Did Jesus Have Brothers and Sisters?

26 September, 2017
Q I am a non-Muslim and interested in reading about your religion. I read that there are references in the Old and New Testaments that suggest that Jesus had brothers and sisters. We often find these quotes: "brothers of Jesus" and "sister of Jesus." What does Islam say about this? What is the use of the word "brother" in reference to Jesus in both the Old and New Testaments?


Salam (Peace) Dear Irene,

Thank you for your question and for wanting to know more about Islam.

It is by knowing more about each other that we can dispel misconceptions which cause trouble.

It is a sad fact that we often fear what we do not fully understand.

Knowing more about Islam is also a sure way of seeing how beautiful it really is, and far different from the distorted images we see from the media.

As far as Islam is concerned, there is no mention of brothers or sisters

If Jesus did have brothers and sisters, the Quran does not tell us so. So, we can only assume that it is not important for us to know.

If God or Allah Almighty believed it to be important for our lives as Muslims, He would surely have revealed it to us.

Biblical References To Jesus’ Siblings

You are right that in the Christian Bible there are several references to Jesus (peace be upon him) having brothers.

The Gospel written by Matthew, for example, says:

[…] is not his mother called Mary? and his brethren, James, and Joseph, and Simon, and Judas? (Matt 13:55, New International Version).

In Luke’s Gospel we read,

Now Jesus’ mother and brothers came to see him. […] (Luke 8:19, New International Version)

In John’s Gospel we find this:

[…] Jesus’ brothers said to him, ‘You ought to leave here and go to Judea, so that your disciples may see the miracles you do.’ […] For even his own brothers did not believe in him. (John 7:2-5, New International Version)

Matthew’s Gospel even mentions sisters:

Aren’t all his sisters with us? […] (Matt 13:56, New International Version)

There are other references, too. You might want to look at them in Matthew 12:46, Mark 3:31, Acts 1:14, and Galatians 1:19.

Why Learn What The Bible Teaches?

It is important for us to understand what Islam teaches about the Bible, so that we can understand its proper context in this matter.

Muslims believe that Allah Almighty did reveal messages to former prophets.

To Moses (PBUH), He revealed the Torah (The Old Testament), and to Jesus (PBUH), He revealed the Injeel (the Gospel).

Muslims also believe, though, that over time, both of these revealed books became distorted because of translations and deliberate changes.

For example, your question is a matter of confusion over the meaning of the words “brothers” and “sisters” which resulted from translating words in different ways.

We read in the Quran, which Muslims believe is the word of God, unchanged:

Some of the Jews pervert words from their meanings. (Quran 4:46)

And also:

So woe to those who wrote the Book with their hands, and then say: ‘This is from Allah,’ that they may sell it for a little price. So woe to them for what their hands have written, and woe to them for their earnings.  (Quran 2:79)

Muslims believe that the Quran is the final revelation of God to mankind

In it, He corrects things that were changed by man or translations in the past books, or He confirms things that were true and remain in them.

In other words, Muslims believe that the only certainty we can ever have about revelation is what is written down clearly in the Quran, which has remained in the same original Arabic in which it was first revealed more than fourteen hundred years ago.

So, when the Quran confirms something in the Christian and Jewish scriptures, we accept them to be correct.

When the Quran rejects something in the Christian and Jewish scriptures, we believe they are wrong.

And when the Quran says nothing about a matter or verse mentioned in the previous scriptures, then we don’t know its accuracy.

Since the Quran has nothing to say about Jesus (PBUH) having brothers and sisters, then, we simply don’t know.

What we do know is very clear: that Jesus (PBUH) had a miraculous birth (3:47); that he was born of a virgin mother (19:16-21); that he spoke in the cradle (19:29-30); that he performed miracles (5:110); and that he did not die on the cross and was not raised back to life after three days (4:157).

I hope this answers your question. Please keep in touch.


(From AboutIslam’s archives)

Read more:

Jesus as Mentioned in the Quran

The Story of Jesus in Brief