Saturday, March 19, 2011

NT Pod 51: What do we know about the brothers of Jesus?

NT Pod 51 discusses the brothers of Jesus. It is just under twelve minutes long.

Key texts: Mark 6.3, 1 Cor. 9.5, Mark 3.20, Mark 3.31-35, John 7.1-11, 1 Cor. 15.7.

NT Pod 51: The brothers of Jesus (mp3)
NT Pod 51: The brothers of Jesus (mp3) (Alternative location)

Feel free to leave your feedback below or on Twitter or on our Facebook page.

Thanks to Ram2000, Me and You, for the opening theme, released under a Creative Commons agreement.


  1. It is important to remember, that we don't know that a Jesus historically existed. So we need to be careful to make any kind of conclusion about the brothers this hypothetical jesus. That would be a assumption on an assumption. If Jesus is a literary creation, then the brothers of Jesus would also be literary creations.

    Also, with regard to information about jesus by "Paul". Paul did not know Jesus, so that any information about Jesus from Paul needs to be considered carefully.

    Finally, while it is common belief both in Church Dogma and in the academic religion industry that the letters of the figure we call "Paul" were written before all of the gospels... This has not been demonstrated, and we need to consider the possibility that they were written at the same time, or even that the letters we call from "Paul" were written at a later time.

    Cheers! RichGriese.NET

  2. The difficulty with representing these things as "assumption" and "belief", and of speaking in derogatory terms about "the academic religion industry" is that you deprive yourself of the opportunity to get stuck into some good scholarship on the issue. In general, I am afraid that there is no substitute for thorough, detailed research and familiarity with the contours of the debate.

  3. Thanks, Mark. You ask an interesting question. What about the possibility that the role of Jesus's family was down-played for their own protection?

    I am not convinced that the "men from James" had his blessing. I go with Stephen Carlson's reading of Gal 2:12, which is based on the harder (and well attested) textual variant. This reading suggests that the men from James were the men from Judea of Gal 15:1, in which case they had gone beyond the instructions that James had given to them.

    Is there a pedagogical advantage to the view that there were deep rifts in the early church? ;-)

  4. Thanks, Mark.
    I always look forward to another fascinating topic, and I thank you for your hard work above everything else that you could be doing.
    James gets a mention in the podcast, but what about Jude (or Judah)? Or are his writings seen as too much of a compilation of one of Peter's letters?
    Or is Jude Peter's patsy in the early church rifts?
    Or are both too far dated to be by either?

    Thanks again!

  5. Nice podcast, like usual, Mark. I share Shane's question about what you make the brothers other than James.

    Also, a question for Richard, who posted, "What about the possibility that the role of Jesus's family was down-played for their own protection?"

    While I'm intrigued by the possibility of "protective silences" of sorts, there are three questions I have about this possibility in this case:
    1) Why would the family need any more protection than the apostles or anybody else?
    2) Why would the Gospels not at least mention James, who was already dead anyway?
    3) [And this question could be directed at anyone, not just Richard] Why is Jesus' mother (not so much in Mark, but in the other three) portrayed more sympathetically than the brothers? In John, for example, she is at the foot of the Christ and none of the brothers are there. In fact Jesus has to ensure that the BD takes her into his care. The last mention of his brothers is in chapter 7, which isn't entirely sympathetic.

    - Arianne

  6. What light on Jesus' family's role is cast by the report by Eusebius that Jesus' cousin, Symeon, was made 2nd Bishop of Jerusalem:

    "it is said that those of the apostles and disciples of the Lord that were still living came together from all directions with those that were related to the Lord according to the flesh (for the majority of them also were still alive) to take counsel as to who was worthy to succeed James. They all with one consent pronounced Symeon, the son of Clopas, of whom the Gospel also makes mention; to be worthy of the episcopal throne of that parish. He was a cousin, as they say, of the Saviour. For Hegesippus records that Clopas was a brother of Joseph."

    Why would they gather those "that were related to the Lord according to the flesh" if the family had no special place in church?

  7. Great as usual. Just a minor note: your post mentions Mark 3.20, which should be 3.21.

    That's it. Carry on! :-)

  8. Richard -- thanks for your comments. I go with Stephen's reading of Gal. 2.12 too, and it's intriguing how that can help us with Acts 15.1 -- I'll have to give that some more thought. Thanks. Enjoyed the remark re pedagogical advantages!

  9. Shane -- thanks. I should add Jude too to my list. So I need to do episodes on James, Jude and the issue of parentage.

  10. Thanks for the great questions, Arianne.

  11. Scott -- agreed. Definitely something to come back to.

  12. Thanks for the correction, Steve. This is what comes with not reading a script!

  13. Why do 'Luke/Acts', the Epistle of James, and the Epistle of Jude all airbrush from history any trace of a family connection with Jesus?

    Luke/Acts mentions brothers of Jesus right up to the very moment (Acts 1:14) that there is a public church and then they vanish.

    According to Acts 1, James didn't even make the raffle to be nominated as a witness to the resurrection.

    Isn't it pretty obvious that 'Luke/Acts' knew perfectly well that James the church leader was not the brother of Jesus, and took great care to ensure that his readers never thought that he was?

    Richard Fellows point about protection deserves note.

    What would have been the punishment for declaring that a recently convicted criminal was somebody who should be regarded as the agent through whom God had created the world?