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Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible

Brethren of the Lord

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BRETHREN OF THE LORD . Jesus was Mary’s first-born ( Luke 2:7 ), and she subsequently (according to the view accepted in the present article) bore to Joseph four sons, James, Joseph, Judas, and Simon, and several daughters ( Matthew 13:55-56 = Mark 6:3 ). During His ministry the Lord’s brethren did not believe in Him. They sneered at Him ( John 7:3-5 ), and once they concluded that He was mad, and wished to arrest Him and convey Him away from Capernaum ( Mark 3:21 ; Mark 3:31 ). After the Resurrection, however, convinced by so tremendous a demonstration, they joined the company of the believers ( Acts 1:14 ).

In early days, partly at least in the interests of the notion of Mary’s perpetual virginity, two theories were promulgated in regard to the ‘Brethren of the Lord.’ ( a ) They were supposed to be sons of Joseph by a former marriage , having thus no blood-relationship with Jesus. So Origen, Clement of Alexandria, Epiphanius. ( b ) They were held to be His cousins, sons of Mary, the wife of Alphœus ( Matthew 27:56 = Mark 15:40 ); ‘brother’ here implying merely kinship, as Abraham calls himself and his nephew Lot ‘brethren’ ( Genesis 13:8 ), and Laban calls Jacob, his sister’s son, his ‘brother’ ( Genesis 29:16 ). So Jerome and Augustine. That Mary, the wife of Alphæus and mother of James the Little, was a sister of Mary the mother of Jesus, is an inference from John 19:25 , where it is supposed that only three women are mentioned: (1) His mother, (2) His mother’s sister, viz., Mary, the wife of Clopas (= Alphæus), and (3) Mary Magdalene. But there are probably four: (1) His mother, (2) her sister Salome, the mother of the sons of Zebedee (cf. Mt. = Mk.), (3) Mary, the wife of Clopas, and (4) Mary Magdalene. It is very unlikely that two sisters should have been named Mary; and moreover, James, the son of Alphæus, was an Apostle ( Matthew 10:3 = Mark 3:18 = Luke 6:15 ), and none of the Lord’s brethren was an Apostle in His life-time (cf. Acts 1:13-14 ).

David Smith.


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Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Brethren of the Lord'. Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/hdb/b/brethren-of-the-lord.html. 1909.

Lectionary Calendar
Tuesday, November 12th, 2019
the Week of Proper 27 / Ordinary 32
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