Jesus' "brothers" and Ancient Greek



I have a question that I can’t answer on my own. I know that Jesus didn’t have any brothers as has always been taught but the Church. However there is something that confuses me and I can’t explain to myself. The Church holds that the “brothers” of Jesus were actually his relatives. There several ways to show that and the most common one says that in Aramaic and Hebrew there was one single word for brother/sister and cousin. This made perfect sense to me but than I read that there in Greek, the language of the NT, this distinction exists. So why would the author still use adelphos for close relatives and not use the proper word? Or am I wrong that he ancient Greek made such distinction (I don’t know Greek)? Thank you beforehand.

God bless! :slight_smile:


Good question for Fr. Mitch Pawca. Call him on Wednesday at 3 pm EST on EWTN radio.




I would love to but I’m not in the US :frowning:


I would love to but I’m not in the US :frowning:


Hi Gandalf,

The gospels are full of Hebraisms. (John 2,4 : “What is this to you and to me, woman?”) The writers used “brother” because the people in the narratives used “brother”. Cousins were often brought up together and called each other brother.



I know some Greek, and to clear up any confusion some may have;

adelphos means brother

adelphee means sister

adelphia means brothers and sisters.

I hope this helps.


The words brother and sister were also used to identify a spiritual condition, such as being a member of the Church. James is actually the only one who is called the Lord’s brother. Notice that Jude, in his epistles calls himself a brother of James, but not of Jesus. James was apparently recognized as being Jesus’ brother because of his leading a holy life, and not so much because he was his blood relative.
On the other hand, the brothers of Jesus were also, according Jewish to law, his true brothers. It is believed that they were the son’s of Joseph’s brother, who, some believe that, after having died, Joseph took the responsibility of bringing up his children.
It would explain why some stories identify Joseph as having children before he took Mary as his wife.
Also, **both **genealogies of Jesus are believed, by some, to come from the line of Joseph, idenitfying Jesus to be the son of Man (Adam) only according to Jewish law, although, according to nature, was, Himself a New Adam, that is, Son of God.This would also identify Mary as being a new beginning since the title Son of Man is not identified as coming through her. She is responsible for giving a human nature to the Word of God, uniting humanity with God, in the begetting of Jesus,through her immaculate nature; the former, being, according to nature, both God and Man.From this, a new dispensation, an new humanity has begun through both of them.



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