Principle of Faith
On Mary, the Mother of Jesus
The Anam Cara Episcopate
of St. James and St. Mary
The Celtic Catholic Church of the Americas
Mary is accorded honor as the Theotokos, a Koiné Greek term that means "God-bearer" or "one who gives birth to God".
Celtic traditions respect and honor Mary because of the special religious significance that she has within Christianity as the mother of Jesus Christ. This honor and respect are termed veneration.
Question: "Did Mary have other children? How many children did Mary have?"
Answer: Mary, the mother of the Lord Jesus Christ, has been the subject of much speculation, primarily because so little is known about her. But one thing the Bible indicates about Mary is that she had other children. How many children Mary had is up for speculation.
Luke 1 records Mary’s conversation with the angel Gabriel, who told her she was to be the mother of God’s Messiah. At that time, Mary was a young virgin engaged to be married to a man named Joseph. Some have taught that, due to the sacred nature of the virgin birth, Mary had no other children and remained a virgin throughout her life. However, Matthew 1:24–25 seems to counter that teaching and imply that Mary had other children: “When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. But he did not consummate their marriage until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.” The keyword that tells us that Mary had other children after Jesus is until.
Until means “up to the time of.” It implies that action did occur after a prescribed pause. Matthew did not end the sentence by saying, “He did not consummate their marriage.” He says, “He did not consummate their marriage until. . . .” This wording indicates that the action (of consummating the marriage) did occur after the birth of Christ. Matthew also makes a point of telling us that Joseph “took Mary home as his wife.” Matthew’s readers would naturally conclude that Mary became Joseph’s wife in every sense of the word. There is no scriptural evidence to support the assertion that Mary remained a perpetual virgin or that she had no other children. The Bible tells us the opposite.
Mark 6:3 records people becoming angry with Jesus when He taught in His hometown. They rejected Him as a prophet and responded, “‘Isn’t this the carpenter? Isn’t this Mary’s son and the brother of James, Joseph, Judas, and Simon? Aren’t his sisters here with us?’ And they took offense at him.” This passage indicates that Mary had at least seven children, including Jesus. There were at least thirty years between the time of Jesus’ birth and this encounter, which allows plenty of time for other children to have joined the family as Jesus’ siblings.
John 2:12 gives us another hint as we answer the question of whether Mary had other children: “After this, he went down to Capernaum with his mother and brothers and his disciples.” The fact that the words brothers and disciples are both used means that John was not referring to “spiritual” brothers but familial relationships. The “brothers” and the “disciples” were different groups. Matthew 12:46 records a time when Jesus’ mother and brothers came to speak with Him. Mother and brothers, used as a phrase, implies a familial relationship. Scripture gives us no reason to think these were not the biological children of Mary.
Efforts to prove that Mary remained a perpetual virgin are not based on Scripture but on a misguided allegiance to a woman who was as fallible as any other human being (Romans 3:23). While Mary was chosen by God for the holiest of tasks, she was, in her own words, “a humble servant” (Luke 1:48). She obeyed the Lord with faithfulness, as did many other humble servants of the Lord such as Moses, Gideon, Elijah, and Hannah. For Mary to have had marital relations with her lawfully wedded husband, Joseph, would in no way have “defiled” her. Those normal relations would have likely produced other offspring who would have grown up with Jesus as their big brother (James 1:1; Jude 1:1–2). Mary is given no special place in Scripture, and any effort to exalt her to godlike status is man-made heresy.
So, the answer to whether Mary had other children is “yes.” How many children she had is unknown, but she probably had at least seven, including Jesus.
The Bible doesn’t offer us much information about Mary, but her role in God’s redemptive plan was unique.
Luke 1:26-56 records Mary’s encounter with the angel Gabriel and her visit with her relative Elizabeth. In chapter 2, we see her pondering everything that has happened in connection with her son’s birth. In the same chapter, Mary gently rebuked 12-year-old Jesus for causing Joseph and her much concern by remaining behind in the Jerusalem temple instead of joining the caravan back to Nazareth (Luke 2:41-49).
