Saturday, February 3, 2024

Did Jesus Have Brothers?


Why Jesus didn't have brothers

One of the questions that many Christians have wondered about is whether Jesus had any brothers or sisters. The Bible mentions several people who are called the brothers or sisters of Jesus, such as James, Joses, Simon, Judas, and some unnamed women (Matthew 13:55-56; Mark 6:3; John 7:3-5). However, there are different interpretations of what these terms mean and what kind of relationship they had with Jesus. In this blog post, we will explore three main views that have been proposed by scholars and theologians throughout history, and examine the evidence for and against each one.

View 1: They were Jesus' half-brothers and half-sisters

This view holds that these people were the biological children of Joseph and Mary, born after the virgin birth of Jesus. This means that they were younger than Jesus and shared the same mother but not the same father. This view is based on the most literal reading of the biblical texts that mention them as the brothers or sisters of Jesus, and on the assumption that Mary did not remain a virgin for her whole life. Some of the arguments in favor of this view are:

- The Greek word adelphos, which is translated as brother, usually means a male sibling in the same family. Likewise, the word adelphe, which is translated as sister, usually means a female sibling in the same family. There is no clear indication in the biblical texts that these words are used in any other sense when referring to the relatives of Jesus.

- Matthew 1:25 says that Joseph "did not know her [Mary] until she had given birth to a son". This implies that Joseph and Mary had normal marital relations after the birth of Jesus, and that they could have had other children as a result.

- Luke 2:7 says that Mary "gave birth to her firstborn son". This implies that Mary had other sons after Jesus, who would be her second-born, third-born, etc.

- John 19:26-27 says that Jesus entrusted his mother to the care of his beloved disciple, John, at the cross. This implies that Mary had no other children who could take care of her, or that they were not believers in Jesus and did not accept his authority.


Some of the arguments against this view are:

- The Greek word adelphos can also mean a close relative, such as a cousin, a nephew, or a step-brother. Likewise, the word adelphe can also mean a close female relative, such as a cousin, a niece, or a step-sister. There are several examples in the Bible where these words are used in this broader sense (e.g., Genesis 13:8; 14:16; Leviticus 10:4; 1 Chronicles 23:21-22).

- Matthew 1:25 does not necessarily imply that Joseph and Mary had marital relations after the birth of Jesus. The word until can also mean "up to a point" without implying any change afterwards. For example, in 2 Samuel 6:23 it says that Michal "had no children until the day of her death", but this does not mean that she had children after she died. Similarly, in 1 Timothy 4:13 it says that Timothy should "devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching, until I come", but this does not mean that Timothy should stop doing these things after Paul came.

- Luke 2:7 does not necessarily imply that Mary had other sons after Jesus. The word firstborn can also mean "preeminent" or "unique" without implying any subsequent births. For example, in Psalm 89:27 God says of David "I will also appoint him my firstborn", but this does not mean that God had other sons after David. Similarly, in Colossians 1:15 Paul says of Christ "He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation", but this does not mean that God created other beings after Christ.

- John 19:26-27 does not necessarily imply that Mary had no other children who could take care of her. It could be that Jesus wanted to honor his beloved disciple by giving him this special privilege and responsibility. It could also be that Jesus wanted to emphasize his spiritual family over his natural family, as he did on other occasions (e.g., Matthew 12:46-50; Mark 3:31-35; Luke 8:19-21).


View 2: They were Jesus' step-brothers and step-sisters

This view holds that these people were the biological children of Joseph by a previous marriage, before he married Mary. This means that they were older than Jesus and shared the same father but not the same mother. This view is based on some early Christian writings that are not part of the biblical canon, such as the Protoevangelium of James, the Gospel of Peter, and the Infancy Gospel of Thomas. These writings suggest that Joseph was a widower with children when he married Mary, who was a young virgin. Some of the arguments in favor of this view are:

- This view explains why Joseph is not mentioned in the biblical narratives after the birth of Jesus, implying that he was much older than Mary and died before Jesus' public ministry.

