The Brothers of Jesus

Based on Scripture and Tradition, the Catholic Church teaches that Jesus is the only child of Mary. She remained a virgin after his miraculous birth and had no children with Joseph.

Certain words and phrases used in the Bible lead some to mistake that Jesus had siblings. A misunderstanding of the context, translations, and ancient use of biblical expressions like “first born”, “until”, and even “brother” leads to this confusion. There were also other women in the Gospels named Mary.

Mary expressed her desire to remain a virgin at the Annunciation and there is no indication that this changed after Jesus was born.

The earliest Church Fathers agreed that the Blessed Mother was a virgin before, during, and after the birth of Jesus. The Fifth Ecumenical Council in Constantinople called Mary “ever-virgin” in 553 AD.

Because Jesus had no siblings to care for Mary, before He died on the Cross He entrusted his mother to the care of the Apostle John who then took her into his home.

Mary’s perpetual virginity is integral to her divine motherhood and reinforces the understanding that she was uniquely chosen to participate in the mission of Christ.

Jesus is Mary’s only child:

Against this doctrine the objection is sometimes raised that the Bible mentions brothers and sisters of Jesus. The Church has always understood these passages as not referring to other children of the Virgin Mary. In fact James and Joseph, “brothers of Jesus”, are the sons of another Mary, a disciple of Christ, whom St. Matthew significantly calls “the other Mary”. They are close relations of Jesus, according to an Old Testament expression.

Catechism of the Catholic Church 500

A virgin after Jesus’ birth:

Mary’s reaction explained by a vow:

As for virginity after childbirth, it must first be noted that there are no reasons to think that the will to remain a virgin, manifested by Mary at the moment of the Annunciation, has subsequently changed. Furthermore, the immediate meaning of the words: “Woman, behold your son”, “Behold your mother”, which Jesus addresses from the cross to Mary and to his beloved disciple, suggests a situation that excludes the presence of other children born of Mary.

Pope John Paul II, General Audience, 28 August 1996

A consistent teaching since the early Church:

An understanding based on Sacred Tradition:

His mother and his brothers arrived. Standing outside they sent word to Him and called Him. A crowd seated around him told Him, “Your mother and your brothers [and your sisters] are outside asking for You.” But He said to them in reply, “Who are my mother and [my] brothers?” And looking around at those seated in the circle He said, “Here are my mother and my brothers. [For] whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.”

Mark 3: 31-35

A teaching rooted in Sacred Scripture:

The Bible alone does not solve the debate:

The Truth, Goodness, and Beauty of the Catholic Church

Catholic sisters in the hospital:

Share this page with friends and family to start a conversation about your faith.

Don’t miss a post. Learn more about the Catholic Church and strengthen your Catholic faith.

Find more Fiercely Catholic video issues here.

Subscribe here.

Book a Fiercely Catholic program at your next conference, retreat, or other Catholic event.