And Jesus said: ”Hey, Jimmy, my bro!” …. or did he?

One of the claims often used by Christian Apologists for supposedly establishing the apparent historicity of the character Jesus of Nazareth is the mention by Josephus of someone called James who is referred to as the brother of the Lord.

It occurred to me the other day after reading a mention of this –  again – that, traditionally Catholics hold that Jesus was an only child and all his supposed brothers and sisters were in fact cousins.

It was then I realised I have never, as  far as I am aware,  read an article written by a Catholic defending this passage in Josephus!

Of  course, if the Catholic perspective is correct then any notion of James being a sibling can be kicked into touch without as much as a by your leave!

And this leaves the Josephus reference high and dry.

As it was the Catholic Church that compiled the bible, I am, therefore, predisposed to take their side and conclude that Jesus was an only child and the James in question was either a cousin, or the term Brother of the Lord merely referred to just another bloke who claimed to be a Jesus Follower.

I know a few Catholics and ex-Catholics graciously visit The Ark’s spot and I would be fascinated to read their take on this issue.



69 thoughts on “And Jesus said: ”Hey, Jimmy, my bro!” …. or did he?

  1. Imagine a first century, ignorant woman with only one child … stop the presses! Another miracle!

    I guess Mark (6) was just spoofing us:

    Jesus left and went back to his hometown. His followers went with him. 2 On the Sabbath day Jesus taught in the synagogue, and many people heard him. They were amazed and said, “Where did this man get this teaching? How did he get such wisdom? Who gave it to him? And where did he get the power to do miracles? 3 Isn’t he just the carpenter we know—Mary’s son, the brother of James, Joses, Judas, and Simon? And don’t his sisters still live here in town?” So they had a problem accepting him.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I’ve heard some people try to claim, since Joseph was so much older, that he was a widower and those children were from his first marriage. Of course, nothing in the text actually says this, but christians have never had problems with inserting stuff into the story to make it read the way they want it to.

      Liked by 5 people

      1. I’ve heard some people try to claim, since Joseph was so much older, that he was a widower and those children were from his first marriage.

        If that were the case, and those other children were by a different mother, then according to the orthodox story, they wouldn’t be even half-siblings of Jesus — given that the “Holy Spirit” swooped in with his jus primae noctis thing and Joseph wasn’t Jesus’s biological father. Of course, the contemporary neighbors wouldn’t have necessarily known that.

        Liked by 5 people

    2. @Steve, and Mark’s gospel is of course the oldest gospel, i.e. the first one compiled after the events narrated, therefore giving it a higher degree of assumed accuracy than the later three gospels which were written significantly later utilizing non-Markian sources (less accuracy). 🤔

      And let’s not forget that it is Mark (the oldest extant gospel) that ends at 16:8 — it has no “resurrection” story strongly suggesting this theological insertion was later retro-graded, retro-fitted into the later three gospels to further defend Christ as the risen Son of God and solidify his “full Incarnation.”

      Liked by 3 people

    3. When people say that Jesus was an only child, and look for some filmsy excuse to write his “brothers” and “sisters”. It is usually not Jesus being an only child that is an issue, it is far often than not the teaching that Mary was ever virgin that is in question

      When I was still a catholic and i asked for clarifications concerning that passage, I was told that they were Jesus cousins and the greeks didn’t have a word for cousin. Though I have found out that to be wrong

      Why would the gospel writer(s) use the greek word for ‘brother’ if they meant cousin or half-brother and not brother, when they had words for cousin or half-brother

      I once read in a post were a christian said that they gospel didn’t say biological brother or the brother of James, Joses, Judas, and Simon who are sons of Joseph and Mary
      This was nonsensical as I can assume that most people when talking about their siblings or those of other refer to them as brothers and sisters and not something like professor taboo is ark biological brother from the same mother and father

      Liked by 2 people

    4. Just read a catholic apologist attempt to tackle the matter

      Matthew 27:56: “Among them [at the cross] were Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James and Joseph, and the mother of the sons of Zebedee.” We see that at least two of the men mentioned in Matthew 13 were definitely not siblings of Jesus

      The main thing I don’t get is the author’s assumption that the James and Joseph mentioned in Matthew 27:56 are the same people referred to in Matthew 13:55
      If you just used the bible alone, you would know that James and Joseph are common Jewish names in thee first century

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Methinks it’s ‘brother’ as in brother by another mother. In fact, someone addressed me just yesterday (on another blog post) as, “Brother”. .. ;). That pesky name of mine. . . I didn’t realize there were men named Carmen until I was an adult.

