The Brethren Of Our Lord -- By: Calvin Cutler

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 026:104 (Oct 1869)
Article: The Brethren Of Our Lord
Author: Calvin Cutler

The Brethren Of Our Lord

Rev. Calvin Cutler

Who were the brethren of the Lord? His brothers, or cousins? They are mentioned fifteen times in the New Testament, and in each instance the original word is ἀδελφός.

Now by etymology and usage this word means brother. It is a compound of a copulative and ἀδελφός, meaning matrix. If therefore the sacred writers had wanted to make it sure that they spoke of uterine brothers of Christ, ἀδελφός was the word to use. When speaking of the brothers of Christ they have chosen this particular word in every instance. That this was choice in them, and not chance, is evident from the fact that in every other case in the New Testament where cousin is meant, some other expression is used, and not ἀδελφός. Those writers were not short for terms. They had a language as rich in these specifications of near kinship as our own. If they wanted to say cousin they had a word for it, and they used it, as in Col. 4:10, where Mark is called cousin to Barnabas; the word is ἀνεψιός, which means literally cousin (See also Tobit 7:2, LXX). Again, in Acts 23:16, Paul’s sister’s son is spoken of as ὁ υἱὸς τῆς ἀδελφῆς Παύλου: this means nephew, but by a change of the proper name alone, would mean cousin. Again the more general term συγγενής, meaning kinsman, relative, is used in the New Testament no less than eleven times, often meaning cousin. Thus, in Luke 1:36, Elizabeth is called συγγενής to Mary; they were cousins. In v. 58 the same word is translated cousins, where it speaks of her “neighbors and cousins,” οἱ συγγενεῖς. When Jesus, on the way home from the temple, was lost, and his parents sought him “amongst their kinsfolk,” the word used is the same: ἐν τοῖς συγγενέσιν.

This line of search will show plainly that the sacred writers were not compelled by poverty of language or custom to say brother if they meant cousin. If it be true that they meant cousin where they have used ἀδελφός, while three other legitimate New Testament expressions were open to them — two of which were unmistakable, — ...

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