Mary had Other Children (Part 2): Proven by Scripture and History


The third insinuation from Catholics to deny what Scriptures clearly states is that Joseph had children from a previous marriage. This is simply made up and has not even one verse in the Bible to support it, yet out of desperation it has been repeated for centuries. The earliest it appears is in an apocryphal text composed in Coptic entitled The History of Joseph the Carpenter. It claims “being well furnished with wisdom and learning, was made a priest in the temple of the Lord. He was, besides, skilful in his trade, which was that of a carpenter; and after the manner of all men, he married a wife. Moreover, he begot for himself sons and daughters, four sons, namely, and two daughters. Now these are their names— Judas, Justus, James, and Simon. The names of the two daughters were Assia and Lydia. At length the wife of righteous Joseph, a women intent on the divine glory in all her works, departed this life.” 1)The History of Joseph the Carpenter, para. 2; The Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 8, p. 388 By comparing the genealogies of Jesus from Matthew’s and Luke’s gospels, we know for sure that Joseph could not be a priest as the text indicated, as he was not from the tribe of Levi. The genealogies also confirm that Joseph had no children before Jesus. Though many scoffers have claimed these genealogies are contradictions, they are not. In Luke’s account he presents Jesus lineage through Mary, though it says Jesus “being (as was supposed) the son of Joseph, which was the son of Heli.” (Luke 3:23) The Greek obviously identifies Joseph as the son-in-law of Heli as it is the only exception in the entire genealogy that is not preceded by a definite article (“the” Heli). The genealogy in Matthew’s account is consistent with the goal of his gospel which is to present Jesus as the king of Jews. By doing so, he opens the gospel with Jesus genealogy through David, the kingly lineage, and Abraham, the father of Jews, “The book of the generation of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.” (Matthew 1:1) By following Joseph’s lineage to David, Matthew identifies the right to the throne of David belongs to Jesus being Joseph’s legal heir as acknowledged as his first born son. The Jews understood Jesus was indeed the legal heir to the throne and proclaimed Jesus as their king on palm Sunday, “Saying, Blessed be the King that cometh in the name of the Lord: peace in heaven, and glory in the highest.” Luke 19:38, also see Mark 11:10) The Jewish customs of those days accepted legal rights whether the first born child was adopted or biological. Whether or not it was known Joseph was not the biological father of Jesus is irrelevant as he was surely identified as the legal father (Matthew 13:55; Mark 6:3; Luke 4:22; John 1:45; 6:42). So Jesus was considered Mary’s and Joseph’s first born son. We know however that Joseph could not possibly be the biological father as king Jeconiah was cursed by God that his seed would not sit on the throne (Jeremiah 22:30). Jeconiah was not childless (1 Chronicles 3:17-18), but because God had cursed his lineage his uncle Zedekiah succeed him as king. Since Jeconiah’s name appears in Joseph’s genealogy of Matthew as “Jechonias” (Matthew 1:11), we know that Jesus was not the biologically descendant of Josephs bloodline.

The Clearest evidence of the fact that Mary did have other children is presented in a messianic prophecy from the Old Testament. A passage clearly indicating a future fulfillment by Jesus, the Psalmist David wrote “I am become a stranger unto my brethren, and an alien unto my mother’s children.” (Psalms 69:8) This chapter is synonymous with the suffering servant prophecies of Isaiah and has numerous verses fulfilled by Jesus. Consider comparing Psalms 69:8 with John 7:3-5; Psalms 69:9 with John 2:17 and Romans 15:3; Psalms 69:21 with Matthew 27:34; and Psalms 69:25 with Matthew 23:38. There can be no doubt that this prophesied that Jesus would be an alien to His mother’s children. Peter told us “we have also a more sure word of prophecy” (1 Peter 1:19), so we can stand firmly on this prophetic verse. Tertulilan, in refuting the Gnostic Marcion who taught Docetism, expressed that the Lord’s genealogy was well known among all the Jews “in no uncertain manner, to be the Son of David (in other words, to belong to David’s family) through his mother and his brethren, who at some time or other had been made known to him by public notoriety…” 2)Tertullian, Against Marcion, Book IV, Chap. XXXVI; The Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 3, p. 411 meaning that everyone knew that He was a descendent of David because of His relation to His brothers which had the same mother. An early Christ apocrypha Acts of the Holy Apostle and Evangelist John states, “Jesus by name, whose parents and brothers and all his family have been connected with the Hebrews…” 3)Acts of the Holy Apostle and Evangelist John; The Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 8, p. 560

If there is so much Biblical evidence for Mary having other children, why is it denied by so many still? It is because man made tradition has been exalted to equal terms as God’s Word. Predominately, the tradition of the Immaculate Conception of Mary, which the Catechism of the Catholic Church claims, “Mary benefited first of all and uniquely from Christ’s victory over sin: she was preserved from all stain of original sin and by a special grace of God committed no sin of any kind during her whole earthly life.” 4)CCC, para. 411 This tradition was officially established in 1547 A.D. by Pope Pius IX. It is odd that anyone can receive this as a doctrine when it has been absent from the Christian faith for over 1500 years. And because of this dogma, the idea of Mary’s “perpetual virginity” was implied.

The idea was presented long before the sixteenth century as Clement of Alexandria had refuted it as early as 195 A.D. saying “But, as appears, many even down to our own time regard Mary, on account of the birth of her child, as having been in the perpetual state, although she was not. For some say that, after she brought forth, she was found, when examined, to be a virgin.” 5)Clement of Alexandria, The Stomata, or Miscellanies, Book VII, Chap. XVI; The Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 2, p. 551 Questions then arise, who examined her, why did this examination not affect her purity, and why would she permit such personal intrusion?

