Did Jesus have sisters?

When you read the Bible, they mention Jesus’ brother James and it mentions that he had “some sisters.” I have read that the Bible is bad in terms of recognizing women. In fact, I have heard that Mary Magdalene was not a prostitute at all, but merely an amalgamation of several women, one of which was a prostitute - not Mary. So, if there are any Biblical scholars out there who can help, I’d appreciate it.

  • j

Not quite a scholar, but I can help a little. There are a few passages in the New Testament about Jesus’ “brethren” but no mention of sisters. Many churches teach that these were not his brothers in the modern English sense – that the passage might be better translated as “cousins”. So we don’t get any help from the source text on the presence/absence of sisters or even female cousins. As you suggest, their absence in the text doesn’t necessarily imply their absence in person even though the brethren are mentioned in several places and even their names are given in Matthew 13:55.

Mary Magdalene is not described as a prostitute in the biblical text. Luke says that “out of her went seven devils” but does not specify any sins associated with this, much less prostitution. She is mentioned several times elsewhere, notably at Christ’s death and resurrection. It seems to me that the amalgamation theory doesn’t hold up too well. There is a passage in which a woman, a known sinner, comes and bathes Christ’s feet with her tears and dries them with her hair. The host silently criticizes Jesus for not perceiving what type of woman she is. Again, no specific sin is mentioned – prostitution is the usual inference, which is reasonable but still merely a supposition. Some scholars think that this woman was Mary Magdalene, so, piling up their suppositions, they believe that Mary Magdalene was a prostitute. But again, it is ultimately just speculation.

The Master has touched on this issue: Did Jesus have siblings?

And the Teeming Millions chattered about it: Jesus’ Siblings and Virgin Birth

Read Matthew 14:54-55, to see the Scriptural basis of the argument. ("Jesus came to his native place and taught the people in the synagogue. They were astonished, and said, “Where did this men get such wisdom and such mighty deeds? Is this not the carpenter’s son? Is not his mother named Mary, and his brothers James, Joses, Simon, and Judas?
Do not his sisters live among us?”)

From what I understand, most Protestant churches accept the words “brothers” and “sisters” literally, and have no problem accepting that Mary and Joseph had marital relations, and had (at leadt) six more children. It’s primarily the Catholic Church that insists Mary remained a virgin forever, and interprets “brothers and sisters” loosely. An, true enough, “adelphi” CAN mean kinsmen, as opposed to children of the same parents. Still…

Though I’m Catholic, and a fairly rigid, doctrinaire one at that, I suspect my Church’s position on this issue reflects an unease with sex. I don’t see what would be so terrible about Mary, a MARRIED woman, having sex with her HUSBAND, and having more children. That wouldn’t detract fromn the sacredness and specialness of the virgin birth of Jesus in the least! But I think many in the CHurch hierarchy continue to think sex is… just a LITTLE bit icky and dirty, and HATE the idea that Mary would EVER do such a thing.

I’ve never understood this. Jesus is supposed to have been the son of Mary, a virgin. Wow, how did a virgin get pregant? GOD must have caused the pregnancy! Wow, that Jesus guy is the son of God!

None of this makes sense to me.

Mary was a young married woman; married to a guy named Joseph. So why was she supposed to be a virgin? Why wouldn’t she have ceased to be a virgin on her wedding night? Wasn’t that the normal deal in those days? And is she really supposed to have remained virgin for the whole time between her marriage to Joseph and the birth of Jesus?

The protestants evidently think she and Joe started “doing it” at some point after Jesus’ birth. But why do they think they both remained celebate until then? The catholics seem to belive that she was a lifelong virgin, dispite being a married woman. How do they account for this? Why is Joe supposed to have refrained from sex with his wife?

Also, why the assumption that God must have caused Mary to become pregnant? Why didn’t people assume that Mary’s pregnancy resulted from sex with a regular human male? Surely that was the most simple explaination?

And why did the “son of God” need to be born of a virgin? Why did he need to be the LITERAL son of god? To those who believe in this stuff, are not we ALL the sons and daughters of god?

