One short verse of Scripture, John 19:25, has been productive of a world of exegetical mischief. This has not been due to wrong translation, but to wrong apposition and punctuation. The comma can be very deceptive where it ought to be a semicolon. The British 1611 version thus reads, "Now there stood by the cross of Jesus his mother, and his mother's sister, Mary the (wife) of Cleophas (margin Clopas), and Mary Magdalene." How many women are mentioned? Three or four? A careless or unthinking reader might say there are only three women referred to. But the cautious reader will say, there might be four. We find the same kind of construction in our newspapers, producing a puzzling ambiguity.
Now suppose we insert a semicolon after the word sister, thus throwing the statement into the common Greek method of two pairs of people. Meyer's Commentary on John (1834) makes this suggestion, and points out that the Syriac version reads "and" after the word sister. Farrar, in "Texts Explained" makes the same suggestion. Ferrar Fenton makes the position very clear, "His own mother, His mother's sister, Mary, the Mary of Clopas, as well as Mary the Magdalene." The Twentieth Century version reads, "his mother and his mother's sister, as well as Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary of Magdala." The New World version punctuates beautifully, "his mother and the sister of his mother; Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene." As the Greek does not shew any word for "wife," Sharpe and the Emphatic Diaglott read "Mary the mother of Clopas," while Goodspeed makes this Mary the daughter of Clopas.
Those who have been able to discover in this verse only three women have naturally fallen into the error of maintaining that the Virgin Mary had a sister whose name was also Mary. But for this single verse, no one would ever have put forth such a ridiculous suggestion. It never has been a custom for children to possess the same name as a brother or sister. Names are given to children to distinguish them from one another.
To a great extent it was Jerome, the famous Latin father (died 420 A.D.), who caused this verse to be misunderstood. While he was still a young man he wrote a treatise against the views of Helvidius, maintaining that the Virgin Mary was "ever a virgin" (aei-parthenia), and that it was blasphemous to deny this dogma. Jerome brought into the conflict every text or illustration he thought would help his argument. Of the woes of married life he paints a very vivid picture, the wife painting herself before the mirror, screaming children, revelry at meal times, servants requiring correction, and so on. Even the privacies of married life come in for a savage exposure. Jerome sought to crush his unknown and obscure opponent, living in the same city, just as much by sheer vehemence as by Scripture. He was determined that the Lord Jesus had no brothers who were sons of the Virgin Mary. Therefore he sought to demonstrate that these four brothers of the Lord were in fact really His cousins only.
Yet in all his vehemence he never claims the support of any ecclesiastical writer who preceded him. His views appear to be his own only. He makes no appeal to any father of an earlier age, and quotes none in his favour. So impulsive and impetuous was Jerome that he deliberately chose a theory which contradicted the well-known tradition usually held.
Lightfoot says Jerome had misgivings regarding his views, and was neither staunch nor consistent in maintaining them. In later life he drifted away somewhat from these dogmatic opinions, and put forward new arguments, which meant really an abandonment of his main proofs.
Nevertheless, Jerome's original theories took a strong hold upon the Latin Church, and spread through Europe. His contention forms the view to-day of the Roman Catholic Church. Helvidius had claimed the support of Tertullian of Carthage (160-230 A.D.), but Jerome roughly thrusts Tertullian out of court altogether, because he did not belong to the catholic Church. A man so vehement and forceful, swayed by his passions and prejudices, is hardly to be trusted on doctrinal matters.
Jerome professed to be utterly shocked that anyone could entertain the idea that the Virgin Mary could have borne other sons than Jesus, either before Him or after Him.
He brings forward several irrelevant analogies from Scripture in proof, such as Ezek. 44:2, "No man shall enter in by it, because the Lord the God of Israel hath entered in by it; therefore it shall be shut." He refers to the Lord's sepulchre, "wherein was never man yet laid" (Luke 23:53). Yet had Jerome been more penetrating in his examination of Scripture, he would have lighted upon Psalm 69:8, "I am become a stranger unto My brethren, and an alien unto My mother's children." This verse the Lord must have read and pondered upon often. Like many other verses it must have explained things which no other person could explain. It must have encouraged Him in His lonely path. He must have recognized in this verse and verse 9 facts which were very true in His own case. Dr. Bullinger's Companion Bible, Appendix No. 182 on "The Lord's Brethren," cites this Psalm among other proofs that the Lord's brethren were truly His own brothers, not cousins.
