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Brethren of the Lord


International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)

On the other hand, the arguments against regarding them as sons of Mary and Joseph are not formidable. When it is urged that their attempts to interfere with Jesus indicate a superiority which, according to Jewish custom, is inconsistent with the position of younger brothers, it may be answered that those who pursue an unjustifiable course are not models of consistency. When an argument is sought from the fact that Jesus on the cross commended His mother to John, the implication is immediate that she had no sons of her own to whom to turn in her grief and desolation; the answer need not be restricted to the consideration that unknown domestic circumstances may explain the omission of her sons. A more patent explanation is that as they did not understand their brother, they could not understand their mother, whose whole life and interests were bound up in her firstborn. But, on the other hand, no one of the disciples understood Jesus and appreciated His work and treasured up His words as did John. A bond of fellowship had thus been established between John and Mary that was closer than her nearer blood relationship with her own sons, who, up to this time, had regarded the course of Jesus with disapproval, and had no sympathy with His mission. In the home of John she would find consolation for her loss, as the memories of the wonderful life of her son would be recalled, and she would converse with him who had rested on the bosom of Jesus and whom Jesus loved. Even with the conversion of these brethren within a few days into faithful confessors, before the view of Jesus, provision was made for her deeper spiritual communion with her risen and ascended Son through the testimony of Jesus which John treasured in his deeply contemplative spirit. There was much that was alike in the characters of Mary and John. This may have had its ground in relationship, as many regard Salome his mother, the sister of the mother of Jesus mentioned in Joh 19:25.

See also JAMES; JUDE.

For fuller discussions, see the extensive arguments of Eadie and Lightfoot, in their commentaries on Gal, the former in favor of the Helvidian, and the latter, with his exhaustive scholarship, of the Epiphanian views; also, on the side of the former, Mayor, The Epistle of James; Alford, Greek Test.; Farrar, Early Days of Christianity; Zahn, Introduction to the New Testament.

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  • Brothers of the Lord
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