Christianity: Jesus--Family Life

Figure 1.-- This is a modern Protestant picture of Joseph, Mary, and their children. Clearly it is an imaginative scene. It is historical correct that they are eating on the floor. A poor Jewish family at the time, however, would not have a table and cushions, but only a carpet on the floor. Also the hairstyle is too modern. The great Christiam master works are Catholic, in part because Western art was so connected with the Catholic Church. Interestingly most of the master works focus more on Mary and the baby Jesus than the adult Jesus.

Another aspect of Jesus' story not cover by the Gospels is his family life. The New Testament mentions several times the brothers and the sisters of Jesus. [Matthew 12:46-49; 13:55-56; Mark 3:31-35; 6:3; Luke 8:19-21; John 7:3-5,10; Acts 1:14; Galatians 1:19]. In the Gospel of Matthew we can read: "When Joseph awoke, he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took his wife into his home. He had no relations with her until she bore a son, and he named him Jesus." [1:24-25] This is how the text is usually translated. The Evangelist Matthew emphasizes that Joseph was not responsible for the conception of Jesus. It is not clear, however, if he wants to affirm that after Jesus was born Joseph and Mary started having marital relations. Indeed, the Greek word translated "until" (ἕως οὗ) means both "until" and "while/when". So the text could be translated "He had no relations with her when she bore a son, and he named him Jesus". Matthew's text does not necessary imply that they started a regular marital life, but clearly not even does it exclude it. Usually Catholic and Orthodox exegetes affirm that the text only states that Joseph was not the real father of Jesus and it is not challenge the tradition of perpetual virginity of Mary. They think that the siblings of Jesus could be cousins or other close relatives. According the Gospel of James, an apocryphal gospel, Joseph was a widower, and had children from the first wife. This is the reason because often Joseph is depicted as an old man. Anyway, now that is read as a legend to defend the perpetual virginity of Mary. On the contrary, Protestant exegetes affirm that it is not necessary to look for difficult explications. After Jesus was born Joseph and Mary started a normal marital life having several children. This would be reinforced by the fact that, according to the marriage custom at the time, they would be young when Jesus was born (14-16 years old). "James the brother of the Lord" [Galatians 1:19] was at the head of the Church of Jerusalem. [Acts 15:3; 21:18; Galatians 1:19; 2:9-12] Paul describes James as a pillar of the Church and he supported the idea of expanding the Church with gentile converts. Janes and Paul apparently differed on the issue of faith. The Gospel of Mark, the oldest, gives us some evidences of problems between Jesus and his family. We can read: "When his relatives heard of this they set out to seize him, for they said, 'He is out of his mind'." [Mark 3:21] And then: "His mother and his brothers arrived. Standing outside they sent word to him and called him. A crowd seated around him told him, 'Your mother and your brothers and your sisters are outside asking for you.' But he said to them in reply, 'Who are my mother and my brothers?' And looking around at those seated in the circle he said, 'Here are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother'." [3:31-35]


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Created: 7:47 AM 12/2/2018
Last updated: 7:47 AM 12/2/2018