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus, and Simon the Zealot, and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him.
- Mark 3:16-19

We see that James the son of Zebedee is part of the inner circle of Christ, the group of 3 disciples with whom he was especially close - they saw him transfigured on the mountain, and shared his sorrow with them in Gethsemane.

And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James, and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became white as light.
- Matthew 17:1-2
Then Jesus went with them to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to his disciples, “Sit here, while I go over there and pray.” And taking with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch with me.”
- Matthew 26:36-38

We know that James, the adelphos of Christ, was called "James the less" (Mark 15:40). James the less implies the lesser of two. There were two apostles named James - James the son of Zebedee (part of the inner circle of Christ), and James of Alphaeus.

Therefore Paul appears to be saying that James the less, adelphos of Christ, is the Apostle called James of Alphaeus.

Looking at church history, we see that James the adelphos of Christ and James the apostle both died the same way:

And James the son of Alphaeus, when preaching in Jerusalem, was stoned to death by the Jews, and was buried there beside the temple.
- Pseudo-Hippolytus (~230 AD) in On the Twelve Apostles
So he assembled the sanhedrin of judges, and brought before them the brother of Jesus, who was called Christ, whose name was James, and some others, [or, some of his companions]; and when he had formed an accusation against them as breakers of the law, he delivered them to be stoned
- Josephus (~94 AD) in Antiquities of the Jews, Book XX, Chapter 9, Section 1

There is a problem with this interpretation. If James of Alphaeus is the Lord's cousin, then he is the son of Clopas, not Alphaeus. How do we resolve this?

Jerome, for his part, says that Alphaeus is the man's name, and the "of Clopas" title for Mary could simply be after her father, or kindred, or for some other reason. Alternatively, he says that Alpaeus and Clopas could be two names for the same man - he then gives a plethora of examples from scripture where people often had two names:

The only conclusion is that the Mary who is described as the mother of James the Less was the wife of Alphæus and sister of Mary the Lord's mother, the one who is called by John the Evangelist "Mary of Clopas," whether after her father, or kindred, or for some other reason. But if you think they are two persons because elsewhere we read, "Mary the mother of James the Less," and here, "Mary of Clopas," you have still to learn that it is customary in Scripture for the same individual to bear different names. Raguel, Moses' father-in-law, is also called Jethro. Gedeon, without any apparent reason for the change, all at once becomes Jerubbaal. Ozias, king of Judah, has an alternative, Azarias. Mount Tabor is called Itabyrium. Again Hermon is called by the Phenicians Sanior, and by the Amorites Sanir. The same tract of country is known by three names, Negebh, Teman, and Darom in Ezekiel. Peter is also called Simon and Cephas. Judas the zealot in another Gospel is called Thaddaeus. And there are numerous other examples which the reader will be able to collect for himself from every part of Scripture.
- Jerome (383 AD), The Perpetual Virginity of Blessed Mary: Against Helvidius, Section 15

Around 100 AD, we see the Fragments of Papias, which give similar testimony - calling the man "Cleophas or Alphaeus", and saying "Whom John names of Cleophas, either from her father, or from the family of the clan, or for some other reason":

Mary the wife of Cleophas or Alphaeus... Mary, mother of James the Less and Joseph, wife of Alphaeus was the sister of Mary the mother of the Lord, whom John names of Cleophas, either from her father or from the family of the clan, or for some other reason.
- Fragments of Papias, Section X [~ 100 AD]

Judas/Thaddaeus

Note that the Fragments of Papias (~100 AD) also identify the children of Mary of Clopas as "James the bishop and apostle, and of Simon and Thaddeus, and of one Joseph". A little bit later it again lists them as "James and Judas and Joseph". Judas is thus also called Thaddeus, and is a brother of James and cousin of Christ.

Mary the wife of Cleophas or Alphaeus, who was the mother of James the bishop and apostle, and of Simon and Thaddeus, and of one Joseph; [...] James and Judas and Joseph were sons of an aunt of the Lord's.
- Fragments of Papias, Section X [~ 100 AD]

We see a similar pattern in scripture. In the list of apostles in Mark 3:16-19, we see "Thaddaeus". In Luke 6:13-16, Thaddaeus is instead called "Judas of James". (A brief note: the Greek here explicitly says "Judas of James". The KJV translation interprets it as "Judas brother of James", while the ESV interprets it as "Judas the son of James". The family relationship is not explicit, and could easily be brother).

