Who were the Brothers of Christ?
Modern Protestant Christianity nearly universally believes that Mary, the mother of Jesus, had other children after Jesus - and these are the brothers and sisters of Christ mentioned in the Scriptures.
How then can Catholics believe in the Perpetual Virginity of Mary - that Mary had no other sons but Jesus? In this book, we'll dig into ancient arguments and sources on who these brothers of Christ were, and what happened to them.
- 1 Adelphos
- 2 Psalm 69, a Messianic Psalm
- 3 Matthew 1:25, heōs
- 4 John 19, Behold your mother
- 5 Ezekiel 44 Prophecy
- 6 The Jameses
- 6.1 Modern Protestant Belief (Jameses)
- 6.2 Problems with Modern Protestant Belief (Jameses)
- 6.3 Historical Christian Belief (Jameses)
- 6.4 Historical Record Compilation (Jameses)
- 7 Appendices
- 7.1 Appendix, Jerome's treatise (~383 AD)
- 7.2 Appendix, Aquinas's proof (~1274 AD)
- 7.3 Appendix, Historical Belief FOR Perpetual Virginity of Mary
- 7.3.1 ~145 AD: Protoevangelium of James
- 7.3.2 248 AD: Origen
- 7.3.3 354 AD: Hilary of Poitiers
- 7.3.4 360 AD: Athanasius
- 7.3.5 373 AD: Ephrem
- 7.3.6 ~375 AD: Basil of Caesarea
- 7.3.7 375 AD: Epiphanius
- 7.3.8 383 AD: Jerome
- 7.3.9 386 AD: Didymus the Blind
- 7.3.10 388 AD: Ambrose of Milan
- 7.3.11 401 AD: Augustine
- 7.3.12 426 AD: Leporius
- 7.3.13 430 AD: Cyril of Alexandria
- 7.3.14 ~440 AD: Peter Chrysologus
- 7.3.15 450 AD: Pope Leo I
- 7.3.16 553 AD: Second Council of Constantinople
- 7.3.17 649 AD: Lateran Council
- 7.3.18 749 AD: John Damascene
- 7.3.19 ~1270 AD: Thomas Aquinas
- 7.3.20 1522 AD: Zwingli, Protestant
- 7.3.21 1539 AD: Martin Luther, Protestant
- 7.3.22 1562 AD: John Calvin, Protestant
- 7.3.23 1749 AD: John Wesley, Protestant
- 7.4 Appendix, Historical Belief AGAINST Perpetual Virginity of Mary
- 8 References
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
Modern Protestant Belief (Adelphos)
The Greek word adelphos is used 343 times in the New Testament, and each time refers to spiritual brothers or blood brothers. Therefore the most natural interpretation of these verses are that they are speaking of Jesus’ blood brothers, born of Mary.
Some try to say that adelphos here really means cousins or kin, but there's a problem with that. The New Testament uses the exact Greek word for cousins (anepsios) once in Colossians, and uses the Greek word for kinsman or relative (suggenes) 12 times – and neither of these two words was used to describe the brothers of Christ.
Problems with Modern Protestant Belief (Adelphos)
The modern Protestant argument defines the Greek word adelphos solely based off its usage in the New Testament. This is insufficient.
A few hundred years before Christ, a Greek translation of the Old Testament was made, called the Septuagint. This Septuagint was the primary form of the Old Testament used by the Greek speaking culture in Jesus’ time, both for Jesus himself and for the New Testament authors.
Looking in the Septuagint, we can see how the Old Testament that Jesus himself read uses the Greek word adelphos.
Genesis 14:14 [Septuagint] And Abram having heard that Lot his nephew [adelphidous] had been taken captive
Genesis 29:15 [Septuagint] Then Laban said to Jacob, 'Because you are my kinsman [adelphos], should you therefore serve me for nothing? Tell me, what shall your wages be?'
2 Samuel 1:26 [Septuagint] [David speaking to his close friend] I am grieved for thee, my brother [adelphe] Jonathan.
1 Kings 9:13 [Septuagint] [Hiram speaking to his ally Solomon] What are these cities which you have given me, brother [adelphe]?
Amos 1:9 [Septuagint] Thus saith the Lord; For three transgressions of Tyre, and for four, I will not turn away from it; because they shut up the prisoners of Solomon into Idumea, and remembered not the covenant of brethren [adelphōn].
Clearly the word 'adelphos' had a far broader meaning than simply blood brothers, and could mean kin/relations, or even close friends.
The objection may be raised, “How do we know that Jesus and the New Testament authors used the Septuagint?”
Most modern Old Testament translations are primarily based off the Masoretic Text - and there are several differences between the Septuagint and the Masoretic Text. By reviewing quotations of the Old Testament in the New Testament, we can prove that the New Testament authors were quoting from the Septuagint Old Testament (as they were quoting things that appear differently than in the Masoretic Text). Let us look at some examples.
- In Matthew 21:16, Jesus quotes Psalm 8:2 saying "Out of the mouth of infants and nursing babies you have ordained praise". The Septuagint translation's Psalm 8:2 also says "ordained praise" - but the Masoretic Text says "ordained strength".
- 1 Peter 4:18 quotes the Septuagint Proverbs 11:31 as "If the truly righteous is scarcely saved, what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?". The Masoretic Text says, "If the righteous is repaid on earth, how much more the wicked and the sinner!"
- Hebrews 11:21 quotes the Septuagint Genesis 47:31 with Jacob bowing in worship over the head of his staff, while the Masoretic Text has Jacob bowing over the head of his bed.
- Hebrews 10:5-7 quotes the Septuagint Psalm 40:6-8 as "a body have you prepared for me", while the Masoretic Text reads as "you have given me an open ear".
