Orthodox Outlet for Dogmatic Enquiries Essays about Orthodoxy and Protestantism

Honoring the Most Holy Mother // The Holy Mother and the “Undoubtedly, but”

The Most Holy Mother

Part 2 The brothers of Christ

The greater part of the Protestant world quite abruptly and unduly decided to cast aside the Christian tradition that relates to the role of the Holy Mother in God’s plan for our salvation.  This resulted in a vast number of misapprehensions regarding the life and the family of the Virgin Mary and our Lord.  Unfortunately, these people have no idea of the significance of the extensions that all these misapprehensions caused.  For this reason, we shall touch briefly on the following questions: “Did the Holy Mother have other children?”, “Who were the ones we know as the brothers of Christ?” and “What is the significance of the verses used by Protestantism today on this subject?”

Because of the enormity of the subject, we shall present only an indicative summary, and hopefully we shall be able to analyze these topics more extensively in the near future.


The main reason that Protestantism claims that Christ had brothers, is because the Holy Bible doesn’t offer very much information on this matter. And because Protestantism has discarded the majority of Apostolic traditions, keeping only the Holy Bible (and not all of it), it found itself in the unfortunate position of having to make sense out of missing information in various areas. Given that Protestantism does not possess any Ecclesiastic Revelation, it was only natural that it would be led into cacodoxies and arbitrary actions, going as far as misinterpreting even that segment of the Holy Bible that it retained.

The continuing tradition of the perennial Church on a certain issue is proof enough; it does not necessarily have to be included in the Bible. But because the Lord had foreseen that one day, certain Protestants would be requiring evidence from within the Holy Bible in order to accept the truth, He made sure that certain things also be written in the Holy Bible, for their sake.

So, we shall give our reply from within the Bible; not because we believe that it is the only valid tradition as the Protestants say, but for the sake of the Protestants who insist on seeing everything in there, and not trusting the other traditions of the Church.

To begin with, we shall examine certain verses that are used by Protestants to support their theories, and towards the end, we shall refer to several historical facts that will put things in their proper place.


Replying to Protestant arguments

Matthew, 1/I : 18Thus was the birth of Christ. His mother Mary, being betrothed to Joseph and before they ever consummated, was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit.”

The fact that she became pregnant before they ever “consummated” does not signify that they “consummated” afterwards. Do we read anywhere here that they afterwards “consummated”?  The point that is being stressed here is that Christ was not the son of Joseph, and that Mary was a virgin! Nothing more is being implied.  The same thing applies in the following verse that we shall examine. There, we shall see the answer to both those points.

Matthew, 1/I : 25 “….and he did not have any (carnal) knowledge of her until she gave birth to her firstborn son, and she gave him the name of Jesus”.

Here again, the point that the evangelist is stressing is that Christ was not Joseph’s son. It doesn’t say anything about their relations afterwards. Nevertheless, Protestants SUPPOSE that the two preceding verses imply something else.

They suppose that the expressions: “before they ever consummated” and “until she gave birth to her firstborn son” imply that AFTERWARDS, the Holy Mother and Joseph had conjugal relations.

For someone to suppose something, does not mean that their conclusion is correct. This might well not be the case. Of course, in a more extensive analysis we shall prove this. Here, we shall simply give an example. We shall quote a familiar verse, so that one can easily perceive how the word “until” does not imply anything. It is the last verse of Matthew 28/XXVIII : 20. In it, Jesus says: “… and behold, I am with you every day, until the end of time”.

So, because Jesus said “until”, are we to understand that the Lord will not be with us, AFTER the end of time?  Well, this is exactly the same kind of expression as above.  Just as this “until” hides no special meaning, so it is with the previous one.  Besides, we would like to pose a question of our own:  If there had been a clear reference to conjugal relations between Joseph and the Holy Mother, wouldn’t it have been used by Protestantism?  Why should they resort to assumptions?  Wouldn’t they prefer to use positive information?

One of many similarly phrased excerpts says the following:  “Isn’t this the carpenter’s son? Isn’t His mother’s name Mary and His brothers are Jacob (James) and Simon and Judas? And His sisters, aren’t they all familiar to us?” (Matthew 13/XIII 55 – 56, Mark 6/VI 3, Luke 8/VIII 19). This is the verse used by Protestants, to show that the Holy Mother had other children.

