Siblings of Jesus are referred to collectively twice in the Gospels. In the account of the “true kindred” (Matt. 12.46–50 par.), Jesus' mother and brothers come to speak to him while he is teaching. Jesus refuses to see them, however, saying that his true sister, brother, and mother are those who do the will of God.

When Jesus teaches at the synagogue in his hometown of Nazareth, the listeners react angrily to his wisdom and mighty works (Matt. 13.53–58; Mark 6.1–6). The crowd doubts that a local person could be endowed with such power, and they cite the presence of his parents, brothers, and sisters as proof. The brothers are listed by name (James, Joseph [Mark reads Joses], Simon, and Judas) but the sisters only as a group. In Luke 4.22, the crowd asks simply, “Is not this Joseph's son?”

References to brothers and sisters of Jesus conflict with some understandings of the virgin birth. For those who feel that Jesus' mother Mary remained a virgin for life, brothers and sisters must be read as cousins or as stepbrothers and stepsisters fathered by Joseph in another, unmentioned, marriage.

Daniel N. Schowalter