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The inaccuracy of the information furnished by the Gospels as to the material circumstances of the life of Jesus, the dubiety of the traditions of the first century, collected by Hegesippus, the frequent homonyms which occasion so much embarrassment in the history of the Jews at all epochs, render the questions relating to the family of Jesus almost insoluble. If we hold by a passage from the synoptic Gospels, Matt. xiii. 55, 56; Mark vi. 3, Jesus should have four brothers and several sisters. His four brothers were called James, Joseph or Jose, Simon, and Jude, respectively. Two of these names figure, in fact, in all the ecclesiastical and apostolic traditions as being “brothers of the Lord.” The personage of “James, brother of the Lord,” is, after that of St Paul, the most perfectly sketched of any of the first Christian generation. The Epistle of St Paul to the Galatians, the Acts of the Apostles, the superscriptions of the authentic epistles, or those not ascribed to James and Jude, the historian Josephus, the Ebionite legend of Peter, the old Judeo-Christian historian Hegesippus, are agreed in making him the chief of the old Judeo-Christian Church. The most authentic of these proofs, the passage in the Epistle to the Galatians, gives him distinctly the title of ἀδελφὸς τοῦ Κυρίου.

One Jude appears also to have a most indisputable right to this title. The Jude whose epistle we possess gives himself the title of ἀδελφὸς δε Ἰαχώβου. A person of the name of James, of sufficient importance to be taken notice of, and who was given the authority to call himself His brother, can hardly be the celebrated James of the Epistle to the Galatians, the Acts, of Josephus, of Hegesippus, of the 278pseudo-Clementine writings. If this James was “brother of the Lord,” Jude, the true or supposed author of the epistle which forms a part of the canon, was then also a brother of the Lord. Hegesippus certainly understood him so to be. This Jude, whose grandson (ὑιωνοί) was sought out and presented to Domitian as the last representative of the race of David, was, in the view of the antique historian of the Church, the brother of Jesus according to the flesh. Several reasons lead even to the supposition that this Jude was in his turn the chief of the Church of Jerusalem. Here is then a second personage who is included in the series of the four names given by the synoptic Gospels as those of the brothers of Jesus.

Simon and Jose are not known otherwise than as brothers of the Lord. But there would be nothing singular in the fact that two members of the family should remain obscure. What is much more surprising is that in reconciling other facts furnished by the Gospels, Hegesippus, and the oldest traditions of the Church of Jerusalem, a family of cousins-german of Jesus is formed, bearing almost the same names which are given by Matthew (xiii. 55) and by Mark (vi. 3), as those of the brothers of Jesus.

In fact, amongst the women whom the synoptics place at the foot of the cross of Jesus, and who testify to the resurrection, there is found one “Mary,” mother of James the Less (ὁ μιχρός) and of Jose (Matt. xvii. 56; Mark xv. 40, 47; xiv. 1; Luke xxiv. 10). This Mary is certainly the same as the one whom the fourth Gospel (xix. 25) places also at the foot of the cross, who is called Μαρία ἡ τοῦ Κλωπᾶ (which signifies without doubt “Mary, the wife of Clopas”), and which makes her a sister of the mother of Jesus. The difficulty which is thus occasioned by the two sisters being called by the same name is hardly taken into account by the fourth Evangelist, who only once gives to the mother of Jesus the name of Mary. Be this as it may, we have already two cousins-german of Jesus called James and Jose. We find, moreover, a Simon, son of Clopas, whom Hegesippus and all those who have transmitted to us the memories of the primitive Church of Jerusalem, represented as the second Bishop of Jerusalem, and as having been martyred under Trajan. Finally, there are traces of a 279fourth member of the family of Clopas in that Jude, son of James, who appears to have succeeded Simeon in the See of Jerusalem. The family of Clopas appearing to have retained in an all but hereditary manner the government of the Church of Jerusalem from Titus to Hadrian, it is not too bold to assume that the James, the brother of this Jude, was James the Less, son of Mary Cleophas.

We have thus three sons of Clopas called James, Jose, Simeon, exactly like the brothers of Jesus mentioned by the synoptics, without speaking of a hypothetical grandson in whom was revived the same identical name. Two sisters bearing the same name was indeed a very singular fact. What is to be said of a case in which these two sisters should have had at least three sons bearing the same name? No criticism can admit the possibility of such a coincidence. It is evident that we shall have to seek some solution which shall dispose of that anomaly.

