James: “Brother” of Jesus: Josephus vs. the Bible & Hegesippus

James: “Brother” of Jesus: Josephus vs. the Bible & Hegesippus September 7, 2022

vs. Lucas Banzoli

Lucas Banzoli is a very active Brazilian theological writer, who denies that Jesus is immutable in His Divine Nature (i.e., judging by the standard of trinitarian classical theism, he denies that Jesus is God; hence cannot be classified as either a trinitarian or a Christian). He has a Master’s degree in theology, a degree and postgraduate work in history, a license in letters, and is a history teacher, author of 25 books, as well as blogmaster (but now inactive) for six blogs. He’s active on YouTube.

The words of Lucas Banzoli will be in blue. I use RSV for the Bible passages unless otherwise indicated.

This is my 19th refutation of articles written by Lucas Banzoli. As of yet, I haven’t received a single word in reply to any of them (or if Banzoli has replied to anything, anywhere, he certainly hasn’t informed me of it). Readers may decide for themselves why that is the case.

*****

I’m replying to Lucas’ article, Flávio Josefo é a prova irrefutável de que Tiago era irmão (e não primo) de Jesus! [Flavius ​​Josephus is irrefutable proof that James was Jesus’ brother (not cousin)!] (7-11-18).

The first part of Lucas’ article goes through garden-variety Protestant objections to our biblical arguments for the perpetual virginity of Mary. I’ve dealt with them many times (even recently); no need to again. I want to hone in on one particular thing: Lucas’ casual assumption that Josephus’s accounts are some sort of “Gospel Truth” for Christians, and indeed (in Lucas’ ridiculous display of overconfidence) “irrefutable proof” [!] that James must have been Jesus’ sibling and not cousin (the mainstream Catholic view) or step-brother (as Eastern Catholics and Orthodox prefer to think).

I defend the “cousins” view (notably set forth by St. Jerome): not merely because I am a Catholic but (as an apologist and student of the Bible and early Church history) because I think it’s the best and most plausible view, given all the various kinds of relevant available evidence. Catholics are not required to adopt the cousins theory. We’re only bound to believe that Mary was ever-virgin: before, during (“in partu”) and after the birth of Jesus. Therefore, siblings of Jesus are ruled out in Catholic belief.

Catholic apologists . . . hammer the point that the authors of the New Testament preferred to say “brother” for who was actually “cousin”, even though they had a specific word for cousin that could have been perfectly used if they wanted, and even at the risk of someone confusing a cousin with a brother when he reads a text saying brother.

For them, the same apostle Paul who said that Mark was primo- anespsios of Barnabas (Col 4:10) preferred to say that James was brother – adelphos of Jesus (Gal 1:19), perhaps because he had a sudden amnesia of the existence of the term anepsis on that occasion, either because he was ill-informed, or because he didn’t mind confusing people anyway.

Yes, we “hammer” it (and “nail it down”: to follow the metaphor) because it’s an established and unarguable fact. The use of “brother” in a widespread sense in both Testaments is simply undeniable, and easily and quickly verified by cracking any Bible lexicon or Greek Grammar. I have written, accordingly, in past treatments of this topic:

