The Brothers and Sisters of Jesus

Mary was a virgin when she conceived and brought forth her firstborn son, Jesus. “Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel” (Isaiah 7:14). “And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn” (Luke 2:7).

While Mary was a virgin when Jesus was conceived, she did not remain a virgin after the birth of Christ. The gospel text is clear that Joseph did not have an intimate relationship with Mary until after Jesus was born. “Then Joseph being raised from sleep did as the angel of the Lord had bidden him, and took unto him his wife: 25 And knew her not till she had brought forth her firstborn son: and he called his name JESUS” (Matt. 1:24-25).

Following the birth of Jesus, Joseph and Mary enjoyed a normal married relationship resulting in the birth of several more children. Specific passages of the Bible refer to the brothers and sisters of Jesus.

“While he yet talked to the people, behold, his mother and his brethren stood without, desiring to speak with him. 47 Then one said unto him, Behold, thy mother and thy brethren stand without, desiring to speak with thee” (Matt. 12:46-47).

“Is not this the carpenter’s son? is not his mother called Mary? and his brethren, James, and Joses, and Simon, and Judas?” (Matt. 13:55).

“There came then his brethren and his mother, and, standing without, sent unto him, calling him. 32 And the multitude sat about him, and they said unto him, Behold, thy mother and thy brethren without seek for thee” (Mark 3:31-32).

“Then came to him his mother and his brethren, and could not come at him for the press. 20 And it was told him by certain which said, Thy mother and thy brethren stand without, desiring to see thee” (Luke 8:19, 20).

“Have we not power to lead about a sister, a wife, as well as other apostles, and as the brethren of the Lord, and Cephas?” (1 Cor. 9:5).

Some of the names of the brothers of Jesus are given. There was James, Joses (Joseph), Simon, and Judas (Matt. 13:55). If Jesus had four brothers, and at least two sisters, along with Himself, Mary, and Joseph, there would have been nine family members. The brothers of Jesus did not believe He was the Son of God until after His resurrection.

Unbelief. “For neither did his brethren believe in him” (John 7:5).

Belief. “These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brethren” (Acts 1:14).

The Roman Catholic Church has denied the clear teaching of Scripture by insisting that Mary remained a virgin after the birth of Jesus. To explain the Biblical references to the brothers of Jesus, the Catholic Church has been speculative. Some Catholics have taught that Joseph was an older man who had been previously married. The children were from that marriage. Another possibility is that the brethren refer to the cousins of Jesus.

The brothers and sisters of Jesus must be explained away in order to develop the Marian dogma. There are four main pillars of this dogma.

Mary is the Mother of God. The Council of Ephesus in AD 431 attributed to Mary the title, “Mother of God.” She is declared to be the “Theotokos” (lit. “God-bearer” or “the one who gives birth to God”).

Mary the Virgin. The dogma of Mary’s perpetual virginity. The Council of Lateran in AD 649 declared that Mary conceived “without any detriment to her virginity, which remained inviolate even after His birth.” Vatican II (October 11, 1962 – December 8, 1965) reaffirmed the teaching about Mary’s virginal integrity.

Mary’s Immaculate Conception. Many Protestants are unaware that the Catholic Church believes that, like Jesus, she herself was born without sin. This dogma was proclaimed by Pope Pius IX in his Apostolic Constitution “Ineffabilis Deus” on December 8, 1854. The dogma of the Immaculate Conception states “that the most Blessed Virgin Mary, from the first moment of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege from Almighty God and in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, was kept free of every stain of original sin.”

The Assumption. This Marian dogma was proclaimed by Pope Pius XII on November 1, 1950 on his Encyclical Munificentissimus Deus. The dogma states that “Mary, Immaculate Mother of God ever Virgin, after finishing the course of her life on earth, was taken up in body and soul to heavenly glory.”

The reason for the development of Marian dogma is to allow Mary to become a Co-redemptix, mediatrix and advocate. Pope Leo XIII (Papacy, Feb. 20, 1878 – July 20, 1903) explains.

“The recourse we have to Mary in prayer follows upon the office she continuously fills by the side of the throne of God as Mediatrix of Divine grace; being by worthiness and by merit most acceptable to Him, and, therefore, surpassing in power all the angels and saints in Heaven. Now, this merciful office of hers, perhaps, appears in no other form of prayer so manifestly as it does in the Rosary (Lat. Crown of roses).

“Hail Mary, full of grace,
the Lord is with thee.
Blessed art thou amongst women,
and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.
Holy Mary, Mother of God,
pray for us sinners,
now and at the hour of our death. Amen.”

For in the Rosary all the part that Mary took as our co-Redemptress comes to us, as it were, set forth, and in such wise as though the facts were even then taking place; and this with much profit to our piety, whether in the contemplation of the succeeding sacred mysteries, or in the prayers which we speak and repeat with the lips.” (Iucunda Semper Expectatione, n. 2)

The Bible teaches that Jesus alone is our redeemer, mediator, and advocate.

Christ our Redeemer. “In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace” (Eph. 1:7).

Christ our Mediator. “For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Tim. 2:5).

Christ our Advocate. “My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous” (1 John 2:1).

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