- Acts 13:41 quotes the Septuagint Habakkuk 1:5 starting with "Look, you scoffers", while the Masoretic Text starts with "Look among the nations".
- Acts 7:42-43 quotes the Septuagint Amos 5:25-27 as "You took up the tent of Moloch and the star of your god Rephan", while the Masoretic Text reads as "You shall take up Sikkuth your king, and Kiyyun your star-god".
- Acts 8:32-33 quotes the Septuagint Isaiah 53:7-8 as "In his humiliation justice was denied him. Who can describe his generation? For his life is taken away from the earth.", while the Masoretic Text reads as "By oppression and judgment he was taken away; and as for his generation, who considered that he was cut off out of the land of the living".
- James 4:6 quotes the Septuagint Proverbs 3:34 as "opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble", while the Masoretic Text reads similarly but with different underlying word-concepts as "scorns the scornful but he gives grace to the lowly".
In the book "Old Testament Quotations in the New Testament: A Complete Survey" (pages 25-32), by Protestant authors G. Archer and G. C. Chirichigno, we see that of the 386 times that the New Testament explicitly quotes from the Old Testament, 340 of those are from the Septuagint translation.
Thus, we can say that both Jesus and the authors of the New Testament used the Greek translation of the Old Testament (the Septuagint), and that to determine the meaning of adelphos you must review not only New Testament usage, but the usage within the Greek Old Testament. When you account for the usage within the Greek Old Testament, adelphos can mean kin, relations, friends, or even allies – and thus does not require a meaning of blood brothers.
When we look at the context in the New Testament of everywhere the adelphos of Christ are mentioned, we note that throughout the New Testament Jesus is frequently referred to as the son of Mary, but his adelphos (even in the same passage) are never referred to that way (Matthew 13:55, Mark 3:31-32, Mark 6:3, John 2:1-12, John 19:25-26, Acts 1:14). Additionally, in Luke 2:41-51 when Jesus is 12 years of age and goes to the temple in Jerusalem with his family there is no mention of other children in his family.
Historical Christian Belief (Adelphos)
This argument was first proposed by Helvidius around 383 AD. Jerome immediately shut it down, and Jerome's interpretation remained the standard interpretation of Christianity from that time up until the Reformation, and then even after the Reformation when Martin Luther and John Calvin agreed with Jerome's interpretation. It hasn't been until modern Protestantism that the argument has returned.
Jerome & Helvidius (~383 AD)
Jerome (~383 AD) in his Against Helvidius:
How then, says Helvidius, do you make out that they were called the Lord's brethren who were not his brethren? I will show how that is. In Holy Scripture there are four kinds of brothers--by nature, race, kindred, love. Instances of brothers by nature are Esau and Jacob, the twelve patriarchs, Andrew and Peter, James and John. As to race, all Jews are called brothers of one another, as in Deuteronomy, [Deuteronomy 15:12] "If your brother, a Hebrew man, or a Hebrew woman, be sold unto you, and serve you six years; then in the seventh year you shall let him go free from you." And in the same book, [Deuteronomy 17:15] "You shall in anywise set him king over you, whom the Lord your God shall choose: one from among your brothers shall you set king over you; you may not put a foreigner over you, which is not your brother." And again, [Deuteronomy 22:1] "You shall not see your brother's ox or his sheep go astray, and hide yourself from them: you shall surely bring them again unto your brother. And if your brother be not near to you, or if you know him not, then you shall bring it home to your house, and it shall be with you until your brother seek after it, and you shall restore it to him again." And the Apostle Paul says, [Romans 9:3,4] "I could wish that I myself were anathema from Christ for my brothers' sake, my kinsmen according to the flesh: who are Israelites." Moreover they are called brothers by kindred who are of one family, that is patria, which corresponds to the Latin paternitas, because from a single root a numerous progeny proceeds. In Genesis [Genesis 8:8,11] we read, "And Abram said unto Lot, Let there be no strife, I pray you, between me and you, and between my herdmen and your herdmen; for we are brothers." And again, "So Lot chose him all the plain of Jordan, and Lot journeyed east: and they separated each from his brother." Certainly Lot was not Abraham's brother, but the son of Abraham's brother Aram. For Terah begat Abraham and Nahor and Aram: and Aram begat Lot. Again we read, [Genesis 7:4] "And Abram was seventy and five years old when he departed out of Haran. And Abram took Sarai his wife, and Lot his brother's son." But if you still doubt whether a nephew can be called a son, let me give you an instance. [Genesis 14:14] "And when Abram heard that his brother was taken captive, he led forth his trained men, born in his house, three hundred and eighteen." And after describing the night attack and the slaughter, he adds, "And he brought back all the goods, and also brought again his brother Lot." Let this suffice by way of proof of my assertion. But for fear you may make some cavilling objection, and wriggle out of your difficulty like a snake, I must bind you fast with the bonds of proof to stop your hissing and complaining, for I know you would like to say you have been overcome not so much by Scripture truth as by intricate arguments. Jacob, the son of Isaac and Rebecca, when in fear of his brother's treachery he had gone to Mesopotamia, drew nigh and rolled away the stone from the mouth of the well, and watered the flocks of Laban, his mother's brother. [Genesis 29:11] "And Jacob kissed Rachel, and lifted up his voice, and wept. And Jacob told Rachel that he was her father's brother, and that he was Rebekah's son." Here is an example of the rule already referred to, by which a nephew is called a brother. And again, [Genesis 29:15] "Laban said unto Jacob. Because you are my brother, should you therefore serve me for nothing? Tell me what shall your wages be." And so, when, at the end of twenty years, without the knowledge of his father-in-law and accompanied by his wives and sons he was returning to his country, on Laban overtaking him in the mountain of Gilead and failing to find the idols which Rachel hid among the baggage, Jacob answered and said to Laban, [Genesis 31:36-37] "What is my