Did Jesus have brothers and sisters? In many films he was portrayed as a child of Joseph and Mary.
The Family of Jesus
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Posted 19 August 2017 - 02:31 AM
JESUS, BROTHERS AND SISTERS OF.
In the NT and in extracanonical literature there is mention of Jesus’ brothers and sisters. The question of Jesus’ brothers and sisters has been a point of controversy throughout church history.A. NT Evidence
Several NT passages mention the brothers of Jesus (and his sisters in Mark 6:3[= Matt 13:56] and Mark 3:32 according to some mss). In Mark 3:31–32 (= Matt 12:46 = Luke 8:19–20) Jesus’ mother and his brothers try to separate him from a crowd that thought he was out of his mind. Jesus responds that whoever does the will of God is his true brother and sister and mother. Mark 6:3 (= Matt 13:55–56) records the judgment of people in Nazareth who questioned Jesus’ wisdom by asking, “Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary, the brother of James and Joses (Joseph in Matt) and Judas and Simon?” However, Mark 15:40 states that James the younger and Joses were the sons of another Mary, presumably not the mother of Jesus.
John 2:12 mentions that the brothers of Jesus accompanied him to Capernaum and they later tauntingly suggest that Jesus should publicly demonstrate his great deeds at the Feast of Tabernacles (7:3, 5, 10). John agrees with the Synoptics in having the brothers of Jesus refuse to believe in him during his lifetime.
Acts 1:14, on the other hand, includes the brothers of Jesus as part of a group praying together after the crucifixion with the 11 disciples and some women, including Jesus’ mother Mary. Paul in 1 Cor 9:5 asks if he does not have the right to travel with a Christian woman (wife?) like the other apostles, the brothers of the Lord, and Cephas. And in Gal 1:19 Paul mentions James, “the brother of the Lord.”B. Evidence from Extra Canonical Literature
Early church tradition associated with the historian Hegesippus and preserved by Eusebius in his Ecclesiastical History records the important role played by relatives of Jesus in the Jerusalem church. James is said to have been the first bishop of Jerusalem and after his martyrdom his brother Simeon succeeded him (Hist. Eccl. 2.1.10–14; 3.11).
A 2d-century pseudepigraphical work, The Protevangelium of James, is the earliest evidence for the view that Jesus’ brothers were the children of Joseph from a previous marriage and that Mary remained a virgin after the birth of Jesus (Prot. Jas. 9:2; 19:1–20:3).
The gnostic writings from Nag Hammadi contain several references to brothers of Jesus, particularly James and Thomas. In one of 3 apocryphal writings attributed to James, the author states, “The one whom you hated and persecuted came to me. He said to me, ‘Hail, my brother; my brother, hail!’ As I looked up at him, the mother said to me, ‘Do not be frightened, my son, because he said, ‘My brother’ to you. For you (pl.) were nourished with this same milk. Because of this he calls me ‘My mother.’ For he is not a stranger to us. He is a brother [by] your father” (2 Apoc. Jas. 50, 8–23). The revealer (Jesus) later says to James, “Your father is not my father, but my father has become a father to [you]” (51,19–22). Here James, whose father is presumably Joseph, is said to be a physical brother to Jesus as well as his spiritual brother.
Another Nag Hammadi text, The Book of Thomas the Contender, has the savior say to Thomas, “Now since it has been said that you are my twin and true companion, examine yourself … Since you will be called my brother, it is not fitting that you be ignorant of yourself” (138,7–11). This apparently spiritualizes an alleged physical kinship. See THOMAS THE CONTENDER.C. History of Interpretation
The ambiguity and brevity of the canonical references to Jesus’ family led to three main interpretations. One view evidently supported by Tertullian among others, is named after a later proponent named Helvidius. According to this view, the brothers of Jesus were full blood brothers born to Mary and Joseph after the birth of Jesus.
Another view, defended by Origen, Eusebius, and Gregory of Nyssa, is identified with Epiphanius, Bishop of Salamis, whose Against Heresies includes the view that the brothers of Jesus were actually the sons of Joseph by a previous marriage.
A third understanding of the brothers of Jesus is found in the work of St. Jerome. Writing in opposition to Helvidius and the view that Mary and Joseph had other children after the birth of Jesus, Jerome argued on the basis of his interpretation of the canonical evidence that the brothers of Jesus were in fact his cousins. Their mother, Jerome argued, was the sister of Mary the mother of Jesus, who was herself named Mary and the wife of Clopas, who was also known as Alphaeus. Jerome’s intent is clear from the title of his work, Against Helvidius: The Perpetual Virginity of the Blessed Mary.D. Current InterpretationModern biblical scholarship has usually divided along confessional lines with regard to the brothers of Jesus. Protestant scholarship has generally understood the Gk term adelphos as referring to a physical brother, i.e., a biological descendant of the same mother and father. Roman Catholic and much of Orthodox scholarship, on the other hand, has generally interpreted adelphos, at least with reference to Jesus, as a kinsman or a cousin. This latter interpretation, based partly on the view that adelphos is the Gk equivalent of the broader Hebrew term ʾaḥ, accords with the views of St. Jerome and Epiphanius and is consistent with the doctrine of the perpetual virginity of Mary, the mother of Jesus. For classic discussions of these patristic views, consult the work of J. B. Lightfoot (1865) and Zahn (1900). More recent scholarship reviewing the history of interpretation can be found in the studies of Blinzler (1967), and McHugh (1975). The role of James the brother of Jesus is the topic of a recent study by Wilhelm Pratscher (1987) and recent scholarship is summarized in the commentary of R. Martin (James WBC).
An ecumenical taskforce concluded with regard to the brothers and sisters of Jesus, “… it cannot be said that the NT identifies them without doubt as blood brothers and sisters and hence as children of Mary … The solution favored by scholars will in part depend on the authority they allot to later church insights” (Brown, Donfried, Fitzmyer and Reumann 1978: 72).Bibliography
Blinzler, J. 1967. Die Brüder und Schwestern Jesu. 2d ed. Stuttgart.Brown, R.; Donfried, K.; Fitzmyer, J.; and Reumann, J., eds. 1978. Mary in the New Testament. Philadelphia and New York.Lightfoot, J. B. 1865. “The Brethren of the Lord.” Pp. 252–91 in The Epistle of St. Paul to the Galatians. Grand Rapids. Repr. 1967.McHugh, J. 1975. The Mother of Jesus in the New Testament. Garden City, NY.Myer, A., and Bauer, W. 1963. “The Relatives of Jesus.” NTApocr 1: 418–32.Pratscher, W. 1987. Der Herrenbruder Jakobus und sein Kreis. EvT 47: 228–44.Zahn, T. 1900. Brüder und Vettern Jesu. Vol. 6, pp. 225–364 in Forschungen zur Geschichte des neutestamentlichen Kanons und der altkirchlichen Literatur. Leipzig.
JAMES A. BRASHLER
Brashler, J. A. (1992). Jesus, Brothers and Sisters of. In D. N. Freedman (Ed.), The Anchor Yale Bible Dictionary (Vol. 3, pp. 819–820). New York: Doubleday.
"seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness" Matthew 6:33
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