This Catholic Journey
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Name: Amber
Location: Reno, Nevada, United States

I am a 34-year-old single mother of three. I am a convert to Catholicism and came into the Church on April 7, 2007. This blog is a collection of thoughts and things I learn in my journey of faith. All comments are welcome!

Monday, February 25, 2008

Did Jesus Have Brothers?

It’s common for non-Catholics to insist that what Catholics believe contradicts Scripture. While some of what the Catholic Church teaches may be not be EXPLICITLY found in Scripture, this does not mean that it “contradicts”.

First off, we should define “contradict”.

Contradict = to assert the contrary or opposite of

So, just because something is not explicitly mentioned in Scripture doesn't mean it is contradicting it.

I've been asked to address several different issues, one being whether Mary had other children (which would disprove the Church's teach on Mary's perpetual virginity). So, here goes...

The following verse is often used to "prove" that Mary had other children:

Mark 6:3
Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary, the brother of James, and Joses, and of Juda, and Simon? and are not his sisters here with us? And they were offended at him.


Notice one thing… Mark 6:3 says THE son of Mary, not “a” son… more on this verse below. Look at the following passages in Genesis:

Gen 14:14
And when Abram heard that his brother was taken captive, he armed his trained servants, born in his own house, three hundred and eighteen, and pursued them unto Dan.


Gen 11:27
Now these are the generations of Terah: Terah begat Abram, Nahor, and Haran; and Haran begat Lot.


In Gen 14:14, it says “brother” (some translations render this as kinsman). But in Gen 11:27, we already read that Lot was Abrams nephew. This is because there was no Hebrew word for nephew. Just like there wasn’t one for cousin, uncle, niece, aunt, etc. They had to use the word “brother”.

Check out the following verses:

Mark 6:3
Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary, the brother of James, and Joses, and of Juda, and Simon? and are not his sisters here with us? And they were offended at him.

Matthew 27:55-56
And many women were there beholding afar off, which followed Jesus from Galilee, ministering unto him: Among which was Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James and Joses, and the mother of Zebedees children.


According to Mark 6:3, didn't it say that this Mary was the mother of Jesus and was also the mother of James and Joses? But Matthew 27 says that a different Mary is the mother of James and Joses. Well, we know that this Mary (mother of James and Joses) was NOT the mother of Jesus because it says she was looking on from afar and Jesus’ mother was standing at the foot of the cross.

John 19:25
Now there stood by the cross of Jesus his mother, and his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Cleophas, and Mary Magdalene.


Mark15:47
And Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses beheld where he was laid.


Don’t you think Scripture would have said the mother of Jesus if they were referring to the same Mary?

Scripture doesn’t contradict itself. So, what is going on? One idea that is plausible is that James and Joses are Jesus’ cousins (or other kinsmen) but they are called “brothers” because the Jews didn’t have a separate word for close relatives. So, Scripture does NOT clearly or explicitly state that Mary had other children.

How about this passage:

Acts 1:14-15
These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brethren. And in those days Peter stood up in the midst of the disciples, and said, (the number of names together were about an hundred and twenty,


There were 120 people? Think about it... there were 11 apostles (at that time), Jesus’ mother (that makes 12 people), plus the women (approximately 3 but let’s even say a dozen or more just to be fair). That would mean Jesus had about 80 or 90 brothers! Clearly the use of the word "brothers" does not necessarily mean they were all brothers as we understand the term today.

Also, if Mary had any other sons, wouldn't Jesus have given his mother over to them to care for? In that day, it would have been highly offensive for Jesus to ask anyone other than his own brothers to look after their mother, yet this is what he did in his final moments...

John 19:26-27
When Jesus therefore saw his mother, and the disciple standing by, whom he loved, he saith unto his mother, Woman, behold thy son! Then saith he to the disciple, Behold thy mother! And from that hour that disciple took her unto his own home.


So, we can show that Scripture does not contradict the concept that Mary could have been a perpetual virgin… and it is, therefore, fair and logical to believe such a teaching.

On a side note about this topic... It’s logical to believe that anyone who carried Christ, the Son of God and Holiest of Holy, in her womb would not later defile that womb by conceiving a sinful person. It was common in that day to be consecrated as a virgin and take on a spouse, who’s purpose was to protect that vow. This is said about Mary in other ancient texts, which may also aid us in knowing the surrounding context of Scripture. But there is nothing in Scripture that states that Mary was NOT a perpetual virgin, so this Catholic teaching does not contradict Scripture, as some like to claim.

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