    Liked by 4 people

        1. Into trouble? I doubt it … Catholics and other holy men have been cross-dressers since long before the Americans came out of the closet—it looks as if the Yanks’ll be saving heaps of money on signage, all the ‘HIS’ and ‘HERS’ being replaced with a single ‘THEIRS’.

          Liked by 2 people

  3. I was under the impre
    ssion the the New Testament was written by Christianised Romans some seven centuries after the claim of the birth of brother/comrade Christ and written in such a manner to capture the pagans of central Europe.

    Liked by 4 people

  4. This is a great subject/debate to tackle Ark regarding the Catholic Church’s 200-year process of the Incarnation — which is also related to the Hellenistic Gentile-Pauline followers wish or sociopolitical maneuvering to DETACH from the more prevalent Sectarian Judaism and all its strict Mosaic laws. In order to achieve this break the Hellenistic (Roman) (increasingly Gentile) Church had to set apart itself in HUGE WAYS as turning their Jewish Reformer-Teacher into not only a God, but the one and only God over all religions. Hence, all the more complicated, convoluted, theological gymnastics of Trinitarianism, Incarnation, et al, done for the following 200-300 years amongst the Early Church Fathers.

    If Jesus actually had a blood-related brother, then there is a stinky can-of-worms opened about the entire Incarnation of Christ (not the man Jesus) and his mother’s holiness — all paramount theological doctrines ficticiously invented by the Catholic Church purely for the sake of the Incarnation.

    But nonetheless, I too am interested to read any Catholics or ex-Catholics takes on this. The reality is that the REAL Jesus (if ever proven to be 100% real) was without a doubt very human and probably had blood-related brothers and sisters. Big families were expected and the norm in Second Temple Judaism and that time-period. 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

  5. I think possibly there is a better source than catholic, and I would venture to see what the Jews have to say. “Yet it survived far into the Christian era. In fact, if we study the New Testament as a Jewish source book, we must take note that Jesus, as a Jewish preacher of his era, neither condemns polygamous unions nor advocates a change in the system. From this noninterference attitude Luther, as late as the 16th cent., arrived at the conclusion that he could not forbid the taking of more than one wife!” Here is the article and I would suspect based on tradition, he was older, she was younger, and she was also one of many.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. The apologetic defense will likely be along the lines of:
      ”Jesus doesn’t overtly condemn a menage a trois, bacon sandwiches or nudism, but this does not mean he agreed with such things. ”

      Liked by 3 people

      1. ARK:

        ”Jesus doesn’t overtly condemn a menage a trois, bacon sandwiches or nudism, but this does not mean he agreed with such things. ”

        —but He was right into masochism, no?

        Liked by 2 people

        1. Setting things up billions of years in advance so that your one brief spell on Earth ends in being nailed to a cross … is that kink-keeeeeee or wot?

          Liked by 3 people

    2. Remember, the scripture is vague for a reason. Here’s three. 1. Hide uncomforts of the truth. 2. It’s lacking real substance so there’s really not much to tell so, the gaps, and lastly what better way to cause endless conjecture and debate than to leave out key details that everyone would want to know? It continues to work its magic.

      Liked by 4 people

  6. As Catholic kiddies in Catholic school, the nuns always taught us, “Jeebus was an only child!” To disagree wouls have merited a crack on the knuckles with a ruler. Thus, Jeebus was an only child and who were we to argue. It wasn’t until I realized the entire hogwash of the whole thing that I learned other sects of Jeebus taught he had a brother named James. “Hogwash!” My mind tells me. Crack those bastards across the knuckles for preaching lies! Jeebus did, however have, have a sister named Bev the Beauty who ran a brothel in Rome from 24 AD to 48 AD. After that, I believe it became a McDonald’s. Heard the prostitution there was top notch.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Insp:

      you made me dabble briefly there with the concept of ‘fast food’ … and then I thought to keep it seemly. So strike that …

      Liked by 2 people

  7. Today i read from a catholic publication ( it’s on paper not online ) that uses Josephus as evidence for Jesus, though it cherry picked as expected to fool ‘the faithful’

    I will write an article on it today or tomorrow

    Liked by 3 people

  8. I was always, as a Catholic, under the impression that Jesus was ‘the only son of Mary”. Period. And since we were not encouraged to read even the New Testament and totally ignored the Old, (except when it was useful) there was not a lot of conjecture about any of it.
    Frankly, 60 or so years ago life was much simpler in small towns, religion-wise. Baptists were Baptists, Methodists were Methodists were somewhere over back, and the Congregationals were rich. Catholics were usually French Canadien, or Irish. We outnumbered everyone but no one would admit it.

