Discourse 79 - The brothers and sisters of Jesus - was Mary the "ever virgin"?




The doctrine of the Catholic Church on the Virgin Mary. / Catechism, Libreria Editrice Vaticana 2003

The Protestant view of the mother of the Lord. / Lexikon zur Bibel [Biblical Lexicon], Fritz Rienecker 1974

Table: The women who accompanied Jesus.

Table: The surnames of the twelve apostles.


(Texts enclosed in a black frame are quoted from visitors to the site or other authors.)

(The doctrine of the Catholic church on the Virgin Mary / Catechism, LEV 2003)

A deeper understanding of its faith in the virginal motherhood of Mary led the [Catholic] church to the realization that Mary always remained truly virgin, even at the birth of the Son of God who became man. Through his birth her Son “did not cause any diminution of her virginal intactness, but rather sanctified it”. The liturgy of the [Catholic] church praises Mary as the “ever virgin”.

The objection is sometimes made that we find the brothers and sisters of Jesus mentioned in Scripture. The [Catholic] church has always understood these passages in the sense that they do not refer to additional children of the Virgin Mary. In fact James and Joseph, who are designated the “brothers of Jesus” (Mt 13,55), are the sons of a Mary who was a disciple of Jesus and who is referred to for purposes of distinction as “the other Mary” (Mt 28,1). In keeping with a well-known Old Testament idiom, what is meant here are the close relations of Jesus.

(Catechism of the Catholic church, The virginal nature of Mary, p. 158, Libreria Editrice Vaticana 2003)



The authors of the Catholic catechism thus assume that those passages in the Bible which speak of Jesus’ brothers and sisters do not refer to actual brothers and sisters of Jesus, but rather to the children of a disciple of Jesus who was known as “the other Mary”. To test this assumption in order to see if it holds water, let us now localize and identify this other Mary in Scripture. First of all, then, the scriptural passages cited above, in their context:

The brothers and sisters of Jesus in Nazareth.

Mt 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? 13,56 "And His sisters, are they not all with us? Where then did this man get all these things?" Mt 13,55-56;

As it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to look at the grave.

Mt 28,1 Now after the Sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to look at the grave. 28,2 And behold, a severe earthquake had occurred, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled away the stone and sat upon it. Mt 28, 1- 2;


The above passage from Mt 28,1 shows the two women, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary, at the empty tomb. Directly before this, at Mt 27,61, Matthew has likewise mentioned this other Mary. This comes in the report of the burial of Jesus by Joseph of Arimathea, where these two women were present also.

And Mary Magdalene was there, and the other Mary, sitting opposite the grave.

Mt 27,57 When it was evening, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who himself had also become a disciple of Jesus. 27,58 This man went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then Pilate ordered it to be given to him. 27,59 And Joseph took the body and wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, 27,60 and laid it in his own new tomb, which he had hewn out in the rock; and he rolled a large stone against the entrance of the tomb and went away. 27,61 And Mary Magdalene was there, and the other Mary, sitting opposite the grave. Mt 27,57-61;

The assertion in the Catholic commentary quoted above that this other Mary had two sons, named James and Joseph, is based on the third relevant statement in Matthew, again directly before the text just quoted, in Mt 27,56.

Among them was Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James and Joseph, and the mother of the sons of Zebedee.

Mt 27,54 Now the centurion, and those who were with him keeping guard over Jesus, when they saw the earthquake and the things that were happening, became very frightened and said, "Truly this was the Son of God!" 27,55 Many women were there looking on from a distance, who had followed Jesus from Galilee while ministering to Him. 27,56 Among them was Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James and Joseph, and the mother of the sons of Zebedee. Mt 24,54-56;


We find ourselves now at the cross, after the death of the Lord - and here again Mary Magdalene and the other Mary are present, and look on from a distance together with the mother of the sons of Zebedee and many other women. And here Matthew specifies that this Mary, whom he then subsequently only refers to as “the other Mary”, is the mother of James and Joseph. We find this also quite explicitly confirmed in the parallel passages in Mark.

Mary the mother of James the Less and Joses.

Mk 15,40 There were also some women looking on from a distance, among whom were Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James the Less and Joses, and Salome. 15,41 When He was in Galilee, they used to follow Him and minister to Him; and there were many other women who came up with Him to Jerusalem. Mk 15,40-41;

Mary the mother of Joses.

