The Christendom of all ages had been bedeviled by the controversies
Surrounding the filial maternity of the brothers and sisters of Jesus Christ so to speak. Some religious denominations, especially the Jehovah witnesses sect opined that Jesus had at least six siblings comprising of four males and two females. Reference was made to Matthew 13:54-56 which stated that when Jesus was coming to his home town, he began teaching the people in their synagogue, and they were amazed. “Where did this man get this wisdom and these miraculous powers”, they asked. “Isn’t this carpenter’s son? Isn’t his mother’s name Mary, and aren’t his brothers James, Joseph, Simon, and Judas? Aren’t all his sisters here with us? Where then did this man get allthese things?” And they took Offence at him. (Holy Bible, New International Version).Refer again to Mark 6:3.
Two issues come up clearly from these above two quotations. Jesus was specifically referred to as the carpenter’s son, Joseph and son of Mary, In other words, Mary was the biological mother of Jesus, and Joseph, his earthly father. Same was not said of his four brothers and all his sisters. The bible could have made it known since Jesus was such an important and influential figure at that. All of mankind could have had a tremendous joy that the mother of our redeemer and saviour was blessed with such numerous fruits of the womb, but such was not the case. The second point is that the Jews, like the Igbos, cherish the ancestry of individuals who are from royal and ideal families.
In the record of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the origins of amiable persons were properly documented. Nobody was left in doubt as to the identity of their parents. Judah’s parents were Jacob, his father, and Leah, his mother (Genesis 35:22-23). King David’s father was Jesse (Matthew 1:6); Solomon was the offspring of David and Bathsheba (Uriah’s wife) (2 Samuel 12:24). Jesus was the son of Joseph and Mary (Matthew 1:16). Nowhere in the bible was it recorded that the brothers and sisters of Jesus were born by Joseph and Mary. How can anybody then say that Virgin Mary had other children?
Our attention is now drawn to the incident at Jerusalem during a Passover feast when Jesus was twelve years old (Luke2:41-51). Of course, that was the last time the name of Joseph was mentioned in the bible and it appears that he probably died early. Mary could not have been handed over to John by dying Jesus hanging on the cross (John19:25-27) if her husband, Joseph was still alive. It is worthy of note that the nuclear family of Joseph, comprising of only three members made this trip. This calls up the question of whereabouts of the others if Mary had many children. Of course, Jesus was only twelve years old then being the eldest child and going by the assumption of six younger ones; Mary’s last child should have been about two months old and still nursing or suckling. No sane mother would leave such a baby of tender age at home and undergo a journey that lasted for many days. Joseph being fatherly, caring and emanating humility of a rare degree could not have allowed it to happen. Neither would Mary, a loving mother.
A celebrated and famous personality is appreciated by close relatives. Everybody likes to be associated with him and the members of his immediate family are proud of him receiving favours because of being related to him. A popular rock music group in the then Eastern Nigeria sang “Mr. Beggar has no townsman, but everybody wants to associate with a rich man” in one of the songs in the albums of Sweet Breeze band in the 1970s. This should have been true of Jesus Christ being the source of happiness to many and having many disciples and followers. But the so called brothers were jealous of him, wanting him to travel to Judea for the Festival of Shelters intending the Jewish authorities to kill him. (John 7:1-5). If they were really of the same parents, not few of them would have believed in him for they ought to know his divine nature since mother Mary would have explained the mystery surrounding his conception and birth. At least, they saw the signs and wonders he performed and should help in spreading the gospel. Instead, Mary kept these things in her heart (Luke 2:19) because she had no other children to talk to. The angel of God revealed them to Joseph. (Matthew 1:19-23). It stands to reason then that Jesus was the only son of Mary.
Considering the incident on mount Calvary where Jesus was nailed to the cross experiencing excruciating pain and extreme anguish. Mother Mary had only John the Evangelist as a close associate to keep her company. Where were the supposed brothers and sisters? Even if they might have taken offence because Jesus disowned them publicly saying “Who is my mother? Who are my brothers?… whoever does what my Father in heaven wants him to do is my brother, my sister, my mother…” (Matthew 12.48-50, Today’s English Version Good news Bible), they should have exhibited filial love by showing solidarity with the mother at this trying period at the foot of the cross. The last born child always stays close to the Mother, even in our land. But none of them was mentioned to have been seen around on the way to Calvary. They ought to have contested for the body of Jesus for a decent and proper burial if they were his maternal brothers instead of Joseph of Arimathea (Mark 15:42-43) .The Jews were only interested in the death of Jesus and not the dead body. So the fear of the Jews is out of question. Clearly Mary had no other children.
