Jesus Christ confesses: “i had six brothers”
RACHEL Friends of Emisoras Latinas, our microphones have moved to Nazareth, in Galilee, a city that today has some 60 thousand inhabitants and much commerce… We find ourselves in the monumental Basilica of the Annunciation, and once again we have with us the protagonist of this story, Jesus Christ, in his second coming to Earth. Tell your first impressions, Master…
JESUS I’ve already told you not to call me “master”. Remember that we are all…
RACHEL Yes, yes, you already told me several times … I’m sorry, it’s just habit. Good, this basilica is built on the site of the house of the holy family…. Down below there we can see the ancient walls… Jesus, do you recognize them?
JESUS Well,… with so many candles and so much marble… I’m trying to make out … Yes, I think that’s where we used to play when we were kids… This was a narrow little street … Yes, I remember, the way out to the valley was right here…
RACHEL What games did you play?
JESUS Pulling the dog’s tail … We played with a ball made of rags… Also we used to play at hiding from the Roman soldiers … And we played another ball game called the mill, which was a lot of fun… My brother James always beat me…
RACHEL Your brother James?
JESUS Yes, James. Joseph also used to play with us, but not little Simon or Jude – they were still too small.
RACHEL You mean to say, those were your cousins?
JESUS What do you mean, my cousins? My brothers. I had four brothers and two sisters.
RACHEL Are you referring to the ones mentioned in the gospels? … Because they always explained to me that the Greek work “adelphos” means not only brothers, but also cousins…
JESUS I don’t know about those Greek words, but those were my brothers.
RACHEL Maybe you mean step-brothers, sons of an earlier marriage of Joseph….?
JESUS How could they be from an earlier marriage if my father was very young when he married my mother? In those times people got married at an early age…
RACHEL Well, then I don’t understand anything. Everybody knows that you were the only son of Mary.
JESUS No, I was the firstborn. I was the oldest, yes. But then James was born, then Joseph, Esther, little Simon, who was a rascal, Jude, and finally my younger sister, Benjamina.
RACHEL They were all children of Joseph … and Mary?
JESUS Of course. Of who else could they be?
RACHEL You have really knocked us out with these statements…
JESUS What do you mean, knocked out?
RACHEL Well, that’s an expression from a game that you aren’t familiar with, and which you certainly wouldn’t like, boxing … But let’s just say that you leave us overwhelmed.
JESUS My mother was the one who was overwhelmed. Imagine, bringing up six kids, seven including me… And my father Joseph, as hard as he slaved away, never earned enough to feed so many mouths. And then there was Granny Anna and uncle Mike.
RACHEL Let’s leave your granny and your uncle aside for now and return to your brothers and sisters. So James and Joseph and all the others that you mentioned were your full brothers and sisters?
RACHEL Are you aware of how serious such a statement is?
JESUS No, I’m afraid not.
RACHEL The thing is, if they were your brothers and sisters and not your cousins, then the virgin was … not so virginal. … I’m extremely confused.
JESUS But why, Rachel? What’s wrong with having a family? God created life. We are the image and likeness of God when we create life, not when we remain sterile.
RACHEL But… that is … We’ll have to continue discussing these matters with you, Jesus. Because, frankly, to say that we’re overwhelmed would be an understatement… But, thinking it over, what really changes if Jesus did have brothers and sisters? Does that really change anything in his message? What do you think, esteemed audience of Emisoras Latinas? This is Rachel Perez, reporting from Nazareth in Palestine.
ANNOUNCER Another God is Possible. Exclusive interviews with Jesus Christ in his second coming to Earth. A production of María and José Ignacio López Vigil, with the support of the Syd Forum and Christian Aid.
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Nazareth yesterday and today
Nazareth was an unknown corner of the land of Israel, never mentioned in the Old Testament or by any other chronicler or historian of antiquity. In Jesus’ day it was a small village where about two dozen families lived. Since it was situated on a steep slope, the farmers used to make their houses by digging into the hillside. Today, because of the influence of Christianity, Nazareth is the capital of Galilee. It is the Israeli city with the largest Arab population, some 60 thousand inhabitants, of whom two-thirds are Muslim and the rest Christian.
The most visible building of contemporary Nazareth is the modern Basilica of the Annunciation, built over stone walls that since the fourth century have been venerated as the remains of the cave in which Mary and her family lived. Also preserved in Nazareth is the spring which has supplied the village with water from time immemorial, the same one where Mary would have gone to fetch water. The well is now situated inside a small Greek Orthodox church that is dedicated to the archangel Gabriel.
Origins poor and plebeian
There exist some present-day currents of thought, influenced by the values of neo-liberal culture (competition, profitability) and those of the religious spirit which serves it (prosperity, success), which seek to present Jesus of Nazareth as a spiritual master who came from an undefined “middle class”; they go so far as to propose such unlikely ideas as that the first disciples were “fishing entrepreneurs”.
The weight of historical and cultural data of his time leads us to understand that Jesus was a Galilean peasant from an extremely poor background. He was also a man with great charisma; he was an itinerant preacher who with his passionate speech appealed to poor people, the sick, the women and all the other marginalized people of his day. From among those poor, dispossessed people came the men and women who were Jesus’ disciples. Fishing, for example, was at that time the labor of very poor people, and fishermen were discriminated against, since in that culture they were considered impure for being constantly in contact with the forces of evil, which were thought to dwell in the depths of the seas and the lakes.
The historical Jesus
Since the 19th century there been a great deal of historical research into the ancient Christian sources to see what they reveal about the man who was Jesus of Nazareth. The studies seek to distinguish between those traditions that go back to the historical Jesus and those which were added later on for theological and catechetical reasons. These latter are traditions that were created by the first Christian communities to express their experience of the Christ of faith.
Among the many studies that attempt to give the most accurate possible portrayal of the historical Jesus are those by John Dominic Crossan (The Historical Jesus: The Life of a Mediterranean Jewish Peasant, HarperCollins, 1992) and those by John P. Meier (A Marginal Jew: Rethinking the Historical Jesus, Yale, 1991).
With names and all
All four gospels speak at one time or another of the “brothers” of Jesus, always using the Greek word “adelphos”, which etymologically means “from the same womb” (Matthew 12,46-47; Mark 3,31-32; Luke 8,19-21; John 2,2). The gospel of Matthew (13,53-58) even gives the names of Jesus’ four brothers: James, Joseph, Jude and Simon, and mention is made also of his sisters. In Luke 2,7 we read that Jesus was the “first-born” son of Mary, not the “only-born”; the implication is that Mary had other children.
The concern to deny that Mary had other children appeared in the fourth century, when Saint Epiphany held that these brothers and sisters of Jesus were children of an earlier marriage of Joseph. One century later Saint Jerome, the author of the Vulgate (the Latin translation of the Bible), developed the thesis that these were not really Jesus’ brothers and sisters, but his cousins. This position then became common in the entire Catholic world, even though most Protestant churches accept that Jesus had siblings.
In 2005 BBC television broadcast an interesting documentary called “Jesus’ family”, in which the well-known genealogist Tony Burroughs analyzed Jesus’ genealogical tree. He conjectured about what Jesus’ large family might have been like, and he brought out well the influence that his brothers and sisters could have had on the initial diffusion of Jesus’ message among the people of Galilee and Judea.