Thursday, 14 March 2013

Will The Real Brothers And Sisters Of Jesus Please Stand Up?

The other day, I was trawling through the internet for something interesting (not porn). This was during the long wait for a new president – oh, by the way, the search for the new Catholic Pope took only two days. Perhaps there is a lesson therein for the IEBC – and I had gotten tired of looking at a static TV screen.

Suddenly, I stumbled onto an interesting debate over whether Jesus Christ was an only child, or if He shared the home He grew up in with physical siblings.

It is generally assumed by Christian faithful and taught by the clergy that He was the only child of Joseph, the carpenter and Mary, the Holy Virgin.

The Holy Bible tells us that He was the product of an immaculate conception; meaning that there was no physical union between His mother and a man for Him to have been conceived.

But what does the Bible say about any physical relations between Mary and her husband Joseph after the birth of Christ? Well, I could not find any reference to that, but I did find mention of possible siblings in a couple of books.

For example, Matthew 13:54-57 reads:

When He had come to His own country, He taught them in their synagogue, so that they were astonished and said, “Where did this Man get this wisdom and these mighty works?

Is this not the carpenter’s son? Is not His mother called Mary? And His brothers James, Joses, Simon, and Judas?

And His sisters, are they not all with us? Where then did this Man get all these things?”

So they were offended at Him. But Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honour, except in his own country and in his own house.”

Now, I am no theologian, but the above words pretty much seem to imply that Jesus did indeed have blood siblings. There is mention by name of at least four brothers and an indeterminate number of sisters.

When you put these verses in context, He was talking to people in a synagogue around where He grew up. These were people who apparently knew Him when He was younger, and who knew His family. And they just could not believe the things that were coming out of His mouth, such knowledge, such wisdom. This Man that they knew from a kawaida family!

From my own understanding, and I could be wrong, what I have referenced above appears to be an unambiguous pointer to the existence of brothers and sisters who were either born of Mary after Jesus, or were Joseph’s children from an earlier marriage.

There is no mention in the Bible of Joseph having been married before he took Mary as his wife, or of the couple travelling with children when she was heavily pregnant with Jesus. Neither is there mention of any children when Jesus’ parents were fleeing with Him to safety, away from King Herod’s murderous thugs.

Therefore, I think it is entirely possible that these brothers and sisters were born after Jesus’ own birth, and were the biological children of Mary and her husband Joseph. There is no evidence in the Bible that Mary remained a “perpetual virgin”, as some Christians would believe.

Another reference to siblings can be found in Matthew 12:46-50.

While He was still talking to the multitudes, behold, His mother and brothers stood outside, seeking to speak with Him.

Then one said to Him, “Look, Your mother and Your brothers are standing outside, seeking to speak with you.”

But He answered and said to the one who told Him, “Who is My mother and who are My brothers?”

And He stretched out His hand toward His disciples and said, “Here are My mother and My brothers!

“For whoever does the will of My Father in heaven is My brother and sister and mother.”

These verses refer once again to Jesus’ brothers. His physical brothers. That again, appears to be unambiguous. He talks about his disciples in an apparent reference to them as His spiritual family. The distinction is obvious.

There have been suggestions that in the early languages in which the Bible was first written, the word brother could have been used to refer to broad blood relations including cousins, and not necessarily people born of the same parents. There are hundreds of debates on that, so I cannot tell for sure.

Many Christians believe that any reference to family in relation to Jesus can only be about His spiritual connection to them, and that any suggestion that He might have had any blood siblings is anathema.

My own feeling is that as deep as our faith might go, it is important to engage in robust debate and interrogate some of the beliefs we hold with regard to what the Bible tells us.

The intention of this post is not to offer any new insights or positions. Rather, it is meant to provoke our intellect, thoughts, knowledge and beliefs and not to cause any offense.

On the same subject, the Book of John captures Jesus’ final moments before his death on the cross. John 19:26-27 reads:

When Jesus therefore saw His mother, and the disciple whom He loved standing by, He said to His mother, “Woman, behold your son!”

Then He said to the disciple, “Behold your mother!” And from that hour that disciple took her in his own home.

Now, opponents of the theory of Jesus and His siblings use these verses to argue that if indeed He did have brothers, why would He, in His last moments of life, assign the care of His mother to a non relative instead of any of her existing children?

I do not know the answer to that.

My theory however, is that His brothers might have been too overwhelmed by His sheer awesomeness that they turned to booze and became irresponsible. There was no way He was entrusting the care of His mother to them.


My congratulations to Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Buenos Aires, Argentina, upon his election as the 266th Pope of the Roman Catholic Church.

Habemus Papam... what, Bean?

Pope Francis

I wish Pope Francis well in the years to come as he leads the Church in a new direction.

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