Did Jesus have Brothers and Sisters?
That the young Jesus grew up in Nazareth in an insular family consisting of his father, Yosef (Joseph), mother Miriam (Mary), four brothers, Ya'akov (James), Yosef (Joseph/Joses), Simon, Yehudah (Jude) and at least two sisters, is important to building a perception of the youthful Jesus. For this reason, this segment is somewhat lengthy. I believe that Christian dogma and doctrine should arise from the historical Jesus and that the historical Jesus should not be reinvented to conform to the favorite dogma of an influential early church leadership. Accordingly, this segment discusses matters set beyond the childhood of Jesus in this chronology but returns to discuss the influence of his siblings on his childhood.
Jesus of Nazareth had four brothers and at least two, possibly three, sisters. Jesus brother James, Ya'akov bar Yosef, was a man who inspired considerable veneration from the general populace of 1st century Palestine. Called "James, the Righteous" (Ya'akov ha Tsedek), he was so revered that the Roman Procurator, Festus, apparently thought it prudent not to molest him.
Porcius Festus was concerned that the N'tzarim (Jesus Movement) were gaining more and more followers among the wealthier and more influential people of the province. It is the year 62 and Festus had been prefect of Judea for two years. Nero seemed to have some special obsession concerning this Jewish sect. It had seemed a minor irritation when the majority of Nazarenes were among the poor am-haretz of Judea and the Galilee but Paul of Tarsus had a great deal of success bringing powerful Romans and Greeks to the group in some of the outlying urbs and provinces. He had heard that even members of some of the oldest Patrician families in Rome itself were declaring belief in Y'shua the Nazarene. He believed he had done the right thing in sending Paul to Rome for trial before Caesar himself. He also believed that the High Priest he had appointed, Yosef Kabi, was too soft on the N'tzarim and appointed a new High Priest, Ananus.
Ananus was a vain and self aggrandizing person. He was short and slight of build and had spent his life trying to compensate by portraying himself as bigger than life, a giant in his own mind. His face was pocked by some childhood plague and his eyes were cold behind black eyes. Ananus was ambitious and headstrong and had a deep dislike for the Nazarenes, particularly Y'shua's brother Ya'akov bar Yosef whom the people were now calling James the Righteous. Ya'akov had been the undisputed leader of the Nazarenes since his brother's crucifixion over thirty years ago. He made his headquarters in the Upper City with the Covenanters (Essenes) who regarded Ya'akov as a return of the "Teacher of Righteousness." What galled Ananus even more was that the people, in private, did not recognize the Sadducee high priests as legitimate because they were appointed by the Romans. Ya'akov was of Levite lineage and had the right of access to the Sanctuary itself. The people viewed Ya'akov as the legitimate high priest. Ya'akov was known over the entire country for his piety and authority. Ananus was extremely jealous of Ya'akov and was determined to do away with him as soon as he became high priest.
Festus had been ill for two months. He knew he was dying and had sent word to Rome over a month ago for a replacement. Nero, on receiving word of Festus' condition appointed his old friend Albinus who immediately set sail to Alexandria by the fastest ship that could be found. There was too much unrest in the Judean province and Nero wanted a strong hand at the helm. Albinus was a strong leader and a shrewd maneuverer in political situations. Festus died just as Albinus was landing in Alexandria. A week after Festus' death, Ananus saw the opportunity he was looking for. Festus was out of the way and the Fortress of Antonia was in chaos. Albinus was not yet in Jerusalem. He immediately called for a council of the Sanhedrin and had several of his temple guards arrest Ya'akov as he was leaving the temple grounds. Ananus knew that the conservative, right-wing Sadducees were the majority in the Council and that he could count on them. There were also a few of the Beth Shammai who had little regard for the Nazarenes. No sooner than all had taken their seats in the great Chamber of Stone where the council met, Ananus had Ya'akov brought in. Audible gasps echoed in the chamber as the members recognized Ya'akov. He was considered by all right thinking members of this great body as a great Rabban. What happened in that council chamber is lost to history but the following is a fictional account based on extracanonical tradition, legend, and the religious and political milieu of the time.
