How Many Brothers Did Jesus Have? Finally Solved!

By Charalampos •  Updated: 04/03/23 •  6 min read

It is widely accepted that Christ had an earthly father, Joseph, who is often called the foster father.

He was married to the mother of Christ Mary, and before that marriage, he had few children. In this article, we will find out how many brothers Christ had.

Bible’s Teachings About Jesus’s Brothers

How Many Brothers Did Jesus Have

Some scholars believe that Jesus had siblings, but others say that the term “brother” was used more broadly in ancient times and could refer to cousins or close relatives.

In the New Testament, several verses mention Jesus’ siblings.

Matthew 13:55-56, says about Jesus’ brothers James, Joseph, Simon, Judas, and sisters. From these verses, we can know that Jesus had four brothers and some sisters.

Mark 6:3, lists the same names of the brothers, and at the end, it says about sisters. These two passages can show us that Jesus had at least four brothers and some sisters.

However, other passages of the Bible can show us the use of the term “brother” in a more general sense. For example, in Genesis 13:8, Lot is referred to as Abraham’s brother, even though he was Abraham’s nephew. 

In 1 Chronicles 23:21-22 we can read information where the Levites are referred to as brothers of Aaron, but they were his cousins.

Based on these verses we can understand that the term “brother” was used in another way in biblical times and could refer to cousins or other close relatives. This would mean that James, Joseph, Simon, and Judas could be not only the sons of Joseph but also cousins of Jesus.

Read Also: Why Did Jesus Weep?

The Writings of The Church Fathers

Church Fathers on Jesus Brothers

In the writings of the Church Fathers, we can find different opinions on the matter. 

In the first centuries, there were also opinions that Marry could have other children. Because of this saint Epiphanius wrote, “The words of the gospel show that there were no other children of Mary.” (Panarion 78:7).

The Panarion Book

Saint Epiphanius wrote a book called the Panarion, in which he refuted various heresies. 

In that book, he wrote about the brothers of Jesus and suggested that they might have been stepbrothers or cousins. “Mary had no other children except Jesus. People say that they were the sons of Mary, the wife of Clopas, who was the sister of the Virgin Mary, and that they were therefore cousins of Jesus. But this is also false” (Panarion 78:7).

It isn’t clear why he rejected this theory, but it is possible that he believed that the term “brothers” was meant to be understood in a broader sense, referring to close relatives or members of the extended family rather than only siblings, while other Church Fathers don’t see the theory that it could be siblings as false one.

Related Read: Where is Jesus?

The Sons of Joseph

Joseph with Jesus

Saint Augustine wrote about it: “When the Gospel speaks of brothers and sisters of the Lord, it is not speaking of children of Mary, but of other relatives” (Sermon 186.1).

In the same Sermon, the Saint said that the brothers of Jesus Christ might have been the sons of Joseph from a previous marriage, but he also acknowledged that the word “brother” could be used in a broader sense.

He wrote: “The word brothers must be understood in a general sense, meaning relatives, not necessarily siblings. Some say that Joseph had children before he was married to Mary and that these were the brothers of Jesus.” (Sermon 186.1).

Additionally to this, in his work The Harmony of the Gospels, Augustine also suggested that the brothers of Jesus were His stepbrothers, born of a different mother than Jesus. He also wrote that those four people could be close relatives or members of the extended family.

Jesus’s Stepbrothers

Saint Cyril of Alexandria suggested in his Commentary on the Gospel of Luke, Cyril that the “brothers” of Jesus might have been his stepbrothers because Joseph was described in the Gospel as Jesus’ father, but not as the father of those “brothers.” He also pointed out that Mary was always referred to as Jesus’ mother, but never as the mother of the brothers.

Saint Jerome argued in the book Against Helvidius that the “brothers” of Jesus weren’t his biological siblings, but rather his cousins or the children of Joseph from a previous marriage.

John Chrysostom suggested that the “brothers” of Jesus might have been his cousins, the children of Mary’s sister, who was also named Mary. He also noted that the term “brothers” could refer to close relatives.

(Homilies on the Gospel of Matthew, Homily 44.) This statement considers the theory that Saint Epiphanius didn’t accept because he thought that the brothers were far relatives.

Saint Athanasius of Alexandria also wrote that the brothers of Jesus might have been his cousins and that the term “brothers” could be used more broadly to refer to close relatives.

He also noted that the Gospel accounts don’t provide enough information to definitively determine the identity of the “brothers.” It just says that there were four brothers and their names without any additional information. (Letter to Serapion)

Based on these quotes we can know that those brothers weren’t sons of Mary, but sons of Joseph from a previous marriage or other relatives. All Church Fathers say that Mary didn’t have any children except Jesus.

You May Also Like: How Old Was Mary When She Had Jesus?

Final Thoughts

It can be concluded that Jesus had at least four brothers if we accept that the word brothers was used meaning. Otherwise, we can assume that someone from those four people was a cousin of Jesus or some close relative.

Many Church Fathers accept the theory that they could be the sons of the sister of Mary, though they could also be much more far relatives.

It’s also important to understand that the mother of Jesus didn’t have any children except Christ, about which many Church Fathers wrote. Thus, all those four brothers of Jesus were sons of Joseph or other relatives.

Epiphanius, Panarion 78:7
Augustine, Sermon 186.1
Augustine, The Harmony of the Gospels, Book 2, Chapter 17
Cyril of Alexandria, Commentary on the Gospel of Luke, Book V, Chapter III
Jerome, Against Helvidius, The Perpetual Virginity of Mary, Chapters 19-21
John Chrysostom, Homilies on the Gospel of Matthew, Homily 44
Athanasius of Alexandria, Letter to Serapion, 1.28


Charalampos is an Orthodox Christian who wants to help others learn about Christianity. His main goal is to help people understand the Bible and how to apply its teachings in their everyday lives. He also enjoys spending time with his family, playing sports, and hiking.

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