Why do Catholics teach that Mary was a virgin throughout her life when the Bible clearly says that Jesus had brothers? Ever been asked that?
Let me offer four reasons:
1. The Meaning of Brother
The first thing to understand is that the term brother (Gk. adelphos) has a broader meaning than uterine brothers. It can mean a biological brother, but it can also mean an extended relative, or even a spiritual brother.
Take Genesis 13:8 for example. Here the word brother is being used to describe the relationship between Abraham and Lot, who were not biological brothers but uncle and nephew:
“So Abram said to Lot, “Let’s not have any quarreling between you and me, or between your herdsmen and mine, for we are brothers” (Gen 13:8, NIV; see also 14:12).
Because of the Bible’s broad semantic range of “brother,” we can rest assured that although St. Paul writes, “[Jesus] appeared to more than five hundred…brothers at the same time” (1 Cor. 15:6), we need not infer from this verse that Mary gave birth to more than 500 children!
See "Link to External Source Article" below to read further.
The remainder of this article deals with Mary, and why she could not have had other children...it's worth a read, just to see how it's done.
It's always painful to see religious scholars squirm and stutter when asked questions like this one about whether Jesus had any siblings. I have long seen these kinds of winding and twisting attempts to turn the conversation around to church doctrine, rather than to actually entertain the question logically and thoughtfully. The virginity of Mary is such a major doctrinal stumbling block that the thought of her actually having intercourse with Joseph and the thought that Jesus may have had siblings is just too - well...HUMAN, I guess.
In The Urantia Book accounts of the Life and Teachings of Jesus we do, of course learn that Jesus did indeed belong to a large family. He was the oldest of nine children, and Mary and Joseph were a married couple of their time who produced children quite regularly until the untimely death of Joseph when Jesus was 14 years old. The fact of these siblings provided Jesus with the supreme experience of parenting in the sense that he, as the eldest child, took upon himself the responsibility of being not only brother, but father to his younger siblings when their father was taken from them. And he did a wonderful job of it.
To read about the siblings of Jesus, please go to our study on the subject HERE. As well, you can read about Jesus' parenting style in this section of the book, when Jesus was 19 years-old. There are lessons for all parents there...
It only makes sense that Jesus should have had the experience of family life. It is probably the most human thing that we do as humans - to belong to a family. And in Jesus' experience, he also ended up getting the experience of parenting as well, even though he himself never entered into marriage. What better experience to have for the Creator of a universe, when he wanted and needed to have the broadest possible exposure to the life and challenges of his created beings.