Jesus brothers

Did Jesus have blood related brothers?


The people commonly called “brothers of the Lord” were not brothers of the same womb, but were either step-brothers, cousins, or more distant kin. The reason they are called brothers is because for Jews the term “brother” was often used for more distant relatives.

The Tradition of the Church, the New Testament, and some prophesies of the Old Testament all indicate that Jesus was Mary’s only child and that she never lost her virginity. For more info, see here:

I always thought they were his cousins, some more distant that others. But not brothers. In other languages and cultures I hear people refer to their cousins as “brother” or “sister” even though it’s really their parents who are siblings.

While hanging on the cross, Christ entrusts his mother to the care of St. John the Beloved. Why would he have done this if he had blood brothers? Also, one of the four major Marian doctrines is that she remained perpetually a virgin. If Jesus had brothers, this doctrine would be false (which of course, it is not).

Read the Book of Tobit. In it (which was very likely written in Aramaic, as was Matthew), we see that the entire tribe of Naphtali considered each other to be brothers and sisters. The patriarch of the book, Tobit, even calls his wife Edna “sister.” His son, Tobias, refers to his soon to be wife Sarah as “sister.”

There is an awful lot of ignorance flashing around like lightning these days, for the sole purpose of attempting to tear the Catholic Church down so that some denomination may feel better about itself.

The words used for “brothers” and “sisters” in reference to Jesus come from the Aramaic/Hebrew word for “kin.” There were no words for “cousin” or “nephew” or another close blood relative in the Jewish world of the day. The same word for all these types of “kin” was the same word one used for “brother.”

So when the Gospel writers translated the sayings of Jesus and the gospel stories into Greek, they used the same word for “brother” that was used in the Aramaic of the first century Jews.

A similar thing occurs today in Hawaii due to cultural kinship. Hawaiians will refer to one another as “cousin,” because in some way or another all native islanders must be related (or so the logic goes). Instead of being technical about what your relationship really is to your neighbor or correcting each person who tries to greet you as family, everyone just calls one another “cousin.” If you were to try to capture this distinctive way of addressing kin in another language, you would use that target language’s word for “cousin,” even though the people in Hawaii may not literally be direct cousins of one another.

The same has happened in Scripture, a carrying over of the cultural expressions from Aramaic to Greek, and from Greek into our languages of today. The problem occurs when people try to read these texts as if it speaking from our current cultural views and forgetting that it has to be read as a text steeped in Jewish culture and speak.

Funny thing is, is that this same question came up in the times of St. Jerome. You know, the one who produced the Latin Vulgate. Well this guy was extremely knowledgeable in the languages involved, and would have had good reason to object to the “ever virgin” nature of Mary if there were any chance that the word Brothers meant Sons of the same mother when the word Brothers was used in the NT with regards to Jesus.

But in reality, he wrote an extensive defense of Mary and her not having other sons (in the flesh).


English is quite a fun language. You can twist it and turn it. Ask how many dancing angels can stand on the end of a pin?

Isn’t it great?

Not so much though with the ancient languages and especially writings. Words are very descriptive, but limited. And that’s why having the correct traditions is key!

Remember although Christ disagreed with the actions of the pharisees he bid the people to follow the traditions and his commandments. For they sat in the seat of Moses.

Hebrews might have addressed someone in their family as brother. Try to understand that word in this sense instead - kin.

Where we say cousin, they would have to say. My wifes brothers. Or my wifes brothers sisters aunties… you get the picture.

Also you dealing with extremely expensive pieces of parchment and you’ve only got a limited space to write.
Accepted methods would often include, time dilation.

One gospel for example says. The tree did not bear fruit, Jesus cursed it. They went off done some things setting up the kingdom. Returned and the tree had withered.

The other gospel says. Jesus cursed the tree and it withered. - Time dilation.

In Hebrew culture this was par for the course. It is the message behind that is important. Jews to this day understand the concept of a good metaphor or irony. The second gospel (which took more time) enriches the message, making the metaphorical analysis of people lives.

Understanding the rules Hebrew spiritual transmission is the key and the Holy see at Rome has had some of the finest minds for 2000 years working on the question you ask.

Take for example the statement:- Jesus Son of David. We would say Jesus 100th grandson of David or something similar. But for the scriptural transmission and in the Jewish culture, Jesus was son of David. Failure to understand this results in Young Earth Creationism.

Joseph was an older man. Mary had been raised as a temple girl we might say a nun.
This was never an ordinary marriage. It was something different and any possibility that it could have been more, disappeared on the arrival of the angel followed by Our Lord. Just as Paul and John and Our Lord, Our Lady was called to a higher purpose.

From what I remember reading, this was so well understood and accepted that it was not even an issue for St. Jerome. It was commonly accepted during his time that the first century Hebrew language had no term for cousin or nephew and just used “brother” in its place. People read and understood that these weren’t literal brothers, carrying over the Aramaic/Hebrew understanding despite the transfer from Greek to Latin.

What happened occurred when vernacular languages began being used for Scripture versions and people began reading “brother” to mean a literal offspring of Joseph and Mary in this instance. Challenges to this were not unheard of before, of course, but especially during the Reformation did the Aramaic/Hebrew context get entirely ignored and many Protestants began demanding a forced reading that denied the Semitic use of “brother,” excluding any possibility outside of literal brothers and sisters.

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