From Nazareth, at the age of twelve, the Lord goes up Luke ii. 41-52. for the first time to Jerusalem to keep the Passover. After the expiration of the feast He remained behind to converse
with the doctors, and was found in the temple three days Luke ii. 41-52. after by His parents. Returning to Nazareth, He dwelt there in retirement till the time came that He should enter upon His public work.
1 See Robinson, ii. 336; Stanley, 357. 2 See Kitto, Life of Christ, 27.
Supposing the Lord to have been born in seven hundred and forty-nine, the year when He went up with His parents to the Passover was seven hundred and sixty-one, and the feast began on the 8th April. His presence at the Passover at the age of twelve, was in accordance with Jewish custom. At that age the Jewish boys began to be instructed in the law, to be subject to the fasts, and to attend regularly the feasts, and were called the sons of the Law.1 This, however, is called in question by Greswell, (i. 396,) who asserts that boys did not become subject to ordinances, till they had reached the age of fourteen years, and that the purpose for which Jesus was now taken up was not to celebrate the Passover, but to be " made a disciple of the Law, and to undergo a ceremony, something like to our confirmation.5* He sees in this the explanation of the Lord's presence in the midst of the doctors. It is not probable that up to this time Jesus had accompanied His parents to Jerusalem to any of the festivals. Of all that passed between Him and the Rabbis, a full account may be found in the Apocryphal Gospel of the Infancy.2 It needs no proof that on this occasion He was not taking upon Himself the part of a teacher, nor asking questions for disputation, but was seeking to learn the truth from those who were appointed of God to be the teachers of the Law. Where He was sitting with the doctors is uncertain. Lightfoot, (in loco,) after discussing the point, says: " There is nothing absurd in it if we should suppose Christ gotten into the very Sanhedrim itself. Thither Joseph and His mother might come, and seeking Him, might find Him on the benches of the fathers of the council for that time, they having found Him so capable both to propound questions and answer them."1 Meyer in loco; Sepp, ii. 172. 2 See Hofmann, 259.
The three days that elapsed before His parents found Jesus, may be thus computed: the first, that of their departure from Jerusalem ; second, the day of their return ; third, the day when He was found: or, if we exclude the day of departure—first, the day of their return; second, the day of search in Jerusalem; third, the day "when He was found. Some, with much less probability, count three days from the day of their return. That He might very easily be separated from them without any culpable carelessness on their part, appears from the great multitudes that were present, and the confusion that would necessarily prevail at such a time. Tradition makes Beer or El Bireh to have been the place where His parents spent the first night, and where they missed their son. " The place where Christ was first missed by His parents is commonly shown at this day to travellers, by the name of Beer, but ten miles from the city."l As is well known, the first day's journey of a company of eastern travellers is always short. " On that day it is not customary to go more than six or eight miles, and the tents are pitched for the first night's encampment, almost within sight of the place from which the journey commences."2 That, leaving Jerusalem in the afternoon with the crowd of Galilean pilgrims, Mary and Joseph should have lost sight of Jesus for three or four hours, and yet not have felt any alarm, supposing Him to have been somewhere in the company, presents no difficulty.3
How the eighteen years of the Lord's life passed at Nazareth were spent, we have no means of determining. The Evangelists have maintained upon this point entire silence. It is most probable that He was taught His father Joseph's trade, according to the settled custom of the Jews to bring up their sons to some trade or art.1 This is very plainly taught in the question of the inhabitants of Nazareth, " Is not this the carpenter ? " which, as Alford remarks, " signifies that the Lord had actually worked at the trade of His reputed father." Justin Martyr (100-150 A. D.) says that " Christ being regarded as a worker in wood, did make, while among men, ploughs and yokes, thus setting before them symbols of righteousness, and teaching an active life." 3 That this was His occupation seems to have been generally believed by the early fathers. Some in later times, thinking bodily labor derogatory to Him, made this time of retirement at Nazareth to have been spent in contemplation and prayer. The traditions that He made a journey to Persia to visit the Magi, or to Egypt to visit her sages, need no notice.3
i Lightfoot. 2 Hackett, Scrip. 111., 12.
