For those Protestants that believe that Mary had other children after Jesus was born, what do they make of Zechariah 12:10-14?

10 “And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and supplication. They will look on me, the one they have pierced, and they will mourn for him as one mourns for an only child, and grieve bitterly for him as one grieves for a firstborn son. 11 On that day the weeping in Jerusalem will be as great as the weeping of Hadad Rimmon in the plain of Megiddo. 12 The land will mourn, each clan by itself, with their wives by themselves: the clan of the house of David and their wives, the clan of the house of Nathan and their wives, 13 the clan of the house of Levi and their wives, the clan of Shimei and their wives, 14 and all the rest of the clans and their wives.

All Christians agree that Jesus was pierced and was a firstborn son. Why should we not also conclude from this passage that Jesus was also an only child? One Catholic article makes this point: http://whynotcatholicism.net/view/mary-ever-virgin

To connect Mary with this passage, is added this from Luke 2:

34 Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, 35 so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.”

  • 2
    Not too sure Catholics actually use this passage as a proof of Our Lady’s virginity? – Ken Graham Sep 16 '19 at 22:19
  • I found it employed on Catholic websites. One is whynotcatholicism.net/view/mary-ever-virgin – Paul Chernoch Sep 17 '19 at 0:24
  • Implicit in Scripture at best! – Ken Graham Sep 17 '19 at 0:40
  • You should edit that link into the text to demonstrate that there are those who use the passage. – Matt Gutting Sep 17 '19 at 10:09
  • 1
    I really cannot see how this scripture is even remotely relevant. – Andrew Shanks Jan 1 at 8:58

The sense of Zech 12:10 "only" is an expression of one of a kind.

Here is another use as regards Abraham and Isaac.

And he said, Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of.

The word "only" is yachiyd. It does not necessarily mean one and only with no other children, but as unique, special, only in the sense of the one child of promise.

So, Zech 12:10 is not about Mary and Joseph, but rather, all about Jesus Christ the only Son.

  • Thank you for your contribution. That kind of analysis is what I am looking for! – Paul Chernoch Sep 17 '19 at 18:10

This is a very weak argument for the perpetual virginity of Mary. This verse uses a simile to say that Israel's mourning for their God-Messiah will be like that of parents who have lost their only child. It makes no claim whatsoever about Mary. The proposed argument takes a figurative use of language about one subject (the weeping of Israel collectively and nationally) and applies it literally to a different subject (the singular woman Mary). And so even if you did want to use this image and apply it to Jesus literally, then the most justifiable parallel would be the mourning of Israel over their only Messianic Son of David, or perhaps, as representatives of Israel, the mourning of his disciples.

  • 1
    It wouldn't be a weak argument if we also consider the language of other Biblical verses (such as how Luke 1:35 uses the word "overshadow" as euphemism for intercourse) and the respect Jews have for the Ark (if Joseph regarded that God is dwelling within Mary's womb and thus as sacred as the Holy of Holies). See How to Explain the Perpetual Virginity of Mary and the opinions of centuries of church fathers in Mary: Ever Virgin – GratefulDisciple Sep 17 '19 at 2:00
  • 1
    @GratefulDisciple No, It's still an incredibly weak argument because it's taking a figurative use of language about one subject and applying it literally to a different subject. I don't see how the other things you mentioned are relevant to how Protestants would interpret this verse. – curiousdannii Sep 17 '19 at 2:03
  • How can we be sure that to a 1st century audience using their own hermeneutics to find connection between OT and Jesus that that use of figurative language wouldn't work? Even Isa 7:14 which should have been translated "young woman" has been applied by Matthew to support the virgin birth, not to mention many other figurative and typological use of OT by various NT authors (see this list for example) which today wouldn't pass muster. – GratefulDisciple Sep 17 '19 at 2:12
  • @GratefulDisciple It actually shouldn't be translated "young woman" either. The Hebrew word is for a stage of life category which we have no common English word for now, but "maiden" comes close. As to how the NT authors interpreted the OT, well yes that's a difficult topic at times. If the people weeping in Zech 10 was a singular mother figure then the parallel would be more justifiable. But it's corporate and national. If it is to be paralleled in a literal manner then it can be: Jesus was Israel's only Messianic Son of David. – curiousdannii Sep 17 '19 at 2:14
  • 1
    @GratefulDisciple That's a debate that's a long way away from what this question is about. There are other questions about the Catholic perspective. This one's about the Protestant perspective. – curiousdannii Sep 17 '19 at 3:05

The interpretation varies among Protestants, but most do not believe Zechariah 12:10-14 is at all in reference to Mary or the first advent of Christ. If read in full, it can be seen the verse is not related to the mourning at the time of Jesus death and burial, but a future mourning that will occur when the Jewish people as a nation come to faith in Christ. There is no evidence of a historical fulfillment of the passage as a whole. The nation of Israel and their tribes did not mourn the loss of the Jesus in the way this passage describes. Read on:

12 And the land shall mourn, every family apart; the family of the house of David apart, and their wives apart; the family of the house of Nathan apart, and their wives apart;

13 The family of the house of Levi apart, and their wives apart; the family of Shimei apart, and their wives apart;

14 All the families that remain, every family apart, and their wives apart.

This is yet to transpire. This verse points towards a future period of time when Israel will come to faith in Christ. It does not point to Mary.