And when day came, he called his disciples and chose from them twelve, whom he named apostles: Simon, whom he named Peter, and Andrew his brother, and James and John, and Philip, and Bartholomew, and Matthew, and Thomas, and James of Alphaeus, and Simon who was called the Zealot, and Judas of James, and Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor.
- Luke 6:13-16
He appointed the twelve: Simon (to whom he gave the name Peter); James the son of Zebedee and John the brother of James (to whom he gave the name Boanerges, that is, Sons of Thunder); Andrew, and Philip, and Bartholomew, and Matthew, and Thomas, and James of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus, and Simon the Zealot, and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him.
- Mark 3:16-19

In the introduction to the book of Jude, we see a Jude (Judas) who identifies himself in relationship to his brother James:

Jude, the servant of Jesus Christ, and brother of James
- Jude 1:1

From the above, we then conclude that Judas (also called Jude or Thaddaeus), identified himself in relationship to his brother James, was a cousin of Christ, child of Mary of Clopas, author of the book of Jude, and one of the Apostles.

Summary

  • Jesus’ “brothers” [adelphos] were his cousins (Matthew 13:55)
  • At least two of them, James the less and Jude (also called Thaddaeus) were apostles (Mark 3:16-19)
  • The apostle Jude, and cousin of Jesus, wrote the book of Jude (Jude 1:1)
  • Paul met James (the Lord’s cousin and apostle) in Jerusalem (Galatians 1:19)

Historical Belief

In this section, we'll examine who over Church History was for or against the Doctrine of the Perpetual Virginity of Mary.

For

~100 AD - 200 AD: Ignatius, Polycarp, Justin Martyr, Irenaeus

Note that Polycarp was a disciple of John the Apostle, to whom Jesus entrusted Mary while on the cross.

[Secondary Source] We are, however, spending our strength on trifles, and, leaving the fountain of truth, are following the tiny streams of opinion. Might I not array against you the whole series of ancient writers? Ignatius, Polycarp, Irenæus, Justin Martyr, and many other apostolic and eloquent men, who against Ebion, Theodotus of Byzantium, and Valentinus, held these same views, and wrote volumes replete with wisdom. If you had ever read what they wrote, you would be a wiser man.
- Jerome, The Perpetual Virginity of Blessed Mary: Against Helvidius, section 19 (383 AD)

~145 AD: Protoevangelium of James

Apocryphal New Testament book, says Joseph was a widow with children from a previous marriage.

“And the priest said to Joseph, You have been chosen by lot to take into your keeping the virgin of the Lord. But Joseph refused, saying: I have children, and I am an old man, and she is a young girl. I am afraid lest I become a laughing-stock to the sons of Israel.”
- The Protoevangelium of James, Section 9

248 AD: Origen

For if Mary, as those declare who with sound mind extol her, had no other son but Jesus, and yet Jesus says to His mother, "Woman, behold your son," John 19:26 and not "Behold you have this son also," then He virtually said to her, "Lo, this is Jesus, whom you bore."
- Commentary on the Gospel of John (Book I), Section 6
But some say, basing it on a tradition in the Gospel according to Peter, as it is entitled, or "The Book of James", that the brethren of Jesus were sons of Joseph by a former wife, whom he married before Mary. Now those who say so wish to preserve the honour of Mary in virginity to the end, so that that body of hers which was appointed to minister to the Word which said, "The Holy Ghost shall come upon you, and the power of the Most High shall overshadow you" [Luke 1:35], might not know intercourse with a man after that the Holy Ghost came into her and the power from on high overshadowed her. And I think it in harmony with reason that Jesus was the first-fruit among men of the purity which consists in chastity, and Mary among women; for it were not pious to ascribe to any other than to her the first-fruit of virginity.
- Commentary on the Gospel of Matthew (Book X), Section 17

354 AD: Hilary of Poitiers

If they [the brethren of the Lord] had been Mary's sons and not those taken from Joseph's former marriage, she would never have been given over in the moment of the passion [crucifixion] to the apostle John as his mother, the Lord saying to each, 'Woman, behold your son,' and to John, 'Behold your mother' [John 19:26-27], as he bequeathed filial love to a disciple as a consolation to the one desolate
- Commentary on Matthew verse 1:4, page 45-46