Had Jerome not been utterly obsessed with his theory, he might have reasoned that parents such as Joseph and Mary were ideal people to bring four sons and some daughters into existence. Joseph was a "righteous" man (dikaios; Matt. 1:19), which means that he loved righteousness, and held high standards of right. Mary must have been the same, or she would never have been chosen of God as the mother of Messiah. We might suggest with reverence that the bringing forth of the Lord by Mary was probably a strong incentive to Joseph and Mary to have the other children. The Lord's influence upon them all must have been profound, even though the four brethren did not believe On Him until after His resurrection (compare John 7:5 with Acts 1:14). James, the Lord's brother, who wrote the Epistle, was so saintly that in later life he was well known as "the righteous" (Ho dikaios), just like his father.
It is not difficult to see that from Jerome downwards, all sorts of artificial explanations have been fabricated, regarding the Lord's four brethren, to escape the plain inference of Scripture that they were true sons of Joseph and Mary, born after the Lord. Jerome was undoubtedly an outstanding figure in his own time, and built up for himself the reputation to which most pushful and energetic clerics attain. His translation of the Scriptures into Latin was quite good, even though many of the Latin terms used encouraged the Roman Church type of doctrine.
A brief glimpse into his life will help us to understand his motives.
According to the "History of the Christian Church" by Prof. James C. Robertson (1901), Jerome was born in what is now Jugo-Slavia of Christian parents. He studied at Rome and travelled much in France and other lands. When about thirty years old he withdrew to the desert in the east and entered upon a severe course of mortifications, which,however only revived the sensuality of his nature, when he had hoped for freedom from temptation. On returning to Rome he gained a great influence among Roman ladies of rank, upon whom he pressed the doctrines of asceticism and celibacy. In the year 385 he left Rome again for the east, where he founded monasteries, and produced the Latin version of the Bible. Jerome is described as being extravagant in opinion and conduct; greedy of power and position; proud, vain, and violently irritable; extremely bitter in temper; intolerably arrogant and very satirical. "The monk was to avoid those trials of life for the bearing of which grace is promised, and was to cast himself on other trials for which he might possibly be unfit." The monk or ascetic must become a stranger to his natural affections.
We can now understand the motives behind Jerome which caused him to pervert scriptures so as to prove that Mary was always a virgin.
We revert to John 19:25. This was a very easy verse for Jerome to manipulate, especially as the Latin language has neither definite nor indefinite articles. Here is a very literal un punctuated rendering of the verse in Jerome's Latin, "Now there stood beside cross of-Jesus mother his and sister of mother his Mary of-Cleophas and Mary Magdalene." Whether there were three or four women present must be cleared up by the parallel passages in the other Gospels. According to Matt. 27:55-56, Mark 15:40, and Luke 23:49 certain women and others had been standing beholding the cross scene "from afar." John, who was present, shews that the women had apparently advanced much nearer the cross, owing to the prevailing darkness, as they were now "beside" it. Luke does not name the women. Matthew, Mark and John all name Mary Magdalene, and as Matthew and Mark state that there were "many women," it is very likely, almost certain, that those who are named correspond, in the accounts of the three. John divides his list into two parts. In the former pair he places the inner group, the Lord's own mother, and her sister; in the second group he places a less intimate pair. Matthew shews the mother of the sons of Zebedee, who corresponds with Salome in Mark, who has always been taken to be her whom John calls "His mother's sister." John nowhere in his Gospel names himself, and is very sensitive about naming any of his relatives, even his mother. Matthew mentions Mary the mother of (the) James and Joses. The emphasis is upon the two men, while the definite article before the name James, but not before the name Joses, has the force of making the expression mean that couple of men, "the James plus Joses" pair. Mark shews the same Mary as mother of these two, but adds that James is the "Little." John shews the same Mary as in some way connected with one Clopas, "Mary the (daughter, wife, mother?) of-the Klopas." What distinguishes this Mary is that she is mother of these two men, James, the Little, and Joses, and that in some way she is connected with Clopas, whoever he was.
