Extra Thoughts on Mark 6:1-6

If you haven’t yet listened to this week’s sermon, find it here. In this week’s passage, we read, “Isn’t this the carpenter, the son of Mary, and the brother of James, Joses, Judas, and Simon? And aren’t his sisters here with us?” So they were offended by him.” (Mark 6:3, CSB).

Jesus Had Siblings

We find these siblings of Jesus elsewhere in Scripture. We know that James saw Christ resurrected (1 Cor. 15:7), became a believer, and wrote the book that bears his name. The brother “Judas” mentioned in this passage is also likely the author of the book of Jude. While these brothers eventually came to be Christ-followers, they were not always so.

Whose Children Were They?

Most protestants accept that these were half-siblings of Jesus. Jesus was conceived in Mary by the Holy Spirit. These other children, being the children of Joseph and Mary, would then share the same mother, but not the same father. This would make Jesus the firstborn of the family, and all his siblings younger. This is the most natural understanding of the texts.

Close Relatives?

Most Catholics do not share this view, holding to the belief that Mary was a lifelong virgin and that Jesus was her only child. This is known as the Doctrine of Perpetual Virginity, and is one of the oldest teachings of the Roman Catholic Church and others. Two different explanations are used for these “brothers and sisters.” The first is that they were close relatives, possibly cousins, who would have colloquially been called “brothers and sisters.” 

Children of Joseph?

The second explanation requires adhering to traditions which are not taught in scripture. Since Joseph is not mentioned after the incident of Luke 2:41-50, when Jesus was twelve, it is widely held that he died before Jesus started his earthly ministry at age 30. Early tradition asserts that this was because Joseph was much older than Mary and had previously been married and had children with a wife who died. These children are believed to be the “brothers and sisters” mentioned here. Nowhere in scripture is this claim made.

Was Mary a Lifelong Virgin?

Scripture gives us no indication that Mary was a lifelong virgin. Jesus being born of a virgin was a requirement for him to not inherit the sin nature. It was also a requirement to fulfill the prophecy of Isaiah 7:14. It was a requirement that demonstrated that he was the Son of God, not of a man.  After His birth, there was no requirement that Mary remain a virgin. She was a married woman with a husband. In fact, Matthew seems to support Mary and Joseph having normal marital relations after the birth of Jesus. “When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife, but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus.” (Matthew 1:24-25, ESV) If perpetual virginity was to be asserted, Matthew could have just as easily left out “until she had given birth to a son.” 


Virtually all theologians correctly assert that Mary was a virgin when Jesus was conceived and born. All agree on the necessity of the virgin birth. The most natural reading of the Holy texts supports the idea that Joseph “knew” Mary and they had other children before his death. The most natural reading of the scriptures is that these brothers and sisters mentioned were the children of Mary and Joseph through the normal means. Other theories are speculation used to prop up a doctrine that is unnecessary to salvation.