The Catholic Church says that Mary was always a virgin.
By and large, the Protestant congregations of the world squarely deny this.
They cite, as their authority for squarely contradicting the Catholic Church, verses like Mark 6:3, which all who are party to the controversy agree are inspired by Almighty God, Himself.
Referring to Jesus, Nazareans who had heard Jesus teaching in Nazareth said, "Where did this man get all this? What kind of wisdom has been given him? What mighty deeds are wrought by his hands! Is he not the carpenter, the son of Mary, and the adelphos of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? And are not his adelphee` here with us?" Mark 6:2-3.
The whole question is how to translate those inspired New Testament Greek words, if one is going to rely on them.
Part of the logic of trying to guess how to translate them is this: The verses are quoting an Aramaic-speaking Nazarean. The Aramaic language of the Jews of Jesus' time had no word for "cousin." Greek did, but not Aramaic. There was a way to express the cousin idea with many words in Aramaic, called a "circumlocution," but Aramaic-speaking Jews rarely went to the trouble of talking like that. They thus customarily applied to male cousins the Aramaic word for "brothers," and they customarily applied to female cousins the Aramaic word for "sisters."
So, here's the question: Was Mark's gospel originally written in Aramaic, quoting in an inspired fashion Aramaic speakers with Aramaic figures of speech, and did the Greek rendering which we have in our oldest scrolls accurately represent the Aramaic figure of speech "brother" used to refer to "cousins," because the translator was striving for perfect literal accuracy, or did the translator of the earliest Greek version convey the ultimate underlying meaning of adelphos, and have in his head a picture of people who popped out of Mary's womb, after sexual intercourse with a male?
Eusebius says that Mark listened to Peter's recollections of what Jesus said, and wrote them down.
That makes Aramaic-speaking Peter, quoting Aramaic-speaking Jesus, the initial narrator, building into the etymology of the words the ambiguity innate in Aramaic. I hesitate to declare the Greek of the Gospel, as Greek, to be inspired. Where exactly does inspiration occur in the process which brings the gospels to our eyes?
So, is there any way to determine the meaning of adelphos and adelphee` other than nailing us poor Catholics to the wall with a literal interpretation one does not clearly have a right to make?
Yup! Just read the gospel carefully. Let's look at the words of Mark 6:3 again...
"Is he not the carpenter, the son of Mary, and the adelphos of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? And are not his adelphee` here with us?"
Simple question: Do those names occur elsewhere in the same gospel, in a way that might shed light on their blood relationship to Jesus?
40 There were also women looking on from a distance. Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of the younger
James and of Joses, and Salome.
41 These women had followed him when he was in Galilee and ministered to him. There were also many other women who had come up with him to Jerusalem.
42 When it was already evening, since it was the day of preparation, the day before the sabbath,
43 Joseph of Arimathea, a distinguished member of the council, who was himself awaiting the kingdom of God, came and courageously went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus.
44 Pilate was amazed that he was already dead. He summoned the centurion and asked him if Jesus had already died.
45 And when he learned of it from the centurion, he gave the body to Joseph.
46 Having bought a linen cloth, he took him down, wrapped him in the linen cloth and laid him in a tomb that had been hewn out of the rock. Then he rolled a stone against the entrance to the tomb.
47 Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of
Joses watched where he was laid. Mark 15:40-47.
Note well: (1) Mark himself is using two of the names cited in Mark 6 as "adelphos" of Jesus. (2) Mark, here, identifies them as the children of a Mary not Jesus' mother (3) who followed Jesus in Galilee, where Nazareth is. Assuming the kids were with her -- a conservative assumption -- the people in Galilee, including the Mark 6:3 speaker, would have known of them.
If they are the same -- and Mark's reference to this Mary as having been with Jesus in Galilee seems to be a conscious harkening back to Mark 6:3, and therefore a declaration that they are the same -- then adelphos and adelphee` would seem to be a reference to cousins!
Next, there is something very obvious bearing on the issue at hand in John 19...
26 When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple there whom he loved, he said to his mother, "Woman, behold, your son."
27 Then he said to the disciple, "Behold, your mother." And from that hour the disciple took her into his home. John 19:26-27.
If Mary had scads of offspring jumping hither and yon in addition to Jesus, then where are they here? Why is Jesus handing his mother over to the care of one who is not offspring?