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Eternal Virgin?

In the sub-apostolic literature of the first half of the second century almost complete silence reigns concerning the Virgin Mary. The Didache, Clement of Rome, PseudoBarnabas, Hermas, Polycarp, the Epistle to Diognetus (in its authentic part), the earliest apologists, Athenagoras, Tatian, Theophilus, the surviving fragments of the Apologia of Hermias, Quadratus, Aristo, Miltiades, none of these mention her at all. Ignatius of Antioch, in his authentic letters, refers to her a few times, and Aristides once, in the Armenian fragments of his Apology to Hadrian; these are the first rudiments of the symbol "apostolic" that begin to outline themselves in opposition to the docetic theories of gnosticism. [source - The Virgin Mary: The Roman Catholic Marian Doctrine Contributors: Giovanni Miegge - author, et al. Publisher: Westminster Press Publication Date: 1955]

The first purpose of the title Theotokos ( Deipara, Dei genetrix) is not to glorify the Virgin Mary but to express in a term clear, impressive and popular the real divine humanity of Christ. God in Christ is made man in such a precise and realistic sense that Mary can be called His mother. This expression is a paradox which pleased faith, in that it could adore the humiliation of God come down into the world in "the form of a servant" ( Phil. 2:7) to save men. It does not seem, moreover, that through the fourth century the title "Mother of God" had any wide diffusion except in Egypt. Alexandria had already been the spiritual forge of a mystic christology radical in character in the preceding centuries, while in the discussions of the fourth and fifth centuries the school of Antioch and the Anatolian Church represented in opposition to it the standards of sober criticism and of rational theological temper. [source - The Virgin Mary: The Roman Catholic Marian Doctrine Contributors: Giovanni Miegge - author, et al. Publisher: Westminster Press Publication Date: 1955]

In Catholic dogma the Virgin Mary is a copy of Christ, in His life, His person and His work. The principle of analogy with Christ, expressed clearly in contemporary mariology, has faithfully followed the elaboration of Marian doctrine through the centuries. Like the birth of Jesus, that of Mary was announced by angels and was an exceptional event in which the Holy Spirit had part. If Christ was conceived by a Virgin, Mary was conceived without sin. If Christ is like man in all things except sin, so Mary is in everything perfectly human except in sin. If Christ dwells in the fullness of divinity, then in Mary, through her Son, dwells the fullness of saving grace and supernatural life. Christ is the first-born of many brothers, but Mary is the first-born after Him, of the children born of Him, and, furthermore, she is their Mother, and to that extent she is no longer the mother of Jesus but His wife: she who carries in her fecund bosom all the generations of believers, she who after having given to the light the physical body of Christ, bears His mystic body in all the ages. Christ is the second Adam, Mary the second Eve. Christ is the fountain of living water which gushes forth into life eternal. Mary is the fountain of life, the spiritual mother of the new humanity. Christ is the true vine but Mary also receives this title ( John of Damascus). She comes adorned with other titles that the New Testament reserved for Christ; like Christ she is the head of our salvation-kephalaion soterias ( George of Nicomedia, James the Monk), saviour of the world ( Anselm, Bonaventura, Albertus Magnus), propitiator--hilasterion--for our sins (Office of Lent), liberator from death, conqueror of death ( Gregory of Neo-caesarea), reconciler of God with men ( John of Damascus, Liturgy), mediatrix between God and men. [source - Cf. Benrath, Zur Geschichte der Marienverehrung, pp. 91 ff., which he borrows from the encyclopædic works of Marracci and Passaglia. ]

The importance of Mary's virginity as a symbol of purity developed at the time of Saint Augustine, when the church began to emphasize the difference between the body and spirit. Matter (the body) was directly connected to our sexuality and was equated with sin. Mary's virginity emphasized her lack of sexuality and therefore portrayed her as sinless. [source -]