Virgin Mary was created for a particular purpose and it was to be the Mother of Our saviour Jesus Christ. She was born without original sin. It stands to reason that Jesus being everything human but without sin should be the offspring of a woman of Immaculate Conception. Every living soul except her inherited the sin of Adam and Eve. This gives rise to the need for baptism though Jesus was baptized “to fulfill all righteousness” (Matthew 3:15} and not because he sinned. The doctrine of immaculate conception presupposes that Mary was conceived without the stain of original sin and nothing is impossible with God for Angel Gabriel said that” There is nothing God cannot do” (Luke 1;37|. God’s plan for the salvation of mankind began after Adam and Eve disobeyed him by not carrying out his instructions. He cursed the serpent, that is, the devil and said “I will make you and the woman hate each other, for her offspring will crush your head (Genesis 3:15),Notice that offspring is singular and it signifies Jesus Christ. The woman, no doubt was Virgin Mary. Any undertaking of God is with precision devoid of human defects. This explained why Mary was saved the embarrassment of the deprivation of sanctifying grace occasioned by the original sin we inherited from Adam. Jesus Christ’s vein carried her blood and thus was perfect, pure and free from the corrupt nature original sin brings.
Matthew quoted Isaiah 7:14 in his gospel when he wrote “A virgin will become pregnant and have a son and he will be called Immanuel (which means “God is with us”) (Matthew 1:23). Isaiah was a renowned prophet of old who was privileged to see God (Isaiah 6:1)and had a rare gift of knowing his hidden things among which was his plan for the salvation of mankind. He prophesied extensively of the coming of Messiah bringing to bear the kind of ordeal he would pass through with mathematical accuracy in unequalled detailed descriptions. He even gave the nature of the Messiah’s government (Isaiah 9:6-7)raising hopes for justice and equal rights for everybody. The Mother of such an enigmatic and charismatic individual was expected to be specifically made in a manner different from her contemporaries and hence “The Immaculate Conception” which means “was conceived without original sin”.
One might ask: Was Mary aware that she was born without original sin? Put another way: Does anyone know that one had a special talent at birth? Recall the encounter between Mary and angel Gabriel” Peace be with you!, The Lord is with you and has greatly blessed you” (Luke 1:29). Mary was deeply troubled by the Angel’s message and she wondered what his words meant (Luke 1:29). This shows that before that encounter, Mary was unaware that she was “full of grace.” She was probably ignorant of the fact that God created her for a special assignment, that is, to be the mother of Jesus, otherwise she could not have been betrothed to Joseph. But God being Omnipotent and Omniscience knew the importance of an earthly father who would nurture and bring up Jesus in the accepted norms of the Jewish society. Hence there was the need for Joseph.
After the announcement of the miraculous conception of Jesus, Mary wondered at its possibility because she was a virgin though she was cohabiting with Joseph. Can you beat that? It was after then that the Angel threw in the bombshell and Mary accepted the motherhood with deep humility “I am the handmaid of the lord, be it done to me according to thy words” (Luke 1:38). It then dawned on her that she was created for a great responsibility to fulfill God’s set up for the redemption of human race, She could not have possibly given birth to other children.
In the revelation given to John the Evangelist, this wonderful but humble woman was seen clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head. She was about to give birth. She gave birth to a son, a male child, who will rule all the nations with an iron scepter (Revelation12:1-5). This passage agrees with the prophecy of Isaiah. Need anyone further proof of single child motherhood of Mary! This write-up was informed by the misinformation given by the R.N.V- Christian Religious Studies teacher recently in one of the state secondary schools in Nnewi Zone, to the effect that Mary had many children .When confronted by my kids who are students of that school with the issue, I had to research my Bible to bring to light what ought be known by Christians in particle and public in general.
CREDIT : This article is composed
By E.S.OFOMAH CPA. MBA.
………….E S Ofomah writes from St. David’s Catholic Parish, Azigbo. Reactions are welcome and should be channeled through the above address or via mobile phone number 08101327059