Brothers and Sisters?


The gospel we read today from Mark has been the source of disputes between Catholics and Protestants for generations.  Did Jesus have brothers and sisters?  If he did, doesn’t that mean that Catholics are wrong to believe in the perpetual virginity of Mary?

The mother of Jesus and his brothers arrived at the house.
Standing outside, they sent word to Jesus and called him.
A crowd seated around him told him,
“Your mother and your brothers and your sisters
are outside asking for you.”
But he said to them in reply,
“Who are my mother and my brothers?”
And looking around at those seated in the circle he said,
“Here are my mother and my brothers.
For whoever does the will of God
is my brother and sister and mother.”

So, did Jesus have brothers and sisters or not?

Yes, he did.  But among Jews in the first century all close relatives, including cousins, were frequently referred to as “brothers and sisters.”  Mark’s identification of Jesus’ sisters and brothers likely referred to his extended family.  I know, it’s an unsatisfying answer, and one that is unlikely to dissuade your Protestant friends from their belief that Jesus had flesh and blood brothers and sisters.  Are we right?  Well, in matters of doctrine, I think that it is safest to trust in the wisdom and certainty of the Church, which was instituted by Jesus himself and has passed down these doctrines unaltered in a succession that started with Simon Peter.

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