Adelphos (“brother”) was used in the NT because it was following Aramaic / Hebrew cultural practice. They would say “brother” for both siblings and cousins and even for nephews (Abraham and Lot). We have to think how they thought then in that culture and with that language, not like we do today.
*
“Cousin” appears four times in the entire OT in the RSV (three of those in Jeremiah, another in Leviticus). But “brother[s]” appears 390 times, “brethren” 154 times and “sister[s]” 110 times [note: this is how this prominent modern translation chose to translate the words involved]. So by a 654-4 ratio, we have those terms (which at first glance sound like siblings) used over against “cousin.” Obviously, many times they were used for non-sibling relatives. Here are some examples of that:
*
Lot, who was called Abraham’s “brother” (Gen. 14:14), was the son of Haran, Abraham’s sibling (Gen. 11:26–28); therefore, was Abraham’s nephew, not his sibling or blood brother. Jacob is, likewise, referred to as the “brother” of Laban, who was literally his uncle (Gen. 29:15). Eleazar’s daughters married their “brethren,” who were the sons of Kish (Eleazar’s literal sibling). These “brethren”, then, were actually their first cousins (1 Chr. 23:21–22).
*
“Brother” and “sister” could also refer to kinsmen (Dt. 23:7; Neh. 5:7; Jer. 34:9), as in the reference to the forty-two “brethren” of King Azariah (2 Kgs. 10:13–14). Many more such examples could be given.
*
The NT (which came out of the same culture, and was Jewish-written save for Luke) totally reflects this. It has “brother[s]” 159 times, “brethren” 191, and “sister[s]” 24 times, while “cousin” appears exactly once (Col 4:10).
*
So that’s a 374-1 ratio (even more lopsided than the OT), and for the entire Bible (minus the Deuterocanon), the numbers are 1028-5, or “cousin” used instead of “brother” or “sister” once in every 206 times a relative is mentioned, or a miniscule 0.5% of the time.
*
Most strikingly [and ultra-relevant to the present sub-topic], it looks like every time St. Paul uses adelphos (unless I missed one or two), he clearly intends it to mean something other than blood brother or sibling. He uses the word or related cognates no less than 138 times in this way. Yet we often hear about Galatians 1:19: “James the Lord’s brother.” 137 other times, Paul means non-sibling, yet amazingly enough, here he “must” mean sibling, because (so we are told) he uses the word adelphos? That doesn’t make any sense.
But proving the brothers of Jesus by the Bible is cowardly and doubly useless: first, because this has already been done in this article (highly recommended for anyone who wants to understand the subject), and second because no Catholic apologist really believes in the Bible . . . 
*
I see. I vehemently deny the bigoted caricature of those in my own field and profession. But in any event, this Catholic apologist is known particularly for an emphasis on “Bible and Catholicism.” I habitually provide far more biblical material than Lucas does, in my replies to him. This is my 19th (with no reply yet). A prime example of that is my article: Banzoli’s 45 “Faith Alone” Passages; My 200 Biblical Disproofs [6-15-22]. I clearly ran circles around him there, with 4.4 times more Bible passages than he provided. One is curious how he would have responded. But of course he never responds to me, so he can kindly spare me (and all Catholic apologists) the childish bull manure about “no Catholic apologist really believes in the Bible.”
*
At least I have the courage of my convictions and provide replies and defend myself when critiqued. And — again — I continually provide far more biblical material than my Protestant opponents do. I have written / edited two books that consist almost wholly of Bible passages (Bible Proofs for Catholic Truths, 2009) and Revelation! 1001 Bible Answers to Theological Topics (2013). I’ve also edited my own version of the New Testament: derived from existing public domain translations (Victorian King James Version of the New Testament: A “Selection” for Lovers of Elizabethan and Victorian Literature, 2014).
*
So in this article I will use a Jewish historian who lived in the first century and who is the main non-Christian source used as evidence in favor of the historicity of Christ: this is Josephus Flavius ​​(AD 37-100).
*
Well, this is the fundamental flaw in his argument. Why does he want to rely on a Roman Jewish historian, when it comes to questions of Christian doctrine?  Josephus, not being a Christian at all, obviously wouldn’t even accept the virgin birth of Jesus, let alone a proposed perpetual virginity of Mary.
*
So why would Lucas appeal to him, as opposed to the source I will submit: the Jewish convert and Christian historian Hegesippus (c. 110-c. 180), who, according to St. Jerome, “wrote a history of all ecclesiastical events from the passion of our Lord down to his own period . . . in five volumes”? This was called Hypomnemata (“Memoirs” or “Memoranda”). Unfortunately, most of it has been lost. “Father of Church history” Eusebius cites the fifth and last book. We are indebted to him for what we have left of Hegesippus’ work.