360 AD: Athanasius

Therefore let those who deny that the Son is from the Father by nature and proper to His Essence, deny also that He took true human flesh of Mary Ever-Virgin
- Discourse 2 Against the Arians, Section 70

373 AD: Ephrem

Because there are those who dare to say that Mary cohabited with Joseph after she bore the Redeemer, we reply, 'How would it have been possible for her who was the home of the indwelling of the Spirit, whom the divine power overshadowed, that she be joined by a mortal being, and gave birth filled with birthpangs, in the image of the primeval curse?' If Mary was blessed of women, she would have been exempt from the curse from the beginning, and from the bearing of children in birthpangs and curses. It would be impossible therefore to call one who gave birth with these birthpangs blessed.
- Commentary on Tatian's Diatessaron

~375 AD: Basil of Caesarea

For "he did not know her" - it says - "until she gave birth to a Son, her firstborn" (Mt 1:25). But this could make one suppose that Mary, after having offered in all purity her own service in giving birth to the Lord, by virtue of the intervention of the Holy Spirit, did not subsequently refrain from normal conjugal relations. 
 
That would not have affected the teaching of our religion at all, because Mary's virginity was necessary until the service of the Incarnation, and what happened afterward need not be investigated in order to affect the doctrine of the mystery. 
 
But since the lovers of Christ do not allow themselves to hear that the Mother of God ceased at a given moment to be a virgin, we consider their testimony to be sufficient.
 
- Homily: On the holy generation of Christ


375 AD: Epiphanius

For I have heard from someone that certain persons are venturing to say that [Mary] had marital relations after the Savior’s birth. And I am not surprised. The ignorance of persons who do not know the sacred scriptures well and have not consulted histories, always turn them to one thing after another, and distracts anyone who wants to track down something about the truth out of his own head.
 
To begin with, when the Virgin was entrusted to Joseph - lots having compelled her to take this step - she was not entrusted to him for marriage, since he was a widower. He was called her husband because of the Law, but it plainly follows from the Jewish tradition that the Virgin was not entrusted to him for matrimony.
 
- The Panarion of Epiphanius of Salamis: De fide. Books II and III, page 620, 7.1

383 AD: Jerome

In his letter The Perpetual Virginity of Blessed Mary: Against Helvidius, Jerome gives an extensive biblical argument that the ‘adelphos’ of Christ, commonly rendered as brothers, are his cousins (sons of Mary of Clopas, who is Jesus’ aunt). Also gives many counterexamples against Helvidius’ proposed Matthew 1:25 interpretation.

It is clear, says [Helvidius], that she was known after she brought forth, and that that knowledge was only delayed by her engendering a son. To defend his position he piles up text upon text, waves his sword like a blind-folded gladiator, rattles his noisy tongue, and ends with wounding no one but himself.
- The Perpetual Virginity of Blessed Mary: Against Helvidius, section 5

386 AD: Didymus the Blind

It helps us to understand the terms 'first-born' and 'only-begotten' when the Evangelist tells that Mary remained a virgin 'until she brought forth her first-born son' [Matt. 1:25]; for neither did Mary, who is to be honored and praised above all others, marry anyone else, nor did she ever become the Mother of anyone else, but even after childbirth she remained always and forever an immaculate virgin 
- The Trinity 3:4

388 AD: Ambrose of Milan

Citing the prophecy in Ezekiel 44:1-2, Ambrose links it to Mary:

Then he brought me back to the outer gate of the sanctuary, facing the east; but it was closed. He said to me: 'This gate is to remain closed; it is not to be opened for anyone to enter by it; since the Lord, the God of Israel, has entered by it, it shall remain closed'... Who is this gate, if not Mary? Is it not closed because she is a virgin? Mary is the gate through which Christ entered this world, when he was brought forth in the virginal birth and the manner of His birth did not break the seals of virginity... There is a gate of the womb, although it is not always closed; indeed only one was able to remain closed, that through which the One born of the Virgin came forth without the loss of genital intactness.
- De institutione virginum 8.52
Imitate her [Mary], holy mothers, who in her only dearly beloved Son set forth so great an example of material virtue; for neither have you sweeter children [than Jesus], nor did the Virgin seek the consolation of being able to bear another son
- Letter 63, Section 111