3 As to the more distinguished Rabbis whom the Lord may have met at this time, see Sepp, ii. 178.
It is an interesting inquiry, and one that may properly be considered here, Who constituted the household of Joseph and Mary at Nazareth ? Was Jesus the only child in the family circle, or were there other children ? and if there were others, in what relation did they stand to Him? Reference is several times made by the Evangelists to His brothers and sisters. (Matt. xii. 46-50 ; xiii. 55, 56; Mark iii. 31; vi. 3 ; Luke viii. 19 ; John ii. 12 ; vii. 3 ; Acts i. 14.) St. Paul refers to " the brethren of the Lord," (1 Cor. ix. 5 ;) and calls James " the Lord's brother," (Gal. i. 19.) Who are these ? The answer to this question is confessedly one of the most difficult that meets us in the whole range of our inquiries. It has been in dispute from very early times, and opinions are as much at variance now as ever. All that can be attempted here is to set the matter in its most important bearings fairly before the reader.
Let us first sum up what we know from the New Testament of these brothers and sisters of the Lord. The names of the former are given by Matthew xiii. 55, and by Mark vi. 3, as James, Joses, Simon, and Judas.1 Both Evangelists mention His sisters, but neither their number nor names are given. From the language of the Nazarenes, (Matt. xiii. 56,) " His sisters, are they not all with us ? " there must have been at least two, who were probably married and resident at Nazareth. His brethren are spoken of as going with him to Capernaum, (John ii. 12,) and afterward appear in company with His mother again in the same?§ity, (Matt. xii. 46; see also John vii. 3-10.)
In all these references to the Lord's brethren, several things are noticeable: first, that they are always called brothers and sisters, a8e\cf>oi and cukA<£ai, not cousins or kinsmen, ave\j/Loi or o-vyycveis; second, that they are called always His brothers and His sisters, not sons or daughters of Mary; third, that they always appear in connection with Mary, as if her children and under her direction.
We may thus classify the various theories respecting them: First, that which makes them to have been the children of Joseph by a former marriage, or by adoption, and so Christ's brothers and sisters. Second, that which makes them to have been children of a sister of His mother, and so His cousins-german. Some make them His cousins by His father's as well as His mother's side. Third, that which makes them to have been His own brothers and sisters, the children of Joseph and Many. Each of these theories will be briefly examined.
First, that they were children of Joseph by a former marriage or by adoption. That Joseph at the time of his marriage to Mary was a widower, is often and expressly said in the Apocryphal Gospels. In the " History of Joseph," ch. ii., the names of his children by his first wife are given : Judas, Justus, Jacobus, and Simon; Assia and Lydia. In the " Gospel of James," ch. ix., Joseph says, "I am an old man, and I have sons." According to Hofmann,1 it is generally agreed that he had but four sons, but their names are variously given. There is no general agreement as to the names, or number of the daughters.2 It is said by Thiersch3 that this was the only tradition respecting the parentage of these brothers and sisters of the Lord that existed during the second and third centuries, and was the ruling one till the time of Jerome. This father, writing against Helvidius, first gave currency to the view that they were cousins of the Lord, and hence is called by Baronius fortissimus adstipulator, vel potius auctor of this theory.4 The object of Jerome, in denying that they were the children of Joseph, was to exalt celibacy. Not only had Mary continued all her married life a virgin, but Joseph also; and hence his former marriage must be denied, and another parentage given his reputed children. In the Latin Church the view of Jerome, supported by Augustine, became, and continues to be, the ruling one; but in the Greek Church, the old tradition still continues current.6
1 Tischendorf has in Matthew Joseph for Joses; in Mark Iuxt^tos ' so Alford. As to the bearing of this diversity of readings, see Wieseler, Stud. u. Krit, 1842, p. 75.
This theory, that makes them the children of Joseph by a former marriage, has, in itself, nothing intrinsically improbable ; though regarded by some as a mere fiction, devised to save Mary's virginity.6 If Joseph had had children by an earlier wife, these would properly be the Lord's brothers and sisters, and their presence with His mother would be readily explained. That they are not called Joseph's children, might be accounted for by his death before they appear in the gospel narrative. But there are still very weighty objections. If children by a former marriage,
i Leben Jesu, 4. 2 See Thilo, Codex Apoc, i. 363.
