Did Jesus Have Brothers and Sisters

By: Rev. Sam Harris; ©1999
Matthew 13:55-56 mentions Jesus “brothers and sisters.” Did He have biological siblings, or is this referring to “cousins,” or “half-brothers,” or “spiritual siblings”? Rev. Harris explains the various theories, and give a Scriptural response.

Did Jesus Have Brothers and Sisters?


In Matthew 13:55 & 56, isn’t this talking about Jesus’ brothers and sisters— the children of Mary and Joseph after Jesus was born? The reason I am asking is that I have some Catholic friends that say Joseph and Mary never had any other children. Can you give me more information of this question and what is found in Scripture?


The Roman Catholic Church does affirm the perpetual virginity of Mary, the mother of Jesus, so says my Associate Pastor, a former Catholic himself. This matter has been debated since the early Christian centuries. According to The Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible (Abingdon Press), there are three different views:

  1. The Helvidian view which holds that these children (Matt. 13: 55 & 56; Mark 6:3) were Jesus’ blood brothers and sisters
  2. The Epiphanian view that they were the children of Joseph by a previous marriage
  3. The Hieronymian view that they were the children of Mary, the wife of Alphaeus, the Virgin Mary’s sister, and thus Jesus’ cousins.

Each of the above views had a great deal of support with the last view being favored by the Roman Catholics.

Both Matthew and Luke, by implication, support the first view with the following verses—translated out of the Greek:

Matthew 1:25: “and (Joseph) knew not her until she bore a son. . .” This does affirm that she was a virgin at the time of Jesus’ birth, and with the word “until”, seems to imply that Joseph did “know” her after that—to use King James language! Otherwise, why would Matthew use such language which was inspired by the Holy Spirit?

In Luke 2:7, Luke, again inspired by the Holy Spirit, writes “she gave birth to her first born son.” Once again, the language, “first born”, implies that there were additional chil­dren in Mr. & Mrs. Joseph’s family.

The Helvidian view is supported by many ancient historians, such as Tertullian, and by a great number of modern scholars.

Other passages which deal with Jesus relationship to his family include John 7:5where it is stated that “not even His brothers were believers in Him.” (cf. Mark 3:21, 31-35).

One final note: In Matthew 13:55, the Greek word for “brother” is “adelphos.” It is a masculine noun denoting unity, “delphus” a womb. “Adelphos” denoted a fellowship of life based on identity of origin—family. In verse 56, sister is “adelphe,” which is the feminine form from the same root.

The evidence certainly seems to imply that Jesus did have brothers and sisters as noted in the Scriptures.

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