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Cradle Catholic with a lot of questions; such as, why am I just figuring this stuff out now?

January 5, 2011

Jesus's Brothers and Sisters

There’s something fascinating about the thought of Jesus having siblings.  It just seems so normal.  Plus wouldn't it be great to hear their accounts of Jesus?  In general, most Protestants believe that Mary bore children other than Jesus. They point to the significant amount of scriptural support for their existence from various Gospels.  The most frequently cited passages come from the similar words of Mark 6:3 and Matthew 13:55 – “Then they scoffed, "He's just a carpenter, the son of Mary and the brother of James, Joseph, Judas, and Simon. And his sisters live right here among us." They were deeply offended and refused to believe in him.”  The following passages also appear to offer support of the siblings' existence:
  • Matthew 27:56: Among which was Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James and Joses, and the mother of Zebedee's children.
  • Mark 15:40 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;
  • John 20:17: Go to my brothers and say to them, 'I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God
  • Mark 3:31-32: And his mother and his brothers came, and standing outside they sent to him and called him. And a crowd was sitting around him, and they said to him, 'Your mother and your brothers are outside, seeking you.
  • Galatians 1:19: I saw none of the other apostles--only James, the Lord's brother.
Seems pretty straight-forward; however, it directly contradicts the belief in the “Perpetual Virginity of Mary.” Catholicism has traditionally upheld that Mary was an ever-virgin her whole life.  Jesus was her only son, whose birth was miraculous.  The above mentioned “siblings” are interpreted as spiritual brothers, children of Joseph by a previous marriage, Mary's sister's children, or as Joseph's sister's children. It can be legitimately argued that the Greek terms for "brothers" and "sisters" in these verses could also refer to male and female relatives, because terms such as “cousin” did not exist at the time.  However, does the Bible mention the perpetual virginity of Mary? No, not directly.  The strongest support for the perpetual virginity belief comes from the Protoevangelium of James, which was written probably less than sixty years after the conclusion of Mary’s earthly life.  According to the Protoevangelium, Mary was vowed to a life of perpetual virginity.  It was eventually necessary for Mary, to have a guardian or protector who would respect her vow of virginity. Consequently, Joseph, an elderly widower who already had children, was chosen to be her spouse.  So what is the answer?  Not sure, but it is fascinating.

References: http://www.catholic.com/library/Mary_Ever_Virgin.asp and “Scripting Jesus” by L. Michael White


  1. The bible told us Joseph did not knew mary until after the birth of JESUS knew her mean intercourse for the first time. Yes Mary had other children. If only the COTOLIC CHURCH would read the bible and get understand ask of the LORD JESUS CHRIST and he will reveile who he is, and how to be save.

  2. Early Christian Fathers, who were companions with the Apostles and new Mary mother of Jesus for the most part, sustain that belief of VIRGINITY and the witness to Jesus being her only son and that she never had Intercourse with Joseph. Mary took a vow of Chastity as a young girl... she lived in the at the Temple for a good part of her life. The reason for the Marriage was to provide for her. Joseph was a widower and by his previous wife had siblings... but ... in Aramaic... their is no word for STEP-BROTHER/SISTER, COUSIN, NIECE or NEPHEW. So the Greek translation came across as brother and sister.

  3. lets dont beat about the bush here,there was no form of contraception in those days(i know its a dirty word to you tims)but to think mary bore no other children is quite comical!!