Mk 15,42 When evening had already come, because it was the preparation day, that is, the day before the Sabbath, 15,43 Joseph of Arimathea came, a prominent member of the Council, who himself was waiting for the kingdom of God; and he gathered up courage and went in before Pilate, and asked for the body of Jesus. 15,44 Pilate wondered if He was dead by this time, and summoning the centurion, he questioned him as to whether He was already dead. 15,45 And ascertaining this from the centurion, he granted the body to Joseph. 15,46 Joseph bought a linen cloth, took Him down, wrapped Him in the linen cloth and laid Him in a tomb which had been hewn out in the rock; and he rolled a stone against the entrance of the tomb. 15,47 Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses were looking on to see where He was laid. Mk 15,40-47;


Here we also learn that James, one of the sons of the other Mary, had the surname of “the Less”. Mark’s calling the second son Joses rather than Joseph is a peculiarity of his, and occurs in his gospel all of three times. When we now compare Mt 27,54-56 above with Mk15,40, we recognize yet another peculiarity: the mother of the sons of Zebedee - so designated by Matthew in Mt 27,56 - is here in Mark given the name of “Salome”.

The same fact finds expression in the following passage, Mk 16,1, where - much as in Mt 27,56 - once again Mary Magdalene and (the other) Mary the mother of James (and of Joseph/Joses) are mentioned. Whereas Matthew refers to the third woman as the mother of the sons of Zebedee, without mentioning a name, Mark gives us her name as Salome, both here in Mk 15,40 and in the following passage quoted below (Mk 16,1).

When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome, bought spices.

Mk 16,1 When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome, bought spices, so that they might come and anoint Him. Mk 16, 1;


(See also the table at the end of this document: ”The women who accompanied Jesus”)

And finally the Gospel of John gives us yet more information about this other Mary. In Jn 19,25-27 we have a report of the death of the Lord on the cross, as in Mt 27,56 and Mk 15,40 above. Like Matthew and Mark, John also confirms that both the mother of Jesus and Mary Magdalene were present. But while Matthew refers to the other Mary as “Mary the mother of James and Joseph” and Mark as “Mary the mother of Joses”, John calls her “Mary the wife of Clopas”.

His mother, and His mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene.

Jn 19,25 Therefore the soldiers did these things. But standing by the cross of Jesus were His mother, and His mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. 19,26 When Jesus then saw His mother, and the disciple whom He loved standing nearby, He said to His mother, "Woman, behold, your son!" 19,27 Then He said to the disciple, "Behold, your mother!" From that hour the disciple took her into his own household. Jn 19,25-27;


The fact that John here, by contrast with the other evangelists, mentions the mother of the Lord is probably the result of the fact that he and she were standing very close to the cross, within speaking distance that is (Jn 19,26), whereas the other women were looking on “from a distance” (Mt 27,55; Mk 15,40). But then John also speaks of “His mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene”, and means by this the sister of the mother of the Lord. It must be said that the commentators are not unanimous in their view here - is this to be seen as a single appellation, or do we perhaps have to do with two women, the sister of the mother of the Lord on the one hand, and Mary the wife of Clopas on the other?

Based on the parallel passages, some think that the Salome mentioned at this same point in Matthew and Mark is the mother of John himself, whom for reasons of reticence he did not want to mention by name and so referred to her only as the sister of the mother of the Lord. Advocates of this line also advance the plausible argument that otherwise there would have had to be two daughters of the same name in the family of Mary, which would be rather improbable.

Advocates of the opposing view point out that this very identity of name is a well-known phenomenon, occurring throughout the whole of the New Testament - which is also the reason why there are so many surnames given. On this view the words “the sister of his mother, Mary the wife of Clopas” are no kind of indication that we do not here have to do with one and the same person. So they are of the opinion that it is Mary the wife of Clopas, mentioned here, who is the sister of the mother of the Lord. And if we take a closer look at this last interpretation, it is the sons of this Mary, namely James and Joses/Joseph, who are cousins of the Lord - so on a superficial view we might well come to the same conclusion as that advocated by the Catholic authors quoted at the outset of this discourse.

But we have now, as it seems, identified this other Mary with a fair degree of precision: she was a true disciple of Jesus, at the death of the Lord she stood like Mary Magdalene at the cross, and she was still present later on when he was laid in the grave by Joseph of Arimathea and again when he rose from the empty tomb. She may have been the sister of the mother of the Lord, and she had two sons: James, also known as the Less, and Joses/Joseph. And she was the wife of Clopas. So we have a good deal of information about the mother, but when it comes to the sons we still have very little to go on.