The orthodox doctors, since St Jerome, thought to remove the difficulty by taking it for granted that the four personages enumerated by Mark and Matthew as brothers of Jesus were, in reality, his cousins-german, sons of Mary Cleophas. But this is inadmissible. Many other passages assume that Jesus had full brothers and sisters. The arrangement of the little scene recounted by Matthew (xiii. 54, et seq., and Mark vi. 2, et seq.) is very significant. There the “brothers” are immediately related to the “mother.” The anecdote (Mark iii. 31, et seq.; Matt. xii. 46, et seq.) gives rise to still less ambiguity. Finally the whole of the Jerusalemitish tradition distinguishes clearly the “brothers of the Lord” from the family of Clopas. Simeon, son of Clopas, the second Bishop of Jerusalem, is called ἀνεψιὸς τοῦ σωτῆρος. Not a single one of the ἀδελφοὶ τοῦ Κυρίου bears after his name the addition of τοῦ Κλωπᾶ. Notoriously James, brother of the Lord, was not the son of Clopas; if he had been, he would have also been the brother of Simeon, his successor. Now Hegesippus does not believe this. When we read chapters xi. and xxxii. of the third book of Eusebius’ Ecclesiastical History, we are convinced of it. The chronology will no longer permit of such a supposition. Simeon died at a very old age, in the reign of Trajan. James died in the year 62, 280also very old. The difference between the ages of the two brothers might thus have been forty years or thereabout. Hence the theory which sees the ἀδελφοὶ τοῦ Κυρίου in the sons of Clopas is inadmissible. Let it be added that in the Gospel of the Hebrews, which is often so superior to the other synoptic texts, Jesus directly calls James “my brother,” an expression altogether exceptional, and which people would certainly never employ to a cousin-german.

Jesus had full brothers and sisters. Only it is possible that these brothers and sisters were but half-brothers and half-sisters. Were these brothers and sisters likewise sons and daughters of Mary? This is improbable. In fact, the brothers appear to have been much older than Jesus. Now Jesus was, as it would appear, the first-born of his mother. Jesus, moreover, was, in his youth, designated at Nazareth by the name of “Son of Mary.” For this we have the most undoubted testimony of the Gospels. This assumes that he was known for a long time as the only son of a widow. In fact, such appellations were only employed where the father was dead, and when the widow had no other son. Let us instance the case of Piero dells Francesca, the celebrated painter. In fine, the myth of the virginity of Mary, without excluding absolutely the idea that Mary may have had afterwards other children by Joseph, or have been remarried, fits in better with the hypothesis that she had only one son.

No doubt, the legend is so constructed as to do the greatest violence to truth. Nevertheless, we must remember that the legend now in question was elaborated by the brothers and cousins of Jesus themselves. Jesus, the sole and tardy progeny of the union of a young woman and a man already reached maturity, offered perfect opportunity for the opinions according to which his conception had been supernatural. In such a case, the divine action appeared so much the more striking in proportion as nature seemed the more impotent. People take a pleasure in representing children, predestined to great prophetic vocations, as being born to old men or of women who have been for a long time sterile—Samuel, John the Baptist, and Mary herself are conspicuous instances. The author, also, of the Protovangile of James, St Epiphanes, etc., ardently insists upon the great age of 281Joseph, induced thereto, no doubt, by à priori motives, yet guided also in this latter by a just opinion as to the circumstances in which Jesus was born.

These difficulties could be readily enough removed, if we were to assume that Joseph had before been married, and had, by this marriage, sons and daughters, in particular, James and Jude. These two personages, and James, at least, appear to have been older than Jesus. The hostile disposition which was attributed at first to the brothers of Jesus by the Gospels, the singular contrast which the principles and the species of life led by James and Jude, and those of Jesus presents, is, in such a hypothesis, somewhat less unaccountable than on the other suppositions that have been made to get rid of these contradictions.

