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Sunday: James, the Brother of Jesus — 35 Comments

  1. Though His brothers had lack of faith and misconception of His Messiahship, Christ was still not deterred from living a holy life. He went on with His mission and though they misunderstood Him, He was bold enough to live a life they could later emulate.

    That brings us to a question. How do we feel when we have been misunderstood by our loved ones? The best answer is at Jesus feet to learn the lesson of humility.

  2. "the fact that Jesus entrusted the care of His mother to John, the beloved disciple (John 19:26-27), suggests that His brothers were not Mary’s own children but the sons of Joseph by a previous marriage."

    I appreciate this insight from today's lesson. I've always wondered why Ellen White wrote that the brothers of Jesus were older. Here's the statement from Desire of Ages.

    All this displeased His brothers. Being older than Jesus, they felt that He should be under their dictation. They charged Him with thinking Himself superior to them, and reproved Him for setting Himself above their teachers and the priests and rulers of the people. Often they threatened and tried to intimidate Him; but He passed on, making the Scriptures His guide. {DA 87.2}

    • Larry, it seems to me from this comment that Joseph was a widower and thus much older than Mary. The older brothers would have been Joseph's from a previous marriage.

      From the fact that God picked Joseph as Christ's foster father, so to speak, Joseph must have been a very godly man.

      • Where in the Scriptures can I get evidence that James was half brother of Jesus? How do we know that Joseph had biological children from another woman?

        • Makongoro, the line of evidence for James being a half brother of Jesus is traced in paragraph 2 of the lesson segment above.

          As for Joseph having biological children from another woman - you won't find that in the Bible, and you don't have to believe it. For me, it explains some things regarding the brothers of Jesus and also the fact that Joseph apparently died some time before the crucifixion (because he was much older). Mary had no one to take care of her. So in some of his last words, Jesus entrusted his mother to the care of His beloved disciple John. (John 19:25-27)

          If you appreciate the writings of Ellen White, you will find it helpful to read the whole chapter called "Days of Conflict" in Desire of Ages, beginning p. 84.

      • Inge Anderson, Joseph (Jesus's father) was not only a godly man but remember Mary was a virgin - this means that she never have babies (not experience in looking after one) and therefore Joseph being a father already looks fit to help Mary looking after baby Jesus).

    • The comments about Joseph being a widower, and having children by a previous marriage is pure conjecture. Therefore, it I think it is a fallacy to promote this regardless of what Ellen White wrote. The idea of Mary as a perpetual virgin is a Roman Catholic doctrine, and if we (SDA) continue this fallacy we fall into the category of teaching lies. Why can't we just accept WHAT the Bible states and stop looking for explanations?

      • Just because something isn't stated in the Bible doesn't mean it is a fallacy.
        This has no doctrinal weight. All it is is a reasonable conclusion based on the facts of the Bible:
        1. Jesus is said to have brothers and sisters in the gospels.
        2. Jesus was Mary's firstborn.
        3. There was no one left to look after Mary and Jesus appointed John.

        From this we can conclude that these brothers and sisters did not come from Mary's womb.
        Furthermore, this would make them half brothers and half sisters in reality.
        This is reasonable to conclude, but as Sis Anderson says, you don't have to believe it if you don't want to.

        Also, neither the writer nor the SDA church has ever insisted that Mary remained or remains a perpetual virgin.
        Firstly, we believe that Mary is in the grave, so questions of current virginity do not apply.
        As for if she remained a virgin after Jesus' birth, we have no information to make a conclusion about that.
        Matthew 1:25 seems to suggest that Joseph and Mary consummated their marriage after Jesus was born.

        • Matthew 1:24 Tells us that Josheph and Marry did not consummate their marriage until after Christ was born. As I understand from a few brief studies of the Hebrew traditions of the time it was an obligation of all young people to marry and bring up children. The marriage was not a result of romantic love as it is today and a woman who fell in love with her husband was considered to be fortunate. Consumating the marriage was not optional but an obligation and constituted the fundamental purpose of marrying. A man or couple who did not fulfill the obligations of marriage were outcasts and proof of fulfillment was required. An understanding of the culture is essential if we are to achieve the most accurate interpretations of scripture. Our ancestors 165 years ago did not have the educational advantages we do and we should not hesitate to correct error when we have studied sufficiently to be reasonably certain of the improvements. That is our obligation as scholars, as is our obligation to raise up Godly children by proscribed childrearing methods.