Who was this Clopas? He is only mentioned once, in John 19:25. Hegesippus, a Christian Jew of the first century, some of whose supposed writings have been preserved by Eusebius, claims that Clopas was the brother of Joseph, so that Mary, the mother of the Lord, was a sister in law of another Mary, the supposed wife of Clopas. But this second Mary is never stated to have been the wife of Clopas; she is simply named as being "Mary the of-Clopas." Dr. Eadie thought she might have been the mother of Clopas. The Temple Dictionary of the Bible thinks that Mary, the mother of James and Joses, and "the other Mary" of Matt. 27:61; 28:1, and the Mary of Clopas, may have been the same person, perhaps the daughter of Clopas. The Concordant Version Concordance wisely says that the name Clopas is "a husband's name used to distinguish one of the Marys."
The Greek spelling at John 19:25 is KlOpas, which is quite a different name from that found only at Luke 24:18, Kleopas (Cleophas), which may be a contraction of the name Cleopatras, the masculine form of Cleopatra.
"No one can, claim, as was formerly done, that Clopas was the same man, or the same name as Alpheus. The two names are quite distinct. The former is shewn in the Syriac version to be Qlopha. Farrar, in Dr. William Smith's Bible Dictionary, Dr. Eadie, and the Temple Dictionary, besides other eminent authorities, insist that the two names are not the same. But for Jerome's forced and artificial dogma concerning Mary's perpetual virginity, no one would ever have dreamt of saying these two men, were the same.
By assuming that the Lord's mother had a sister called Mary, who was also wife of Clopas, and that the last named was Alpheas, it would follow that the two sons of Alpheus, James the little and Joses, were cousins of the Lord. It is much more likely that this Mary was the daughter of Clopas, who is otherwise unknown. It has also been assumed that she was mother of Judas the (brother) of James (Luke 6:16; Acts 1:13), but the Greek says nothing here about "brother" (adelphos), as it does everywhere else when this relationship is brought out, as in, the lists of the Apostles, Matt. 10:2; Mark 3:17; Luke 6:14 (Andrew his brother; John the brother of James; Andrew his brother).
If "James of Alpheus" (Matt. 10:3; Mark 3:18; Luke 8:15; Acts 1:13) means "James son of Alpheus," surely "Judas of James" (Luke 6:16; Acts 1:13) ought to signify "Judas son of James." Such a construction, cannot mean "brother of James," as the Greek word for brother is used as shewn above in, three of the lists of the Apostles.
Judas (son) of James is therefore the grandson of Alpheus, who must have been, a fairly old man at the time the Apostles were chosen. Judas was probably then not younger than twenty-five years. He is identified with Thaddeus and Lebbaeus. He is not the writer of the epistle of Jude, who was the Lord's brother, and the brother of James who wrote the epistle of James.
In the same way, "James of Zebedee" (Matt. 10:2; Mark 3:17) is the son of Zebedee, as Matt. 4:21 clearly proves.
Luke 3:23-38 abundantly proves that the genitive case signifies sonship where two names come together. In every case but one each name is preceded by the Greek word tou (of-the). But before the first name, Joseph, there is not this article. Godet (on Luke) has shewn the significance of this omission, by rendering "being a son—as was thought, of Joseph—of Heli, of Matthat. . .." Godet adds that the register is that of Heli, grandfather of Jesus, through Mary. The Talmud states that Mary is called daughter of Heli. Godet's argument is that the name of Joseph is put outside the genealogical series properly so called, through the lack of the definite article before it. His name belongs rather to the sentence introduced by Luke, whose genealogical document commenced with Heli. It is not so much that Jesus was a son, as to the law (as the Concordant Version has it) of Joseph, but rather the Greek word (enomizeto) means "as was customarily allowed" (see Diaglott), or "sanctioned by custom." Law and custom have always been closely associated. Custom often becomes law, but often it is hard to become accustomed to certain laws.
