Did Jesus have brothers and sisters?

Did Jesus have brothers and sisters?

Recently, I found myself in a discussion with some fellow Anglicans, at my Parish who insisted Jesus had brothers and sisters, because of Bible translations that speak of brothers and sisters of Jesus. For some reason, these few people are completely disregarding Tradition.

I know the Semitic languages do not have a specific word for brother or sister. Even the Greek word for brother, adelphos, is used for relatives other than brother.

James, Joseph, Simon, and Judas are called the “brothers” of Jesus.
Matthew 13:
55 Is not this the carpenter’s son? Is not his mother called Mary? And are not his brothers James and Joseph and Simon and Judas? 56 And are not all his sisters with us? Where then did this man get all these things?”
Mark 6:**
1 He went away from there and came to his hometown, and his disciples followed him. 2 And on the Sabbath he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were astonished, saying, “Where did this man get these things? What is the wisdom given to him? How are such mighty works done by his hands? 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 offense at him.

Let’s start with James.

The first mention of James is found in Matthew, Chapter 4. This James is identified as James the son of Zebedee and is usually mentioned with his brother John. I think he is traditionally called "James the Greater."
Matthew 4:
21 And going on from there he saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets, and he called them. 22 Immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him.

We find James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, and the other James identified as the son of Alphaeus (traditionally called “James the Less”) named among the Apostles.
Mark 3:
13 And he went up on the mountain and called to him those whom he desired, and they came to him. 14 And he appointed twelve (whom he also named apostles) so that they might be with him and he might send them out to preach 15 and have authority to cast out demons. 16 He appointed the twelve: Simon (to whom he gave the name Peter); 17 James the son of Zebedee and John the brother of James (to whom he gave the name Boanerges, that is, Sons of Thunder); 18 Andrew, and Philip, and Bartholomew, and Matthew, and Thomas, and James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus, and Simon the Zealot, 19 and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him.

James (son of Zebedee) is mentioned again as one of the witnesses to the Transfiguration:
Matthew 17:
1 And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James, and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. 2 And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became white as light.

James the brother of John, son of Zebedee, is killed.
Acts 12:
About that time Herod the king laid violent hands on some who belonged to the church. 2 He killed James the brother of John with the sword, . . .

**So, I’m assuming further mentions of James refer to James the son of Alphaeus (James the Less.) **
Acts 12:
16 But Peter continued knocking, and when they opened, they saw him and were amazed. 17 But motioning to them with his hand to be silent, he described to them how the Lord had brought him out of the prison. And he said, “Tell these things to James and to the brothers.” Then he departed and went to another place.

James at the Jerusalem Council:
Acts 15:
13 After they finished speaking, James replied, “Brothers, listen to me. 14 Simeon has related how God first visited the Gentiles, to take from them a people for his name. 15 And with this the words of the prophets agree, just as it is written, . . . .

Paul is accepted by the Apostles, including James:
Galatians 2:
7 On the contrary, when they saw that I had been entrusted with the gospel to the uncircumcised, just as Peter had been entrusted with the gospel to the circumcised 8 (for he who worked through Peter for his apostolic ministry to the circumcised worked also through me for mine to the Gentiles), 9 and when James and Cephas and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that was given to me, they gave the right hand of fellowship to Barnabas and me, that we should go to the Gentiles and they to the circumcised. 10 Only, they asked us to remember the poor, the very thing I was eager to do.

Paul visits James:
Acts 21:
17 When we had come to Jerusalem, the brothers received us gladly. 18 On the following day Paul went in with us to James, and all the elders were present.

Isn’t this a reference to the same James as above, the son of Alphaeus?
Galatians 1:
18 Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to visit Cephas and remained with him fifteen days. 19 But I saw none of the other apostles except James the Lord’s brother.

**And then there is the Book of James.

Is there another James mentioned in the N.T. besides James the son of Zebedee and James the son of Alphaeus?

Also, I haven’t found anyone called the son of Joseph, except Jesus.

I welcome your help. I do believe that Mary is the Ever Virgin.

I think she probably was. Mary’s perpetual virginity is the older and more traditional view. The brothers and sister mentioned in scripture were likely cousins. I do not think the Bible declares this belief but there is evidence within the scriptures that can be used to support it and it never says otherwise. There were non-canonical writings as early as the second century that affirmed the belief and the sixth ecumenical council also affirmed it.

