Did Mary have other children?
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 clearly 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 key word that tells us that Mary had other children after Jesus is until.
Until means “up to the time of.” It implies that an 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. In fact, 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 to 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.
Recommended Resource: God the Son Incarnate: The Doctrine of Christ by Stephen Wellum
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