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What were Jesus' brothers called?

The Bible tells us that Jesus had four brothers. They were James, Joseph (Joses), Simon and Jude (Judas). His sisters were Salome and Mary. The brothers are mentioned by name in more than one place in the bible, whereas there is merely reference to his having sisters. The names are more open to debate, and are drawn from conjecture and other sources. The clearest reference to his Brothers' names and existence of sisters is in Mark 6:3. Mark 15:14 and 16:1 suggest Salome may have been Jesus' sister, but is ambiguous.

Some Catholics maintain that James, Joseph, Simon and Jude were actually cousins, though where the difference in terminology comes from is unclear, as the Greek texts clearly use the word for brother, not cousin. Whilst the word brother, or brethren in English can have different meanings (brother by blood or brother by closeness, such as used for monks), the Greek word adelphos is less ambiguous. In the contexts used in the relevant passages of the bible, only the meaning "blood brother" can be used."

Orthodox Christians and some other Catholics maintain that they were Jesus' siblings from an earlier marriage of Joseph.

Some Protestants adopt the view that Jesus was half

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brother to the others in a different way, as his father was God and the others' father was Joseph. This is supported by Matthew (1:25) which reads, "But he (Joseph) had no union with her (Mary) until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus."

Various reference is made in the Bible to Jesus being Mary's firstborn. Therefore there must have been other children born to her. Either they must have been born of a normal sexual relation with Joseph (hardly surprising with her husband), or they were divine offspring of God as the Bible attributes to Jesus. This would remove from the exclusivity of Jesus. It seems highly unlikely that none of the five siblings would have gone on to have children themselves. It could therefore be assumed likely that divine descendants exist to this day - a twist on the da Vinci Code. Hegesippus, a 2nd century Christian writer, mentions descendants of Jude, brother of Jesus.

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© Peter Smith 2008

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