  3. “As a carpenter’s son (Matt. 13:55), James would have had more educational opportunities than would a common peasant.” As an eldest son he probably would have had privileges that the rest of his brothers would not have had and that most likely would have included more education but just how much is a question. I think we need to remember that Joseph and Mary were not rich and lived in a very small little town. Even though their carpenter shop would have served many of the surrounding towns and villages they probably had no more means than the family of Peter who owned several fishing boats and Peter and his brothers are not presented in scripture as people with great educations.

    Being educated under one of the theological greats as Paul was in Jerusalem took financial resources beyond what even the owner of a small business would have had. Not only did it require tuition but the student needed to be boarded and sustained away from home. Besides, that level of education was generally not required in the ancient world where the majority of employment involved working with their hands as craftsmen or farmers / ranchers. What James needed to know was how to maintain the family business and to that end he would have been given additional education probably mostly from his parents.

    Therefore, to imply that James had a great education is to assume too much and as for the writing quality of his book has everyone forgot about scribes that were used abundantly by Bible writers? Many theologians and scholars who dig deeply into the ancient languages seem to forget that one point when they compare one text to another from a linguistic point of view.

    At the time of writing which would have been some time after the Jerusalem council James was considered the presiding elder in the church just as the high priest in Judaism was or the Pope is in the Roman Catholic Church. A person in that kind of position would have had assistants and the availability of scribes in writing letters. Even Paul used scribes so should we rule that out in the case of James?

    • I agree with you. And some writers who had no formal education have left beautiful writings at times, like E.G.White and John Bunyan as far as I know.

  4. "suggests that His brothers were not Mary’s own children but the sons of Joseph by a previous marriage"

    I am not a Bible scholar, so this "previous" marriage comment is surprising.

    Presumably His brothers lived in the same household with His mother
    and father (if Joseph was still alive then), and their comments as
    recorded John 7:5 were said in His presence, perhaps in their parents'
    house; they were obviously nearby where Jesus was when they said what is in Mark 3:21. At this time, Jesus was in Galilee (where Nazareth is)
    because the scribes came down from Jerusalem (Mark 3:22).

    My question is this: where were these family members when Joseph
    made the trek to Bethlehem? Where were they when Joseph, Mary, and
    Jesus went down to Egypt?

    • How can we know?
      They might have tagged along.

      It is again not a point of doctrine. It is just a reasonable conclusion based on the facts of the entire story.

  5. It looks to me like we don't have much to go on to determine the true identity of the writer of James. If there were four James we know about, how many more could there be that we don't know about. If it mattered much to God that we know, He would have made it clear.

    • We have to do the best we can with what we have. God will not be angry at us for this.

      For a similar "problem" see this:

      Was the "woman caught in adultery" Mary Magdalene? How do we know this?

      Again, we do the best we can with what we have.

  6. Inge, thank you for your prompt response to my question. Your answer has blessed me . I am somehow enlightened now. Stay blessed.

  7. What does who James was, or whether Jesus had siblings from Joseph, have to do w/our salvation??
    As far as "where were the
    siblings when they went to Bethlehem & Egypt", I'm sure they were grown men by then.

    • Brief reply: then why bother discussing who James was (the first object of this quarter's lessons as outlined in the first Sabbath's reading).
      Why bother asking whether this was the same James The Less as
      mentioned in Mark 15:40?

      If you want to present the Bible as absolute truth (and I have no doubt it is), then some things must be reconciled.
      For example, points were made and evidence were presented to show these other children of Joseph were "older" than Jesus .. however, if they were Mary's children, then surely Mary wasn't a virgin when she gave birth to Jesus. The very foundation becomes shaky.

      The reconciliation was to say they were half siblings from a "previous" marriage. I have heard another explanation that they were cousins of Jesus. I don't really know (that's why I am very much interested in this quarter's lesson).

      "Half siblings" .. this is fine, however, being half siblings brings up a question: why weren't they with him when he had to go to Bethlehem in
      order to register for a census? Luke 2:1
      Culturally, the father takes care of his family. Census registration
      would require presence of the children, would it not?

      Being cousins brings up yet another question, which I won't elaborate because that's not what the lesson says.

      If Joseph was a widow when he married Mary (his bethroted)
      do we say Joseph was a deadbeat dad/provider by leaving his other
      children behind? Surely not.