Many early church Fathers disputed Mary's ever virginity, "No one again disputes that the clause "born of the Virgin Mary" formed part of the primitive redaction of the Creed, and the language of Tertullian, Hippolytus, Origen, etc., is in thorough conformity with that of Irenaeus; further, though writers like Tertullian, Hevidius, and possibly Hegesippus disputed the perpetual virginity of Mary. " [source - The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume XV, Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York]

The Bible says, " For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;" (Romans 3:23 AV), however, "St. Augustine in a famous passage (De nat. et gratis, 36) proclaims Mary's unique privilege of sinlessness" [source - The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume XV, Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York]

But in this, as in some other devotional aspects of early Christian beliefs, the most glowing language seems to be found in the East, and particularly in the Syrian writings of St. Ephraem. It is true that we cannot entirely trust the authenticity of many of the poems attributed to him; the tone, however, of some of the most unquestioned of Ephraem's compositions is still very remarkable. [source - The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume XV, Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York]

The Lateran Council of 469 under Pope Martin I declared: "if anyone does not confess in harmony with the holy Fathers that the holy and ever virgin and immaculate Mary is really and truly the mother of God, inasmuch as she in the last times and without semen by the Holy Spirit conceived God the Word himself specially and truthfully, who was born from God the Father before all ages, and she bore him uncorrupted, and after his birth her virginity remaining indissoluble, let him be condemned." The perpetual virginity of Mary thus became an official teaching of the church: Mary was a virgin before, during, and after the birth of Jesus. In 1555, the Council of Trent confirmed this dogma in the Constitution of Pope Paul IV known as "Cum Quorundam." Here the pope warns against teaching that "the same blessed Virgin Mary is not truly the Mother of God, and did not remain always in the integrity of virginity, i. e., before birth, in birth, and perpetually after birth." [source - Stephen Benko (1993) The Virgin Goddess: Studies in the pagan and Christian roots of Mariology. Leiden: E.J. Brill. p. 203]

Mary was a virgin until the nativity, but not afterwards. Joseph was really the husband of Mary, but Jesus was conceived "before they came together;" and he (Joseph) "knew her not until she had brought forth her first-born Son." This is an intimation that she brought forth other sons. The opposition is clearly put by Luke. Jesus was the first-born, or eldest son of Mary, but "the only-begotten son" of God. Therefore Mary had other children also. This is expressly stated by the Holy Scriptures.

The Scripture, to which you [Anglican Bishop Durnford of Chichester] appealed have, I think, pronounced against you. So do the older divines of the Roman church. Alvarez Polagius, papal legate and plenipotentiary, wrote that "James the Less" was made the first bishop of Jerusalem, because he was the "brother to the Lord Jesus after the flesh." This he had learned from the ancient fathers, as you may see if you will consult Cyril of Jerusalem, who flourished about 370 A. D.: "Afterwards Christ was seen by his brother James, the first bishop of the parish. You, who are the disciple of such a great bishop, may well believe him when he says he saw the risen Jesus stand before him. Or will you say that He appeared to His brother James because of James' love to Him? - Well, but after all He was seen of Paul, who was an enemy to Him."
"Pope Nicholas 1, in 858, issued a decree which is also embodied in the canon law, and is therefore part of the faith of the Roman church. It distinctly states and proves that Mary was married to Joseph, and did not remain a virgin. The canon law also embodies passages from St. Augustine, to the same effect ; from Pope Alexander III (in 1159); from Pope Innocent III (in 1243); from Pope Innocent IV (in 1243); from Ricardus (in 1280); while Hugo, Thomas Aquinas and Artesanus declare that it would have been a grievous sin if Mary had been betrothed or espoused and remained a virgin. The great "Abbas" Panormitanus, archbishop of Palermo, asserts the same. So does Angelus do Clavasio, as late as 1480 A.D. [source - How holy was the Blessed Virgin Mary?... Mary and Jesus. Right Hon. Lord Robert Montagu, London, 1889]

