|Cornelis van Cleve, Virgin and Child (c. 1550)|
Yesterday, Michael Addison raised the argument in the comments that Psalm 69:8 disproves the perpetual Virginity of Mary. The Psalm contains a lot of Messianic elements (various lines are explicitly applied throughout the New Testament to Christ), and v. 8 says, “I am a stranger to my brothers, an alien to my own mother’s sons.” The argument is that this Old Testament passage shows that the Virgin Mary had other children.
It’s a clever argument, but there are at least three alternatives to bear in mind. First, the Psalms are distinct from traditional prophesy (like Isaiah or Ezekiel, e.g.). The present concerns of the Psalmists are blended with foreshadowing of Christ. Psalm 69 is no exception. On one level, this Psalm is about someone who was falsely accused of theft (Psalm 69:4). Plenty of things in Psalm 69 foreshadow Christ, but that doesn’t mean every element is true of Him. For example, Psalm 69:5 says, “You know my folly, O God; my guilt is not hidden from you.” And Christ is sinless, of course. So the first option is simply that v. 8 isn’t strictly Christological.
|Caravaggio, Adoration of the Shepherds (1609)|
Second, even if Psalm 69:8 applies to Christ, the “mother” may not be Mary – it may mean Israel. The full sentence (v.8-9), taken as a whole, says, “I am a stranger to my brothers, an alien to my own mother’s sons; for zeal for Your house consumes me, and the insults of those who insult you fall on me.” That is, the image is of mother Israel, and her sons, the Jewish people, in their home, the house of the Lord, the Temple of Jerusalem.
Third, even if Psalm 69:8 applies to Christ, and even if the mother is Mary, the other children need not be biological children. Revelation 12:17 specifically says that the Mother of Christ’s children are “those who obey God’s commandments and hold to the testimony of Jesus.”
So the three options are that v. 8 refers to (1) something exclusive to the Psalmist, (2) Israel, and (3) Christians. Of the three, I think (2) is the strongest, but any are possible. In any case, none of this strikes me as a compelling reason to declare the Church wrong (from the early Christians onward) about the perpetual Virginity of Mary.