DID JESUS HAVE BIOLOGICAL BROTHERS AND SISTERS? NO, HE DIDN’T.
A frequent error which arises from a literal interpretation of the Bible would lead to affirm erroneously that during his life on earth, Jesus had biological siblings, that is, Mary bore other children. However, this interpretation is a mistake. JESUS DIDN’T HAVE BIOLOGICAL BROTHERS AND SISTERS. Why? Let us look at the following passages:
Mark 3: 31-32: And his mother and his brethren came; and standing out side they went to him and called him. 32 And a crowd was sitting about him: and they said to him, “Your mother and your brethren l are outside, asking for you.”
Mark 6: 3: Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon, and are not his sisters here with us?” And they took offence at him.
- In the above passages, the words “brethren, brother and sisters” appear. Let us not forget however that IN ARAMAIC, THE LANGUAGE USED BY THE JEWS, THE WORD “BRETHREN” IS A BROAD TERM INDICATING DIFFERENT DEGREES OF RELATIONSHIP AND KINSHIP: NEPHEWS, FIRST COUSINS AND RELATIVES IN GENERAL ARE CALLED ‘BRETHREN’.
- THE WORD “BROTHER” DOES NOT NECESSARLY MEAN SON OF THE SAME PARENTS. IT CAN ALSO INDICATE OTHER DEGREES OF RELATIONSHIPS — COUSINS, NEPHEWS ETC. Thus in Gen 13:8 and 14:14 and 16 Lot is called the brother of Abraham (translated as “kinsman” in RSV), whereas we know that he was Abraham’s nephew, the son of Abraham’s brother Haran. The same is true of Laban, who is called the brother of Jacob (Gen 29:15) although he was his mother’s brother (Gen 29:15); there are other instances: cf. 1 Chron 23:21-22, etc. THIS CONFUSION IS DUE TO THE POVERTY OF HEBREW AND ARAMAIC LANGUAGE: IN THE ABSENCE OF DISTINCT TERMS, THE SAME WORD, BROTHER, IS USED TO DESIGNATE DIFFERENT DEGREES OF RELATIONSHIP.
- From other Gospel passages we know that James and Joses, who are mentioned here, were sons of Mary of Cleophas (Jn 19:25). We know less about Judas and Simon: it seems that they are the apostles Simon the Cananaean (Mt 10:4) and Judas the son of James (Lk 6:16), the author of the universal epistle, in which he describes himself as “brother” of James.
- In any event, although James, Simon and Judas are referred to as brothers of Jesus, it is nowhere said they were “sons of Mary”, which would have been the natural thing if they had been our Lord’s brothers in the strict sense.
- Jesus always appears as an only son to the people of Nazareth, he is “the son of Mary” (Mt 13:55). When he was dying Jesus entrusted his mother to St John (cf. Jn 19:26-276), which shows that Mary had no other children. To this is added the constant belief of the Church, which regards Mary as the ever-virgin “a perfect virgin before, while, and forever after she gave birth” (Paul IV, Cum quorumdam).
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TEXT SOURCE: COMMENTARY TO THE GOSPEL OF ST. MARK, NAVARRE BIBLE.