BRETHREN OF THE LORD.—The only three theories about ‘the brethren of the Lord’ which are worthy of serious consideration are those which are called by Lightfoot (1) the Hieronymian (from its advocacy by Jerome
), (2) the Epiphanian (from its advocacy by Epiphanius), and (3) the Helvidian (from its advocacy by Jerome’s opponent, Helvidius).
According to the Hieronymian view, the ‘brethren’ of Jesus were His first cousins, being sons of the Virgin’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas. According to the Epiphanian view, they were sons of Joseph by a former wife. According to the Helvidian view, they were sons of Joseph and Mary born after Jesus. All these views claim to be Scriptural, and the Epiphanian claims in addition to be in accordance with the most ancient tradition.
i. Points that are certain.—In discussing a question of such intricacy as the present, it is well to begin by distinguishing what is reasonably certain from what is uncertain. A careful comparison of the relevant Scripture passages renders it certain—
(1) That the brethren of the Lord, whatever their true relationship to Him was, lived under the same roof with Jesus and His mother, and were regarded as members of the Virgin’s family. The common household is implied in John 7:3,
and more distinctly still in John 2:12,
where we read that ‘he went down to Capernaum, he, and his mother, and his brethren, and his disciples: and there they abode not many days.’ That the brethren were members of the same family as Jesus, and stood in some definite filial relation to Joseph and Mary, is distinctly stated in Matthew 13:55
||, ‘Is not this the carpenter’s son? is not his mother called Mary? and his brethren, James, and Joseph,*
and Simon, and Judas? And his sisters, are they not all†
with us?’ (cf. also Matthew 12:47
‘Behold thy mother and thy brethren stand without, seeking to speak to thee’). In harmony with this the Gospels represent the brethren of Jesus as habitually going about in company with the Virgin (Matthew 12:46
(2) That the brethren of Jesus were jealous of Him, and up to the time of the Resurrection disbelieved His claims. Thus the Gospels represent Jesus as lamenting the unbelief and want of sympathy of His near relatives: ‘A prophet is not without honour, save in his own country, and among his own kin, and in his own house’ (Mark 6:4
); and again, ‘My time is not yet come, but your time is alway ready. The world cannot hate you, but me it hateth’ (John 7:6
f.). There are, moreover, the still more definite statements, ‘For even his brethren did not believe on him’ (John 7:5
); and, ‘his friends (οἱ παρʼ αὐτοῦ) went out to lay hold on him, for they said, He is beside himself (Mark 3:21
Some attempts have been made to attenuate the force of these passages. Cornelius a Lapide, for instance, commenting on John 7:5,
says: ‘Licet enim viderent eum tot signa et miracula facere, illaque vera esse non dubitarent, tamen dubitabant an ipse esset Messias et Dei Filius: licet enim hoc verum esse optarent, et ex parte ob tot ejus miracula crederent—tamen alia ex parte videntes ejus paupertatem et neglectum, dubitabant. Ut ergo certi hac de re fiant, hortantur Christum ire secum in Jerusalem, etc.’ But St. John asserts disbelief (οὐδὲ ἑτίστειον), not doubt, and implies jealousy and hostility. Other critics have maintained that some only of the brethren disbelieved. But St. John’s language at the very least asserts that the majority (that is, three out of the four brethren) disbelieved, and almost certainly implies the disbelief of all.
From this there follows the necessary inference—
(3) That none of the brethren were numbered among the Twelve Apostles. This conclusion is confirmed by the manner in which they are distinguished from the Twelve in Acts 1:14,
all with one accord continued steadfastly in prayer with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brethren.’ With this may be compared 1 Corinthians 9:5
(‘Have we no right to lead about a wife that is a believer, even as the rest of the apostles, and the brethren of the Lord, and Cephas?’), which, though less decisive than Acts 1:14,
because Cephas is first classed among the Twelve and then separately, points in the same direction. It is no sufficient reply to this to say that in Galatians 1:19
James is called an Apostle (‘But other of the apostles saw I none, save
James the Lord’s brother’). Granting that this is the case, though it has been denied (e.g. by Grotius, Winer, Bleek; cf. (Revised Version margin)), it may be fairly maintained that St. James is called an Apostle in that wider sense in which the term is applied to St. Paul himself, to St. Barnabas (Acts 14:4
; Acts 14:14, 1 Corinthians 9:6
), to Andronicus and Junias (Romans 16:7
), and perhaps also to Silvanus (1 Thessalonians 2:6
; cf. 1 Thessalonians 1:1
). That James the Lord’s brother was one of the Twelve is implied already in the Gospel according to the Hebrews (circa (about) a.d. 100),*
but the evidence of this dubious source cannot outweigh the strong negative presumption afforded by the canonical writings.†
ii. The Hieronymian View.—With these three points established, we proceed to consider the Hieronymian view that the brethren of Jesus were really His first cousins. Jerome’s theory, as stated by himself in his acrimonious but able treatise adversus Helvidium, involves the following positions:—
(a) That James the Lord’s brother was an Apostle, being identical with James the Less, the son of Alphaeus.