And I will pour upon the house of David, (Why does he mention the house of David? Because this is a part of the Judean tribe and he was a king that brought Israel together, the only one that ever brought the whole house of Israel together. It stayed together under Solomon, but Solomon began to be a rigorous king. He began to burden Israel with taxation because he began to build. Just like the government is doing now. Did you notice all the construction in the last few months? It is election time. After the election, then it will stop and the roads will be bad again. Solomon began to marry all these wives. For his Egyptian wife he built a great palace. By the time he was through, God was through.) and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, (Jerusalem is the place of David. Jerusalem has a revival coming. That is where the two prophets will be.) the spirit of grace and of supplications: and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for him, as one that is in bitterness for his firstborn. In that day shall there be a great mourning in Jerusalem, as the mourning of Hadadrimmon in the valley of Megiddon. And the land shall mourn, (The land shall mourn, that means the nation.) every family apart; the family of the house of David apart, and their wives apart; the family of the house of Nathan apart, and their wives apart. The family of the house of Levi apart, and their wives apart; the family of Shimei apart; and their wives apart; all the families that remain, every family apart, and their wives apart. See, there is a great mourning. Why? Because of Zechariah 12:10. Jesus appears there, they seem him, and they realize the truth at that time. -The Contender magazine

  • I like this answer better because it offers (with citation) a positive interpretation of what the Scripture could mean, rather than just a negative one of "that's not what it means". – Paul Chernoch Sep 17 '19 at 14:07

The Protestant view of Zechariah 12:10 :

And I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplications: and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for him, as one that is in bitterness for his firstborn. [KJV]

is ably expressed by John Gill (1697-1771), a Strict Baptist pastor and scholar, see Wikipedia :

and they shall mourn for him as one mourneth for his only son; or, "for this"; that is, piercing him; for sin committed against him; because of their rejection of him, their hardness of heart, and unbelief with respect to him; and on account of their many sins, which were the occasion of his being pierced; which mourning will arise from, and be increased by, a spiritual sight of him, a sense of his love to them, and a view of benefits by him. Evangelical repentance springs from faith, and is accompanied with it; and this godly sorrow is like that which is expressed for an only son; see Amos 8:10 and indeed Christ is the only begotten of the Father, as well as the firstborn among many brethren, as follows:

StudyLight (Extract of the John Gill's Coomentary of the Whole Bible)

Here, John Gill takes the prophecy as applying the mourning not to natural Israel but to the true Israel of God, namely those born of the Spirit in a new birth, for 'they are not all Israel who are of Israel' Romans 9:6, but they are true Israelites who have believed on the Son of God.

And John Gill applies the reference to 'only son' and 'firstborn' spiritually, not naturally, to the Deity of Christ, namely to his being the only begotten of the Father, John 1:18, and to his being the firstborn of every creature, Colossians 1:15.

This Protestant treatment of the verse applies the words spiritually, to those who believe in Christ and who mourn for him in respect of their own sins having pierced him - not with respect to nails through flesh and bone, but with respect to the judgment of God upon him at Golgotha, his sufferings being the offering of himself, the Son of God, in humanity as the Sin Bearer on behalf of many.

The idea of Mary espousing herself to Joseph whilst avowing to remain a virgin is answered in other answers on the website, the Protestant view being that the four gospel accounts make it clear that after the birth of Jesus the marriage of Joseph and Mary brought forth a number of siblings.

In @curiousdanni 's answer the point is made that the overall weakness of the argument that Mary remained a virgin after Jesus' birth is highlighted by the attempt to trivialize such a spiritual prophecy as Zechariah 12:10 in order to try to construct an argument from it that scripture, as a whole, simply does not support.


First of all, we need to look at the context of the passage. More specifically the kind of genre. Zechariah is prophetic literature which is filled with symbolism, metaphors and simile to describe future events. Zechariah specifically - [as opposed to say Isaiah who writes many prophecies about the first advent of the Messiah] is writing about the second advent of the Messiah. Zechariah writes about end times events, the terrible Day of the Lord or Second Coming when the sun turns black and the moon to blood. No one thinks the moon literally changes into blood . Rather, he is describing a blood moon - which has for millennia been an omen to Jews. So the context within the book is not pointing to or describing events at the Birth of Christ, but his return after the Tribulation. Secondly, he is using figurative language. It is a very weak argument because he's not referring to Mary, or Joseph or the birth of Christ. The other thing is that the second passage you mention in Luke 2 mentions "a sword will pierce your soutsl" referring to Mary, but we know this is hyperbole or symbolism for the pain Mary would later feel at the death of her son. Protestants take this and all other prophetic passages and interpret them in light of clear passages and eyewitness accounts which say that Joseph did not sleep with Mary until after Jesus was born.
One principle of Biblical interpretation and a quote from Bible scholar and professor Dr Alan Brown- "If at first the text seems to make literal sense- seek no other sense or it will be nonsense".

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.