Did Jesus Have a family?

Elizabeth May

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Not the married stuff but I read somewhere that he had a brother.
Now of course theres whether they meant spiritual or brother by blood bu does it say anyway in the Bible that jesus actually had relative? That would be great to find out about.Or is it a plot to discredit Jesus?
Ta very much for any answers.
Elizabeth May said:
Not the married stuff but I read somewhere that he had a brother.
Now of course theres whether they meant spiritual or brother by blood bu does it say anyway in the Bible that jesus actually had relative? That would be great to find out about.
James is described in the text as "the brother of Jesus." But the letter attributed to James makes no claim that it was a biological relationship.

Try looking at Mark 3:31.

"Then his brothers and his mother came, and standing outside...

Jesus answered them, "Who is my mother or my brothers?"

And he looked at those sitting in the circle around him and said, "These are my mother and my brothers. Whoever does the will of God is my brother and my sister and mother."

So, according to one interpretation, even total strangers could claim the title of "the brother of Jesus" or even his "sister" or his "mother" if they did "the will of God."

Very hard to be precise about this, but it isn't a plot to discredit anyone.

[ADMIN EDIT by I.Brian to remove unnecessary tone]
I'm sorry about this - I didn;t see this for ages - and then when I did I wanted to bring a few sources together.

I'm pressed for time so I'll paste a few extracts from a couple of sites first, to present the core arguments and scriptures:

The reference to Jesus having borthers is a generalised term, and does not implicitly imply immediate blood relations:
We believe that Semitic usage of the words ‘brother’ and ‘sister’ underlies their usage in the Gospels. In Semitic use the words ‘brother’ and ‘sister’ were used far more widely than for just one’s blood brothers and sisters. The words were used to describe everyone in the clan. An example of this is Gen 13:8 where the Hebrew describes Abraham and Lot as brothers whereas they are uncle and nephew. There are other similar usages throughout the Bible.

The term of reference was often to other non-immediate relative and clan relatives:


The concepts of brothers and sisters acknowledge the strong family relationship that is held among near relations as is found even in many societies today. In many cultures family structures are highly cohesive. Relatives commonly live in the same or nearby communities.
    1. Matthew 12:47-50 (Someone told him, "Your mother and your brothers are standing outside, asking to speak with you.") [48] But he said in reply to the one who told him, "Who is my mother? Who are my brothers?" [49] And stretching out his hand toward his disciples, he said, "Here are my mother and my brothers. [50] For whoever does the will of my heavenly Father is my brother, and sister, and mother."
      Acts 15:13 After they had fallen silent, James responded, "My brothers, listen to me.
      Acts 1:15-16 During those days Peter stood up in the midst of the brothers (there was a group of about one hundred and twenty persons in the one place). He said, [16] "My brothers, the scripture had to be fulfilled which the holy Spirit spoke beforehand through the mouth of David, concerning Judas, who was the guide for those who arrested Jesus.
The term brothers is readily used in various contexts. In the above three passages Jesus, Peter, and James use the term brother in a manner that is not indicative of reference to a sibling. In the Bible the term "brother" is used 350 times, mostly not in reference to a natural brother. You should note that even the angel Raphael referred to Tobiah as "brother." Tobiah also referred to the angel –who was clearly not a natural brother (sibling)– as brother.
    1. Tobit 5:4-5 Tobiah went to look for someone acquainted with the roads who would travel with him to Media. As soon as he went out, he found the angel Raphael standing before him, though he did not know that this was an angel of God. [5] Tobiah said to him, "Who are you, young man?" He replied "I am an Israelite, one of your kinsmen. I have come here to work." Tobiah said, "Do you know the way to Media?"
      Tobit 5:11 Tobit asked, "Brother, tell me, please, what family and tribe are you from?"
      Tobit 6:7 [7b] The boy asked the angel this question: "Brother Azariah, what medicinal value is there in the fish's heart, liver, and gall?"
      Tobit 6:11 Raphael said to the boy, "Brother Tobiah!" He answered, "Yes, what is it?" Raphael continued: "Tonight we must stay with Raguel, who is a relative of yours. He has a daughter named Sarah,
      Tobit 6:16 Raphael said to him: "Do you not remember your father's orders? He commanded you to marry a woman from your own family. So now listen to me, brother; do not give another thought to this demon, but marry Sarah. I know that tonight you shall have her for your wife!
Note the names listed in the following passages as Jesus's brothers.
    1. Matthew 13:55 Is he not the carpenter's son? Is not his mother named Mary and his brothers James, Joseph, Simon, and Judas?
      Mark 6:3 Is he not the carpenter, the son of Mary, and the brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? And are not his sisters here with us?" And they took offense at him.
In the four gospels there are a total of four women listed as being at the foot of the cross:
  1. Mary – mother of Jesus
  2. Mary Magdalene – listed in all four gospels.
  3. Mary (the wife of Clopas), the mother of James (the younger), Joseph (Joses), and Salome.
  4. Joanne, the sister of Jesus's mother (Jesus's aunt) who was the mother of James and John, the sons' of Zebedee.
    1. Matthew 27:56 Among them were Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James and Joseph, and the mother of the sons of Zebedee.
      Mark 15:40 There were also women looking on from a distance. Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of the younger James and of Joses, and Salome.
      Mark 16:1 When the sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary, the mother of James, and Salome bought spices so that they might go and anoint him.
      Luke 24:10 The women were Mary Magdalene, Joanna, and Mary the mother of James; the others who accompanied them also told this to the apostles,
      John 19:25 Standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother and his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary of Magdala.
From the above it is ascertained that James and John were the first cousins of Jesus. It is because of this relationship that James and John believed that they had the right to seek privileged positions in the kingdom of Heaven.
    1. Mark 10:35-37 Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to him and said to him, "Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you." [36] He replied, "What do you wish (me) to do for you?" [37] They answered him, "Grant that in your glory we may sit one at your right and the other at your left."
      Matthew 20:20-21 Then the mother of the sons of Zebedee approached him with her sons and did him homage, wishing to ask him for something. [21] He said to her, "What do you wish?" She answered him, "Command that these two sons of mine sit, one at your right and the other at your left, in your kingdom."
It is probable that Mary, the wife of Clopas, was a cousin, perhaps a first cousin of Jesus's mother.

There are also a couple of comments in the NT apparently recording the impressions of the mother of Jesus:

"When his (jesus) family heard about this, they went to take charge of him, for they said, ‘He is out of his mind.’ " (Mark 3:21 NIV)

"For neither did his brethren believe in him." (John 7:3b KJV)
The arguments can be quite complex and strained, with the issue being seen as an issue peculiar to Roman Catholic doctrine, and quite unsustainable to a modern reading:


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... Matthew 13:55
  • "Is not this the carpenter's son? is not his mother called Mary? and his brethren, James, and Joses, and Simon, and Judas?"
Matthew 27:56
  • "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. Mark 3:31
  • "There came then His Brethren and His Mother, and standing without, sent unto Him calling Him."
Mark 6:3
  • "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. 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;"
Mark 16:1
  • "And when the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the </B>Mother </B>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. Matthew 1:24-25
  • "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. Matthew 12:46
  • "While he yet talked to the people, behold, his mother and his brethren stood without, desiring to speak with him."
John 2:12
  • "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. John 7:3-5
  • "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. Acts 1:14
  • "These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brethren."
Galatians 1:19
  • "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.

