Did Jesus Have Brothers and Sisters?: A Protestant Perspective

Did Jesus have brothers and sisters? What do you think?

In my last blog (click HERE to read it), I explained the Catholic perspective — why they’d answer “no” — and this blog will explain the Protestant perspective — why they’d say “yes.”

All Christians — Catholic and Protestant alike — believe Mary was a virgin when she became pregnant with Jesus. But after His birth, Protestants believe she and Joseph had other children. That Jesus was the firstborn and a big brother at least 6 times over (of James, Joseph, Simon, Judas, and at least two sisters which the Bible leaves unnamed). Here are the lines of evidence Protestants point to as support for their perspective:

First, carefully read this excerpt from the birth narrative of Jesus: “When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. But he had no union with her until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.” (Matthew 1:24-24). Notice the word “until.” The text does not say that Joseph and Mary were lifelong virgins. It says Joseph had no union with Mary UNTIL she gave birth to Jesus.

The second line of evidence Protestants use to support their perspective is a straightforward reading of Scripture. Consider these two passages:

Then after three years, I went up to Jerusalem to get acquainted with Cephas and stayed with him fifteen days. I saw none of the other apostles — only James, the Lord’s brother. (Galatians 1:18-19)

Isn’t this the carpenter? Isn’t this Mary’s son and the brother of James, Joseph, Judas and Simon? Aren’t his sisters here with us?  (Mark 6:3)

A straight-forward reading of these passages would suggest that these people are part of Jesus’ biological family. Mary is His biological mother and not His aunt or just a “mother in the Lord.” When the verse says “Mary’s son” it means “Mary’s biological son.” In the same way, the context suggests these others are Jesus’ biological brothers and sisters (half-brothers and half-sisters of course! They had the same mom but a different father/Father.) And the underlying Greek text supports this. In these instances the Greek words “adelphos” (brother) and “adelphe” (sister) are used and not other Greek words such as “anepsios” (cousin). The Holy Spirit could have inspired the Bible writers to use words other than “brother” and “sister” but did not. Why? Because Protestants believe these people weren’t just relatives of Jesus or “brothers and sisters in the Lord.” They were siblings.

The final point of this blog is a question. Protestants ask: with all due respect (and I mean this), why would it matter if Mary had additional children after she gave birth to Jesus? After all, she was a married woman and children are a natural fruit of a marriage covenant as ordained by God (see Gen. 1:28).  What reason do Catholics have that causes them to hold so tightly to the belief that Mary was ever-virgin?

Let me end by reminding everyone that whether you are a Catholic or Protestant (or Eastern Orthodox), we are family. We are not enemies. And any time Catholics and Protestants debate certain points of theology — like the number of chairs needed around Joseph & Mary’s family dinner table — we won’t know the truth for certain until we get to heaven. So may we hold our perspectives loosely and may we “love one another” in the process.

***Please join us this coming Sunday at The Eastside Vineyard Church. We are continuing a brand new 6-week series titled “God is Good… All the Time???” This Sunday’s sermon is titled, “Jesus is our Center.” The Bible teaches that Jesus shows us exactly what God is like. But I bet most of us don’t really believe that deep down. January 19th. 10:30am. More info at tevchurch.org***

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About Dan Kopp

In 2010 Dan and Kellie felt the call by God to plant a church somewhere in Macomb County, Michigan. Several months later The Eastside Vineyard Church launched and currently meets inside Shelby Jr. High in Shelby Township. This blog began in the pre-launch phase of the church and has exceeded 50,000 hits. Thanks for reading!
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