In Acts 1:13 we find a list of the then eleven apostles, as it were cordoned off as a single special group by means of one definite article before the name of the foremost one, Peter. This is like writing, "The (following, or following group):—Peter as well as John. . . .." In the British 1611 version, one is named as "James (the son) of Alpheus," while the last one is "Judas (the brother) of James." Yet the construction with the genitive case is exactly similar in both cases, in the Greek. Why such inconsistency? The Revised version of 1881 makes these apostles both sons, although the margin shews "Or brother" against the name of Judas.
By thus making this Judas a brother of James, their father Alpheus is made to have three sons, the third one being Joses. But the Mary who is called the mother of James and Joses (Matt. 27:56), and "Joses' Mary" (Mark 15:47), and "James' Mary" (Luke 24:10), so as to distinguish her, is never described as the mother of Judas the apostle. It will be noted that she is not described as "Mary the (feminine) of-the-James" (or of-the Joses), meaning that she was daughter of James or Joses, but in John 19:25, this same woman, apparently, is called "Mary the (feminine) of-the Klopas," which can hardly mean, anything but "the (daughter) of Clopas."
The fiction, therefore, that the above James, Joses, and Judas, and perhaps others, were really cousins of the Lord, disappears along with the dense fog it has created. It is sometimes argued that the Lord had not only four brothers, but also four cousins with the same names as the brothers. Or it is argued that his so-called four brothers (James, Joses or Joseph, Judas, Simon; Mark 6:3) were only cousins, not sons of His own mother. If, however, these men were cousins of the Lord, why are they never associated with their own mother? Why are they always called the Lord's "brethren" (adelphoi)? There is no laxity whatever in the New Testament regarding the physical use of this Greek word. There is a Greek word for cousin, anepsios (Co1. 4:10), and a Greek word for a relative, sungenes (Luke 1:58, etc.). The Scriptures are word-perfect and truth-perfect throughout. They were not written to create ambiguity. All the writers were experts in the Greek language. No scientific treatise is so accurate as the Scriptures are. Why, also, are the four "brethren" of the Lord almost always found in the Gospels in immediate connection with Mary, the Lord's mother?
Mary was still alive and in constant attention upon the Lord. It would only be natural to assume that when Mary and the four brothers appear together as a single group, they are connected by a blood-relationship.
It has often been argued from John 19:26-27 that the Lord committed His mother to the care of John, the disciple whom the Lord loved, and not to Mary's own sons. But would this prove that these four brothers were only cousins? Might there not be good reasons? Suppose that opinions within the household of Mary were very divided. Acts 1:14 is the first demonstration that the brothers became believers. "These all were (men) persevering with one accord in prayer, together with women and Miriam, the mother of Jesus, and with His brothers." A household in which the members were in two minds as to what to. believe regarding another member of the family, wherein the four brothers were in that state of mental travail which issues in "conversion," was probably not the most congenial place for Mary at that time. We know nothing of the mentalities or circumstances of the four brothers at that time, beyond what the epistles of Jude and James tell us. What we do know is that Mary must have been in urgent need of strong comfort, and it maybe the Lord knew that John, who understood the secret of real love, could give this more readily than the brothers. Besides, as Eadie reasons, "Nay, if the commendation of His mother to John in the words, 'Behold thy mother,' be a proof that Jesus had no brothers, might it not prove, on the other hand, that John had no mother?" The Lord, whose opinions. could never be erroneous, as He never came short, must have known that John, a close relative, was better able to bestow upon Mary that loving attention that she required.
Were any of the Lord's brothers among the twelve apostles? We hope to clear up this problem in our next instalment.
Were any of the Lord's brothers among the twelve apostles? Most decidedly they were not. The Lord's four brothers are altogether distinguished from the twelve. The Scripture evidence is very clear on this. Observe first of all the names of the eleven in Acts 1:13. The next verse states that "these all were (men) persevering with one accord in the prayer, together with women and Miriam, the mother of Jesus, and with His brothers." No statement could be more clear, shewing that the eleven are quite distinct from the brothers. Again in I. Cor. 9:5 the two groups are kept quite distinct. Sometimes it is alleged that Gal. 1:19 proves that James, the Lord's brother, writer of the epistle of James, was one of the apostles. But even if he was an apostle, this does not make him one of the twelve, or prove that he was the brother of John and the son of Zebedee. Paul and Barnabas were apostles, yet did not belong to the twelve.