trespass? What is my sin, that you have so hotly pursued after me? Whereas you have felt all about my stuff, what have you found of all your household stuff? Set it here before my brothers and your brothers, that they may judge betwixt us two." Tell me who are those brothers of Jacob and Laban who were present there? Esau, Jacob's brother, was certainly not there, and Laban, the son of Bethuel, had no brothers although he had a sister Rebecca. Innumerable instances of the same kind are to be found in the sacred books. But, to be brief, I will return to the last of the four classes of brothers, those, namely, who are brothers by affection, and these again fall into two divisions, those of the spiritual and those of the general relationship. I say spiritual because all of us Christians are called brothers, as in the verse, [Psalm 133:1] "Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brothers to dwell together in unity." And in another psalm the Savior says, [Psalm 22:22] "I will declare your name unto my brothers." And elsewhere, [John 20:17] "Go to my brothers and say to them." I say also general, because we are all children of one Father, there is a like bond of brotherhood between us all. [Isaiah 66:5] "Tell these who hate you," says the prophet, "you are our brothers." And the Apostle writing to the Corinthians: [1 Corinthians 5:11] "If any man that is named brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or an extortioner: with such a one no, not to eat." I now ask to which class you consider the Lord's brothers in the Gospel must be assigned. They are brothers by nature, you say. But Scripture does not say so; it calls them neither sons of Mary, nor of Joseph. Shall we say they are brothers by race? But it is absurd to suppose that a few Jews were called His brothers when all Jews of the time might upon this principle have borne the title. Were they brothers by virtue of close intimacy and the union of heart and mind? If that were so, who were more truly His brothers than the apostles who received His private instruction and were called by Him His mother and His brothers? Again, if all men, as such, were His brothers, it would have been foolish to deliver a special message, "Behold, your brothers seek you," for all men alike were entitled to the name. The only alternative is to adopt the previous explanation and understand them to be called brothers in virtue of the bond of kindred, not of love and sympathy, nor by prerogative of race, nor yet by nature. Just as Lot was called Abraham's brother, and Jacob Laban's, just as the daughters of Zelophehad received a lot among their brothers, just as Abraham himself had to wife Sarah his sister, for he says, [Genesis 20:11] "She is indeed my sister, on the father's side, not on the mother's," that is to say, she was the daughter of his brother, not of his sister. Otherwise, what are we to say of Abraham, a just man, taking to wife the daughter of his own father? Scripture, in relating the history of the men of early times, does not outrage our ears by speaking of the enormity in express terms, but prefers to leave it to be inferred by the reader: and God afterwards gives to the prohibition the sanction of the law, and threatens, [Leviticus 18:9] "He who takes his sister, born of his father, or of his mother, and beholds her nakedness, hath commited abomination, he shall be utterly destroyed. He hath uncovered his sister's nakedness, he shall bear his sin." [...] It is clear that our Lord's brothers bore the name in the same way that Joseph was called his father: [Luke 1:18] "I and your father sought you sorrowing." It was His mother who said this, not the Jews. The Evangelist himself relates that His father and His mother were marveling at the things which were spoken concerning Him, and there are similar passages which we have already quoted in which Joseph and Mary are called his parents. Seeing that you have been foolish enough to persuade yourself that the Greek manuscripts are corrupt, you will perhaps plead the diversity of readings. I therefore come to the Gospel of John, and there it is plainly written, [John 1:45] "Philip found Nathanael, and said to him, We have found him of whom Moses in the law, and the prophets did write, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph." You will certainly find this in your manuscript. Now tell me, how is Jesus the son of Joseph when it is clear that He was begotten of the Holy Ghost? Was Joseph His true father? Dull as you are, you will not venture to say that. Was he His reputed father? If so, let the same rule be applied to them when they are called brothers, that you apply to Joseph when he is called father.
Martin Luther (~1539 AD)
Martin Luther (in his Sermons on John, Chapters 1-4) says:
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.
John Calvin (~1562 AD)
John Calvin (in his commentary on John 7:3) says:
Under the word 'brethren' [adelphos] the Hebrews include all cousins and other relations, whatever may be the degree of affinity.
Psalm 69, a Messianic Psalm
But this came to pass, that the word might be fulfilled that is written in their Law, "They hated me without a cause." - John 15:25, quoting Psalm 69:4
And his disciples remembered that it was written, "Zeal for your house will consume me." - John 2:17, quoting Psalm 69:9
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, you know my foolishness; and my sins are not hid from you. 6Let not them that wait on you, O Lord God of hosts, be ashamed for my sake: let not those that seek you be confounded for my sake, O God of Israel. 7Because for your sake I have borne reproach; shame has covered my face. 8I am become a stranger unto my brethren, and an alien unto my mother's children. 9For zeal for your house has consumed me; and the reproaches of them that reproached you fall upon me. - Psalm 69:4-9
Modern Protestant Belief (Psalm 69)
Psalm 69 is a messianic psalm about Jesus. Psalm 69:4 is quoted in John 15:25 as pointing to Jesus, and Psalm 69:9 is quoted in John 2:17 as pointing to Jesus.
Therefore Psalm 69:8 must also be pointing to Jesus, which says "I am become a stranger unto my brethren, and an alien unto my mother's children." In this passage, "my mother's children" is clear and must be referring to other children of Mary. 
Problems with Modern Protestant Belief (Psalm 69)
Following that logic, Psalm 69:5 must also refer to Jesus, which says "O God, you know my foolishness; and my sins are not hid from you."
But that's nonsense, as Christ is sinless (2 Corinthians 5:21, 1 John 3:5). Therefore your logic must be flawed.
