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Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions About Christianity, Answered Honestly!

Did Jesus Have Brothers and Sisters?
-by Tony Warren

When we carefully consider the Biblical record, the question itself seems quite ridiculous seeing how it is so clear, even from the context of many of the scriptures, that He did. And the only major religion that really chooses to dispute this is the Roman Catholic religion. Their teachers dogmatically maintain that following the Lord's birth, Mary continued in her virginity the rest of her life, never bearing any more children. This in direct contradiction to everything else in scripture that points to the opposite conclusion. Though Joseph and Mary did not come together in the sexual union before Christ was born, they did know each other in the Biblical sense, afterward. And the Lord indeed blessed them with children.

With so much Biblical validation for this, the question becomes, "why would anyone even attempt to dispute it, or for that matter even want to?" The answer of course is as simple as the word "tradition." It is because all these scriptures directly contradict Roman Catholic Tradition, which glorifies Mary as a perpetual virgin, Co-Redemptrix, and Mediatrix. So if the Roman Catholic Church were to confess that the scriptures are correct as written, and that Mary had other children, then it would destroy their well oiled myths about her. Therefore, a way had to be devised that could be used to justify this extra-biblical doctrine.

It is indeed difficult to imagine an argument against Mary having other children being more groundless than this one. Number one, nowhere does the word of God declare that she had no other children, and so it is a doctrine that is not based on the firm foundation of scripture. In effect, it is a doctrine built upon the deafening silence of scripture concerning this theory. Number two, Roman Catholicism has made the fundamental construction error of building a house from the roof down. In other words, they started out with a conclusion, and then set out to construct technicalities in the Greek, in order to try and give the "appearance" that their conclusions have sound support. But any logical Bible scholar knows that reliable Biblical 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 the word to its conclusion. Since there is nothing in God's word that says, or even implies that Mary had no other children, then it should be self-evident that this Church's conclusion is based upon the oral traditions of men, not the word of God.

What they have done in one instance is taken the Greek word [adelphos], that is translated brethren, and by slight of hand attempted to make its meaning, "in context," 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/Family), it cannot be used this way in the pertinent passages that we are dealing with with relationship to Christ's mother. Nor is there is any reasonable justification to claim that this word, in these natural contexts, could mean cousins. The spurious claim that it means brethren 'in Christ' or cousins in the context of these passages in question are a house of cards. For example, they will offer the Hebrew word [ach], translated brother in passages like Genesis 29:15, and then declare that proves for Jews brother can be cousins. But again, that is sleight of hand, as that Hebrew (not Greek) word means Kin. Its like word in Greek would be [suggene] meaning kindred, not {adelphos}. Moreover, even without the passages with the word "brethren," we can see clearly throughout the scriptures that Mary had other children. To simply "ignore" these things would be to handle the scriptures deceitfully, tortuously manipulating it for our own agenda or purposes.

Did Jesus have brothers and sisters? The best way to find an answer and discern what is true, is to go right to the scripture and let it speak for itself. Remember, the scripture (the word of the living God) is the ultimate authority of true Christians. And take careful note that one would have to tortuously wrest/twist the scriptures of Matthew to even begin to make them imply that Mary didn't have other children. e.g.:

    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?"
Note it is in the context of describing Christ's immediate family, His mother and brothers. It doesn't say kin, it says brethren [adelphos], not cousins [suggenes] or near kinfolk. And the context is "clearly" of his birth family, not mother and brethren as in a church family.

    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," just as she was in Matthew 13:55 as it said James and Joses were Christ's brothers. This has nothing to do with any alleged mis-translation of the word "brother". It is clearly and unambiguously stated in Matthew 13:55 that Mary was Jesus Mother, and that James and Joses were His brothers. And to confirm we have understood this correctly, Matthew 27:56 repeats this truth declaring Mary was the Mother of James and Joses. And so we can see clearly on two separate levels, the truth in the word of God that Mary was Mother of Jesus, James and Joses, and also that James and Joses were the brothers of Jesus. No manner of twisting the cultural idioms or the Greek of the day is going to change what is divinely inspired to be written. And that should settle it for any rational, objective thinking person. But Roman Catholicism is built upon man made tradition, not rationality or God's word. It is a system of indoctrination, rather than a scholastic system of understanding Holy writ. Nevertheless, the clear sense of scripture (to those without any preconceived ideas) is made manifest in its absolute clarity on this matter. Christ had half brothers and sisters born to His mother Mary.

