James, Brother of Jesus?

There are references that James is referred to as the brother of Jesus. Is this intended to mean the Literal brother? As in the child of Mary? What is your understanding?

One of the sons of Joseph by his first marriage.

Catholics (well, Western Catholics anyway) hold that James is Jesus’ cousin. Orthodox believe that James is Jesus’ stepbrother, the son of Joseph from a previous marriage. Remember that the word brother had a much broader meaning in that culture and time period than it does today. Catholic Answers has a faith tract called “Brethren of the Lord” that talks about the references to Jesus’ brothers in Scripture. My personal belief is that James was a cousin who was raised in the same household as Jesus (multiple-family households were pretty common).

This might help: forums.catholic.com/showthread.php?t=343269

Was a first marriage mentioned in the Bible? Wasn’t James called the son of Z? Or is it a different James you’re talking about?

Keeping the relationships in the Bible straight is a full-time job. :wink:

I believe most Catholics adhere to the belief that James was a “cousin”. This is based on the fact that brother is not completely clear, being used to refer to other close relatives at times. However, Catholic teaching is based as well on the developed beliefs and dogma surrounding Mary, and that she must remain a virgin so to retain her holy “vessel” status.

Protestants I think are more inclined to believe that James was a true blood brother, and that Jesus had several brothers and sisters, which was common of course to families of that time. I believe as well that most biblical scholars believe they were blood brothers and sisters.

In the end, it is not particularly important I suspect which is believed. It certainly doesn’t change anything about what Jesus taught.

I don’t think a first marriage was mentioned in the Bible.

Basically most of what we know comes from tradition, much of which has been expressed through apocryphal writings. There is always a danger that these writings may be littered with pious fiction. Doubt about details is not out of the question, it helps keep a sense of balance and is a sign of healthy thinking.

The proto-Gospel of James suggests that Joseph was a widower. It is likely he was older than saint Mary and possible that he was of a quite advanced age. If he had youths in the house he could use a new wife to care for them as foster mother. That is where the idea of a brother comes from.

This would make James the Just older than Jesus, but presumably younger than Mary.

Mary had no other children. She is a perpetual Virgin. 9 times out of 10 brother was referring to cousin or some other kind of kinship. Although James the Apostle was a son of Zebedee. His mother I believe was named Mary.

I do not know what the customs of the time might have been, but assuming James was a stepbrother, would he still have been expected to look after Mary?


just to point out the obvious … when the term “cousin” is used in scripture the Koine Greek Anepsios is used; while the term for “brother” is Adelphos.

Adelphos is the word for cousin (and only cousin); therefore it seems peculiar (and obviously problematic for the Catholic position, particularly the western position) that Anepsios would be used so often to denote brother if they really meant to denote a cousin (when a different term for cousin was in common usage during that period)?

Adelphos was also used (more rarely) to denote a familial relation other than brother … but the term was used much like the English word for brother is today. Like two soldiers might greet each other by something like “hey brother” – the Greek term was used the same way. It was also the common term for a blood or step brother.

However, it seems odd to think the word would have been used to denote cousins (particularly given the fact that Jesus is said to have brothers and sisters several times throughout scripture & also considering Paul’s reference to James as the “brother” of Jesus, when Paul himself used Anepsios to depict a cousin – see Col. 4:10).

Obviously the Pauline epistles make the RCC position pretty difficult to maintain (i.e. why would Paul use the common Greek term for cousin in one letter yet depict a cousin using a different word not commonly used to denote a brother in another letter?). It seems pretty clear that the only tenable theory that could preserve the idea of perpetual virginity is the Eastern Orthodox position. However, the so called “tradition” it’s drawn from is a apocryphal book (the protoevangelium of James) whose authorship has already been debunked by scholars.

For instance the so called gospel is signed by a “James of Jerusalem” (inferring James, the brother or step-brother of Jesus). However, it’s Old Testament references are from the Septuagint (the Greek Old Testament), while if this James were really a Jew from Jerusalem (Roman Palestine during the Second Temple period) he would have only been familiar with the Mosaic text (though it’s possible he could have come across the Septuagint … but it’s highly unlikely he would have quoted from it). Moreover, there’s some clear inconsistencies between the so called gospel of James and the other canonized New Testament accounts (I know because I read the document some years back & I’ve read the scholarly critique of the document).