A fact that might help us here is the circumstance that this Mary is always identified through her sons, except in John. This is of course first and foremost a means of distinguishing her from Mary, the mother of the Lord. But for this very distinction to have been possible, the sons must also have been reasonably well known in the Jerusalem congregation. So we could assume from this that the sons would have to be mentioned in other New Testament passages. And when we now survey the Lord’s twelve apostles, we do find two named James. The one is the son of Zebedee and the brother of John, but the other is called “James the son of Alphaeus”.

James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus.

Mt 10,2 Now the names of the twelve apostles are these: The first, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother; and James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother; 10,3 Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; 10,4 Simon the Zealot, and Judas Iscariot, the one who betrayed Him. Mt 10, 2- 4;

Mk 3,16 And He appointed the twelve: Simon (to whom He gave the name Peter), 3,17 and James, the son of Zebedee, and John the brother of James (to them He gave the name Boanerges, which means, "Sons of Thunder"); 3,18 and Andrew, and Philip, and Bartholomew, and Matthew, and Thomas, and James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus, and Simon the Zealot; 3,19 and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed Him. Mk 3,16-19;


The possibility that this James might be the son of our “other Mary” seems to break down here, in view of the fact that he is described as the son of Alphaeus, while in the case of the other Mary, as we have seen, Clopas is mentioned as her husband. But an explanation of this contradiction is offered us by the Protestant theologian and pastor Fritz Rienecker. In his comprehensive biblical lexicon he writes as follows:

“Clopas is... a Greek form of the Aramaic name Chalpai, which can also be reproduced in the form of Alphaeus. So Clopas would then be identical with Alphaeus, the father of the apostle James.”
(Fritz Rienecker, Protestant theologian, author and pastor, Lexikon zur Bibel [Biblical Lexicon] 1974, p. 779)


So this would supply us with a connection between the apostle James, son of Alphaeus, and the other Mary, wife of Clopas/Alphaeus. But we have among the Twelve yet another apostle who seems to be related to the “other Mary”. Just as Peter is always mentioned in the same breath as his brother Andrew, and James and John appear together as the sons of Zebedee, so in the lists of the apostles James the son of Alphaeus is always mentioned, in the passages from Matthew and Mark quoted earlier, in conjunction with a certain Thaddaeus.

If we now look at the listing that appears in Luke and in Acts, we find that the apostle in question is here not designated as Thaddaeus but as “Judas the son of James”. From this we can deduce that Thaddaeus is only a surname for Judas the son of James - evidently to distinguish him from Judas Iscariot - and so clearly both James the father (and son of the other Mary) and his son Judas were counted among the twelve apostles. In older manuscripts this Judas even has a third surname: in Mt 10,3 he appears as “Lebbaeus also known as Thaddaeus”.

Judas the son of James.

Lk 6,13 And when day came, He called His disciples to Him and chose twelve of them, whom He also named as apostles: 6,14 Simon, whom He also named Peter, and Andrew his brother; and James and John; and Philip and Bartholomew; 6,15 and Matthew and Thomas; James the son of Alphaeus, and Simon who was called the Zealot; 6,16 Judas the son of James, and Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor. Lk 6,13-16;

Judas the son of James.

Acts 1,13 When they had entered the city, they went up to the upper room where they were staying; that is, Peter and John and James and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus, and Simon the Zealot, and Judas the son of James. 1,14 These all with one mind were continually devoting themselves to prayer, along with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with His brothers. Acts 1,13-14;


And finally it could well be the case that there was yet another son of this family to be found among the apostles. The apostle Matthew, described in Mt 10,3 above as “the tax-gatherer”, was actually called Levi, as we learn from the passages describing his calling in Mk 2,14 and Lk 5,27.

The call of Levi the tax collector.

Lk 5,27 After that He went out and noticed a tax collector named Levi sitting in the tax booth, and He said to him, "Follow Me." 5,28 And he left everything behind, and got up and began to follow Him. 5,29 And Levi gave a big reception for Him in his house; and there was a great crowd of tax collectors and other people who were reclining at the table with them. 5,30 The Pharisees and their scribes began grumbling at His disciples, saying, "Why do you eat and drink with the tax collectors and sinners?" 5,31 And Jesus answered and said to them, "It is not those who are well who need a physician, but those who are sick. 5,32 "I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance." Lk 5,27-32;

Levi the tax collector, a son of Alphaeus.

