Who Were Jesus’ Relatives?

I was challenged in a recent Bible Study when I stated that Jesus and John the Apostle were cousins. Since I certainly am not above making mistakes, I welcomed that challenge. Nowhere in the Bible does it explicitly state that they were cousins, so if there is some evidence to that effect, we will have to put some puzzle-pieces together to get there. So, I have done a study focusing not only on this question, but also asking a broader question, “Who were Jesus’ relatives?“. This is results of that quest.

Brothers and sisters…
55 Is not this the carpenter’s son? Is not His mother called Mary, and His brothers, James and Joseph and Simon and Judas? 56 And His sisters, are they not all with us? Where then did this man get all these things?” (Matthew 13:55-56)

Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary, and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? Are not His sisters here with us?” And they took offense at Him. (Mark 6:3)

Two of His brothers, James and Judas(Jude) appear later in the New Testament. James was one of the pillars of the church in Jerusalem and the author of the Epistle of James. Judas(Jude) was the author of the Epistle of Jude. Nothing is known about the other brothers or His sisters.

The Bible doesn’t explicitly state that James and John were His cousins, but there seems to be some evidence to support that idea. John the Baptist was definitely related to Jesus.

26 Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city in Galilee called Nazareth, 27 to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the descendants of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary. 28 And coming in, he said to her, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.” 29 But she was very perplexed at this statement, and kept pondering what kind of salutation this was. 30 The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; for you have found favor with God. 31 And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name Him Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David; 33 and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and His kingdom will have no end.” 34 Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” 35 The angel answered and said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and for that reason the holy Child shall be called the Son of God. 36 And behold, even your relative Elizabeth has also conceived a son in her old age; and she who was called barren is now in her sixth month. 37 For nothing will be impossible with God.” 38 And Mary said, “Behold, the bondslave of the Lord; may it be done to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her. (Luke 1:26-38)

Sons of Zebedee…
Going on from there He saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets; and He called them. Immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed Him. (Matthew 4:21-22)

Going on a little farther, He saw James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, who were also in the boat mending the nets. Immediately He called them; and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired servants, and went away to follow Him. (Mark 1:19-20)

Women and mothers…
Many women were there looking on from a distance, who had followed Jesus from Galilee while ministering to Him. 56 Among them was Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James and Joseph, and the mother of the sons of Zebedee. (Matthew 27:55-56)

There were also some women looking on from a distance, among whom were Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James the Less and Joses, and Salome. (Mark 15:40)

But standing by the cross of Jesus were His mother, and His mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. (John 19:25)

In addition to Mary, the mother of Jesus, three additional women are mentioned in all three accounts. There are two Mary’s, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James and Joseph(Joses), who was the wife of Clopas. The third woman is described variously as “the mother of the sons of Zebedee“, “Salome“, and “His mother’s sister“. Was Salome both “His mother’s sister” and “the mother of the sons of Zebedee“? It certainly appears that way, but I can’t say for sure.

Note: The Jews were multi-lingual during this era, speaking at least Greek and Aramaic, so it is not unusual for different names to be mentioned in the New Testament for the same person depending on who wrote a particular book. These names were also very common, particularly among Jewish boys and men.

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