Confusion with Eusebius and the "brothers" of the Lord


If someone can help me out with this one, I would greatly appreciate it. I thought I was well versed in defense of the perpetual virginity of our Blessed Mother – probably still am – however, just recently I have been confronted with Eusebius’ Church History, who is one of our Church historians, in which he differentiates James, the Lord’s brother, from the other two James, as being chosen and given special favor to serve as the bishop of Jerusalem. Eusebius states James was a brother of our Lord “according to the flesh” and that his father was Joseph, and that Joseph was held in high esteem, because he was betrothed to the Virgin Mary. He also states that Judas was a brother of our Lord according to the flesh. However, further in the book he states that they were “considered” brothers of the Lord, which seems to be contradictory. He also only mentions Simeon as being a cousin germane to our Lord and a son of Cleopas.
I have always argued that they were all cousins of our Lord. Further, he does not state that these were children of Mary, but only that Joseph was betrothed to her, which would indicate that although espoused, they could not engage in intimate marital relations. This question is not meant as a challenge. I am just seeking out insight from other fellow Catholics familiar with Eusebius, and if someone can tell me if I am right about the betrothal interpretation.
Thanks in advance for the help.


Sometimes St. Joseph is shown as an older widower with children when he was betrothed to the Virgin Mary and the children were the ones refered to as ‘brothers of the Lord’. :shrug: :slight_smile:


Just thought I would throw this out there. what is the faith background of the translator of the edition you are reading?


Eastern Christian tradition generally holds, as someone else said, that Joseph had been married before and that James, Joses, Simon, and Jude (plus at least two sisters) were his children with his first wife. Eusebius may be part of that line of tradition.

In the West, we are more likely to put Joseph closer to Mary’s age, and to presume that the brothers and sisters were cousins (possibly children of Sts. Cleopas and Mary of Cleopas, sister and brother-in-law – or brother and sister-in-law, given that Sts. Joachim and Anne are unlikely to have given two daughters the same name – of the Blessed Virgin).

Despite that difference, I don’t think any of the ancient authorities state that Mary (Jesus’ mother) had other children. As you note, Eusebius cites only that they were Joseph’s children. “Brothers according to the flesh” could be taken as suggestive (since Jesus isn’t Joseph’s biological son), but I suspect Eusebius would have said it outright if he thought Sts. James and Jude and the rest were children of the Blessed Mother.

That St. James the Just, first bishop of Jerusalem and Paul’s frequent opponent on the issue of the relationship between Judaism and Christianity, was a third guy and not either of the Apostles James is a fairly well accepted idea nowadays, probably even among Catholics (though I was exposed to the notion while I was a Protestant).



There are two different traditions. There is a very old Catholic tradition that the brothers of Lord were children of Joseph by a previous marriage. This tradition is mentioned in the Protoevangelium of James, written about A.D. 150. It is my understanding that today Orthodox Christians tend to favor this tradition more than Catholics. Catholics tend to favor the other tradition that they were cousins of Jesus. This second tradition was mentioned by St Jerome in his treatise on the perpetual virginity of Blessed Mary, Against Helvidius, paragraphs 9-17, written about A.D. 383.


Eusebius was also an Arian.


He is a historian of the early Catholic Church.



I deleted my first response to your question, because I read it wrong. I thought you were asking who Eusebius was. I’m not sure what the translator’s faith is. His name is Cruse. But I think the Catholic Encyclopedia gives the same interpretation. As I said, it is somewhat vague as he later states that they are “considered” brothers of the Lord, and never mentions Mary giving birth to them.


All of the answers are good but this answer is a real font of information. Thanks, it seems authoritative.

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