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John 7:3 (NASB):

Therefore His brothers said to [Jesus], “Leave here and go into Judaea, so that Your disciples also may see Your works which you are doing.”

Were these brothers biological sons of Mary? Can they be religious brothers?

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They were Jesus' step-brothers. They were sons of Joseph by a previous wife of Joseph whom the Bible never mentions but who would have been deceased before he could marry Mary. The text contains a huge cultural-related clue to this: "Leave here and go into Judaea...." For the brothers to think that they could command Jesus to do something is a clear indication that they were older than Jesus. And if they were older, because Jesus was obviously Mary's firstborn, they could not possibly have been her children.

Another big clue to them being step-brothers rather than sons of Mary is given at the cross.

"When Jesus therefore saw his mother, and the disciple standing by, whom he loved, he saith unto his mother, Woman, behold thy son!" (John 19:26)

Jesus saw his mother being bereft of her son and needing support. John was assigned the role of "son" for her, and took care of her afterward according to Jesus' word. This would have been unnecessary had Mary had other sons of her own to attend to her.

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  • "For the brothers to think that they could command Jesus to do something is a clear indication that they were older than Jesus." Or maybe they were being rude and mocking him. What evidence do you have that it would be completely unthinkable to say this to your older brother?
    – curiousdannii
    Jun 20 at 22:21
  • @curiousdannii I live in Asia. I know the culture. Asians have a strong status system established on various criteria, but age is among the most important of them. Twins that are born five minutes apart still have an "older" and a "younger" status for the rest of their lives, despite being biologically the same age. Remember Jacob and Esau? Same story. The Biblical culture closely matches that of Asia today. Other examples where the cultures match include: paying a bride price (dowry), removing shoes to enter the church, etc. You simply couldn't command an elder. It's not permissible.
    – Polyhat
    Jun 20 at 23:40
  • "They were sons of Joseph by a previous wife of Joseph whom the Bible never mentions" @Polyhat, do you have a source for this statement?
    – agarza
    Jun 21 at 2:23
  • @agarza I have extrabiblical confirmation that Joseph had had children by a previous marriage, but here I am limited to using purely the Scriptures to explain themselves. I think the Biblical evidence is sufficient to ascertain the truth on this point.
    – Polyhat
    Jun 21 at 2:47

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