401 AD: Augustine

It was not the visible sun, but its invisible Creator who consecrated this day for us, when the Virgin Mother, fertile of womb and integral in her virginity, brought him forth, made visible for us, by whom, when he was invisible, she too was created. A Virgin conceiving, a Virgin bearing, a Virgin pregnant, a Virgin bringing forth, a Virgin perpetual. Why do you wonder at this, O man?
- Sermons 186
Thus Christ by being born of a virgin, who, before she knew Who was to be born of her, had determined to continue a virgin, chose rather to approve, than to command, holy virginity. And thus, even in the female herself, in whom He took the form of a servant, He willed that virginity should be free.
- Of Holy Virginity, Section 4
Those heretics were called Antidicomarites who denied the virginity of Mary to the point that they claim that after the birth of Christ she had intercourse with her husband.
- Heresies LVI

426 AD: Leporius

We confess, therefore, that our Lord and God, Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, born of the Father before the ages, and in times most recent, made man of the Holy Spirit and the ever-virgin Mary
- Document of Amendment 3

430 AD: Cyril of Alexandria

[T]he Word himself, coming into the Blessed Virgin herself, assumed for himself his own temple from the substance of the Virgin and came forth from her a man in all that could be externally discerned, while interiorly he was true God. Therefore he kept his Mother a virgin even after her childbearing
- Against Those Who Do Not Wish to Confess That the Holy Virgin is the Mother of God 4

~440 AD: Peter Chrysologus

Where are they who think that the Virgin’s conceiving and the Virgin’s giving birth are like those of other women... A Virgin conceived, a Virgin bore, and a Virgin she remains.
- The Fathers of the Church, A New Translation, Vol. 17, Sermon 117 “The First Adam, and the Last Adam, Born of a Virgin” p.199

450 AD: Pope Leo I

Leo the Great was bishop of Rome, best known for meeting Attila the Hun and persuading him to turn back from his invasion of Italy.

His [Christ’s] origin is different, but his [human] nature is the same. Human usage and custom were lacking, but by divine power a Virgin conceived, a Virgin bore, and Virgin she remained
- Sermons 22:2

553 AD: Second Council of Constantinople

If anyone shall not confess that the Word of God has two nativities, the one from all eternity of the Father, without time and without body; the other in these last days, coming down from heaven and being made flesh of the holy and glorious Mary, Mother of God and always a virgin, and born of her: let him be anathema.
- Second Council of Constantinople, The Capitula of the Council, #2

649 AD: Lateran Council

If anyone does not in accord with the Holy Fathers acknowledge the holy and ever virgin and immaculate Mary was really and truly the Mother of God, inasmuch as she, in the fullness of time, and without seed, conceived by the Holy Spirit, God in the Word Himself, who before all time was born of God the Father, and without loss of integrity brought Him forth, and after His birth preserved her virginity inviolate, let him be condemned.
- Lateran Council, Oct, 649, DS 503.

749 AD: John Damascene

And just as He that was conceived kept her that conceived a Virgin still, He that was born kept her virginity intact, only passing through her and keeping her closed. The conception was through the sense of hearing; but the birth was through the usual channel by which children come, even if some do prattle of His birth being through the side of the Mother of God. Certainly it was not impossible for Him to come by this gate without injuring its seal in any way. Thus the Ever-Virgin remains after birth a Virgin still, never having consorted with man until death. ... For how were it possible that she, who had borne God, and had come to know that miracle from her experience of subsequent events, should receive the embrace of a man? Perish the thought!
- The Source of Knowledge, 3, 4, 14

~1270 AD: Thomas Aquinas

Without any hesitation we must abhor the error of Helvidius, who dared to assert that Christ's Mother, after His Birth, was carnally known by Joseph, and bore other children. For, in the first place, this is derogatory to Christ's perfection: for as He is in His Godhead the Only-Begotten of the Father, being thus His Son in every respect perfect, so it was becoming that He should be the Only-begotten son of His Mother, as being her perfect offspring.
 
Secondly, this error is an insult to the Holy Ghost, whose "shrine" was the virginal womb ["Sacrarium Spiritus Sancti" (Office of B. M. V., Ant. ad Benedictus, T. P.), wherein He had formed the flesh of Christ: wherefore it was unbecoming that it should be desecrated by intercourse with man.
 
Thirdly, this is derogatory to the dignity and holiness of God's Mother: for thus she would seem to be most ungrateful, were she not content with such a Son; and were she, of her own accord, by carnal intercourse to forfeit that virginity which had been miraculously preserved in her.
 
