Then his mother and his relatives came to him, but they could not get to him because of the crowd. Someone told him, “Your mother and your brothers are standing outside and wish to meet you.” Then Jesus answered, “My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and do it.”
Basing themselves on today’s gospel reading, some of our Protestant brothers and sisters believe that, if Mary was a virgin when she gave birth to Jesus, she subsequently lost her virginity and had other children in the usual manner, as we learn from today’s gospel episode which states that Jesus had “brothers.” How can Catholics, who have always professed the perpetual virginity of Mary, refute their position?
The Catholics stand on this question is simply that the so-called “brothers” of Jesus were really his cousins or relatives. We know this on the basis of various arguments, only three of which will be presented here.
First, neither Hebrew nor Aramaic have a term for “cousins” or “relatives.” They use the word “brother” (or “sister”) instead.
Second, in the gospels these “brothers” of Jesus are never called sons of Mary. In this particular passage of Luke, if people were referring to other sons of Mary, they would surely say: “Your mother and the sons of your mother are here.”
Third, the infancy gospels mention no other children of Mary.
As a final remark, let us remember that nowadays in America all blacks call themselves “brothers.” In Africa, too, this custom is quite widespread.
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