The Bible often refers to “Jesus’ brothers”. For example:
“While Jesus was still talking to the crowd, his mother and brothers stood outside, wanting to speak to him.”Mt 12:46
I find this is confusing since we also read and hear about the “Virgin Mary”. How would that be possible if she had other children?
According to my research, the Bible is originally written in Hebrew and was translated into other languages much later. In Hebrew, the word ‘brother’ not only applies to biological brothers but also to relatives such as Cousins. Therefore some of the real meaning has been lost as the translators did not know exactly what was meant by the word and whether Jesus actually had brothers.
When we read the writings of Valtorta, it quickly becomes clear that Jesus had no physical brothers. Jude Thaddeus and James the Younger were his “cousins” from Josephs side, thus not physical cousins. Jesus had a lot of contact with them since childhood, as they were taught at home by the Virgin Mary along with him. Even in Valtorta, the two are sometimes referred to as “brothers” (e.g. Valtorta II, 97). Therefore, it seems the Hebrews used to be less serious about biological brothers and used the word for all relatives.
Someone could argue that it doesn’t matter whether Jesus had biological brothers or not. For me personally, it’s very important due to the following reasons:
- Status of our Lady: When I first heard of the theory that Jesus might have biological brothers and sisters, I was very disappointed. Something was wrong for me. Why should a woman who had received the highest grace of all graces and received God himself and is still called a virgin, have had the wish to have other children? She was also perfect mentally and spiritually, otherwise God would not have chosen her. So why should she still have other desires? For me, Maria is also a role model of chastity and virtue, to belittle her as a “normal woman” through this theory, in no way lives up to Maria’s position and distinction before God.
- It is illogical that Jesus had biological brothers: When Jesus was on the cross, shortly before his death, battered and almost bleeding to death, he still collected the strength to entrust his disciple John to his mother: (John 19:26-27: ‘He said to his mother, “Woman, here is your son.” Then he said to the disciple, “Here is your mother.”‘). If Mary had other children looking after her, Jesus could have saved his energy. Only when Mary was alone after his death, the words of Jesus make sense. Thus Maria was left with John as her only (new) son.
- Significance for us humans: The fact that Maria was a virgin until the end of her life shows how important and highly valued for God chastity and virginity is. When we read the writings of Valtorta, we also become aware that Maria and Josef shared a very strong love for one another that was based on respect and togetherness. They did not experience their love on a physical level and at the same time it went much deeper or higher than love can ever go. They are both fully committed to God and have maintained this throughout their lives. Both are a great example of how God thought man. Nothing was missing for the two, they have everything and more, especially mental perfection. This shows us humans how we can live and how we should give priority to the spiritual and divine. Spirit is able to give and fulfill us in ways that no physical sensation can ever do.
- Relatives as a logical consequence of the humanity of Jesus: God wanted to be completely human He wanted to be with us and go through all stages that a person goes through. This meant that he had to be born, to be a child. In theory, he could have let Maria raise Jesus alone. However, he decided to reverse the story of creation. He chose a woman and honored her by sinking into her. In order to protect the woman and to be a help and support for her and her child, he chose Josef as the foster father. Josef is a great example of virtue and obedience. He did everything for Maria and Jesus and thus for God. Through this choice of God, to raise Jesus through a human mother and foster father, Jesus automatically had relatives on earth. None of the relatives, without realizing it themselves as Elizabet and Zaccharias did, were told the secrets that surrounded Jesus. Thus Jesus grew up with his relatives in Nazareth thinking he was Joseph’s son. In the case of Jesus the relatives from all sides helped him a lot, as John was his forerunner and his cousins his apostles who accompanied him throughout his life and were faithful beyond death.
On the other hand, Jesus underlines the importance of the individual with his response as somebody told him:
“Your mother and brothers (note: meant your cousins) are standing outside, wanting to speak to you.” Jesus responded: “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” Pointing to his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.”(Mt 12:47-50)
Therefore we understand that for God in the big scheme of things, physical relationships do actually not matter much. You and me, we can all be Jesus’s brothers, sisters and mothers if we do the will of God. Even if your father or mother does not believe in God, you can be the greatest before God – God looks at the individual, at your soul only.
Here a picture of the family tree, based on Maria Valtorta’s scriptures, showing the relationship between Jesus and his relatives. James and Judas Thaddeus were not the physical cousins of Jesus but relatives of his foster father Joseph.