The flaw 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 she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus. - Matthew 1:24-25
Modern Protestant Belief (Matthew 1:25)
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 - and thus Mary did not remain a virgin, and likely had further children after Jesus.
Problems with Modern Protestant Belief (Matthew 1:25)
The word "until" is the Greek word heōs. It does not imply Mary and Joseph had customary marital relations after the birth of Jesus.
Matthew 28:20 says, "Lo, I am with you always, even unto [heōs] the end of the world." Using your interpretation of the word heōs, this verse implies the Lord will forsake His disciples after the end of the world.
1 Corinthians 15:25 says, "For he must reign, till [heōs] he has put all enemies under his feet." Using your interpretation of the word heōs, this verse implies the Lord will reign only until His enemies begin to be under His feet, and once they are under His feet He will 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.
Thus, this Scripture still allows for the Perpetual Virginity of Mary.
Historical Christian Belief (Matthew 1:25)
Helvidius (~383 AD)
Helvidius (quoted by Jerome in Against Helvidius):
The passage for discussion now is, [Matthew 1:24,25] "And Joseph arose from his sleep, and did as the angel of the Lord commanded him, and took unto him his wife and knew her not till she had brought forth a son, and he called his name Jesus." [...] the adverb till implies a fixed and definite time, and when that is fulfilled, he says the event takes place which previously did not take place, as in the case before us, "and knew her not till she had brought forth a son." It is clear, says he, that she was known after she brought forth, and that that knowledge was only delayed by her engendering a son... Why could not Scripture say, as it said of Thamar and Judah, [Genesis 38:26] And he took his wife, and knew her again no more'? Could not Matthew find words to express his meaning? He knew her not,' he says, until she brought forth a son.' He did then, after her delivery, know her, whom he had refrained from knowing until she was delivered."
Jerome (~383 AD)
Jerome replies to Helvidius in his Against Helvidius:
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 Savior in the Gospel tells the Apostles, [Matthew 28:20] "Lo, I am with you always, 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 fullness 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.
In response to the argument that it's natural for a married couple to have sex, so we should assume Mary/Joseph did... Jerome says this:
But as we do not deny what is written, so we do reject what is not written. We believe that God was born of the Virgin, because we read it. That Mary was married after she brought forth, we do not believe, because we do not read it. Nor do we say this to condemn marriage, for virginity itself is the fruit of marriage; but because when we are dealing with saints we must not judge rashly. If we adopt possibility as the standard of judgment, we might maintain that Joseph had several wives because Abraham had, and so had Jacob, and that the Lord's brethren were the issue of those wives, an invention which some hold with a rashness which springs from audacity not from piety.
Martin Luther (~1539 AD)
Martin Luther agrees with Jerome against Helvidius. In his book "That Jesus Christ was Born a Jew", he says:
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.
John Calvin (~1562 AD)
John Calvin also agrees with Jerome. In Works "Volume 31, Harmony of the Evangelists" #25, page 107:
And knew her not. This passage afforded the pretext for great disturbances, which were introduced into the Church, at a former period, by Helvidius. The inference he 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. Jerome, on the other hand, earnestly and copiously defended Mary's perpetual virginity. Let us rest satisfied with this, that no just and well-grounded inference can be drawn from these words of the Evangelist, as to what took place after the birth of Christ... It is said that Joseph knew her not till she had brought forth her first-born son: but this is limited to that very time. What took place afterwards, the historian does not inform us. Such is well known to have been the practice of inspired writers. Certainly, no man will ever raise a question on this subject, except from curiosity; and no man will obstinately keep up the argument, except from an extreme fondness for disputation.
John 19, Behold your mother
John 19:26-27 says:
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.
Jesus is dying on the cross and he entrusts his mother Mary to his disciple John. If Mary had other sons, why would 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?
Historical Christian Belief (John 19)
Origen (~248 AD)
Origen says in his Commentary on the Gospel of John (Book I), Section 6:
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."
Hilary of Poitiers (~354 AD)
Hilary of Poitiers says in his Commentary on Matthew verse 1:4, page 45-46:
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
Ezekiel 44 Prophecy
Then he brought me back to the outer gate of the sanctuary, which faces east. And it was shut. And the Lord said to me, 'This gate shall remain shut; it shall not be opened, and no one shall enter by it, for the Lord, the God of Israel, has entered by it. Therefore it shall remain shut.' - Ezekiel 44:1-2
Historical Christian Belief (Ezekiel 44)
Historically the church has believed this to be a messianic prophecy, referring to Mary continuing as a virgin after the birth of Jesus.
Ambrose (~388 AD)
Ambrose, in his De institutione virginum 8.52, says:
Who is this gate (Ezekiel 44:1-4), 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.
Augustine (~390 AD)
Augustine's interpretation of this verse follows (from his De Annunt. Dom. iii, quoted in Aquina's Summa Theologica):
What means this closed gate in the house of the Lord, except that Mary is to be ever inviolate? What does it mean that ‘no man shall pass through it,' save that Joseph shall not know her? And what is this - 'The Lord alone enters in and goeth out by it,' except that the Holy Ghost shall impregnate her, and that the Lord of Angels shall be born of her? And what means this - 'It shall be shut for evermore,' but that Mary is a Virgin before His birth, a Virgin in His birth, and a Virgin after His birth.
Jerome (~390 AD)
Jerome, in his Commentarium in Evangelium Lucae, PL 25, 430., says:
Some quite emphatically understand this closed gate through which only the Lord God of Israel passes … as the Virgin Mary, who remains a Virgin before and after childbirth. In fact, she remains always a Virgin, in the moment in which the Angel speaks with her and when the Son of God is born.
There are numerous Jameses mentioned in the New Testament (Mark 6:3, Mark 15:40, and three in Luke 6:13-16). Who are they - are they all different Jameses? This is relevant to unravel the mystery of who James, the 'adelphos' of Christ was.