3 Versuch., 361 and 431. 4 See Pearson on the Creed, art. iii.
5 See Schaff, die Briider des Herrn., 80 j Hofmann, Leben Jesu, 4.
6 So Stier, Greswell.
they must have been born before Jesus, and some of them been much older, and this seems inconsistent with their relations to him, and their continued attendance upon Mary. If also He was not the eldest, but youngest son of Joseph, how could He be called the legal heir to the throne ? Nor can it be shown that the tradition, however ancient, was ever universally received.
There is a modification of this view, which makes the Lord's brethren to have been the adopted children of Joseph. Joseph had a brother, Clopas, or Alpheus,1 who married a certain Mary, not the sister of the Lord's mother, and had by her four sons and some daughters. Clopas dying, Joseph took these children to his own house, and became their father. Thus by birth they were the legal cousins of Jesus, children of His father's brother, and now become His brothers and sisters by their adoption. Mary, their mother, came with them, and was an inmate of Joseph's house, and a member of the family. Thus her presence at the cross and sepulchre finds a ready explanation, (Matt, xxvii. 56 and 61.) As the adopted sons of Joseph they could well be called by the Evangelists the Lord's brethren. Still, being bound by no ties of blood to Mary> His mother, and having a mother of their own, He could upon the cross commend her to the care of John, who was her nephew, the son of Salome, her sister.2 According to Lichtenstein, 124, the two brothers, Joseph and Clopas, married two sisters, both named Mary. Clopas dying, Joseph took his wife Mary and her children into his family/ Thus, the children wei\e the Lord's cousins, both on His mother's and father's side, and brothers and sisters by adoption.
This explanation, though not without its advantages, rests upon no certain historic basis. There may be no good reason to question the assertion of Hegesippus,3 that Clopas was the brother of Joseph, though it does not appear whether he uses the term brother strictly, or as meaning that the two married sisters. And it may also be admitted that Alpheus and Clopas are one and the same person. But there is no proof of the early death of Alpheus, nor that Joseph adopted his children; and the absence of all allusion in the Evangelists to Mary, the real mother of these children, when they are collectively mentioned, is very surprising.
i Eusebius, iii.-ll. 2 So Lange, in Herzog, vi. 409.
8 In Eusebius, iii. 11.
A tradition that makes Joseph to have married the wife of his brother Alpheus, according to the law regulating Levirate marriages, to raise up seed to his brother, and that the fruit of this marriage was four sons and two daughters, needs no confutation.1
Second, that these brothers and sisters of the Lord were His cousins, the children of Alpheus and Mary. This view rests upon the supposition that His mother and Mary, wife of Alpheus, were sisters. Of this Mary we have little knowledge. It is generally supposed that she stood in the relation of wife to Alpheus, though some have questioned it.2 She is also spoken of as mother of James the Less, and of Joses, (Matt, xxvii. 56;'Mark xv. 40.) Was she also sister to Mary, mother of the Lord ? This has been generally inferred from John xix. 25 : " ISTow there stood by the cross of Jesus, His mother, and His mother's sister, Mary, wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene." But are three or four persons mentioned here ? Many maintain that there are four, the sister of the Lord's mother being a distinct person from the wife of Clopas.3 In favor of this construction is the fact that two sisters would otherwise have the same name.4
In this uncertainty respecting the relationship of Mary, wife of Clopas, to the Lord's mother, it cannot be positively affirmed that her children were His cousins, or relatives at all. If, however, this be admitted, the question remains, can these sons of Alpheus and Mary be identified with His brothers? The names of the former were James and Joses. Two of the latter have the same names. That James, son of Alpheus, was an apostle is expressly said. (Matt. x. 3, and elsewhere.) Of Joses we know nothing.1 It is affirmed that beside Joses, Alpheus and Mary had another son, named Jude or Judas. In the list of the apostles as given by Luke, (vi. 16 ; Actsi. 13,) a Judas is mentioned as standing in some relation, not defined, to a James; lovBas I(xkw/?ov, Judas of James. Many suppose the fraternal relation to be meant, as in our version, Judas brother of James.2 Others suppose the paternal relation, Judas son of James.3 This latter construction finds some confirmation in the fact that Judas is not anywhere brought into relationship to Alpheus and Mary. If the latter was really his mother, why should not his name be mentioned in connection with that of his brother James, both being apostles ? She is called the mother of. James and Joses, not of James and Judas. It does not then appear at all certain that Alpheus and Mary had more than two sons, James and Joses, of whom the former was an apostle. The language in the epistle of Jude, where the writer speaks of himself as " brother of James," decides nothing till we have learned whether he is the same person as the apostle Judas. The inference from verse 17 that he was not an apostle, is not conclusive.