It was Christ the wise men worshiped even when an infant and when Mary was in her prime and at her best. Let wise men continue in the good old path. For centuries the attempt has been made by the Romish church and all sympathizers with the "Harlot of the Tiber" to prove The Perpetual Virginity of the mother of our Lord. About the virginity of Mary up to the time of the birth of our Saviour there is no dispute. Matthew tells the story that is universally received and believed. He informs us that when Mary "was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost. Then Joseph, her husband, being a just man, and not willing to make her a public example, was minded to put her away privily [privately]. But while he thought on these things, behold the angel of the Lord appeared unto him saying: Joseph, thou Son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost. And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name Jesus; for he shall save his people from their sins. Now all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Behold a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call His name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us. Then Joseph being raised from sleep did as the angel of the Lord had bidden him, and took unto him his wife; and knew her not till she had brought forth her first-born son and he called His name Jesus" (Matt. 1:18-25).

The evangelist that proclaims her virginity also declares her wifehood (Matt. 1:25), and that Mary was the mother of four boys, James and Joses, Simon and Judas (Matt. 13:55), and of girls as well (Mark 6:3), who lived and were known to the early church. [source - Is the Blessed Virgin Mary a perpetual virgin? ... Is it Mary or the Lady of the Jesuits? J. D. Fulton, London, 1889]

Essentially what we are trying to say is on the basis of available historical and scriptural evidence we cannot establish that Mary was an eternal virgin. It is probable and certainly possible but certainly not necessary. But then Roman Catholic Church being the "custodian of faith and revelation" has stipulated it. As in most of the later Marain doctrines, this doctrine of eternal virginity of Mary is derived from an ardent idolatorous approach to the figure of Mary and the lingering blasphemy of Gnosticism within the Chruch. It is not corroborated by the scripture nor are they ever referred to by any of the Apostles or anyone of the early Church Fathers before the second centuary. The important point is that such a position is not necessary for any christian doctrine. [source - DEVELOPMENT OF ROMAN DOCTRINES ON MARY - 4 , Prof. M. M. Ninan]

In fact, there are six different Marys in the New Testament, though Mary the mother of Jesus is properly 'Mariam' and the other five are usually 'Maria' or 'Mary.' Still, this is not a steadfast rule since Maria and Mariam can be sometimes declined in the same way. So we shall list these six Mary's: 1) Mariam, the mother of Jesus. 2) Mary, 'the other Mary.' She is the wife of Clopas (John 19:25), she is the mother of Jacob the Lesser and Joses (Matt. 27:56, Mark 15:40) 3) Mary, the sister of Martha. She anointed Jesus' feet (John 12:3). 4) Mary Magdalene (Matt. 27:56; Mark 16:1, etc.). 5) Mary, the mother of John Mark (Acts 12:12). 6) Mary, who was a helper of Paul (Rom. 16:6). Knowing the differences in the Marys allows us to state emphatically that Mary or Mariam the mother of Jesus had at least seven children: Jesus, Jacob, Joses (or Joseph), Simon, Judas, and at least two daughters. These names come from the following verses and elsewhere:

"Is this not the carpenter's son? Is not His mother called Mariam? And His brothers Jacob, and Joses, and Simon, and Judas? And are not His sisters all with us?" (Matt. 13:55- 56 AST). "Is this One not the carpenter, the son of Mariam, and the brother of Jacob and Joseph and Judas and Simon? And are not His sisters here with us?" (Mark 6:3 Anointed Standard Translation; AST).

Now it is because of these verses that the Catechism has tried to confuse the issue by mentioning "the other Mary," because we learn in Matthew 27:56 that this Mary also had two sons named Jacob and Joses. But these Jacob and Joses are different from that Jacob and Joses mentioned as Jesus' brothers in the above two verses. There are four different Jacobs or James in the New Testament: 1) Jacob, the son of Zebedee and Salome and the brother of the Apostle John. 2) Jacob, the son of Alphaeus. This is Jacob the Lesser, and the son of 'the other Mary,' and brother of Joses. 3) Jacob, the brother of Jesus and son of Mariam. 4) Jacob, the father of the Apostle Judas (not Iscariot). A detailed study of these four Jacobs throughout the New Testament verifies beyond any doubt that Mariam the mother of Jesus had a son named Jacob as did 'the other Mary.' They are not the same Jacob. The son of 'the other Mary' is the Lesser, and the son of Mariam and brother of Jesus is always identified as such. For example, [source - Mary's Other Children, by Pastor V.S. Herrell]