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 here with us?” And they took offense at him. - Mark 6:3
There were also women looking on afar off: among whom was Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James the less and of Joses, and Salome; - Mark 15:40
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 the son of Alphaeus, and Simon who was called the Zealot, and Judas of James, and Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor. - Luke 6:13-16 [also Mark 3:16-19]
Modern Protestant Belief (Jameses)
It's probable they are five different Jameses, though there may be some overlap.
The first is James the brother of Jesus, as well as brother of Joseph, Judas, Simon, and some sisters (Mark 6:3, Matthew 13:55). His brother Judas (also called Jude), wrote the book of Jude, and identified himself in relationship to his more famous brother James (Jude 1).
This James did not believe in Jesus at first (John 7:3-5). However as time passed, he did come to believe in Christ, and was reckoned as an Apostle (Galatians 1:19). He wrote the New Testament Epistle of James, and became a leading figure in the church at Jerusalem - when the church met in a council to determine rules for Gentile Christians, he played a prominent role in the decision and laid down his judgment (Acts 15:12-13, 19-23).
Paul called this James (along with Cephas and John) the pillars of the church (Galatians 2:7-9). Paul regularly went out of his way to show deference to this James and sought his counsel (Acts 12:17, Acts 21:17-24, 1 Corinthians 15:3-8, Galatians 1:19).
The second is James, son of Zebedee, one of the 12 Apostles (Luke 6:13-16, Mark 3:16-19). He and his brother John (also an Apostle) were given the nicknames Sons of Thunder by Christ (Mark 3:16-19). His mother Salome was one of the women who followed Jesus, ministering to him, and was there when Jesus died (Matthew 27:55-56, Mark 15:40, Mark 16:1).
James, his brother John, and Peter were part of the inner circle of Christ - the group of 3 Apostles with whom Jesus was especially close, that saw him transfigured on the mountain, and with whom Jesus shared his sorrow in the garden of Gethsemane (Matthew 17:1-2, Matthew 26:36-38).
James died by Herod's hand in the book of Acts (Acts 12:1-2) around 44 AD.
The third is James, son of Alphaeus, who was also one of the 12 Apostles (Matthew 10:1-4, Mark 3:16-19, Luke 6:13-16, Acts 1:13). Nothing is known of him outside these lists of Apostles - he seems to disappear from the Bible and history.
The fourth is James, the father of the Apostle Judas (not Iscariot). There were two Apostles named Judas - one betrayed Jesus, the other did not. The one who was loyal to Jesus came to be known by other names: he is called "Judas (not Iscariot)" (John 14:22), "Thaddaeus" (Mark 3:16-19, Matthew 10:1-4), and Judas the son of James (Luke 6:13-16, Acts 1:13).
The fifth is James the Less, son of the "other Mary", and brother of Joseph/Joses (Mark 15:40, Matthew 27:56).
We know he is different than James the son of Zebedee, for Matthew identifies the mother of the sons of Zebedee and Mary the mother of James and Joseph as two separate people (Matthew 27:56).
Mary, the mother of James the Less is identified as "Mary the mother of James the less and of Joses" (Mark 15:40), "Mary the mother of Joses" (Mark 15:47), "Mary the mother of James" (Mark 16:1, Luke 24:10), "Mary the mother of James and Joseph" (Matthew 27:56), "Mary Magdalene and the other Mary" (Matthew 27:61, 28:1). Note particularly that last one, where she is simply referred to as "the other Mary" while Christ appears to her in his resurrected body (Matthew 28:1-10).
Based on the way scripture identifies this Mary, it's unlikely this Mary is the same Mary as Mary the mother of Jesus. Thus, while both families have a mother named Mary and sons named James and Joseph, we must conclude that Mary the mother of James is different from Mary the mother of the Lord, and thus James the Less is different from James the brother of the Lord.
That is all we know about these Jameses from the Bible, and so all that can be said with certainty.
Problems with Modern Protestant Belief (Jameses)
Modern Translator's power with "Solo" Scriptura
Let's review the fourth James mentioned above - James, the father of the Apostle Judas.
In Luke 6:16 and Acts 1:13, the popular Protestant ESV Bible translation identifies the apostle as "Judas the son of James". However, the Protestant King James Version (from 1611 AD) translates the same verse as "Judas the brother of James". Why are they different?
The original Greek text of the Scripture simply says "Ioudas Iakōbou", or "Judas of James". This Judas is identified in relationship to his more well-known kin, James - but the exact relationship between them is unspecified. The most common meaning of this expression is that of father-son relationship, which is likely why the ESV took that route. And yet in Jude 1 the Bible clearly has another Judas who identifies himself in relationship to his near kin named James (a brother), which is likely why the KJV took that route. However it's clear the original text has neither the word "son" or "brother", and leaves both interpretations open as plausible.
The ESV translation does something similar in John 19:25. In this verse, the ESV reads it as "Mary the wife of Clopas", while the original Greek simply says "Mary of Clopas". The Greek leaves the exact relationship indeterminate, which is what caused Papias (~100 AD) and Jerome (~383 AD) to say of this verse "the one who is called by John the Evangelist 'Mary of Clopas,' whether after her father, or kindred, or for some other reason". If Jerome or Papias was reading the modern ESV translation, there is no way they could plausibly think that for "Mary the wife of Clopas", Clopas could be referring to something other than her husband's name.
It's noteworthy that in both of these two instances, what the original text leaves more general and unspecified, the ESV has chosen one specific meaning. As we noted earlier, a similar thing occurred in passages like Mark 6:3 which speak of Jesus' 'adelphos'. As we showed, the word is more general, and can mean kin - but the ESV chose to translate it as the word 'brothers', which evokes a very specific relationship.