Supposing it, however, to be shown that Jesus had three cousins german, James, Judas, and Joses, of whom the first two were apostles, can what is said of the Lord's brethren by the Evangelists be applied to them ? That they should be uniformly called His brothers, never His cousins, is, as has been already observed, remarkable, but not decisive. Still more remarkable is it that they never appear in connection with their own mother, but always with His mother, as if her constant companions, (John ii. 12; Matt. xii. 46.) A stronger objection to their identity is found in the fact that the Lord's brothers are spoken of as not believing in Him till the end of His ministry, or perhaps, till after His resurrection, while two of the sons of Alpheus and Mary were early called into the ranks of the apostles. It is difficult to believe that His brethren, who came with His mother desiring to speak with Him, (Matt, xii. 46; Luke viii. 19,) could have been at that time apostles, and so His constant attendants. Their language at a later period, as given by John, (vii. 3, 4,) when they desired him to go up to Jerusalem, and the express testimony of the Evangelist, (v. 5,) for "neither did His brethren believe on Him," seem most plainly to disprove their apostleship. Moreover, a line of distinction between His disciples and apostles, and His brethren, is kept up in the evangelical narratives, from the beginning of His ministry till its close, and nowhere appears more marked than after His ascension, (Acts i. 13-14.) It is also recognized by St. Paul many years later, (1 Cor. ix. 5.)
1 Sepp, ii. 248, would identify him with Barsabas, Acts i. 23, but without a particle of evidence.
2 So Norton, Alford. 3 Meyer, Oosterzee, Evvald.
Upon the other hand, much stress is placed hj many upon the words of Paul, (Gal. i. 19,) "But other of the apostles saw I none, save James, the Lord's brother." 1 From these wTords it is inferred that James, the Lord's brother, was an apostle and must have been James the son of Alpheus, as it is agreed that James the son of Zebedee could not be meant. It follows that the term "brother is equivalent to cousin, and thus that by the Lord's brethren we are to understand His cousins, the sons of Alpheus and Mary.
The value of this argument rests upon the grammatical construction of St. Paul's words. Does he mean to designate James as an apostle, or, on the contrary, to distinguish him from the apostles ? His language is by no means clear. It maybe read, "I saw none other of the apostles, but only (I saw) James, the Lord's brother." l In this way, James is brought into direct contrast with the apostles. But the other construction, that identifies James as an apostle, in the stricter or wider sense, has much in its favor.2 It finds some confirmation in Acts ix. 27, where mention is made of u apostles," with seeming reference to Peter and James. His apostleship appears also to be proved by the mention of his name (ii. 9) before those of Cephas and John, who were undeniably the leading apostles among the Twelve, for could such a preeminence be given to any one not an apostle ?
It is in this high position given to James, the brother of our Lord, that we find our strongest argument for his identification with the apostle James, the son of Alpheus. There is little doubt that he is the same person mentioned, (Acts xii. 17, xv. 13, xxi. 18,) and the author of the epistle bearing his name. From all the Evangelists say of him, it is plain that he was a man very conspicuous in the Church, and of great influence and authority. This, however, is greatly exaggerated by some, who make him the superior of Peter.3 Some would explain the eminence ascribed to him, and the importance attached to his opinion in all points respecting the observance of the law by the Gentiles, to the peculiar position which he occupied as the first bishop and head of the mother and central church at Jerusalem, identifying him with James the Just, of whom Eusebius speaks, (ii. 1 and 23,) " He was the first who received the episcopate of the church at Jerusalem." It is not, then, necessary to suppose him to have been an apostle, or to have exercised any special apostolic functions, in order to explain why he should be placed upon an apparent equality with the apostles. As the Lord's brother, a more than ordinary degree of respect would naturally be paid him, and to him, when alone, Jesus appeared after His resurrection, as he had done to Peter, (1 Cor. xv. 7.) Rigidly observant himself of the law, and a strenuous defender of the Mosaic institutions, his counsels had great weight when the relations of the circumcision and the uncircumcision were in question.1
1 See Winer, Granimatik, 557. Wieseler, Stud. u. Krit., 1842, 92, who cites Fritzsche: alium apostolum non vidi, sed (e* Jut?) vidi Jacobum, fratrem Domini. Schaff, 17 ; Thiersch, Kirchen Gesch., 80; Riggenbach, 296. Compare Rev. xxi. 27; Matt. xii. 4; Luke iv. 26-7. Very early, Victorinus, in his commentary, in loco, cited by Mill, 252, said: "Paul disclaims James as an apostle, saying that he saw no other apostle beside Peter, but only James."
