555 Difficult Bible Questions Answered

206. Who Were the Brothers of Jesus?

The brethren of Jesus are named in the New Testament as James, Joses, Simon and Judas. In Matt 1246; Matt 13:55; John 2:12, and Acts 1:14 they are generally understood to be proper brothers, all being named together conjointly with the mother of Jesus, and the same is inferred from John 7:5. Some of the early church writers, however, held that they were merely relatives or cousins (sons of Mary the sister of Jesus' mother), it being a common custom to call all immediate relatives, nephews, cousins and half-brothers, by the general designation of "brothers" or "brethren." Further, the early fathers of the church held that Mary, the mother of Jesus, had no other children. The question still remains open whether they were not the sons of Joseph by a former marriage, and therefore half-brothers to Jesus. On the other hand Matt. 1:25 and Luke 2:7 favor the view that they were brothers and that Jesus was the "first-born." Sisters of Jesus are also mentioned in Matt 13:56 and Mark 6:3, but their names are not given. Much has been written on the subject without positive determination, although most modern commentators hold to the opinion that the "brethren" in question were the sons of Joseph and Mary, and that Mary's mother's sister had two sons, named James and Joses.