To this it is objected (1) that early tradition, accepted by the Catholic and Greek churches, holds that Mary remained a virgin, and she is worshiped as the Virgin Mary. To this it may be answered that the tradition was not universally accepted in the early Church, and has none of the marks of authentic history. (2) It is urged that Jesus would not have committed Mary to the care of John if she had other sons. To this it may be replied that at that time his brethren were unbelievers (John 7:5), though after his resurrection their unbelief passed away. (3) It is further urged that they were all the Lord's cousins, the sons of a sister of Mary, also named Mary, and of Alphæus or Cleophas. This argument relies on the fact that their names were "James, and Joses, and Judas, and Simon" (Matt.13:55); while there was also a "Mary the mother of James and Joses," (Matt.27:56) and a "James and Judas were the sons of Alphæus" (Luke 6:15). To this we answer that, (a) While Mary had a sister (John 19:25), there is no evidence that she was named Mary; nor is there any parallel case of two Jewish sisters having the same name; nor is there any evidence that she was the wife of Cleophas; (b) It could not be true that his cousins are meant because "his brethren" were not apostles, nor believers, and he had cousins who believed and were among the apostles, if this theory be correct; (c) Nor does it prove anything that the names James and Joses occur as those of the children of another Mary, as the names were very common. There are five Jameses in the New Testament, several Judes, and Josephus, who lived at this time, names twenty-one Simons, seventeen Joseses, and sixteen Judes.
On the other hand the expression, first-born son, in Luke 2:7, implies that Mary had other and younger children, and Matt.1:25, implies that what was true before the birth of Christ was not after. Common sense will indicate that if Mary continued a virgin, Matthew would have chosen different language. To these passages we may add the general tone of the Gospels in all the passages cited above. The "brothers" of Jesus are constantly represented as attending his mother, without a hint that they were not her children. These cogent facts cannot be set aside by a tradition or by conjectures. Alford well sums up the argument in a few words which we quote:
1. There were four persons known as the brethren "of him," or "of the Lord," not of the number of the Twelve.
2. That these persons are found in all places, but one or two, in immediate connection with Mary, the mother of Jesus.
3. That not a word is anywhere dropped to prevent us from inferring that the brothers and sisters were his relations in the same literal sense that we know his mother to have been.
4. All explanations which make them aught else than the children of his mother are mere conjectures.
5. The silence of the Scripture narrative leaves Christians free to believe that they were real (younger) brethren and sisters of our Lord.