Jesus database logo
working together for the future of faith


Jesus' True Family


(1) Thom 99
(2a) Mark 3:19b-21,31-35 = Matt 12:46-50 = Luke 8:19-21
(2b) 2Clem 9:11
(2c) GEbi 5



(1) Thom 99

99 The disciples said to him, "Your brothers and your mother are standing outside." 2He said to them, "Those here who do what my Father wants are my brothers and my mother. 3They are the ones who will enter my Father's domain." [Complete Gospels]


(2a) Mark 3:19b-21,31-35

3:19 and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him. Then he went home; 3:20 and the crowd came together again, so that they could not even eat. 3:21 When his family heard it, they went out to restrain him, for people were saying, "He has gone out of his mind."

3:22 And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem said, "He has Beelzebul, and by the ruler of the demons he casts out demons." 3:23 And he called them to him, and spoke to them in parables, "How can Satan cast out Satan? 3:24 If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. 3:25 And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. 3:26 And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but his end has come. 3:27 But no one can enter a strong man's house and plunder his property without first tying up the strong man; then indeed the house can be plundered. 3:28 "Truly I tell you, people will be forgiven for their sins and whatever blasphemies they utter; 3:29 but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit can never have forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin"-- 3:30 for they had said, "He has an unclean spirit."

3:31 Then his mother and his brothers came; and standing outside, they sent to him and called him. 3:32 A crowd was sitting around him; and they said to him, "Your mother and your brothers and sisters are outside, asking for you." 3:33 And he replied, "Who are my mother and my brothers?" 3:34 And looking at those who sat around him, he said, "Here are my mother and my brothers! 3:35 Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother."

= Matt 12:46-50
12:46 While he was still speaking to the crowds, his mother and his brothers were standing outside, wanting to speak to him. 12:47 Someone told him, "Look, your mother and your brothers are standing outside, wanting to speak to you." 12:48 But to the one who had told him this, Jesus replied, "Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?" 12:49 And pointing to his disciples, he said, "Here are my mother and my brothers! 12:50 For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother."

= Luke 8:19-21
8:19 Then his mother and his brothers came to him, but they could not reach him because of the crowd. 8:20 And he was told, "Your mother and your brothers are standing outside, wanting to see you." 8:21 But he said to them, "My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and do it."


(2b) 2Clem 9:11

/10/ Let us then give him praise, nt only with our mouth, but also from our heart, that he may receive us as sons. /11/ For the Lord said, "My brethren are these who do the will of my Father." [Sayings Parallels]


(2c) GEbi 5

/5/ Moreover they deny that he was a man, evidently on the ground of the word which the Savior spoke when it was reported to him: "Behold, thy mother and thy brethren stand without," namely:
Who is my mother and who are my brethren? And he stretched forth his hand towards his disciples and said: These are my brethren and mother and sisters, who do the will of my Father. (Epiphanius, Haer. 30.14.5) [Sayings Parallels]



Early Christian writings show an increasing interest in Jesus' birth and childhood as time passes, but these matters were seemingly not of interest to the original followers of Jesus or even early converts such as Paul. For Paul it was sufficient to note that Jesus was born of a Jewish mother ("born of a woman, born under the Law" -- Gal 4:4).

Other developments can be traced as follows:

Mark (written in the 70s) has very little information about the family of Jesus, and its reliability cannot be verified. From Mark we can draw just the following points:

Mark pays no attention to Jesus' conception, birth or childhood.
Jesus was known as the "son of Mary" rather than being named for his father. (Mark 6:3)
While the mother and brothers of Jesus are mentioned, there is no mention of his father. (Mark 3:31-35; 6:3)
There seems to be have been some division between Jesus and his family. (Mark 3:31-35; 10:28-31)
Jesus had at least two sisters. (Mark 6:3)

Matthew (written a decade or so after Mark) begins the process of filling out the sketchy details in Mark:

Matthew begins with a genealogy that traces Jesus' descent from Abraham and David (Matt 1:1-17)
Jesus' father is Joseph, a "just man" whose religious practices included revelatory dreams. (Matt 1:18-25; 2:13,19,22)
There is some doubt over Jesus' paternity but Joseph acknowledges Jesus as his own child. (Matt 1:18-25)
Jesus' family originally lived in Bethlehem, not Nazareth in Galilee. (Matt 2:1,23)
A threat to Jesus' life caused the family to flee to Egypt for safety. (Matt 2:13-15)
Subsequently Joseph took his family to Nazareth rather return to Bethlehem. (Matt 2:22-23)
Joseph is described as a carpenter.(Matt 13:55)
His siblings now include 4 named brothers and more than 2 unnamed sisters (Matt 13:56)
Jesus was alienated from his own family to some extent (Matt 10:34-36; 12:46-50; 19:29)

