R4E130904 – The Siblings of Jesus (New Testament Character Study) by Douglas Jacoby
- Family of 10 or more:
- Parents: Yosef, Maria[m]
- Sons: Yeshua, Ya’akov, Yosef, Yehudah, Shim’on
- Daughters: 3 or more, all unnamed (see Genesis 5)
- Not a wealthy family (Luke 2:24; see Leviticus 5:7).
- Imagine what this family must have been like!
- The older sibling who always did what was right (!).
- The loss of the father early on, making the same sibling the de facto family head.
- Family “secret” — rumors surrounding the birth of Mary’s firstborn (Luke 2:7; Matthew 1:25)?
- By far, the sibling about whom we know most is James (Ya’akov). Apart from these facts, nearly everything else is speculation.
- Please listen to the podcast on Jesus if you haven’t yet heard it.
- Matthew 12:46, 13:53-58
- v.55 — four brothers named
- v.56 — sisters mentioned
- Mark 3:20-21,30-31 (also Luke 8:19-21) — Jesus’ family does not understand his mission. See also Luke 2:41-50.
- Mark 6:1-5 — His hometown were offended by him, and his own family does not seem to have made things any better.
- John 2:12 — Jesus spends time with his family.
- John 7:3-10 — There is tension and misunderstanding between his brothers and him.
- Matthew 28:10: “Tell my brothers.” See also John 20:17.
- 1 Corinthians 15:7 — James was an eyewitness of the resurrected Jesus. A skeptic is won over.
- Acts 1:14 — Jesus’ family is united in prayer.
- Galatians 1:19 — James is referred to as apostle (“missionary”?). See also 1 Corinthians 9:5.
- Galatians 2:9,12 — James is a major leader in the Jerusalem church. See also James 1:1 and Jude 1:1; both these letters are traditionally attributed to Ya’akov and Yehudah (James and Jude), Jesus’ siblings.
- Acts 15:13-21, 21:17ff — James is serving as some sort of president in the Jerusalem church.
- Hegesippus and Josephs reported James’ execution by the Sanhedrin in 62 AD.
- While traditions are strong that Jesus’ family became believers in Christ, not every family member is discussed. We will have to be satisfied knowing that for the most part things turned out well.
- Josephus (37-100 AD), the Jewish historian and statesman (and adopted son of the emperor Vespasian, 69-79 AD), mentions the execution of James, as does Hegesippus (110-180 AD), whose work is known to us through the church historian Eusebius (263-339), who served at the court of Constantine.
- Many churchmen contest the terms “brothers” and “sisters,” claiming these words are open to different interpretations. These simple Greek words have been argued to refer to children of Joseph by a previous marriage, Mary’s sister’s children, or Joseph’s sister’s children. All these efforts seem designed to uphold the doctrine of Mary’s perpetual virginity, which is refuted by Matthew 1:25 and the other verses referencing her children.
- Desposyni is the technical term referring to alleged blood relatives of Jesus Christ. It was coined by Sextus Julius Africanus in the early 3rd century. Some argue that Jesus’ relatives held positions of honor in the early church (Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, Catholics, plus some Anglicans and Lutherans.
Lessons for us
- Stay connected to your family.
- While modern families tend to be small, ancient (and traditional) families strove to be large. We should view any reference to families in the scriptures through such a prism.
- Families did not consist of father and mother, son and daughter; they were far larger. Moreover, extended families (grandparents, uncles, aunts, cousins…) tended to live in the same village.
- Families were thus more interactive. A lot of learning would have taken place among the siblings.
- There were clearly defined expectations for sons and daughters.
- An abundance of children (especially sons) provided security for parents, esp. in their old age (Psalm 127:3-5, 128:5-6).
- It may take a while to win them over, so pray and wait patiently.