17. The brothers of Jesus



I found a interesting page about this issue in bibbia.it and decided to translate it into English and discuss the Catholic doctrine of Mary’s perpetual virginity. 



Was Jesus the firstborn?

That Jesus had brothers and that he was the eldest son in the family nucleus composed of Joseph and Mary is explained in the first instance by the meaning of “firstborn” that we find in the Gospel of Luke 2:77.

7 and she gave birth to a son, her first-born. She wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger because there was no room for them in the living-space.

It is unlikely that Luke had used that word being aware that Mary had not given birth to other children, because in that case she would have had another word used in the same gospel to indicate an only child as in Luke 7:12 :

“12 Now when he was near the gate of the town there was a dead man being carried out, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow. And a considerable number of the townspeople was with her.”

and Luke  8:42

42 because he had an only daughter about twelve years old, who was dying. And the crowds were almost stifling Jesus as he went

It is worth noting that the words recorded in the Gospel according to Matthew 1: 25 

25 he had not had intercourse with her when she gave birth to a son; and he named him Jesus.”

this indicate that after the birth of Jesus, Joseph and Mary had a normal marriage relationship followed by birth of other children.
These brothers and sisters of Jesus at first did not recognize the nature of his mission. As we read in Mark 3:21


Jesus brother James

Mark 3:21 tells: “When his relations heard of this, they set out to take charge of him; they said, ‘He is out of his mind.'”

John recalls in John 7: 5:

Not even his brothers had faith in him.

But after the resurrection, his brothers, and especially James, clearly changed their position: we meet them, in fact, in Acts 1:14 gathered in prayer together with their mother Mary, the twelve apostles and an unspecified number of women who were you are following Christ:

” With one heart all these joined constantly in prayer, together with some women, including Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers.”

According to Paul when he affirms About Jesus, in the first letter to Corinthians 15: 7 7 “then he appeared to James, and then to all the apostles.”

It was probably this experience that led him to conversion along with the rest of his family.
Later, in the church of Jerusalem, James was a recognized leader. The observation of Paul regarding his first visit to Jerusalem after his conversion is significant. He says he saw no other of the Apostles except James the Lord’s brother Galatians 1: 18-19

18 Only after three years did I go up to Jerusalem to meet Cephas. I stayed fifteen days with him

19 but did not set eyes on any of the rest of the apostles, only James, the Lord’s brother.”

 and for Paul this meeting must have been extremely important because it gave him the opportunity to learn about the life of Jesus directly from someone who had known him very closely.


Jesus brother Judas, 

Judas appears simply as the brother of James, who was one of the greatest exponents of the church of Jerusalem and author of the epistle of the same name. In this case Judas would be another brother of Jesus, in fact among the brothers of the Lord, besides James, a certain Judas is also mentioned in Matthew 13:55:

Mark 6:3 says:

3 This is the carpenter, surely, the son of Mary, the brother of James and Joset and Jude and Simon? His sisters, too, are they not here with us?’ And they would not accept him.

There is a discussion if  the brothers 

1 are halphbrothers of Jesus, that means the sons of Joseph and Jopsephs precious wife or

2. are the son of Mary and Jesus. Those who  say that Mary remained in celibate support of course the first hypothesis. So does my Catholic priest and the Jehovas witnesses.

“The Catholic Church made the matter of Mary’s being a virgin perpetually a teaching of the Church though because of the sanctity that virginity is supposed to impart.” (Source: Jw.org)


Arguments against Marys perpetual virginity =
hildren beside Jesus

JW says in https://wol.jw.org : “That Mary had other children also seems indicated by the incident that occurred when Jesus was twelve years old and Joseph took his family to Jerusalem for the festival. On the way back they had traveled a whole day before Mary noticed that Jesus was not with them. Had Jesus been her only child (and miraculously conceived at that), could we imagine her maternal instincts being so dormant that she would have started out without him and not missed him for a whole day? But if by this time she had six or more children by Joseph, we can imagine her having been so busy that she might not have missed Jesus for a whole day.​—Luke 2:41-50.”

and “The apostle Paul tells married people not to deprive each other of the marital due, which Mary would have done had she remained a virgin after bearing Jesus.​—1 Cor. 7:3-5.


Arguments for Marys perpetual virginity =
only halphbrothers and halph sisters

JW says in https://wol.jw.org : “Catholic theologians state: “Greek-speaking Semites used the terms adelphos and adelphē, not only in the ordinary sense [as meaning “brothers” and “sisters”], but also for nephew, niece, half-brother, half-sister, and cousin.” This argument was first presented by Jerome, the early Catholic Church “father,” and goes back no earlier than 383 C.E. But he produces neither Scripture nor tradition to support his position. The fact is that in his later writings he expressed misgivings as to the soundness of his theory that, when the Scriptures spoke of the “brothers” of Jesus, “cousins” were meant.​—St. Paul’s Epistle to the Galatians, Lightfoot.”

JW concludes that Jesus had halphbrothers and halphsisters



I am a bit reluctant about the Catholic doctrine of Mary’s perpetual virginity as a sign of Sanctity. I believe that Sanctity has nothing to do with your sexual life. You can be a saint and do good deeds even if you have children after intercourse.

I personally prefer the view that Jesus had both brothers and halphbrothers. Some of the brothers mentioned in the Gospells may have been halphbrothers. So Mary was a great women even if  Joseph and Mary had children after having had Jesus. Joseph as being elder, may have had children in a previous relationship. I also think that Joseph was elder and died earlier as we never read about him in after Jesus death like we did with Mary in Acts 1:14 .