Did Jesus have a brother named James?
Why do Catholics believe Mary remained ever-virgin? Didn’t Jesus have a brother named James? I heard he was older than Jesus, but I do know that Jesus was conceived of the Holy Spirit born of the virgin Mary; I know that much because my Bible tells me that.
There are more than one persons named James in the Bible. There are two among the 12 Apostles! If you look for every reference of James in the Gospels, you’ll see that the one whose mother is named Mary is not the same person as the mother of Jesus. Matt. 27:55-56 shows us three women watching Jesus die on the cross from a distance: “Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James and Joseph, and the mother of the sons of Zebedee.” We know that Mary the mother of Jesus was at the foot of the cross, not with these other ladies standing at a distance. It’s possible that the James who is called in Scripture “the brother of the Lord” was really a cousin. Jesus grew up with an extended family of relatives. More likely, though, James was a half-brother, the son of Joseph by an earlier marriage. Ancient tradition holds that Joseph was a widower when he married Mary.
Early Christians made this clear in the “Protoevangelium of James” (see my other post about this). They said that James was Jesus’ stepbrother. According to this document, Joseph was an elderly widower at the time he became betrothed to Mary. He already had a family and thus was willing to become the guardian of a virgin consecrated to God. The Catholic Church teaches that Joseph remained chaste during his marriage to Mary.
Although the Protoevangelium of James was not accepted into the Canon of Scripture (the Bible), it is considered an apocryphal Gospel. This is where we get the names of Mary’s parents from, Joachim and Anna. It is neither accepted nor rejected by the Church, but is recognized as a document that most early Christians took seriously.
© 2010 by Terry A. Modica