Did Jesus Have Brothers and Sisters?
-by Tony Warren
When we carefully consider the Biblical record, the question itself seems quite ridiculous, because it is so clear even from the context of many of the scriptures that He did. The only major religion that chooses to dispute this is the Roman Catholic religion. Roman Catholicism dogmatically maintain that following the Lord's birth, Mary continued in her virginity the rest of her life and never bore any more children. This in direct contradiction to everything in scripture which shows that though Joseph and Mary did not come together before Jesus was born, they did afterward, and the Lord indeed blessed them with Children.
With so much Biblical validation for this, the question is, why would anyone attempt to dispute it, or even want to? The answer is as simple as the word 'tradition'. It is because these scriptures directly contradict Roman Catholic tradition which glorifies Mary as a perpetual virgin, Co-Redemptrix, and Mediatrix. If this church were to confess that the scripture is correct and Mary had other children, it would destroy their well oiled myths about Mary. Therefore, a way had to be devised which would justify this teaching.
It is hard to imagine the argument against Mary having other children being more thin or groundless. Number one, nowhere does the Word of God say she had no other Children and so it is a doctrine which is not based on solid scripture. Number two, Roman catholics have made the fundamental error of building a house from the roof down. In other words, they started out with a conclusion, and then set out to find what they call "technicalities" in the Greek to try and give the appearance their conclusions have support. But any logical Bible scholar knows that sound Bible hermeneutics doesn't start out with a conclusion and then search for justification of it, rather, it starts out with the Word, and then follows it to it's conclusion. Since there is nothing in God's word which says or even implies that Mary had no other Children, that starting conclusion is based on man's thoughts, not God's.
What they have done in one instance is taken the Greek word [adelphos], that is translated brethren, and attempted to make it's meaning vague and unclear. But while it is true that this word can have a couple of meanings in different parts of the Bible (Brethren/in Christ, Brethren/Kin), it cannot be used this way in the pertinent passages we are dealing with, nor is there is any reasonable justification to claim that this word in it's context could mean cousins. As for the spurious claim that it means brethren 'in Christ,' the very context of the passages precludes it. Moreover, even without the word "brethren" we can see clearly that Mary had other children. To simply "ignore" these things would be handling the scriptures tortuously.
The best way to find an answer of what is true is to go right to the Scripture and let it speak for itself. Remember, the scriptures (the Word of God) are the ultimate Authority. Note carefully that you would have to "tortuously" wrest the scriptures to even begin to make them imply Mary didn't have other children. for example...
"Is not this the carpenter's son? is not his mother called Mary? and his brethren, James, and Joses, and Simon, and Judas?"
"Among which was Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James and Joses, and the mother of Zebedee's children."
Here we see from many different levels that Mary is identified as the "Mother" of James and Joses. This has nothing to do with the translation of the word "brother". And it is clearly stated again in Matthew 13:55 that James and Joses were Jesus' brothers! And so unambiguously, on two separate levels, we have the truth of the Word that Mary was mother of Jesus, James and Joses, and that James and Joses was the brother of Jesus. That should settle it for any rational, objective thinker. But Roman tradition is not rational, it's indoctrination. Nevertheless, the clear sense of scripture (to those without any preconceived ideas) is made manifest in it's clarity.
"There came then His Brethren and His Mother, and standing without, sent unto Him calling Him."
"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."
Again, the very context of scripture reveals that this is talking about the blood family of Jesus! In other words, Jesus, Son of Mary, brother of James and Joses, and He also had sisters. It's identifying a blood family, and it would be tortuous of scripture to deny this. If we're going to say that word Brother doesn't really mean His brethren, we have to also say that word Mother doesn't really mean Mary was Jesus Mother. For it's the same word that was used in Matthew 27:56 saying Mary was the Mother of James and Joses. And so it is utterly ludicrous to believe Mary was not the Mother of James and Joses.
"There were also women looking on afar off: among whom was Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James the less and of Joses, and Salome;"
"And when the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the Mother of James, and Salome, had brought sweet spices, that they might come and anoint Him."
Anyone looking at those scriptures both "carefully" and "honestly" can come to no other conclusion but that Mary had other children. The problem is not that the scriptures don't clearly state this, the problem is that the Roman Catholic church places tradition over and above the Authority of the Word of God, making it non effectual (mark 7:13). There is nothing in God's Word that either implicitly or explicitly says Jesus was the lone son of Mary, or that Mary remained a virgin. But the context of many verses show that their was physical sexual union between Joseph and Mary after Christ was born.
"Then Joseph being raised from sleep did as the angel of the Lord had bidden him, and took unto him HIS WIFE:
And knew her not Until she had brought forth her firstborn Son: and he called His name, Jesus!"
He 'Knew her' not (didn't have physical sexual union with her) until she had brought forth her Firstborn, Jesus. From this statement, it is clear that He knew her (in the biblical sense) AFTER the birth of Jesus. As a practical example, if someone were to say that they took a wife, but didn't consummate the marriage until after January, and in reply I stated that this means they never consummated the marriage, you would think that ridiculous. And you'd be right. But this is exactly what Roman catholics do in regards to the above verses of scripture.
And so, that anyone can read all these scriptures and still believe that Mary was a perpetual virgin is a testimony to the indoctrination of traditions. To believe this, they must ignore or wrest scriptures that say Mary was the Mother of Jesus' Brethren, ignore scriptures which say Jesus was the brethren of Mary's children, and ignore scripture which says Joseph knew (in the Biblical sense of union) her not "until" after the birth of the firstborn (Jesus). And that's just for starters!