      Do we say Joseph divorced his first wife? (allowed by Moses Matthew 19:8).

      What, then, is the explanation of why these other children were not
      with him everywhere he went?

      I believe it is acceptable to God for humans to search and seek.
      Let us reason Isaiah 1:18 ... else show me where it is verboten
      to validate Bible's truthfulness.

      • I believe they were Jesus' brothers (because Bible says they are his brothers) from Joseph's first wife not Mary, otherwise why would Jesus give Mary into John's care.
        Why didn't they go to Bethlehem? Possibly because only adults were required to register. They could have been left with extended family or friends?

      • Jess, the simple explanation is that children grow up. Joseph could have been in his early 40's when he became betrothed to Mary. By that time, his children from a previous marriage could very well have established homes of their own.

        It't not necessary to believe, by the way, that Mary remained a perpetual virgin. She may have had other children, but the Bible does not mention them. It is unlikely that younger brothers would have tried to influence Jesus to stop what he was doing. Younger children generally look up to the eldest in the family. But older brothers may very well have thought that they had the right to tell Jesus what to do.

        • Inge, thank you. In no way I meant to imply to Mary did not have other children. Maybe she did, maybe she didn't. Thank you for taking the time to post.

        • Sibling relationships in ancient Israel were a bit more stringent than they are now. In that age there was a pecking order from the eldest son to the youngest and then to sisters and even their mother was considered under the dominion of the eldest son when he reached a certain age.

  8. The concept of saying Joseph had a previous marriage before Marry is adopted from Catholicism because they claim that Marry after the birth of Jesus had no other children because she is /was holy as they claim. By saying this they then claim that Jesus's brothers were older than him and were Joseph's kids, but the bible does not reveal that info. All we know from the bible is that Jesus had brothers and sisters and I think they were younger than Jesus and this was also the reason why he had to give John the responsibility of taking care of Mary. And also if these siblings were older than Jesus we would have gone to Jerusalem with Jesus, Marry and Joseph. They were not of age to go so they stayed home. And if they were Joseph's kids from a previous marriage the bible would have mentioned that. But all this does not matter the most important issue is that Jesus had siblings

  9. If its has no bibilical support then it must not be believed. We have started speculating about previous marriages of Joseph which strangely are not mentioned in the bible. This is the problem with some of our teachings. You hear people say only 10000 youths will enter heaven and they quote an obscure book. This is a problem and I think writers will do well by sticking to the bible alone. We had a difficult day because of the assumption that Joseph had married before without quoting a single scripture or any reference. Let us stick to the bible and the bible alone , if we are to bring in other books, they must be supported by the Bible.

    • It is important as we approach the end of the world that we need to remain vigilant. As in parable of the corn, the devil has infiltrated our church and is busy planting the tares. There is no biblical support for the statement that appeared in Sunday,s lesson indicating that Joseph had been married before Mary. Rather this thinking goes to support the belief system that continues to exalt Mary as a Virgin.

      Be alert because the devil is fighting like a roaring lion seeking who to deceive.

    • Bupe, I think you would be correct if the question were on the order of “how many angels can dance on the head of a pin” which to me is foolish speculation. Whether or not Jesus had older brothers or not has some importance in recognizing that, “When his family heard about this, they went to take charge of him, for they said, "He is out of his mind (Mk 3:21 NIV). The importance of this is shown in the technical note of the NET Bible on this verse:

      Western witnesses D W it, instead of reading οἱ παρ᾽ αὐτοῦ (hoi par' autou, here translated "family"), have περὶ αὐτοῦ οἱ γραμματεῖς καὶ οἱ λοιποί (peri autou hoi grammateis kai hoi loipoi, "[when] the scribes and others [heard] about him"). But this reading is obviously motivated, for it removes the embarrassing statement about Jesus' family's opinion of him as "out of his mind" and transfers this view to the Lord's opponents. The fact that virtually all other witnesses have οἱ παρ᾽ αὐτοῦ here, coupled with the strong internal evidence for the shorter reading, shows this Western reading to be secondary.

      For the purposes of this discussion if the brothers of Jesus were not older then it would have been socially unacceptable in that culture for them to do what they intended to do and we probably would not have known the obstacles and stresses that Jesus faced from His own family and the fact that He had the same problems as we often have to deal with. As He said Himself, “a man's enemies will be those of his own household” (Mat 10:36 NKJV) and “You will be betrayed even by parents and brothers, relatives and friends; and they will put some of you to death” (Lk 21:16 NKJ) and again, “A prophet is not without honor except in his own country and in his own house” (Mat 13:57 NKJV).