(b) That the mother of James and of the other ‘brethren’ was ‘Mary of Clopas’ (John 19:25
(c) That this Mary was the Virgin’s sister.
As developed by subsequent writers, the Hieronymian theory affirms in addition—
(d) That Simon the Zealot and Judas ‘not Iscariot’ were also brethren of the Lord.
(e) That Clopas is identical with Alphaeus, and that consequently ‘Mary of Clopas’ is not to be regarded as the daughter of Clopas, but as his wife.‡
As these two additional points are maintained by all modern followers of Jerome, we shall regard them as integral parts of the Hieronymian theory. Jerome’s theory has already been virtually disproved by the proof (i. 2, 3) that the Lord’s brethren were not Apostles, but its great ingenuity and wide acceptance§
render full discussion of it necessary.
A. Arguments for the Hieronymian view.—
(1) James the Lord’s brother must have been of the Twelve, because he is called an Apostle, Galatians 1:19
. (For a reply to this see i. 2, 3).
(2) James the Lord’s brother must have been of the Twelve, because he exercised great authority among, and even over Apostles. Thus at the Council of Jerusalem he presided and pronounced the decision, although St. Peter himself was present (Acts 15:13
). St. Paul names him before St. Peter as one of the chief pillars of the Church (Galatians 2:9
). The Galatian heretics appealed to his authority as superior to that of St. Paul (Galatians 2:12
), and his importance is further shewn by such passages as Acts 12:17
; Acts 21:18
Reply.—St. James’ prominent position is admitted, but it can be accounted for without supposing him to have been of the Twelve. For—
(a) His close relationship to Jesus (whatever the relationship was) would have sufficed of itself to gain him great consideration among the first Christians. He probably owed in part at least to this his election to the see of Jerusalem. Relationship to Jesus was clearly the main motive in the appointment of his successor, Symeon the son of Clopas,||
who was a cousin of Jesus (Eusebius, Historia Ecclesiastica iii. 11). Hegesippus speaks of the relations of Jesus as ‘ruling the churches’ as such. Even as late as the reign of Domitian they were sufficiently important to incur the jealousy of the tyrant (l.c. iii. 20).
(b) James the Lord’s brother possessed personal qualities which fully account for his elevation. Even the Jews, according to Hegesippus, reverenced him for his piety, his unceasing prayers, his life-long Nazirite vow, and above all for his justice (l.c. ii. 23). Josephus mentions the indignation which his execution excited among the Jews (Ant. xx. ix. 1), and in a passage not now extant ascribes the sufferings endured by the Jews during the siege of Jerusalem to Divine vengeance for his murder (Origen, circa (about) Celsum, i. 47).
(3) James the Lord’s brother must have been of the Twelve, because there were only two prominent Jameses in the Church, as the expression ‘James the Less’ (Mark 15:40
) indicates. He was therefore either James the Great, son of Zebedee, or James the Less, son of Alphaeus. But he was not the former, who was martyred as early as a.d. 44 (Acts 12:2
). Therefore he was the latter, the son of Alphaeus.
Reply.—Jerome and his followers have been misled by the Latin translation Jacobus minor, ‘James the Less.’ The Greek is, Ἰάκωβος ὁ μικρός, ‘James the Little,’ the allusion being to his short stature.
(4) The names of James, Simon, and Jude occur together, and in the same division, in all the Apostolic lists. This suggests—(a) that they were brothers, and (b) that they are identical with our Lord’s brethren of the same name (see Matthew 10:2
ff., Mark 3:16
ff., Luke 6:14
ff., Acts 1:13
Reply.—It has already been conclusively proved that our Lord’s brethren were not Apostles (see i. 2, 3); but, waiving this point, we answer: (1) The occurrence of the three names together in the list of Apostles is no proof of fraternal relationship. (2) There is definite proof that the three were not brothers. For had they been so, it would naturally have been mentioned in some at least of the Gospels, as it is in the cases of the brothers Peter and Andrew, James and John. Moreover, the father of James is Alphaeus, but the father of Jude is a certain James, of whom nothing definite is known. It is true that some propose to translate Ἰούδας Ἱακώβου (Luke 6:16, Acts 1:13
) ‘Jude the brother of James,’ but so unusual, and probably unexampled, a meaning would require at least to be indicated by the context. We conclude, therefore, that James was certainly not the brother of Jude, and there is no evidence that he was the brother of Simon. If he was the brother of any Apostle, it was of Matthew (Levi), whose father was also called Alphaeus (Mark 2:14
). But even this, in the absence of any evidence of the identity of the two Alphaeuses, must be pronounced doubtful.