What is a plausible reading in the original text is not a plausible reading in the ESV translation, because the ESV took some relationships that were general and made them specific. This should be particularly concerning for Protestants who believe that Scripture is the sole authority for doctrine, because they have to decide which is authoritative - the ESV translation with its specific family relationships, or the original text with its general family relationships?
If they treat the ESV as authoritative, then the idea that Mary had no other sons after Christ is unbiblical. If they treat the original text as authoritative, the best they can do is say that the idea that Mary had no other sons after Christ is plausible, but unlikely - but they cannot say it is unbiblical.
Coincidences and Unanswered Questions
1) Why was he called James the Less (Mark 15:40)? Such a title implies he was both well known enough to warrant a title, and his title implies only two Jameses (one greater, and one lesser).
2) The Apostle James the son of Zebedee died in Acts 12:1-2. A few verses later in Acts 12:17, Peter says to "Tell these things to James and to the brothers." He did not specify whether he meant James the son of Alphaeus, James the Lord's brother, or James the Less - seemingly implying there is only one other James besides the James the son of Zebedee. The same lack of clarification occurs throughout the New Testament (Acts 15:13, Acts 21:18, 1 Corinthians 15:7, Galatians 2:9, Galatians 2:12, James 1:1, Jude 1:1) after the son of Zebedee dies. If there were multiple Jameses involved with the church here, why did the New Testament authors see no need for clarification?
3) Why does Mary, the mother of the Lord, have a sister named Mary (John 19:25)? Are we to assume that their parents had two daughters and named both Mary? Such a thing is never done (except in George Foreman's family).
4) Are we to assume it's mere coincidence that there are two separate families with a mother named Mary and brothers named James and Joseph, both intimately tied to Jesus (Matthew 13:55, Matthew 27:56)?
5) Is it another coincidence that Jude (the author of the Book of Jude) identifies himself in relationship to his brother James, and Judas (not Iscariot) the Apostle identifies himself in relationship to another James? Two people with the same name identifying theirselves in relationship to a James, but are separate people?
6) Why would Paul refer to James the Lord's brother as an Apostle (Galatians 1:19), if he was not one of the list of Apostles?
Historical Christian Belief (Jameses)
While there are many theories, here is one plausible one that fits both the Bible and historical records.
There are only two different people named James in the New Testament.
James the Great
The first is James the Great, the Apostle, son of Zebedee (Luke 6:13-16, Mark 3:16-19). He and his brother John (also an Apostle) were given the nicknames Sons of Thunder by Christ (Mark 3:16-19). His mother Salome was one of the women who followed Jesus, ministering to him, and was there when Jesus died (Matthew 27:55-56, Mark 15:40, Mark 16:1).
James, his brother John, and Peter were part of the inner circle of Christ - the group of 3 Apostles with whom Jesus was especially close, that saw him transfigured on the mountain, and with whom Jesus shared his sorrow in the garden of Gethsemane (Matthew 17:1-2, Matthew 26:36-38). Because of this, this James was also called "James the Great", to distinguish him from "James the Less" (the other James).
James died by Herod's hand in the book of Acts (Acts 12:1-2) around 44 AD.
James the Less
The second is James the Less, son of the "other Mary", and brother of Joseph (Mark 15:40, Matthew 27:56). Who was this "other Mary"?
This "other Mary" was one of the women who followed and ministered to Jesus, and was looking on the cross from a distance as Jesus died.
In Matthew, Mark, and Luke she is identified as "Mary the mother of James the less and of Joses" (Mark 15:40), "Mary the mother of Joses" (Mark 15:47), "Mary the mother of James" (Mark 16:1, Luke 24:10), "Mary the mother of James and Joseph" (Matthew 27:56), "Mary Magdalene and the other Mary" (Matthew 27:61, 28:1).
In the Gospel of John she is identified as "Mary of Clopas", sister (adelphe) of Mary the mother of Jesus (John 19:25).
Eusebius (a church historian around 323 AD), quotes an older Chronicler named Hegesippus who died in 180 AD in his Church History (Book III), Chapter 11, saying "For Hegesippus records that Clopas was a brother of Joseph."
So this "other Mary" is married to Clopas, brother of Joseph - making her sister-in-law to Mary the mother of Jesus. She is Jesus' aunt, and her children are Jesus' cousins.
Who are her children?
Matthew, Mark, and Luke mention two when identifying who she was near the cross - James the less and Joseph. In addition to those two, Matthew and Mark tell us of Judas and Simon as well (Matthew 13:55, Mark 6:3). So Jesus had four named cousins ('adelphos') in Scripture: James the less, Joseph, Judas, and Simon.
This means James the Less is the 'adelphos' (cousin) of Christ!
James the 'adelphos' of Christ wrote the New Testament Epistle of James, and became a leading figure in the church at Jerusalem - when the church met in a council to determine rules for Gentile Christians, James played a prominent role in the decision and laid down his judgment (Acts 15:12-13, 19-23).
Paul identified this James as an Apostle (Galatians 1:19), and called him (along with Cephas and John) the pillars of the church (Galatians 2:7-9). Paul regularly went out of his way to show deference to this James and sought his counsel (Acts 12:17, Acts 21:17-24, 1 Corinthians 15:3-8, Galatians 1:19).
Jerome (~393 AD), quoting Hegesippus (~180 AD), identifies James the brother of the Lord as James the Just, head of the Church at Jerusalem. 
Backing up a bit, note how Paul identified this James as an Apostle in Galatians 1:19. Which Apostle?
Looking at church history, we see that James the 'adelphos' of Christ and the Apostle James the son of Alphaeus 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
If this James is called James the Less, it stands to reason he is James the son of Alphaeus in the lists of Apostles - as James the son of Zebedee, being in the inner circle of Christ, would be James the Great.
