The reason I ask this question is first to make sure this is actually what Catholics believe. If this belief is true than I would like to know why because of the numerous verses that speak of Jesus' brothers and sisters.

Matthew 13:55 "Is not this the carpenter’s son? Is not His mother called Mary, and His brothers, James and Joseph and Simon and Judas?

If this next clippng is true, these verses cannot simply refer to cousins because Colossians 4:10 uses a separate Greek word for cousin.

Aristarchus, my fellow prisoner, sends you his greetings; and also Barnabas’ cousin Mark (about whom you received instructions: if he comes to you, welcome him);

The bible never uses these two Greek words anepsios or sungenis (cousin) in reference to Jesus brothers.

For Catholics, do you believe that Jesus did not have brothers or sisters?

  • Yes

  • No

  • Not sure

  • I'll comment

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Submitted by at 12:00 AM on Dec. 26, 2008
Votes (62) Comments (9)

For Catholics, do you believe that Jesus did not have brothers or sisters?

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Submitted by at 12:00 AM on Dec. 26, 2008
Votes (62) Comments (9)


  • eringobrou...
    Submitted by   at 9:03 AM on December 26, 2008

    Catholics believe Mary remained a virgin after Jesus was born. In fact all the early Christians also believed that.  It wasn't until something like 400 years after Jesus' death that anyone brought up the idea that Mary may have had other children and the Christian leaders of the time argued strongly against it.

    As for why the Greek word for "cousins" wasn't used - it's because the writers of the NT were brought up using the Aramaic equivelant of "brothers" to mean both cousins and sons of the same father and other relatives. So when they wrote in Greek they did the same thing. We know this because of the Septuagint.

    The Septuagint was the Greek version of the Hebrew Bible; it was translated by Hellenistic Jews a century or two before Christ’s birth and was the version of the Bible from which most of the Old Testament quotations found in the New Testament are taken. In the Septuagint the Hebrew word that includes both brothers and cousins was translated as adelphos.

    So even though Greek had a separate word for cousins like anepsios, the translators of the Septuagint used adelphos, even for true cousins. You might say they transliterated instead of translated, importing the Jewish idiom into the Greek Bible. They took an exact equivalent of the Hebrew word for "brother" and did not use adelphos in one place (for sons of the same parents), and anepsios in another (for cousins).

    This same usage was employed by the writers of the New Testament and passed into English translations of the Bible. To determine what "brethren" or "brother" or "sister" means in any one verse, we have to look at the context. So it's possible that the "brothers" are sons of Joseph from a previous marriage.

    Tradition has it that Joseph was an older widower when he married Mary. So he may have had children from a previous marriage that the bible is referring to.

    There are several places in the Bible where it indicate that Mary never had other children. When Jesus was found in the Temple at age twelve, the context suggests that he was the only son of Mary and Joseph. There is no hint in this episode of any other children in the family (Luke 2:41–51). Jesus grew up in Nazareth, and the people of Nazareth referred to him as "the son of Mary" (Mark 6:3), not as "a son of Mary." In fact, others in the Gospels are never referred to as Mary’s sons, not even when they are called Jesus’ "brethren." If they were in fact her sons, this would be strange usage.

    And at the foot of the cross Jesus entrusted his mother to the apostle John (John 19:26–27). It is hard to imagine why Jesus would have disregarded family ties and made this provision for his mother if these four were also her sons.

    The article "Brethrne of the Lord" talks about this in more detail and provides other examples of how the Bible indicates Mary never had other children besides Jesus.  That and that the idea that she had children is a more modern concept (even Luther and other Protestant leaders believed Mary remained a Virgin) I think the Catholic position makes the most sense.

  • MamaBee07
    Submitted by   at 11:05 AM on December 26, 2008

    What Eringoborough said is what Catholics believe. The "brothers and sisters" that were being referenced in that particular part of the Bible could've been Joseph's children because tradition has it that he was older than Mary--a widower (I know the movie "The Nativity" portrays them about the same age, but that was probably not anything to do with that part. The movie "Jesus of Nazereth" shows Joseph older than Mary and dying before her, which holds with Catholic tradition that Jesus from the Cross in the Gospel of John gives Mary to John and John to Mary and he cared for her).

    The other thing is, those people could also be cousins going along with what Eringoborough said about languages and all. I don't think the gospels were translated into Greek until later.

    We believe that Mary was always a Virgin (that it was through the Holy Spirit that she conceived Jesus) and that no man ever touched her sexually. Not even Joseph. Part of this stems from Old Testament where they talk about the Ark Of the Covenant and nobody was allowed to touch was carried by a contraption to carry it, but nobody was to touch it.

