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Comparative Theology, book by H. H. Pope Shenouda III
48- The phrase ‘His brothers’
(5) The phrase ‘His brothers’
In Hebrew expressions, the word ‘brother’ may signify near relations or step-brothers. There are numerous examples of this in the Holy Bible, such as:
(i) Jacob and his uncle Laban
The Holy Bible says about the meeting between Jacob and Rachel: “And it came to pass, when Jacob saw Rachel the daughter of Laban his mother's brother, and the sheep of Laban his mother’s brother, that Jacob went near and rolled the stone from the well's mouth, and watered the flock of Laban his mother's brother. Then Jacob kissed Rachel, and lifted up his voice and wept. And Jacob told Rachel that he was her father’s brother” (Gen.29: 10-12). Thus Jacob called Rachel’s father his brother although he was his mother's brother. The phrase ‘mother’s brother’ was repeated many times in this chapter. The word ‘brother’ was used to mean very near relations.
Laban talked to Jacob in the same manner, saying: "Because you are my brother, should you therefore serve me for nothing?” Tell me, what should your wages be?” (Gen.29: 15) Thus Laban called Jacob his brother although he was his nephew.
(ii) Abram and Lot
Lot was Abram's nephew, the son of his brother Haran (Gen.11: 31), yet the Holy Bible says: “Now when Abram heard that his brother was taken captive, he armed his three hundred and eighteen trained servants” (Gen.14: 14). Here Abram considered Lot his brother although he was his nephew, due to their near relationship.
In like manner, the phrase ‘brothers of Jesus’ was used in referring to the cousins of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Who are the brothers of the Lord?
When the Lord went to His own country, the people were astonished and said: “Is this not the carpenter's son? Is not His mother called Mary? And His brothers James, Joses, Simon, and Judas? And His sisters, are they not all with us?” (Matt.13: 55,56); (Mark.6: 1-3)
St. Peter the Apostle mentions that he saw James, the Lord's brother (Gal.1: 19). This James was called ‘the Less’ (Mark.15: 40) to distinguish him from James the son of Zebedee. He was also called the son of Alphaeus (Matt.10: 3) and was one of the Apostles (Gal.1: 19).
St. Matthew the Apostle says in his Gospel that at the cross “many women who followed Jesus from Galilee, ministering to Him, were there looking on from afar, among whom were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Joses, and the mother of Zebedee’s sons” (Matt.27: 55,56).
Who then was Mary, mother of James and Joses? Was she the Virgin Mary? Is it reasonable to assume that the Virgin Mary begot all those children?
The mother of James and Joses was Mary, the wife of Halfa or Clopas, of whom St. John the Apostle said: “Now there stood by the cross of Jesus His mother, and His mother's sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene” (John.19: 25). Compare this verse with verses 55 and 56 of chapter 27 of the Gospel according to St. Matthew.
Mary the mother of James and Joses was with Mary Magdalene at the cross of Christ (Matt.27: 55,56). They were the same two persons present at the Lord's burial and saw where He was laid, and it was they who brought spices to anoint His body when the Sabbath was over (Mark.16: 1). They were the same persons of whom St. John said in his Gospel: "Now there stood by the cross of Jesus His mother, and His mother's sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene" (John.19: 25).
Therefore, the brothers of Jesus are His cousins, the sons of Mary, the Virgin's sister, the wife of Clopas or Halpha and mother of James, Joses and the rest of the brothers.
Regarding the difference between the names Clopas and Halfa, it may be a difference in pronunciation or, as St. Jerome said, it is not uncommon for the Holy Bible to give more than one name to a person, and we have discussed this issue before here on st-takla.org in other pages. Moses 'father-in-law was called Reuel (Ex.2: 18) and was also called Jethro (Ex.4: 18). Gideon was called Jerubbaal (Judg.6: 32), Peter was called Simon and Cephas, and Judas the Zeolot was called Thaddeaus (Matt.10: 3).
It is obvious that Mary the mother of James and Joses is not the Virgin Mary who was never called by that name in the Holy Bible.
(1) It is unreasonable that the Lord Jesus Christ commanded the Virgin Mary to His Apostle John when He was on the cross if she had all those sons and daughters. Undoubtedly her children, if she had any, should have been the ones to look after her.
(2) We notice that during the journey of St. Joseph and the Virgin Mary to and from Egypt, there is no mention of any other children of the Virgin Mary except the Lord Jesus (Matt.2: 14,20,21). Neither is there any mention of the sort during their journey to and from Jerusalem when the Lord Jesus was twelve years old (Lk.2: 43).
(3) It is unsound to hold, as some people do, that the ‘brothers of Jesus’ are the sons of Joseph whom he begot from another wife after whose death he became a widower, because the Holy Bible mentions that Mary the mother of James and Joses was present at the time of Christ's crucifixion and burial, as we have previously explained (M k.15: 47).
(4) There is a clear Biblical text confirming the perpetual virginity of the Virgin Mary. In his prophecy, Prophet Ezekiel saw a closed gate in the East and he was told: “This gate shall be shut; it shall not be opened, and no man shall enter by it, because the Lord God of Israel has entered by it; therefore it shall be shut” (Ez.44: 2). This gate is the Virgin’s womb through which the Lord entered; it remained shut and was not opened by another child.
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