Baby Jesus with his parents Joseph and Mary

The New Testament doesn't say much about the early life of Jesus. Twelve-year-old Jesus grows into a thirty year old man and meets his childhood friend John the Baptist by the river Jordan where the Holy Spirit, which always proceeds the Christ, can enter into him.

According to the Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke, Jesus had at least four brothers who survived into the time when he was an adult. In Mark's Gospel, when Jesus goes to Nazareth to speak in the Synagogue the people in the crowd say to him, "Isn't this Mary's son and the brother of James, Joseph, Judas and Simon?". They also say, "Are not his sisters here with us?" So there are at least two sisters and possibly more. [Source: August 2, 2011, BBC |::|]

Jesus's brother James was regularly mentioned by Paul and sometimes mentioned by other early Christian writers. According to the BBC: "James seems to have had a very important role in running the church from very early on in Jerusalem but it's a role that's become forgotten in later Christian tradition. Later Christian traditions have redefined these brothers and sisters, either as cousins or as Joseph's children by an earlier marriage, in order to preserve the idea of Mary's perpetual virginity. |::|

Websites and Resources: Christianity Britannica on Christianity ; Religious Tolerance ; History of Christianity ; BBC on Christianity ;Wikipedia article on Christianity Wikipedia ; Early Christian Writing ; Internet Ancient History Sourcebook: Christian Origins ; Christian Answers ; Christian Classics Ethereal Library ; Early Christian Art ; Early Christian Images ; Early Christian and Byzantine Images ; Jesus and the Historical Jesus ; Britannica on Jesus Jesus-Christ ; Historical Jesus Theories ; Wikipedia article on Historical Jesus Wikipedia ; Jesus Seminar Forum ; Life and Ministry of Jesus Christ ; Jesus Central ; Catholic Encyclopedia: Jesus Christ ; Bible and Biblical History: Bible Gateway and the New International Version (NIV) of The Bible ; King James Version of the Bible ; Bible History Online ; Biblical Archaeology Society ; Internet Jewish History Sourcebook ; Complete Works of Josephus at Christian Classics Ethereal Library (CCEL)

Mary and Joseph, Jesus’s Parents

Jesus's parents, Mary and Joseph were Jews from Nazareth. Matthew and Luke refer to Jesus as a descendant of David, who was also born in Bethlehem. Jesus’s father Joseph was a carpenter. According the Arabic Gospel of the Infancy Joseph was not known for being a particularly skilled carpenter.

Jesus’s mother Mary was teenager believed to be around 14 when Jesus was born. It was not unusual for Jewish girls like Mary to get married at an early age. There are few mentions of Mary in the Bible. They include: 1) when Mary is told by an angel that she will conceive the son of God even though she was a virgin (Luke 1:26-38); 2) The manger scene when she gives birth to Jesus (Luke 2:15-19). 3) when she and Jesus’s brother appear to Jesus while he is speaking to a crowd (Matthew 12:46-50); 4) when she urges Jesus to perform his first miracle (turning water into wine) (John 2:1-7); and 5) her appearance at the crucifixion (John 19:25-27).

Many Protestants believe that after Jesus was born Mary no longer remained a virgin and had children with Joseph the normal way. They were all born after Jesus, making the virgin birth more plausible. Catholics and Orthodox Christians believe that Mary was virgin her entire life.

See God, Satan and Mary

Jesus’s Brothers and Sisters

Saint James the Less, Jesus's brother?

The religious scholar John Meier believes that Jesus had four brothers---James, Joseph, Simon and Jude---and at least two sisters—Salome and Mary---based on details from the Gospels of Mark and Matthew and the writings of Paul. The Apostle James is sometimes referred as the "Lord's brother." It is not exactly clear whether this title was meant literally or figuratively. The same is true with the other “brothers” and “sisters.”

Jude and Joseph are not explicitly stated in the canon. Jesus’s sisters are referred to in Mark 6.3 and Matthew 13.56, but their names---Assia and Lydia--- are given only in the apocryphal gospels.

The earliest tradition from the A.D. 2nd century states the brothers and sisters of Jesus were children of Joseph from a previous marriage. According to the great 4th-century biblical scholar St. Jerome the siblings were cousins of Jesus by Joseph’s brother Clopas and his wife Mary. Implied in this is that Mary remained a virgin all of her life.

Reference in the Gospels seem to indicate that most of Jesus’s family, with the exception of Mary and James, were not pleased with Jesus’s choice of professions. . The Gospel of John states: “His brothers did not believe him.” In Mark relatives though that Jesus was “out of his mind.”

