Jesus’ brothers and sisters

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To complete the collection of posts I have on the virginity of Mary, I’ll address the brothers of Jesus named in the Bible.

Mother of God of Vladimir

Mother of God of Vladimir

We’ve seen that the Greek word “adelphos” (“brother” in Mark 6:3) can mean close relative or cousin. Laban and Jacob (Gen 29:15) are called brothers (adelphos in the Septuagint), yet were not siblings; similarly Lot and Abraham are called bothers in Gen 14:14, yet they were not siblings. That it is also used this way in the New Testament to refer to “brothers” of Jesus is undeniable.

Mark 6:3 (KJV) – Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary, the brother of James, and Joses, and of Juda, and Simon? and are not his sisters here with us? And they were offended at him.

One key to understanding who these brothers were lies with the women present at Jesus’ crucifixion.

Matt 27:56 (KJV) – Among which was Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James and Joses, and the mother of Zebedee’s children.

Here we see two of the brothers mentioned, and their mother was Mary. Odd, that Mary should be listed as their mother, and not Jesus’ mother, given the circumstances, if this Mary were Jesus’ mother. This indicates that this Mary, mother of James and Joses, was not Jesus’ mother.

John 19:25 (KJV) – Now there stood by the cross of Jesus his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Cleophas, and Mary Magdalene.

So now there are three Marys present – Jesus’ mother, Mary the wife of Cleophas, and Mary Magdalene.

Either James and Joses were the sons of Jesus’ mother, or of Mary the wife of Cleophas.

James and Jude were brothers, as indicated above in Mark 6:3, and also in Jude 1:1, as well as in Acts 1:13.

Jude 1:1 (KJV) – Jude, the servant of Jesus Christ, and brother of James, to them that are sanctified by God the Father, and preserved in Jesus Christ, and called

Acts 1:13 (KJV) – And when they were come in, they went up into an upper room, where abode both Peter, and James, and John, and Andrew, Philip, and Thomas, Bartholomew, and Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus, and Simon Zelotes, and Judas the brother of James.

But here James is the son of Alpheus.

In Greek, the Aramaic name Alpheus was translated as either Alpheus or Cleophas.

If you put the above together, you get James, Joses, and Jude being the sons of Mary, wife of Alpheus/Cleophas. This shows that at least three of the “brothers” (adelphoi) in Mark 6:3 are not immediate siblings of Jesus, but rather close relatives. First cousins, in fact, because this Mary is Jesus’ mother’s sister (or likely sister-in-law).

Simon’s relationship here isn’t explicitly explained in the Bible, but if the Bible groups him with James, Joses, and Jude, and these three are not Mary’s children, it makes sense that he’s the same type of “brother” (adelphos) to Jesus as they are.

Lastly, James the Apostle is called the brother of Jesus in Gal 1:19:

The Theotokos, Our Lady of Perpetual Help

The Theotokos, Our Lady of Perpetual Help

Gal 1:19 (KJV) – But other of the apostles saw I none, save James the Lord’s brother.

There were two Apostles called James:

  • James, brother of John, the son of Zebedee (Matt 10:2)
  • James, brother of Jude (Luke 6:16), the son of Alpheus/Cleophas – Luke 6:15

So James the brother of Jesus, if Paul is right about him being an Apostle, was not a biological sibling of Jesus.

That, then, leaves Mary, Jesus’ mother, with no other named children in the Bible.

Further reading:

What Catholics Believe – Mary, the Virgin Mother of God
Mary’s children
Did Mary Have Other Children? … by Joe Heschmeyer
St. Jude and the “Brothers” of Jesus … by Joe Heschmeyer
Brethren of the Lord … Catholic Answers
Genealogy of the Brethren … by Bob Stanley

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