I myself believe in it but I do not think it should be dogmatic. I do not see this belief as having anything to do with salvation and I don’t consider myself a better Christian than someone who does not accept it. As long as Mary was a Virgin when She had Jesus.


I agree. Thank you for your comments.

Welcome to CAF! I’m seeing more Anglicans join these days.

Peace and blessings,

There has been speculation the Joseph had children prior to marrying Mary. One of those was an older son named James. He is often referred to as the brother of Jesus, but, would, in fact, have been a half brother.

Absolutely not! Mary’s perpetual virginity is a true doctrine and all that comes out of the church is true or else if the church had at any time, proclaimed a false doctrine, Jesus would be classified a deceiver!

Now for evidence:

No term for cousin

Hebrew nor aramaic (the language of Jesus and the
apostles) had a designated term for “cousin”. The jews
thus either used “brother” or “the son of my uncle” to
refer to cousins as well as various other relations.

There are about 10 cases where the New Testament
mentions “brothers” and “sisters” of the Lord :Matthew
12:46, 13:55; Mark 3:31-34, 6:3; Luke 8:19-20; John
2:12,7:3,10; Acts 1:14; 1 Corinthians 9:5.

When attempting to understand the meanings of such
verse, note the term “brother” (Greek : Adelphos) has a
wide variety of connotations in the Bible. It is not
restricted to the literal meaning of a full brother of hal-
brother. The same goes for "sister (Greek : Adelphe)
and the plural forms of both words (Greel : Alephoi for

In the Old Testament, it is blatantly evident that brother
had a variety of meanings and referred to any male
relative whom one was not descended
(male relatives
from whom one was descended are known as “fathers”)
and whom were not descended from this particular

Lot, for example, is called Abraham’s “brother” (Genesis
14:14), even though, in reality, he was Abraham’s
nephew as Lot was the son of Haran, the actual brother
of Abraham. Similarly Jacob is called the “brother” of
his uncle, Laban (Genesis 29:15). Also Kish and Eleazar
were the sons of Mahli. Kish bore sons of his own, but
Eleazar had not sons, only daughters, who married their
“brethren”, the sons of Kish. These brethren were
actually the cousins of Eleazar’s daughters (1
Chronicles 23:21-22).

The terms “brothers” , “brother” and “sister” did not
exclusively refer to close relatives
as seen the
paragraph above. In some cases they referred to
kinsmen (Deuteronomy 23:7; Nehemiah 5:7; Jeremiah
34:9), as in the reference to the 42 “brothers” of King
Azariah (2 Kings 10:13-14).

Mary as the ever virgin

For all neutral observers, when Catholics call Mary “Blessed Virgin”; it is taken to mean that she remained a virgin throughout her life. When protestants refer to Mary as “virgin”, they mean she was a virgin only up until Jesus’ birth. They believe that she and Joseph later had children whom scripture refers to as “brethren of the Lord”. The question is; does the term “brethren” refer to biological brethren or not?

When the Archangel Gabriel appeared to Mary and told
her that she would conceive a son, she asked, “how can
this be since I have no relations with a man?” (Luke
1:34). From the Church’s earliest days, when the
Fathers interpreted this bible passage, Mary’s question
was taken to mean that she had taken a vow of lifelong
virginity, even in marriage. This was uncommon but
neither was it unheard of. If Mary had not taken such a
vow, the question would absolutely make no sense.

Mary knew very well how babies were conceived and
came to be (otherwise she would not have asked the
question). If she had anticipated having children in the
“normal” conventional way and did not intend to
maintain a vow of virginity, she would hardly have to ask
"how" she was to have a child since conceiving a child
in the “normal” way would have been expected by a
newlywed wife. Her question only makes sense if there
was an apparent (but not real) conflict between keeping
a vow of virginity and yet acceding to the angels

Mary’s perpetual virginity is a true doctrine and all that comes out of the church is true or else if the church had at any time, proclaimed a false doctrine, Jesus would be classified a deceiver!

