Stories of gods born to virgins could be found in many countries thousands of years before Jesus. In Greek mythology, Danae was the virgin mother of the demigod Perseus. The Egyptians had Isis as the virgin mother of Horus, and she was worshipped throughout the Roman Empire in Jesus’ time. Mithras, whose cult outshone Christianity for popularity in the first three centuries, was conceived when God entered a virgin. Augustus, Attis, Adonis, Buddha, Krishna, Osiris, Tammuz, and Zoroaster were all born to virgins. To be a god your mother almost needed to be a virgin! A young female virgin is attractive to many men, and stories about them getting pregnant are appealing.
Matthew made out Mary was a virgin, (see below) and Luke followed suit:
“In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.” Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.” “How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?” The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.” (Luke 1:26–35, KJV). It is impossible to imagine an elderly Mary, battle weary after bringing up a brood of seven, describing such a doubtful anecdote.
Matthew, who had never met Mary, manufactured a virgin pregnancy prediction from Isaiah:
“Now all this took place to fulfill the words spoken by the Lord through the prophet: ‘The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son and they shall call him Emmanuel…’” (Matt. 1:22, NJB). However, the original Hebrew text from Isaiah reads,
“The maiden is with child and will soon give birth to a son whom she will call Immanuel” (Isa. 7:14, NJB). Isaiah was clearly not referring to a pregnancy sometime in the future, but one that had already occurred. The maiden was not a virgin, as she was pregnant. Furthermore, Jesus’ name wasn’t Immanuel. Matthew was improvising, and Luke followed suit. Most modern bibles continue to dishonestly translate Isaiah by using the word “virgin.”
“was born of the seed of David” (Rom. 1:3, NJB), although this verse may have been an interpolation. The author thought Jesus had a human father, so he didn’t think that Christ’s mother was a virgin either.
The Catholic Church promotes the notion that Mary was a perpetual virgin; that she abstained from sex after Jesus was born too! Jerome and Augustine proposed this preposterous idea in the fourth century, when virginity was associated with purity. Augustine wrote that Mary
“remained a virgin in conceiving her Son, a virgin in giving birth to him, a virgin in carrying him, a virgin in nursing him at her breast, always a virgin” (St. Augustine, Serm. 186, 1: PL 38, 999). Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) claimed that Mary gave birth painlessly without opening her womb and without injury to her hymen (Summa Theologiae III.28.2, view at http://www.ccel.org/a/aquinas/summa/TP.html). He wasn’t referring to an anaesthetic and caesarian section, so somehow imagined Mary defied science.
The King James bible states:
“Then Joseph being raised from sleep did as the angel of the Lord had bidden him, and took unto him his wife: And knew her not till she had brought forth her firstborn son: and he called his name JESUS.” (Matt. 1:24-25, KJV). Numerous other bibles also state Joseph had sex with Mary after the birth (see http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Matthew%201:24-25&version=NIV). A Catholic Bible, however, states
“He had not had intercourse with her when she gave birth to a son; and he named him Jesus” (Matt. 1;25, NJB), thereby deliberately avoiding mentioning the post natal sex.
In 1987, Pope John Paul II wrote (in Redemptoris Mater), that the Holy Spirit entered Mary’s virginal womb (http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/john_paul_ii/encyclicals/documents/hf_jp-ii_enc_25031987_redemptoris-mater_en.html). In 1996 he reiterated, without a blink of his eye, that Mary remained a virgin throughout her whole life. (http://www.cin.org/jp960828.html). One wonders how carefully he had read the gospels and whether any of his alleged beliefs about the holy family were grounded in reality. He was obviously just restating tradition.
We should respect the newly married couple’s humanity. A young Jewish bride telling her new husband sex was not on because in the distant future a yet-to-be-invented religion will venerate her as a virgin, is implausible. The primary duty of any Jewish bride was to fall pregnant so the man’s progeny was produced and the purity of Israel preserved.
Mary’s womb was prolific. Mark, Matthew, Luke, John, Paul, and Acts each cite Jesus’ numerous siblings. After spending her best years bearing at least seven babies, her birth canal was functioning as nature intended it to. There was no barrier to traffic in either direction.
The Virgin Mary is a construct of the puritanical, prudish Catholic Church. If the Vatican (and other Christians who choose to believe in Mary’s virginity) want their opinions taken seriously in weightier matters, they need to get their heads out of the clouds.