The deeper question is not was Mary a perpetual virgin (no scripture says that), but why should/would she be? Mary was a Chosen vessel, not a deity! Is there anything wrong with Joseph and Mary having more children? It was a perfectly normal thing for a husband and a wife to do. In fact, it would be abnormal for them not to do (1st Corinthians 7:3-5).
Another Biblical indication that the perpetual virginity of Mary is a myth is that Jesus is referred to as her firstborn Son. If Jesus was the only child of Mary, would He be referred to as her firstborn Son? Of course not, because this designation assumes the existence of more than one son. It designates more than one child, among whom a specific one is the first. Mary certainly had other children after the birth of Jesus. Not only does the Bible clearly tells us that, but it also gives us the very names of those children. From the very beginning God ordained that wife and husband should be fruitful and multiply. The only thing which would preclude this, is man-made traditions invoking the idolizing of Mary. Because God's Word is abundantly clear on the matter.
"While he yet talked to the people, behold, his mother and his brethren stood without, desiring to speak with him."
"After this He went down to Capernaum, He, and His Mother, and His Brethren, and His disciples: and they continued there not many days."
Lest anyone should try and wrest the Word and claim that this word brethren is talking about those in Christ (spiritual brethren), here we see God showing us the disciples (spiritual family) were distinct "from" his Brethren and Mother (Blood family). It was his Mother, his Brothers, "and" the Disciples. Again, the very context confirms these were Jesus Brethren, not the Church brethren. You don't say, "His Mother and His Brothers" in a context like this, and have it mean the Church.
"His brethren therefore said unto him, Depart hence, and go into Judaea, that thy disciples also may see the works that thou doest.
For there is no man that doeth any thing in secret, and he himself seeketh to be known openly. If thou do these things, shew thyself to the world.
For neither did his brethren believe in him."
Again, we can see clearly that at first even Jesus's brothers did not believe on Him. This again clearly illustrates that these were his flesh brothers, not brothers in the sense of brothers in Christ. The context makes that very plain. And the scriptures use the Greek word [suggenes] or [suggeneia] when referring to kinsman, relatives, or cousins, not [adelphos] Brethren. These brethren were Mary's other children. Note also that his brethren said this, that his Disciples may also see the works. Again, a distinction between His brothers and the brethren which were the family of the Church.
"These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brethren."
"But other of the apostles saw I none, save James the Lord's brother."
Clear scripture which illustrates to us that Mary had other children. Unfortunately, when one cannot justify their teachings with scripture, they must come up with some other way to justify tradition, and so rationalizing away scripture is usually the rule of the day. Their authority becomes men instead of God. But what is man's word worth compared to the Word of the living God? it is written, "let God be true and every man a Liar".
The fact is, you cannot argue anyone into believing anything. Either they are noble to receive what is written, or blinded by tradition that they won't receive it. The key is not to let their frustration become your frustration. Go into any discussion with the proponents of this doctrines with your eyes wide open. Don't expect people to listen to the Word of God, because they probably won't. Nevertheless, here and there there will be a remnant, a few who will hear, being called of God that they won't blindly follow man-made doctrines. The Spirit of truth will guide these to listen with all readiness of mind to rational consistent Biblical teachings. Just as the more noble Bereans (Acts 17:11) did. As these Bereans didn't blindly accept what their Priests said, so a few will search it out to see if what is witnessed is true.
"These all continued with one accord in Prayer and supplication, and with the women, and MARY the Mother of Jesus, and with HIS Brethren."
The truth is both clear and Concise. It's not ambiguous, nor is it hard to understand. But as Jesus said about His witness, "if you will receive it".
So what can the faithful Christian glean in information about the Lord's Brothers and Sisters from all of these pertinent passages? First of all, we can know that Jesus had at least four brothers and at least two sisters. The brothers names were, James, Joses, Simon and Judas, and one of the sister's names was Salome. We are unaware of the name of the other.
These things are so clear and so straight forward in the scriptures that it seems totally irrational to deny them. But with some groups, it doesn't matter what the scriptures say, because church leaders or teachers are paramount rather than the authority of the Word of God itself. We should understand (though not condone) that this is the way it has to be with them because that is the only way they can claim that the clear context and text, doesn't "REALLY" mean what it says. By not having the Word as ultimate authority, but church, they can make these claims in their private interpretation of scripture, and arbitrary defining of terms.
The normal process of hermeneutics does not allow us to force upon the scriptures the idea that Mary had no other Children, ever! Both the context of the sentences as well as the common usage of these words and structure elsewhere, testifies that this refers to Jesus Christ, His Mother, Sisters and Brethren. ...Not cousins, or brethren (as in Church members).
In all matters of doctrine, it seems to always boil down to the same common denominator. What is our Authority? Is it God, where we receive and obey God's Word as the ultimate authority, or is it man, where we receive and obey our teachers words as the authority? Those who reject scripture in favor of their teachers (no matter what religion) have another authority other than that of the Bible. And as long as they do, they will never come to any agreement with any scripture unless their church leaders (man) says they can (or God decides to open their eyes). Our hope and prayer is that God will open many eyes.
The true believer doesn't need to build Mary up, she is already Blessed and honoured. Yes, Mary was a chosen vessel and was blessed of God to bear the Lord, but she must not be set up as a idol, or prayer tower, or intercessor. There is one intercessor and it is Jesus Christ. Let us not loose sight of that. There is one Mediator between God and man, and one redemptrix and it's the Lord Jesus Christ. And the idea of mary as a Co-redemptrix is anathema. We don't have to artificially make her Holy, she is Holy just like all the rest of God's Chosen vessels. ..by the Blood of Christ.