Mk 2,13 And He went out again by the seashore; and all the people were coming to Him, and He was teaching them. 2,14 As He passed by, He saw Levi the son of Alphaeus sitting in the tax booth, and He said to him, "Follow Me!" And he got up and followed Him. 2,15 And it happened that He was reclining at the table in his house, and many tax collectors and sinners were dining with Jesus and His disciples; for there were many of them, and they were following Him. 2,16 When the scribes of the Pharisees saw that He was eating with the sinners and tax collectors, they said to His disciples, "Why is He eating and drinking with tax collectors and sinners?" 2,17 And hearing this, Jesus said to them, "It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick; I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners." Mk 2,13-17;


And now Mark likewise names him in Mk 2,14 as a son of Alphaeus. So it is a fair presupposition that this father of the apostle Matthew would likewise have been furnished with a surname for purposes of distinction, if he had not been identical with Alphaeus the father of the apostle James. As this did not happen, it can justifiably be assumed that this is the same Alphaeus and so that the apostles James and Matthew (Levi) were his sons.

(See also the Table at the end of this document: “The surnames of the twelve apostles”)

In conclusion of this theme of the “other Mary” and her family, here is an overview of the connections we have found in tabular form.

The other Mary and her sons.



Mk 15:40.47 16:1;

Mary, the mother of


Mt 27:56; Lk 24:10;

Mary, the mother of


Jn 19:25;
Mary, wife of Clopas
(Alphaeus)


Mt 10:3; Mk 3:18;
Lk 6:15-16; Acts 1:13;
The apostles


James the Less

Joses/Joseph










James

Joseph
















Mt 27:61 28:1;
The other Mary






James, the son
of Alphaeus

Judas (Thaddaeus),
son of James




Levi (Matthew),
son of  Alphaeus




In view of this analysis we have at least been able to cast some light on the family group surrounding Mary the wife of Clopas/Alphaeus and set it off from that of Mary the mother of the Lord. But this is still by no means proof of the fact that Jesus had no other brothers and sisters. On the contrary, it is just this delimitation that makes it possible for us to concentrate on those individuals who were indeed the sons of Mary and brothers of the Lord, and to exclude those who can be recognized as the sons of Alphaeus and the other Mary.

Now the Catholic argument quoted at the outset presumes that those passages in the Bible which speak of the brothers and sisters of Jesus have no reference to Mary the mother of the Lord, but rather point to individuals who were simply close relatives. In order to test this supposition, let us take a look at some of these passages:

Behold, Your mother and Your brothers are standing outside seeking to speak to You.

Mt 12,46 While He was still speaking to the crowds, behold, His mother and brothers were standing outside, seeking to speak to Him. 12,47 Someone said to Him, "Behold, Your mother and Your brothers are standing outside seeking to speak to You." 12,48 But Jesus answered the one who was telling Him and said, "Who is My mother and who are My brothers?"12,49 And stretching out His hand toward His disciples, He said, "Behold My mother and My brothers! 12,50 "For whoever does the will of My Father who is in heaven, he is My brother and sister and mother." Mt 12,46-50;

The brothers and sisters of Jesus in Nazareth.

Mt 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? 13,56 "And His sisters, are they not all with us? Where then did this man get all these things?" Mt 13,55-56;


The indication that, just as in Hebrew, so also the Greek expression used here for ‘brother’ (adelphos) can stand either for a brother or equally for a close relative is perfectly correct. But we recognize this same non-specific application of the term ‘brother’ in English as well, after all, as when we say “He was like a brother to me” or “He is a brother in Christ”, without meaning to imply that these are actually our brothers in a bodily sense. And just as in English it may be recognized in view of the context that such phrases do not refer to bodily brothers, so the context of the Greek passage likewise gives evidence as to what kind of degree of consanguinity we actually have to do with here.

It must be said that the Catholic catechism gives the impression that Greek does not have any appropriate term for ‘relatives’ at all, so that the writers would have been compelled to designate near relatives with the term ‘brother’ faute de mieux. But this is not the case. The word “syngeneis” in Greek refers precisely to those near relatives whom the Catholic catechism wants to subsume under ‘brothers’. We find a useful example of the term in Lk 21,16:

Parents, brothers and relatives

Lk 21,16 "But you will be betrayed even by parents and brothers and relatives and friends, and they will put some of you to death, Lk 21,16;


We have here the terms “parents” (Greek: geneis), “brothers” (Greek: adelphos) and relatives (Greek: syngeneis). And this term syngeneis (relatives) is not just a solitary example - it appears relatively frequently in the New Testament, for example in Lk 1,36; 1,58; 2,44; 14,12; Acts 10,24; Rom 16,7.11.21 etc. etc. So there is absolutely no reason to suppose that when the evangelists wrote the sentence that appears in Mt 12,47 and Mk 3,32 -

Behold, Your mother and Your brothers are standing outside seeking You

- they should have simply selected the expressions “brothers” and “sisters” for want of an appropriate Greek designation for “relatives”.