*
Lucas’ reliance on Josephus with regard to the issue at hand, reminds me of the Protestant falling back on the post-Christian Jews with regard to the biblical canon, because they rejected the deuterocanonical books, whereas the early Christians included them in he Bible. If it comes to a question of refuting Catholics, any “witness” is good enough to enlist. They’ll follow the opinion of religious Jews rather than early Christians, if needs be.
*
Catholic apologists when debating with atheists cite Josephus to prove that Jesus existed (and they do well to do so), . . . 
*
Yes, because that’s an historical question, not a theological / doctrinal one, so he is most helpful.
*
Now that all possibilities of refutation have been demolished in advance, it will only be left for the Catholic apologist to resort to the final trick: to say that Josephus was grossly misinformed. This would become even more ironic if coming from certain preterist Catholic apologists who interpret Revelation 100% based on the testimony of Josephus, who conveniently becomes “unreliable” when what he writes is something that directly confronts their personal beliefs – which just shows once again the dishonesty of these people.
*
More bigoted sweeping insults . . . Jewish eschatology had more in common with Christian belief, and indeed, early Christian eschatology was largely derived from the thought of Judaism in the intertestamental period. Thus, Josephus (I have several of his works in my personal library) would be — and is — quite relevant and helpful as a chronicler of that historical background. Apples and oranges. Here Lucas is “requiring” Josephus to be an objective commenter on a question of a Christian miracle (the virgin birth) and a uniquely Christian (over against Jewish) doctrine of Mary’s status as ever virgin.
*
Clearly, he cannot be an objective source for such things: not being a Christian. Of course he will deny both things. But that proves too much. He may side with Lucas and Protestants on the “brothers of Jesus” issue, but not regarding the virgin birth, which they fully adhere to along with us.
*
Josephus is used by Catholics when talking about Jesus, it’s also used by them when talking about the war between Jerusalem and Rome in 70 AD, but when he talks about James’ kinship in relation to Jesus he suddenly turns into a contestable source that must have been wrong roughly in their research.
*
This is the distinction between history and doctrine again . . . If an early Christian historian like Hegesippus contradicts what Josephus says about James, we must follow his lead (given a two-way choice).
*
Everyone was wrong except Catholic apologetics, who with a masterstroke “discovered” the cousin of Jesus using as a source a Church Father from five centuries later. It’s really comical.
*
What’s “comical” here is Lucas’ rank ignorance. He never even mentions (at least not in this article) Hegesippus, who is a source from the second century: not the sixth. Nice try. There are also strong exegetical arguments for James and others as “cousins” of Jesus, not siblings. That trumps Josephus, too, since it is God’s inspired revelation; not secular / Jewish historiography with a bias against Christian doctrine.
*
All the evangelists and apostles said that Jesus’ brothers were really adelphos, not cousins . . . 
*
They didn’t deny that they were cousins. They asserted it, in the case of two of them, including James, as I will demonstrate shortly. And it’s not a dichotomy between adelphos and cousins, anyway, since the word can mean “cousin” and a lot of other relatives and even non-related countrymen, etc. Jesus Himself used it — more than once — of His followers who weren’t related to Him.
*
No matter how much evidence is accumulated—whether biblical, historical, or archaeological— nothing can be done.it will be able to change the mind of someone who has it cauterized so as not to listen to unpleasant and inconvenient truths.
*
This article reeks of anti-Catholic bigotry. Now I will have my say. Let the reader decide who has a stronger historical and biblical case.
*
Lucas contends in his article that Josephus calls James the Lord’s “brother” several times and also frequently distinguishes between “brother” and “cousin” and uses a different word for the latter. Lucas thus concludes that Josephus must think James was a literal sibling of Jesus. He probably did, as a non-Christian. If so, he was simply wrong. He thought like today’s Protestants (not the earliest ones!) do: he sees “brother” and he wrongly assumes that it always means siblings. I don’t see how or why his testimony should be considered compelling, or “irrefutable proof”: as Lucas’ words in the title of his article overconfidently claimed.
*
It’s a standard Catholic argument to demonstrate that James and Joseph were cousins of Jesus, in the following way:

By comparing Matthew 27:56, Mark 15:40, and John 19:25, we find that James and Joseph [aka “Joses”: Mk 15:40] — mentioned in Matthew 13:55 with Simon and Jude as Jesus’ “brothers” — are also called sons of Mary, wife of Clopas. This “other Mary” (Matthew 27:61, 28:1) is called Our Lady’s adelphe in John 19:25 (it isn’t likely that there were two women named “Mary” in one family — thus even this usage apparently means “cousin” or more distant relative, or sister-in-law).

Matthew 13:55-56 and Mark 6:3 mention Simon, Jude and “sisters” along with James and Joseph, calling all adelphoi. Since we know for sure that at least James and Joseph are not Jesus’ blood brothers, the most likely interpretation of Matthew 13:55 is that all these “brothers” are cousins, . . .

James (along with sometimes Joseph) is called the son of this “other Mary”: wife of Clopas or Alphaeus [alternate names for one person], in Matthew 27:56; Mark 15:40; 16:1; Luke 24:10, and “the son of Alphaeus” in Matthew 10:3 / Mark 3:18 / Luke 6:15 / Acts 1:13. This second Mary is called “the wife of Clopas and the “sister” of Mary the mother of Jesus in John 19:25. This is strong evidence that James and Joseph were not sons of Mary the mother of Jesus, and hence not Jesus’ siblings (and indirect evidence that Simon and Jude are of the same similar status as relatives). Rather, it appears that they are Jesus’ first cousins or more distant cousins. See another paper of mine, which collects all of this scriptural data in one place.
*
Also of relevance to this discussion is the question of “how many persons named James are referenced in the New Testament?” Protestants generally think it is four or five people, whereas Catholics think there were only two (see the Catholic Encyclopedia articles, “The Brethren of the Lord”, “St. James the Greater”, and “St. James the Less” ). The latter offers a very helpful — albeit confusing — summary:

The name “James” in the New Testament is borne by several:

  1. James, the son of Zebedee — Apostle, brother of John, Apostle; also called “James the Great”.
  2. James, the son of Alpheus, Apostle — Matthew 10:3Mark 3:18Luke 6:15Acts 1:13.
  3. James, the brother of the Lord — Matthew 13:55Mark 6:3Galatians 1:19. Without a shadow of doubt, he must be identified with the James of Galatians 2:2 and 2:9Acts 12:1715:13 sqq. and 21:18; and 1 Corinthians 15:7.
  4. James, the son of Mary, brother of Joseph (or Joses) — Mark 15:40Matthew 27:56. Probably the son of Cleophas or Clopas (John 19:25) where “Maria Cleophæ” is generally translated “Mary the wife of Cleophas”, as married women are commonly distinguished by the addition of their husband’s name.
  5. James, the brother of Jude — Jude 1:1. Most Catholic commentators identify Jude with the “Judas Jacobi”, the “brother of James” (Luke 6:16Acts 1:13), called thus because his brother James was better known than himself in the primitive Church.

The identity of the Apostle James (2), the son of Alpheus and James (3), the brother of the Lord and Bishop of the Church of Jerusalem (Acts 15, 21), although contested by many critics and, perhaps, not quite beyond doubt, is at least most highly probable, and by far the greater number of Catholic interpreters is considered as certain . . . The James (5) of Jude 1:1 must certainly be identified with James (3), the brother of the Lord and the Bishop of Jerusalem. The identification of James (3), the brother of the Lord and James (4), the son of Mary, and probably of Cleophas or Clopas offers some difficulty. This identification requires the identity of Mary, the mother of James (Matthew 27:56Mark 15:40), with Mary the wife of Cleophas (John 19:25), and, consequently, the identity of Alpheus (2) and Clopas (4). As Clopas and Alpheus are probably not two different transcriptions of the same Aramaic name Halpai (see CLEOPHAS), it must be admitted that two different names have been borne by one man. Indeed, there are several examples of the use of two names (a Hebrew and a Greek or Latin name) to designate the same person (Simon-PetrusSaulus-Paulus), so that the identity of Alpheus and Cleophas is by no means improbable.

