Jesus born in cave?...had step-brothers?

I listened to a bit of an old Art Bell sound clip where he interviews Glenn Kimball who speaks about the “Hidden Stories of the Childhood of Jesus.” This program aired 12/11/98.

Kimball says that Jesus was born in a cave and that Jesus had two older step-brothers from Joseph’s previous marriage.

Is this true? If so, then why didn’t I learn this stuff during my few brief years of religious exposure in my childhood?

Contestant #3

Yes, it’s all true. Undermines the foundations of all Western civilization. And is yet another example of a reason to take Art Bell with a firkin of salt.

Dr. Fidelius, Charlatan
Associate Curator Anomalous Paleontology, Miskatonic University
“You cannot reason a man out of a position that he did not reach through reason.”

The cave part could be true. I read somewhere (I know, the infamous words) that in Jesus’ time, domesticated animals were often housed in caves.

As for Jesus having step-brothers . . . well, if the Bible is taken literally (about God fathering Jesus) then any other children of Joseph and Mary would be step-brothers/sisters. There is a scriptual reference to “James, the brother of Jesus” which is in debate. (“Brother:” literal or figurative?)

A) The traditional birthplace in Bethlehem is a cave.

B) The question of Jesus’s “brethren” mentioned in the Bible is a divisive one, as RC doctrine is that Mary remained a virgin all her life, which would mean that “brethren” cannot be taken absolutely literally, whereas many Protestants prefer to do so. But I am absolutely unaware of any credible evidence as to their age or their exact relationship.

John W. Kennedy
“Compact is becoming contract; man only earns and pays.”
– Charles Williams

In Luke 8:19 it says his mother and brothers were waiting to see him. Also, see Matthew 13:55-56 where it talks about his brothers (James, Joses, Simon, and Judas) and his sisters.

My guess these would be his half-brothers/sister by Mary and Joseph.

Carpe Diem!

A) It’s a cave? I was always told that a manger was a barn-like structure. Not that it makes any real difference.

B) I makes sense that Joseph may have had a previous marriage. He seems to die fairly early on, because we hear about Mary alot more than we hear about Joseph. If he was a widow with children, then he was probably several years older than Mary. Also, “brother” does not necessarily mean a full brother. Aramaic isn’t the world’s most expressive language. Brother-in-law, half-brother, and step-brother are all recorded as “brother” in the bible. The exact relationship must often be inferred from surrounding verses.

“I had a feeling that in Hell there would be mushrooms.” -The Secret of Monkey Island

Mary a virgin all her life? Doubtful. If this were true, her marriage to Joseph would not have been considered “legal” (for lack of a better term). If Mary and Joseph were devout Jews, then they would have definately consummated their marriage, and in the times of no birth control would have definately had other children. Regardless of step- or full brothers, Jesus had siblings— no doubt about it.

“Man prefers to believe what he prefers to be true” -Albert Einstein

Diceman: “A) It’s a cave? I was always told that a manger was a barn-like structure. Not that it makes any real difference.”

Actually, a manger is the troft like structure that the hay is put in for feeding the livestock. It’s not a building.

“The day after tomorrow is the third day of the rest of your life.” -George Carlin

I don’t know about Jewish law on the point, but, in general, this is an urban myth.

As a general rule, of course, Jews are expected to have children (though beware of the modern tendency among US non-Orthodox Jews to define “Jewish tradition” as being whatever the opposite of Christianity is; there is a Jewish tradition of celibacy). But on the assumption that the rest of the story is true, one could easily imagine Joseph and Mary thinking about it, after the birth of Jesus, and saying, “Errrr… let’s not.”

John W. Kennedy
“Compact is becoming contract; man only earns and pays.”
– Charles Williams

It couldn’t have been a cave, or the following exchange wouldn’t be nearly as funny (credit comedian Rick Ducommon in his HBO special):

Mary: “Jesus, close the door! Were you born in a barn?”

Jesus (defiantly): “…Yeah!”

Live a Lush Life
Da Chef

Oops. My mistake. I meant that I thought Jesus was born in a stable or barn, not a cave.

