Jesus' Family -- Not a Secret

Documentary claims Jesus had 'secret' siblings makes a claim that surprises virtually no one in the church -- the Bible speaks of Jesus' brothers and sisters. According to the article:

Author Dan Brown caused an uproar when he suggested in 'The Da Vinci Code' that Jesus Christ was married to Mary Magdalene and that they had a family. However, a never seen before ancient portrait suggests that though Jesus may have had a family, it might not be the one Brown suggests.

The portrait, which was discovered deep in the wilderness of the Judean desert, in a remote part of the Holy Land in an ancient Greek Orthodox monastery of St Gerasimos, has a highly unusual portrait of the Holy Family, for along with Mary, Joseph and Jesus, it also shows the presence of a fourth member - a young man.

And what makes this young man's presence even more interesting, is the fact that though simply clad in a dark robe and carrying his belongings on a stick, there is a golden halo which envelops his head.

According to a controversial Channel 4 documentary, the man's name is James, and reason why he is included in the picture, is because he happens to be Jesus' blood brother.

James' inclusion in this picture is a clue to a real-life church conspiracy to cover up the fact that Jesus did have a hidden family - his siblings: James, Joses, Simon, Jude (sometimes referred to as Judas), Salome and young Mary, reports the Daily Mail.

Now, of course, the Gospel of Matthew 13:55-56 says:

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?

So, exactly how is this a surprise that there is a belief in the church that Jesus had siblings? It seems that the Bible teaches on its face that Mary and Joseph had other children, and these children are identified by name.* Thus, the fact that an ancient painting has been found that depicts a single additional child who is thought to be James (who is also identified as the brother of the Lord in the Bible outside of Matthew) hardly is surprising, is it?

But the article isn't done. You see, everything has to be a conspiracy when it concerns the life of Jesus. So goes the article (and apparently, the documentary):

The documentary also suggests that not only did Jesus' siblings apparently play a crucial role in the founding of Christianity, but that their teachings were so much of a threat to the official church that it ruthlessly tried to eradicate them from history by rewriting Christ's life story, fabricating his place of birth, falsely crediting him with creating the Lord's Prayer and even inventing the idea that his mother Mary remained a virgin throughout her life.

It also implies that James, the man in the portrait, was the one chosen by Jesus to lead the church after his death, and not St Paul, as is commonly believed.

Well, I don't think that anyone who knows the history of Christianity believes that Jesus chose Paul to lead the church -- he was chosen as a missionary to the Gentiles. I also don't believe that the church had to rewrite the story of Christ and change history to eradicate the influence of Jesus' brothers. This is all quite a bedtime story since it appears to be based more on fantasy than fact. Of course, if you are one who likes to follow up on conspiracies, well, then this documentary may be for you. But I encourage you to view it with the same skepticism you would put on the idea of an alien spacecraft crash-landing in Roswell and Chupacabras killing cattle in Mexico. After all, absent some type of amazing factual support that has escaped the Christian church for 1,900 years, this is about as believable.


* Keep in mind, that I am aware of the teachings within the Roman Catholic Church that the people described as "brethern" in Matthew 13 are actually counsins, and while I believe that they were siblings -- half-siblings, that is -- I am certainly not taking the position that the Roman Catholic Church teaching is demonstrably false in this post.


jack perry said…
I think—please take this with a grain of salt—that the Catholic teaching is not that they were cousins, but that Mary remained a virgin, and that the Greek word can be translated as "kin". As to whether they are half-brothers, cousins, etc., the Church of Rome has no definitive teaching. My understanding of the Orthodox Church, however, is that they are more convinced that they were children of Joseph's by a previous wife.
BK said…
You may be right. I attended a Roman Catholic Bible study for several months with some Roman Catholic friends, and they explained there that they were cousins. Of course, what is taught in a Bible study is not necessarily identical with the approved teaching of the church.
Jason Pratt said…
To be fair, the conspiracy theorists actually do have a bit of ground to stand on. {s} When two very early and influential branches of the church--which for centuries was one branch--declare for theological reasons that the face-value reading of the received text means something else (i.e. Mary herself had no more children other than Jesus, with variances in how the other mentioned children are supposed to be accounted for), then it could be considered a case of ideology trumping received data.

The documentary is, however, clearly ignorant about the details of the earlier data. Heck, they're apparently ignorant even about this 'conspiracy' theory being a long-running part of Protestant complaint _within_ Christianity! (Way to go, docu-guys... you're just now catching up with a secondary or even tertiary portion of the Protestant dispute, half a millennium late. But hugely inaccurately. Here's your sign. {g})


PS: having said that, I expect this boondoggle is more an attempt at trying to drum up some kind attention in the media, on the theory that no publicity is bad publicity.

PPS: also, I agree that the received data doesn't _strictly_ preclude other options being true. The RCC and EOx were trying to act as responsibly as they could with the big picture in mind. But even if they're correct, it can't help but _look_ like a conspiracy on their part to cover over the notion that Mary went on to bear other children.
BK said…

Very interesting take. I see where you're getting at, but I think that the early churches' decisions to reinterpret the texts (if their interpretation isn't accurate) isn't based so much on a desire to hide the family of Jesus as to venerate Mary. I think that's what you also agree with, but I wanted to state it to make my point of view clear.

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