2 See Ellicott, commentary, in loco, who refers to 1 Cor. i. 14.
3 So Fitch, The Lord's Brother, New York, 1858, who, although he denies him to be one of the Twelve, exalts him to the rank of a Pope, whose word is final: " Paul did not hesitate to speak his mind to Peter; but however much Paul or Peter may differ from James, and they be in the right, when once James has spoken, never is there a word in reply." * See Thiersch, Kirchen Gesch., 80 ; Schaff, 61.
Into a more particular consideration of this point it would be foreign to our purpose to enter. We conclude that James, the Lord's brother, was not necessarily an apostle and bishop, but may have been simply bishop, and therefore is not to be identified with James the son of Al* pheus. If, then, these were distinct persons, the former must be identified with that James mentioned with Joses, Simon, and Judas, (Matt. xiii. 55,) as one of Christ's brethren. If so, there can be little doubt that Judas, the author of the Epistle, who calls himself brother of James, was also one of these four brethren, and not a son of Alpheus and Mary.
If then, for the reasons now given, the theory that these brethren of the Lord were his cousins german, the children of Alpheus and Mary, be rejected, we come to the third explanation—that these were the sons and daughters of Joseph and Mary, and His own brothers and sisters. But here we meet dogmatic difficulties. It is an article of faith with the Roman and Greek Churches that Mary had no children beside the Lord, and the same opinion rules in the Lutheran symbols. In the Helvetic confession Jesus is spoken of as natus ex Maria, semper virgine. A large number of Protestant writers in all the religious bodies strongly maintain the perpetual virginity. Pearson1 says that the Church of God in all ages has maintained that she continued in the same virginity.2 It has been well remarked by Alexander (on Mark vi. 3) " that multitudes of Protestant divines and others, independently of all creeds and confessions, have believed, or rather felt, that the selection of a woman to be the mother of the Lord carries with it, as a necessary implication, that no other could sustain the same relation to her; and that the selection of a virgin still more necessarily implied that she was to continue so. After all, it is not so much a matter of reason or of faith as of taste and sensibility; but these exert a potent influence on all interpretation, and the same repugnance, whether rational or merely sentimental, which led fathers and reformers to deny that Christ had brothers in the ordinary sense, is likely to produce the same effect on multitudes forever, or until the question has received some unequivocal solution." The early belief in the perpetual virginity of Mary may perhaps be explained as springing in part from a desire to separate Christ, as widely as possible, from other men. He had no brothers or sisters; His mother had no other child. Thus, not only in His essential personality,but in the outward circumstances of His life, a broad line of distinction was to be drawn between Him and all beside. To suppose that He had brothers according to the flesh was to degrade Him by bringing Him into too close relationship with weak and sinful men.
i Upon the Creed, art. iii. 2 So Mill, 274.
