Brothers of Jesus
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The brothers of Jesus or the adelphoi (Greek: ἀδελφοί, translit. adelphoí, lit. "of the same womb")[Notes 1] are named in the New Testament as James, Joses (a form of Joseph), Simon, and Jude, and unnamed sisters are mentioned in Mark and Matthew. They may have been: (1) the sons of Mary, the mother of Jesus, and Joseph (the most natural inference); (2) sons of the Mary named in Mark 15:40 as "mother of James and Joses", whom Jerome identified with the wife of Clopas and sister of Mary the mother of Jesus; or (3) sons of Joseph by a former marriage. Those who uphold the perpetual virginity of Mary reject the idea of biological brethren (option 1) and maintain that the brothers and sisters were either cousins of Jesus (option 2, the position of the Catholic Church) or children of Joseph from a previous marriage (option 3, the Orthodox Churches).
Adelphoi (brethren) of Jesus
Mark 6:3 names James, Joses, Judas (conventionally known in English as Jude) and Simon as the brothers of Jesus, and Matthew 13:55, which probably used Mark as its source, gives the same names in different order, James, Joseph, Simon and Judas. "Joseph" is simply the longer form of "Joses", and so it appears that James was the eldest and Joses/Joseph the next, but as Matthew has reversed the order of the last two it is uncertain who was the youngest. Unnamed sisters are mentioned in Mark 6:3 and Matthew 13:56 and may be implied in Mark 3:35 and Matthew 12:46, but their number is unknown.
The gospels indicate a rift between Jesus and his brothers in the early part of his ministry (see Mark 3:31-35 and the parallel passages in Matthew 12:46-50 and Luke 8:19-21), and they never appear among his followers during his lifetime. John has Jesus's brothers advising him to go to Judea despite being aware that his life would be in danger, and they are absent from his burial, which should have been their responsibility, but they do appear in Acts 1:14 with the Eleven (i.e., the remaining disciples after the betrayal by Judas Iscariot): "These all (the Eleven) were persevering in prayer along with the women, with Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers."
In 1 Corinthians 15:3–7 Paul lists a "James" among those to whom the risen Christ had appeared, and most scholars agree that this refers to James the brother of Jesus. The 2nd century historian Hegesippus (c.110 – 180 AD) reports that James the brother of Jesus came to be known as James the Just, and Eusebius of Caesarea (died 339) says that he spent so much of his life in prayer that his knees became "like the knees of a camel." According to Clement of Alexandria, reported by Eusebius, he was chosen as bishop of Jerusalem, and from the time when Peter left Jerusalem after Herod's attempt to kill him (Acts 12) he appears as the principal authority in the Jerusalem church, presiding at the Council of Jerusalem recorded in Acts 15. In Galatians 1:19 Paul tells how he went to Jerusalem a few years after his conversion and met Cephas (Peter) but no other apostles, only "James, the brother of the Lord"; Paul's Greek leaves it unclear whether he includes, or does not include, James among the apostles. He goes on to describe a second visit fourteen years later when he met the "pillars of the Church", James and Peter and John; James is mentioned first and seems to be the primary leader among these three. In chapter 2 he describes how he and Peter were later in Antioch and in the habit of dining with gentile Christians in breach of Jewish torah, until "certain people from James" came and Peter withdrew, "fearing those who belong to the circumcision." The 1st century historian Josephus tells how he was martyred by the Jews in 62 CE on charges of breaking the Jewish Law.
Paul records in 1 Corinthians that the other brothers of Jesus (that is, other than James, who is portrayed as rooted in Jerusalem) travelled as evangelists, and that they were married ("Do we not have the right to be accompanied by a believing wife, as do the other apostles and the brothers of the Lord and Cephas (Peter)?" - 1 Corinthians 9:5).
The author of the epistle of James introduces himself as "James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ". He does not identify himself as the brother of Jesus or an apostle or a leader of the church in any way, but one recent study characterises this letter as "the most Jewish text in the New Testament". The epistle of Jude identifies its author as "Jude...the brother of James", but today there is widespread, although not unanimous, support for the view that it was composed in the early part of the 2nd century by an unknown author borrowing the name of the brother of Jesus. Hegesippus mentions a Simon or Simeon (the names are equivalent) who became leader of the Jerusalem church after the death of James, but makes this Simon a son of Clopas the brother of Joseph. Eusebius left a list of 12 bishops of the early church, of whom two, Joseph/Josis and Jude, may be the brothers of Jesus.
The number of sisters and their names are not specified in the New Testament, but the apocryphal 3rd century Gospel of Philip mentions a Mary, and the Salome who appears in the late 2nd century Gospel of James is arguably the other sister.
