This question has been a point of debate among theologians for centuries. Many believe Jesus was an only child, and his mother and father both remained virgins though out their lives. Some also believe that Mary mother of Jesus, was conceived by the Holy Spirit as Jesus was. There is no support for that in the bible.

No one is going to miss the bus to heaven because they believe this or that about sinners like Mary, your priest, your church, or whether Jesus had siblings or not. We are all sinners in need of Jesus for salvation.

Romans 3:10-12;There is no one righteous, not even one, there is no one who understands, there is no one who seeks God. All have turned away

Romans 3:23-24; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. But they are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.

Acts 4:11-12; This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, that has become the cornerstone. And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among people by which we must be saved.

Two Possibilities

There are two main camps in regard to Jesus and his siblings, and they are

  1. Plain reading of scripture says Jesus had brothers and sisters
  2. the words Brothers and Sisters have a broader meaning that would include cousins, brothers in arms, fellow believers.

Why is there a controversy? Because if you are going to maintain the doctrine that Jesus mother Mary remained a virgin after Jesus’ birth, then you have to explain away a lot of scripture.

Mark 6:3, Matthew 13:55: Isn’t this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James, Joses, Judas, and Simon? And aren’t his sisters here with us?

Brother is often used in the context of like minded or same belief. But there are also many scriptures that make distinctions between those believers [brothers] and Jesus’ brothers in the same sentences.

John 2:12; After this he went down to Capernaum with his mother and brothers and his disciples, and they stayed there a few days.

1 Corinthians 9:5; Do we not have the right to the company of a believing wife, like the other apostles and the Lordʼs brothers and Cephas?

In another account, Jesus was speaking in the temple when his apparent unbelieving mother and brothers came to collect him. In the book of John, Jesus’ brothers had been mocking him, and we are told they did not believe he was who he claimed to be.

John 7:3-5: So Jesusʼ brothers advised him, “Leave here and go to Judea so your disciples may see your miracles that you are performing. For no one who seeks to make a reputation for himself does anything in secret. If you are doing these things, show yourself to the world.” “(For not even his own brothers believed in him.)”

In Matthew even more so than the scriptures above, it is very clear that the word  brothers means family, and not fellow believers.

Matthew 12:46-50;While Jesus was still speaking to the crowds, his mother and brothers came and stood outside, asking to speak to him. Someone told him, “Look, your mother and your brothers are standing outside wanting to speak to you.” To the one who had said this, Jesus replied, “Who is my mother and who are my brothers?” And pointing toward his disciples he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.”

Apocrypha & Gnostic Writings

So what about cousins then? There is no evidence to support this idea in the holy scripture. To get there, you have to make use of the apocrypha and Gnostic writings that are not included in the canon of scripture because they were not reliable, and written well after the events, by unknown people.

Does any of this affect your salvation if you believe one thing over the other? No. Salvation depends on whether or not you confess you are a sinner, believe Jesus is the Son of God and that he alone can atone for your sins.

What is interesting is, those brothers of Jesus who mocked him in life, came to faith after his resurrection. Now explain that. Something powerful and convincing had to have occurred to change Jesus brothers unbelieving minds. We know that his brothers converted because they were in the upper room praying with the disciples.

Acts 1:13-14; When they had entered Jerusalem, they went to the upstairs room where they were staying. Peter and John, and James, and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot, and Judas son of James were there. All these continued together in prayer with one mind, together with the women, along with Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers.

James Brother of Jesus Death

Apart from the bible, there is independent evidence from Flavius Josephus, an ancient Roman-Jewish historian from the 1st century who recorded Jesus’ brother James death.

 Festus was now dead, and Albinus was but upon the road; so he assembled the sanhedrin of judges, and brought before them the brother of Jesus, who was called Christ, whose name was James, and some others, [or, some of his companions]; and when he had formed an accusation against them as breakers of the law, he delivered them to be stoned: [ Josephus, Antiquities, Book 20: chapter 9, 62 C.E.]

Jesus Death and Empty Tomb

Jesus empty tomb, his postmortem appearances, and the conversion of his non believing family and his other followers are all powerful evidences of Jesus resurrection.

These are men and woman who died because they were proclaiming they saw Jesus after his death, they did not die for an old belief as martyrs do today, they died for what they said they saw with their own eyes.

1 John 1:1-3; This is what we proclaim to you: what was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and our hands have touched (concerning the word of life – and the life was revealed, and we have seen and testify and announce to you the eternal life that was with the Father and was revealed to us). What we have seen and heard we announce to you too, so that you may have fellowship with us (and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ).

The only explanation for this is that Jesus appeared to them after his crucifixion. Every other alternative has been refuted, including mass hallucinations and visions.

If Jesus had not risen, there is no explanation for

  1. Unbelievers converting after his death
  2. His followers, some of whom that did not believe him prior to his death, going to their deaths saying he had risen.
  3. the dramatic spread of the gospel through out the land at a time when Jesus resurrection could have been refuted

Maybe Jesus did not die, or his body was stolen? These arguments have long been unpersuasive to scholars, and ancient historians. Maybe Jesus never existed? See two short videos in my PREVIOUS BLOG POST, where a world’s leading atheist historian calls those who think Jesus was a myth, foolish.

For a very interesting walk though the evidence watch the video below of professor Gary Habermas, worlds foremost authority on the historicity of the empty tomb, and the resurrection evidence. Also visit my YouTube site for this and other PhD videos on different aspects of the bible, faith and science.


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Thank you,

Robert J.