Equally evident is it that these three Apostles were not brethren of Jesus. The coincidence of three such common names as James, Simon, and Jude in the list of brethren and in the list of Apostles proves nothing. So common are the names that they are duplicated in the Apostolic list itself. If it could be shown that James, Simon, and Jude, Apostles, were also brothers, the coincidence would be worth considering; but since they were not, the coincidence is without significance. The very way in which these three Apostles are designated shows that they were not brethren of Jesus. It was necessary to distinguish them from three other Apostles of the same name, and yet they are not once called, for distinction, ‘the Lord’s brethren.’ James is called ‘of Alphaeus,’ perhaps also ‘the Little’; Simon is called the Cananaean,’ and ‘the Zealot’; Jude receives no less than four distinguishing titles, ‘not Iscariot,’ ‘of James,’ ‘Thaddaeus,’ and ‘Lebbaeus’ (Matthew 10:3,
Western Text). How strange, if he really was the Lord’s brother, that he is not once so described!
(5) The last argument consists of three distinct steps. (a) James, the son of Alphaeus, the Apostle, is identical with ‘James the Little’ of Mark 15:40
= Matthew 27:56
. But this James the Little had a brother Joses, clearly a well-known character, and therefore (since no other Joses is mentioned in the Gospels) the same as Joses the brother of Jesus (Mark 6:3
; and Matthew 13:53,
where the authorities are divided between the forms Joses and Joseph). (b) The mother of this James is called by the Synoptists Mary, and she is further described in John 19:25
as ‘Mary of Clopas’ (Μαρία ἡ τοῦ Κλωπᾶ). This might mean ‘Mary daughter of Clopas,’ but since Clopas and Alphaeus are the same word, both being transliterations of the Aramaic (חַלְפי) חַלְפַי, the correct translation is ‘Mary wife of Clopas.’ () This Mary, wife of Clopas, is said by St. John to have been the Virgin’s sister. Accordingly James and Joses (and consequently also Simon and Jude), the Lord’s ‘brethren,’ were really His cousins on His mother’s side.
Reply.—This argument is ingenious rather than strong. For (a) the identification of James the Little (Mark 15:40
) with the son of Alphaeus, though generally accepted and not improbable, is only a guess. Indeed it may be argued that since St. Mark in his Gospel gives no hint that the son of Alphaeus was called ‘the Little,’ he must mean by ‘James the Little’ another person. But conceding the identity (which, however, whether true or not, is too precarious to bear the weight of an important argument), we still cannot concede the identity of Joses, the brother of this James, with Joses the brother of Jesus. The identity of James of Alphaeus with James the Little may be conceded, because, though it is weakly attested, nothing of weight can be urged against it. But if this Joses, the brother of James, was also the brother of Jesus, then three of our Lord’s brethren were Apostles, a conclusion which is negatived by an overwhelming weight of evidence (see i. 2, 3). In such a case the mere coincidence of a name (and Joses or Joseph is, as Lightfoot shews, a particularly common name) is of no weight at all. (b) Jerome’s assumption that ‘Mary the mother of James and Joses’ (Mt., Mk.) is identical with ‘Mary of Clopas’ is probably, though not certainly, correct. But there is no ground for supposing, as Jerome’s supporters do, that this Mary was the wife of Clopas. There being no indication in the context to the contrary, the natural translation of Μαρία ἡ τοῦ Κλωπᾶ is ‘Mary the daughter of Clopas.’*
It is maintained, indeed, that since she was the mother of James the Little (who was an Apostle), her husband must have been Alphaeus, i.e. Clopas. But it is doubtful if James the Little really was an Apostle, and it is still more doubtful if Alphaeus is the same person as Clopas. Κλωπᾶς, or, as it should probably be accented, Κλώπας, is a purely Greek name, being contracted from Κλεόπατρος (cf. Ἁντίπας, from Ἁντίπατρος). Ἁλφαῖος (Ἁλφαῖος, WH
), on the other hand, is the Aramaic חַלְפי (Halpai), the initial guttural being, as is frequently the case, omitted. The names are therefore linguistically distinct. It is true that if there were strong independent reasons for identifying Alphaeus and Clopas, the linguistic difficulties might possibly be surmounted, but there are no such reasons, or at least none are alleged.
Against the identification of Κλὡτας and Alphaeus it may be urged: (1) That inasmuch as initial sh‘va is almost invariably represented by a full vowel in Greek (שִׁלמה = Σαλομών; צְבָאוֹח = σαβαώθ; etc.), there is a presumption against a word like Clopas, which begins with two consonants, representing a Semitic name. (2) Although ח is occasionally transliterated κ in the middle or at the end of a word, this never, or hardly ever, happens at the beginning. (3) (חַלְפִי) חַלְפַי is transliterated quite regularly Χαλφἱ; in 1 Maccabees 11:70
. (4) The ω of Κλὡτας cannot be derived from חַלְפַי. The nearest Semitic equivalent of Κλώτας would be some such form as קלוֹפָא. (5) The Semitic versions uniformly regard Ἀλφαὶος as a Semitic word, but Κλὡτας as Greek, transliterating the κ by ק.
