According to Matthew
the Lord had four brothers
(that is, half-brothers, as we say),
James, Joses, Simon, and Judas.
He had at least three sisters
also,—"and His sisters,
are they not all with us?"
Had there been but two,
the word all
would have been both.
The Lord is called Mary's
and the natural inference is that Mary had other children.
The word prototokos
is used only in these two passages and in
so that the meaning is easily ascertained.
Had He been her only son,
the word would have been monogenes,
which occurs in
of human parentage;
and of the Lord,
as the only-begotten of the Father,
it is used of Isaac,
Abraham's only son according to the promise.
In Psalm 69,
a Psalm with many predictive allusions to the
Lord's earthly life (see Note on Title), verse
reads, "I am become a stranger unto my brethren,
and an alien unto my mother's children".
The Gospel history records His
brethren in association with His mother.
After the miracle at Cana,
which they probably witnessed,
we are told that "He went down to Capernaum,
He, and His mother,
and His brethren,
and His disciples"
Later on they exhibit a spirit
of opposition or jealousy,
for while He is speaking to the people,
His brethren, accompanied by His mother,
sought Him, apparently to hinder His work
we read, "When His friends heard of it,
they went out to lay hold on Him;
for they said,
He is beside Himself".
The expression "His friends"
is hoi par' autou,
"those beside Him",
and it denotes a relationship
so close as to identify them with
the "brethren" of verse
they showed lack of sympathy with His work,
and the reason is given in verse
"For neither did His brethren believe in Him".
They are not seen again till,
after His resurrection,
they are gathered in the upper room with the apostles,
and with His mother and theirs
Their unbelief had gone.
James had become a servant to
the Lord Jesus Christ
through the appearance to him of the risen Saviour
and, shortly, is a "pillar"
of the church in Jerusalem
The other brethren seem to have joined
in the witness by itinerating; see
The natural meaning of the term
in the Scripture record,
would never have been challenged,
but for the desire,
when corruption crept into the churches
of raising Mary from the position of
"handmaid of the Lord"
to the exalted one of Theotokos,
mother of God,
whence it was an easy step to
investing her with divine honors,
as being herself a goddess.
And thus the way was cleared for identifying
her with the great goddess of Paganism,
who is the mother of a divine son,
and who is yet a virgin,
a deity best known by the appellation she bore in Egypt,
Isis, the mother of Horus.
So it was put forth that Mary had
no children other than the Lord,
and that His brethren and sisters were
either the children of Joseph by a former wife,
or the Lord's cousins,
the children of Mary the wife of Cleophas.
Those who maintained the former opinion
asserted that Joseph was an
old man when he married Mary.
Of this there is not the least
hint in the Gospel records.
If he had older children,
the right of the Lord Jesus to the
throne of David would be invalidated,
for the two genealogies in Matthew
1 and Luke 3 show that the regal
rights were united in Joseph and Mary
With reference to Jerome's
it may be stated that the word
"brother" is used in Scripture,
in the sense of blood-relationship,
as children of the same parent or parents;
in the wider sense of descent from a common ancestor,
for example Acts
where Abraham is the forefather;
in a still wider signification of fellow-man
to express spiritual relationship
In the passages where His brethren are referred to,
only the first meaning can apply.
Had they been cousins,
the term would have been sungenes,
which is used in
and is translated "kin",
except in Luke
where it is rendered "cousin."
The Scriptures distinguish
"kinsman" from "brother";
Only in Romans
are the two words in apposition,
and there "brother"
is used in the sense of
fellow-Israelite (Number 2).
when used in New Testament in any
sense other than that of Number 2
or of Number 3,
must be restricted to signification Number 1.