Mary as mentioned again at the wedding feast in Cana of Galilee when Jesus performed His first public miracle (John 2:1-12). She appears a few times after this in connection with our Lord’s brothers and sisters (Matthew 13:54-58; Mark 3:31-35; 6:1-6). When Jesus hung on the cross, He looked down and tenderly said, “Dear woman, here is your son!” (John 19:26), assigning her to the care of the apostle John. The last mention of her is found in Acts 1:14, where she is referred to as “Mary the mother of Jesus.”
Mary was a remarkable person. The angel who came to Mary with the announcement that she would bear the Son of God said that she had “found favor with God” (Luke 1:30). God honored her above all other women by choosing her to become the virgin mother of the Messiah. However, the biblical accounts do not emphasize her role as the mother of Jesus. Nowhere in the Gospels does Jesus even call her “mother.”
Although the Gospels portray her motherly concern, they clearly show her subordination to her son. In John 2:4, Jesus called her “woman” (which wasn’t an as harsh expression in Greek as it would be in modern English), apparently to gently show her that His relationship to her as Savior must take precedence over that of a son.
The Bible nowhere implies that she was born without sin. She recognized her need for a Savior (Luke 1:47). She was qualified to give birth to the sinless Son of God because God chose her and miraculously caused her to conceive by the “overshadowing” of the Holy Spirit (Luke 1:35). While it is right to honor her as the mother of Jesus Christ, there are no biblical grounds for placing her in a position of mediation between ourselves and our Lord. The Scriptures declare: There is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus (1 Timothy 2:5).
Mary, the mother of Our Lord Jesus Christ, holds a special place in the faith of the Celtic Tradition. It is her role, without being a source of grace herself, to lead all people to her divine Son and Savior. The doctrines of the Immaculate Conception and the Assumption of Mary into heaven, defined in recent centuries by the Roman Catholic Church, are held in deep respect by the Celtic Tradition, but they do not constitute part of the Celtic faith or its teachings.
I found this article on Mary by Dan Vander Lugt to be very enlightening. So I share it with you:
"The question of whether or not Mary gave birth to other children besides Jesus is one that has been debated throughout the history of the church. Passages in which the other children of Mary are mentioned are Matthew 12:46-50; Matthew 13:55; Mark 6:3 (mentioning sisters as well as four brothers); Luke 8:19-20; John 2:12; John 7:3-10; and Acts 1:14. Several interpretations of these passages were given by early church leaders. Epiphanius believed they refer to the sons of Joseph by a previous marriage. Jerome said they are cousins. Helvidius believed that they are the sons of Joseph and Mary (young half-brothers of Jesus).
There are several reasons to prefer Helvidius’s view. In the first place, it is the simplest and most natural interpretation of the text. If Mary was so much younger than Joseph that he had a large number of children by an earlier marriage while refraining from a normal marital relationship with her, why would children from an earlier marriage be mentioned repeatedly in close connection with Mary without any indication that they were step-brothers and sisters? It seems most likely that Luke’s reference to Jesus as Mary’s “firstborn” (Luke 2:7) and the statement in Matthew 1:24-25 (“Joseph arose from his sleep, and did as the angel of the Lord commanded him, and took her as his wife, and kept her a virgin until she gave birth to a Son; and he called His name Jesus”) implies that she and Joseph had a large natural family following the Savior’s birth. This, after all, would be the normal and honorable pattern within Jewish culture.
The view that the brothers and sisters (Greek: adelphos, adelphe) mentioned in these passages are actual brothers and sisters confirms Paul’s references to James as “the Lord’s brother” in Galatians 1:19 and to “The Lord’s brothers” in 1 Corinthians 9:5. If they were cousins rather than brothers, Paul would have used the Greek word for “cousins” (anepsioi; see Colossians 4:10).
In light of these factors, those who would depart from the simplest and most natural meaning of the text carry the burden of proof. In our view, the reverence for celibacy and the exaltation of Mary that occurred within the early church is more likely an explanation for Epiphanius’s and Jerome’s interpretations than genuine historical fact.""