- This view explains why Jesus' brothers and sisters did not believe in him and tried to dissuade him from his mission (Mark 3:21; John 7:3-5), implying that they did not share his divine origin and mission.

- This view explains why Jesus entrusted his mother to John at the cross, implying that his step-brothers and step-sisters were not close to him or to Mary.

- This view preserves the perpetual virginity of Mary, which is a doctrine held by many Christians, especially Catholics and Orthodox.


Some of the arguments against this view are:

- The early Christian writings that support this view are not reliable sources of historical information, as they contain many legendary and fanciful details that contradict the biblical accounts.

- The biblical texts that mention Jesus' brothers and sisters do not indicate that they were his step-siblings, but rather use the normal terms for siblings in the same family.

- The fact that Joseph is not mentioned after the birth of Jesus does not necessarily mean that he was dead, but could simply mean that he was not relevant to the story or that he wanted to remain in the background.

- The fact that Jesus' brothers and sisters did not believe in him does not necessarily mean that they were his step-siblings, but could simply mean that they were influenced by the unbelief and hostility of their society.


View 3: They were Jesus' cousins

This view holds that these people were the biological children of Mary's sister, who was also named Mary, and her husband, who was either named Clopas or Alphaeus. This means that they were related to Jesus by blood, but not by direct descent. This view is based on some possible connections between the biblical texts and some early church traditions. Some of the arguments in favor of this view are:

- John 19:25 mentions four women at the cross: Mary the mother of Jesus, Mary the wife of Clopas, Mary Magdalene, and "his mother's sister". Some scholars identify this sister with Mary the wife of Clopas, implying that she was also named Mary and that she was the mother of James, Joses, Simon, and Judas, who are called the brothers of Jesus in other texts.

- Mark 15:40 mentions three women at the cross: Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James the younger and of Joses, and Salome. Some scholars identify Salome with "his mother's sister" in John 19:25, implying that she was also named Mary and that she was the mother of James, Joses, Simon, and Judas, who are called the brothers of Jesus in other texts.

- Mark 3:18 lists James son of Alphaeus as one of the twelve apostles. Some scholars identify him with James the brother of Jesus, implying that his father Alphaeus was also known as Clopas and that he was married to Mary the sister of Jesus' mother.

- Matthew 27:56 mentions two women at the cross: Mary Magdalene and "the other Mary". Some scholars identify this other Mary with Mary the wife of Clopas or Alphaeus and the mother of James, Joses, Simon, and Judas, who are called the brothers of Jesus in other texts.


Some of the arguments against this view are:

- The identification of "his mother's sister" with Mary the wife of Clopas or Salome is based on conjecture and speculation, as there is no clear evidence for it in the biblical texts or in early church traditions.

- The identification of James son of Alphaeus with James the brother of Jesus is also based on conjecture and speculation, as there is no clear evidence for it in the biblical texts or in early church traditions. In fact, Paul distinguishes between James son of Alphaeus and James the brother of Jesus in Galatians 1:19.

- The fact that two sisters had the same name (Mary) is very unlikely in Jewish culture, as it would cause confusion and disrespect. It is more likely that "his mother's sister" had a different name than Mary.

- The biblical texts that mention Jesus' brothers and sisters do not indicate that they were his cousins, but rather use the normal terms for siblings in the same family.

Conclusion

As we have seen, there are different views on whether Jesus had any brothers or sisters, and what kind of relationship they had with him. Each view has some arguments which some in the Protestant faith may see as strong, but via a logical exegetical take, we can see that Jesus was an only child. Take 1 Corinthians 15:6 as an example. this is from the New International Version:
6 After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep.

This verse says Jesus appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters. Are we to believe Jesus had more than 500 brothers and sisters?  What woman can even produce so many children especially in a time where there was a high rate of maternity deaths?  We can see simply via exegesis and logic that Jesus did not have siblings and that Mary could not have had other children.  Mary was chosen to bear Him and no one else. She is the new Ark of the Covenant and the Ark of the Covenant could not house anyone else other than God.  Jesus was the only child of the Virgin Mary and she remained a perpetual virgin. Scripture shows this. 


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