Paul went up into Jerusalem and stayed with Peter for fifteen days, in order to make himself known to Peter, and become acquainted with him. Then he says (Gal. 1:18-19) that he saw none other of the apostles, "except (ei mE) James, the brother of the Lord." In English, this might imply that James was one of the apostles, but not necessarily in Greek. In Greek, the meaning is simply and briefly, "but I saw James." Any ignorant critic might read Luke 4:25-27 and deduce that the widow of Sarepta and Naaman the Syrian were Israelites. Luke says that to not even one of the many widows in Israel was Elijah sent, except (ei mE, "if not") to the Sidonian widow; while of the many lepers in Israel in the time of Elisha, not even one was cleansed, except Naaman the Syrian. The plain meaning is, "but to a widow woman of Sarepta Elijah was sent;" "but Naaman the Syrian was cleansed." This will help to clear up the meaning of Gal. 2:16, literally, "a man is not being declared righteous out of works of law, except (ean mE, "if ever not") through Christ Jesus' faith." Does this then mean that Christ Jesus' faith is a work of law? By no means. We must understand Paul to mean that we are not being declared righteous out of works of law, but through Christ Jesus' faith. So likewise at Rev. 21:27, nothing profane or disgusting or false may enter into the City, except those written in the little book of life of the Lamb. Here the old 1611 version makes better English sense, "but they which are written in the Lamb's book of life."
From the earliest times Gal. 1:19 has been interpreted as not necessarily implying that James, the Lord's brother, was an apostle. The words "if not" or "except" might qualify the entire sentence.
Hegesippus (2nd century), whose writings are quoted by Eusebius, seems to preclude the idea that James, the Lord's brother, was one of the twelve. He wrote that James undertook the guidance of the early Church at Jerusalem along with (meta) the apostles.
Again, Matt. 12:46-50 implies that the disciples are a distinct group from the Lord's brothers.
The Lord's four brothers are clearly named in Matt. 13:55, as James, Joseph, Simon and Judas. The first and last wrote the epistles bearing their names. Verse 17 of Jude implies that Jude was not an apostle, and verse 1 says he was a brother of James. Nothing further is known of the two brothers Joseph and Simon. Some MSS. in place of Joseph wrongly read Joses, and it says much for the integrity of the old codices Vaticanus and Sinaiticus that they preserve the primitive reading Joseph. The name Joses was probably substituted in Matt. 13: 55 in place of Joseph through the wide-spread idea that Jesus was an only child, and those called His brothers were in reality His cousins. Up till about a hundred years ago, Mary the mother of James and Joses ("the other Mary" of Matt. 27:61 and 28:1) was generally reckoned to be the wife of Clopas, who was carelessly assumed to be the same as Alpheus. Wrong punctuation at John 19:25 caused this Mary to be taken as sister of the Lord's mother. Therefore the children of Mary of Clopas were said to be the Lord's cousins. It was also assumed that the four brothers of the Lord were really children of this Mary, which meant that the Lord's mother was ever a virgin. But the four brothers of the Lord, James, Joseph, Simon and Judas, are quite distinct from the two sons of Mary of Clopas, namely, James and Joses. This last named James (the little or junior) was wrongly identified with James the Lord's brother, because both Jameses appeared to have a brother called Joses.
James the little appears to have been the son of Alpheus, and it may be he was called "the little" in order to distinguish him from James the Righteous, the Lord's brother, who became head of the mother church in Jerusalem. When Mark wrote his Gospel (see ch. 15:40), James the son of Zebedee had probably been dead for some years, so it is not likely that James the little was so called to distinguish him from the apostle James, who is thought to have been martyred about the year 44 A.D.
It is not likely that any of the Lord's four brothers could be among the twelve so long as they were complete unbelievers. While it is true that the twelve harboured some doubts right up till the end, they were faithful to their Master. At one stage some disciples turned back and walked no longer with the Lord (John 6:66). Jesus then said to the twelve, "Are you also wanting to go away?" Simon Peter affirmed their loyalty. Thereupon the Lord confirms that He had chosen for Himself the twelve. even though one of them, Judas (son) of Simon Iscariot, was a mischief-maker or adversary.
