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Did Jesus Have a Brother?!

Questioner

Asim

Reply Date

Mar 29, 2019

Question

Salam Respected Scholars, I would like to ask the following question: The New Testament says that Jesus (peace be upon him) has a brother, whose name is James. As Muslims do we believe in this? Was it mentioned in any of the Islamic scriptures of Jesus (peace be upon him) having a brother? Thank you and salaam.

Consultant

Answer


Did Jesus Have a Brother?!

Short Answer: In the Quran, there is no mention of the marriage of Mary, the mother of Jesus or her having children other than Jesus, whose miraculous birth is given great attention in the holy text. On the other hand, in the Gospels we may read a number of verses that refer to the marriage of Mary to a carpenter called Joseph, and their having a number of children. Protestants traditionally read the New Testament as meaning Mary gave birth to Jesus as a virgin and then had James, three other sons and at least two daughters. The Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholics teach Mary’s “perpetual virginity,” which means she and Joseph never had marital relations, though they were husband and wife! They commonly hold that James was merely Jesus’ close relative, perhaps the son of Joseph’s brother Cleopas or a cousin on Mary’s side. They apparently did not approve of “the Mother of God” being married to a human! The Orthodox think Joseph had James by his first wife, and after she died he married Mary — whose only child was the virgin-born Jesus. Thus, to them, James was Jesus’ half brother.

………….

Salam Dear Asim,

Thank you for your question and for contacting Ask About Islam.

First of all, we must understand that the Holy Quran does not give the full history of any prophet. We are given a fairly good picture of a prophet, which is necessary for us to understand the way he worked to teach divine guidance to a people and how they responded to him.

Some prophets are only mentioned in passing; some others are given a great deal of prominence in the Quran. But we do not get a complete picture of the life of any prophet, not to mention how many brothers and sisters a prophet had in each case… etc.

About the lives of Abraham, Moses and Jesus, we get a good deal of narration in the Quran. However, Christians do not accept the Quranic accounts of those prophets, saying that they are only incorrect versions of the Biblical stories.

The Muslim position is that the original source of the Biblical stories as well as the Quranic accounts is Allah; hence the common ideas and basic facts.

As for the differences, they are due to the human alteration and changes of the texts of the Biblical books, over long periods of time exercised by theologians. Muslims believe for good on firm grounds that the Quran is the last and most authentic of the scriptures, fully guarded from corruption; and therefore it contains the most reliable accounts of the prophets.

In the Quran, there is no mention of the marriage of Mary, the mother of Jesus or her having children other than Jesus, whose miraculous birth is given great attention in the holy text. On the other hand, in the Gospels we may read a number of verses that refer to the marriage of Mary to a carpenter called Joseph, and their having a number of children. For example in Matthew 13 (54 – 57):

“… and when he was come into his own country, he taught them in their synagogue, insomuch that they were astonished, and said: Whence hath this man this wisdom, and these mighty works?

Is not this the carpenter’s son? Is not his mother called Mary? And his brethren, James, and Joses, and Simon, and Judas?

And his sisters, are they not all with us? Whence then hath this man all these things?
And they were offended in him. But Jesus said unto them: A prophet is not without honor, save in his own country, and in his own house…”

Here we find that Jesus had a number of brothers and sisters, the eldest of them being James. The Gospels undoubtedly call James the “brother” of Jesus, and other New Testament books say he later led the Jerusalem church.

Protestants traditionally read the New Testament as meaning Mary gave birth to Jesus as a virgin and then had James, three other sons and at least two daughters. The Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholics teach Mary’s “perpetual virginity,” which means she and Joseph never had marital relations, though they were husband and wife!

They commonly hold that James was merely Jesus’ close relative, perhaps the son of Joseph’s brother Cleopas or a cousin on Mary’s side. They apparently did not approve of “the Mother of God” being married to a human! The Orthodox think Joseph had James by his first wife, and after she died he married Mary — whose only child was the virgin-born Jesus. Thus, to them, James was Jesus’ half brother.

From Paul’s writings, it appears that James had the authority at the church in Jerusalem, which is considered by today’s scholars as the mother church of apostolic Christianity. In the second chapter of Galatians (Gal 2:11-14), Paul illustrates how even Peter respected James’s authority.

Robert Eisenman, in his book, James the Brother of Jesus, reveals that the real successor to the movement now called “Christianity” was not Peter, but James. According to him, James was not merely the leader of Christianity of his day, but a popular Jewish leader of his time.

According to him, Paul was the one who “hijacked” (to use a modern term) Christianity along pagan lines. It was on the basis of the recently discovered Dead Sea Scrolls, as well as of an objective reading of the New Testament in the light of history, that Eisenman makes his ground – breaking discovery.

Recently, in last October an ancient stone box used for burial was discovered in Israel, which carried the inscription: “James, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus.”

Writing in Biblical Archaeology Review, Andre Lemaire, a specialist in ancient inscriptions at France’s Practical School of Higher Studies, dates the box to 63 C.E. In fact, this is the only “authentic historical reference” to Jesus Christ, as the Bible and the Quran, are considered just “works of faith”.

As for Muslims, it is not part of our ‘pillars of faith’ to believe in James or to reject him as the brother of Jesus. But, as objective researches and studies have established that Jesus had a half-brother, we have no problem in accepting that.

This does not contradict any of our articles of faith. On the contrary, some of these investigations have only brought us further proofs for our position on Jesus and on the later evolution of Christianity.

I hope this answers your question. And, thank you for allowing us to read, learn and clarify this matter.

Salam.

(From Ask About Islam archives)

Please continue feeding your curiosity, and find more info in the following links:

Did Jesus Claim That He Is God?

Jesus In Islam – Muslim Belief’s About Jesus (PBUH)

If Jesus Was God, Why Would Jesus Pray To God?




About Professor Shahul Hameed

Professor Shahul Hameed is an Islamic consultant. He also held the position of the President of the Kerala Islamic Mission, Calicut, India. He is the author of three books on Islam published in the Malayalam language. His books are on comparative religion, the status of women, and science and human values.

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