A Question I Was Asked:

Who Were the Brothers and Sisters of Jesus? Do We Know?

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Who were the Brothers and Sisters of Jesus? Do we know?

UK Apologetics Reply:

Regarding the brothers, yes, we do know. They were James, Joses, Simon, and Judas (not the Judas who betrayed Him, of course, this seems to be the author of the Book of Jude). - See Matthew 13:55; Mark 6:3).

Overall, there are three views about these brothers:

1. That they were Jesus' actual siblings/brothers, that is, half-brothers, sons of Joseph and Mary (and therefore younger than Jesus).

2. That they were His stepbrothers, that is, children of Joseph by a previous marriage (and thus all older than He and not His blood relatives at all).

3. That they were the cousins of Jesus on the mother's side, according to some, or on Joseph's side, according to others.

The Three Possibilities

Those who hold the first view argue that this is the most natural way to understand the various references to these brothers; also, that this is the most obvious intent of Matthew 1:25 and Luke 2:7.

Those who hold the second view argue that family ethics would not permit younger siblings to taunt or otherwise meddle with an older brother as Jesus' brothers taunted Him (see Mark 3:31; John 7:3-4). They point out further that the fact that Jesus left His mother in the care of the apostle John (John 19:26-27) rather than with one of His brothers strongly implies that Mary had no other children.

The view that these brothers were the cousins of Jesus on Joseph's side is based on conjecture - nothing more. That they were cousins on Mary's side is based on the unproven identity of "Mary, the wife of Cleophus" with the sister of Mary (John 19:25; Mark 15:40), and on the unproven identity of "Clopas" with Alphaeus (Mark 3:18).

So this matter is never fully and firmly resolved but overall, the first argument is probably strongest.

The author of the epistle of Jude, who identifies himself as the "brother of James," was one of these brothers (Jude 1). It is also generally believed that the leader of the church at Jerusalem was James the brother of Jesus, (see Acts 12:17; 15:13). This seems to be confirmed by Paul's reference to his visit to Jerusalem, in which he states that he saw only Peter, and "James, the Lord's brother" (Galatians 1:18-19).

I must acknowledge that I am partly aided here by the 'Bible Info' website which lays out most of these possibilities very sensibly.


What about the sisters of Jesus - were there any? Apparently yes because 'sisters' are mentioned in Matthew 12:46-50 but we don't know their names or even in what sense they were 'sisters,' so one can go no further with this, unfortunately.

Robin A. Brace. October 13th, 2019.