Anyway, apologies for the simply cut and pastes of the past two posts - I somehow lost most of my original post, and simply want to bring all the pertinent information together again for further discussion.
That's a lot of information! I'm glad my question has been answered. Did Jesus really have brothers and sisters? It's really interesting that idea. Did anyone of them become disciples?
Elizabeth May said:
That's a lot of information! I'm glad my question has been answered. Did Jesus really have brothers and sisters? It's really interesting that idea. Did anyone of them become disciples?
The Catholics claim that one of the pairs of disciples "James the younger" (or "lesser" in older translations; "younger" was always the meaning) and "Jude the younger" (omitted in some gospels to make room for Matthew in the list of twelve) were the same people as James and Jude the "brothers". This is not possible because the twelve are listed as disciples before the passage about how the "brothers" thought Jesus was out of his mind and should be locked up. The name "James" (from Latin Iacomus, a distortion of Iacobus) is rendering Hebrew Ya'akov same name as "Jacob", and one of the most common Jewish male names of the day, so there are lots of them; James "the older" ("greater") son of Zebedee is different from both James "the younger" and James "the brother".
James the brother did come to believe in Jesus' mission, and was afterwards the head of the Jewish-Christian community in Jerusalem, until he was executed, a martyrdom recorded in Josephus as well as Acts and considered by some, both at the time and since, as one of the major provocations leading to the Jewish revolt. The Gospel of Thomas endorses James' succession as head of the community: "The disciples asked Jesus, What shall we do when you are gone? And he replied, Go to James the Just [in Josephus he is also referred to by this title], for whose sake heaven and earth were created." This Jewish-Christian sect, the "Ebionites", continued to be headed by members of the family, the "Desposyni" or "royal heirs", until about the 4th century AD. They rejected the doctrines of the virgin birth and of Jesus' superhuman status: to them, each Desposyn in turn was the "Messiah" or "rightful king", but Jesus was distinguished as the "king of kings", who would be exalted as the ruler over all humans including the other "kings" at the end of time.
That is interesting that you note the passages that mention James and Judes position to Jesus as in the wrong order. Is it not possible that in having been written later in a literary form, that a clear chronological order of events might not always be evident? My thinking is that if two or more oral sources were involved for any one Gospel then would errors of time of occurrence not creep in?
Thank you very much for the mention of the Ebionites as I had not heard of their position before. I had thought all the Jewish Christians wiped out in the Jewish Revolt. Why would the execution of James be a provocation for it? I do not understand that.
In comaprative mythology, Jesus would have brothers and sisters. He is set up similar to the Egyptian God Horus as he was worshipped in Alexandria. In Egypt there was no problem. The goddess was considered an Earthly virgin, not a heavenly one, thus she could engage in all kind of sexual acts with the gods and still maintain virginity. Temple prostitutes who sold themselves for a particular god were also considered virgins.

Mary took on the persona of Virgo/Isis which has a duel natual of the Sacred Virgin and Holy Whore. However in the story of the birth of a messiah, they both could not be the same. That is why there are two Marys in the Bible, with opposite roles, both associated with Jesus.

The brothers and sisters of Jesus were never meant to be cousins. That is something the Catholics introduced so Mary could be the ever Virgin. The other explanation that was popular is that they were Joseph's children from a previous marriage. I heard both stories from the nuns.

It is also correct to assume in certain passages brothers is a generic term. This would be a correct Greek usage. However, when the Bible gives specific names in the context of the story, it means biological relatives. Why would Jude be a brother of Jesus and his two closest apostles Peter and John not be included in the list if it was a generic term?

James was known as the "Brother of Jesus." Josephus attested to it as does the works of Paul, a rival of James. The fact that Paul does not refute this title of demean it would indicate it meant a biological relationship.
The previous marriage issue is also a logical issue that cannot easily be dismissed - certainly if generic usage of familial terms is to be seen to be limited.

However - I'm wracking my brains here - I could have sworn that there is a passage somewhere in the Gospels that implies that Joseph is dead and that Jesus is to bury him (or just has). I'll have to check that out later.
Dave the Web said:
Why would the execution of James be a provocation for it? I do not understand that.
Because he had a following, only a minority to be sure, but members of every faction were worried and upset when he was abruptly executed. If George Bush suddenly had Michael Moore taken out and shot, even Republicans who don't care for Michael Moore at all would think that was going a little too far, don't you think?
I’m not sure if this is accurate, but maybe someone who is Islamic could verify for me that, The Qur'an states that Joseph was a widower and that the other children where from a past marriage. Thus making them step brothers. I’d like to know if my thinking this is correct.
I've read that Jesus had several brothers, but that they for the most part discredited him a dreamer, and an adventurer...
Zdrastvuitsye, hola, shalom, salaam, Dia dhuit, namastar ji, hej, konnichiwa, squeak, meow, :wave:, white.

