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January 05, 2006



Jn 19:25 reads "Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene." (NIV) which suggests 4 people 3 of whom are Mary - the mother's sister unnamed

whereas here
"standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother and his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary of Magdala." (NAB which I think you use) suggests only three Marys. (all because of a comma which aren't used in the Greek I think!! lol)

Question would two sisters really have the same name Mary in that culture? Do we have any more information about Mary and her family. Biblical or Historical? (prob not as they were woman - but what about Joseph or Clopas?

Another thought - what word is used (in Greek) for sister in Jn 19:25 - is it specific or also vague as adelphos .. could it also mean relative - as in Elizabth being Mary's cousin.

I think it's undestandable that neither Jude or James would have referred to themselves (when they wrote) as brothers of Jesus, because there was a danger that a) people might begin to worship them too or instead and b) it would open them up to very quick persecution

As you wrote James was a very influential leader of the early church in Jerusalem, though during Jesus earthy ministry he was opposed to him. Jamea was also killed (by stoning) on the orders of Ananais the chief priest in AD62

He's such an interesting character. One source (protestant ofcourse) says that James was known as James the Just - meaning righteous which in similar to the way we Joseph is referred to as a righteous man.

As for Jude - it it not at all clear that the Jude who wrote the Epistle is Jude the disciple /apostle mentioned in Acts 1 (what he wrote in v 17 suggests that he was not)

My understanding is that the NT is primarily about Jesus. Mary isn't mentioned much at all actually, so
it isn't really surprising that when she is refered to it's in terms of Jesus being her son!
(when you went to see Sara's physicians - you refered to yourselves in some way as Sara's parents,not parents of Sara and x x x!)

Plenty to think about (grin!)

Now what I - and you - believe about James and Jude does not affect our baptism or salvation.

But I do find all this really interesting, and I really thank you for taking time to look at it with me :)

blessings to you today
May we take our gifts - our faith (and all our questions) - and offer them to Christ today !


Hi Lorna, I think this is interesting, but as you said, it does not affect our baptism or salvation one bit. If some new research came up that proved that Mary and Joseph had other children after Jesus, it would not change anything about my faith.

Now, regarding your comments...

John 19:25 - interesting what difference a comma makes! I believe the ancient Greek had the word "kai" (and) in between, ", and his mother's sister..."

The word used for sister is "adelphe" so we have the same problem. Are they really sisters or close relatives? In fact, some historical non Biblical writing talks of Clopas as Joseph's brother. Were the two Marys sisters-in-law? Did two brothers marry two sisters? I guess either way it shows that James, his brother Joseph, and Jude had parents other than Mary and Joseph.

As for Jude, the epistle is attributed to him, but there's controversy about wether he actually wrote it, or if a disciple of his wrote it. My understanding is that more than likely it was written later in the first century and attributed to Jude.

Well, that's it for now! Definitely never a dull moment with Lorna's good questions! God bless!

Julie D.

I also have read that the word for brother or sister in Aramaic had a much broader connotation than we use today, meaning also cousins ... because of the great importance of the clan in this tribally based society. Not being a linguist I can't go further than that but I have heard of similar situations in other languages.


Hector, this is a great post and I very much enjoyed reading it. I was discussing this very issue with my mother the other day, so I may just print off your post to show her (I fumble around, you are much more concise!)

God bless.


I have nothing of interest to add to the conversation, but wanted to say I enjoyed the thoughts!

Every blessing.


I believe the ancient Greek had the word "kai" (and) in between, ", and his mother's sister..."

in Greek the word order is all over the place a bit like Finnish :) so the fact that kai is there ... well its not conclusive- and not in either of our translations!

You spurred me to do a little Bible research myself (no commentaries at hand to help!)

"These passages say that James was son of Alpheus," Matthew 10:3;Mark 3:18; Luke 6:16; Acts 1:13. Yes ! All say that James son of Alphaeus was one of the twelve disciples.
No dispute there!

But what is not clear at all is if that James (son of Alpheus) was indeed the writer of the Epistle.

It would be expected that if it were he'd have identified himself as such, but he simply starts the letter as "James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ."

To find out who the writer is we need to first of all accept that the church fathers were right to accept it into the canon. They didnt' accept any book lightly!
Origin was the first to include it in 312 AD (http://www.bible-researcher.com/carthage.html)- He also recognised James as the brother of Jesus.

If we look at other possible authors. James (brother of John) would be a likely candidate, but he died in AD 44 - (too early! )

The only other real candidate for authorship seems to James brother (cousin) of Jesus.

Is he James son of Alphaeus? It is feasible but he was also known as James the less apparently.

In any case we seem to be agreed that James the Just is the most likely author (agreeing with the church FAther Origen too)

What we are not agreed on is whether James is (or could have been) the (half) brother of Jesus Christ -i.e. son of Mary and Joseph.

You said, "These passages show that James and Joseph were sons of Mary, wife of Cleophas, Matt 27:56, Mark 15:40."

No, these passages, Matt 27:56 and Mark 15:40 talk of A James (brother to Joses / Joseph) whose mother is Mary (not Mary mother of Jesus) but it is still not clear that this James was the author of the Epistle (the author was probably the James who became the leader of the church in Jerusalem.)

We shouldn't be suprised we cannot find the answers in the NT - this has been disputed by scholars, theologians, bishops for centuries.

What is at stake when we question the parents of James is not the authorship of the Epistle or whetehr it should be in the canon, but should James be the (half)brother of Jesus - as many scholars claim - it throws open wide the RC belief of the perpetual virginity of Mary, mother of Christ.

It doesn't affect our salvation in anyway, but it does explain why this debate has gone on so long.