Relationship to Jesus
Full blood-brothers and sisters of Jesus
The 19th century scholar J.B. Lightfoot identified three possible positions on the relationship to Jesus of those called his brothers and sisters by reference to their 4th century advocates, namely the Helvidian (after Helvidius, who wrote c.380), the Epiphanian (after Epiphanius of Salamis, 315-403), and the Hieronymian (after Jerome, 349-419/20). There is also a fourth position not mentioned by Lightfoot which rejects the virgin birth of Jesus and accepts his brothers and sisters as precisely that; this view seems to have been restricted to a 2nd century Jewish Christian sect called the Ebionites, but the Pauline epistles and the gospels of Mark and John show no awareness of the virgin birth.
Half-brothers and sisters of Jesus (Helvidian view)
The view of Helvidius was that the adelphoi were full-siblings of Jesus born to Mary and Joseph after the firstborn Jesus. This is the most natural inference from the New Testament, for while "adelphos" sometimes means more than a blood brother, (e.g., Gen 29:12; Rom 9:3, kinsman; Matt 5:22-23, neighbour; Mark 6:17-18, step-brother) context must determine meaning. The view that the adelphoi were Jesus’ half-brothers is the most common Protestant position, and is taken today by a large number of scholars, including a few who identify as Roman Catholic. The following hypothetical family tree is from "Jesus' Family Tree", Frontline, PBS:
successor to James as head
of the Jerusalem Church
|Bishop Judah Kyriakos|
fl. c. 148–49
Stepbrothers of Jesus (Epiphanian view)
From the 2nd century onward the developing emphasis on ascetism and celibacy as the superior form of Christian practice, together with an emphasis on the chastity of Mary, led to the concept of her perpetual virginity - the idea that she had been a virgin before, during and after the birth of Christ. This is known as the Epiphanian view, after the fourth-century bishop Epiphanius of Salamis, and is the official position of the Eastern Orthodox churches. 
Cousins of Jesus (Hieronymian view)
The Hieronymian view was put forward in the 4th century by Jerome, who argued that not only Mary, but Joseph too, had been a life-long virgin. Apparently voicing the general opinion of the Church, he held that the "brothers of Jesus" were the sons of Mary the "mother of James and Joses" mentioned in Mark 15:40,whom he identified with the wife of Clopas and sister of the mother of Jesus mentioned in John 19:25. The Roman Catholic church continues to teach that the adelphoi were cousins of Jesus. (The following family tree is from Richard Bauckham, "Jude and the Relatives of James")
|Jesus||James the Less||Joses||Simon||Jude|
Nevertheless, the Greek word for cousin, "anepsios", is never used to describe James or the other brethren, while Hegesippus distinguishes between the "adelphoi" of Jesus and those who were his "anepsios". Aramaic, the language spoken by Jesus and those around him, likewise had a phrase for cousins, "bar dad", meaning "son of an uncle", and the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Old Testament made in the last few centuries before Christ, never translates "bar dad" or its Hebrew equivalent "ben dod" as “brother” or “sister.” Jerome's argument also produces the unlikely result of two sisters both named Mary. A modern variant eliminates this by identifying Clopas as the brother of Joseph, thereby making the two Marys sisters-in-law; in this version Jesus's cousin Simon is identified with Symeon the second leader of the church in Jerusalem. (The following family tree is from Richard Bauckham, "Jude and the Relatives of James")
|Jesus||James the Less||Joses||Simon|
Development of the tradition
The unequivocal scriptural references to the brethren of Jesus raised obvious problems for the emerging doctrine of Mary's perpetual virginity. There is no biblical basis for this idea, which in its earliest assertion appears in the mid-2nd century Protoevangelium of James; this ends with the words, "Now I, Jacob (meaning James), who wrote this work...", implying that its author is the brother of Jesus. It depicts Mary as a life-long virgin, Joseph as an old man who marries her without physical desire, and the brothers of Jesus as Joseph's sons by an earlier marriage.
The 3rd-century Antidicomarianites ("opponents of Mary") maintained that, when Joseph became Mary's husband, he was a widower with six children, and he had normal marital relations with Mary, but they later held Jesus was not born of these relations. Bonosus was a bishop who in the late 4th century held Mary had other children after Jesus, for which the other bishops of his province condemned him. Jovinian, and various Arian teachers such as Photinus held a similar view.
By the 3rd century, the doctrine of the perpetual virginity of Mary had become well established; important early Christian theologians such as Hippolytus (170–235), Eusebius (260/265–339/340) and Epiphanius (c. 310/320–403) defended it. Eusebius and Epiphanius held these children were Joseph's children from a previous marriage. Epiphanius adds Joseph became the father of James and his three brothers (Joses, Simeon, Judah) and two sisters (a Salome and a Mary or a Salome and an Anna) with James being the elder sibling. James and his siblings were not children of Mary but were Joseph's children from a previous marriage. Joseph's first wife died; many years later, at the age of eighty, "he took Mary (mother of Jesus)". According to Epiphanius the Scriptures call them "brothers of the Lord" to confound their opponents. Origen (184–254) also wrote "according to the Gospel of Peter the brethren of Jesus were sons of Joseph by a former wife, whom he married before Mary".