John (written mid/late 90s) gives no attention to the birth and childhood of Jesus, but has an occasional reference to members of Jesus' family:

Mary attends the Cana wedding celebrations with Jesus and plays an active role in his first miracle (John 2:1-11)
His mother and brothers accompany Jesus when he goes to Capernaum (John 2:12)
Galilean Jews recognize Jesus as the "son of Joseph, who father and mother we know" (John 6:42)
Jesus' brothers advise him to leave Galilee and go to Judah (John 7:3)
Jesus' brothers did not believe in him (John 7:5)
Jesus' brothers go to Jerusalem for Tabernacles, and then Jesus follows them there (John 7:10)
Jesus is not born in Bethlehem but comes from Galilee (John 7:40-44)
Jesus' opponents hint at his illegitimate birth while affirming their own pedigree (John 8:39-41)
Mary is with Jesus during his crucifixion and he gives her into the care of a favorite disciple (John 19:25-27)

Luke (perhaps written ca 110) pays far more attention to the family of Jesus:

The parents of John the Baptist are relatives of Mary (Luke 1:36)
John and Jesus are cousins although there is no mention of contact between them
Mary and Joseph live in Nazareth (Luke 1:26-27; 2:39)
Mary conceives Jesus prior to the marriage.
Joseph and Mary travel to Bethlehem late in her pregnancy for a census (Luke 2:4-5)
Jesus is born while his parents are visiting Bethlehem (Luke 2:6-7)
Lacking proper housing in Bethlehem a manger serves as a make-shift crib (Luke 2:7)
The "baby in a manger" is visited by shepherds alerted to his birth by angels (Luke 2:8-20)
Jesus is circumcised on the eighth day (Luke 2:21)
Jesus and is parents visit the Temple for Mary's purification rituals (Luke 2:22-24)
At the Temple Simeon and Anna prophesy his future significance (Luke 2:25-38)
The family returns to their hometown of Nazareth (Luke 2:39)
Jesus' childhood is spent at Nazareth (Luke 2:40)
At age 12 Jesus visits Jerusalem for Passover and engages the scholars in the Temple (Luke 2:41-51)
Luke provides a genealogy that traces Jesus' descent to Adam (Luke 3:23-38)
His townsfolk identify Jesus as "the son of Joseph" (Luke 4:22)
Jesus seems to be alienated from his mother and brothers when they come looking for him (Luke 8:19-21)
Jesus praises disciples over his own mother (Luke 11:27-28)
His mother Mary and his brother are among the disciples in Jerusalem after Easter (Acts 1:14)
James the brother of the Lord is a significant leader in the Jerusalem community (Acts 15:13-21)

Infancy Gospel of James (ca 150 CE):

a collection of stories about Mary’s special childhood
the circumstances of her arranged marriage to an elderly widower named Joseph
various episodes relating to the miraculous birth of Jesus.

Infancy Gospel of Thomas (ca 180 CE) provides a collection of childhood adventures by Jesus that fill the gap between the birth of Jesus and his appearance in the Temple aged 12


John Dominic Crossan

Item: 105
Stratum: I (30-60 CE)
Attestation: Double
Historicity: +


Arthur J. Dewey

Arthur J. Dewey, "The Family of Jesus." FORUM NS 2,1 (Spring 1999) 79-97 lists the relevant texts as follows, although these relate not so much to the circumstances of Jesus' childhood as to the activity of Jesus' own relatives within his movement:

105+. Jesus' True Family: (1) GThom 99; (2a) Mark 3:19b-21,31-35 = Matt 12:46-50 = Luke 8:19-21; (2b) 2Clem 9:11; (2c) GEbi 5

22+. Prophet's Own Country: (1) GThom 31 & POxy 1.31; (2) Mark 6:1-6a = Matt 13:53-58; (3) Luke 4:16-24; (4) John 4:44

274-. Women at Crucifixion: (1a) Mark 15:40-41 = Matt 27:55-56 = Luke 23:49, (1b) John 19: 25b-27

355-. Jesus at Tabernacles: (1) John 7:1-52 & 8:12-59 (see John 7:10)

Pauline references: Gal 1:19; 2:9,12; 1Cor 9:5; 15:7

Acts material: Acts 1:14

Dewey concludes with the following recommendations for the Jesus Seminar session in the Fall of 1994:

1. The family of Jesus continued into the second century. [Red]
2. The family played a significant role in the development of the early Jerusalem community. [Red]
3. The family of Jesus became the vehicle for dynastic succession of community leaders in Jerusalem. [Red]
4. This dynastic succession lasted until the second Jewish War. [Gray]


Jesus Seminar

The voting outcomes from the Seminar's examination of texts relevant to Jesus' family were as follows:

True relatives: Mark 3:20-21,31-35 and parallels

Jesus' relatives thought him mad. 0.72 PINK
Jesus' mother and brothers came to get him. 0.65 PINK

No Respect at Home: Mark 6:1-6 and parallels

Jesus had brothers. 0.97 RED
James was the name of one brother of Jesus. 0.97 RED
Jesus had sisters. 0.73 PINK
Jesus' brothers were not in sympathy with him. 0.69 PINK
Jesus was known as the son of Mary. 0.89 RED
The name of Jesus' father was not known. 0.73 PINK
Jesus did favor or inaugurate the establishment of a blood dynasty. 0.01 BLACK

Jesus' Family: Gal 1:19, 2:9,12

James was a brother of Jesus. 0.96 RED
James was one of those of "repute." 0.94 RED
James appears to be pre-eminent among the three leaders of "repute." 0.95 RED
James, Cephas and John extended the right hand of fellowship to Paul. 0.84 RED
Emissaries of James later came to Antioch and precipitated a confrontation between Cephas and Paul. 0.96 RED

Jesus' Family: 1 Cor 9:5, 15:7

The brothers of Jesus were married. 0.88 RED
James claimed a revelatory experience or vision. 0.81 RED

Jesus' Family: Eusebius and his sources

The family of Jesus continued into the second century. 0.87 RED
The family of Jesus played a significant role in the development of the early Jerusalem community. 0.91 RED
The family of Jesus became the vehicle for dynastic succession of community leaders in Jerusalem. 0.75 PINK
The dynastic succession of Jesus' family lasted until the second century. 0.44 GRAY


John P. Meier

Meier [Marginal Jew I,350-52] gives the following summary of what can be said about the childhood and family of Jesus:

During the reign of Herod the Great, and probably towards its end (ca. 7-4 B.C.), Jesus was born in the hill town of Nazareth in Lower Galilee. His mother was Mary, his putative father, Joseph. We hear of four brothers of Jesus (James, Joses, Jude, and Simon) and at least two unnamed sisters. It may be significant that all the names in the family hark back to the glorious days of patriarchs, the exodus, and the conquest of the Promised Land. Jesus' family may have shared in the reawakening of Jewish national and religious identity that looked forward to the restoration of Israel in its full glory. That is all the more likely if Joseph claimed to be a descendant of King David. At any rate, judging by the fiercely religious focus of Jesus' life once it becomes visible to us, we may reasonably suppose that his family had been deeply devout Jews of a peasant Galilean type: firmly committed to the basic practices of the Mosaic Law (especially its "boundary symbols" of circumcision, Sabbath, and pilgrimage to the Jerusalem temple), but not given to the niceties of Pharisaic observance.

As the firstborn son, Jesus would have been the object of Joseph's special attention, both in training him for a trade and in seeing to his religious education. The fact that Joseph is notably absent during the public ministry is best explained by the traditional idea that he had already died. Jesus' mother, brothers, and sisters survived into the period of the ministry, though not without some tensions between them. ...

However galling the Gospels' silence about Jesus' "hidden years" may be, the silence may have a simple explanation: nothing much happened. The shoot of the stump of Jesse was sprouting slowly and silently.

Jesus in Nazareth was insufferably ordinary, and his ordinariness included the ordinary status of a layman, without any special religious credentials or "power base." As a Galilean layman, he would have appeared at first negligible to the high priestly families in Jerusalem—until he began to appear dangerous.



This poem originated as a contribution to the HODOS online community by Gene Stecher. It is published with Gene's consent but he explicitly retains full rights as the creative author. You welcome to use it for personal study and worship, but it should not be published in any other form without the author's prior consent. Index to Gene Stecher's poems


Mother or siblings? Hidden father?

Getting rid of the Powerful!

Teaching sword thrusts to the depth of the hand!

Functional or dysfunctional?

A probe of words only, of course, pretend speech!

Yet so knowledgeable of slaughter,

You know, the slaves and kin

of vineyard owners.

How comes the killer's graduation

to Satan and Emperor?

The House of the Strong Man<>Tie his hands God

A slave cannot have two masters


Are you up to it my brother?

Are you up to it my sister?

Are you up to it my mother?

Are you up to doing what Dad wants?


Abbreviations | Bibliography | Copyright | FFF Home | Get Involved | JDB Home | Search | Email FFF