“I had a feeling that in Hell there would be mushrooms.” -The Secret of Monkey Island

As for the use of the term “brother” in the new testament not meaning Christ’s siblings, but some broader, looser meaning (as noted by diceman that “Aramaic is not an exact language.”)

Well, aramaic may not be, but Greek, the language of the new testament, is about as exact a language as there was in the ancient world.

The greek word usually translated as “brother” is “adelphos,” which literally means “out of the same womb.” It is translated as “brother” or “brothers” 345 times in the New Testament.

Admittedly, it can also mean a fellow believer, a countryman, o a person who has a common ancestor. But I did a quick review of the times Jesus used the term. In the 4 gospels, the word is used 39 times. In only 4 of those instances can it possibly be interpreted that it was speaking of “figurative” brothers (as when Jesus was referring to his disciples). The other 35 times it is speaking of siblings, and many times of Christ’s siblings. The RC argument that it means “cousin” or some other looser relationship regarding Christ’s siblings falls flat in context.

“Its fiction, but all the facts are true!”

Soxfan 59 wrote:

Thus, it could also mean ‘cousin(s),’ as you point out. But precisely because ‘brother(s)’ is the most common usage, then that is the way translators are honor-bound to translate it even if the exact meaning is not clear. Only when the context makes it evident that something other than ‘biological brother’ is meant will translators then use something else.

So, for example, when Paul addresses a community (to which he is not related) as ‘adelphoi’, modern translations (RNSV & RNAB, e.g.) use ‘brothers and sisters,’ becuase he is obviously not just addressing the men – the context shows that there are women in the community and the message goes to them, also.

But if Paul was addressing a small group of people which could be all men or mixed – we don’t know, a translator would have to use just ‘brothers’ or else be charged with reading into the text what is not there.

Thus, when Jesus is told that his ‘adelphoi’ are here with his mother, it is likely, though not necessarily that they are his biological brothers. There are no other contextual clues (such as calling them Mary’s sons) to indicate brotherhood or a more distant relation.

Aha! You might say, “Who else to be traveling with Mary but her sons and daughters?” The response to that is, “Aha! If Jesus were an only child, and Joseph is presumed dead, then it would fall upon Mary’s nephews and nieces to take care of their aunt while Jesus is out traveling.”

The Roman Catholic position is that in order to be good translators, following approved methodologies in translation, we must translate ‘adelphoi’ as ‘brothers’ even though it’s possible that they are really cousins. In fact, “Catholic” bibles use ‘brothers’ and ‘brothers’ is read at Mass.

However, Church ‘tradition’ (including the writing of early Church Fathers) says that we have by extra-biblical means (that is, by word of mouth) that Mary was perpetually virgin, and thus those adelphoi are really cousins.


But the context of the very sentence in question must be examined as well, moriah.

Mark 6:3 – “Isn’t this the carpenter? Isn’t this Mary’s son and the brother of James, Joseph, Judas and Simon? Aren’t his sisters here with us?” And they took offence at him."

Matthew 12:46-49: "While Jesus was still talking to the crowd, his mother and brothers stood outside, wanting to speak to him. Someone told him, "Your mother and brothers are standing outside, wanting to speak to you. He replied to him, "Who is my mother, and who are my brothers? Pointing to his disciples, he said, "Here are my mother and my brothers. "

This passage from Matthew is particularly telling. Jesus is contrasting natural siblings with “spiritual” ones. The only logical way to interpret this is that Jesus had siblings.

In addition, there is a Greek word “suggenes,” which literally means “kinsmen” which is used in the New Testament to descibe blood relations more distant than siblings (e.g. Mary and Elizabeth in Luke 1:36). There were more precise greek terms to use to describe “cousins.” They were not used to describe Christ’s “brothers” in the above quoted passages. That says a LOT in context. Even the Catholic church’s dogma upholds the Bible as the Word of God.

The fact that “adelphos” is used in the figurative sense to describe spiritual “brothers” (for example, when Paul addresses the recipientsof his letters as “bretheren”) only serves to emphasize the closeness of the spiritual bond in the family of God.

The context and usage of these words to describe the purported siblings of Christ is clear in and of itself.

Peace to you as well.

“Its fiction, but all the facts are true!”