Quick Hit: Who Were Jesus’s Four Brothers and What Difference Does It Make?

While we’re on this Bible trivia thing, I have another question for you.

A couple of years back, during the weekend of my church’s annual Labor Day singles beach retreat, a good friend took me out to dinner at a very nice restaurant and paid for the meal, on one condition–that I answer this question:  Who were Jesus’s four brothers?

So now I am posing the same question to you, the readers of this blog.  What were the names of Jesus’s four brothers?

Sorry folks, I will not spoonfeed you this one.  You’re on your own.  A diligent search of the Gospels will reveal the answer to you, so get to reading.

Now, what difference can it possibly make to know the names of Jesus’s four brothers?

A lot more than you think.

From what I understand, there is an ambiguity in the original Greek word for “brother” that is used for Jesus’s brothers; the word that is used there could also mean “cousin” or “half-brother”.  If it had been established from the beginning that Jesus had brothers–not half-brothers or cousins but real, actual, blood brothers, then that would have shut down a lot of the extravagant claims about Mary that have become part of Catholic devotion and doctrine in recent centuries.

Another thing which knowing who Jesus’s four brothers are shows us–and this is true regardless of whether they were cousins, half-brothers, or blood brothers–is that Jesus lived a normal life as part of a normal family in a normal community before he started out on his public ministry.  For thirty years prior to his entrance into public ministry, Jesus was a faithful son and family member, and a hardworking member of his community.  So much so that when he started out in his public ministry, the people of his hometown didn’t even recognize him.  They all said such things as “Isn’t this the carpenter’s son?”  (Luke 4:22)

This stands in direct contrast to the urgency which many attempt to attribute to Jesus in order to justify their claim that the Christian life is all about urgent soul-winning for the sake of the Kingdom.  The urgency which Jesus possessed was an urgency which was part and parcel of his ministry, a ministry which not every person on the face of the earth is called to.

The takeaway from all this is that it is perfectly okay to live a normal life and be faithful in what you are doing where you presently are.  Jesus did it for thirty years prior to his public ministry–do you think that this time is any less significant in the eyes of God than his ministry years?–and so can you.

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