Who is James, the brother of Jesus?

Another James has been called the brother of Jesus.  Matthew, chapter 13:55, lists the brothers of Jesus as James, Joseph, Simon, and Judas.  Mark, chapter 6:3, lists the brothers of Jesus as James, Joses, Judas, and Simon.  Luke made no reference to any brothers of Jesus.  There is no mention of James in John or the early sections of the Acts.  The Synoptics mention his name, but provide no further information.  Who were these four brothers of Jesus?  In both lists, James’s name always appears first, suggesting that he was the oldest among them.  Josephus, the Jewish author (37-100 CE), described James as “the brother of Jesus who is called Christ”.  The term “brother” was certainly a generic term that is often used today to indicate a friend or someone who looks or thinks like you.  Both Paul in his letters and James in this letter used the term “my brothers” or “brothers” to indicate their generic readers and not a blood relative.  Also, the Aramaic and Hebrew language have specific ways of speaking about blood relationships.  Thus, the terminology would have been “the sons of the mother of Jesus” to imply the same mother.  The term “brothers of Jesus” would not necessarily imply the same mother.  Jesus was called “the son of Mary” rather than “a son of Mary” in Mark chapter 6:3.  Did Mary have additional children?  Was she a perpetual virgin?  The answer depends on your belief about the virgin birth of Jesus.  There are those who believe that Joseph had children before he married Mary, so that these brothers might be step brothers of Jesus, not biological brothers.  The Jewish custom where Jesus gave his mother to the care of John, a non-blood relative, in John, chapter 19:26, would not have happened if Mary had other living sons.  Clement of Alexandria (150– 215 CE) and Tertullian (160–220 CE) were among the early Christian theologians who thought that Mary had children other than Jesus.  However, the thought of Jerome (342-400 CE) prevailed that Mary was a perpetual virgin.  Thus, the common historical view that James and his brothers were not children of Mary has dominated in the Christian tradition.  These brothers may have been the children of Joseph from a previous marriage.  Another view was that these brothers, including James, were really cousins of Jesus, the children of a different Mary.  Cousins were also called “brothers” in Aramaic or Biblical Hebrew.  Also, the Greek word for brothers was not restricted to the meaning of a literal brother or sister, as shown by Paul and James in their letters.  Thus, James was considered to be the son of another Mary, wife of Clopas, or the “sister” of Mary.  Supposedly this James was stoned to death in front of the Temple like James, the son of Alphaeus, around the year 62 CE under the procurator Porcius Festus or sometime around the siege of Jerusalem in 70 CE.  From 2002-2012, there was a dispute around an ossuary that had the inscription “James, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus”.  There were all kinds of forgery trials about this in Israel.  Thus, the state of the scholarship about James the brother of Jesus remains inconclusive.  What do you think about James, the brother of Jesus?

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