Hazel, many people interpret the emaculate conception to mean that Mary was not necessarily impregnated as a virgin, but was impregnated without sin. I think the difference shows up between various translations, but I don’t know much about that sort of thing.

Watch out, Hazel, or people might think you’re a Unitarian:D!

You might want to read the Bible for the obvious answers to these question. Mary was greeted by the angel Gabriel (and presumably made pregnant at the same time) when she was “a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph” (Luke 1:26 [NIV]). She was pregnant before she was married and while she was still a virgin. In fact, “because Joseph her husband was a righteous man and did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly” (Matthew 1:19 [NIV]) after learning she was pregnant. Of course, Joseph assumed Mary had been sleeping around and while she could presumably be stoned for this (see Mark though it’s my understanding women weren’t being stoned at that point in time and the story in Mark is more of a set up to test Jesus), Joseph instead was going to divorce her on the sly instead of making her a pariah. Nice guy, that Joseph. Anyway, God comes to Joseph (via angel in dream) and fills him in and Joseph remains married to his wife.

I assume that after the birth of Jesus, the marriage was made ‘offical’ so to speak. Certainly there’s nothing to imply that Mary didn’t lead a normal life (as such) after the birth of Jesus and I’ve never had reason to doubt that the brothers and sisters mentioned in the Bible are literal brothers and sisters. Childbirth is a common blessing from God in both the New and Old testaments (read Abraham and Sarah all the way to Elizabeth and John the Baptist) so I fail to see how being denied children is supposed to make Mary more holy or righteous than those God blessed with children.

They’d be wrong in either case :wink: According to Catholic doctrine, the immaculate conception refers to the idea that Mary was born without the taint of original sin so that she’d be a pure vessal for the Son of God. The act of Mary being greeted by Gabriel is the Annuciation and so I’d guess the pregnancy part falls into that. Seeing as how the Catholics are the only ones to subscribe to the Original Sin theory (that I know of, anyway) they’re the only ones to whom Immaculate Conception would be important. It’s commonly misused by all Christian faiths to describe the pregnancy of Mary though.

Well, National Lampoon DID once have the story of “Jessica Christ” …

I beleive that the doctrine of original sin is common to all Christian churches - although with great variations on how important a role it plays in the theology of a particualar church. In the RC church it is closely linked to the sacrament of baptism; less so in other churches.

Time for a primer on Jewish marriage law.

Jewish marriages are done in two stages. The first is called kiddushin. This stage is usually done by the groom giving the bride an object of value (nowadays, a plain gold ring is always used). At this point, the bride is considered the wife of the groom in almost all respects (she needs a formal divorce to get out of it, if she sleeps around, it is considered adultery, etc.) However, they are not yet permitted to have relations with each other.

The second stage is called nisuin. This is done when the groom formally brings his bride to his domain (his house, etc.). This is done today with the use of the chuppah, the marriage canopy, which is considered the groom’s domain.

In Talmudic times (which is when Mary, Joseph, Jesus, etc. lived), these two stages were sometimes seperated by up to a year. Nowadays, the custom is to perform them both together.

Therefore, if Mary and Joseph performed kiddushin but not nisuin, it is possible for Mary to be Joseph’s wife and yet still be a virgin.

Zev Steinhardt

“The immaculate conception refers to the idea that Mary was born without the taint of original sin.” Is it Mary or Jeses who was born without this taint? If Mary, was she also born to a virgin? If so, how come we never hear about Mary’s mom? If not, how WAS Mary “born without taint”?

I’ve never gotten this original sin business, either. Sex is always, automatically sinful? Even when a married couple have sex for the purpose of procreation, it’s STILL sinful? Sounds like a rigged game to me: you can only continue the species by doing something bad and wrong? Therefore, just about everyone, no matter how good a life they lead, is a sinner in need of some means of getting forgiveness?

