For centuries, people have been asking two questions about Jesus: Did he have brothers or sisters? And did Mary give birth to other children after Jesus was born?
But what did the early Christians say about this issue? What does the Bible have to say about it? Come with me as we explore these questions together.
If we examine the available information about Mary and Joseph’s marital status, we find that it does not preclude them from having had other children.
Was Jesus an only child?
Some Christians debate whether Jesus’ half-brothers and sisters were actual children of Mary, or just cousins. So, the question becomes: Did Mary have more children after she gave birth to Jesus Christ?
The Bible mentions that Jesus had brothers, and Matthew 12:46-47 states clearly that Mary and Joseph also had other children after the birth of Jesus.
According to the Gospel of Mark, Jesus has brothers and sisters (Mark 6:3). The Gospel of Matthew also lists four half-brothers of Jesus—James, Joseph, Simon Peter’s brother; and Judas Iscariot.
How many siblings did Jesus have?
What was the exact number of brothers and sisters that Jesus had? This may come as a shock to many Christians, but there is currently no way to truly know.
The Bible doesn’t give the exact number of Jesus’ siblings, but it says that he had at least four brothers: James, Joseph, Judas (not Iscariot), and Simon (Mark 6:3).
Some people think this means that Jesus had no sisters. But Mark 6:3 also refutes this.
When were Jesus’ siblings born?
The Bible doesn’t say exactly when Jesus’ brothers and sisters were born, but it gives us some clues.
We know Mary was a young woman when she gave birth to Jesus (Luke 2:36), which means she must have been married at least 3 years prior (since she conceived during the first year of her marriage). This means that Joseph and Mary were married sometime between 1 BCE (Before Christ) and 4 BCE.
If Joseph and Mary were married around 4 BCE, then Jesus was born around 5 BCE. Let’s assume they were married around 9 BCE. Then He was born around 7 CE. It seems unlikely that they would have gotten married so late in their lives (Joseph was at least 30 years old), so let’s go with the earlier date of 4 BCE for the birth of Jesus’ siblings.
Is James the biological brother of Jesus?
The Greek word used for “brother” is adelphos, which can mean “cousin”, “kinsman”, or even “friend”.
Some people believe James was a cousin of Jesus because their mothers were sisters, making them both descendants of David. However, this theory has no historical support and did not appear until centuries after the Bible was written.
Some scholars believe James was Jesus’ stepbrother, born after Joseph and Mary got married, but before they had children together (Matthew 13:55).
However, this theory also does not have any historical support and appears nowhere else in early Christian writings (including the New Testament).
Did Mary, Mother of Jesus, have siblings?
The Bible is silent about whether Mary had siblings, brothers, or sisters. There is no mention of siblings for Mary in either Matthew or Luke’s Gospels, which tell most of the story of Jesus’ birth and early childhood.
Most of the information we have about Mary comes from the apocryphal gospels and other non-canonical sources.
St. Joachim and St. Anne had six children: Mary’s half-brothers James and Joseph; her half-sisters Salome, Elizabeth, and Anne; and her full sister, also named Mary.
Mary’s brother James was the first Bishop of Jerusalem, while her brother Joseph was listed among those who were present in Jerusalem when Jesus ascended into heaven after the Resurrection.
Besides these four brothers and two sisters mentioned in Scripture, there were at least two other siblings of Mary who are mentioned in apocryphal writings or tradition: Mary Cleophas and John Cleophas.
The word “brothers” may mean relatives apart from blood brothers
In the Bible, a brother can mean “a male or female relative,” as in Genesis 12:3 and Luke 2:36. The word is also used to refer specifically to close friends who are not relatives (brothers-in-law).
The word “brothers” (adelphos) in the NT has many meanings. It simply means “relative” or “kinsman” and does not imply that one is blood-related to another.
It can also refer to other members of the same religious community or profession.
1. Brothers may refer to cousins, especially when they’re close in age.
2. Brothers can also refer to a group of people who have been through something together.
3. They can also refer to close friends who aren’t related by blood, but by friendship instead.
4. The word brotherhood is sometimes used as a general term for all men, regardless of their relationship with one another or their lack thereof (i.e., rather than sisterhood).