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Phyllis Dechant wrote:

Hi, guys —

What is your position on this question.

  • Did Jesus have four brothers, and did He have sisters?

Phyllis

  { Did Jesus have four brothers and did He have sisters? }

Bob replied:

Phyllis,

No. Mary had no other children, she remained a virgin perpetually.

The scriptural reference to Jesus' brothers has to do with His extended family. The word for brother and cousin is the same; there is no distinction. You can search our database on this topic for extensive information.

Also, consider these points:

  1. Jesus gave his Mother to the beloved disciple (John) at the Cross. If he had immediate family that wouldn't work.
  2. If Jesus had brothers and sisters, He would likely have had nieces and nephews, and subsequent generations — there have never been any claims to legitimate descendancy from Jesus' family in the Early Church or ever.
  3. Finally, there is a consistent tradition which goes back to the Early Church, and just because it is tradition doesn't mean it is not historically accurate. It is. The Church has always held Mary to be a perpetual virgin, neither having other children or having sexual relations. Though she was married, she had given herself to the Lord in this way prior to her marriage (which was ordained by God . . . though Joseph's physical fatherhood was not required).

Remember how Jesus said some make themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom. (Matthew 19:12)

  • Are there any persons more likely to be so than the one who bore the Savior?

Consider how when the angel told Mary that she would be the mother of the Savior, and how she asked,

How can this be, for I know not man? (Luke 1:34)

That question would be absolutely idiotic for a married or engaged person, as if they have no idea of sexual relations and its consequences. Mary would have to be completely ignorant of sex, because she was already betrothed to Joseph, with whom relations would be natural and the subsequent pregnancy.

  • How else can you explain her question with any plausibility?

Protestants have denigrated the role and virginity of Mary because they think Catholics are trying to make her a demi-God.

To the contrary, we are acknowledging the work of God, her Creator and ours, who did something marvelous. She is the new Eve, but unlike Eve who messed it up, she was faithful, and bore us the Savior. God's handmaiden. Give Him the glory for what He did in Mary because all generations do in the Catholic Church.

There is a lot more, so search our database. Also, search for for Mary and the Ark of the Covenant.

Peace,

Bob Kirby

Eric replied:

Phyllis,

It is not our position, but a dogmatic and infallible teaching of the Catholic Church that Mary had no other children but Jesus.

If you read Scripture carefully, at least some of these were children of someone else (e.g., compare Mark 15:40, Matthew 27:56 with Mark 6:3).

There are two theories; one is that these siblings were step-brothers of Jesus and that Joseph was a widower (which would explain why he is absent from the scene when Jesus starts his ministry); the other is that they were cousins of some sort.

Aramaic, which the Apostles would have spoken as a native language, did not have a term for step-brothers or cousins so they were accustomed to referring to close relatives as brothers. We can see this in Genesis 14:14; Abram (Abraham) and Lot are referred to as brothers, when in fact they are uncle and nephew. We can also see this looseness in the genealogies of Jesus and the term Son of David — Jesus's father is not named David, but rather in the Jewish conception, any male ancestor is a father and any male descendant is a son so, likewise, any close kinsman is a brother.

Mary was consecrated as the Ark of the New Covenant to carry Jesus in her womb. Once something is consecrated for God, it cannot be used for common purposes. So it would not be fitting for Mary to have other children. Besides, her comment to the angel:

How can this be because I do not know man? (Luke 1:34)

suggests an intent to remain a virgin on her part — since she was already legally married to Joseph, the question makes no sense if she intended to live a normal married life.

For more information, see:

Eric

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