Joseph

Who Were Jesus’s Brothers? Who was Jesus Brother?

Regardless of anyone’s personal conclusion, since this can cause a lot of controversy, and in the interest of unity, consider this.

Honor thy father and mother.  Honor Mary, as the mother of Jesus.

When there is another part of the body of Christ that has a different theology regarding this issue,  consider the wisdom given in Acts.

Acts 5:33 But they, when they heard this, were cut to the heart, and were determined to kill them. 34 But one stood up in the council, a Pharisee named Gamaliel, a teacher of the law, honored by all the people, and commanded to put the apostles out for a little while. 35 He said to them, “You men of Israel, be careful concerning these men, what you are about to do. 36 For before these days Theudas rose up, making himself out to be somebody; to whom a number of men, about four hundred, joined themselves. He was slain; and all, as many as obeyed him, were dispersed, and came to nothing. 37 After this man, Judas of Galilee rose up in the days of the enrollment, and drew away some people after him. He also perished, and all, as many as obeyed him, were scattered abroad. 38 Now I tell you, withdraw from these men, and leave them alone. For if this counsel or this work is of men, it will be overthrown. 39 But if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow it, and you would be found even to be fighting against God!”

 

Romans 14:22 Do you have faith? Have it to yourself before God. Happy is he who doesn’t judge himself in that which he approves. 23 But he who doubts is condemned if he eats, because it isn’t of faith; and whatever is not of faith is sin.

 

There is a debate about whether Jesus had brothers.  Some believe he did.  Some believe he did not.

I will explain both positions and also tell you what I believe and why.

There are places where translators translate words from phrases using the word “brothers” or “brother”.  Some say this means physical natural brother(s).  Others say that the word “brother” could mean something different in the original language.

Here is one scripture, there are others.

John 7:3  His brothers therefore said to him, “Depart from here and go into Judea, that your disciples also may see your works which you do.

 

There are Bible commentators who have pointed out that  “brothers” can have other meanings.

In Peloubet’s Bible Dictionary it states of brotherThe Hebrew  word is used in various senses in the Old Testament as Any kinsman, and not a mere brother…nephew…husband…one of the same tribe…of the same people…any friend…one of the same office…a fellow man.  The Word has a similar range of meanings in the New Testament.

Here is an example in the King James Version (KJV).  If you read enough of the Bible and also read various versions, you can see where this kind of translation is used, where someone who is not an actual brother is called a brother. (in the sense that we normally use the term in English)

Genesis 29:12  And Jacob told Rachel that he was her father’s brother, and that he was Rebekah’s son: and she ran and told her father.

 

In this case, Rachel’s father was named Laban.  Laban lived in Paddam-Aram, which was not next door to Jacob.  Jacob was not a brother of Laban.  They did not have a common mother and father or even a common mother and step-father or even a common step-mother and father.  They were of two distinct families.  Yes, they were relatives, but not brothers.  But in this case, Jacob says he is Laban’s brother.

So the meaning of “brother” is different.  When there is no translatable word, a translator will choose a best English word.   And there can be a certain amount of translator interpretation in the choosing of a word.   This is why it is good to read several translations, one of which should be a literal translation or at least look up the word in question in the KJV and then use a corresponding Strong’s concordance.  You can study commentaries as well.  These are written by scholars with extensive knowledge of the original languages and customs of the time.

You can also use an old-fashioned dictionary to learn more about the word.  I say “old fashioned” because society is in the midst of trying to change definitions of words when it suits a particular political agenda.  Woe to those who call evil good and good evil.  Try to find an older dictionary with the more traditional meaning of the word in question, not a politically altered dictionary.

In any case, this type of use of “brother” has led to the confusion about whether Jesus had brothers.

Genesis 29:12  And Jacob told Rachel that he was her father’s brother, and that he was Rebekah’s son: and she ran and told her father.

 

Here is another example.  In this case, Jacob, his wives (this is prior to the law where a man had one wife) and Jacob’s children have left Laban,  (Laban is Jacob’s father-in-law), to return to Jacob’s home country.  Laban finds out that Jacob has left, catches up with him and says this about not saying “good-bye” to everyone.

Genesis 31:28  And hast not suffered me to kiss my sons and my daughters? thou hast now done foolishly in so doing.

 

While Laban did have two actual daughters, Rachel and Leah, there is no record of Laban having any physical sons that left on the journey with Jacob.  These “sons” would have been his eleven grandsons.  And as for the daughters, at this point, Laban only had one granddaughter, Dinah, and two daughters, Rachel and Leah.

Even today in English we have phrases like,
“my brother from another mother”
or
“how are you doing, Bro?”

