This has been a debated topic for a long time but we will explore the scriptures to see what they reveal.
Matthew 1:18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost.
* Joseph *
So what do we know about Mary’s husband Joseph? In reality the Bible does not give specific details about him or his past life. The only thing we know for sure is he is of the direct lineage of the family from King David all the way back to Abraham.
We know that Mary had an arranged marriage with Joseph. Joseph was the son of Jacob. This Jacob was the son of Matthan, not the same one from the Old Testament whom God changed his name to Israel. There were 28 generations that passed since the time of Abraham to the birth of Jesus.
Matthew 1:25 And he knew her not till she brought forth her first born son: and he called his name Jesus.
In the scripture above it says “he knew her not till she brought forth her first born son”. The word “knew” is related to having sexual relations. How do we know this for sure? The Greek word used here for knew is “ginosko”. The Strong’s dictionary defines this word as a Jewish idiom for sexual intercourse between a man and a woman. We should also take note that the scripture says “till she brought forth her first born.” This means after Jesus was born the couple acted as a normal couple in their relationship. If we look at a scripture in the book of Genesis there are more similar expressions.
And Adam knew Eve his wife; and she conceived, and bare Cain, and said, I have gotten a man from the Lord. Genesis 4:1 KJV
Here, the Hebrew word for knew is “yada”. The Strong’s dictionary defines this word as to know by experience. Adam experienced Eve and through that experience Cain was born. He was the fruit of the intimate relationship between Adam and Eve.
* Elkanah and Hannah *
And she vowed a vow, and said, O Lord of hosts, if thou wilt indeed look on the affliction of thine handmaid, and remember me, and not forget thine handmaid, but wilt give unto thine handmaid a man child, then I will give him unto the Lord all the days of his life, and there shall no razor come upon his head. 1 Samuel 1:11 KJV
And they rose up in the morning early, and worshipped before the Lord, and returned, and came to their house to Ramah: and Elkanah knew Hannah his wife; and the Lord remembered her. Wherefore it came to pass, when the time was come about after Hannah had conceived, that she bare a son, and called his name Samuel, saying, Because I have asked him of the Lord. 1 Samuel 1:19-20 KJV
In the passage above Hannah was married to Elkanah but had not born a child in the marriage. Then one day she prayed and asked the Lord to give her a son. This was her heart’s desire. According to the scripture the day after she prayed they went to worship in the morning and when the couple returned to the house she had sexual relations with her husband. This was when she conceived her son named Samuel. The Lord answered her prayer.
* Judah and Tamar *
And Judah acknowledged them, and said, She hath been more righteous than I; because that I gave her not to Shelah my son. And he knew her again no more. And it came to pass in the time of her travail, that, behold, twins were in her womb. Genesis 38:26-27 KJV
Judah, the son of Jacob, also known as Israel, had sexual relations with his daughter in law Tamar. She was discovered to be 3 months pregnant when she was brought forth to face her punishment for being a harlot. After Judah discovered the harlot he thought he was with was actually his daughter in-law the scripture says he knew her again no more. This means he did not have anymore sexual relations with her after that point.
* Angel Gabriel *
And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God. And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end. Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I “know” not a man? Luke 1:30-34 KJV
When the angel Gabriel told Mary what was supposed to happen to her the same word “know” (ginosko in Greek) was used in this instance.
* Carpenter’s Son *
Is not this the carpenter’s son? is not his mother called Mary? and his brethren, James, and Joses, and Simon, and Judas? 56) And his sisters, are they not all with us? Whence then hath this man all these things? Matthew 13:55-56 KJV
One of the things that may be confusing is people having the same name. In a previous study we found there are 3 women with the same name “Mary” that stood at the cross. One would think people don’t know any other names to give their children during this era. It may be wise to name all the disciples first.
Now the names of the twelve apostles are these; The first, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother; James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother 3) Philip, and Bartholomew; Thomas, and Matthew the publican; James the son of Alphaeus, and Lebbaeus, whose surname was Thaddaeus; 4) Simon the Canaanite, and Judas Iscariot, who also betrayed him. Matthew 10:2-4 KJV
- Simon Peter Barjona – later becomes Peter (Cephas)
- Andrew Barjona- brother of Simon
- James Zebedee aka James the great, older brother of John
- John Zebedee
- Nathaniel/Nathanael of Cana aka Bartholomew
- Thomas aka Didymus
- Matthew/Levi son of Alphaeus – tax collector older brother of James
- James son of Alphaeus – younger brother of Matthew
- Judas aka Jude, Lebbaeus Thaddeus – brother other times says son of James
- Simon Zelotes aka Simon the Canaanite
- Judas Iscariot
Now that we have all the names of the disciples let’s take a look at the brothers/brethren listed in the scripture. In the Strong’s dictionary Judas is listed as a half brother of Jesus. In Acts 1 Judas Iscariot was already dead because he committed suicide before Jesus resurrected. The Strong’s dictionary says James and Judas are also the half brothers of Jesus. Joses was not one of the disciples listed and the Simon referred here is not Simon Peter because he would have been inside listening to the teaching in the synagogue and not outside calling Jesus to come out. This can be found in a scripture below.
