Do Christians believe the Virgin Mary stayed a virgin later in life?

So she gives (virgin) birth to Jesus. But she’s married to Joseph. So… is the official Christian line that they just stayed celibate? Or did they consummate their marriage?

Like virtually everything else about Christianity, it depends on the sect.

As Darren says, some believe in the Perpetual Virginityof Mary. But the Bible explicitly says they had sex after Jesus was born.
Matthew 1:25.

New International Version
But he did not consummate their marriage until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.

New Living Translation
But he did not have sexual relations with her until her son was born. And Joseph named him Jesus.

English Standard Version
but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus.

No, it really doesn’t. If your doctor says “I want you to run every other day until your blood pressure is below 120/70” that doesn’t mean you are supposed to stop exercising after that point. The same is true of the Greek usage here. Jesus uses the same construction later in the Gospel of Matthew, “I am with you always, until the end of the age”, but he clearly didn’t imply he was going to abandon his followers after that.

To the OP: Catholics, the Orthodox and some Anglicans believe in the Perpetual Virginity of Mary, and there are second-century nonbiblical sources that state Mary was perpetually virgin. Other Protestants usually don’t. The arguments in favour of Mary and Joseph having sex are: 1) the aforementioned construction “until” which I think is dubious for the aforementioned reason, 2) the fact that the Gospels mention ‘brothers’ of Jesus, which I think is doubtful because Aramaic / Syriac speakers use ‘brother’ to refer to cousins as well, and it’s quite likely the earlies Christians imported their Aramaic linguistic idioms into Greek, and 3) there was no tradition of celibate marriage within Judaism. (To which I’d answer that people do untraditional things all the time, and first century Judaism existed in a context of major political and intellectual ferment).

It’s a little specious to say “There was no tradition of celibate marriage in Judaism.” Marriage was pretty much for making children in Judaism.

Christianity has a hang-up about sex, because Paul had a hang-up about sex, but it was Paul’s personal thing. Judaism has no problem with sex.

In fact, women have no right of divorce in Judaism, except in one circumstance-- if her husband is not having sex with her (and one imagines that the threat of asking for divorce under these grounds can prompt a man to grant divorce under other grounds.

Sex within marriage is A BIG DEAL in Judaism. There’s a whole tractate in the Talmud about it. It would be highly, highly unusual for a couple to decide not to be sexual after a marriage, unless Joseph was so old he was impotent.

In fact, something that I find very puzzling about the Jesus story, as a Jew, is the deity’s decision to cuckold someone. If Mary was betrothed to Joseph, she was already forbidden to other men. However, in Judaism, an out-of-wedlock pregnancy was not as shameful as it is in Christianity, so it seems to me it would have made a lot more sense for the deity to have chosen an unwed, unbetrothed woman.

That’s all true, but I’m not arguing with that. “No tradition of celibate marriage in Judaism” was intended to be a short version of what you just said.

You’re correct it would be highly unusual, but that doesn’t (to me) make it all that unlikely that it happened. People do highly unusual things all the time, especially within an intimate environment like marriage. And Judaism was undergoing a lot of change in the first century anyway (they more-or-less abolished the death penalty, were having debates about eschatology, were under intense political pressure both from the Romans and Herodian dynasty, etc.) so it’s not surprising to me that there would have been a lot of people doing unusual and untraditional things.

This particular this, nonetheless, would be very surprising. Unless, like I said, Joseph was old and impotent. I don’t believe in the whole Jesus myth, obviously, but as a mental exercise, I have wondered what it would take for it to make sense, and that’s the only thing I can come up with. Mary would have a child to raise, since her husband couldn’t impregnate her, and she would be perpetually virgin, as RC doctrine requires. Not that there aren’t tons of things you can’t do besides intercourse. I mean, does Roman Catholic doctrine suggest they slept in bunk beds?

No. Mary was a virgin and remained so until after Jesus’ birth. She and Joseph had other children after Jesus.