"Members of the council," Ananus announced, "I bring before you the very instigator of much of the troubles we face today. This Ya'akov bar Yosef walks among us as a wolf in sheep's clothing, all the while preaching blasphemy and stirring sedition. He consorts with the Qanaim (Zealots) and promotes the blasphemy that his brother will return again as the Messiah to establish a new kingdom. He claims that his brother rose from the dead over 30 years ago after that false Messiah was justly crucified. He claims that his seditious brother was the son of God. I say to you that this claim that his brother was the son of God is designed to infer that he also, Ya'akov bar Yosef is the son of God since, as brothers, they must have the same father. I bring before you witnesses that will testify that this man claims his brother was the son of God."
One after the other, various sycophants of Ananus came forward to recite their interpretations of things that Ya'akov had preached in the temple. When the last witness was heard, Ananus had Ya'akov brought before the council.
"Ya'akov bar Yosef, I ask you now, do you believe that your brother was the Son of God?"
Ya'akov stood in the judgment place of the chamber hall, his appearance, as always, was commanding. He always wore homespun and he was slightly stooped from long hours at prayer. He looked more aged than his 60 years and his hair, which he never cut, haloed his face with white.
"He was and is!"
"He condemns himself of the most iniquitous blasphemy," Ananus shouted.
"Stone him!" shouted various of the Sadducees. "Let us put an end to the lies and superstitions of the Nazarenes now,"
"Stop!" came a voice from the Pharisee side of the room. Simeon ben Gamaliel rose from the seat where his father Gamaliel had presided over the House of Hillel. "You cannot do this. This is illegal. My father had seen no blasphemy in these people and opposed the illegal trial of Y'shua the Nazarene then and I oppose this travesty now. There is no Roman prefect in Judea and you cannot condemn a man to death without authority. It is not blasphemy to claim messiahship and this man has never made that claim. He is a pious and righteous man known to all here for his good works."
"The Beth Hillel has always sympathized with these blasphemers," shouted Ananus. "The judgment has been made. Take Ya'akov to the pinnacle over the Kidron."
Many in the council looked dumb struck. They knew that Ananus and his cronies were trying to rush a judgment that was purely unfounded and illegal but were shouted down by other Sadducees. Simeon ben Gamaliel rushed from the room as Ya'akov was led roughly away. He ran to his residence nearby and quickly dispatched two servants with hastily written letters. One was instructed to go directly to the palace of Herod and give the letter to Agrippa. The other was sent on the long trip to the road that led up the coast in hopes of meeting the entourage of Albinus whom Gamaliel hoped was nearing Judea. Ya'akov was rushed to the parapet of the Temple that looked down over the Kidron Valley. Dozens of people had gathered below, some curious passersby, some summoned by Ananus. Ananus shouted for all to hear, "Ya'akov bar Yosef, tell the people below that your brother Y'shua was not the Messiah."
"Why do you question me about the Son of Man?" Ya'akov replied. I tell you He is sitting in heaven at the right hand of God, and he will come again on the clouds of heaven!"
Many in the crowd were visibly moved and shouted "Hosanna to the Son of David!" Ananus was livid with anger. "Throw him off!" he shouted to the guards who immediately grabbed Ya'akov and flung him from the parapet. Ya'akov landed on the slope that leads down into the valley. He was injured but the fall did not kill him. As he gasped for the breath that was knocked out of his lungs, Ananus shouted to his cronies below. "Stone him!" Five men took up stones and began to throw them. Ya'akov was struck in the head and body and the dull thuds of the stones on his body could be heard by all. Ya'akov kneeled in his pain and repeated the words of his brother, "Father forgive them for they do not know what they are doing." A Rechabite in the crowd shouted out, "Stop! What are you doing? The Righteous one is praying for you."
At this, one of Ananus' henchman, a fuller, approached Ya'akov and, using all of his considerable strength, brought his heavy fuller's club down on his head, killing him instantly. As soon as the breath had left his body, the crowd stood silent as if now realizing the gravity of this act. Ananus, feeling smug and victorious, turned and strutted back across the courtyard only to be overtaken by a scribe carrying a letter from Agrippa. The letter was short and angry. "Harass or harm the Righteous One in any way and the sun will rise on a new High Priest!"
