Did Jesus Christ have a brother? That depends on who you ask. As the centuries old question is resurrected again and again with new theories and new finds, the answers multiply. According to the Catholic Church, it’s simple. Jesus Christ was born of Mary, ever virgin, and Jesus’ childless foster father Joseph took a vow of celibacy when he and Mary were betrothed. There were no brothers, and incidentally, no sisters either (not a topic much under discussion in the Christian theological world.)
But there are many opposing views, including from within the church. Jesuit priest Fr. James Martin is featured in the CNN documentary, Finding Jesus: Faith Fact Forgery, and is author of the book Jesus: A Pilgrimage. He believes that James was a son of Joseph from a previous marriage.
“It makes sense that Joseph would have been older and Mary was younger, so I see them (Jesus and James), in a sense, as stepbrothers,” he told CNN.
Ben Withering doesn’t agree. A professor of New Testament, Withering takes the view common to Protestant Christians that Mary the mother of Jesus had many more children after the birth of Jesus. He teaches at the evangelical Asbury Theological Seminary.
“The New Testament says nothing about Mary being a perpetual virgin, it says she virginally conceived Jesus, and it certainly implies that she went on to have more children after that, and his brothers and sisters are in fact his brothers and sisters,” Witherington said.
An online poll from the UK based Mirror seems to indicate that most readers would support the common Protestant view. A resounding 80% of online voters answered yes to the question, “Do you think James is Jesus’ brother?”
The question was brought to life again in 2002 when archaeologists discovered a 2,000 year old ossuary—a box that held bones- bearing the inscription, “James, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus.” There have also been several claims to the discovery of the tomb of Jesus, including the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, accepted if not officially endorsed as authentic by the Catholic Church, and since 1880, a limestone house in northern Israel has been undergoing examination as a the possible home of Jesus, Mary and Joseph.
Amidst the scholarly and not-so-scholarly dispute, a tiny gaming company has created a free RPG called Jesus Christ. The game is part of a series including Baby Jesus and Rise Jesus Christ, and carries the tagline, “First, there was Jesus Christ. Then, Jesus Christ Superstar. Now, there is Jesus Christ RPG.” James doesn’t make an appearance in the game.
There will always be curiosity about Jesus’ childhood and family, and we may never find absolute answers. Perhaps the real question is, if Jesus Christ had a brother, would the boys have enjoyed playing Jesus Christ? Not according to Jeremy Peeples, Senior Editor at Hardcore Gamer. He describes the visuals as flat and unappealing, but makes no comment on the relationship between Jesus and James.
(Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)