Fourthly, it would be tantamount to an imputation of extreme presumption in Joseph, to assume that he attempted to violate her whom by the angel's revelation he knew to have conceived by the Holy Ghost.
 
We must therefore simply assert that the Mother of God, as she was a virgin in conceiving Him and a virgin in giving Him birth, did she remain a virgin ever afterwards.
 
- Summa Theologiae, Third Part, Question 28, Article 3

1522 AD: Zwingli, Protestant

I have never thought, still less taught, or declared publicly, anything concerning the subject of the ever Virgin Mary, Mother of our salvation, which could be considered dishonourable, impious, unworthy or evil . . . I believe with all my heart according to the word of holy gospel that this pure virgin bore for us the Son of God and that she remained, in the birth and after it, a pure and unsullied virgin, for eternity.
- A sermon entitled “Mary, ever virgin, mother of God”

1539 AD: Martin Luther, Protestant

Scripture does not say or indicate that she later lost her virginity... When Matthew [1:25] says that Joseph did not know Mary carnally until she had brought forth her son, it does not follow that he knew her subsequently; 
- That Jesus Christ was Born a Jew
Christ... was the only Son of Mary, and the Virgin Mary bore no children besides Him... I am inclined to agree with those who declare that 'brothers' really mean 'cousins' here, for Holy Writ and the Jews always call cousins brothers. 
- Sermons on John, chaps. 1-4
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. 
- Sermons on John, chaps. 1-4)

1562 AD: John Calvin, Protestant

Helvidius displayed excessive ignorance in concluding that Mary must have had many sons, because Christ's 'brothers' are sometimes mentioned.
- Commentary on Mark, Chapter 6, Verse 3
Under the word 'brethren' the Hebrews include all cousins and other relations, whatever may be the degree of affinity.
- John Calvin's Bible Commentaries On The Gospel Of John, 1-11, specifically John 7:3 (page 201)
[On Matt 1:25:] The inference he [Helvidius] drew from it was, that Mary remained a virgin no longer than till her first birth, and that afterwards she had other children by her husband... No just and well-grounded inference can be drawn from these words... as to what took place after the birth of Christ. He is called 'first-born'; but it is for the sole purpose of informing us that he was born of a virgin... What took place afterwards the historian does not inform us... No man will obstinately keep up the argument, except from an extreme fondness for disputation.
- Works, Volume 31, Harmony of the Evangelists #25 (page 107)

1749 AD: John Wesley, Protestant

I believe that He [Jesus] was made man, joining the human nature with the divine in one person; being conceived by the singular operation of the Holy Ghost, and born of the blessed Virgin Mary, who, as well after as before she brought Him forth, continued a pure and unspotted virgin.
- Letter to a Roman Catholic, DUBLIN July 18, 1749

Against

209 AD: Tertullian

Said Mary was a virgin before the birth of Christ, but the act of giving birth caused her to cease to be a virgin.

...although she was a virgin when she conceived, she was a wife when she brought forth her son
- On the Flesh of Christ, Chapter 23

~360 AD: Eunomius of Cyzicus, Arian heretic

[Secondary Source] Therefore he said, "But he knew her not until she had given birth to a son." He knew who she was after his birth. From this statement, some people, following Eunomius, think that until Mary gave birth Joseph did not have carnal relations with her, but afterwards he knew her and she gave birth to children.
- Incomplete Commentary on Matthew (Opus Imperfectum), on Matthew 1:25 (~400 AD)

~383 AD: Helvidius

None of his works survived, but his teachings are preserved in Jerome’s letter against him.

From Jerome’s letter, we find that Helvidius believed the brothers/sisters of the Lord, mentioned in the Bible, must be sons of Mary. Helvidius uses all the common modern arguments (e.g. Matthew 1:25), and supports his opinion by the writings of Tertullian and Victorinus.

