The question of whether Jesus had brothers and sisters has been a topic of debate and discussion for centuries. There are two prevailing schools of thought – some believe that Mary remained a perpetual virgin and he therefore didn’t have any other children. On the other hand, others believe that Jesus had several siblings. But what does the Bible say on this subject?
A close look at the gospels and the Book of Acts reveals that Jesus had brothers and sisters. The names of the brothers are given (James, Joseph (Joses), Simon, Judas (Jude)) while the sisters are mentioned without names.
Let us take a closer look at the scriptures that talk about the siblings of Jesus below:
Names of Jesus’ brothers
Isn’t this the carpenter’s son? Isn’t his mother’s name Mary, and aren’t his brothers James, Joseph, Simon, and Judas? Mathew 13:55
James was one of the brothers of Jesus and he was also the one who wrote the Epistle of James. When writing to the Galatians, Paul mentions how he went to see the Apostles of Jesus after his conversion and only managed to see Peter and James the brother of Jesus (Galatians 1:18-19). James was one of the leaders of the New Testament church and was described as a pillar alongside Peter and John (Gal. 2:9).
Joses was also referred to as Joseph in the Vulgate Latin. Joses and Joseph are virtually the same name. Joses was also referred to as Justus or Barsabbas. This Joses is referred to in Acts 1:23 when the Apostles saw it fit to find a replacement for Judas who had hanged himself after betraying Jesus. The other nominee was Mathiaas and after casting lots, Mathiaas was elected.
Simon is not to be confused with Simon Peter. Unlike the other two brothers, Simon was a cousin to Jesus because he was the son of Cleophas who was the brother of Joseph the husband of Mary the mother of Jesus. It is believed that Simon succeeded James as the bishop of Jerusalem.
Judas is also referred to as Lebbaeus or Thaddaeus and he is mentioned as one of the disciples of Jesus in Matthew 10:3. Judas the brother of Jesus is not to be confused with Judas Iscariot who betrayed Jesus. Judas the brother to Jesus also described in the gospel of Luke as the brother to James (Luke 6:16). This is the same James that we have identified as the brother of Jesus which means that Judas was also Jesus’ brother.
Unlike the brothers, the Bible doesn’t mention how many sisters Jesus had and neither does it give their names. However, there is a scriptural reference to his sisters so we know Jesus had more than one sister.
And are not all his sisters with us? Where then did this man get all these things? Mathew 13:56
Are not His sisters here with us?” And they took offense at Him. Mark 6:3
Scriptural evidence of Jesus SIblings
|Is not this the carpenter’s son? Is not His mother
called Mary, and His brothers, James and Joseph and Simon and Judas? “And His sisters, are they not all with us? Where then did this man get all these things?”
|While He was still speaking to the multitudes, behold, His mother and brothers were standing outside, seeking to speak to Him.
|Is not this the carpenter,
the son of Mary, and brother of James, and Joses, and Judas, and Simon? Are not His sisters here with us?” And they took offense at Him.
|After this He went down to Capernaum, He and His mother, and His brothers, and His disciples; and there they stayed a few days.
|So his brothers said to him, “Leave here and go to Judea, that your disciples also may see the works you are doing. For no one works in secret if he seeks to be known openly. If you do these things, show yourself to the world.” For not even his brothers believed in him. 6 Jesus said to them, “My time has not yet come, but your time is always here.
|These all with one mind were
continually devoting themselves to prayer, along with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with His brothers.
Arguments against Jesus’ siblings
Those who believe Jesus didn’t have any siblings use two main arguments to disapprove the idea:
- Mary’s Perpetual virginity – the idea of perpetual virginity is promoted in catholic doctrine to illustrate that Mary remained a virgin throughout her life. This is central to the catholic doctrine which venerates Mary the mother of Jesus and they believe her perpetual virginity makes her an important saint.
- Cousins Theory – Some believe that the term brothers and sisters was used loosely to refer to cousins and not real siblings. Even though there is some merit to the argument, a closer study of the siblings of Jesus reveals that only one of them (Simon) was a cousin but the rest are explicitly described as brothers and sisters. Besides, there are many other scriptures where the term cousin is used. For instance, Luke describes Elizabeth as a Cousin of Mary (Luke 1:36), Mark is described as a Cousin to Barabas (Col.4:10), etc. This means that if Jesus’ siblings were actually cousins, the Bible would just use the term cousin to avoid confusion.
In conclusion, the Bible provides clear evidence that Jesus had flesh-and-blood brothers and sisters. While Mary was indeed chosen to give birth to Jesus, she did not remain a perpetual virgin. That said, the theological debate over Jesus’ siblings should not overshadow the central message of Christianity: that it is more important to do the will of God than to claim a familial connection with Jesus. As Jesus Himself said, “For whoever does the will of My Father who is in heaven, he is My brother and sister and mother” (Matthew 12:50).