One of the strangest (to my mind) teachings that I’ve run into is the “Perpetual virginity of Mary”. It isn’t the strangest, but it is certainly up there. Perhaps more amazing is that it can propagate so widely while contradicting clear Scripture.
Twice in the New Testament, an account is listed where Jesus “was come into his own country” (Mt 13:54; Mk 6:1). His own countrymen did not believe Him, causing Jesus to state, “A prophet is not without honour, but in his own country, and among his own kin, and in his own house.” Apparently, Joseph, Jesus’ stepfather, was no longer alive, or he certainly would have been mentioned as well.
Notice that they reasoned that they knew Jesus, that He was the carpenter, the son of Mary and they list off His brothers and even state He had “sisters”, plural. Normally, the men in the family would have been listed off in birth order, so James was most likely the oldest of Jesus’ brothers, then Joseph, Judah and Simon.
People have tried to skirt around these verses by saying “brothers” and “sisters” was meant spiritually. However, that does not fit the context. In fact, if that were really what were meant, the culture of the time would have understood that “brothers” can mean relatives and the additional “sisters” would be considered so redundant that it would stand out in that culture where women were often marginalized or even ignored. Furthermore, the reference to Jesus’ mother makes it clear we are talking about immediate family members.
So, what all this means is:
- He had at least six half-siblings!
- Mary apparently was a widow.
- As the oldest, Jesus would have become the head of the family after the death of Joseph.
- After Jesus’ death, the next in line to be the leader of the family would have been His half-brother James.
Think about it. Jesus’ own brothers didn’t believe in Him (Jn 7:5). Jesus was supposed to be the leader in the family, but instead He seems to be gallivanting around Judea preaching instead of caring for His physical family. Hopefully, you can get a better appreciation for what they might have been feeling when we read about them in Mk 3:31-35:
31There came then his brethren and his mother, and, standing without, sent unto him, calling him.
32And the multitude sat about him, and they said unto him, Behold, thy mother and thy brethren without seek for thee.
33And he answered them, saying, Who is my mother, or my brethren?
34And he looked round about on them which sat about him, and said, Behold my mother and my brethren!
In a culture that would have had stronger family relationships than many do today, this would have been shocking on so many levels. Of course, our Savior used shocking examples and speech often to get His point across.
Jesus is not here denying that He has a physical family. Rather, this account is confirming it! His point is that God is building a spiritual family, and we are all related through Him.
There really is so much more that could be said about the implications of this, but that will have to wait until later.