A few verses farther on, in ch. 7:3, we must note the contrast. No longer the twelve, but His own brothers, who tell Him to go away into Judea, so that His disciples may behold His works. Their ignorance and unbelief are manifested in the strange advice they gave Him, "Go away into Judea" (where the Jews were seeking to kill Him), and "manifest yourself to the world." "For not even His brothers believed into Him" (verse 5), because if they had believed, the world would have hated them (verse 7). When we do find them, immediately after the ascension of the Lord, they appear to be believers (Acts 1:14), but sharply distinguished from the apostles.
We are therefore obliged to conclude that James, Joseph, Simon, and Judas, the brothers of the Lord, were Done of them among the twelve. Therefore James the littte, son of Alpheus, and Judas the son of this James, were not brothers of the Lord.
Jerome made his scheme ridiculous by requiring that three of the Lord's brothers should be apostles. Modern schemes based upon Jerome's errors have produced crops of further absurdities. In one case we are asked to believe that one of the four ladies present at the Cross was a Mary, the grandmother of the Lord. The Lord's four brothers are said to have been really His uncles.
Even where the word for "brothers" is clearly used in the Greek, we are told it really means one like a brother, that is, a cousin, or, perchance an uncle. This will not do; always in the Greek this word means only a physical brother or a Christian brother. It no more means a cousin or an uncle than a turnip means a potato.
Not only so, but where one man is the brother of another, the word adelphos is distinctly used. It is altogether unreasonable and inexcusable to claim that in the third quartette of the lists of the names of the twelve, "Judas of James" (Luke 6:16; Acts 1:13; that is, Thaddeus in Matt. 10:4 and Mark 3:18) was Judas the brother of James, because the Greek only says Ioudan IakObou or Ioudas IakObou (Judas of-Jacob). We have exactly as much right to claim that the two brothers, James and John, sons of Zebedee, were brothers of Zebedee. The construction is the same in both cases. Faith-obedience is worthless apart from consistency.
It is to Luke that we are indebted (ch. 2:7) for one of the strongest proofs that Mary had other children besides the Lord. Mary "brought forth her firstborn Son." Some have argued that the word firstborn might have been used for an only child. This might have had a little force had the word nrstborn been used without the definite article. Yet even then the argument would not have been strong. When we read the statement as it is in Greek, however, we see that the argument is quite untenable. Literally, the Greek reads, "and she brought forth the son of her, the first-brought-forth (Son)." That is equivalent to writing, "She brought forth that son of her—the first born." Luke would never have written so unless he knew of other sons born to Mary. The New World version reads, "And she gave birth to her son, the firstborn." Rotherham is very similar, "and she brought forth her son—the first-born." In all the other seven occurrences of the word firstborn (prOtotokos; Rom. 8:29; Col. 1:15, 18; Heb. 1:6; 11:28; 12:23; Rev. 1:5), there are numerous later brought-forth ones.
It was necessary that the Lord should be born as He was born, in order that He might truly and completely be the Son ()f Mankind. He had to be a real human being—apart from sin. The agnostic, who claims that he does not know what to believe, comes up against his greatest difficulty when asked to say who was that little babe, that grew up like other children; learnt hke other children, claimed to be the sinless Son of all humanity who, in His earthly impoverish ment and humiliation, His perfect life as a human being and His sublime death for the sin of the universe, though never irr words claiming to be God, most assuredly never revealed the heart of any other but God. His human life revealed Man at his best, and also God at His grandest.
What has this to do with His mother? Much every way. Had she not borne other children in the normal and natural way, would there not have arisen a tendency to claim that she was of a different order from the human? Is not that exactly what the Roman Church has done? Can "the Mother of God" be truly human? Does not the claim that Mary was the "Immaculate Virgin" set her up above all other human mothers and women? Is not the Virgin Mary of far more importance and more real to the Roman Catholic Church than the Living Christ? But for the fact that Joseph and Mary had four sons and some daughters, the most part of Christendom to-day might have been of the Roman Church persuasion.
In her Magnificat Mary recognized that all generations would count her happy or fortunate (Luke 1:48). Here the ancient Latin Vulgate version turned this into "will call me beata" or happy. From this Latin word we have our word beatitude, meaning, strictly, happiness of the highest kind. But in the heart of Mary no thought ever arose that in days to come she would attain what the Roman Church calls beatification, which means a declaration by the pope that a certain person is blessed in heaven, authorizing the Church to reverence that person publicly.
