Did Jesus Have Any Siblings?
By: Edward Kozar
Did Jesus have any brothers or sisters? Was He an only child”? This question is raised again as we near the Christmas Season. And for the answer, we must go to our only authority – God’s Holy Word – the Bible.
After The Spirit
Often much confusion is caused by those who fail to correctly recognize Jesus for what He was. He has been called a great teacher, an anointed prophet, and even a super-human being. But this is not the case. Jesus was a Spirit – Jehovah – robed in human flesh. He was God manifest in the flesh. He was man, and He was God.
The Holy Spirit of God, according to Matthew l:18,20, caused the conception of the body of Jesus within the womb of Mary. “For that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost,” and “she was found with child of the Holy Ghost.”
It is of this begetting that most positively Jesus DID NOT have brothers or sisters. We read in several places – Matthew 1:18, John 1:14, 3:16, 3:18, 1 John 4:9 passages concerning “God’s only son” or “God’s only begotten son.” The most beautiful perhaps, is found in John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that he gave His only begotten son that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”
So we can see that after the Spirit, there were no brothers or no sisters of Jesus – simply because God or the Holy Ghost – begot only one son, one body, and in that body the Holy Ghost dwelled. it was Emmanuel God with us.
After The Flesh
Now concerning the existence or non-existence of brothers and sisters of Jesus after the flesh, we must look to His physical parentage – as we have looked at His parentage after the Spirit.
Matthew 1:16 and 18 tell us that Mary was the mother of Jesus. The Bible, however, nowhere states that Jesus Christ was her “only son.” indeed, it states quite the opposite. After Mary and Joseph were married, Joseph “knew her not till she had brought forth her first born son.” (Matthew 1:25)
The word used here is “firstborn,” not “only born.” The grammar of the original language has a rule-just as we have rules in English grammar – governing the use of the word firstborn, or PROTOTOKEN. The rule is that this word can only be used when it refers to the oldest or first born of several children in a family. If Jesus had been the only child born of Mary, then rules of grammar would have demanded Matthew use the word MONOGENES, or only-born. Thus, we have proof of other children born of Mary after the birth of Jesus.
In Matthew 13:54-56 we read, “is this not the carpenter’s son? is not his mother called Mary? And his brethren James and Joses and Simon and Judas? And his sisters, are they not all with us?”
These verses provide the information that Jesus had at least four brothers and three sisters. The four brothers are named. The word “all” here referring to sisters brings us to know that there were at least three sisters, because another rule of grammar allows the use of the word “all,” only when reference is made to three or more. In reference to one, rules demand we use “only,” in reference to two, use “both,” but with three or more, use “all.”
So it is here established that Jesus, after the flesh, had at least four brothers (all named) and three sisters (not named.)
More correctly, we should say these are but halfbrothers and half-sisters because of the parentage. Mary and the Holy Ghost were parents of the body of Jesus. Mary and Joseph were parents of the other children. Same mother, but different father! And praise God for that!!
At this point there are those who may ask (concerning the words brothers and sisters) if these may not mean spiritual brothers, or disciples, or brothers in the Lord. The word brother MAY mean a spiritual brother but in light of other scriptures, our subject does not allow that possibility to exist here.
For example, two passages of scripture (John 2:12 and John 7:1-9) very definitely make a distinction between physical and spiritual brothers. “After this he went down to Capernaum, he, his mother, his brethren, and his disciples. ..” Two separate groups are here noted. There are his half-brothers (the word brethren) and his spiritual brothers (the word disciples).
Matthew 12:46-50 relates the incident of Jesus talking with people when his mother and brothers came desiring to speak to him. Jesus said, “Who is my mother, and who are my brethren? … Whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother.” This passage defines spiritual brethren. Jesus plainly stated while pointing toward the disciples that these were his mother and his brothers. But this passage nowhere denies the existence of physical brothers as some would have it to do. If it did, it should also deny the existence of his mother (verse 50) because he grouped mother, sister, and brothers together. If he had no physical brothers and all references in the gospels are to spiritual brothers, then by the same reasoning (verses 48 and 50) he had no physical mother. We know this is not true, Mary indeed was very much alive.
Another distinction is made between the physical and spiritual brothers by Paul. He writes in Galatians 1:18-19 that he saw Peter in Jerusalem for fifteen days. He goes on to say he also saw James, the Lord’s brother. if the word brother here is meant to be spiritual brother only, Paul puts Peter out of fellowship because he did not include him as a spiritual brother. But this statement rather refers to James as a half-brother of Jesus, evidently filled with the Holy Ghost and walking with God.
In Acts 1:13-14, the group of 120 that prayed in an upper room are identified. The apostles are each named in verse 13 and then verse 14 states, “These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus and his brethren.”
These apostles, or spiritual brothers, were WITH Jesus’ physical brothers on the day of Pentecost. Therefore, it is not possible for them to have been the same group.
There is also contention that “brother” could mean ((cousin” or “kinsman.” The word cousin is used in Luke 1:36 and Luke 1:58. Cousin is SUGGENES while brother is ADELPHOS. If Jesus had no brothers, but only cousins, certainly one of the gospels would have called out the cousins’ names. Rather, they have called out the brothers’ names.
It is noted by Thayer, an authority on original language wording, that the idea that cousin meant brother and vice-versa did not start until the time of the Catholic counter-reformation in the sixteenth century.
When the authors of the gospels wrote brother, in the cases heretofore mentioned, they meant to relate to us that Jesus did have physical brothers. He had sisters. These “half-relatives” were born of Mary and Joseph after Mary had given birth to the God in flesh called Lord Jesus Christ.
After the begetting of the Spirit, indeed, Jesus had no brothers or sisters. But after the flesh, He was just like us – He grew up as one in a family.
THE ABOVE MATERIAL WAS PUBLISHED IN THE INDIANA APOSTOLIC TRUMPET, DECEMBER 1982, BY EDWARD KOZAR, PP. 4-5. THIS MATERIAL IS COPYRIGHTED AND MAY BE USED FOR STUDY AND RESEARCH PURPOSES ONLY.