On the whole, although there is no full evidence for the identity of James (2), the son of Alpheus, and James (3), the brother of the Lord, and James (4), the son of Mary of Clopas, the view that one and the same person is described in the New Testament in these three different ways, is by far the most probable. There is, at any rate, very good ground (Galatians 1:192:92:12) for believing that the Apostle James, the son of Alpheus is the same person as James, the brother of the Lord, the well-known Bishop of Jerusalem of the Acts.

Thus, the article holds that the people named James described in #2-5 are not four people, but just one, and the James described in #1, a second James. These two people are:

1) James, the son of Zebedee (Mt 4:21; 10:2; 20:20; 26:37; 27:56; Mk 1:19-20; 3:17; 1o:35; Lk 5:10) and Salome (Mt 27:56; cf. Mk 15:40; 16:1) was an Apostle and one of the twelve disciples, brother of St. John the Apostle and the author of the fourth Gospel; also called “James the Great” (referring to physical size). Jesus humorously nicknamed him and his brother John Boanerges, or “sons of thunder” (Mark 3:17). He was beheaded by orders of Herod Agrippa I in 44 AD (Acts 12:1-2).

2) James the “brother of the Lord” (“James the Lesser” or “James the Just”), bishop of Jerusalem and author of the Epistle of James, who was the son of Alphaeus / Clopas (aka Cleophas or Cleopas) — the brother of St, Joseph — and Mary Clopas (“the other Mary” and the Blessed Virgin Mary’s sister-in-law), and brother of Joseph (aka “Joses”) and Simon (Mt 13:55; 27:56; Mk 6:3; 15:40, 47), and Jude [aka “Judas” but not Iscariot] (Jude 1:1; Mt 13:55; Mk 6:3). Traditionally, it is believed he was martyred in 62 or 69 AD by being stoned to death by the Pharisees.

Here’s where the evidence of Hegesippus comes in very handy and ties all this together neatly, and corroborates the scriptural account and the “cousins” theory. Eusebius, in his History of the Church, documents his words as follows:

After the martyrdom of James and the conquest of Jerusalem which immediately followed, it is said that those of the apostles and disciples of the Lord that were still living came together from all directions with those that were related to the Lord according to the flesh (for the majority of them also were still alive) to take counsel as to who was worthy to succeed James.

They all with one consent pronounced Symeon, the son of Clopas, of whom the Gospel also makes mention; to be worthy of the episcopal throne of that parish. He was a cousin, as they say, of the Saviour. For Hegesippus records that Clopas was a brother of Joseph. (Book III, section 11, parts 1-2; translated by Arthur Cushman McGiffert. From Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Second SeriesVol. 1. Edited by Philip Schaff and Henry Wace. [1890], pp. 123-124 in the version translated by G. A. Williamson, Baltimore: Penguin Books, 1965; cf. Book III, section 32, part 4: “Mary, the wife of Clopas, who was the father of Symeon” and Book III, section 32, part 1: “Symeon, the son of Clopas”)

The same author [Hegesippus, cited in part 1] also describes the beginnings of the heresies which arose in his time, in the following words:

And after James the Just had suffered martyrdom, as the Lord had also on the same account, Symeon, the son of the Lord’s uncle, Clopas, was appointed the next bishop. All proposed him as second bishop because he was a cousin of the Lord. (Book IV, section 22, part 4; Williamson translation, p. 181)

Thus, at this point, we have express biblical evidence that James (the #2 James above!) and Joseph are sons of Mary Clopas; “the other Mary” and not the Blessed Virgin Mary. Now, thanks to Hegesippus, we know that Simon, or Symeon, was also a son of Clopas / Alphaeus and the “other Mary”; therefore also a cousin of Jesus and not a sibling. Only the “relative status” of Jude still has to be determined. Hegesippus arguably also alludes to Jude (Judas) being Jesus’ first cousin as well:

The same historian [Hegesippus] says that there were also others, descended from one of the so-called brothers of the Saviour, whose name was Judas, . . . (Book III, section 32, part 5; McGiffert translation; Williamson translates: “one of the ‘brothers’ of the Saviour named Jude . . .”: p. 143; while Christian Frederick Cruse (1850) renders the passage about this Jude: “one of those considered brothers of the Lord.”).

