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Antidicomarianites (Greek ἀντιδικοµαριανῖται, literally "opponents of Mary", from ἀντίδικ-ος ″adversary" + Μαρία ″Mary″)[1] was a term applied to Christians who believed that the brothers and sisters of Jesus mentioned in the New Testament were the younger children of Joseph and Mary after the birth of Jesus.[2] It was a pejorative term used from the 3rd to 5th centuries by those who believed in the perpetual virginity of Mary and that the siblings of Jesus were children of Joseph by an earlier marriage—a belief originating with the 2nd century apocryphal Gospel of James, which had become orthodoxy by the 3rd century (although condemned by Pope Innocent I in 405 AD).[3] There is no evidence that these Christians considered themselves to be "against Mary" in any sense, except of her being the "Queen of Heaven", which Roman Catholics and Orthodox Christians used as a title for her, a reflection of the biblical image in Revelation 12.

Writings against these "Antidicomarianite" Christians—though that name was not yet coined—began in the 3rd century. The earliest reference to this belief appears in Tertullian (c. 160–c. 225),[4] and the doctrines taught by them are expressly mentioned by Origen (185–254).[5][6] Their views were grounded in mentions of Jesus' brothers and sisters (the desposyni) in the New Testament.[7] The name "Antidicomarianites" was specifically applied to advocates of the doctrine by Epiphanius of Salamis (ca. 315–403), who wrote against them in a letter giving the history of the doctrine and claiming proofs of its falsity.[8][clarification needed] Church writing against the "Antidicomarianites" continued into the 5th century.


A depiction of Mary with Jesus. The seal of Zagreb.

The Ebionites—the very early Jewish-Christian movement that regarded Jesus as a non-divine Messiah—were the first Christians to maintain that Jesus was the son of Joseph and Mary, not of God. This doctrine was highly controversial to the later Antidicomarianites, as well as their opponents, and it was later modified so as to teach that, although Jesus was born of Mary through the Holy Ghost, afterwards Joseph and Mary lived in wedlock and had many other children. The Ebionites continued to deny the formula "ever-Virgin Mary", later used in both Greek and Roman liturgies. (The Ebionites survived at least into the late 4th century.)


Certain Arians—namely, Eudoxius of Antioch (died 370) and Eunomius of Cyzicus (died c. 393)—were great supporters of Antidicomarianism. The sect—the major early anti-trinitarians—arose in the early 4th century and attained its greatest development in Arabia towards the end of the same century, which would—according to the writings of Christian authors such as Saint John of Damascus—ostensibly later go on to influence the theology of Islam.


Although Martin Luther, Ulrich Zwingli, Heinrich Bullinger, and John Calvin alike professed belief in Mary's ever-virginity, today most Protestants share the conviction of Lutheran Richard C. H. Lenski, as per the "Antidocomarianites", that Mary and Joseph had children of their own after the birth of Jesus.[9]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Oxford English Dictionary
  2. ^ William H. Brackney, Historical Dictionary of Radical Christianity (Scarecrow Press 2012 ISBN 978-0-8108-7179-3), p. 31
  3. ^ Innocent canon list
  4. ^ Cross, FL, ed. (2005), "Brethren of the Lord", The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, New York: Oxford University Press.
  5. ^ Homilia in Lucam, III, 940.
  6. ^ Origen (1996). Lienhard, Joseph T. (ed.). Homilies on Luke. The Fathers of the Church Series. Volume 94. Catholic University of America Press. ISBN 9780813200941.
  7. ^ Matthew 13:56 and Mark 6:3 etc.
  8. ^ Epiphanius of Salamis, Contra Hæres., lxxviii, 1033 sqq.
  9. ^ Catholic, Lutheran, Protestant: A Doctrinal Comparison of Three ... - Page 251 Gregory Lee Jackson - 1993 "Comments from various Lutheran writers suggest that the perpetual virginity of Mary was assumed by most of them until recently, Lenski being an exception. "