This is one doctrine that I always had conflict with. Growing up Baptist, it was always taught that Christ had half brothers and sisters. We believed in the virgin birth of Christ but Mary did not remain a virgin after. Catholic teaching, as well as some other faith traditions, say she was a perpetual virgin.
Jesus’ brothers are mentioned in several Bible verses. Matthew 12:46, Luke 8:19, and Mark 3:31 say that Jesus’ mother and brothers came to see Him. The Bible tells us that Jesus had four brothers: James, Joseph, Simon, and Judas (Matthew 13:55). The Bible also tells us that Jesus had sisters, but they are not named or numbered (Matthew 13:56). In John 7:1-10, His brothers go on to the festival while Jesus stays behind. In Acts 1:14, His brothers and mother are described as praying with the disciples. Later, in Galatians 1:19, it mentions that James was Jesus’ brother.
Roman Catholicism states that these “brothers” were actually Jesus’ cousins. However, in each instance, the specific Greek word for “brother” is used. There is a Greek word for cousin, and it was not used. Further, if they were Jesus’ cousins, why would they so often be described as being with Mary, Jesus’ mother? There is nothing in the context of His mother and brothers coming to see Him that even hints that they were anyone other than His literal, blood-related half-brothers.
Another argument is that Jesus’ brothers and sisters were the children of Joseph from a previous marriage, before he married Mary. An entire theory of Joseph’s being significantly older than Mary, having been previously married, having multiple children, and then being widowed before marrying Mary. The problem with this is that the Bible does not even hint that Joseph was married or had children before he married Mary. If Joseph had at least six children before he married Mary, why are they not mentioned in Joseph and Mary’s trip to Bethlehem (Luke 2:4-7) or their trip to Egypt (Matthew 2:13-15) or their trip back to Nazareth (Matthew 2:20-23)?
I would love to get the thoughts of other non Catholic Christians as well as non Christians about this subject. Look forward to reading them.