Hector we jsut joined a long line of wonderful people - most of whom were believers and whom we'll see in heaven.

I think I'll so be overwhelmed by the glory of God there that I'll have forgotten this interesting debate - but if I haven't - I'll beeline over to the gaggle of people around James and say "brother! why couldn't you have said it more clearly. Are you and Jesus related? And he'll laugh and say - we all are - we are all adopted into God's family!"


Also, only the Gospel of Matthew contains the single mention of "brothers" of Jesus. No other gospel or New testament book confirms any other family members.

Additionally, many ancient copies of the Gospel of Matthew do NOT contain this line.

Then we have the writings of the earliest fathers of the church, and nowhere is the line in Matthew interpreted as blood or half brothers.

The Catholic interpretation of Matthew is about 1900 years old. As the guardians of the Christian faith, Catholics aren't likely to change their interpretation as they lack the authority to do so.


Lorna, after spending a few hours pouring over these Scripture passages and analytical commentary I personally feel very comfortable that there is no indication that Mary and Joseph had more children. There are many instances, like when they were looking for Jesus in the temple, that they could have mentioned little ones, but did not. It appears that right before death Jesus commends the care of his mother to his disciple John. That would have been unnecessary if she had more children. The only hint that she had more children are references of Jesus’ brothers, but we saw by so many passages that this term was very loosely used. It could be applied to cousins, close relatives, or even “anyone who does my Father’s will is my brother.” Then we see that at least two of those called brother are associated as children of Mary and Clopas (also called Alpheus). To me the relationship of Matt 27:56 with John 19:25, Mark 15:40-47, and Mark 16:1 is sufficient. Like you said, some translations make it obvious that Mary wife of Clopas was Mary’s sister, others not so clear.

I believe you are familiar with the New Jerome Biblical Commentary. After analyzing the issue of Jesus’ brothers it concludes with “adelphos, used of James, is best understood as “kinsman, relative.”” (page 783). Martin Luther said ”When Matthew (1:25) says that Joseph did not know Mary carnally until she had brought forth her son, it does not follow that he knew her subsequently; on the contrary, it means that he never did know her.” And “she remained a virgin after that…” (“That Jesus Christ was born a Jew, Luther’s Works” and “Sermons on the Gospel of John 1-4”) Then John Calvin says “There have been certain folks who wish to suggest from this passage (Matt 1:25) that the Virgin Mary had other children than the Son of God, and that Joseph had dwelt with her later; but what folly is this!” (“Sermon on Matthew”). I feel complete on this.

Regarding the authorship of the Epistle of James, the New Jerome Biblical Commentary says that it is attributed to James “brother of the Lord” and early leader of Jerusalem, but that this opinion is divided. It says “the most widely view today is that a Christian versed in both Hellenism and Judaism wrote the letter in the latter part of the first century.” They opt for pseudonymity because of the excellent Greek style, indications of a date substantially after Paul and the absence of strict legalism and ritualism one may expect from James the just.

I don’t think complete authenticity of authorship was a requirement for inclusion in the canon since it is believed that Hebrews was definitely not written by St. Paul. It is also believed that 1, 2 Timothy and Titus were pseudonymous writing and there’s doubt that he wrote 2 Thess, Col, Hebrews, and Eph. Yet, they have theological and pastoral value and integrity.

God bless!


yeah I know Jerome (not personally!) but don't have a copy of my own :(

This has been a great discussion!

Seems to me that most modern scholars doubt the authorship of most of the books of the NT :) good that the early church fathers didn't :)

We will probably never know who wrote Hebrews (though the Septuagint calls it Paul's hence the Russian (Orthodox) Bible and (maybe?) some RC versions. Same with James.

I suppose my question is ... and feel free to ignore this (as always) IF it could be proved that James (or anyone else) was the son of Mary and Joseph (Jesus' half brother) what affect would it have on the RC church teaching (and your own faith)

You see from a Protestant point of view it doesn't matter whether James was or was not Jesus' sibling, but it seems to me (and please forgive me if I'm wrong!) that much of the dogma /doctrine surrounding Mary requires that Jesus had no siblings.

I mean you no disrespect in this, nor am I trying to persuade you in anyway, I am just very interested in where the Marian theology came from - and if the doubts about the term 'brother of Jesus' were there earlier (Jermone suggests otherwise) or came after the Marian theology was developed (revealed)

But that should be another post I think :)

Thank you again for all the time you've spent trying to help me understand the RC thoughts.

blessings and love


Hi Lorna, "I mean you no disrespect in this, nor am I trying to persuade you in anyway," I NEVER feel disrespected or offended by you. When you ask a question it makes me stronger in my faith, so I don;t mind and I also get to learn about your point of view.

What difference would it make IF Jesus had brothers from Mary and Joseph? That's a new post...

God bless you SISTER (in Christ...) :)

Paul John Williams

As an Ex Catholic i could never understand the church saying Mary was a virgin all her life.It's Stated in the New Test. Joseph & Mary were Betrothed ( not Married)when she conceived( became Pregnant) (Joseph KNEW HER NOT.) After Jeaus was Born ,( Joseph KNEW HER)( Meaning Joseph & Mary had a normal SEX life as Husband & Wife Lets Face the Truth. Either the Bible Scripture is False or The Cathilic Church is in Denial. ALSO IT IS WRITTEN Mary Brought forth her (FIRST BORN SON) It Didn't say she brought forth her (ONLY SON .)ITS Time for the Christians to seek and learn the Truth & Not the Fables & Fiction that the Catholic Church has created . Go in Peace and Trust in God & not in Mans Corrupted Teachings. Paul.J. W.

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