Um, I know this is a stupid question, but can you tell me where to find the quotes concerning your particular statement? I'm sorry, but I was raised Jewish, so I'm not that familiar with the New Testament.

Phyllis Sidhe_Uaine
Phyllis Sidhe_Uaine said:
Zdrastvuitsye, hola, shalom, salaam, Dia dhuit, namastar ji, hej, konnichiwa, squeak, meow, :wave:, white.

Um, I know this is a stupid question, but can you tell me where to find the quotes concerning your particular statement? I'm sorry, but I was raised Jewish, so I'm not that familiar with the New Testament.

Phyllis Sidhe_Uaine

My Dear sister,

Know and understand, there are no "stupid questions", as any teacher will afirm, when asked with a pure heart. If a teacher can't reply, he'll tell you he will seek it out, and give you a reply.
If you seek, with all your heart, and all your mind, you will find !. Pray and ask, it will be given.

What about Mary of Magdala? She is supposed to have borne the scions of Jesus. If you look closely at da Vinci's last supper you will see her there as the Beloved Disciple.
No! No mas da Vinci Code! LOL

I've always taken the reference to Jesus' brothers and sisters as meaning what it says. I figure that if the gospel author wanted to clarify that it was a figurative usage or they were only his half-siblings, then he would have done so.

The point Jesus seems to be making in the instance in Mark is negated by the apologetic contention that reference to brothers and sisters is figurative. In this literary device, he draws a distinct contrast between relatives by blood and relatives in faith, putting the second above the first. If the crowd gossiping about siblings were simply referring to immediate family in an uncharacteristically endearing way, the metaphor would lose its point.

And then you have the crowds muttering of Jesus as the son of a carpenter, etc. The literary device here is to indicate that the pressing crowd didn't think he was anything special, allowing the reader to be privy to knowledge that the characters couldn't possibly grasp. Take away the implications of 'aren't his siblings here with us' and the passage loses its meaning.
OK, for the sake of discussion, is anybody here familiar with the traditions of Glastonbury? And the wattle church that was acknowledged by the Catholic church as the first Christian church established outside of the Holy Land?

Or that Jesus' blood decendent went on to found the Merovingian dynasty of kings?

Any info to this end would be appreciated, particularly local (read: source, or close to it) traditions or folklore.
The family of Jesus:

An interesting topic to speculate on about the family of Jesus...

Baha'is believe Jesus was a poor itinerant teacher Who had no place to rest His head and therefore did not have a wife or children.

Baha'u'llah revealed:

"He that married not (Jesus Christ) could find no place wherein to abide, nor where to lay His head, by reason of what the hands of the treacherous had wrought."

pp. 49-50 "Epistle to the Son of the Wolf"

Mary's purity and chastity are also supported in our Faith.

Other than that, I don't think we Baha'is have a position or stated view on the subject.

But the explanation about who was the family of Jesus for us maybe closer to the Eastern Church traditions, that Joseph was considerably older than Mary and had an earlier family and Jesus therefore had older "half-sibs" from that:

"And the priest said to Joseph, Thou hast been chosen by lot to take into thy keeping the virgin of the Lord. But Joseph refused, saying: I have children, and I am an old man, and she is a young girl."

- The Protoevangelium of James, verse 9

That other children could have been born from Mary herself is probably a more modern Protestant idea. I think that repels Eastern tradition because that would mean Joseph would have had relations with Mary after the miraculous birth of Jesus.

The virgin birth is also upheld in the Qur'an:

She said: "O my Lord! How shall I have a son when no man hath touched me?"

- Surih 3:47

Another explanation I've heard is that on the cross, Jesus assigns the care of His mother to the Beloved Disciple or John. See John 19:26-27. So this would also seem to suggest Mary had no other children aside from Jesus.

- Art :cool:
juantoo3 said:
Or that Jesus' blood decendent went on to found the Merovingian dynasty of kings?
That source is Bloodline of the Grail, which is a rather sensationalist book to say the least. The only book I have ever seen that makes claim to having a complete and accurate event of everything that happened in the European Dark Ages. I wrote a review for Amazon, essentially saying it would have been interesting as a work of fiction, but as a work of fact it read as dishonest. Disppeared from the site a week or so after it went up.