So if nothing else the whole thing is pretty sketchy?

you are forgetting the fact that Jesus spoke Aramaic, where there was no word for cousin. Many times cousins were called brothers and that is how they are translated. James however was not a cousin nor brother to Jesus. If you refer back to the OT when Abraham called Lott his brother and Lott was Abraham’s nephew. There was no word for nephew. The Gospel of James is not a credible source nor has it been proven to have any accuracy to it.

that doesn’t matter since Paul wrote in Koine Greek (and was himself from Tarsus and had a good Greek education). That said … I agree the gospel of James is not a credible source (but again, given the Pauline epistles the EOC & RCC positions are questionable).

Hi Jon,

I don’t know. It is not clear to me that Mary would have had inheritance rights to the property either. Someone with better knowledge of first century Judaism might be able to help us here.

We also do not know (assuming the step-brother scenario) if James was the oldest brother or somewhere in the middle. We cannot know if any of the other brothers came to understand Jesus as the Messiah.

It is interesting to me that the Jerusalem church was notably poor, and sharing was a hallmark of their community. It definitely was a community that would have cared for the mother of Jesus, however we don’t know how safe the overall conditions would have been for any of them. :shrug: Between the stoning of Saint Stephen and the stoning of Saint James (perhaps 25 years later) it is difficult to imagine the community was left entirely in peace.

Another interesting point is that tradition tells us that Saint Mary accompanied the Apostle John (the Beloved disciple) to Ephesus. Clearly Jesus passed off the responsibility for her to John on Calvary. If the ‘cousins’ or ‘brothers’ were responsible for her care it is not clear from the Gospel account, Jesus seems to have felt a need to confirm arrangements over this matter.

I am not sure why this went into the non-Catholic Religions subform but since we are here, any thoughts as to why James the “brother” of Jesus being family, is not mentioned as being a follower of his “brother” during Jesus’ Ministry but only took a commanding role after Jesus’ Death and Resurrection in taking control of the Jerusalem Church.

Any ideas for what appears to be this apparent transformation from merely family, with whom Jesus might have faced a tough time, to becoming the head of the Jerusalem Church.

Any ideas?

God Bless! :slight_smile:

This is part of my answer to another thread but i thought this might help.

First Mary did have sin. Thats why she said in Luke 1:47 God, My Savior. Mary also presented an offering to the priest because of her sinful condition Lk 2:22-24 which was requird by law. Lev 12 Secondly Jesus did have brothers and sisters. Their names are listed in Matt 13:55-56. The reason Jesus handed over Mary to John is because his real brothers didn’t believe in Him (Jn 7:5) until the very end. They are not cousins as the Catholic leads you to believe. The Greek term for brother (adelphos) here is the normal word for “blood brother.” The same Greek word is never used for cousin in the NT.

They are not questionable. What is questionable is Atheism and Agnosticism.

dude you haven’t even read one post of this thread other than my post. Mary didn’t have any other children. It was customary when a woman becomes a widow that her oldest son take care of her, if he dies, the next oldest. This was Jewish custom. Let me ask you this, why did Jesus leave the care of his mother to John the Apostle, who surely wasn’t his brother?

John 19:26-28 (Douay-Rheims)

26 When Jesus therefore had seen his mother and the disciple standing whom he loved, he saith to his mother: Woman, behold thy son. 27 After that, he saith to the disciple: Behold thy mother. And from that hour, the disciple took her to his own. Luke 1:47 and 2:22-24 suggest no such thing

Haydock Bible Commentary

Ver. 47. In God my Saviour, as appears by the Greek text,[8] though literally in Latin, in God my salvation. (Witham)

again from the Haydock Bible Commentary

Ver. 22. Of her purification. The blessed Virgin mother stood not in need of this ceremony, to which she submitted herself, as her Son did to that of circumcision. (Witham) — Whence St. Lawrence Justinian in his sermon on the purification, very well observes: grace raised the Virgin above the law; humility subjected her to it. Jesus Christ, in subjecting himself to the law of Moses, has left an example to princes and magistrates, to obey their own laws; for then they may expect them to be observed by others, when themselves shew respect to them. (Barradius.)