Yet the explanation here is simple.  Even in our time, we refer to half-brothers as “brothers”. The fact that everyone believed Jesus to be Joseph’s son does not mean that Joseph actually was His real father! The same applies to His brothers and sisters. If Protestantism upholds that this verse refers to Jesus’ proper brothers and sisters, then they must also uphold that Jesus is actually Joseph’s son and not God’s.

Let’s observe something else:  In the Holy Bible, “brethren” are also called the distant relatives, and not only the children of the same parentage. Check out an example, from Abraham and Lot. Abraham was Lot’s uncle, yet the Holy Bible refers to them as “brothers”. This is found in Genesis, 13/XIII 8. In it, Abraham says to Lot: ‘….we people are brothers”.

Another example of the many that we can present, is: “And Laban said to Jacob, for (the fact) that you are my brother, you shall not work for me for free”. But he wasn’t his brother, in today’s sense!

Let’s look at another example, in the excerpt of: Luke 2/II 48. There, the Holy Mother herself says to Jesus with reference to Joseph: “behold, your father and I have been grieving and searching for you”.  Are we to assume that because Mary refers to Joseph as Jesus’ “father”, it means that Joseph is indeed His father?  Or perhaps, she wasn’t aware that Joseph was not Jesus’ father? Well, the same thing applies to Jesus’ “brothers and sisters”. They were all Joseph’s children from another marriage.

Furthermore, the fact that in another verse the Holy Mother is referred to as the “wife” of Joseph, does not mean that he had married her. We can see this, in Matthew 1/I 18-20, where, although in verses 19 and 20 she is mentioned as Joseph’s “wife”, in verse 18 it is clarified that she was his “betrothed”. Thus, this Protestant assertion is also groundless.

Another Protestant argument: In Matthew 1/I 25, it says of Joseph and Mary: “….and he did not have any (carnal) knowledge of her…” (implying that they did not have any sexual relations, given that the word “knowledge” also means “uniting” in the Holy Bible) until she gave birth to her firstborn son”. The argument here is as follows: “Why does it say ‘firstborn’? Were there other children afterwards?” Again, this contains the same logic as the “until”.  Protestantism strives to make the Holy Bible say things that it doesn’t.  It supposes, without presenting any proof.

But, there is another verse that says of Jesus Christ: “…Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation”.  Are we to suppose, because the Lord is mentioned here as the “firstborn” of God, that God also had other Sons, apart from Christ?  Isn’t Jesus “His Only-Begotten Son”, as God Himself proclaimed during Jesus’ baptism in the Jordan river?

Psalms 69: 8:I became as a stranger to my brothers, and a foreigner to the sons of my mother, 9 for the zeal of your house has consumed me and the mockery of those who mock you has fallen upon me”.

This verse –prophetically speaking- obviously refers to Christ. Protestantism uses it, to say that the mother of the Lord also had other sons. But which “mother” of the Lord is it referring to?

First of all, it can’t be referring to Jesus’ fleshly brothers; not only because He didn’t have any, but mainly because even his half-brothers by Joseph never looked upon Jesus as a ‘stranger’ as the above verse says. As for Jacob (James), he remained faithful to the end, and he in fact became the first bishop of Jerusalem, and the author of the homonymous Epistle in the Holy Bible. Well then, what is this verse referring to?

In reply to this question, the following verse will enlighten us:

Revelations 12/XII 1,5:  “ And a great sign appeared in the heavens: a woman, surrounded by the sun and the moon beneath her feet and on her head a crown of twelve stars…. and she bore a male child, who was destined to shepherd all the nations with a rod of iron….”

This verse as we can see refers to the Church of Israel –Zion- which gave birth to Jesus Christ. This is evident in the following verse also:

Isaiah 54 1: “Delight, thou barren one, who has not given birth. Cry out in jubilation and rejoice, thou who does not have birth pangs. For many more are the children of the barren one, than of the one who has a husband, says the Lord”.