Ananus paled. "The king does not have the authority to depose me," he barked at the cadre of Sadducees who were gathering. "Only Albinus can appoint a new priest and I will convince him of the necessity to dispose of Ya'akov bar Yosef." Ananus hurried to his cubicle near the council chambers and began dictating a letter to be rushed by messenger to Albinus who was somewhere on the road to Jerusalem from Alexandria. He didn't know that Albinus was closer than he thought and that the messenger that Simeon ben Gamaliel had dispatched had already encountered the new prefect and delivered the letter from Gamaliel. Albinus was not unaware of the situations in Jerusalem. He had prepared himself well. Albinus was furious that the authority of Rome had been usurped by this priest and sent the messenger back to Gamaliel with a reply. "I am 12 leagues from Jerusalem. Inform your High Priest that he no longer holds that office and that he had best not be in Jerusalem when I arrive."
Ananus was just finishing his letter when Simeon ben Gamaliel entered the room with two others from the Beth Hillel. "Ananaiah!" Gamaliel used the Hebrew form of the High Priests name showing his own distaste for the Hellenic tastes of many of the Sadducees. "You waste your time. Albinus has been informed of this murder. As of this moment.." the Rabban waved the letter from Albinus like a torch of justice, "you are no longer High Priest and you are warned to leave the city, and Judea before he arrives." In the morning, as Ananus was slipping away for the coast, a small group of Covenanters were burying Ya'akov in the Kidron valley within sight of the sanctuary. The sun peaked over the Mount of Olives and illuminated their pure white robes. Hundreds of people stood along the base of the temple platform and along the opposite side of the valley on the path along Gethsemane garden. Many of the older people remembered that day many years ago when Ya'akov's brother died on the skull hill. They remembered the darkness and thunder as he hung on the Roman cross. In contrast, this day seemed to burst in sunshine. The smell of honeysuckle mingled with the morning incense wafting from the temple. Men and women, priests and rabbis, nobles and am-haretz, all wept.
Traditional tomb of James the Righteous in the Kidron Valley
Thus the brother of Jesus was assassinated by a jealous and vain High Priest. It was a difficult time for the Nazarenes. Paul of Tarsus was imprisoned in Rome. The Apostle Yehudah Toma (Thomas), the "Twin," was killed in India, and the Apostle Simon Qannai (the Zealot) was crucified by Decianus in Britain. The assassination of James, however, would be made doubly bitter over the centuries by another "assassination." This would be a literary and historical assassination, again by priests, but in this case, ironically, by the gentile followers of his brother. This second assassination would result from the attitude of the later church "fathers" toward women and the veneration of Mary, Jesus mother. Women were sexual objects and the property of men. Where "men" were created in Gods image, women were a secondary creation for the sole purpose of providing men with companionship. Women were sexual objects and, as such, inherently evil unless controlled by a man in marriage.
In order for Mary to be venerated as an ideal woman of near divine status, it was necessary to desexualize her. Mary had to be a virgin, not only for the birth of Jesus but for the rest of her life. The doctrine of Marys "Perpetual Virginity" necessitated the historical and literary assassination of Jesus brothers and particularly his sisters.
Essentially, the position of this doctrine is that Mary was always a virgin throughout her life and had no progeny after Jesus. My position is that Mary did indeed have other children after the birth of Jesus. As we examine this doctrine we find that Orthodoxy relies heavily on the tired and inaccurate premise that "brother" in the New Testament, like its counter-part in the Old Testament really means "cousin" or "kinsman." Proponents of the "perpetual virgin" doctrine use examples from Genesis and Chronicles, Kings, Samuel, etc. to "prove" that the Hebrew usage of "brother" was ambiguous concerning the degree of blood relation, and to that degree is correct. However, the "brother" usage in the New Testament was written originally in GREEK, therefore using Old Testament Hebrew idiom to interpret the context of New Testament Greek is absurd.