    And I always did wonder about “and he shall be called Emmanuel” but he never was. If it isn’t written down in the bible it’s made up oral history, if it’s written down, well it’s written down made up history. But there is a difference.

    Liked by 4 people

  9. Why is there any argument/discussion on this at all? Just accept that this is just one more example of the weird stuff that makes up the “bible story.”

    Besides, believers are going to accept whatever their church leaders and/or apologists tell them. And how dare you question such erudite individuals!

    Furthermore … whether Jesus was an only child or not doesn’t change his magnificent, wondrous, life-changing saving powers! *gag*

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Well, you know my perspective I’m sure; the entirety of the NT is simply historical fiction.

      I was trying to establish how valid the James the brother of Jesus story is., re the Catholic perspective and the mention in Josephus.

      Liked by 3 people

  10. This is a very old debate,the first record of it coming from the fourth century when a theologian named Helvidius suggested to St. Jerome that Jesus had blood brothers and sisters. Jerome’s angry response shows that a belief in the perpetual virginity of Mary was held by at least some Christians at the time. By the sixth century, Jerome’s position had prevailed.

    Skeptical Catholics are often told that the brothers and sisters mentioned in the gospels could have been cousins or step-siblings. I have been told that Christians of the Orthodox Rite believe Joseph was a widowed father of several children when he married Mary I am not aware of any evidence for this. But medieval and Renaissance paintings of Joseph usually portray him as an old man which suggests it might have been a common belief.

    As a believing Catholic, I don’t think it matters whether Mary and Joseph had a normal marriage and children born after Jesus. I think some of the emphasis on Mary’s lifelong virgin status might have come from the influence of virginity cults. But I can’t imagine it being a deal-breaker for the average Catholic. It would be weird to say “Hey! I can believe everything else, but I draw the line at perpetual virginity!”

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thank you for the input , Jill.

      As you are probably aware, non-Catholics cite Josephus reference as I mentioned n the post.

      The term Brother of the Lord has been argued as a collective term( for a follower) rather than referring to a direct sibling by Carrier. ( and others, I’m sure)

      As the first Josephus reference of Jesus is once again, slowly but surely, being considered interpolation in its entirety it then puts the reference to James being the blood brother of Jesus on even shakier ground.

      How do you view the historicity angle of Jesus of Nazareth if the Josephus reference is referring to another Jesus entirely?

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I had never heard of Josephus until I was an adult, and the priest who told me said that there is doubt about authenticity. Perhaps because I was never taught that the historicity of the gospels can be proven, I don’t think it would trouble me to learn that what some people thought was proof turns out to be mistaken.

        Liked by 3 people

    2. You are right Jill, Mary and Joseph having children after Jesus won’t affect anything regarding Jesus

      That’s why, almost all the time people try to come up with a reason why the brothers and sisters of Jesus mentioned in the gospels are not really his sibling, what they are really are really trying to do is maintain that Mary was always virgin ( Blessed Virgin Mary )

      Regarding the teaching of perpetual virginity, I often say that even if Jesus had no biological siblings it doesn’t proof that Mary had no sexual relationship

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I lean towards the idea that a couple of opportunists visiting town took advantage of a country-girl’s naivety while hubby was away at work, and she got spouted. So she in turn took advantage of her hubby’s zealous naivety and all was sweetness and light from then on … for her, at least.

        Liked by 2 people

    3. I’m trying to remember my seminary studies from long, long ago, BUT I don’t believe there is any strong evidence inside the canonical New Testament to establish that Jesus was the first born of Mary — he just simply has (blood) brothers and sisters. He could’ve been the 2nd or 3rd born of Mary. It’s anyone’s guess. The more significant implication of this oversight(?) by Gospel compilers/theologians is that it completely undermines Jesus’ “divinity” (which he never had) as a God or as the only Son of God. Jesus was simply a man, a Jewish Reformer-Teacher. That is what James being the brother of Jesus implies and any other siblings too, and Mary is simply a human mother. This reflects well the long-standing tradition of Roman Imperial Apotheosis of their great leaders, but utilizing and fusing in their own way a failed Jewish Messianic tradition.