It also relates to:

Galatians 4/IV 26: “… and the Jerusalem up above is free, who is our mother. For it is written, ‘delight, thou barren one’…”

It is very obvious, that Psalm 69  8, does not refer to Christ’s fleshly brothers, but to his compatriots, who denied Him and crucified Him, even though they were children of the same Church of Israel.

Christ Himself spoke about those who were His brothers: 

Matthew 12/XII 46-50:and while He was still talking to the crowds, behold, His mother and His brothers were standing outside seeking to speak to Him; and someone said to Him: ‘behold, your mother and your brothers are standing outside, asking to speak to you’. He replied, saying to him: ‘Who is my mother? And who are my brothers?’ And extending His hand towards his disciples, said: ‘behold, my mother and my brothers are those who do the will of my Father in heaven; they are my mother and my brothers”

Matthew 25/XXV 40: “ ..and in reply, the king said to them: verily I say unto you, that if you do this to the least of my brothers, you have done it to me.”

John 1/I  11:  “He came to His own (people) and they did not accept Him. And to those who did accept Him, He gave them the authority to become children of God.”

In the above verses, it is clearly apparent who His brothers are: they are the sons of the same mother as His: Zion. They are the brothers who did not accept Him.

As opposed to all the above Protestant theories and misapprehensions, the Church has preserved many other facts regarding what happened at that time, (just as it preserved the Holy Bible).  Let’s take a look at a few pieces of information regarding Joseph’s relations, just enough to give us an idea of what happened:

Jacob, father of Joseph

Cleopas, brother of Joseph

Joseph, betrothed of Mary.

Jacob, Hosiah, Jude, Simon, Esther, Martha, Salome, some of these were the elderly Joseph’s children from a previous marriage.

In fact, some of them were children of Mary of Cleopas (John 9/IX 25), who was the wife of Joseph’s brother, Cleopas.  This Mary is mentioned in the Holy Bible as “Mary of Jacob (Mark 16/XVI 1), and  Mary of Jacob the younger and mother of Hosiah”  (Mark 15/XV 40, Matthew 27/XXVII 56). She is also referred to as “the sister of his mother, Mary of Cleopas (John 19/XIX 25).

According to the above verse, Mary of Cleopas is the ‘sister-in-law’ of the Holy Mother, given that she is the wife of Joseph’s brother. Thus, her children –according to the Hebrew idiom that we saw previously- are considered ‘brothers’ of Jesus, just as she is considered ‘the sister of his mother’.

There is a piece of  testimony by Hegisippus, that Jude and Simon (Simeon the second bishop of Jerusalem after Jacob, brother of God) were children of Cleopas, brother of Joseph and Jesus’ uncle. (Eusebius’ Ecclesiastic History, Book III, chapter 32, 1-6)

Let us now examine something more important: Does the Holy Bible mention that the Holy Mother had no other children?  Of course it does!

In the prophecy that is found in Ezekiel 44 1-2, a prophetic reference is made of the Holy Mother: “and He turned me towards the direction of the outer portal of the sanctum that faces eastward, and it was sealed. And the Lord said to me: ‘this portal is sealed, it shall not be opened, and no-one shall enter through it, for the Lord God of Israel shall enter through it, and it shall remain sealed.”  Therefore we ask: Through which portal did “the Lord God of Israel –Jesus Christ- come into this world, and that portal remained sealed, through which none other passed through it?”  Was it not the womb of the Holy Mother?

Also, in Proverbs 4/IV 3, it says prophetically of Jesus: “ for I have remained the son of my Father, and the only-begotten in the presence of my mother”.  Even from this, it is obvious that the mother of the Lord had no other children!  And these were not words uttered by Solomon in reference to himself, because it is Christ who speaks here, who is the hypostatized Wisdom of God (e.g., 8/VIII 12-22). Furthermore, Solomon wasn’t the only-begotten child of his mother, as his mother Bethsheba had four children! (Chronicles I, 3/III 5). It is clearly referring to Christ.

In this article, we simply made a very abbreviated summary of rebuttals against the Protestant arguments, proving that they are all groundless. When we examine these issues in more detail, we shall provide even more material on each topic.


Text: N.M.

Translation by A.N.

Greek text

Article published in English on: 5-8-2005.

Last update: 5-8-2005.