390 AD: Jovinianus, heretic

[Secondary Source] He calls the Catholics Manicheans, after the manner of that Jovinian who a few years ago, as a new heretic, destroyed the virginity of the blessed Mary, and placed the marriage of the faithful on the same level with her sacred virginity.
- Augustine, Against Two Letters of the Pelagians (Book I), Chapter 4

391 AD: Bonosus, heretic

[Secondary Source] Your Reverence was perfectly justified in rebuking him [i.e. Bonosus] on the score of Mary's children, and you had good reason to be horrified at the thought that another birth might issue from the same virginal womb from which Christ was born according to the flesh. For the Lord Jesus would never have chosen to be born of a virgin if He had ever judged that she would be so incontinent as to contaminate with the seed of human intercourse the birthplace of the Lord's body, that court of the Eternal King.
- A letter written by Ambrose(?) after Bonosus was condemned by the bishops of Illyricum

How did this shift in historical church thought happen?

We can clearly see that the church overwhelming believed in this doctrine from the beginning - including the early Protestants. Why then do modern Protestants reject this teaching? How did that shift occur?

Sola Scriptura vs. "Solo" Scriptura

With Sola Scriptura, scripture is the only ultimate authority. Thus the earlier reformers had no problem accepting the doctrine, because the Bible allowed for it, and other lesser authorities supported it (since it was an accepted church doctrine almost universally, the only exceptions being Tertullian ~200 AD and a handful of heretics in the mid/late 300s).

With "Solo" Scriptura, scripture is the only authority. This is what modern Protestantism has slid into, and is the difference between modern Protestants and the early Protestants. If Scripture doesn't explicitly teach the doctrine (and Catholics accept it), it's rejected out of hand - the historic beliefs on it do not matter and there is no concept of lesser authority. The anti-Catholic bias here I think is a big deal - modern Protestants accept other doctrines with less biblical support without issue (because Catholics don't) - e.g. infant dedication.

For more on this topic, visit this blogpost: Solo Scriptura, Sola Scriptura, and the Question of Interpretive Authority.

Perpetual Virginity of Mary through "Solo" Scriptura eyes

Let us review the below verses in the popular modern Protestant Bible translation, the ESV:

Luke 6:15 (list of apostles)
and Matthew, and Thomas, and James the son of Alphaeus, and Simon who was called the Zealot
Luke 6:16 (list of apostles)
and Judas the son of James, and Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor.
John 19:25
but standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother and his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene.
Matthew 13:55
Is not this the carpenter's son? Is not his mother called Mary? And are not his brothers James and Joseph and Simon and Judas?

A plain reading of these scriptures in the ESV translation suggest four separate family trees, like so:

Esv family tree n.png

But when you look at the actual Greek text the translation is based off of, you'll see something is missing:

Luke 6:15
James of Alphaeus
Luke 6:16
Judas of James
John 19:25
Mary of Clopas
Matthew 13:55
'adelphoi' James and Joseph and Simon and Judas?

In the first three verses, the familial relationship is left unspecified in the Greek text, while the ESV translation inserts what it deems the most likely exact family relationship.

The the fourth verse, the Greek text uses a general term 'adelphoi' for the relationship between Jesus and James/Joseph/Simon/Judas, which can simply mean 'kin' (Gen 14:14, Gen 29:15), while the ESV uses a term that evokes a far more specific relationship - brothers.

Thus early Protestants, and all the ancient church fathers, were reading a text that allows for the following:

  • The "brothers and sisters" of the Lord to be interpreted as a more broad family relationship, such as cousins (in accordance with usage of the word in the Septuagint).
  • Judas of James to be simply a Judas who is identified in relationship to his brother James (and thus he is the author of the Book of Jude who identifies himself in the same way, and the Jude referenced in Matthew 13:55 who is a brother of James and adelphos of Christ)
  • James of Alphaeus + Mary of Clopas: Alphaeus could be another name for Clopas (as Jerome posits, giving many examples of people in Scripture who had two names), or Clopas could be referencing something other than her husband's name as the Fragment of Papias (from ~100 AD) suggests.
"Mary, mother of James the Less and Joseph, wife of Alphaeus was the sister of Mary the mother of the Lord, whom John names of Cleophas, either from her father or from the family of the clan, or for some other reason." 
- Fragment of Papias

This is very different than what modern Protestants are reading, which is a modern translation that forces the above relationships to feel unnatural in a "plain" reading of Scripture.

Concluding Thoughts

Every age has its own outlook. It is specially good at seeing certain truths and specially liable to make certain mistakes. We all, therefore, need the books that will correct the characteristic mistakes of our own period. And that means the old books. All contemporary writers share to some extent the contemporary outlook—even those, like myself, who seem most opposed to it.
- C.S. Lewis, “On the reading of old books,” God in the Dock