The issue arises, how can he be the son of Alphaeus, if we have already identified him as the son of Mary, wife of Clopas?
There are several theories that plausibly explain this.
1) Mary could be the wife of Alphaeus, not Clopas. The Greek text for her name simply says "Mary of Clopas", not "Mary the wife of Clopas". Most modern translations assume the relationship of wife. The title "of Clopas" could have been given to her after her father, or kindred, or for some other reason. This theory is articulated in the Fragment of Papias X from ~100 AD, and in Jerome's work Against Helvidius from around 383 AD.
2) The man could have had two names, Alphaeus and Clopas. As Jerome notes around 380 AD, this is not an uncommon occurrence in Scripture. Jerome gives numerous examples in his text Against Helvidius: "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."
3) The name Clopas may be a Greek transliteration of an Aramaic Alphaeus.
At this point, we have identified that James the 'adelphos' of Christ who became leader of the Church of Jerusalem (with the title of James the Just), James the Less the cousin of Christ, and the Apostle James of Alphaeus are all the same person - and he wrote the Epistle of James in the New Testament.
Let us now concern ourselves with the brothers of this James - Joseph, Judas and Simon (Matthew 13:55, Mark 6:3).
This brother named Judas wrote the book of Jude, where he identifies himself in relationship to his brother James (Jude 1).
In the list of Apostles in Luke 6:13-16, we see a "Judas of James" listed. The modern ESV translation says "Judas the son of James", the 1611 King James Version says "Judas the brother of James", but the original Greek simply says "Judas of James" with the exact relationship unspecified. Only in one other spot does a Jude identify himself in relationship to his brother James, so we hold this relationship to be that of brother, and thus this Apostle Judas to be the cousin of Christ, brother of James the Less.
In the list of Apostles in Mark 3:16-19, we see that this Jude/Judas was also known by the name Thaddeus (likely to distinguish him from the traitor, Judas Iscariot).
So Jesus' cousin Judas also authored a book of the New Testament, the Epistle of Jude - and he was an Apostle known as Judas of James or Thaddeus.
The Fragments of Papias from around 100 AD supports the above theory:
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... 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]
Let us now briefly discuss the brother named Simon.
Eusebius around 323 AD identifies Symeon as a son of Mary of Clopas, cousin of Jesus, and leader of Jerusalem church after his brother James died.
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 Savior. - Eusebius (~323 AD) Church History (Book III), Chapter 11
So this brother named Simon also became a leader of the Church. It is possible that this brother was the obscure Apostle known as Simon the Zealot (Luke 6:13-16, Mark 3:16-19), alongside his brothers James and Jude.
Historical Record Compilation (Jameses)
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
The Fragments of Papias, dating from around 100 AD, identifies James, the Apostle and leader of the church in Jerusalem, as Jesus' cousin and son of Mary of Clopas. It also connects the Apostle Judas/Thaddeus to the Judas son of Mary of Clopas and cousin of Jesus.
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... 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]
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
Jerome (~393 AD), quoting Hegesippus (~180 AD), identifies James the brother of the Lord as James the Just, head of the Church at Jerusalem:
After the apostles, James the brother of the Lord surnamed the Just was made head of the Church at Jerusalem. Many indeed are called James. This one was holy from his mother's womb. He drank neither wine nor strong drink, ate no flesh, never shaved or anointed himself with ointment or bathed. He alone had the privilege of entering the Holy of Holies, since indeed he did not use woolen vestments but linen and went alone into the temple and prayed in behalf of the people, insomuch that his knees were reputed to have acquired the hardness of camels' knees. [Note: Since only the high priest of the temple can enter the Holy of Holies once a year on Yom Kippur, this quote seems to indicate James was considered a high priest.] - Hegesippus' lost Commentaries book 5, quoted by Jerome in his book "On Illustrious Men", Section 2
Eusebius identifies Symeon as a son of Mary of Clopas, cousin of Jesus, and leader of Jerusalem church after his brother James died.