The Old Testament passages that are referenced in this doctrine were written in Hebrew prior to the 6th century B.C E. and then translated to Greek for the Septuagint in the 4th century B.C.E. The New Testament was written in Greek as its ORIGINAL language. The difficulties of stiff and often inaccurate translational Greek from Hebrew is not found as much in New Testament writings. The Greek ADELPHOS is not contextually like the Hebrew ACH, meaning "brother" or "blood relation." ADELPHOS as used to describe Jesus' brothers, is very precise Greek and means "from the same womb." The Greek word for "cousin" ANEPSIOS and is used clearly in Colossians 4:10. Perpetual Virginity proponents confuse the Greek concept with the Hebrew concept by citing these Septuagint sources. In spite of this, "cousin" is clearly translated to ANEPSIOS in the Septuagint in Numbers 36:11 and Tobit 7:2. The Hebrew idiom is not related to the New Testament Koine usage of ADELPHOS for "brother" in the context of Jesus siblings. The use of ADELPHOS for those of "mutual bond," countrymen, or associates is not uncommon but is clearly suggested by context. This is not the case in both the canon and histories regarding Jesus' brothers. Additionally, there is not one case where ADELPHOS is used for "cousin" in the New Testament.
Perpetual Virginity advocates also attempt a very creative interpretation of the word "firstborn" in Matthew 1:25 and Luke 2:7 by using a clear non sequitur relationship between two opposing cultures. They attempt to explain "firstborn" in Israel to the concepts of Egyptian funerary inscriptions. This is logically, historically, culturally, and linguistically irrational. Israel was male line structured while Egypt was female line structured. More important, firstborn in the New Testament is an original Greek rendering PROTOTOKON (Matt. 1:25). There can be no creative interpretation of this Greek concept. If Mary would not have had other children it would not have been written UION PROTOTOKON "Firstborn son" but instead, UION MONOGENE "only born son." There is no confusion between these concepts in New Testament Greek that purportedly "carries over" from Hebrew. You will find MONOGENE effectively used in John 3:16. The Gospel writers had a clear choice between MONOGENE and PROTOTOKON and chose "firstborn."
In Acts 1:14 and John 7:5, Jesus' brothers (ADELPHOI) are distinguished from the other apostles, some of whom were cousins. Yehudah Taddei (Thaddeus), Ya'akov and Yohanon bar Zebediah (James, the "greater," and John), Matthai Levi and Ya'akov ben Alfai (Matthew and James the "Less") were all cousins of Jesus. Jesus brother Ya'akov (James) and his two cousins named Ya'akov (James the Greater and James the Less) were probably all named after their mutual grandfather Jacob, the father of Joseph. Naming a child after a grandfather was a common Jewish naming practice, particularly in priestly families.
Let's look at the context of some of the Biblical references concerning Jesus siblings. Matthew 12:46 couples brothers with mother (H)E METER SOU KAI (H)OI ADELPHOI SOU..."your mother and your brothers." It is obvious that Matthew is talking about a family! The most striking evidence that these were blood siblings comes from Jesus own words recorded in Matthew 12:50:
(Aramaic) Kol aNASH daYIN doBED sibyaNAH Dabi deWOOSHmaYA huyu ACHi, vHAti vAMi
"For whosoever shall do the will of my Father in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother."
There it is! In Jesus own words! In order to accept the "creative" exegesis of the "perpetual virgin" doctrine, we would have to translate that as "the same as my male cousin, female cousin, and mother." which not only dilutes the point Jesus was making but really makes no sense at all.
Mark 6:3 from Codex Sinaiticus
Mark was a Greek-speaking Jew who wrote his Gospel (the first) in Greek. Mark, in his clear and concise, albeit colloquial Greek says:
"Is this not the carpenter, the son of Mary, and brother of Jacob (James), Jose (Joseph), and Judah (Jude) and Simon? And are not his sisters here with us?"
This Markan quote tells us that Jesus had at least two sisters. The sisters are not named in the Gospel accounts. Almost certainly their names were known to early historians like Hegesippus whose work seemed to contain a lot of family information. Other than some citations by Eusebius, Hegesippus work was conveniently "lost" by the later Church "fathers" who formulated much of the doctrine of gentile Christianity. Jesus brothers names are known to us in spite of the deliberate removal from history of anything about their lives and works. At least two sisters are admitted by the use of the plural. There easily could have been a third sister. This third sister of Jesus haunts me as the ultimate sacrifice to a silly doctrinal invention by a male-dominated Church. I am therefore going to give her a name. I will call her SARAH!
"How shall this be, seeing I know not a man?" (Lk 1:34) is also interpreted as a vow of life-long virginity. All Mary is quoted as saying is that she was, according to Jewish custom and requirement, virgin until her marriage.