The History of Joseph the Carpenter, probably written in Egypt in the 5th century and heavily indebted to the Protoevangelium of James, depicts Joseph as an old widower with children from a previous marriage, thus clarifying the New Testament references to Jesus' brothers.
Roman Catholic and Eastern Christianity maintain that Mary was a perpetual virgin; early Protestant leaders, including the Reformer Martin Luther, and Reformed theologian Huldrych Zwingli, also held this view, as did John Wesley, one of the founders of Methodism. Eine Christliche Lehrtafel (A Christian Catechism), issued by Anabaptist leader Balthasar Hubmaier, teaches the perpetual virginity of the Virgin Mary too. The Catholic Church, following Jerome, conclude that the adelphoi were Jesus' cousins, while Eastern Orthodox Church, following Eusebius and Epiphanius, argue they were Joseph's children from a previous marriage. Anglicans, Lutherans, and Methodists concur with this view.
Other Christian denominations, such as Baptists, view the adelphoi as Jesus' half-brothers or do not specify, since the accounts in the Gospels do not speak of Mary's relationship to them but only to Jesus.
Absence of Jesus' brothers
There are some events in scripture where brothers or sisters of Jesus are not shown, e.g., when Jesus was lost in the Temple and during his crucifixion. Luke 2:41–51 reports the visit of Mary, Joseph, and Jesus to the Temple in Jerusalem when Jesus was 12 years old but does not mention any siblings. Robert Eisenman is of the belief Luke sought to minimise the importance of Jesus' family by whatever means possible, editing James and Jesus' brothers out of the Gospel record.
The Gospel of John records the sayings of Jesus on the cross, i.e., the pair of commands "Woman, behold your son!" and "Behold, thy mother!" (John 19:26–27), then states "from that hour the disciple took her unto his own home". Since the era of the Church Fathers this statement has been used to reason that after the death of Jesus there were no other biological children to look after Mary, and she had to be entrusted to the disciple. Constantine Zalalas argues it would have been against Jewish custom for Jesus to give his mother to the care of the disciple if Mary had other living sons, because the eldest son would always take responsibility for his mother. Karl Keating says, "It is hard to imagine why Jesus would have disregarded family ties and made this provision for his Mother if these four [James, Joseph/Joses, Simon, Jude] were also her sons". Pope John Paul II also says the command "Behold your son!" was the entrustment of the disciple to Mary in order to fill the maternal gap left by the death of her only son on the cross. Vincent Taylor points out difficulties in this interpretation of the text: it ignores both the fact that Jesus' brothers opposed his claims, and the position of honour of John, the beloved disciple.
Desposyni - descendants of Jesus' family
According to Hegesippus the desposyni were the descendants of the family of Jesus, especially of Jude, "his brother according to the flesh", and ruled the churches in Palestine until the time of the emperor Trajan. The early Christian historian Sextus Julius Africanus (died c.240), in his "Genealogy of the Holy Gospels", referred to "relatives of our Lord according to the flesh" whom he called desposyni, meaning "from the Lord's family". The relevant portion of Africanus's work is preserved in Eusebius of Caesarea's Ecclesiastical History:
For the relatives of our Lord according to the flesh, whether with the desire of boasting or simply wishing to state the fact, in either case truly, have handed down the following account... But as there had been kept in the archives up to that time the genealogies of the Hebrews as well as of those who traced their lineage back to proselytes, such as Achior the Ammonite and Ruth the Moabitess, and to those who were mingled with the Israelites and came out of Egypt with them, Herod [the Great], inasmuch as the lineage of the Israelites contributed nothing to his advantage, and since he was goaded with the consciousness of his own ignoble extraction, burned all the genealogical records, thinking that he might appear of noble origin if no one else were able, from the public registers, to trace back his lineage to the patriarchs or proselytes and to those mingled with them, who were called Georae. A few of the careful, however, having obtained private records of their own, either by remembering the names or by getting them in some other way from the registers, pride themselves on preserving the memory of their noble extraction. Among these are those already mentioned, called Desposyni, on account of their connection with the family of the Saviour. Coming from Nazara and Cochaba, villages of Judea, into other parts of the world, they drew the aforesaid genealogy from memory and from the book of daily records as faithfully as possible. Whether then the case stand thus or not no one could find a clearer explanation, according to my own opinion and that of every candid person. And let this suffice us, for, although we can urge no testimony in its support, we have nothing better or truer to offer. In any case the Gospel states the truth." And at the end of the same epistle he adds these words: "Matthan, who was descended from Solomon, begat Jacob. And when Matthan was dead, Melchi, who was descended from Nathan begat Eli by the same woman. Eli and Jacob were thus uterine brothers. Eli having died childless, Jacob raised up seed to him, begetting Joseph, his own son by nature, but by law the son of Eli. Thus Joseph was the son of both.— Eusebius of Caesarea, Historia Ecclesiae, 1:7:11, 1:7:13–14
Eusebius has also preserved an extract from a lost work by Hegesippus recording how the emperor Domitian (reigned 81 to 96), seeking to exterminate the descendants of King David, had two grandsons of Jude, "who according to the flesh was called his (Jesus's) brother", brought before him for interrogation; the story is doubtful, but its final note that the two became the leaders of "all the churches" probably reflects their position as leaders of the Jewish-Christian Church and as relatives of Jesus. 