    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 the conversation reveals that those in this synagogue were talking about the genealogical mother, brothers and sisters of Christ. In other words, that Jesus was son of Mary, had these brothers named Juda, James and Joses, and that He also had sisters. It's identifying a natural family, and it is tortuous of scripture to deny this in its context. If we're going to say that the Greek word brother [adelphos], doesn't really mean His natural brethren, and the Greek word here [adelphe] doesn't mean his natural sisters, we have to also say that word mother [meter] doesn't really mean that Mary was Christ's actual natural Mother in the context. And then we have the confusion for which some people seek. Because Matthew 27:56 said that Mary was the Mother of James and Joses, and the mother of Christ. And so it is utterly untenable to put forth the argument that Mary was not the natural Mother of James, Joses and Christ.

    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 Mother of James, and Salome, had brought sweet spices, that they might come and anoint Him."
Anyone looking at those scriptures carefully and "honestly" can come to no other conclusion. Namely, like many women of the day, Mary had many other children. The problem is not really that the scriptures don't clearly state this, the real problem is that Roman Catholicism places Church tradition over and above the authority of the word of God. And that makes it in effect, non-effectual (mark 7:13). For there is nothing in God's word that either implicitly or explicitly declares that Jesus was the lone son of Mary, or that Mary remained a virgin. On the other hand, the context of many verses illustrate 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, which was 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 I relayed the message to you stating that this actually means that they never consummated the marriage, you would think that a ridiculous conclusion on my part. Would you not? And you'd be right! But this is exactly what the Roman Catholic Church teaches in regards to the Matthew 1:24-25 passages of scripture.

And indeed, that anyone could read all these scriptures and still believe that Mary was a perpetual virgin, is a testimony not to scripture--but to the indoctrination of traditions. To believe this, they must circumvent or wrest scriptures that say Mary was the "Mother" of Jesus' Brethren, scriptures that say Jesus was the brethren of Mary's children, scriptures that say Jesus was the son of Mary, and scriptures that say Joseph knew (in the Biblical sense of union) Mary 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," because no scripture says or implies that she was. The bigger question is, why should/would she be required to be? Mary was a Chosen vessel, not a deity. Is there anything wrong with Joseph taking His wife Mary and having more children? It is a perfectly normal thing for a righteous husband and a wife to do, is it not? In fact, it would be abnormal for them not to do (1st Corinthians 7:3-5) this.

Another indication that the perpetual virginity of Mary is a fable is that Jesus is referred to as her firstborn Son, not her only begotten son. If Jesus was the only child of Mary, wouldn't He be referred to as her only begotten Son? Of course He would, because this is the designation of an only child, and firstborn can assume the existence of more than one son. Not only does the Bible clearly tell us that Mary had other children after the birth of Jesus, 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 that would preclude this, is man-made traditions invoking an 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."
Not only is it made clear here that this was His natural mother and brothers, but to defend against any groundless objections that brethren could be referring to his disciples as His Christian brethren, we read this:

    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 any Christian should try and wrest the Greek and claim that this word brethren is talking about those in Christ (spiritual brethren), here we see God showing us the clear distinction. His Mother, His brothers and his Christian brethren the disciples. In other words, the context is clear that His Disciples (spiritual family or brethren) were distinct "from" his Brethren and Mother (Blood family). There was his Mother, his Brothers, "and" His Disciples. Again, the very wording and setting confirms these were Christ's actual blood brothers, and not Church brethren as some allege. You don't say, "His Mother and His Brothers" separated in a context of His disciples, 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 the family of his brethren and the family of His disciples are separated. The narrative is that at first, even Christ's own brothers did not believe in Him. They only later came to believe. This again clearly illustrates that these were his flesh brothers, not brothers in the sense of disciples in Christ. How could they be brethren, if they didn't believe and weren't followers? It makes no sense. And the scriptures use the Greek words [mathetes] for disciples, not [suggenes] or [suggeneia] which refers to kinsman, relatives, or cousins (Luke 1:36; 1:58; 14:12; Acts 10:24; Romans 16:21), distinct in this context from [adelphos] or Brethren. So these brethren of Christ's that didn't believe were obviously Mary's other children, not other believers of 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."
The scriptures are replete with validation that Mary had other children. Unfortunately, when teachers cannot justify their doctrines with scripture, they come up with some other way of justification, which they call tradition. Rationalizing away scripture is usually the rule of thumb to make doctrines appear valid, that actually have no validation in scripture. But doing so means their authority of men rather than God. What is man's word worth compared to the infallible word of the living God? For it is written, "let God be true and every man a Liar."