In view of the above-mentioned contextual criterion - that is to say, based on the previous reference to the Lord’s mother and the express specification “your mother and your brothers” - it can be seen that we do here indeed have to do with the bodily brothers and sisters of the Lord, the sons and daughters of his mother Mary. And this very statement of the Lord’s quoted above, that “whoever does the will of My Father who is in heaven, he is My brother and sister and mother” would lose its impact, if these were not in truth his bodily brothers and sisters. The question suggests itself however whether these brothers could be identical with James, Joseph, Simon and Judas, the sons of Mary mentioned in Mt 13,55. The well-known Protestant theologian, author and pastor Fritz Rienecker answers this question unambiguously in the affirmative.



(Texts enclosed in a black frame are quoted from visitors to the site or other authors.)

(The Protestant view of the mother of the Lord / Lexikon zur Bibel [Biblical Lexicon], FR 1974)

Even in exceedingly early times there were differences of opinion on the question of what was to be understood by ‘brothers’ in this context. The Roman church still teaches that Mary remained virgin all her life long and that the brothers of Jesus mentioned in the New Testament were actually his relations. Otherwise it is generally assumed, rightly, that these brothers were children of Joseph and Mary who were born after the birth of Jesus. James, Joseph, Simon and Judas are mentioned as brothers. To begin with they did not believe in Jesus’ divine mission (Joh 7,5), but this changed after the Resurrection, when Jesus appeared to James (1Cor 15,7). The brothers of the Lord were with Mary in the inner circle of the apostles (Acts 1,14). James took on the leadership of the congregation at Jerusalem, after the apostles had left the city (Acts 12,17;15,13). He is the author of the epistle of James (Jam 1,1), Judas the author of the epistle of Jude (Jud 1). Of Joseph (in some sources also referred to as Jose or Joses, cf. Mk 15,47) and Simon nothing further is known.

(Fritz Rienecker, Protestant theologian and pastor, Lexikon zur Bibel [Biblical Lexicon] 1974, p 148)



Basically there are three reasons for the frequent confusion between the sons of Mary the mother of the Lord and those of the other Mary, the wife of Clopas/Alphaeus. On the one hand the identity of name leads some superficial readers to the unjustified assumption that one and the same person is meant. On the other, both women have sons with the names James and Joseph, and Judas, the brother of the Lord, is often confused with Judas the son of James and grandson of the wife of Clopas/Alphaeus, who to make our confusion even greater is called not Judas but Thaddaeus in Mt 10,3 and Mk 3,18.

This has actually gone so far as to make some translators - plainly based on the incorrect view that the writer of the epistle of Jude is here referred to - translate Lk 6,16 with “brother of James” (e.g. Elberfelder, King James and Darby Bibles), rather than “son of James”, as it should be (as for instance Luther, Herder, Jubiläumsbibel, NAS, RSV), as we also find it stated in Acts 1,13. This even though at this point in the Greek original the term ‘brother’ (Greek: adelphos) is conspicuously absent, so based on the reading of the Greek original the translation in actual fact has to be “son of James”.


Finally Paul’s remark in Gal 1,19 that he had not seen any other of the apostles than James, the brother of the Lord, has led people to draw the wrong conclusion.

But I did not see any other of the apostles except James, the Lord’s brother.

Gal 1,18 Then three years later I went up to Jerusalem to become acquainted with Cephas, and stayed with him fifteen days. 1,19 But I did not see any other of the apostles except James, the Lord’s brother. Gal 1,18-19;


This statement of Paul’s that apart from James he did not see “any other of the apostles” seems to indicate that this James, the brother of the Lord, was an apostle, and accordingly would have to be identified in the repeated listings of the twelve apostles in the New Testament. Now if we look at the names of the twelve apostles, we find that there are two named James.

The twelve apostles.

