This is an extremely controversial question to attempt to answer. The virginity and indeed, the honor of the Virgin Mary is defended in Christianity with a whole lot of male chivalry, and simply to ask the question--as C. S. Lewis wrote--can suggest that not only are you a skeptic but also a cad. So I can assure my readers that I am not trying to be offensive, but the question needs to be addressed.
Historians and religious scholars agree that no one is named as Jesus' father in the New Testament. I propose to discuss three sources of information, for as Dr. Freud tells us, if you have a question, look for your answers in the unconscious. One thing we can assume without straining credibility is this: Jesus knew the circumstances of his birth. In fact, some scholars have written that, if you judge by what he says about God as our father, you can deduce that Joseph must have been a good stepfather to him.
The elements of the situation are: Mary herself; Joseph, her betrothed husband; and an unknown male figure. It is also commonly accepted that a betrothed husband could ask his fiancee for a sexual relationship if he wanted to. However, it is plain that Joseph knew that Jesus was not his son, since it was not concealed in the infancy stories that he considered ending his engagement to Mary when she was found to be pregnant.
One can wonder why some scholars make a point of emphasizing that these sexual relationships were not looked upon favorably in Jesus' time, though--another clue that it was common knowledge that Joseph was not Jesus' father. It also would have been an attempt to insist on Mary as a virgin when Jesus was born, ignoring the plain meaning of several passages from the Gospels.
The short scene in the in which Mary is insulted to her face also gives us an indication of the attitudes in Nazareth towards the family:
"Jesus left from there and went to his hometown, and his disciples followed him. And when the Sabbath came, he began to teach in the synagogue.
"And many, when they heard him, were astonished, saying, 'Where does this man get these things? What wisdom has been given to him? How are such mighty works done through his hands? Is this man not the carpenter, the son of Mary and the brother of James, Joses, Judas, and Simon? And are not his sisters here with us?' And they were deeply offended at him.
"And Jesus said to them, 'A prophet is not without honor except in his hometown, and among his relatives, and in his own household.' And he was not able to do any mighty work there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and healed them." [Mark 6:1-5]
This passage shows a brutal rudeness in the residents of Nazareth. To refer to Jesus as Mary's son, rather than Joseph's son, was so offensive that in the Gospel of Matthew it was actually rewritten (Mark being the oldest of the Gospels).
So we look at the question: what happened to Mary? There is a story in Jewish literature referring to a Roman soldier by the name of Pantera, which claims him as Jesus' father. The problem with the narrative is that it goes on, in a hyperbolic way, to tell a story of Joseph casting Mary out for unfaithfulness, and that Jesus as an adult was a violent troublemaker.
That story doesn't take into account the narrations of Mary and Joseph taking Jesus to the Temple in Jerusalem, or even the fact that the family lived as a unit in Nazareth. So we have to be skeptical in regard to the Pantera story. According to Wikipedia:
"Tiberius Iulius Abdes Pantera (c. 22 BC – AD 40) was a Roman soldier whose tombstone was found in Bingerbrück, Germany, in 1859.
"Historically, the name Pantera is not an unusual name and had been in use among Roman soldiers in the 2nd century.
"A historical connection from this soldier to Jesus of Nazareth has been hypothesized by James Tabor, based on the claim of the ancient Greek philosopher Celsus that Jesus' real father was a Roman soldier named Panthera. Tiberius Pantera could have been serving in the region at the time of Jesus' conception. The hypothesis is considered extremely unlikely by mainstream scholars, given that there is no evidence to support it."
The actual discovery of Pantera's gravestone created a stir when it was discovered in the Twentieth Century, but the story in Celsus remains just a story. Even if the Celsus story is taken seriously, there isn't any evidence that the individual buried in Germany was the same person. My problem with the Pantera story is that it is not consistent with the things that we do know about Jesus and his family. Yet it remains a possibility.
Yet Jesus says something else. Assuming that he knew the circumstances of his birth, one of his teaching remarks from the Gospel of Mark could be very revealing:
"Let me illustrate this further. Who is powerful enough to enter the house of a strong man like Satan and plunder his goods? Only someone even stronger--someone who could tie him up and then plunder his house." [Mark 3:27]
To me--and this is speculation--this remark speaks volumes. And to combine it with his most famous parable, the story of the Good Samaritan, evokes another accusation that was made against Jesus: that he was the illegitimate son of a Samaritan. This idea is discussed by early Jewish and more modern Islamic scholars, but references to it are tenuous, in that it seems more to be a conclusion than something that is stated in an authentic document.
But like my speculation about the story of Sodom and Lot, there seems to me to be a strong suggestion of what happened--again, assuming that Jesus and the residents of Nazareth actually knew what had happened. Let's just turn to the story of the Good Samaritan.
A man had fallen among thieves, who abandoned him on the side of the road. He was rescued by a passing Samaritan, who put him up in an inn and paid his expenses. How about we just change one thing and make it a woman--a woman who had been abducted from her home after someone broke in and subdued the household?
After being left on the side of the road, physically hurt and probably in shock, it was the easiest thing in the culture for various men to pass Mary by. She was ritually unclean as far as Jews were concerned. So if a Good Samaritan of any description rescued her, she would have told him who she was and, as Jesus tells the story, he informed her family of her whereabouts.
We have to face the possibility that something like this could have happened to Mary. The "blame the victim" mentality that is extended so often to women who are abused is apparent to anyone who reads the news right now.
And I have no trouble imagining that it was Joseph who went to bring her home, after which it was determined that she was blameless before the Law and would not be killed in the streets for adultery. The Law was harsh.
But this possible scenario also explains why Jesus intervened in the lynching of "the woman taken in adultery," a situation that apparently did not include the man who was committing adultery with her.
It would also be clear to everyone in Nazareth that Mary, although not guilty, was going to bear the child of this encounter. And as one feminist scholar points out, the divine humility that worked through this situation to exalt Jesus to the status of our Lord and Savior sends a clear message to dominating men: women are much more than passive vessels through which God works his will.
It is disturbing, to say the least, when one puts it down in black and white that Mary may have been an abducted rape victim, whether it was a homeboy from Nazareth, a Roman soldier or someone else. Roman soldiers had the right to detain Jews and make them drop what they were doing and act as temporary servants. Someone who knew Mary and her family might have been a young man ruthless enough to abduct her in the night, after which she may even have escaped, while the man went on to other things. Perhaps Jesus was conceived after she was rescued, in a tender moment of gratitude towards the Good Samaritan.
The Good Samaritan--Jesus' father? A father that he never knew except for what Mary told him? We are going to have to await the discovery of authoritative documents before such a story can be included in the Church--and if such a thing happened it would upend Roman Catholicism and offend the sensibilities of millions of Christians. But things like that happened, and they happen today.
If we are offended by the idea of Mary being abused, how must we feel of the abuse of little girls by Mormon polygamists and cult leaders and gangs of rapists in India? Where does consciousness begin? Does the idea of Mary as a perpetual virgin stand up to the reality of the lives of women from her day to this?
In Arizona, mothers are routinely separated from their husbands and families in border-crossing incidents. Other parents and children are separated as they attempt to cross from Mexico to Arizona in the first place. At the age of 21, Cesar Millan left his home in Mexico to chance the crossing alone, years before he became the Dog Whisperer, a celebrity and a legal resident of America. How far are we prepared to go in order to uphold "family values?"