Hegesippus confirms that Simon and Jude: mentioned together with James and Joseph in Matthew 13:55 and Mark 6:3, are sons of Mary wife of Clopas, who was an aunt of Jesus (St. Joseph’s brother and sister-in-law). Scripture already directly affirmed that James and Joseph were the sons of Mary & Clopas (Mt 27:56; Mk 15:40).

The great Anglican scholar and bishop J. B. Lightfoot (1828-1889), in his classic commentary The Brethren of the Lord (1865) tackled the question of whether Alphaeus = Clopas:

The identity of Alphaeus and Clopas. These two words, it is said, are different renderings of the same Aramaic name yplx or [Aramaic] (Chalphai), the form Clopas being peculiar to St. John, the more completely grecized Alphaeus taking its place in the other Evangelists. The Aramaic guttural Cheth, when the name was reproduced in Greek, might either be omitted as in Alphaeus, or replaced by a k (or c) as in Clopas. Just in the same way Aloysius and Ludovicus are recognized Latin representatives of the Frankish name Clovis (Clodovicus, Hludovicus, Hlouis).

Scripture provides a bit more indirect evidence about Jude as well. If this is the same Jude who wrote the epistle bearing that name (as many think), he calls himself “a servant of Jesus Christ and brother of James” (Jude 1:1). Now, suppose for a moment that he was Jesus’ blood brother. In that case, he refrained from referring to himself as the Lord’s own sibling (while we are told that such a phraseology occurs several times in the New Testament, referring to a sibling relationship) and chose instead to identify himself as James‘ brother.

This is far too strange and implausible to believe. Moreover, James also refrains from calling himself Jesus’ brother, in his epistle (James 1:1: “servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ”): even though St. Paul calls him “the Lord’s brother” (Gal 1:19). Now that we have seen from Holy Scripture that James is Jesus’ first cousin, it follows that if Jude is his sibling (assuming that is the meaning of Jude 1:1), then he is also Jesus’ first cousin.

***

Practical Matters: Perhaps some of my 4,000+ free online articles (the most comprehensive “one-stop” Catholic apologetics site) or fifty books have helped you (by God’s grace) to decide to become Catholic or to return to the Church, or better understand some doctrines and why we believe them.

Or you may believe my work is worthy to support for the purpose of apologetics and evangelism in general. If so, please seriously consider a much-needed financial contribution. I’m always in need of more funds: especially monthly support. “The laborer is worthy of his wages” (1 Tim 5:18, NKJV). 1 December 2021 was my 20th anniversary as a full-time Catholic apologist, and February 2022 marked the 25th anniversary of my blog.

PayPal donations are the easiest: just send to my email address: apologistdave@gmail.com. You’ll see the term “Catholic Used Book Service”, which is my old side-business. To learn about the different methods of contributing, including 100% tax deduction, etc., see my page: About Catholic Apologist Dave Armstrong / Donation InformationThanks a million from the bottom of my heart!

***

Photo credit: copy of Eusebius’ Ecclesiastical History from 1533 [Abe Books sale page for this volume]

***

Summary: Brazilian Protestant apologist Lucas Banzoli cited Jewish historian Josephus re: James: “brother” of Jesus. Scripture & the historian Hegesippus are much more decisive.

"The Galileo incident was very complex. Of course secular historians and anti-theist atheists and anti-Catholic ..."

Debate: Historical Local Flood & Biblical ..."
"That was way earlier in history. The timeline doesn't fit the Bible."

Debate: Historical Local Flood & Biblical ..."
"The Pope did seem to take exception when Galileo challenged the notion of the earth ..."

Debate: Historical Local Flood & Biblical ..."
"There is some recent speculation that the biblical flood may have a basis in the ..."

Debate: Historical Local Flood & Biblical ..."

Browse Our Archives

Close Ad