The Brethren Of Christ -- By: Philip Schaff

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 021:84 (Oct 1864)
Article: The Brethren Of Christ
Author: Philip Schaff

The Brethren Of Christ

Philip Schaff

On the question of the brethren or brothers1 of our Saviour, three different opinions have been entertained and are still current among commentators: 1) They were only cousins of Jesus, sons of either a sister of Mary or a brother of Joseph; 2) They were younger children of Joseph and Mary, or uterine brothers of Jesus; 3) They were children of Joseph by a former marriage, and hence step-brothers of

Jesus. The whole Latin church has long settled down upon the first view as the only one consistent with her theory of the higher merit of celibacy, and the dignity both of Christ himself and of his parents. The older Protestant divines acquiesced in the Roman Catholic view, and paid very little attention to the whole subject. But modern Protestant commentators have submitted the subject to a new and more thorough exegetical and critical investigation. For a time it seemed as if the second view had come to prevail, while the third was hardly considered worthy of serious attention. Quite recently, however, Dr. Lange, on several occasions,2 has zealously opposed the second, and ingeniously defended the first theory, and put it on more plausible ground.

The question, as every other that relates to the personal history of our Saviour, is certainly one of interest, and not of mere idle curiosity, although it can hardly be said to have much doctrinal importance at the present stage of the controversy. This would only be the case if it could be clearly established on exegetical and historical evidence, that the brothers of Jesus were his uterine brothers, or younger children of Mary, Sach a result would overthrow, at once, the dogma of her perpetual virginity, and undermine the very foundation of Roman Catholic asceticism and Mariolatry.

After a renewed investigation of the subject, to which we devoted some attention more than twenty years ago,3 we are substantially confirmed in our former view, and beg leave to protest against Dr. Lange’s views, and to dissent from the cousin-hypothesis, even with the new and plausible modification it has received from him. We shall confine ourselves to present, as clearly and precisely as we can, the

chief exegetical data, on which the proper conclusion must be based.

1. The brothers of Jesus, four in number, and bearing the names of Jacob or James, Joseph (or Joses), Simon, and Jude, are mentioned with or without their names f...

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