Brethren of the Lord

Article

Certain relatives of Christ mentioned in several passages of the New Testament. They are recognized as four in number.

The most prominent member of the group is James the Less (Mark, 15), called “the brother of the Lord” (Galatians 1). He is to be distinguished from James, the brother of John, the son of Zebedee and Salome. His father was a certain Alphaeus, equivalent to the Cleophas or Clopas of John 19, according to the synoptic Gospels (Matthew 10; Mark 3; Luke 6), and his mother, Mary, was a close attendant on Jesus (Mark 15), being a sister of the mother of Jesus (John, 19) or a sister-in-law (on Hegesippus’s assertion that Cleophas was Saint Joseph’s brother). He became an ardent apostle of Our Lord (Galatians 2), prominent in the Church at Jerusalem (Acts, 21:12), and aide to Saint Peter (Acts 15 and Galatians 2) in administering the affairs of the Church. The canonical Epistle of Saint James is his. He was assassinated by the Jews about A.D. 62. Feast, 1 May.

Joseph or Joses, probably next in age to James (Matthew 13), is only noteworthy because his mother, at the scene of the Crucifixion, is identified by the use of his name (Mark 15).

Simon or Simeon is merely mentioned as the third of the four brothers (Matthew 13; Mark 6). He is reputed the successor of James as bishop of Jerusalem, “being proposed as the cousin of Our Lord.”

Jude or Judas Thaddeus was, like his elder brother James (Matthew 13; Jude 1), slow to understand Jesus’s true mission (as, indeed, all the brothers were, according to John 7), like him, drawn to the apostleship (Luke 6), and, like him, the author of a catholic epistle. Hence we may recognize the “Brethren of the Lord” as cousins of Christ, children of Mary, wife of Cleophas, and nephews of the Blessed Virgin. There is no need to believe (like the Syrians and Greeks, moved by the “protoevangelium Jacobi” and other apocryphals) that they are Saint Joseph’s children by a wife deceased, or (as Helvidius and other heretics thought) by Mary after Jesus’s birth.

MLA Citation

  • “Brethren of the Lord”. New Catholic Dictionary. CatholicSaints.Info. 10 August 2013. Web. 24 November 2017. <>