Sex is not the cause of original sin (though I suppose it’s impossible to have a child with original sin and not have sex involved somehow). Original Sin is the notion that since Adam and Eve, all humans have automatically been sinners and are born imperfect spiritually. This is alluded to in the Old Testament which speaks of the sins of the father being passed to the son, though you could make arguments against it as well. In any event, the Immaculate Conception is the notion that Mary was born without this spiritual imperfection. She was conceived cleanly, without sin upon her. This was so she could later become the bearer of the Son of God, just as you’d want a perfect bowl to hold holy oil or something. How was this done? Act of God (Mary being chosen from before her own birth to be the mother of Christ, it’s be easy enough for God to have her born clean) or so I’d guess – The Bible doesn’t mention it at all and it’s really more of a Catholic tradition doctrine than something proven by canonical literature. One would also figure that Mary would have to live a sinless life from birth until Jesus was born for the Immaculate Conception to have any real meaning, lest it be like fashioning a fine alabaster vase just to drop it in the mud five minutes later. I suppose perhaps she had sinned and was relieved of her sin through the temple, but again the Bible never makes mention of IC, so it’s all anyone’s guess.

Jesus was born without sin of course, since the Bible states that he was sinless. He was baptised, but at the time that was done as a sign of faith, not as a rite of forgiveness of your sins by God.

As for Original Sin being a common trait of all Christian faiths, I was raised Catholic (and still consider myself to be for lack of a better definition though I make for a pretty liberal Catholic) and heard of it all the time. My friend was raised Lutheran had never heard much of it except as one of the crazy things Catholics believed in. I had assumed that most Protestant faiths followed the Lutheran angle rather than the Catholic.

Finally, on sex being sinful, I don’t know of any faith that actually says that sex is, in of itself, a sin. However, almost all faiths have some (greater or lesser) restrictions on how and with whom sex may be practiced and breaking from those restrictions is a sin. While the Bible never talks of it (obviously) I’d assume that from a Catholic viewpoint, even a child born outside the body from an artifically fertilized egg would carry original sin. Sex isn’t really the issue with it.

From what I understand, the concept of sex being inherantly linked to sin dates back originally to Augustine. He tied in original sin, using (I think) the argument that all babies born with original sin are born as a result of sex, and used as supporting evidence the fact that almost all cultures have a taboo against exposing the sex organs. I’m not sure exactly where in Augustine it can be found, though, since, as the saying goes “Anyone who claims to have read all of the works of Augustine is either a saint or a liar-- and ours is an age mighty short of saints.”.

Can’t speak for the Lutherans, but original sin seems to be recognized by the Anglican Church and the Methodist churches.

Original sin was recognized in the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion of the Anglican Church, which took their final form in 1571, during the reign of Queen Elizabeth. As described in the Britannica:

Thus, the Thirty-Nine Articles are a blending of Roman Catholic and Lutheran/Calvinist doctrine. Although a basic statement of doctrine, acceptance of every article is no longer a condition of the Anglican priesthood.

In any event, Article II, discussing the nature of Christ, states that his death was “…to be a sacrifice, not only for original guilt, but also for actual sins of men.”

Article IX recognizes the concept of original sin, as “…the fault and corruption of the Nature of every man, that naturally is engendered of the offspring of Adam; whereby man is very far gone from original righteousness, and is of his own nature inclined to evil, so that the flesh lusteth always contrary to the Spirit…”

Similarly, Aticle XV states that “Christ in the truth of our nature was made like unto us in all things, sin only except, from which he was clearly void…”

See also Articles 2 and 7 of the Methodist Articles of Religion, which are derived from the Anglican Articles.

Polycarp could likely deal with the issue in more depth.

Please allow me to nail this one cold. :smiley:

The importance of the Immaculate Conception was to produce someone who could bear the Son of God. The importance of the virgin birth was to leave absolutely no doubt as to Jesus’ origin. Obviously Mary couldn’t have been impregnated by a man; therefore the pregnancy must have been divine. That’s what was so wondrous about the Virgin Mother…nothing more. I have no trouble at all believing that Mary and Joseph later produced siblings (brothers and sisters) naturally.

Remember, our modern sexual mores didn’t exist in Biblical times. Sure, adultery was loathed and often punished by death, but beyond that it was pretty much a free planet (the good book presents more than enough evidence of this). It’d be asking a helluva lot from either parent to refrain from the act their entire lives. (I mean, think about it.)