      But I could be wrong. Or I may not be. 😉 🤩

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Mary’s first born was named Sal. Sal grew up to be one HELLUVA a great short order cook and, by the time ‘lil JC was born, he had a fast food franchise called “Sal’s Fast Food Franchise” which opened close to 15 shops before Pilate closed them all down due to health code violations in 22 AD. Apparently, he and JC didn’t get along all too well, something to do with a gambling debt of some kind, so he’s not mentioned much in the bible. The only reference to him is Matthew 34:14-15 “And Sal said unto Jesus, ‘Eat At Sal’s. The Food’s Great.'”

        Liked by 3 people

      2. Prof:

        if not the first born then we have problems fitting her virginity into the equations. Damn, this is getting complex … I think I’ll go have another coffee.

        Liked by 3 people

      1. Actually, when one considers the word that supposedly describes Mary as a “virgin” doesn’t even mean that, there’s no “perpetual virginity” involved. 🙂

        Liked by 3 people

        1. I know that the original word didn’t mean that — but since the idea that Mary was a “perpetual virgin” seems to be entrenched in some Christian sects, I’m curious how they reconcile it with her being married. Surely even a theologian would find the idea a bit odd.

          Liked by 3 people

          1. I thought of that while I was still a Catholic
            The doctrine of “perpetual virginity” came centuries after Mary had died, even if it had originated while she was still alive, how was it verified

            Liked by 1 person

      2. Catholics are taught that Joseph was betrothed to Mary when she learned that she, though a virgin, was pregnant. This could have exposed her to being stoned to death so Joseph was going to quietly cancel the betrothal. He married her when he learned, through a revelation, that she was a virgin carrying a special child. So far so good. I think Protestants agree with Catholics up to this point.

        Most Protestants believe that after the birth of Jesus, Mary and Joseph had a normal marriage and had children. Catholics and Orthodox believe that because of Mary’s holiness, Joseph lived with her platonically. That seems rather tough on Joseph!

        Liked by 2 people

  11. You realize we are arguing pros and cons about the adult equivalent of Santa Claus, the tooth fairy, and tinkerbelle…

    Sadly, the entire New Testament is a paean to Jesus. From his birth to his death and the beyond stuff. No wonder Christians cling to it so desperately. To admit that Jesus wasn’t wipes out the entire meaningfulness of the NT.

    Liked by 6 people

    1. True, but if there were a religion which believed Santa Claus was real, it might be interesting to see how the adherents dealt with all the contradictory and awkward parts of the story.

      Interesting up to a point, anyway.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. I think it is interesting even if you don’t believe a word of it is true. As an English teacher, I spent a lot of time discussing the characters and motivations of people who existed only in novels!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. INFIDEL:

        As a kid I wondered how a ‘jolly fat guy’ (oops, jolly gravitationally challenged guy) managed to fit down all those chimneys (and stay clean). But I was wise enough to never raise the point where it might impede the performance …

        Liked by 2 people

    1. EXACTLY Argus! And when you scrutinize thoroughly the exhaustive evidence of the Jesus lineage, birth, and the fact that NONE OF IT mattered until the 3rd and 4th century… shows an increasingly Hellenistic Apotheotic imposition and insertion into the gospel stories and later ecumenical counsels to turn Jesus into a Greco-Roman Christ.

      Liked by 2 people

  12. you do realize that if there was no Jesus the entire excuse for Christmas, Easter, and Lent would just fade away…all the pagan traditions that the Christians stole and cleaned up (naughty naughty pagans) would be gone. No more Sanity Clause, no more easter eggs, no more giving up swearing and spitting for 40 days of Lent…

    Frankly, come the revolution, the next God will be an AI. really.

    Liked by 5 people

      1. we will never, as a species, outgrow a need for gods to beseech, to petition, to tell us what to do. Human nature being what it is, there will be another god just waiting to be noticed.

        Maybe Om, the turtle god, the next time around.

        Liked by 2 people

  13. Interesting question you ask.
    Now, you must realize it is not the norm in church to talk about Josephus. The church preaches Mary was a virgin, got a baby by the holy sprite and remained a virgin.
    In fact, most of us get to know of Josephus and Celsus after we have left the faith.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. A virgin?

      Do you remember that old mnemonic for the colours of the rainbow—

      V I B G Y O R

      (virgins in bed give you odd reactions)


      Liked by 2 people

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s