We certainly respect the position of our Roman Catholic brothers in Christ. However, I don’t think any Christian would consider Jesus a deceiver. I think your referring to St. Matthew 16:17-20 where Christ exclaims that upon this “rock” I will build my Church and the gates of hell will not over come her. Not everyone in the early Church considered the rock to be St. Peter. Some believed the rock was Peters confession of Christ, others believed it was Christ himself, and still others believed that it was Peter. St. Augustine, St. John Chrysostom, Origen, St. Hilary, St. Cyprian, and the Bede all interpreted this passage to mean Peters confession of faith and Christ himself. Chrysostom says thus: “Upon this rock,” not upon Peter. For He built His Church not upon man, but upon the faith of Peter. But what was his faith? “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.” And Hilary says: To Peter the Father revealed that he should say, “Thou art the Son of the living God.” Therefore the building of the Church is upon this rock of confession; this faith is the foundation of the Church. St Augustine in his earlier writings taught that St. Peter is the rock, but afterwords he gave up that view, and held that Christ is the rock. His words are–“I said in a certain place of the apostle st. Peter, that upon him, as upon the rock the Church was founded…But I know that afterwords I most often expounded that saying of our Lord–Thou art Peter and upon this rock, I will build my Church” as meaning upon Him whom Peter confessed saying–“Thou art the Christ, the Son fo the living God.” Let the reader choose which one of these two interpretations is more probable’.

Our Roman Catholic brothers and sisters do present reasonable evidence for their beliefs in Papal Primacy but I think it is a bit of an assumption to say that it makes Jesus a deceiver if someone else does not agree with you. I apologize if I pulled us away from the topic.

I’m just replying to your whole exegesis of Matthew 16:18

“And I tell you that you are Peter, and on
this rock I will build my church, and the
gates of Hades will not overcome
(New International Version).

(A footnote in the New International Version
to the word “Peter” says “Peter means rock”.)

The meaning is, “You are Peter, that is
Rock, and upon this rock, that is, on you,
Peter I will build my church.” Our Lord,
speaking Aramaic, probably said, “And I
say to you, you are Kepha, and on this
kepha I will build my church.”
Jesus, then,
is promising Peter that he is going to build
his church on him!

With respect to the Greek, it is true that petros and petra
can mean “stone” and “rock” respectively
in earlier Greek, the distinction is largely
confined to poetry. Moreover the
underlying Aramaic is in this case
unquestionable; and most probably kepha
was used in both clauses (“you are kepha”
and “on this kepha”), since the word was
used both for a name and for a “rock”. The
Peshitta (written in Syriac, a language
cognate with Aramaic) makes no
distinction between the words in the two
clauses. The Greek makes the distinction
between petros and petra simply because
it is trying to preserve the pun, and in
Greek the feminine petra could not very
well serve as a masculine name.

The word Peter petros, meaning
“rock”, is masculine, and in
Jesus’ follow-up statement he uses the
feminine word petra. On the
basis of this change, many have attempted
to avoid identifying Peter as the rock on
which Jesus builds his church. Yet if it
were not for Protestant reactions against
extremes of Roman Catholic
interpretations, it is doubtful whether many
would have taken “rock” to be anything or
anyone other than Peter.

** Even Protestant biblical commentators even admit Peter is the rock mentioned in Matthew 16:18**

“The Saviour, no doubt, used in both
clauses the Aramaic word kepha (hence
the Greek Kephas applied to Simon, John
i.42; comp. 1 Cor. i.12; iii.22; ix.5; Gal. ii.9),
which means rock and is used both as a
proper and a common noun… The proper
translation then would be: “Thou art Rock,
and upon this rock”, etc.”

Lange’s Commentary on the Holy Scriptures:
The Gospel According to Matthew, vol. 8
(Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1976), page

"Many insist on the distinction between the
two Greek words, thou art Petros and on
this petra, holding that if the rock had
meant Peter, either petros or petra would
have been used both times, and that
petros signifies a separate stone or
fragment broken off, while petra is the
massive rock. But this distinction is
almost entirely confined to poetry, the
common prose word instead of petros
being lithos; nor is the distinction uniformly

