Monday, December 22, 2008

Real Brothers, Real Sisters

When Dan Brown's controversial book "The Da Vinci Code" was published many people were outraged over its assertion that Jesus and Mary Magdalene were not only married but had a child. Apparently, that notion bothered people not only because it posits a sexually active Christ but also because it implies that there are descendants of Jesus alive today. While there's little or no Biblical evidence that Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene or anyone else, there probably ARE descendants of Jesus alive now, albeit indirect ones. Why do I say this? Because Jesus had brothers and sisters. I know; I just wrote something that a lot of Christians will vehemently disagree with. For them, the idea that Jesus had siblings is as repulsive as the idea that He was married. But if you believe the Bible you can accept no other conclusion but that Jesus was the oldest of at least seven children.

In the Gospel accounts of Jesus's birth He is described as being Mary's first son, first as in other sons followed. The Gospel of Matthew provides the names of Mary's other sons: James, Joseph, Simon, and Judas (Matthew 13:55). Mary's daughters--Jesus's sisters--are not named but they are mentioned in the plural, so we know there were at least two of them. Later in the first Gospel--Matthew 12:46--Mary and Jesus's brothers are mentioned as wanting to speak with Him while He was preaching to a crowd. Jesus's brothers and sisters are also mentioned in the Gospels of Mark, Luke, and John and in at least two Pauline letters, clearly showing that Christ was not an only child. So, with all this Scriptural evidence attesting to the nature of Christ's family, why do many Christians reject the fact of His siblings? Answer: the unBiblical doctrine of Mary's perpetual virginity.

Both the Catholic and Orthodox churches teach that Mary never had sex, but remained virginal all her life. Clearly, if Jesus had brothers and sisters that doctrine crumbles. How, then, do the Catholic and Orthodox churches explain, or explain away, the references to Christ's siblings? The most popular explanation is that the brothers mentioned in verses like that of Matthew 12:46 are spiritual brothers. But this doesn't make sense. First of all Jesus, as mentioned above, is described as Mary's first son. If He was the first, then Mary had at least one more. Secondly, Catholics and the Orthodox never take the word "mother" in Matthew 12:46 and similar verses elsewhere to mean anything but a literal mother. Why, then, should the word "brothers" in those passages be interpreted as spiritual? Here is Matthew 12:46:

While Jesus was still speaking to the crowd his mother and brothers stood outside, wanting to talk to him.

Clearly, from the context of the above verse "brothers" is a literal term. The men waiting with Mary to speak to Jesus were her sons, His siblings. Some Catholic and Orthodox Christians accept that the "brothers" in this passage are Jesus's literal, not spiritual, brothers but deny that they were Mary's children. Instead, they claim that the men were the children of Joseph by a previous wife. Unfortunately, the Bible does not support this claim. NOWHERE in Scripture is Joseph described as having any wife but Mary. And Scripture says that Joseph did "know" Mary after she gave birth to Jesus.

The doctrine of the perpetual virginity of Mary is false and needs to be discarded by anyone seriously committed to Biblical truth. Joseph and Mary were a normal married couple; they had sex with each other and conceived at least six children after Jesus. James, Joseph, Simon, Judas, and the unnamed girls were Jesus's siblings. They were His real brothers and real sisters and, in all probability, their descendants are walking the earth today. Imagine that. Relatives of Jesus alive today. That's way more cool, and way closer to what Scripture actually says, than a specious doctrine of phoney "purity". Mary had sex; she had children. Get over it.