The special honor paid to Him would naturally cause high honor to be paid to his mother. To this was added the admiration of celibacy springing from Gnostic principles, that began very early to prevail. Both His parents were thought to be honored by being presented to the world as virgins. Occasionally from time to time, and especially for a few years past, the tendency has manifested itself to bring more distinctly forward the humanity of Christ, and to give prominence to the truth expressed by the Apostle, (Heb. ii. 11,) "For both he that sanetifieth and they who are sanctified are all of one." Not to remove Him from the pale of human sympathies, but to bring Him in as many points as possible into contact with the experiences of human life, has seemed to many best to correspond to the historical statements of the Gospel, and the doctrinal statements of the Epistles. Hence perhaps there is now felt less reluctance to regard Him as having been in the truest sense a member of the family, having brothers and sisters bound to him by ties of blood, and as a partaker of the common lot in all the relationships of life which were possible to Him, that thus " He might be touched with a feeling of our infirmities." 1
Leaving all theological considerations on one side, the more natural and obvious interpretation of the language of the Evangelists leads to the belief that the Lord's brothers and sisters were such in the ordinary meaning of the words. In the case of another no hesitation could be felt. Not only are they always called His brothers, but are always found in company with His mother. They are, indeed, not^ called her sons, but this is explainable from the fact that they are spoken of only in their relations to Him, who everywhere in the Gospel is the one great central figure.
The expression in Matt. i. 25, " And knew her not till she had brought forth her first-born son," * certainly implies that afterward they lived together as husband and wife. Still this is not decisive. Alexander, (in loco,) after referring to some examples of the use of " till" in other parts of the Scriptures, observes: " These examples are sufficient to establish the position that the inference in question from the use of the word till^ however natural, is not conclusive; or, in other words, that this expression cannot prove the fact of subsequent cohabitation in the face of cogent reasons for disputing it." Nor does the term " first-born " (Luke ii. 1) show that other children were subsequently born. As primogeniture brought with it under the law certain privileges, the term " first-born " acquired a technical meaning, and was applied to all who had a right to those privileges, without regard to the fact that they were, or were not, the only children of their parents.
The existence of two households having so many names in common as those of Joseph and Mary, and Alpheus and Mary, are supposed to have had, is regarded by some as highly improbable. As we have seen, however, it is not certain that Mary and Alpheus had but two sons, James and Joses; and that these two very common names should be found among the Lord's brethren is not at least more surprising than that, according to the view that makes them His cousins, the Lord's mother and her sister 'should both have the name of Mary.2 Others regard it as a decisive proof that Mary had no other son, that Jesus upon the cross should have commended her to the care of John, (John xix. 26-27.) But why, if James and Judas were apostles and His cousins, sons of her sister and long inmates of her family, and it was a question of kinship, did he not commend her to their care ? If His brethren were at this time, as we may suppose, -unbelieving, and thus in a most vital point without sympathy with her, we can well understand why He should give John, the disciple whom He loved, to be her son, not so much to supply her mere bodily needs, as to comfort and strengthen her in the peculiar trials through which she would be immediately called to pass.
1 Tischendorf omits " first-born ;" Alford retains it.
2 According to Smith's Bib. Diet., i. 231, Josephus mentions 21 Simons, 17 Joses, and 16 Judes.
It is evident from this brief survey of the chief opinions respecting the Lord's brethren and their relations to Jesus, that the data for a very positive judgment are wanting.1 There can be no doubt that the very general, not universal, opinion in the church, has been in favor of the perpetual virginity of Mary. In regard to the Lord's brethren, there were some in very early times who thought them the children of Joseph and Mary, but most thought them to be either His cousins, or the children of Joseph. It is difficult to tell which of the latter two opinions is the elder, or best supported by tradition. The wTords of Calvin on Matt. i. 25, deserve to be kept in mind : Certe nemo unquam hac de re questioners movebit nisi curiosus / nemo vero pertinaciter insistet nisi contentiosus rixator.
1 Of the more recent writers, many affirm that they were the children of Joseph and Mary, and His own brothers and sisters. So Neander, Greswell, Wieseler, Alford, Stier, Sehaff, Meyer, Winer, Ewald, Lechler, Owen; contra, Lange, Olshausen, Lichtenstein, Friedlieb, Norton, Sepp, Hug, Thiersch, Alexander, Mill, Ellicott. See upon the subject, Das Verhaltniss des Jacobus Bruders des Herrn zu Jacobus Alphai, von Philipp Schaf. Berlin, 1842. Wieseler in Stud. u. Krit, 1842. Lange in Herzog, vi. 409; Lichtenstein, 100; Alford on Matt. xiii. 55; Winer, i. 525; Smith, Bib. Diet., i. 231 and 920; Mill, Mythical Interpretation, 219.