But the main answer here is that our Lord
undoubtedly spoke Aramaic, which has no
known means of making such a distinction
[between feminine petra and masculine
petros in Greek]. The Peshitta (Western
Aramaic) renders, “Thou are kipho, and on
this kipho”. The Eastern Aramaic, spoken
in Palestine in the time of Christ, must
necessarily have said in like manner,
“Thou are kepha, and on this kepha”…
Beza called attention to the fact that it is so
likewise in French: “Thou art Pierre, and on
this pierre”; and Nicholson suggests that
we could say, “Thou art Piers (old English
for Peter), and on this pier.” "

Commentary on the Gospel of Matthew
(Valley Forge, PA: Judson Press, 1886),
pages 355-356
JPK page 20)



I appreciate your comments; and I am aware of Rome’s position regarding Mary’s perpetual virginity (I agree that she remains the ever virgin); however, the purpose of this thread is to discuss whether or not, according to Holy Scripture, Jesus had brothers and sisters.

The issue of Peter as Rock and foundation of the Catholic Church is a topic that would best be served on a thread dedicated to that issue—which you may want to start to continue the discussion.

So, back to the question: Did Jesus have brothers and sisters?

We’re focused on James to start.

Hope to hear more of your comments on the brother/sister issue. It’s great to hear from South Africa. :slight_smile:

Peace and blessings, :signofcross:

QUOTE=Wandile;9140247]I’m just replying to your whole exegesis of Matthew 16:18

“And I tell you that you are Peter, and on
this rock I will build my church, and the
gates of Hades will not overcome
(New International Version).

(A footnote in the New International Version
to the word “Peter” says “Peter means rock”.)

The meaning is, “You are Peter, that is
Rock, and upon this rock, that is, on you,
Peter I will build my church.” Our Lord,
speaking Aramaic, probably said, “And I
say to you, you are Kepha, and on this
kepha I will build my church.”
Jesus, then,
is promising Peter that he is going to build
his church on him!

This is the Roman Catholic perspective. I can respect that and even add to it. Clement and Victor both presumed to settle issues as far away from Rome as Corinth and Asia Minor (each possessed of their own valid bishops)-- Clement, during the apostolic age. Irenaeus said that “all must agree” with the Church of Rome because of it’s “pre-eminent authority”-- and that was in 180 A.D., less than a century after the Apostles. Cyril later wrote (c.250 A.D.) that if one didn’t hold to the authority granted to Peter they couldn’t be sure they were even in the Church. That’s pretty early stuff.

However that does not settle the issue. I could get 10 different threads out of what you have posted. St. Peter may be regarded as the rock, because he first confessed belief in the person and office of Christ, and first was nominated to be an apostle. He was first in order amongst the twelve, but had no jurisdiction over the rest of the apostles. He was not their Lord, but their leader: he was “primus inter pares,” i.e., first among equals. The fathers lay great stress on the equality of the apostles.
If St. Peter is the rock upon which the Church is built, we must remember that the other apostles are also spoken of as foundations of the Church (see Eph.2:20; Rev. 21:14). The power of the keys promised first to St. Peter, was afterwards promised by our lord to all the apostles in similar words (compare St. Matthew 16:19 with18:18); and it was simultaneously communicated to all(St. Thomas excepted) by our Lords mysterious breathing, and by His words of power, on the evening of the day of His resurrection (see St. John 20:21-24). I understand the Catholic position but the rejection of papal primacy happened a long time before the Protestant reformation was ever thought of. The Orthodox do not accept it and according to them they never did. I understand the Roman Catholic position. What I do not understand is their inability to admit that another Church may come to a different conclusion especially when we look at all of the evidence.

The Council of Nice resolved that the bishop of Alexandria should administer the churches in the East, and the Roman bishop the suburban, i.e., those which were in the Roman provinces in the West. From this start by a human law, i.e. the resolution of the Council, the authority of the Roman bishop first arose. If the Roman bishop already had the superiority by divine law, it would not have been lawful for the Council to take any right from him and transfer it to the bishop of Alexandria; nay, all the bishops of the East ought perpetually to have sought ordination and confirmation from the bishop of Rome.
Again the Council of Nice determined that bishops should be elected by their own churches, in the presence of some neighboring bishop or of several. The same was observed [for a long time, not only in the East, but] also in the West and in the Latin churches, as Cyprian and Augustine testify. For Cyprian says in his fourth letter to Cornelius: Accordingly, as regards the divine observance and apostolic practice, you must diligently keep and practice what is also observed among us and in almost all the provinces, that for celebrating ordination properly, whatsoever bishops of the same province live nearest should come together with the people for whom a pastor is being appointed, and the bishop should be chosen in the presence of the people, who most fully know the life of each one, which we also have seen done among us at the ordination of our colleague Sabinus, that by the suffrage of the entire brotherhood, and by the judgment of the bishops who had assembled in their presence, the episcopate was conferred and hands laid on him.