The earliest writer endorsing this doctrine was from the heretic Origen who was the teacher at the Catechetical school in Alexandria, Egypt. In 245 A.D. claimed,


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 . . . might not know intercourse with a man after 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 was among women; for it were not pious to ascribe to any other than to her the first-fruit of virginity.” 6)Origen, Commentary on Matthew, Book X, Chap. 17; The Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 9, p. 424


Before addressing the text he mentioned it may be relevant at this point to explain the heresies ascribed to Origen to make known the further implications of his contribution to this doctrine of Mary. John Louis Emil Dreyer (1852-1926), a noted historian of astronomy, noted in passing that Origen’s error was allegorizing his interpretation of Scriptures to conform it to the pagan thought of his age. “This desire to find allegories in Scriptures was carried to excess by Origen (185-254), who was likewise associated with Alexandrian thought, and he managed thereby to get rid of anything which could not be harmonized with pagan learning…” 7)J. L. E. Dreyer, “Medieval Cosmology,” cited in Theories of the Universe, edited by Milton K. Munitz, p. 117 Origen makes two other references concerning this topic in his writings, both after making mention of Josephus’ comments cited above which expresses James as the brother of Jesus. Origen said, “Paul, a genuine disciple of Jesus, says that he regarded this James as a brother of the Lord, not so much on account of the relationship by blood, or of their being brought up together, as because of his virtue and doctrine.” 8)Origen, Against Celsus, Book I, Chap. XLVII; The Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 4, p. 416 So he here attributes the term “brother” as being in the faith. Again, after citing Josephus, he says, “but in reality, as the truth makes it clear, on account of Jesus Christ the Son of God.” 9)Origen, Against Celsus, Book II, Chap. XIII; The Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 4, p. 437 This is, of course, an irrelevant argument.

It was through the teaching of Origen that the doctrine of Mary’s perpetual virginity continued through history being presented by his disciple Gregory Thaumaturgus (213-270). He wrote about Mary “being a pure, and immaculate, and stainless image herself, she shrank not in terror from the angelic apparition…” 10)Gregory Thaumaturgus, The Second Homily: On the Annunciation to the Holy Virgin Mary; The Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 6, p. 61 However, the Bible tells us that the angel had to tell Mary “fear not, Mary” (Luke 1:30). Gregory later says “But Thou, being born of the virgin Mary, as Thou didst will, and as Thou alone dost know, didst not do away with her virginity; but Thou didst keep it, and didst simply gift her with the name of mother; and neither did her virginity preclude Thy birth, nor did Thy birth injure her virginity.” 11)Gregory Thaumaturgus, The Fourth Homily. On the Holy Theophany, or on Christ’s Baptism; The Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 6, p. 69 A later bishop of Alexandria named Peter, spoke of “the most blessed mother of God, and Ever Virgin Mary” 12)The Genuine Acts of Peter; The Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 6, p. 267 as the name of a church constructed in the western quarter of Alexandria, Egypt.

The text mentioned as the “Book of James” is an apocryphal gospel, written probably in the second half of the second century, known as The Protevangelium of James. It exists today in various forms with different titles. Concerning Origen’s comment above, it records the event of Mary giving birth to Christ in a cave with a midwife, stating, “And the midwife went forth out of the cave, and Salome met her. And she said to her: Salome, Salome, I have a strange sight to relate to you: a virgin has brought forth— a thing which her nature admits not of. Then said Salome: As the Lord my God lives, unless I thrust in my finger, and search the parts, I will not believe that a virgin has brought forth. And the midwife went in, and said to Mary: Show yourself; for no small controversy has arisen about you. And Salome put in her finger, and cried out, and said: Woe is me for mine iniquity and mine unbelief, because I have tempted the living God; and, behold, my hand is dropping off as if burned with fire.” 13)The Protevangelium of James, para. 19-20; The Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 8, p. 365 Anyone with the slightest bit of familiarity with the Bible can see the most obvious contradictions from this apocrypha.

Other apocryphal texts carry similar claims. For example The Gospel of Pseudo-Matthew, which says, “And when Zelomi had come in, Salome having stayed without, Zelomi said to Mary: Allow me to touch you. And when she had permitted her to make an examination, the midwife cried out with a loud voice, and said: Lord, Lord Almighty, mercy on us! It has never been heard or thought of, that any one should have her breasts full of milk, and that the birth of a son should show his mother to be a virgin. But there has been no spilling of blood in his birth, no pain in bringing him forth. A virgin has conceived, a virgin has brought forth, and a virgin she remains. And hearing these words, Salome said: Allow me to handle you, and prove whether Zelomi have spoken the truth. And the blessed Mary allowed her to handle her. And when she had withdrawn her hand from handling her, it dried up, and through excess of pain she began to weep bitterly, and to be in great distress…” 14)The Gospel of Psuedo-Matthew, chap. 13, para. 2; The Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 8, p. 374-375 Christian historian Phillip Schaff wrote about these apocryphal Gospels, saying, “In striking contrast with this healthful and sober representation of Mary in the canonical Gospels are the numerous apocryphal Gospels of the third and fourth centuries, which decorate the life of Mary with fantastic fables and wonders of every kind, and thus furnished a pseudo-historical foundation for an unscriptural Mariology and Mariolatry. The Catholic church, it is true, condemned this apocryphal literature so early as the Decrees of Gelasius; yet many of the fabulous elements of it—such as the names of the parents of Mary, Joachim (instead of Eli, as in Luke iii.23) and Anna, the birth of Mary in a cave, her education is the temple, and her mock marriage with the aged Joseph—passed into the Catholic tradition.”15)Phillip Schaff, History of the Christian Church, Hendrickson Publishers (Peabody, Massachusetts, 1867, Fourth printing 2011) Vol. 3, p. 413-414