    Since Jesus is the NEW Covenant and Mary carried Him in her womb, we look at Mary as the Ark of the New Covenant, and Joseph understanding (from the angel that visited him and told him it was okay for him to take Mary as his wife) that he would've, out of reverence and respect for God, not touched her sexually. So, she remains a Perputual Virgin, therefore, any blood related brothers or sisters of Jesus would've had to have been children of Joseph from a previous marriage where his first wife died, thus, Joseph was a widower, and older than Mary.

    We know that Jesus had AT LEAST one cousin, John, because Elizabeth was Mary's cousin, and therefore, he and Jesus were related in that way, but it wouldn't at all be surprising if Jesus had other cousins as well.

    But I think eringoborough probably offered a much clearer explanation than me! :-)

  • eringobrou...
    Submitted by   at 6:35 PM on December 26, 2008

    I was thinking about this question and recalling the biblical Greek classes I took and I also want to point out that Catholics don't say that the word "adelphos" means "cousin" - just that the word "adelphos" has a winder meaning then 'blood brother'. It's more like it means relative or kinsman.

    Anepsios (used in Col. 4:10 as you said) is too perscies a word for Jesus' adelphoic since it means "first cousin" or just "cousin". Now every cousin is a kinsman, but not every kinsman is a cousin. Therefore, adelphos, not anepsios, was the appropriate word to use in Matthew 13:55 and elsewhere to describe Jesus' relatives since they may have been kin but not specifically cousins and not specifically blood-brothers.

    For example, Paul using adelphos in the sense of something other than sibling in Romans 1:13 and 9:3, and 1 Thess 1:4.

    And if we check out other parts of the bible we do know for certain that James and Jude CANNOT be Jesus’ blood brother.

    In Gal 1:18 19 we know that James “the brother of the Lord” is an apostle.

    So James of Matt 13:55 is not only Jesus’ “brother” but an apostle as well.

    But in Luke 6:13 when Jesus called the Apostles it tells us that James is the son of Alphaeus and we can look at Mark 3:16-17 in his description of when Jesus called the Apostles and see James the son of Zebedee.

    So James the Lord’s brother, an apostle, cannot be the blood brother of Jesus because he is either the son of Alphaeus or Zebedee. He could be a cousin or other relative or a close friend, but he is not the son of the Virgin Mary.

    And if James is not the blood brother of Jesus, then we know Jude/Judas (who is also called a brother of Jesus in Mark 6:3 and Matt 13:55 ) is not his blood brother either since Jude 1 identifies him as James’ brother.

    So since we know James and Jude are not blood brothers of Jesus we really can't think that "adelphos" used in Matt. 13:55 means blood brothers.

  • MrsHart6
    Submitted by   at 10:58 PM on December 26, 2008

    Eringo and Mamabee, you give very good arguments to support your belief. The fact that Jesus told the Apostle John to care for his mother (she is now your mother) is a compelling argument that Jesus did not have other siblings to take care of Mary after his death/ressurection.

    The translations of different words can be argued on both sides, I think that unless one has direct access to the original texts and the ability to translate, you cannot know for sure, (my personal opinion) you are forced to take someone else's word.

    I can see that reasoning that Mary would remain a virgin. She carried the Son of God, therefore she would remain pure (how could one do anything sexually knowing they carried God's child?) I can also see the reasoning that if Mary did have other children, she was not sinning. It's not a sin for a wife to have sex with her husband.

    Thank you both for giving me the catholic side and the reasons you believe Mary remained a virgin. I am undecided on what I personally think. I can see both sides of the argument and the valid points that are brought up.

  • MamaBee07
    Submitted by   at 11:11 AM on December 27, 2008

    You're welcome. You were nice in the way you worded your question without telling us we're bad people for our beliefs. Answering questions that are worded nicely isn't hard for me...even if I have to send someone to another source because I'm not good at explaining something.

  • TikkiNippe...
    Submitted by   at 11:56 AM on January 9, 2009

    sorry I didnt mean to vote on this poll my daughter was messing with the computer!

  • Nana54
    Submitted by   at 12:51 AM on January 14, 2009

    Jesus Himself tells you yes He did and does. Anyone who believes in Him are His sisters and brothers


  • 1baby2
    Submitted by   at 10:46 PM on April 16, 2009

    christ all mighty, what large paragraphs!

  • 1baby2
    Submitted by   at 10:46 PM on April 16, 2009

    who cares

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