Is There Any Difference Between Jesus’ Siblings?
The Greek word for brother is “anabus” and from this root word we get “a male regarded as a member of the family.” This also suggests that a brother is to be regarded as a member of the family. Therefore, a brother is a member of the family. (Note that the word for brother in Essene spirituality is utilised only in the singular form; whereas, elsewhere, the term for brother is used in the plural.) This etymology attests to the fact that the concept of a brotherhood is far older than could be imagined.
The Essenes believed that there were two forms of brotherhood: a direct brother and a younger brother. In the case of a direct brother we have the older brother, John the Baptist, who is the brother of Jesus. John’s brother James is also called James but by another name, and so on. There are no apparent connections between John the Baptist and James the Younger. John is the father of James and the father of Peter and John the Baptist.
This view is rejected by supporters of Essenes brotherhood theory as “unnatural.” Such a view is more likely to be an early 20th century modernist view. Some supporters of the traditional view are inclined to adopt the view that a brother is either a younger brother or a full brother, though this is very rarely the case. A half brother is usually regarded as not being a brother at all. A full brother is seen as being a brother by blood and thus a member of the family, though not necessarily of the same family with his brothers.
John the Baptist is the father of James and brother James is the father of Zebedee. If James is considered a younger brother of Zebedee, then Zebedee is the younger brother of John the Baptist. If James is considered the father of Zebedee, then John the Baptist is considered the father of James. If James is the younger brother of Zebedee, then Zebedee is the father of John the Baptist.
There is a common myth that there was only one true brother among the brothers of the Jesus. On the contrary there were three great men, and each of them was a real brother to Jesus. Jesus himself was a Hebrew by birth and was a very young boy when he became a Jew by adoption. Many of his closest apostles were also Jews by heritage, meaning that they too were half brothers to Jesus.
The other way of looking at this issue is that Jesus was a highly unusual young man in that he did not have a brother. His closest relatives were his two sisters, Mary and Joseph. Mary was pregnant before his birth and this would have meant she was carrying a child by natural means. She was probably very close to her brother Joseph though, and there is a story where Jesus went on to live with his foster family after his baptism. This would have made Mary his half sister and Joseph his brother-in-law.