How could the sons of Clopas be cousins-german of Jesus? They may have been by the same mother, Mary Cleophas, as the fourth Gospel would have us believe, or by the same father, Clopas, who is made out by Hegisippus to be a brother of Joseph, or on both sides at once; for it was actually possible that the two brothers may have married two sisters. Between these three hypotheses, the second is much the more probable. The hypothesis as to two sisters bearing the same name, is extremely problematical. The passage in the fourth Gospel (xix. 25) may contain an error. Let no add that, according to one interpretation, a laborious one, it is true, yet, nevertheless, admissible, the expression ἡ ἀδελφὴ τῆς μητρός αὐτοῦ does not refer to Μαρία ἡ τοῦ Κλωπᾶ, but to a distinct nameless personage, such as was the mother of Jesus herself. The aged Hegisippus, so preoccupied with everything touching the family of Jesus, appears to have known quite well the truth upon this point. But bow can we admit that the two brothers Joseph and Clopas had three or even four sons bearing the same names? Let us examine the list of the four brothers of Jesus given by the synoptics—James, Jude, Simon, Jose. The first two have a well-authenticated title to be styled brothers of the Lord; the two last, outside the two Synoptic passages, have no valid claim to it. Just as in the case of the two names Simon and Simeon, Jose or Joseph, which are to be found elsewhere in the list of the sons of Clopas, we are led to 282adopt the following hypothesis: that the passages in Mark and in Matthew, in which are enumerated the four brothers of Jesus, contain an inadvertence; that as regards the four personages named by the synoptics, James and Jude were indeed brothers of Jesus and sons of Joseph, but that Simon and Jose have been placed there by mistake. The compiler of that little writing, like all the agadists, lays little store by exactness of material details, and, like all the evangelical narrators (except the fourth), was dominated by the cadence of Semitic parallelism. The necessities of locution may have drawn them into making an enumeration, the turn of which required four proper names. As he only knew two full brothers of Jesus, he was, perforce, compelled to associate with them two of their cousins-german. In fact, it seems that Jesus had indeed more than two brothers. “Have I not the right to have a wife,” says St Paul, “like the other Apostles, like the brothers of the Lord, like Cephas?” According to all tradition, James, the brother of the Lord, was not married. Jude was married, but that was not sufficient to justify the plural used by St Paul. There would need to have been a good many of these brothers, seeing that the exception in the case of James did not hinder St Paul from regarding generally the brothers of the Lord as married.

Clopas seems to have been younger than Joseph, and his eldest son must have been younger than the eldest son of the latter. It is natural that, if his name was James, a custom might exist in the family of calling him ὁ μιχρός, in order to distinguish him from his cousin-german of the same name. Simeon may have been fifteen years younger than Jesus, and, strictly speaking, died in the reign of Trajan. Nevertheless, we prefer to believe that the member of the Cleophas family martyred under Trajan belonged to another generation. Mere data regarding the age of James and Simeon are, moreover, very uncertain. James must have died at ninety-six, and Simeon at a hundred-and-twenty. This last assumption is, on the face of it, inadmissible. On the other hand, if James had been ninety-six, as it is pretended, in 62, he must have been born thirty-four years before Jesus, which is a thing very unlikely.

It remains to inquire whether any of these brothers of 283cousins-german of Jesus did not figure in the lists of the Apostles which have been conserved to us in the synoptics and by the author of the Acts. Although the college of the Apostles and that of the brothers of the Lord were two distinct groups, it has nevertheless been considered as possible that a few of the personages may have constituted a part of both. Indeed the names of James, Jude, and Simeon are to be found in the lists of the Apostles. James, the son of Zebedee, has nothing to do with this discussion, no more than has Judas Iscariot. But what are we to think of this James, son of Alpheus, whom the four lists of the Apostles (Matt. x. 2, et seq.; Mark iii. 14, et seq.; Luke v. 13, et seq.; Acts i. 13, et seq.) include in the number of the Twelve? People have often identified the name of Ἀλφαὶος with that of Κλεοπᾶς, by means of חלפי. This is indeed a reconcilement which is altogether false. Ἀλφαῖος is the Hebrew name חלפי, and Κλωπᾶς or Κλεοπᾶς is an abbreviation of Κλεόπατρος. James, the son of Alpheus, has not then the least title to being one of the cousins-german of Jesus. The evangelical personnel possessed in reality four Jameses, one the son of Joseph and brother of Jesus; another, son of Clopas; another, son of Zebedee; another, son of Alpheus.

The list of the Apostles given by Luke in his Gospel and in the Acts contains one Ἰούδα Ἰάχωβου, whom it has been attempted to identify with Jude, brother of the Lord, by assuming that it was necessary to understand ἀδελφός between the two names. Nothing could be more arbitrary. This Judas was the son of James, otherwise unknown. The same must also be said of Simon the Zealot, whom people have tried, without a shadow of reason, to identify with the Simon that we find classed (Matt. xiii. 55; Mark vi. 3) among the brothers of Jesus.

To sum up, it does not appear that a single member of the family of Jesus formed a part of the college of the Twelve. James himself was not of that number. The only two brothers of the Lord whose names we are sure of knowing were James and Jude. James was not married, but Jude had children and grandchildren; the latter appeared before Domitian as descendants of David, and were presidents of churches in Syria.

As for the sons of Clopas, we know three of them, one of 284whom appears to have had children. This family of Clopas, after the war of Titus, held the highest positions in the Church of Jerusalem. A member of the Clopas family was martyred under Trajan. After that, we hear no more of the descendants of the brothers of the Lord, nor of descendants of Clopas.


London: Printed by the Temple Publishing Company.

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