Cyprian calls this custom a divine tradition and an apostolic observance, and affirms that it is observed in almost all the provinces.

Since, therefore, neither ordination nor confirmation was sought from a bishop of Rome in the greater part of the world in the Latin and Greek churches, it is sufficiently apparent that the churches did not then accord superiority and domination to the bishop of Rome.

I’m not saying that you do not have good evidence for your position just that not everything passed down from the Fathers and the Scriptures works in your favor and some of it does. I would be careful in asserting that other Christians are not as Christian as you because they do not agree with you on this issue. I consider Roman Catholics to be just as Christian as I am. No better and no worse. We all get to different places at different times but we both have some fairly good evidence for our positions and it is not as cut and dry as many pretend.

I found this in the Catholic Encyclopedia (newadvent.org/cathen/08280a.htm)::slight_smile:

"On the whole, although there is no full evidence for the identity of James (2), the son of Alpheus, and James (3), the brother of the Lord, and James (4), the son of Mary of Clopas, the view that one and the same person is described in the New Testament in these three different ways, is by far the most probable. There is, at any rate, very good ground (Galatians 1:19, 2:9, 2:12) for believing that the Apostle James, the son of Alpheus is the same person as James, the brother of the Lord, the well-known Bishop of Jerusalem of the Acts. As to the nature of the relationship which the name “brother of the Lord” is intended to express, see BRETHREN OF THE LORD."

**Do you think the Apostle James, the son of Alpheus is the same person as James, the brother of the Lord, the Bishop of Jerusalem?



You are right, ten threads at least. :wink: It’s difficult to get through a discussion without the primacy issue surfacing; but I’m really going to try to keep this thread on track----never an easy task–as I have trouble keeping myself on topic. :blush:

So, back to the brother/sister issue—starting with James. . . .


No, because the Apostle James, son of Alphaeus, is commissioned by Christ as an Apostle at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry. James, his brother, later bishop, does not believe in Christ until after the resurrection.

It makes sense to me.


My sincere apologies. To be fair Papal Primacy is tied directly to the reasons Rome believes Mary is ever virgin. The Pope said so. I believe Mary was ever virgin because it was believed very early on by many Church fathers and because it does not contradict scripture.

And how about this from Jn 20?

Jesus said to her, “Stop holding on to me,* for I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am going to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’”
Mary of Magdala went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord,” and what he told her.

If Jesus had brothers and sisters, then why was Mary entrusted into the care of John at the crucifiction? This would have violated every standard of Jewish culture concerning the care of one’s parents. We can spend a lot of time speculating as to the lineage of various people mentioned as the “brothers and sisters of Jesus”, but we cannot escape the fact if Mary actually had other children that they would, by Jewish custom, had to have taken Mary into their care.

[quote=“Acts 1:15”]In those days Peter rising up in the midst of the brethren, said: (now the number of persons together was about an hundred and twenty:slight_smile:

That’s a lot of brothers of Jesus!

According to onechurch.org/Brothers_in_the_NT.htm the vast majority of the time that the Greek word “adelphos” and its feminine form “adelphe” appear in the New Testament – in the King James Version they are usually translated “brother”, “brethren”, “sister”, or “sisters” – it can not or almost certainly does **not **refer to a family sibling.

catholicsource.net/articles/perpetualvirginity.htm pretty convincingly proves that **none **of the named brothers of Jesus in the Bible were his blood brothers.

You are precisely right. It would have violated Jewish custom.

And checking the lineage does take time, and it’s a bit confusing. I’m only asking this, because it came up with some friends at my parish, as I said in the beginning. They were claiming Jesus had brothers and sisters because many Bible translations speak of His brothers and sisters. I was surprised, because so many Anglicans accept the Traditional Christian belief of Mary’s perpetual virginity.


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