This word very specifically means "cousin," and this word was even used in the Greek Septuagint (Numbers 36:11). This Greek word is very important because many Catholics priests specifically tell their parishioners that the Greek language had no word for cousin and that this was the reason that the word brother had to be used. But this is nothing but shear ignorance and deception! In fact, ¢neyiÒj (anepsios) is not the only word for cousin; there are other words for specific types of cousin and other synonyms, etc. If Paul or Mark had meant that Jacob and Joses were simply kinsmen of Jesus, not necessarily cousins or brothers, then they could have used the Greek word suggen»j (sungenes) which means just a generic kinsman and is used by both Mark (6:4) and by Paul (Romans 9:3) as well as all throughout the New Testament. The story is the same in the Catholics' own Latin Vulgate. In Galatians 1:19, for example, the Latin word frater is used which specifically means brother. The word nepos, meaning cousin, could have been used, but it was not. Thus, there can be absolutely no doubt that Jesus had at least four brothers and two sisters who were the biological children of Mariam or Mary. This single doctrine is an excellent means of repudiating Catholics and the authority of the Catholic Church. If they cannot be intellectually honest enough to admit that Mary had at least seven children, then they cannot be intellectually honest enough to believe any truth. [source - Mary's Other Children, by Pastor V.S. Herrell]

This tract appeared about a.d. 383. The question which gave occasion to it was whether the Mother of our Lord remained a Virgin after His birth. Helvidius maintained that the mention in the Gospels of the "sisters" and "brethren" of our Lord was proof that the Blessed Virgin had subsequent issue, and he supported his opinion by the writings of Tertullian and Victorinus. The outcome of his views was that virginity was ranked below matrimony. Jerome vigorously takes the other side, and tries to prove that the "sisters" and "brethren" spoken of, were either children of Joseph by a former marriage, or first cousins, children of the sister of the Virgin. A detailed account of the controversy will be found in Farrar's "Early Days of Christianity," pp. 124 sq. When Jerome wrote this treatise both he and Helvidius were at Rome, and Damasus was Pope. [source - The Perpetual Virginity of Blessed Mary, Against Helvidius.,]

Synopsis: The earliest New Testament books make no reference to it, and are obviously written by men who had never heard of the doctrine. Of the Gospels two alone mention it. All four lay great stress upon the inspiration of Jesus by the Holy Ghost at his baptism-an inspiration which was unnecessary if Jesus was already "the anointed one," the Christ. Mark's doctrine. John's doctrine. The lateness of Matthew and Luke. Note on the date assigned to the birth of Jesus...... Further details of differences between Matthew and Luke. Luke's original Gospel did not contain the Virgin Birth story. Evidence of this and of the disbelief of many Christians in the Virgin Birth story, from the writings of the Fathers of the Church. The probable evolution of the story. The desire to show that the prophecies about a Messiah had been fulfilled. The doctrine was first heard of in the second century, but Marcion and the majority of second-century Christians did not believe in it. Justin Martyr and other "orthodox" Christians recognize the fact that all Christians do not believe in it. Many passages in the Gospels are incompatible with the Virgin Birth story. Jesus is regarded by his parents as mad. Joseph is referred to as his father. Mary is surprised that her son is at all different from other people. His brethren do not believe in him. The Virgin Birth stories rejected by many Christians as unsupported by evidence, both accounts having evidently been added to the Gospels long after these were first written. [SHAKEN CREEDS: The Virgin Birth Doctrine By Jocelyn Rhys - Published 1922 ]

