The family of Joseph, Mary and Jesus (Matthew 12)

The Gospel accounts provide limited details about Jesus’ immediate family. We know, of curse, that He was born to Mary and that His stepfather was Joseph. A carpenter by trade, Joseph is mentioned only in the narratives of Jesus’ birth and early childhood, leaving many to believe that he died prior to the time of Jesus’ public ministry. The Gospels record the names of four of Jesus’ brothers – James, Joseph, Simon and Judas (Matthew 13:55) – and mention sisters without providing names.

Those who believe that Mary remained  a virgin throughout her entire life suggest that these siblings were Joseph’s children from a previous marriage. Scripture itself, however, makes no claim that Mary maintained her virginity following Jesus’ birth, and it is more likely that the brothers and sisters of Jesus were simply the natural children born to Mary and Joseph after Jesus’ birth. In ancient Jewish culture it would have been unthinkable for a man and a woman to live together in a permanently unconsummated marriage. Matthew 1:25 in fact implies that Mary and Joseph did have normal sexual relations after Jesus’ birth.

Although the relationship between Jesus and His family was characterized by tension and misunderstanding (e.g. Mark 3:31-34), at least two of His brothers later became His followers. James, a leader of the Jerusalem church (Acts 12:17), was martyred in the early sixties. Tradition ascribes the New Testament epistle of James to him. Similarly, the epistle of Jude is attributed to Jesus’ brother Judas.


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