* Mother Mary Calling *
31) There came then his brethren and his mother, and, standing without, sent unto him, calling him. 32) And the multitude sat about him, and they said unto him, Behold, thy mother and thy brethren without seek for thee. Mark 3:31-32 KJV
While he yet talked to the people, behold, his mother and his brethren stood without, desiring to speak with him. Matthew 12:46 KJV
The word brethren in Greek is “adelphós”. The Strong’s dictionary defines this word several ways. There are three in particular which will be listed. The first is a brother, whether born of the same two parents or only of the same father or mother. 2. Having the same ancestor, belonging to the same people, or countryman. 3. A fellow believer, united to another by the bond of affection. We should examine the response Jesus gave to the people who told him his family is outside.
33) And he answered them, saying, Who is my mother, or my brethren? 34) And he looked round about on them which sat about him, and said, Behold my mother and my brethren! 35) For whosoever shall do the will of God, the same is my brother, and my sister, and mother. Mark 3:33-35 KJV
The men who were sent to call Jesus were not telling Jesus his countrymen are looking for him together with his mother. Jesus’ disciples were always listening to him and going where he was teaching. So it would not make sense to say his disciples were asking him to go outside with them and his mother. Wouldn’t you agree?
The other interesting thing is Judas is also known as Jude and in some translations is referred to as Judas son of James. You will find it as Iuodas Iákōbos in the Greek linear bible. There are times when a name at the end signifies the fathers last name. So this has also been translated from the Greek as Judas son of James and others have it represented as brother of James.
*James the less *
There were also women looking on afar off: among whom was Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James the less and of Joses, and Salome; Mark 15:40 KJV
The scripture above shows us some of the women who were present at the cross. One of the Mary’s mentioned is Mary, the mother of Jesus. We know without a doubt she was present but notice it says mother of James the less and of Joses. James the less means the youngest in the family just as there are times when someone is addressed as the greater as the elder sibling.
James Zebedee the elder brother of John was also known as James the greater. The Strong’s dictionary mentions his name this way. This is also the reason why James the less would be distinguished as such.
Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary, the brother of James, and Joses, and of Juda, and Simon? and are not his sisters here with us? And they were offended at him. Mark 6:3 KJV
In the scripture above the author Mark is making note: isn’t this Jesus, the carpenter, the son of Mary, who has a brother named James, Joses, Juda and Simon. He also has sisters with us. If we observe Mark 15:40 Mary is the mother of the youngest James and of Joses. Every time we see the son of Alphaeus he is written as James the son of Alphaeus even though he is the younger brother of Matthew. Not once do we read Joses the son of Alphaeus. It would lead to conclude James, Joses, Simon and Juda are part of one family and Mary the mother of Jesus was their mother.
*The Lord’s Brother *
18) Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to see Peter, and abode with him fifteen days. 19) But other of the apostles saw I none, save James the Lord’s brother. Galatians 1:19 KJV
Paul told the Galatians that when he went back to see Peter in Jerusalem he did not see any of the other apostles only James the brother of Jesus.
The Strong’s dictionary also refers to the author of the book of James as Jesus’ half brother. Background notes about him say he did not convert until after Jesus’ resurrection. He did become head of the Church at Jerusalem where he presided at the council to consider the case of the Gentiles.
And after they had held their peace, James answered, saying, Men and brethren, hearken unto me: 14) Simeon hath declared how God at the first did visit the Gentiles, to take out of them a people for his name. Acts 15:13-14 KJV
And when James, Cephas, and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that was given unto me, they gave to me and Barnabas the right hands of fellowship; that we should go unto the heathen, and they unto the circumcision. Galatians 2:9 KJV
The James mentioned above is not James Zebedee, or James the greater who was John Zebedee’s brother. John’s brother was the first to be killed as a martyr in the book of Acts 12:2 so when we read Galatians we know by this time he was already dead. It truly is a process of elimination to find out who is who.
Below is a chart of the sons and their respective mothers to help sort things out.
|Mary||Wife of Joseph||Mother of Jesus||James|
|Salome||Sister of Mary,|
Wife of Zebedee
|Mary||wife of Cleophas |
(son of Alphaeus)
(Son of Alphaeus)
Now there stood by the cross of Jesus his mother [Mary], and his mother’s sister [Salome], Mary the wife of Cleophas, and Mary Magdalene. John 19:25 KJV
Brackets and names were added to better explain who they are.
It makes perfect sense why Salome would ask Jesus if her sons could sit one on his right and one on his left. She was his aunt. (Matthew 20:20-13) Hopefully this has brought some clarity about Mary, the wife of Joseph and her other children.