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Brothers of the Lord

BROTHERS OF THE LORD. The term is used in the NT in identifying four men: James, Joseph, Simon, and Jude (Matt.13.55; Mark.6.3). It is also used collectively of a group of men whose names are not given (John.7.3; Acts.1.14; 1Cor.9.5). The precise relationship of these men to Jesus has been much debated, with three different answers offered:

1. They were younger children of Mary and Joseph. This is suggested by the reference to Mary’s “first” child (Luke.2.7) but is rejected by those who insist that Mary remained a virgin.

2. They were Joseph’s children from a previous marriage. This view is possible, but it has no support in the NT.

3. They were cousins of Jesus, sons of his aunt Mary, wife of Cleopas (John.19.25), described as “the mother of James the Younger and of Joses” (Mark.15.40). But if this James is the apostle listed in Mark.3.18, Mary’s husband was Alphaeus, not Cleopas, and this could be explained only if Alphaeus and Cleopas were alternative names for the same man, or if Mary had been married twice.

Evidence is too scanty for a firm conclusion. Moreover, the Lord’s reference to his brothers in Matt.28.10 implies a wider relationship than that of family only.——JDD

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