There are many things to say regarding Jesus’ mother. Pastor Mark has many wonderful things to say about her and rightly holds her up as a model of faith and a model for women. He also rightly points out that many Non-Catholic Christians have forgotten Mary altogether because they perceive idolatry on the part of Catholics and Orthodox Christians and he encourages his congregation at Mars Hill to value her example. I support this completely and hope that Pastor Mark always encourages the people of Mars Hill to seek the truth concerning her, and I hope that those who stumble upon this post will ponder what I have to say, just as Mary Pondered the Word in her Heart (Luke 2:19).
Regarding the perpetual virginity of Mary, Pastor Mark states:
“Let me give you a few preface observations before we launch into the identity and activity. The first is that the Catholics are wrong. They would say that not only was Mary a virgin when, by the power of the Holy Spirit, she conceived Jesus, but that she remained a virgin throughout her whole life, okay? That she never consummated her marriage with Joseph. And here we find that Jesus had brothers. What that tells you is his mother and his father had a normal, healthy, enjoyable marital relationship, okay? We read as well, in Mark 6:3, that they say, “Hey, Jesus had brothers and sisters.” So Jesus came from a family. He was the oldest child, but then through the natural relations of Mary and Joseph, there were other sons and daughters. So this just shows us that marital intimacy, and joy, and offspring, and the blessing of children, it’s all part of God’s plan, and that’s how it was in Jesus’ family and it’s perfectly healthy and good.
I admittedly cannot give a clear verse from scripture that says that Mary always remained a virgin even after the birth of Jesus. What I can do, however, is point out that the verses in Luke which Pastor Mark is explaining to his congregation do not say that these brothers of Jesus were the Children of Mary. Pastor Mark assumes that they are, which is a possibility based on the text, but it is not a certainty.
There are a few ways that these men could be brothers of Jesus and not the children of Mary. One possibility is that these were actually Jesus’ cousins. As you can probably imagine, healthcare in Jesus’ day was not very good and many mothers died in childbirth and children were orphaned a little more often than they are now. When this happened it was not uncommon for children to live with other kin nearby. If one of Mary’s relatives or Joseph’s relatives had passed away and left children behind, it is easily possible that these children would have moved in with Mary, Joseph, and Jesus and lived with Jesus as his brothers.
Furthermore, although the greek word for brother, adelphoi was typically used to refer to blood brother, we see that the disciples of Jesus used the word much more broadly. Paul uses the word in a much broader context several times in his epistles. He does so in Romans 8:29 and 12:1 and then again in Colossians 1:2. The letter to the Hebrews does so as well in 2:11.
There is one other piece of evidence that calls into question whether or not the brothers of Jesus were his actual blood brothers. In the passion narrative of John we see that Jesus entrusts his mother to the disciple whom he loved (John 19:27). This would have been very strange for Jesus to have done had Mary had other children. She would have gone to live with her other children had she had them. Hillary of Poitiers used this line of reasoning to argue for Mary’s perpetual virginity in the year 354.
Surely none of these points prove without a doubt that Mary was a virgin throughout the duration of her life. That was not the intention of the post. What these points do prove however is that the Catholic belief that Mary remained a virgin after the death of Jesus does not contradict the scriptures. Mark Driscoll’s belief that these were the children of Mary does not contradict scripture either, however I point out again that these brothers of Jesus are not once referred to as naturally begotten children of Mary. Mark Driscoll’s view does, however, contradict the witness of some of the early fathers of the Church, whose testimony on the subject can be read here.
Mark Driscoll cannot say, “The Catholics are wrong,” based on the text and scriptural evidence from other places. He can state that he is “quite sure” that the Catholics are wrong or that to him it seems very unlikely that Mary remained a virgin for her whole life, but he cannot infallibly state that Catholics are wrong using the text alone. In order to be 100% certain, Pastor Mark would have to draw from a non-biblical source.
There is one further comment of Pastor Mark’s that needs to be addressed concerning the relationship of Mary and Joseph and the teaching of the Church regarding sexuality. Pastor Mark thinks that the perpetual virginity of Mary implies that Mary and Joseph did not have a, “normal, healthy, enjoyable marital relationship.” Truly, the perpetual virginity of Mary would not be normal, but it is quite a leap to say that a couple abstaining from sexual relations would not have been healthy or enjoyable. Many married couples I know have fun together and enjoy their marriage when they are not having sex.
Pastor Mark goes on by saying,”[the fact that Mary and Joseph had sexual relations] just shows us that marital intimacy, and joy, and offspring, and the blessing of children, it’s all part of God’s plan, and that’s how it was in Jesus’ family and it’s perfectly healthy and good.” I will briefly state that the Catholic teaching on the perpetual virginity of Mary does not in any way imply that marital relations and the begetting of children are anything other than healthy and good for a married couple. Catholic teaching on human sexuality will be will be explained here on DriscollWatch, so stay tuned, but if you’d like a sneak peak you can start reading now.