The "ever virgin" advocates also suggest that the reference about the 12 year old Jesus at the temple (Luke 2:41-51) is evidence that Jesus was the only son because he was the only son there! This is a very lame position to those familiar with the Jewish customs and practices of the time. As discussed above, Y'shua had reached the age of making vows and the age of discrimination. He was the only son who was twelve years old. Ya'akov (James) would probably have been about ten years old and the other boys even younger. They wouldn't have taking the vows that year.
Another "evidence" of the perpetual virginity doctrine concerns Mark 6:3 and the phrase "The son of Mary" instead of "A son of Mary" and that's supposed to prove Jesus was the only son? How absurd! The Greek `O.. (H)O has many textual usages as a Greek article, one of which is its common utility for a well known personage....Jesus was well known when Mark was written, you know! I have often been referred to as the son of Mr. or Mrs. Kilmon, whether or not I have siblings, which I do.
The "evidence" supposedly disproving something the Gospels spell out in clear unambiguous language represents the most slanted, hermeneutically creative, illogical presentation I have ever seen. The scriptural and extrascriptural accounts of Jesus' real, actual blood brothers and SISTERS, born also of Mary, is clear and precise and not subject to fanciful linguistic manipulation. The language in this regard is much more precise and abundant that that which was used to establish communion and the papacy.
Starting with Clement, the bishop of Alexandria (150 - 215 CE), who confirms in Outlines, Bk. VI, "Peter, James (bar Zebedee) and John, after the ascension of the Saviour, did not claim pre-eminence because the Saviour had especially honored them, but chose James the Righteous as Bishop of Jerusalem."
.Eusebius (263 - 339 CE), Historia Ecclesia ii,23.4:
".....turned their attention to James, the Lord's brother, who had been elected by the apostles to the episcopal throne at Jerusalem."
<JK> Hmmmm! That's funny, Eusebius seems to agree with Clement.
Hegesippus (c. 100 - 160 CE), Bk 5:
"Control of the Church passed to the Apostles, together with the Lord's brother James...."
<JK> Now Hegesippus was a first generation member of the Jerusalem Assembly of Jesus disciples and family. He knew the folks.....how could he have gotten so confused??
Origen (185 - 254 CE), quoting early Josephus:
"These things happened to the Jews in requital for James the Righteous, who was a brother of Jesus, known as Christ."
Josephus (37 - c. 100 CE), Antiquities xx:
"So he assembled a counsel of judges and brought before it James, the brother of Jesus, known as Christ."
"When James the Righteous had suffered martyrdom like the Lord and for the same reason, Symeon, the son of his Uncle Clopas, was appointed bishop. He being a cousin of the Lord."
"A group of heretics accused the descendants of Jude...the brother, humanly speaking, of the Savior...on the ground that they were of David's line and related to Christ himself."
<JK> The brother, HUMANLY SPEAKING???? Now what do you suppose he meant by that??
"...and these still survived of the Lord's family, the grandsons of Jude, who was said to be His brother, humanly speaking."
Acts 1:14 "These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women and Mary the mother (MHTHR) of Jesus and with his brothers (ADELFOI)."
<JK> The Greek usage (in parentheses) that LUKE so"incorrectly" used, just to confuse all of us, is mine.
1 COR 9:5 "Have we not power to lead about a sister, a wife, as well as other apostles, and as the Brothers of the Lord? (ADELFOI TOU KYRIOU).
<JK> Ahhh! So poor old Paul falls under this delusion too, huh?
GAL 1:19 "But other of the Apostles saw I none, save James the Lord's brother." (IAKOBWN TON ADELFON TOU KYRIOU)
<JK> No, No Paul! Your confused again. That means, "fellow-villager" er...no..."cousin"....uh..."kinsmen" Yeah, that's it!
MATT. 13:55 "Is not this the carpenter's son? Is not his mother called Mary? And His brothers (`OI ADELFOI AUTOU) James and Jose and Simon, and Judas?"
<JK> Matthew used Mark but saw fit to eliminate the sisters.
Mark 6:3: "Is this not 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?
<JK> Well, at least in this account Jesus is himself the "fellow-villager" or "cousin" or "kinsmen." Its a shame that none of these folks could get things straight. Let's look at the next verse after Mark 6:3:
Mark 6:4: "But Jesus said unto them, a prophet is not without honor, but in his own country, and among his own kin, and In his own house.
