The Roman Catholic Church has consistently taught that Jesus' conception
did not involve Joseph or any other human. They cite the Gospel of Matthew,
the Gospel of Luke, many creeds, and church tradition as supports for this
Initially, the church taught a belief that is close to modern
conservative Protestantism: simply that Mary was a virgin at the time of the
conception of Jesus. Hans Küng writes that
by the fourth or fifth century CE, church belief
evolved to include Mary's:
"... virginity in the birth [of Jesus] (in partu == without
birth pangs and/or rupture of the hymen). Finally, it came to be understood
as virginity...after the birth (post partum = no sexual relations and no
further children). That is, semper virgo, for all time, perpetual virginity.....According
to Pope Siricius...even marital intercourse would have meant defilement for
Today, the Church teaches "that the Blessed
Mother of Jesus Christ was a virgin before, during and after the conception and
birth of her divine son." 2 Thus, Jesus had no
full brothers or sisters.
The dogma of the Roman Catholic church also includes the perpetual virginity
of Mary and Mary's
immaculate conception. It teaches that:
Mary's hymen was preserved intact during the delivery of Jesus. Although there is no
mention of this in the Bible, this belief was accepted by the Council of Chalcedon in 451
Mary remained a virgin for the rest of her life. Her marriage to Joseph was never
consummated, and thus the couple never had any more children. There are a number
of ambiguous passages in the Christian Scriptures that some theologians
believe contradict this belief:
Matthew 1:25: "But he [Joseph] had no [sexual] union with her until she
gave birth to a son..." (NIV) This verse states that Mary and Joseph remained celibate
until after Jesus was
born. The word "until," in its modern meaning,
implies that Joseph
and Mary actually consummated their marriage after the birth. However, the word
"until," as used elsewhere in the Bible, does not
necessarily have the latter implication. For example:
2 Samuel 6:23 states that Michal "had no
children till the day of her death." That verse
states that she had no children prior to her death; it also
implies that she had no children after her death.
1 Corinthians 15:25 states that Jesus Christ "...must
reign until he has put all enemies under his feet."
This states that Jesus would reign until he conquered his
enemies, it also implies that his reign would continue
Matthew 6:3: "Isn't this [Jesus] the carpenter? Isn't this Mary's son and
the brother of James, Joseph, Judas and Simon? Aren't his sisters here with us?...".
(NIV) There are also other references to siblings of Jesus in the Christian Scriptures. Many
Christians accept that these are other sons by Mary and Joseph; others believe that they
were really Jesus' half-brothers (sons of Joseph from a previous marriage) or cousins
of Jesus, or friends of Jesus.
Luke 2:48: "...Your father and I have been
anxiously searching for you." In this passage, Jesus'
mother Mary reproaches him, and refers to Joseph as his
father. This verse is also ambiguous, because step-fathers
were often called fathers in 1st century Palestine, as
they are today.
As mentioned in another essay,
a first century CE ossuary with the Aramaic
inscription "James, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus" was found in
the mid-1980's. If this is actually the bone box that contained James
remains, then the inscription would give weight to the belief that Jesus
and James were sons of Joseph. However, at least part of the inscription appears to be a hoax.