Mary was no more divine than anY other woman. That she was fully human is demonstrated by the fact that she bore four sons and some daughters after she bore the Lord. Had Luke meant to say (ch. 2:7) that Mary brought forth her only-begotten Son, why did he not use the word which means just that, monogenEs? This word is found nine times (Luke 7:12; 8:42; 9:38; John 1:14; 1:18; 3:16; 3:18; Heb. 11:17; 1. John 4:9). If God can speak five times of His only-begotten Son, why did not Luke call the Lord Mary's only-begotten Son?
Three of the Marys must be carefully distinguished. The mother of the Lord was also the mother of four sons (James, Joseph, Simon, Judas) and some daughters. Of the sons James and Judas wrote epistles. Mary's sister appears to have been Salome, wife of Zebedee, father of James and John the apostles. Mary Magdalene (Luke 8:2), from whom seven demons had departed, was a follower of the Lord in His wanderings. She is quite distinct from the woman of Luke 7:37-50, whom the Lord sent off "into peace." Had she been Mary Magdalene, Luke would have connected the two, as the two passages are so close together. Yet this is just what he fails to do.
Mary, mother of James and Joses (Matt. 27:56; Mark 15:40; 16:1; Luke 24:10) is identified with "the other Mary" of Matt. 27:61; 28:1, and with Mary, wife (or daughter) of Clopas (John 19:25). Her son James was also known as James the little or junior, one of the twelve, son of Alpheus. Judas, son of this James, was also one of the twelve. Levi, or Matthew, was another son of Alpheus (Mark 2:14), but Mary is not stated to have been his mother at Matt. 27:55-56; Mark 15:40; and John 19:25.
Matthew 1:25 sternly and strongly opposes the fiction of Mary's perpetual virginity. This verse, taken along with the mention of four brothers of the Lord, ought to be conclusive. Had Matthew meant that Mary had no other children apart from the Lord, he could easily have omitted the words, "till she brought forth a Son." If you told me you did not leave the house till the rain went off, this would be tantamount to your saying you did leave the house then. A different sense would be conveyed did you say you did not leave the house before the rain went off.
The evangelists write about the four brothers of the Lord without any reserve whatever. Had the account of His miraculous birth been a fiction, they would, to give their tales consistency, have denied that the Lord had any brothers or sisters. Apart from this, it is far from likely that a family of half a dozen boys and girls had been adopted into the household of Joseph and Mary, Joseph being a poor artisan.
We have hinted that the traitor Judas was the son of Simon Iscanot. So the R.V. of 1881 does in fact read, setting the words "the son" in italics. The Greek simply reads" Judas of Simon Iscariot." (John 6:71; 13:26). Matt. 10:4 joins them as one pair. Compare Mark 6:7. Matthew, Mark and Luke may have concealed mention of their relationship out of feelings for the survivor. The 1611 version also reads "Judas Iscariot the son of Simon" (John 6:71), and various modern versions also shew the relationship. This upports the idea that the other Judas was the son of James (the son of Alpheus), not the brother of James.
In our next brief chapter we shall shew how a very logical French clergyman viewed the matter of the Lord's relatives.
"The portrait of Mary in Heaven," translated from the French of Rev. Napoleon Roussel.
The first hint which I received on the point, is at the last verse of the first chapter of Matthew. I saw that Jesus was called the "firstborn" son of Mary, and that Joseph did not live with her, as her husband, until the birth of Jesus. The two words which I have emphasized tappeared to me significant. But this time also I would not hasten to a conclusion, and I liked better to believe, before a still more evident proof to the contrary, that Mary had no other children besides Jesus.
Such was the tendency of my mind after reading the first chapter of Matthew, and I greatly hoped that nothing, as I made further perusal, would oblige me to resist it. It was almost with terror that on reaching ch. 12:46 I encountered these words, "As Jesus was speaking to the people, His mother and His brothers, who were outside, asked to speak to Him."