Mt 10,2 Now the names of the twelve apostles are these: The first, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother; and James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother; 10,3 Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; 10,4 Simon the Zealot, and Judas Iscariot, the one who betrayed Him. Mt 10, 2- 4;

Mk 3,16 And He appointed the twelve: Simon (to whom He gave the name Peter), 3,17 and James, the son of Zebedee, and John the brother of James (to them He gave the name Boanerges, which means, "Sons of Thunder"); 3,18 and Andrew, and Philip, and Bartholomew, and Matthew, and Thomas, and James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus, and Simon the Zealot; 3,19 and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed Him. Mk 3,16-19;

Lk 6,13 And when day came, He called His disciples to Him and chose twelve of them, whom He also named as apostles: 6,14 Simon, whom He also named Peter, and Andrew his brother; and James and John; and Philip and Bartholomew; 6,15 and Matthew and Thomas; James the son of Alphaeus, and Simon who was called the Zealot; 6,16 Judas the son of James, and Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor. Lk 6,13-16;


The first James is the brother of the apostle John, and both are the sons of Zebedee and his wife Salome - so he cannot be the brother of the Lord. The second James we already identified earlier as the son of Mary the wife of Clopas/Alphaeus, and the same thus applies to him - so he too must be removed from the shortlist. So among the Twelve there is no apostle named James who could be the brother of the Lord. But seeing that this listing by name of the twelve apostles appears a number of times in the New Testament, so that we can exclude any possibility of incompleteness or mistake, we need to examine more closely Paul’s statement in Gal 1,19 that the James whom he saw was an apostle.

The Greek expression apostolos, for apostle, signifies envoy or ambassador, and this was the title that the Lord assigned to his twelve selected disciples. And yet Paul too calls himself repeatedly the “apostle of Christ”, and Barnabas too, who worked hand in hand with the Twelve but without being one of the twelve apostles, is described by Paul in 1Cor 1,1 as an “apostle”. So it is an easy step to suppose that this same Paul, who had plainly given the term “apostle” a more extended connotation, with a reference beyond the original Twelve, saw in James an apostle like himself, likewise one who had not been one of the Twelve from the beginning.

So we know that the James mentioned by Paul in Gal 1,19 was not an apostle of the Twelve; but on the other hand, we cannot deny his being a brother of the Lord without distorting Paul’s words entirely. In order to look at this in more detail, we must try to pick up the threads from a different angle. By contrast with the sons of Mary the wife of Clopas/Alphaeus, we find some passages in the New Testament which show beyond doubt that at the start of Jesus’ ministry the sons of Mary the mother of the Lord did not believe in him, and even kept their distance from him.

First of all there is the account given in Mk 3,20-21 and 3,31-35. It was told to the family of the Lord that he was standing in the midst of a crowd and preaching the kingdom of God.

When His own people heard of this, they went out to take custody of Him; for they were saying, "He has lost His senses".

Mk 3,20 And He came home, and the crowd gathered again, to such an extent that they could not even eat a meal. 3,21 When His own people heard of this, they went out to take custody of Him; for they were saying, "He has lost His senses." Mk 3,20-21;


When his mother, brothers and sisters learned of it, they did not utter a word to defend him, but put themselves forthwith on the side of those who abused him, and set off immediately to lay hands on him and make him come home.

Behold, Your mother and Your brothers are outside looking for You.

Mk 3,31 Then His mother and His brothers arrived, and standing outside they sent word to Him and called Him. 3,32 A crowd was sitting around Him, and they said to Him, "Behold, Your mother and Your brothers are outside looking for You." 3,33 Answering them, He said, "Who are My mother and My brothers?" 3,34 Looking about at those who were sitting around Him, He said, "Behold My mother and My brothers! 3,35 "For whoever does the will of God, he is My brother and sister and mother." Mk 3,31-35;


We find a confirmation of this attitude on the part of the Lord’s family in the gospel of John, who states quite plainly:

For not even His brothers were believing in Him.

Jn 7,3 Therefore His brothers said to Him, "Leave here and go into Judea, so that Your disciples also may see Your works which You are doing. 7,4 "For no one does anything in secret when he himself seeks to be known publicly. If You do these things, show Yourself to the world." 3,5 For not even His brothers were believing in Him. Jn 7, 3- 5;


From these statements we can infer without any doubt that the mother of the Lord had further sons and so that the Lord had bodily brothers, who however did not follow his call and - up to this point in time at least - remained skeptical. And so proved true the word spoken by the Lord in his home town Nazareth to a crowd that certainly must have included his brothers:

A prophet is not without honor except in his hometown and among his own relatives and in his own household.