According to Matthew 13 55-56, Jesus had brothers named James, Jude, Simon and Joses, as well as two or more unnamed sisters.

Most Protestants accept that these siblings were naturally conceived by Mary and Joseph. Catholics and some other sects assert that they were kin but not siblings, and that Mary remained a Virgin.

I’m a heretic, I guess- a Catholic who believes Mary and Joseph had an active sex life and other kids.

Jesus was born long before the Talmud was written. Indeed, the Talmud was composed by the Pharisees, who were not find of Jesus (and vice versa).

I am not a christian, but I was brought up to understand that

I/ speculating on other people’s sex lives is unright.

II/ speculating on sex on the characters in holy books is unwholesome.

III/ looking for sexually exciting parts in holy books is frowned upon, whether by Cardinals, Kirk Elders, Rabbis or Imams etc., which instantly stops small boys from reading how Israel shall have her skirts thrown over her head to uncover her shame, of course.

Occasionally some women are frigid, or more often just sensibly uninterested in either sex or begetting.

He had enough on his plate without being the son of an unmarried mother.

That is not an answer to the OP question. The answer is there is no “official Christian” position since there are a myriad Christian traditions and teachings. The various forms of Catholic and Orthodox churches (containing a numerical majority of Christians) do hold to the “eternal virginity” doctrine.
Already to begin with the whole “a Virgin shall conceive” thing is apparently an artifact of translation – from an Old Testament original that said “a young maid” and then became rendered as “a virgin” in the Greek versions. The fit of the Jesus story into OT prophesies and the Messiah narrative is one huge work of sacred retcon.

So the gospels do not proceed to say, as the Old Testament used to, “and then Joseph knew his wife Mary and brought forth sons and daughters”. So we are left hanging with just implications and inferences. (On the “siblings of Jesus” front, another alternative claim is that these were Joseph’s children from a first marriage, but then they somehow fail to show up until after Dad himself is out of the narrative.)

The official Catholic line as far as I can make it is that God conferred upon Joseph and Mary a special grace of being able to maintain a chaste marriage as the caregivers and providers for the young Word Incarnate.

Of course, God being God, it could be trivial for him to simply make it possible for them to have a marital life without it changing the essential purity and unsulliedness of Mary. But that’s for the theologians to figure out.

The Straight Dope: Did Jesus have siblings? (which pretty much agrees with what you said)

This is a vast oversimplification. It’s not clear to me from his writings that Paul had any more of a hang-up about sex than his contemporaries. And I think there are plenty of other possibilities if you’re looking to trace Christianity’s hang-up(s) with sex to its/their sources.

In any case, Paul never advocated celibate marriage.

Mark 6,1-3
6Then He went out from there and came to His own country, and His disciples followed Him.2And when the Sabbath had come, He began to teach in the synagogue. And many hearingHimwere astonished, saying, “Wheredidthis Mangetthese things? And what wisdomisthis which is given to Him, that such mighty works are performed by His hands!3Is this not the carpenter, the Son of Mary, and brother of James, Joses, Judas, and Simon? And are not His sisters here with us?” So they were offended at Him.
Question: Why were they offended at him?
Perhaps the answer is to be found back in Chapter 3

3,31Then His brothers and His mother came, and standing outside they sent to Him, calling Him.32And a multitude was sitting around Him; and they said to Him, “Look, Your mother and Your brothers[e]are outside seeking You.”

33But He answered them, saying,“Who is My mother, or My brothers?”34And He looked around in a circle at those who sat about Him, and said,“Here are My mother and My brothers!35For whoever does the will of God is My brother and My sister and mother.”
Now follows: So they were offended at him.
And finally verse 3,30
because they said, “He has an unclean spirit.”
There are other instances in Msrk where the text has been split up and strewn around.
Jesus is identified as a carpenter here … but a slight error in spelling was made at some time. The word now translated as carpenter was originally simply “young boy” … Jesus had been away for a long time.
It could be that the original complete text identified his father … so that was why it was split up, leaving out the text referring to his father.