Here is another instance of how familial terms are used differently than today.  This passage of scripture refers to Josiah.  King David was the first king of Judah.  Josiah was the 16th king of Judah.  Yet the passage refers to “David his father”.  The point is, the Bible refers to family lines differently than we do.

II (2) Chronicles 34:2 (KJV)  And he did that which was right in the sight of the Lord, and walked in the ways of David his father, and declined neither to the right hand, nor to the left.

 

I personally believe that Jesus did not have flesh-and-blood brothers, but that this was a translated assumption.

Here is a Bible study that goes into that topic in more depth.

But beyond the question of translation, I believe there is another reason why we can know that Jesus did not have a flesh-and-blood brother.

Jesus, as firstborn, was responsible for taking care of his mother after Joseph’s death.   We can assume Joseph died earlier because we never see him the whole time of Jesus’s ministry, not even once after Jesus started his ministry.  Also, Joseph was not at the foot of the cross at Jesus’s death.

Joseph was not Jesus’s flesh-and-blood father, as Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit in the Virgin Mary’s womb.  However, Joseph was given, as foster-father, the job of protecting and providing for Jesus and Mary.  Joseph took them to Egypt when the angel told him to and brought them back when instructed to by God.  Joseph provided for the family by working as a carpenter.

At the cross, Jesus, as a son who followed the Ten Commandments, as a Son who never sinned,  as a Son who always did the will of the Father, even unto death on the cross, that same Son, Jesus, knowing he was dying on the cross, his responsibility as a firstborn son would have been to transfer the responsibility of taking care of his mother to the next familial male sibling, if there had been one.  If Jesus had a flesh-and-blood brother, he would have transferred the responsibility to that man.  However, Jesus did not.  Instead, he transferred that responsibility to John, one of the 12 disciples.

In regards to the word “firstborn”, Ellicott’s commentary here states this:

Till she had brought forth her first-born son.–The word “firstborn” is not found in the best MSS*. The questions which meet us here, unprofitable as they are, cannot be altogether passed over. What bearing have these words on the widespread belief of Christendom in the perpetual maidenhood of Mary? On what grounds does that belief itself rest?

*MSS is an abbreviation for “manuscripts”, meaning the orginal documents in the original languages

The Pulpit Commentary states this:

“firstborn,” which suggested to a Jew rather consecration (Luke 2:23) than the birth of other children (comp. Bishop Lightfoot on Galatians, p. 270, edit. 1890); yet it is a reasonable inference from the passage as a whole that the οὐκ ἐγίνωσκεν was not continued after the birth of the Son. Whether, however, other children were born to Mary or not, the true text of this passage gives no hint.

 

Dying on the cross, Jesus transfers responsibility of the care of his mother to the disciple John, who later wrote the gospel of John; as well as First, Second, and Third  (I, II, and III) John; and the Book of Revelation.

John 19:26  Therefore when Jesus saw his mother, and the disciple whom he loved standing there, he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son!”27 Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!” From that hour, the disciple took her to his own home.

 

As stated in the beginning of this post, there can be controversy over this question which becomes a point of disunity.

In my opinion, the bigger question, in the interest of unity within the body of Christ, is that regardless of anyone’s personal opinion on the matter, Mother Mary needs to be respected.

She is the mother of Jesus.  For unity in the body of Christ, all believers and denominations  should  respect Mother Mary.  All peoples should respect Mother Mary.

Again, regarding anything else:

Acts 5:33 But they, when they heard this, were cut to the heart, and were determined to kill them. 34 But one stood up in the council, a Pharisee named Gamaliel, a teacher of the law, honored by all the people, and commanded to put the apostles out for a little while. 35 He said to them, “You men of Israel, be careful concerning these men, what you are about to do. 36 For before these days Theudas rose up, making himself out to be somebody; to whom a number of men, about four hundred, joined themselves. He was slain; and all, as many as obeyed him, were dispersed, and came to nothing. 37 After this man, Judas of Galilee rose up in the days of the enrollment, and drew away some people after him. He also perished, and all, as many as obeyed him, were scattered abroad. 38 Now I tell you, withdraw from these men, and leave them alone. For if this counsel or this work is of men, it will be overthrown. 39 But if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow it, and you would be found even to be fighting against God!”

 

Romans 14:22 Do you have faith? Have it to yourself before God. Happy is he who doesn’t judge himself in that which he approves. 23 But he who doubts is condemned if he eats, because it isn’t of faith; and whatever is not of faith is sin.

 

While to some these questions are a matter of curiosity, to others a matter of theology, the most important question for any of us is if we are born again and doing what the Lord God wants of each of us to do individually within the body of Christ.

I John 2:17 (Darby) And the world is passing, and its lust, but he that does the will of God abides for eternity.


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