Mk 6,3 "Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary, and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? Are not His sisters here with us?" And they took offense at Him. 6,4 Jesus said to them, "A prophet is not without honor except in his hometown and among his own relatives and in his own household." 6,5 And He could do no miracle there except that He laid His hands on a few sick people and healed them. 5,6 And He wondered at their unbelief. And He was going around the villages teaching. Mk 6, 3- 6;


Their change of attitude - at least in the case of James, the brother of the Lord, whom Paul would meet many years later in Jerusalem - clearly only happened after the death and resurrection of the Lord. Paul gives us an account of this in his first epistle to the Corinthians:

Then He appeared to James, then to all the apostles.

1Cor 15,3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 15,4 and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, 15,5 and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve.15,6 After that He appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom remain until now, but some have fallen asleep; 15,7 then He appeared to James, then to all the apostles;15,8 and last of all, as to one untimely born, He appeared to me also. 15,9 For I am the least of the apostles, and not fit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 1Cor 15, 3- 9;


So after his resurrection the Lord appeared to the twelve apostles and then to James, and this - in much the same way as in Paul’s case - brought about his conversion to the faith (incidentally, our earlier assumption that Paul distinguishes between the Twelve and the other apostles is here confirmed). As numerous scriptural passages prove, James later became one of the most highly regarded men of the Jerusalem congregation. At the Apostles’ Council of Jerusalem it was he who found a way of deciding the conflict between the Jewish Christians, who taught the necessity of circumcision, and Paul and Barnabas, who did not think it was required. When the apostles and elders had heard all the arguments coming from both sides, and still, in spite of Peter’s clear statement, plainly remained uncertain how they should decide, James spoke in turn.

After they had stopped speaking, James answered, saying, "Brethren, listen to me.

Acts 15,13 After they had stopped speaking, James answered, saying, "Brethren, listen to me. 15,14 "Simeon has related how God first concerned Himself about taking from among the Gentiles a people for His name. 15,15 "With this the words of the Prophets agree, just as it is written, 15,16 ‘after these things I will return, and I will rebuild the Tabernacle of David which has fallen, and I will rebuild the ruins, and I will restore it, 15,17 so that the rest of mankind may seek the Lord, and all the gentiles who are called by my name,’ 15,18 Save the Lord, who makes these things known form long ago. 15,19 "Therefore it is my judgment that we do not trouble those who are turning to God from among the Gentiles, 15,20 but that we write to them that they abstain from things contaminated by idols and from fornication and from what is strangled and from blood. 15,21 "For Moses from ancient generations has in every city those who preach him, since he is read in the synagogues every Sabbath." Acts 15,13-21;


The method of proceeding presented by James here was then confirmed by the apostles and elders, who instructed Paul and certain brethren to preach in future only the commandments rehearsed by James to the other congregations, saying nothing of circumcision. When Paul later came to Jerusalem with the other brothers, to be subsequently taken into custody by the Romans, again he went first of all to James, and that was where all the elders came to meet him.

And the following day Paul went in with us to James, and all the elders were present..

Acts 21,18 And the following day Paul went in with us to James, and all the elders were present. 21,19 After he had greeted them, he began to relate one by one the things which God had done among the Gentiles through his ministry. 21,20 And when they heard it they began glorifying God; and they said to him, "You see, brother, how many thousands there are among the Jews of those who have believed, and they are all zealous for the Law; Acts 21,18-20;


When the other James, the son of Zebedee and brother of John, was beheaded by Herod, Peter too was taken into detention. When he was able to escape from prison by a miracle, before fleeing he asked certain brethren to report all these events to James and the others.

Report these things to James and the brethren!

Acts 12,17 But motioning to them with his hand to be silent, he described to them how the Lord had led him out of the prison. And he said, "Report these things to James and the brethren." Then he left and went to another place. Acts 12,17;


As already mentioned earlier, Paul reports in his epistle to the Galatians that he came to Jerusalem again, three years after his conversion on the road to Damascus, to make the acquaintance of Peter. On this occasion he also saw James, the brother of the Lord, for the first time.

But I did not see any other of the apostles except James, the Lord’s brother.

Gal 1,18 Then three years later I went up to Jerusalem to become acquainted with Cephas, and stayed with him fifteen days. 1,19 But I did not see any other of the apostles except James, the Lord’s brother. 1,20 (Now in what I am writing to you, I assure you before God that I am not lying.). Gal 1,18-20;


It was only another fourteen years later that he once more came to Jerusalem and was fully recognized by the apostles. Paul then confirms that James, Peter and John the son of Zebedee were regarded as pillars of the congregation in Jerusalem (see also Gal 2,12).

