Controversy Over the Term 'Brother'

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Controversy Over the Term 'Brother'

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One long-debated issue that has resurfaced with the recent ossuary discovery is whether James was really the half brother of Jesus.To maintain the doctrine of the perpetual virginity of Mary (which holds that Mary remained a virgin even after Jesus' birth and had no more children), Roman Catholics teach James was only a "cousin" of Jesus.

Yet the biblical evidence points to James being a half brother, not a cousin, of Jesus, since Mary was his mother and Joseph his father. The Bible does not call Jesus the only son of Mary; it calls Him the firstborn son. "Then Joseph, being aroused from sleep, did as the angel of the Lord commanded him and took to him his wife, and did not know her till she had brought forth her firstborn Son. And he called His name Jesus" (Matthew 1:24-25, emphasis added throughout).

Note also that the word know is the biblical euphemism for Joseph and Mary having sexual relations as husband and wife after Jesus was born.

The Gospels consistently show that Joseph and Mary had children other than Jesus. For instance, Mark 6:3 says: "Is this not the carpenter, the Son of Mary, and brother of James, Joses, Judas, and Simon? And are not His sisters here with us?"

Also, Paul calls James "the Lord's brother"(Galatians 1:19). The term used here for "brother," adelphos,means a brother, not a cousin. Paul uses a different Greek word that means "cousin," anepsios,in Colossians 4:10:"Aristarchus my fellow prisoner greets you, with Mark the cousin of Barnabas." So the idea that James was a cousin of Jesus has no biblical basis.

Another line of argument is presented by the Greek Orthodox Church, which also believes in the perpetual virginity of Mary but holds that James was Joseph's son by a supposed previous marriage, making him merely Jesus' stepbrother,having no immediate blood relation.Yet a close blood relation seems implicit in the distinction "brother of Jesus."And again, the idea of children by previous marriage is also contradicted by Matthew 1:24-25, which calls Jesus Mary's firstborn son and states that Joseph "knew her" after Jesus was born.

Corroborating evidence is found in Psalm 69, a psalm written by Israel's King David but widely recognized as messianic in content—prophesying the suffering of Jesus. David prefigures Christ lamenting,"I have become a stranger to my brothers, and an alien to my mother's children" (verse 8)—showing that Jesus' brothers were children of Joseph and Mary, not just of Joseph by a previous marriage.

Moreover, when Joseph fled to Egypt before the massacre of the young boys in Bethlehem, an angel appeared to Joseph and told him,"Arise, take the young Child and His mother; flee to Egypt . . ." (Matthew 2:13). It's apparent that the only ones in that family were Joseph, Mary and Jesus. No other brothers or sisters were there from a supposed previous marriage of Joseph. Jesus was clearly the firstborn son, and later Joseph and Mary had several other sons and daughters. GN