Ver. 23. Every male opening the womb.[2] This translation is more conformable to the doctrine of the Fathers, that Christ was born without opening the womb; which Ven. Bede calls the doctrine of the Catholic Church. (Witham) — See Exodus xiii. 2. and Numbers viii. 16.

Ver. 24. This was the offering of the poorer classes.

**Consider Acts 1:15 when they were going to choose the successor of Judas. The word “Adelphoi” is used here to describe the 120 believers who were there. Do you actually believe that they all had the same mother?? **
This is utter nonsense!

It always amazes me that many Protestants will acknowledge that Old Testament types are always dwarfed by their New Testament fulfillments – except when it comes to Mary.
The early reformers, Luther, Calvin and Zwingli - ALL taught that Mary was a perpetual virgin. The notion that she had other children is a relatively new “tradition of men”. The belief of Mary’s lifelong virginity was believed by all of the Early Church Fathers, yet, somehow men of the 20th and 21st centuries know better.

Mary was the fulfillment of the Old Testament type, the Ark of the Covenant - she, being the Ark of the NEW Covenant:

**OT - **The Word was written by God on Tablets of Stone (Ex 25:10) placed inside the Ark (Deut 10:1)

***NT - ***The Word of God became Flesh (John 1) conceived inside Mary (Lk 2:38) Mary carried the Word of God.

**OT - **“Who am I that the Ark of my Lord should come to me?” (2 Sam 6:9)

***NT - ***"Who am I that the mother of my Lord should come to me" (Lk 1:43)

**OT - **The Ark carrying the Word of God is brought to the house of Obed-Edom for 3 months, where it was a blessing. (2 Sam 6:11)

***NT - ***Mary (the new Ark) carrying the Word of God goes to Elizabeth’s house for 3 months, where she is a blessing (Lk 1:56)

**OT - **The Ark is captured (1 Sam 4:11) and brought to a foreign land and later returns (1 Sam 6:13)

***NT - ***Mary (the new Ark) is exiled to a foreign land (Egypt) and later returns (Mat 2:14)

**The Ark, which carried only symbols of God’s power had to be pure and undefiled, NOT even to be touched by penalty of death. **How much more pure, undefiled and untouched would the woman carrying GOD himself have to be?

I apologize if this thread creates conflict, that was not my intent. I was reading and found a passage calling James, Brother of Jesus. I was reading of the other foundations of christianity the Coptics, the Nazarites, etc… Thus I placed this question in Non-catholic religions. Because I wanted the opinions of others, outside catholicism. I really would prefer to avoid the disagreements and instead approach it as scholars.

Catholics have to disagree with James being the actual brother of Jesus since this might imply Mary was not a virgin throughout her life. On the other hand, the possibility exists that he is a son of Joseph by an earlier marriage. Or that James is another relation and the translation is poor. Or that Jesus meant that James and he were like brothers, much as my best friend and I referred to one another. Or that they are brothers as we are all the children of god.

I am going to ask another question about Joseph in another thread

Yes … but any fair analysis of the OT typology reveals “Jesus” is the Ark of the covenant. When you read the description of the Ark, gold within, wood between, and gold without (gold signifying divinity and wood humanity) it’s clear that the typology is to Jesus, not Mary. So I don’t think protestants would disregard the typology … they would probably just agree with what I’m saying here (although some protestants are wary of typology unless it’s clearly denoted in the NT … such as Paul’s many references to the OT).

Moreover, it seems that when you look at the rejection of David by his siblings, it’s important that Jesus have siblings (not cousins) who also reject him (as his siblings did according to the NT). Overall, if you solely rely on scripture as your source, the protestant conclusion seems to be the better view.

The RCC (and EOC) also incorporate tradition, which they view as infallible (along with scripture). The obvious problem in this particular case is there seems to be clear conflict between the two. In such cases the protestant will always side with scripture (as they don’t view apostolic succession or the validity of a church institution in the same way Catholics do … so for them they remain free to analyze doctrine apart from tradition).

When I was a Catholic I had serious problems with Mariology & the idea of Mary as co-redeemer, mediatrix, etc. (not to mention the idea of perpetual virginity, which I obviously also found problematic). I guess this really isn’t my fight at this point … but still interesting to discuss.

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