James and Cephas and John, who were reputed to be pillars.

Gal 2,9 and recognizing the grace that had been given to me, James and Cephas and John, who were reputed to be pillars, gave to me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship, so that we might go to the Gentiles and they to the circumcised. Gal 2,9;


All these statements demonstrate that James - the brother of the Lord, as Paul confirms in Gal 1,19 above - was at this time in charge of the congregation in Jerusalem. So he also could well be the author of the epistle of James, which would make his brother Judas the author of the epistle of Jude (Jude 1,1). Of the other two brothers of the Lord, Joseph and Simon, nothing further is known. Though we do learn in Acts 1,14 that after the Ascension of the Lord the mother and brothers of Jesus (together with the apostles and certain women, these certainly including Mary Magdalene, Mary the wife of Clopas/Alphaeus and Salome the wife of Zebedee) continually devoted themselves to prayer.

These all with one mind were continually devoting themselves to prayer, along with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with His brothers.

Acts 1,13 When they had entered the city, they went up to the upper room where they were staying; that is, Peter and John and James and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus, and Simon the Zealot, and Judas the son of James. 1,14 These all with one mind were continually devoting themselves to prayer, along with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with His brothers. Acts 1,13-14;


This provides confirmation in every respect for the comments of Fritz Rienecker quoted earlier. In conclusion now, here once again a table to show the connections we have established on the theme of Mary the mother of the Lord and the Lord’s brothers.



Mary, the mother of the Lord and her sons.




Mt 13:55; Mk 6:13
Mary, the mother of Jesus
and His brothers



Gal 1:18

James


James 1:1
The author of the
letter of James



Jude 1:1
The author of the
epistle of Judas



James

Joses/Joseph
Simon
Judas



Mt 12:46; Mk 3:31;
Lk 8:19; Jn 7:3-6
unbelief of the brothers

Jn 2:12; Acts 1:14
The mother of Jesus
and His brothers





James,
brother of the Lord






1Cor 15:7
The Lord appears
to James

Gal 2:9; Acts 12:17;
Acts 15:13 21:18
James, a pillar of the
church in Jerusalem




James,
bond-servant of God





















Judas,
brother of James















The women who accompanied Jesus.





Anoin-
ting in
Bethany
The true
relatives
Unbelief
in Nazareth
Death on the cross Burial At the
empty
grave
Appear-
ance
of Jesus
W H O S C R I P T U R A L   R E F E R E N C E S

Mary, the mother of Jesus









Mt 12:47
Mk 3:32



Mt 13:55
Mk 6:3



Mk 6:3



















Mary Magdalene






















Mt 27:56
Mk 15:40

Jn 19:25


Mt 27:61
Mk 15:47

Jn 19:25


Mt 28:1
Mk 16:1
Lk 24:10
Jn 20:1



Mk 16:9

Jn 20:18


Mary, mother of James and Joses

   the other Mary, a disciple
   the wife of Clopas (Alphaeus?)
   (sister of Mary?)























Mt 27:56
Mk 15:40

Jn 19:25



Mk 15:40

Mt 27:61




Mk 16:1
Lk 24:10
Mt 28:1











Salome, mother of Zebedee’s sons

   (sister of Mary?)

















Mt 27:56
Mk 15:4
Jn 19:25








Mk 16:1








Mary from Bethany


Jn 12:3






















The surnames of the twelve apostles





Matthew
Mt 10:2-4
Mark
Mk 3:16-19
Luke
Lk 6:13-16
Acts
Acts 1:13-14

Simon
Andrew
James
John
Philip
Thomas
Bartholomew
Levi, son of Alphaeus
James
Simon
Judas
(Judas Iscariot)


Peter
brother of Simon
son of Zebedee
brother of James
-
-
-
Matthew, the tax collector
son of  Alphaeus
the Canaanite (Zaelot)
Lebbaeus, Thaddaeus
Iscariot


Peter
-
son of Zebedee
brother of James
-
-
-
Matthew
son of  Alphaeus
the Canaanite (Zaelot)
Thaddaeus
Iscariot


Peter
brother of Simon
-
-
-
-
-
Matthew
son of  Alphaeus
the Zealot
son of James
Iscariot


Peter
-
-
-
-
-
-
Matthew
son of  Alphaeus
the Zealot
son of James
/