Sunday, April 1, 2012

The Brothers and Sisters of Jesus

Holy Week is prime time for TV shows purporting to offer historical and unbiased documentaries on the life of Jesus. Such is, “Jesus the Man” which is playing on the Discovery Channel. Unfortunately, like most of their programming there is a heavy bias against orthodox Christian teaching.

It was only about three minutes into the program when this claim was made - there is indisputable Biblical and archaeological evidence that Jesus had brothers and sisters and that they were not just half-brothers or half-sisters but full siblings.

The supposed archaeological evidence was never offered, but the supposed Biblical evidence comes from this passage from Mark 6:3: “Is this not the carpenter, the son of Mary, a brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? Are not his sisters our neighbors here?”

This passage seems straightforward enough. These people are clearly identified as the brothers and sisters of Jesus. However, does that mean that they are his literally his brothers and sisters, that is, that they could also be identified as the sons and daughters of both Mary and Joseph? Hardly. In fact, in the case of James and Joses, there is Biblical evidence that they are not the sons of Mary.

In Mark’s account of the crucifixion (Mark 16:40) we read: “There were also women present looking on from a distance. Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James the younger and Joses, and Salome.” This “Mary the mother of James the younger and Joses” is obviously a different woman than Mary, the mother of Jesus, otherwise Mark would have identified her as such. Also, in John’s account of the crucifixion (John 19: 25), another Mary is mentioned who is identified as the sister of Mary, the mother of Jesus. Though she is not explicitly called the mother of James and Joses, it is reasonable to believe she is the same woman as she is mentioned in both accounts.

So if James and Joses have a different mother than Mary, they cannot be the literal brothers of Jesus. So to identify them as such clearly contradicts the Biblical evidence. Therefore it is pure speculation - not an objective reading of the text - to claim that any of those named as brothers or sisters of Jesus are full siblings as we understand it today.

Furthermore, the Biblical evidence states that Jesus is the Son of God, not the biological son of Joseph. So unless these other brothers and sisters were virginally conceived as Jesus was by the Holy Spirit, then they could not be his full brothers. They could at best be his half-brothers through Mary.

However, nowhere in Scripture is anyone except Jesus identified as the son of Mary.

We have to be careful. Though these channels may claim to be offering unbiased, historical data, they are about as reliable as “The National Enquirer”. Their programs may be entertaining but they are hardly informative and certainly not objective.

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