Catholic Finding Out About Jesus’s Brothers and Sisters

Reza Aslan wrote in the Washington Post: “Despite the Catholic doctrine of His mother Mary’s perpetual virginity, we can be certain that the historical Jesus came from a large family with at least four brothers who are named in the Gospels — James, Joseph, Simon and Judas — and an unknown number of sisters. That Jesus had brothers and sisters is attested to repeatedly by the Gospels and the letters of Paul. Even the 1st-century Jewish historian Josephus refers to Jesus’s brother James, who would become the most important leader of the early Christian church after Jesus’s death. “Some Catholic theologians have argued that the Greek word the Gospels use to describe Jesus’s brothers — “adelphos” — could also mean “cousins” or “step-brothers,” and that these could be Joseph’s children from a previous marriage. While that may be true, nowhere in the New Testament is “adelphos” used to mean anything other than “brother.” So there is no rational argument for viewing Jesus as an only child.” [Source: Reza Aslan, Washington Post, September 26, 2013]

Inmaculada Concepcion
James Martin wrote in the Washington Post: “Catholics, myself included, believe that Mary’s pregnancy came about miraculously — what we call the “virgin birth.” (Frankly, this has always been easy for me to accept: If God can create the universe from nothing, then a virgin birth seems relatively simple by comparison.) Catholics also believe that Mary remained a virgin her entire life, though many Protestants do not. [Source: James Martin, Washington Post, December 16, 2011, Martin is a Jesuit priest, editor at large of America and author of "Seven Last Words." |+|]

“So when Catholics stumble upon Gospel passages that speak of Jesus’s brothers and sisters, they are often confused. In the Gospel of Luke, someone tells Jesus: “Your mother and brothers are standing outside, wanting to see you.” In Mark’s Gospel, people from Nazareth exclaim: “Is not this the carpenter’s son? .?.?. Are not his brothers James and Joseph and Simon and Judas? And are not all his sisters with us?” Even Saint Paul called James “the Lord’s brother.” |+|

“Such passages are sometimes explained away by saying that these are Jesus’s friends, relatives, half-brothers or, most often, cousins. But there is a perfectly good word for “cousins” in Greek, which Mark and Luke could have used instead of “adelphoi,” meaning “brothers.” Many Catholic scholars maintain that Jesus indeed had brothers and sisters — perhaps through an earlier marriage of Joseph. So a virgin birth, but (step-) brothers and sisters.” |+|

Jesus’s Brother James and His Tomb

Although initially skeptical of Jesus’s divinity James became a leader in the early Christian movement in the mid 1st century after the departure of the Apostle Peter to Rome. Thought to be the author of the “Epistle of James,” James went against Paul by arguing that the Torah should be upheld. The historian Josephus recorded that James was stoned to death in A.D. 62 at the instigation of the Jewish high priest Ananus.

James Ossuary

In the early 2000s a 20-inch-long ossuary (a box for holding bones) was found in Israel and described as a possible ossuary of Jesus’s brother James. Heralded as the earliest known reference to Jesus outside the Bible, it was dated at A.D. 63 and was etched with an inscription in Aramaic, reading “James, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus.”

The ossuary was heralded as the first direct evidence of the existence of Jesus. Scholars who made the discovery said that Jesus, Joseph and James were all common names but it was unlikely they would all appear together in the same inscription, plus it was unusual to have a reference to an individual’s brother, meaning that the brother must have been someone important.

The ossuary was valued at $2 million by its owner. More than 100,000 people came to see it when it was displayed at a Canada museum and all the American television stations, newspapers and magazine reported the discover with great fanfare. There are also some evidence that this ossuary was found in same Talpiot tomb with others: the patina, or mineral crust found on the ossuaries, matched.

Fraud and the Tomb of Jesus’s Brother James

> The ossuary claimed to belong to Jesus’s brother James was later declared a forgery by the Israel Antiquities Authority. After a careful examination of the box, a group of scholars revealed that the inscriptions were forgeries (they were made in at least two different handwritings and the wording was strange) and there were chemical and geophysical inconsistencies with the patina. The ossuary likely did date back to the time of Jesus and was tampered with after it was found by looters in an undisclosed location.

In December 2004, four antiquities dealers, collectors and dealers were indicted on charges of fraud and forgery in connection with the forged treasures such as the James’ ossuary, the ivory pomegranate from Solomon’s temple and the Yoash stone (Jehoash Tablet), a stone tablet with inscription on running the First Temple of Jerusalem . According to the indictment the men charged took genuine artifacts and added inscriptions and painted the items with a special coating designed duplicate the patina found on very old objects and falsely increase their importance and value.

20120507-Marriage Andrea_della_Robbia-Malmo.jpg
Marriage of Mary and Joseph
by Andrea della Robbia-Malmo
The fraud was so well executed it fooled many experts and earned the forgers millions of dollars. Many of the object the group forged are believed to be in the collections of private collectors and still regarded as genuine. Among those charged were Israeli collector Oded Golan and Robert Deutsch, an inscriptions expert ay Haifa University.