      Further, if we are to fully understand the miracle that happened when Mary became pregnant then we need to know that Mary at the time of conception was a virgin which means that she could not have had offspring older than Jesus. To me this is not foolish speculation but trying to understand the situation better, to make sense out of something that otherwise would make little or no sense. Besides, Ellen White who we hold as an inspired prophet backs up this idea of having older brothers, “Being older than Jesus, they felt that He should be under their dictation” (Desire of Ages, p. 97).

  10. Its possible also that when Jesus entrusted his mother to John he looked beyond physical care, of which Jesus looked on the spiritual part of his mother of which John would have helped by the help of God...

  11. Help!!! Did Joseph the earthly Jesus Father have a different wife than Marry the mother of Jesu? If not what is the adult lesson is telling us on the first lesson of Sunday September 28 that Jesus's brothers were not Marry's own children but the sons of Joseph by a previous marriage? If yes can anyone help me with scriptures in the bible or from Ellen G White books? Please help me I need to know this. Thanks

  12. Dear brothers and sisters in Christ!
    I have read all the comments regarding the question about the brothers and sisters of Jesus. Like many other people, we also had a long discussion on this topic. Some agreed that James was the older brother of Jesus and Joseph had children from previous wife, but most people strongly disagreed with this information because they wanted to see a biblical evidence about this.

    I highly appreciate the writings of Ellen G. White and strongly believe that her writings are the inspired writings and hold the same authority as that of the canonical writers. I strongly believe in the Bible and if there is anything that I cannot comprehend from the scriptures I read the explanation of E.G.White with the help of the Holy Spirit and then things become more clear to me. Regarding this view about the brothers of Jesus I believe that the following statement of Ellen G. White is strong enough for me to believe that the brothers of Jesus were older than Jesus and the fact that they were older than Jesus makes it very clear that these brothers were not from Mary because Jesus was the first born of Mary. NOTE THE FOLLOWING STATEMENT OF E.G.White also quoted by Larry and Tyler:

    "All this displeased His brothers. Being older than Jesus, they felt that He should be under their dictation. They charged Him with thinking Himself superior to them, and reproved Him for setting Himself above their teachers and the priests and rulers of the people. Often they threatened and tried to intimidate Him; but He passed on, making the Scriptures His guide. {DA 87.2}"

    This evidence is big enough for me to believe that the brothers of Jesus were older than him but I am going to make more deeper search on this subject with the help of Holy Spirit by studying the scriptures and the writings of E.G.White more comprehensively. God bless you!

    • I agree with you. I must re-read also but I did read somewhere, that Jesus has older brothers, and Jesus as we all know was the first and only child from Mary. My thoughs never changed .

  13. When I look at sibling rivalry in the scripture, you can see the brokenness of family. Cain and Able. Noah's sons, Ishmael and Isaac. The Sons of Jacob,with their hatred to Joseph.King Davids Sons killing one another.
    And I and my own brothers.They think me out of my mind for choosing Christ.
    Matt25: And he did not know her till she brought forth her first born Son .....Jesus. Scripture tells us they were poor.Swaddling clothes manger. Not enough money to get a room and no one to take them in.
    After Jesus birth Joseph knew Mary. Does not say she was barren. We are told Jesus brothers and sisters. If Jesus was say 30 years when he started ministry
    James could be 28/29 Joses 27/28 Simon 25/26 Judas 24/25 and sisters???
    They had no birth control , and a large family was considered a blessing.
    Remember Jesus is the Son of God and he was envied,reviled, there was jealousy and hatred even in his own family.How many children respect a parent less a self righteous OLDER BROTHER. People prefer Sin (a bit of fun so they think)
    Mary was alone at Jesus crucifixion and Jesus told John To take her in.
    Jesus family abandoned him as many disciples did at that event.
    I have to reject any theory then that Jesus brothers were from a previous marriage. A full study of Gods complete word always gives us the answers that God wants to reveal to us. Scripture alone.

  14. Hi John, I agree on Scripture alone. How does your understanding of Scripture support Mary having children after Jesus any more or less than Joseph having children from a previous marriage?


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