"His brothers!" I cried; "if Jesus had brothers, then Mary had several children! No, no; it must not be thus! No doubt the word brother here means cousin; let us pass over it, and may God grant that no other difficulties may recall me to the argument!"
I went on, and immediately found the following lines, "And some one said to Jesus, Behold Thy mother and Thy brothers are without, and ask to speak to Thee. But Jesus answered him, "Who is My mother? and who are My brothers? And stretching out His hands over the disciples He said, Behold My mother and My brothers! For whoever does the will of My Father who is in heaven, he is My brother, My sister, and My mother!"
This close of the story only added to my embarrassment. For if, I reflected, the word brother means cousin in the first line, it ought also to mean cousin in the second. And in that case, Jesus would seriously have addressed to the crowd this burlesque phrase: "He who does the will of My Father who is in heaven, the same is My cousin!" This supposition is ridiculous, absurd, impossible! This is to clothe in a grotesque form that thought—so touching in the noble expression of the Saviour, that we are brothers and sisters of Jesus Christ.
You perceive that it here becomes necessary to choose between two translations and their consequences; either Mary was accompanied by her nephews, therefore it is to cousins that Jesus compares the Apostles, and thereby we lose the beautiful name of His brothers; or else, she was surrounded by her own children, but thus Mary loses her glorious title to a perpetual virginity. For my own part, I confess that if one must absolutely make the election, I would rather think that Mary had several children than disinherit the whole Church, the Christians of all ages, of the beautiful prerogative of being brothers and sisters of Jesus Christ.
Nevertheless, we do not so easily renounce the ideas held since our tenderest infancy, and nourished during a whole life; although my mind was convinced, my heart was not won. I still inwardly resisted, and I hoped almost for a miracle to restore to me my former illusion.
I turned the leaf and read the following chapter. Would you believe it? To my great surprise I saw at verses 55 and 56 that not only brothers of Jesus were mentioned, but sisters too. The word cousin might possibly have been put for brother, for the Greek term (as a note in your Bible informs) me will bear both senses; but alas! the word sister absolutely cannot be taken in the sense of cousin; for, these two words are never used interchangeably in the original text of the New Testament. You may therefore, yourself judge of the force of my argument, and that without understanding either Hebrew, Greek, or Latin. I reflected—there are in this passage the Greek words adelphos and adelphE; now, since adelphE always in the Scriptures signifies sister and never cousin, is it not evident that adelphos here means brother, and not cousin?
As for the rest, one reflection suggested by good sense settles the question: to make the word adelphos signify brother, it needs only be taken in its ordinary sense; but to make it mean cousin, it must be understood in its exceptional sense. If those who wrote the Bible had believed the perpetual virginity of Mary, surely they would have avoided the ambiguity.
Directly I had admitted this interpretation, a thousand other details came to the confirmation of my new opinion. Thus in a passage which I am examining, the Nazarenes, astonished that Jesus, who had passed His childhood among them, should to-day be working miracles, exclaim: "Is not this the son of the carpenter? is not his mother called Mary? his brothers, James, Joseph, Simon and Jude? and are not his sisters also with us?"
Now, when neighbours enumerate the members of a family, is it not natural to think that after having named the father and mother, they would mention the names of the brothers and sisters, rather than those of the cousins?
Finally, if Jesus were the only child of Mary, why does not the Holy Scripture say so? It says indeed, and that several times, that Jesus is the only Son of God; why does it not say also, at least once, that He is the only son of Mary? If the words are different, it is because the facts are different also. We must suppose that authors, inspired by the Holy Spirit, knew how to choose their expressions, and that they speak with equal truth when they call Jesus only Son of God, and firstborn son of Mary.
From these considerations we must necessarily come to this conclusion: Mary, after having conceived by Holy Spirit, carried in her virgin womb a body free from pollution, and brought into the world the only Son of God, having accomplished her supernatural task, and from that time reentered into the ordinary course of nature; that is, became in all things the chaste wife of her husband Joseph.
Now then, according to the thirteenth chapter of Matthew, Jesus had at this period four brothers and some sisters. The plural of the word sister represents at least the number two. Therefore draw this final inference: Mary had as children; Jesus, her firstborn; His four brothers; and His two sisters: in other words, Mary was the mother of seven children.
A.T Last updated 27.8.2007