Psalms 119:140

  • "Thy word is very pure: therefore thy servant loveth it."
Proverbs 30:5
  • "Every word of God is pure: he is a shield unto them that put their trust in him."
We can put our trust in God's word as pure and authoritative truth, or in the words of men, but not both. All God's children would love to have Roman Catholics consider the infallible word wisely and come to the truth of scripture. But the fact is, you cannot argue anyone into the kingdom, nor into believing anything of the Kingdom. That power is in the providence of God alone. Either they are made noble to receive what is divinely inspired written, or they will remain blinded by Church tradition that they will not receive it. The key is not to let their frustration become your frustration. Thus we should go into any discussion with the proponents of these doctrines with our eyes wide open. Don't expect people to listen to the word of God, because in all likelihood, they won't. Nevertheless, here and there there will be a remnant, a few who indeed will be drawn of God to hear and reject blindly following man-made doctrines. The Spirit of truth will guide these to listen with all readiness of mind (Acts 17:11) to rational consistent Biblical teachings. Just as the Bereans didn't blindly accept what their Priests and rulers of their congregations said, nor even what the Apostle Paul said. Rather, they searched the scriptures to see if what was being witnessed to them was true. In other words, they understood the authority of divinely inspired scripture over their leaders words. In any normal understanding of Jewish idiom, Christ's mother and brethren would not refer to his disciples or followers.

    Acts 1:14

  • "These all continued with one accord in Prayer and supplication, and with the women, and MARY the Mother of Jesus, and with HIS Brethren."
The truth is both clear and quite concise. It's not ambiguous, nor is it really hard to understand. But as Jesus declared about His own witness, "...if you will receive it".

So what can the faithful Christian glean in information about the Lord's brothers and sisters from all of these pertinent passages? First of all, we can know that Jesus had at least four brothers and at least two sisters. The brothers names were, James, Joses, Simon and Judas, and one of the sister's names was Salome. We are unaware of the name of the other.

These things are so clear and so straight forward in the scriptures that it seems totally irrational to deny them. But with some people, it doesn't matter what the scriptures themselves say, because their Church leaders or rulers are paramount, rather than the divine word of God itself. We should understand (though not condone) that this is the way it has to be with them because that is the only way that they can claim that the clear text (and context), doesn't "REALLY" mean what it says. By having the Church hierarchy as ultimate authority over God's word, they can make these private interpretation of scripture and arbitrary define their own terms.

The normal process of sound hermeneutics will not allow us to force into scripture the doctrine that Mary had no other Children. The common usage of these words and their structure elsewhere, testifies that this refers to Jesus Christ, His physical Mother, Sisters and Brethren. It does not refer to other Church members, nor can it arbitrarily be defined to mean cousins.

In all matters of Christian doctrine, it seems to always boil down to the same common denominator. Namely, what is our authority? Is it God, where we receive and obey God's word as the ultimate authority, or is it man, where we receive and obey our teachers words as the ultimate authority? Those who reject scripture in favor of their teachers (no matter what religion) have another authority other than that of the Bible. And as long as they do, they will never come to any agreement with any scripture unless their church leaders (man) says that they can. Or until/unless God decides to open their spiritual eyes. Our hope and prayer is that God will open many eyes.

As for Mary, the true believer doesn't need to build her up, she is already blessed and honored. Yes, Mary was a chosen vessel and was blessed of God to bear the Lord, but she must not be set up as a idol, prayer tower, mediator or intercessor. There is one intercessor and it is Jesus Christ. Let us not lose sight of that biblical fact. There is one Mediator between God and man, and no redemptrix or female redemptor. The idea of Mary as a Co-redemptrix is anathema. We don't have to artificially make her Holy, she is Holy, just like all the rest of God's Chosen vessels. Made so by the shed Blood of Christ, not Church tradition.



Copyright ©1995 Tony Warren
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Created 08/23/95 / Last Modified 02/18/00
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