<JK> Now who do you suppose Jesus is talking about "in his own house" who don't believe him? If your brother came to you tomorrow and said he was the Messiah...what would your reaction be?
John 7:2 His brothers (`OI ADELFOI AUTOU) therefore said unto him, depart hence, and go to Judea, that thy disciples also may see the works that thou doest.
<JK> OH NO! Not you too, John!
.Matthew 1:25 "And he Knew her not (we all know what that means) *UNTIL* (EOS OU) she brought forth her son, the firstborn (PRWTOTOKON)..."
<JK> Boy, the perpetual virgin folks REALLY had to do a dance around this one.
Edgar J. Goodspeed, unequivocally one of the greatest modern Bible scholars, writes:
"It is noteworthy that none of Jesus' brothers was included, but the reason is very clear; they did not look upon his great ideas and lofty aims with sympathy and understanding, indeed, they made determined efforts to deter Him from His work and even came with his mother from Nazareth to Capernaum, to Peter's house, to persuade him to give it up."
<JK> Goodspeed refers, of course, to the incident portrayed in Mark 3:21; 31-35.
Mark 3:21 "And having heard of it, those belonging to him (OI PARAUTOU) ...Greek idiom for "family") went out to lay hands on him, for they said he was beside himself (idiom for "one brick short of a load").
Mark 3:31-35: There came then His brothers and His mother (OI ADELFOI KAI H MHTHR AUTOU) and standing without, sent unto him, calling him, and the multitude sat about him and they said to him, behold, thy mother and thy brothers (H MHTHR SOU KAI OI ADELFOI SOU) without seek for thee.
William Barclay in "The Mind of Jesus" writes"
"So far from welcoming his message, the people of Nazareth resented it. Did they not know his parents? Were his brothers and sisters not still living in town?
Robert Payne in "The Christian Centuries" writes:
"...of the other apostles he (Paul) saw only James, the brother of Jesus. By reason of his blood relationship with Jesus, James appears to have assumed the leadership of the infant church.
Why was it necessary to historically assassinate Jesus siblings?
A wide overview of catholic dogma makes it apparent that this view is essential for a number of observances, not the least of which includes a dominant, celibate male priesthood. Mary's perpetual consecrated virginity is held as an example of the virtue of serving the Church sexless. The debate within orthodox Christianity concerns whether the Matthean and Lukan accounts of virgin birth may be theologoumenon (Theres my favorite word again).
There is no scriptural, historical, theological or doctrinal necessity for the life-long virginity of Mary in the practice of Christianity other than in the biases and prejudices of 3rd and 4th century "Church Fathers." There is overwhelming evidence that Y'shua, Ya'akov, Yosef, Yehuda and Simon and at least two sisters (and perhaps the unmentioned third) were all children of Miriam and Yosef ben Ya'akov ha Notzri and that father Yosef died before Jesus ministry began leaving those mentioned in scripture as the surviving Nazarene family. In fact, good interpretive evidence for something very dramatic happening after Jesus crucifixion lies in the very fact that Jesus brothers didn't believe who He was (would your brothers?) until the resurrection (which would convince anyone!). Suddenly, the oldest surviving sibling is the head of the Jerusalem Assembly of Jesus Movement Jews. It is also very probable that Jesus' brothers were with him all along and that Jesus himself chose his brother James to succeed him as leader of his followers. This is suggested by Logion 12 of the Gospel of Thomas.
The disciples said to Jesus, "We know that you will depart from us. Who is to be our leader?" Jesus said to them, "Wherever you are, you are to go to James the Righteous, for whose sake heaven and eart came into being."