(c) There is more plausibility about Jerome’s contention that Mary of Clopas is described in John 19:25
as the Virgin’s sister. The words are ἱστήκεισαν δὲ παρὰ τῷ σταυρῷ τοῦ Ἰησοῦ ἡ μητἠρ αὑτοῦ καὶ ἡ ἀδελφὴ τῆς μητρὸς αὐτοῦ, Μαρία ἡ τοῦ Κλωπᾶ, καὶ Μαρία ἡ Μαγδαληνή. It must be candidly admitted that the prima facie impression which this passage makes upon the mind is that only three women are mentioned, and that the Virgin’s sister is Mary of Clopas. There are, however, important considerations on the other side. (1) When persons or things are enumerated in pairs (cf. the list of Apostles, Matthew 10:2-4
), the copula is not inserted between the pairs. If, therefore, St. John in this passage designs to speak of two pairs of women, καὶ is correctly omitted before Μαρία ἡ τοῦ Κλωπᾶ. (2) The Synoptic parallels show that Salome, the mother of James and John, was present at the Crucifixion, and since it is unlikely that St. John would omit to mention the presence of his own mother, ἡ ἀδελφὴ τῆς μητρὸς αὐτοῦ is probably not Mary of Clopas, but Salome. The suppression of her name is quite in the style of the Evangelist, who is very reticent in personal matters, and never even names himself. (3) If Mary of Clopas was sister to the Virgin, then two sisters had the same name, a circumstance most improbable, unless they were only step-sisters. The point is undoubtedly a difficult one, and different opinions will continue to be held about it, but fortunately its decision does not affect the main point of our inquiry, because, whether Mary of Clopas was the Virgin’s sister or not, there is no reason for supposing that she was the mother of the brethren of Jesus.
B. Objections to the Hieronymian view.—
The Hieronymian view is to be rejected, partly because the arguments in its favour, though ingenious, are inconclusive and often far-fetched; partly because no trace of it is to be found before the time of Jerome, who apparently invented it;*
partly because it ‘is obviously an attempt of an ardent champion of celibacy to maintain the perpetual virginity not only of Mary, but of Joseph;†
partly because it involves an unnatural use of the term ‘brethren’;‡ [Note: It is true, as Jerome warmly urges (adv. Helvidium, xiv., xv.), that the OT usage of ‘brother’ is somewhat wide. In " translation="">1 Chronicles 23:21-22
first cousins are called brethren (אַחיהָם = ἁδελφοὶ αὑτῶν, LXX): in " translation="">Leviticus 10:4,
first cousins once removed (אֲחַיכַם : = τοὐς ἁδελφοὺς ὑμῶν, LXX). So also in " translation="">Genesis 14:14
; " translation="">Genesis 14:16
Abraham’s nephew is called his brother (אָהיו ); and in " translation="">Genesis 29:15
Jacob is called Laban’s brother. It cannot therefore he pronounced that our Lord’s cousins might occasionally be alluded to as His brethren, especially if it be true, as is generally alleged, that there is no word in Aramaic for cousin. At the same time it should be remembered that all Jerome’s examples of an extended use of ‘brother’ are taken from the OT; that the usage of ἁδελφός is much less elastic than that of אָה ; that no instances of ἁδελφός = ἀνεψιός are cited from profane writers; and that even the OT does not sanction the use of אָה to describe any other relationship than that of brother. The term ἀνεψιός is not avoided in the NT (see " translation="">Colossians 4:10
), and Hegesippus (a.d. 160), in discussing the subject of our Lord’s human relationships, keeps the two terms distinct, calling Symeon, the second bishop of Jerusalem, and our Lord’s , ἀνεψιός; but James, the first bishop of Jerusalem, always ἁδελφός. Clearly, therefore, Hegesippus did not regard Lord (2)
Lord's Day. Revelation 1:10
. From the times of the apostles, the first day of the week has been kept sacred by Christians in commemoration of the resurrection of Christ, and it is invariably designated as the Lord's day by the fathers of the primitive church up to the time of the edict of Constantine, when the name Sunday became common. "On the first day of the week when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul preached unto them." Acts 20:7
. His charge "concerning the collection for the saints" to the church in Corinth is, "Upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store, as God hath prospered him." 1 Corinthians 16:1-2
. John commences the Revelation saying: "I was in the Spirit on the Lord's day." Revelation 1:10
. The Lord's day, as the Sabbath, reminds us of the finished work of creation and redemption. See Sabbath.