There still survived of the kindred of the Lord the grandsons of Judas, who according to the flesh was called his brother. These were informed against, as belonging to the family of David, and Evocatus brought them before Domitian Caesar: for that emperor dreaded the advent of Christ, as Herod had done.
So he asked them whether they were of the family of David; and they confessed they were. Next he asked them what property they had, or how much money they possessed. They both replied that they had only 9000 denaria between them, each of them owning half that sum; but even this they said they did not possess in cash, but as the estimated value of some land, consisting of thirty-nine plethra only, out of which they had to pay the dues, and that they supported themselves by their own labour. And then they began to hold out their hands, exhibiting, as proof of their manual labour, the roughness of their skin, and the corns raised on their hands by constant work.
Being then asked concerning Christ and His kingdom, what was its nature, and when and where it was to appear, they returned answer that it was not of this world, nor of the earth, but belonging to the sphere of heaven and angels, and would make its appearance at the end of time, when He shall come in glory, and judge living and dead, and render to every one according to the course of his life.
Thereupon Domitian passed no condemnation upon them, but treated them with contempt, as too mean for notice, and let them go free. At the same time he issued a command, and put a stop to the persecution against the Church.
When they were released they became leaders of the churches, as was natural in the case of those who were at once martyrs and of the kindred of the Lord. And, after the establishment of peace to the Church, their lives were prolonged to the reign of Trajan.— Eusebius of Caesarea, Historia Ecclesiae, 3:20
- Greek singular noun adelphos, from a- ("same", equivalent to homo-) and delphys ("womb," equivalent to splanchna).
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- Martin Luther on Mary's Perpetual Virginity, archived from the original on 21 December 2008.
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I firmly believe that [Mary], according to the words of the gospel as a pure Virgin brought forth for us the Son of God and in childbirth and after childbirth forever remained a pure, intact Virgin
- Wesley, John (1812), Benson, Joseph (ed.), The Works of the Rev. John Wesley, p. 112,
I believe that He was made man, joining the human nature with the divine in one person; being conceived by the singular operation of the Holy Ghost, and born of the blessed Virgin Mary, who, as well after as before she brought Him forth, continued a pure and unspotted virgin.
- Yarnell, Malcolm B. (2013). The Anabaptists and Contemporary Baptists. B&H Publishing. p. 130. ISBN 978-1-43368174-5.
Question 53 of the Kinderfragen posed, "What do you believe about the Virgin Mary?" It parallesls questions 68 of the Lehrtafel, which solicited, "What do you believe regarding Our Lady? Both catechisms spoke of her perpetual virginity. The Kindergragen proclaimed "that she was pure before the birth, during the birth, and after the birth, a humble maiden," while the Lehrtafel declared that "she was a pure, chaste, and spotless Virgin before, during, and after the birth."
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The Lutherans accepted the perpetual virginity of Mary, while rejecting the invocation of the saints.
- Radano, John A. (30 April 2012). Celebrating a Century of Ecumenism: Exploring the Achievements of International Dialogue. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing. p. 278. ISBN 9780802867056.
Baptists do not find a scriptural basis for Catholic beliefs about her perpetual virginity, immaculate conception, and bodily assumption.
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So James, according to this view, would be Jesus' younger half-brother.
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James, the half brother of Jesus, traditionally called 'the Just' [...] Jude the brother of James and the half brother of the Lord Jesus. The term "half brother" is used[by whom?] to denote parentage, not genetics. In this view, the other brothers and sisters listed in the Gospel passages would have the same relationship to Jesus. However, some Protestants reject the term "half brother" because it is too specific; the Gospel accounts refer to these relatives as brothers and sisters of Jesus, without specifying their parents, and refer to Mary only in relation to Jesus.
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