Book: Unholy Business, A True Tale of Faith, Greed and Forgery in the Holy Land by Nina Burleigh (Smithsonian/ Collins, 2008); Book: The Brother of Jesus by H. Shanks and B. Witherington III

Matthew and Luke Describe Two Jesus Children?

Kristina Kaine wrote in the Huffington Post: “It is no accident that the genealogies in St Matthew and St Luke’s Gospel are different. One traces the ancestry of a highly developed human being living on this earth. The other traces the spiritual legacy of a pure human spirit incarnating for the first time on the earth. Wisdom in one, innocence in the other. The question we can ask is this. Could Christ, a mighty Cosmic Being beyond our understanding, who had never experienced life in a physical body on this earth, just be born through a mother as we all are? That would be like saying the sun could enter this earth and shine from within it. [Source: Kristina Kaine, Huffington Post, April 4, 2016 *-*]

“By looking closely at the two genealogies, it is not difficult to see that two different Jesus children were born to two different Marys with two different fathers called Joseph. The Matthew Jesus descends from the Solomon line of the House of David. The Luke Jesus descends from the Nathan line of the House of David. If we look into our own genealogy we know that we are quite different from our cousins whose parents were siblings of our great grandparents - then multiply that for all the generations mentioned in the Matthew and Luke Gospels. *-*

“The Matthew Jesus child was the product of 42 preceding generations from Abraham to Joseph. Kings visited him when he was born, whereas shepherds visited the Luke child. The Luke Jesus’ genealogy reaches back to Adam when human beings first left their spiritual domain and took on flesh - as told in the story in the Garden of Eden. These details are very important yet often skipped over. *-*

“I have written about this in detail in my book Who is Jesus : What is Christ, Vol 1. Why mainstream theologians do not explore this information is a mystery. Others have written about it and some artists have painted the two Jesus children. In this painting Raphael has painted them with John the Baptist and the Luke Jesus’ mother. Not only that but also these children were born at different times. The Matthew Jesus was older, born at the time when Herod ordered all male children to be killed. *-*

“One notable fact is that Herod ordered all male children aged two and under to be killed, which led to the Matthew Jesus being taken to Egypt, there is no mention of the child described by Luke going to Egypt. Even John the Baptist, who Luke tells us is 6 months older than the Luke Jesus, seems to have escaped Herod’s horrendous order, supporting the fact that these children were born at different times and in different places.”*-*

“To make sense of this story we also need to keep in mind that Jesus and Christ are different beings. Matthew states it clearly when we read the original Greek. Immediately after the genealogy he writes: “Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way.” In the original Greek it says, tou de iesou christou he gennesis outos ne which more accurately translates as ‘of the yet anointed Jesus the origin thus was’. Christ comes from christos, a Greek word meaning ‘anointed.’ Matthew is saying Jesus is yet [to be] anointed, Christen-ed, which points to the future baptism. *-*

“Before that can happen, these two Jesus children will become one. We read about this event in Luke when his parents lost track of him. They found him three days later and he was a changed person. ‘After three days they found him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions; and all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers.’ — Luke 2: 46 *-*

“If we put ourselves in Joseph and Mary’s shoes as they entered the temple and found their unearthly, innocent son - autistic in today’s terms - in deep dialogue with the teachers in the temple, we can experience their amazement. These teachers had devoted their whole lives to understanding the sacred texts and here was a twelve year old boy matching their understanding! What was incredible to the parents was perhaps understandable to the teachers who knew what was about to take place when they found the two Jesus boys together in the temple.” *-*

Book: “Who is Jesus: What is Christ Vol 1" by Kristina Kaine

Image Sources: Wikimedia, Commons

Text Sources: Internet Ancient History Sourcebook: Christian Origins “World Religions” edited by Geoffrey Parrinder (Facts on File Publications, New York); “ Encyclopedia of the World’s Religions” edited by R.C. Zaehner (Barnes & Noble Books, 1959); King James Version of the Bible,; New International Version (NIV) of The Bible,; “Egeria's Description of the Liturgical Year in Jerusalem” ; Complete Works of Josephus at Christian Classics Ethereal Library (CCEL), translated by William Whiston, , Metropolitan Museum of Art, Frontline, PBS, “Encyclopedia of the World Cultures” edited by David Levinson (G.K. Hall & Company, New York, 1994); National Geographic, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Smithsonian magazine, Times of London, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, AFP, Lonely Planet Guides, Compton’s Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.

Last updated September 2018

This site contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always been authorized by the copyright owner. Such material is made available in an effort to advance understanding of country or topic discussed in the article. This constitutes 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner. If you are the copyright owner and would like this content removed from, please contact me.