James and Jude, Brothers of Jesus, Cousins of Jesus, or Neither?

Discussion in 'NT Epistles' started by Reformed Elder, Aug 15, 2012.

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  1. Reformed Elder

    Reformed Elder Puritan Board Freshman

    I have been working through this question in my mind and with the Scripture recently and have had several conversations with other Pastors and brothers in Christ on this matter. However, I have been receiving many different answers regarding the subject. I do have a tentative position presently but would like to know more (perhaps biblically) as to why any of the three answers named above would the most probable. Of course, quoting church history or the church fathers will also be much appreciated and welcomed. So...how and why do YOU understand this issue as you do? :think:
  2. Bill The Baptist

    Bill The Baptist Puritan Board Graduate

    There are at least eight passages in the New Testament that refer to Jesus having brothers and sisters and others referring to people as the brother of the Lord. Catholics believe that Mary remained a virgin until she died and so they claim that these "brothers" were actually cousins. Now, it is true that the Greek word adelphos that is rendered "brother" can also mean cousin, but it depends on the context. While it might be a possibility that the text is referring to Jesus' cousins in some passages, in others it is extremely unlikely. Matthew 13:55 says this: "Is not this the carpenters son? Is not His mother called Mary, and His brothers, James and Joseph and Simon and Judas?" In the context of this passage, it would make no sense if these men were merely the cousins of Jesus because clearly the comment is meant to identify Jesus by means of his immediate family. The same is true for the context of most of these passages that refer to the siblings of Jesus, but this one is the most conclusive. There is simply no compelling reason to believe that the people mentioned in the Bible as being the brothers of Jesus were anything other than the children of Mary.
  3. Reformed Elder

    Reformed Elder Puritan Board Freshman

    Thanks Bill! Just to push this a little deeper, can you think of any examples where the word "brother" DOES identify a relative of Christ that is NOT his .5 brother (or any example for that matter)? I couldn't think of any myself, but then, I am only one.
    Last edited: Aug 15, 2012
  4. KevinInReno

    KevinInReno Puritan Board Freshman

    Well one thing to note off hand is Calvin actually defended the perpetual virginity view - So this is an area that most within reformed circles would take exception to his thoughts.

    I would say this about the perpetual virginity view... Calvin claimed that Mary took a vow that required it. However by Jewish Law... it would have meant Joseph and her were actually never married if that is the fact. Which means she would have then been without husband. So usually the no children view has that conflict.

    I personally take the John and Jude were brothers view... One thing I always like to ponder is Jude really has two stories that deal with matters of the Old Testament... that come out of no where.... Moses body and Enoch... this perplexes several biblical commentators. I personally like the idea that Jude was just relaying stories he heard from his brother. That's all speculative... but my larger point is beyond the argument of lifelong perpetual virginity... I don't think it's an area there needs to be a clear argument made and supported.
  5. Peairtach

    Peairtach Puritan Board Doctor

    :think: Interesting. Never heard that one before.
  6. py3ak

    py3ak They're stalling and plotting against me Staff Member

    There are more than the two choices "children of Mary" or "cousins". There is also the view, widely held in times past at any rate, that they are children of Joseph by a prior marriage. I'm not sure that one could specifically say there is evidence for that, but there are certain features of the NT that fit well with that theory.
  7. Bill The Baptist

    Bill The Baptist Puritan Board Graduate

    Are you saying that you agree with the doctrine of perpetual virginity?
  8. py3ak

    py3ak They're stalling and plotting against me Staff Member

    I didn't express anything about my own view - I mentioned a take that had not been brought up.

    Holding to perpetual virginity as a doctrine would certainly be a mistake - it is not taught in Scripture. But Calvin and other Reformers held to perpetual virginity, not as a matter of doctrine, but as a matter of pious tradition, that is, as an historical probability rather than a revealed certainty.
  9. yeutter

    yeutter Puritan Board Senior

    Who, prior to the reformation, taught anything other then the perpetual virginity of the Virgin Mary?
  10. Reformed Elder

    Reformed Elder Puritan Board Freshman

    Thomas, I couldn't help but notice your church is in Comstock, MI. I used to live in Climax, MI and served in a church near by. As to your question, much in the way of "tradition" got in the way of true Christianity, thus the Reformation. And while much was set right by the Reformation much was left as baggage carried over into worship (especially in the eyes of those who have remained "baptisitic"). Could it be that this "high" view of Mary, though pious it may be, to be a part of the "baggage" carried over? When ever Jesus is ridiculed by the unbelieving crowds as to his divinity, it seems they enjoyed bringing up his family relationships to disclaim the things he confessed. What would be the point of bringing up mention of his cousins in relation to Mary in a situation like Matthew 12:55-56? It is also interesting that in the Greek different words are used when identifying relationships. For instance, in Luke 1:36, 58 the word "soo-ghen-ace" is used to refer to the relationship between Mary and Elizabeth (which the KJV translates as "cousin"). However, in Matthew 12:55-56, more intimate words are used to describe these relationships with Jesus, "may-tare" = Mother, "ad-el-foy" = brothers (pl.), and "ad-el-fay" (pl., feminine) = sisters. I haven't been able to think of any presently, but what undisputed examples do we have in scripture where such intimate words are used to describe general relationships. This could help vindicate the position of "cousins" over "siblings". As it stands, I fail to see how the "perpetual virginity" doctrine is attainable by the Scripture and how it makes Mary more pious even IF she took this upon herself. I am open to hearing the argument for this position. Thanks!
    Last edited: Aug 16, 2012
  11. Jerusalem Blade

    Jerusalem Blade Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    Hello Thomas,

    I would say that Matthew did in his gospel: "Joseph...took unto him his wife...and knew her not till she had brought forth her firstborn son: and he called his name Jesus" (Matt 1:24,25). And then, "Is not this the carpenter's son? is not his mother called Mary? and his brethren, James, and Joses, and Simon, and Judas? And his sisters, are they not all with us?" (Matt 13:55,56)

    I know some try to complicate this, but this is the plain reading of Scripture.
    Last edited: Aug 16, 2012
  12. hammondjones

    hammondjones Puritan Board Sophomore

    Tertullian only held to Mary's virginity ante partum, not post partum.
  13. py3ak

    py3ak They're stalling and plotting against me Staff Member


    There are previous threads on the matter, which should be consulted. These, and especially the last, provide detailed replies to the often simplistic arguments against perpetual virginity.

  14. Bill The Baptist

    Bill The Baptist Puritan Board Graduate

    Didn't think so, but I was just making sure. As Steve has already mentioned, Scripture is quite clear that this was not the case regardless of tradition.
  15. py3ak

    py3ak They're stalling and plotting against me Staff Member

    See above - I don't believe Scripture addresses the issue. Stating that it does is taking a dogmatic position, and holding a doctrine of the temporary virginity of Mary.
  16. Reformed Elder

    Reformed Elder Puritan Board Freshman

    :up: Thank you for the links to the articles py3ak. I am going to work through them. BTW...how do you mark a particular post has "helpful"? Your's was.
  17. py3ak

    py3ak They're stalling and plotting against me Staff Member

    After you've posted a few more times, you'll see a question and a green hand with thumb extended appear at the bottom of posts. It doesn't kick in until you've reached a minimum number of posts. I'm sure you'll find the prior discussions illuminating.
  18. yeutter

    yeutter Puritan Board Senior

    Thanks. I was familiar with St. Jerome's arguement but did not know who he was engaging.

    Thanks for the helpful links
    Last edited by a moderator: Aug 17, 2012
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