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 Savior. - Eusebius (323 AD) in his Church History (Book III), Chapter 11
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 Alphaeus 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
Helvidius argues that Mary of Clopas and Mary the mother of Jesus are the same person. Here are his thoughts, quoted by Jerome (who was against him):
The last proposition of Helvidius was this, and it is what he wished to show when he treated of the first-born, that brothers of the Lord are mentioned in the Gospels. For example, [Matthew 12:46] "Behold, his mother and his brothers stood without, seeking to speak to him." And elsewhere, [John 2:12] "After this he went down to Capernaum, he, and his mother, and his brothers." And again, [John 7:3-4] "His brothers therefore said unto him, Depart from here, and go into Judæa, that your disciples also may behold the works which you do. For no man does anything in secret, and himself seeks to be known openly. If you do these things, manifest yourself to the world." And John adds, [John 7:5] "For even his brothers did not believe on him." Mark also and Matthew, [Matthew 13:54,55; Mark 6:1-3] "And coming into his own country he taught them in their synagogues, insomuch that they were astonished, and said, Whence hath this man this wisdom, and mighty works? Is not this the carpenter's son? is not his mother called Mary? and his brothers James, and Joseph, and Simon, and Judas? And his sisters, are they not all with us?" Luke also in the Acts of the Apostles relates, [Acts 1:14] "These all with one accord continued steadfastly in prayer, with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers." Paul the Apostle also is at one with them, and witnesses to their historical accuracy, [Galatians 2:2; 1:19] "And I went up by revelation, but other of the apostles saw I none, save Peter and James the Lord's brother." And again in another place, [1 Corinthians 9:4,5] "Have we no right to eat and drink? Have we no right to lead about wives even as the rest of the Apostles, and the brothers of the Lord, and Cephas?" And for fear any one should not allow the evidence of the Jews, since it was they from whose mouth we hear the name of His brothers, but should maintain that His countrymen were deceived by the same error in respect of the brothers into which they fell in their belief about the father, Helvidius utters a sharp note of warning and cries, "The same names are repeated by the Evangelists in another place, and the same persons are there brothers of the Lord and sons of Mary." Matthew says, [Matthew 27:55-56] "And many women were there (doubtless at the Lord's cross) beholding from afar, which had followed Jesus from Galilee, ministering unto him: among whom was Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James and Joses, and the mother of the sons of Zebedee." Mark also, [Mark 15:40-41] "And there were also women beholding from afar, among whom were both Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James the less and of Joses, and Salome"; and in the same place shortly after, "And many other women which came up with him unto Jerusalem." Luke too, [Luke 24:10] "Now there were Mary Magdalene, and Joanna, and Mary the mother of James, and the other women with them." My reason for repeating the same thing again and again is to prevent him from raising a false issue and crying out that I have withheld such passages as make for him, and that his view has been torn to shreds not by evidence of Scripture, but by evasive arguments. Observe, he says, James and Joses are sons of Mary, and the same persons who were called brothers by the Jews. Observe, Mary is the mother of James the less and of Joses. And James is called the less to distinguish him from James the greater, who was the son of Zebedee, as Mark elsewhere states, [Mark 15:47; 16:1] "And Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses beheld where he was laid. And when the sabbath was past, they bought spices, that they might come and anoint him." And, as might be expected, he says: "What a poor and impious view we take of Mary, if we hold that when other women were concerned about the burial of Jesus, she His mother was absent; or if we invent some kind of a second Mary; and all the more because the Gospel of S. John testifies that she was there present, when the Lord upon the cross commended her, as His mother and now a widow, to the care of John. Or must we suppose that the Evangelists were so far mistaken and so far mislead us as to call Mary the mother of those who were known to the Jews as brothers of Jesus?"
Jerome's response to Helvidius above, proving Mary the mother of Jesus and Mary of Clopas were not the same person:
What darkness, what raging madness rushing to its own destruction! You say that the mother of the Lord was present at the cross, you say that she was entrusted to the disciple John on account of her widowhood and solitary condition: as if upon your own showing, she had not four sons, and numerous daughters, with whose solace she might comfort herself? You also apply to her the name of widow which is not found in Scripture. And although you quote all instances in the Gospels, the words of John alone displease you. You say in passing that she was present at the cross, that you may not appear to have omitted it on purpose, and yet not a word about the women who were with her. I could pardon you if you were ignorant, but I see you have a reason for your silence. Let me point out then what John says, [John 19:25] "But there were standing by the cross of Jesus his mother, and his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene." No one doubts that there were two apostles called by the name James, James the son of Zebedee, and James the son of Alphæus. Do you intend the comparatively unknown James the less, who is called in Scripture the son of Mary, not however of Mary the mother of our Lord, to be an apostle, or not? If he is an apostle, he must be the son of Alphæus and a believer in Jesus, "For neither did his brothers believe in him." If he is not an apostle, but a third James (who he can be I cannot tell), how can he be regarded as the Lord's brother, and how, being a third, can he be called less to distinguish him from greater, when greater and less are used to denote the relations existing, not between three, but between two? Notice, moreover, that the Lord's brother is an apostle, since Paul says, [Galatians 1:18,19] "Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to visit Cephas, and tarried with him fifteen days. But other of the Apostles saw I none, save James the Lord's brother." And in the same Epistle, [Galatians 2:9] "And when they perceived the grace that was given unto me, James and Cephas and John, who were reputed to be pillars," etc. And that you may not suppose this James to be the son of Zebedee, you have only to read the Acts of the Apostles, and you will find that the latter had already been slain by Herod. 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. Now here we have the explanation of what I am endeavoring to show, how it is that the sons of Mary, the sister of our Lord's mother, who though not formerly believers afterwards did believe, can be called brothers of the Lord. Possibly the case might be that one of the brothers believed immediately while the others did not believe until long after, and that one Mary was the mother of James and Joses, namely, "Mary of Clopas," who is the same as the wife of Alphæus, the other, the mother of James the less. In any case, if she (the latter) had been the Lord's mother S. John would have allowed her the title, as everywhere else, and would not by calling her the mother of other sons have given a wrong impression. But at this stage I do not wish to argue for or against the supposition that Mary the wife of Clopas and Mary the mother of James and Joses were different women, provided it is clearly understood that Mary the mother of James and Joses was not the same person as the Lord's mother.
Appendix, Jerome's treatise (~383 AD)
Appendix, Aquinas's proof (~1274 AD)
Appendix, Historical Belief FOR Perpetual Virginity of Mary
~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 honor 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 dishonorable, 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
Appendix, Historical Belief AGAINST Perpetual Virginity of Mary
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
- Jerome, The Perpetual Virginity of Blessed Mary: Against Helvidius; Fragments of Papias, Section X
- [Hegesippus' lost Commentaries book 5, quoted by Jerome in his book "On Illustrious Men", Section 2] After the apostles, James the brother of the Lord surnamed the Just was made head of the Church at Jerusalem. Many indeed are called James. This one was holy from his mother's womb. He drank neither wine nor strong drink, ate no flesh, never shaved or anointed himself with ointment or bathed. He alone had the privilege of entering the Holy of Holies, since indeed he did not use woolen vestments but linen and went alone into the temple and prayed in behalf of the people, insomuch that his knees were reputed to have acquired the hardness of camels' knees. [Note: Since only the high priest of the temple can enter the Holy of Holies once a year on Yom Kippur, this quote seems to indicate James was considered a high priest.]