Synopsis: The Virgin Mary substituted for the pagan goddesses. Inherits the festivals and worship of the "mother of the gods." Rise of Mariolatry. Tho glorification of virginity. A re-action of pagan philosophers as well as of Christian theologians against sexual excesses. Reaction goes to absurd lengths. Original sin. Further development of the Virgin Birth doctrine. Mary's own immaculate birth. New doctrine accepted by Catholic Church. Mary's perpetual virginity. Buddhist parallel. Josoph's perpetual celibacy. The fate of a mildly skeptical monk. Legends about Mary's death, burial, resurrection, and ascension. Disputes about the Incarnation. How the doctrine was made obligatory, and enforced for hundreds of years..... Tho evidence of the Fathers of the Church that the Virgin Birth story was disbelieved by many Christians. Paul of Samosata. Heresies suppressed by the Catholic Church when it became the State religion of the Roman Empire. ... [SHAKEN CREEDS: The Virgin Birth Doctrine By Jocelyn Rhys - Published 1922, Chapter VII - THE CATHOLIC DOCTRINE-MODERN SKEPTICISM ]

Yes. Indeed, the worship of Mary has become at the present day, more than ever a sort of monomania in the Church of Rome, and is followed out with an utter disregard of common sense and decency and of ordinary prudence and discretion. The Rev. H. Seymour, MA, who spent some months in Rome, says:
'The worship of Mary has become predominant, it is absorbing all else. Her pictures, her images her worship, her patronage, her intercession, her churches, her convents are all preferred to ought else. 'As the serpent rod of Aaron swallowed all the serpent rods of the Magicians, so the modern devotion for Mary has absorbed all the offerings, prayers and devotions for Jesus.' - [Pilgrimage to Rome p. 464]

Everything that our saint has written is, as it were, a summary of Catholic tradition on the subject that it treats; it is not an individual author, it is, so to speak, the church herself that speaks to us by the voice of her prophets, her apostles, her pontiffs, her saints, her fathers, her doctors of all nations and ages. No other book appears to be more worthy of recommendation in this respect than The Glories of Mary.' [1931 edition. Redemptorist Fathers, Brooklyn]

Thus are the words of St. Epiphanius of Cyprus fulfilled: "Certain senseless ones in their opinion about the Holy Ever-Virgin have striven and are striving to put Her in place of God" (St. Epiphanius, "Against the Antidikomarionites"). But that which is offered to the Virgin in senselessness, instead of praise of Her, turns out to be blasphemy; and the All-Immaculate One rejects the lie, being the Mother of Truth (John 14:6). ["Zeal Not According to Knowledge" by St. John Maximovitch,]

More startling is the evidence of certain apocryphal writings, notably that of the so-called Gospel of St. James, or "Protevangelion." The earlier portion of this, which evinces a deep veneration for the purity and sanctity of the Blessed Virgin, and which affirms her virginity in partu et post partum, is generally considered to be a work of the second century. Similarly, certain interpolated passages found in the Sibylline Oracles, passages which probably date from the third century, show an equal preoccupation with the dominant role played by the Blessed Virgin in the work of redemption (see especially II, 311-12, and VIII, 357-479). The first of these passages apparently assigns to the intercession "of the Holy Virgin" the obtaining of the boon of seven days of eternity that men may find time for repentance (cf. the Fourth Book of Esdras, vii, 28-33). Further, it is quite likely that the mention of the Blessed Virgin in the intercessions of the diptychs of the liturgy goes back to the days before the Council of Nicaea, but we have no definite evidence upon the point, and the same must be said of any form of direct invocation, even for purposes of private devotion. [The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume XV, Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York]

It was natural then that in this atmosphere we should find a continually developing veneration for the sanctity and exalted privileges of Mary. In the paintings of the catacombs more particularly, we appreciate the exceptional position that she began, from an early period, to occupy in the thoughts of the faithful. Some of these frescoes, representing the prophecy of Isaias, are believed to date from the first half of the second century. Three others which represent the adoration of the Magi are a century later. There is also a remarkable but very much mutilated bas-relief, found at Carthage, which may be probably assigned to the time of Constantine. [The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume XV, Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York]