It’s not a mistranslation; it’s a misunderstanding. Isaiah (7:14) says, “Look at that young woman.” The word here is “almah,” and it probably does imply virgin, but never mind that for the moment. Then he says “She will [conceive and give birth] to a son, and name him Emmanuel.” There’s a verb that encompasses both those activities. Isaiah then goes on to map out a timeline using the child’s developmental steps, and tells what things will happen to the king in those amounts of time.

Now, look at it sensibly, without the baggage of knowing that this is supposed to be a prophecy of a virgin birth. Suppose I say “Look at that woman over there. She’s a virgin now, but by this time next year, she will have a baby.” What I’m saying isn’t “She’s going to have a virginal pregnancy”; what I’m saying is, “She’s a virgin now, but won’t be for long.”

Isaiah is using the time is would take for a woman who we know definitely for sure isn’t pregnant now to get pregnant and have a baby to say that something will take about 12-18 months.

That’s all.

It seems clear that He had siblings. Any interpretation otherwise is a desperate parsing of the language to fit a predetermined agenda. These are the same folks that interpret Onan’s story as a warning against masturbation and birth control. Sorry, not buying it.

I mean, sure, it’s surprising. Surprising things happen all the time. (Donald Trump winning the election, for example).

The most detailed description of Joseph and Mary’s marriage is in the Protevangelium of James. Nobody knows exactly when it was written (I think the arguments about dating are pretty weak), but it certainly dates from sometime before 200 AD and maybe much earlier, which still puts it closer to the events than sources for a lot of ancient history. Some early Christian groups appear to have read it as scripture, but no surviving Christian branch does, although the Eastern Orthodox treat it as a respected historical, although non-inspired and non-infallible, work. The Protevangelium states that Mary was a sort of consecrated virgin and that her marriage to Joseph was purely pro forma, for care and economic security. Judaism didn’t have a tradition of consecrated virgins and as you point out such a thing would be very unusual, but I don’t find that to really be a problem. People act in idiosyncratic ways, and in ways that their official religious authorities don’t allow, all the time. There are Hindus today who eat beef, Muslims who drink alcohol, Christians who might practice polygamy or extreme promiscuity or have beliefs wildly at variance with what their church teaches. Maybe Mary and Joseph just had a weird and idiosyncratic take on Judaism. I somehow think that the Jewish religious authorities had more important issues to deal with at the time than to police the details of every couple’s sex life.

In general, I don’t think “this document has to be historically false because it recounts people behaving in a very atypical way, prohibited by their religion” is a very reliable argument. People behave in atypical ways all the time, and if the Christian story is true, then Joseph and Mary were already not a ‘typical’ couple (typical couples don’t get chosen by God for special missions).

The argument for using “virgin” here instead of “young woman” (which of course no non-Christian will accept, and even many Christians won’t accept) is that the Septuagint translation was in some sense divinely guided, and so the Septuagint version is the most accurate, and it says explicitly “parthenos”. I think the Orthodox believe this explicitly (their Bibles use the Septuagint text for the OT rather than the Hebrew sources).

My mother refers to her first cousins as ‘brothers’ and ‘sisters’, even though English is her first language, because she’s imported that idiom from Tamil. Why is it inconceivable that native Aramaic-speakers communicating in Greek would do exactly the same thing? Aramaic doesn’t have a word for ‘cousin’ any more than ‘Tamil’ does.

21st century Americans have an unusually narrow and specific perspective on family relations, but in a lot of cultures these words have more fluid meanings.

I will respond with another idiom. Don’t piss on my leg and tell me it’s raining. The text is clear and you are demonstrating lawyer-esque parsing of the language when it is not required. There is NO reason to interpret it like that except for the *a priori *purpose of forcing in a specific dogma. That all but one or two particular sects of Christianity do not have this hangup tells me that it is not essential for the religion to interpret it this way.