28.01.2020 — Brothers of Jesus

Week 3 of Ordinary Time, Tuesday – 28th January 2020 — Gospel: Mark 3,31-35

Brothers of Jesus

After the Beelzebul controversy with the scribes, Mark resumes the account of Jesus’ relatives who had set out to “seize him” (3,21). This time his mother and brothers are specifically mentioned. Mark highlights the contrast between Jesus’ family and the audience surrounding him by twice noting that his family members stood outside (3,31-32). Who are the brothers of Jesus mentioned here and throughout the New Testament (John 2,12; Acts 1,14; 1 Cor 9,5; Gal 1,19)? Some commentators contend that they refer to Jesus’ full siblings. But the ancient Church unanimously held that Mary remained a virgin throughout her life and did not give birth to any other child than Jesus. Mark is not referring to full siblings of Jesus; this is indicated by his later mention of James and Joses as sons of a different Mary (Mk 6,3; 15,40; cf. Mt 27,56). Moreover, the brothers’ authoritative behaviour toward Jesus (Mk 3,31-32) suggests that they are older than Jesus, although he is Mary’s firstborn (Lk 2,7). Both Hebrew and Aramaic lacked a word for ‘cousin’ and used ‘brother’ to refer to a range of kinship and relationship (Gen 13,8; 2 Kgs 10,13-14; Rom 9,3). Traditionally the Catholic Church interpreted Jesus’ brothers as either his cousins, or the children of Joseph by an earlier marriage (CCC, 500).