The beginnings of "Orthodox Christianity" lie in the schism between the Jesus Jews of the Jerusalem assembly (led by James and Jesus family and disciples) and gentile Christianity (began by Paul and formulated by Greeks and Romans culturally, geographically, and spiritually distant from Jesus of Nazareth). The ecclesiastical accounts of the primitive Jewish "Church" can be found in the writings of Eusebius and Epiphanius which themselves can be traced to the "Hypomnemata" of Hegesippus. Hegesippus apparently belonged to the Jerusalem Assembly, calling it "the Ekklesia" and was able to impart (according to Eusebius) a great deal of information not contained in the NT. In these accounts we learn that James (Y`shua's brother) was the first overseer ("bishop") of the Assembly ("Church") and following his death Simeon, the son of Alfai/Clopas (Joseph's brother and Jesus' uncle) was installed as overseer. This same information also came to Eusebius from another source. Since Hegesippus learned this from direct contact with the apostolic Jewish Christians and the yet living relatives of Y`shua, the historically careful Eusebius trusted the information. The choice of relatives of Jesus known as the DESPOSYNOI, "The Sons of the House," is in keeping with Jewish family feelings and practices and messianic principal. The Jewish followers of Jesus were not only misunderstood but actually slandered by Greek and Roman gentile Christians who, due to cultural differences, did not understand Jesus messiahship within the Jewish context. It would have been expected that Jesus closest male kinsmen would be nearest the "Throne" of the coming messiah. It is within this context that the discourse between Jesus and the Zebedee boys takes place (Mark 10:35). Salome, the mother of the sons of Zebedee (James and John) was Mary's sister (John 19:25), therefore Jesus cousins, James and John had expectations of dynastic privilege. The monarchical episcopate of James as Jesus brother probably explains the departure of Peter. This dynastic succession of episcopacy is also suggested by Eusebius account of the descendants of Jude (another of Jesus' siblings) after their return from trial by Domitian as they stood "at the head of every Church."
There is ample evidence for a monarchical episcopate in Jerusalem on the "Throne of James" regarded as the equivalent of the "Throne of David," occupied by Jesus and held in trust by his blood successors for his imminent return. The episcopal list of Jesus' relatives as "bishops" of the Jerusalem Assembly is preserved by Eusebius and Epiphanius and begins with James (brother) and continues with Simeon (cousin), Jude (brother), Zacchaeus, Tobias, Benjamin, John, Matthias, Philip, Senecas, Justus, Levi, Ephres, Joseph (probably brother), Judas.
A variety of sources make it clear that James was Jesus' brother and that he was the first true leader of the Church. As mentioned above, the Gospel of Thomas, in Logion 12, has Jesus' himself naming James as the leader to succeed him. Although non-canonical, the G of T derives from the very same source material as the Gospels.
The perpetual virginity advocates, without benefit of scriptural or extrascriptural sources, claims that Jesus' brothers were really sons of Joseph by a previous marriage (your not supposed to be concerned that they are younger than Jesus).
Could the theological disparity between the Jewishness of James and Roman/Hellenic gentile Christianity also contribute to the "assassination" of Jesus' brothers and sisters in Ecclesiastical history? The Epistle of James, so similar to Jesus' own teachings, stresses communal living and works as opposed to Paul's "faith only." (James 2:14-17).
The early years of Jesus, as discussed above, are mentioned only once in scripture and that's the incident at the temple when he was 12. One of the "strong and convincing" arguments of the "orthodoxy" for the perpetual virginity doctrine is that since Jesus brothers and sisters are not mentioned (in a blurb where we're lucky even Jesus is mentioned) they must not have existed. This position is that Jesus' brothers and sisters couldn't exist because they weren't mentioned as children....forgetting, I suppose, that Jesus himself is mentioned only ONCE during this period.
Another common orthodox premise eliminates Jesus' brothers because we don't hear about Joseph after the temple incident. This is hardly supportive since we don't hear about Jesus after the temple incident either...for almost 20 years! Joseph apparently died before Jesus' ministry. Joseph could easily have died in 25 or 26CE which could have been the event that precipitated the ministry. That would make Joseph and Mary together for 32 years. Plenty of time to have 7 children..or 8 counting the lost third sister.
One need not be a Biblical scholar to observe that the doctrine of Mary's "perpetual virginity" is opposed in scripture, Church histories, and extracanonical sources by those who were there. It would seem, therefore, judging from the total lack of weight to the perpetual virginity arguments, that Jesus did indeed have brothers and sisters. The facts support that the other children of Joseph and Mary are described without qualification in the gospels, church and Jewish histories and that central orthodox doctrines are threatened by an episcopal succession other than Peter's...a Jewish Christianity with a non-celibate episcopacy.
Rome & Judea prior to Jesus' public ministry