For those who choose not to believe Mary and Joseph had other children together, one suggestion is those children were from Joseph’s previous marriage. This doctrine does not align with Scripture and reflects tradition and narrative rather than Biblical doctrine. There is no Biblical evidence that supports Joseph having a previous wife, nor is there support that says Mary remained a virgin after Jesus was born. Mary and Joseph’s marriage functioned like any other marriage after Jesus was born. This means they engaged in sexual relations and Mary gave birth to other children.
What Were the Names of Mary and Joseph’s Other Children?
“’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 offense at him” (Mark 6:3).
The Bible identifies the names of Mary and Joseph’s other children here in Mark 6:3 as well as Matt. 13:55. In both passages, James is listed first, which, according to tradition, would suggest that James is the oldest of the children Mary and Joseph had together.
There is nowhere in the Bible that mentions the names of their daughters. Neither do we know how many they had. Because both Matthew and Mark use the term sisters (plural) then we know they had at least two daughters, but it could be more.
It is safe to say altogether, Mary and Joseph had at least seven children. One which was born by divine, miraculous birth and at least six who were born by natural birth.
What Was It Like Being Jesus’ Sibling?
I wonder what it must have been like to grow up in a home where Jesus is your older brother. Those are footsteps any sibling would struggle to walk in. However, his family was probably not much different from any other family.
“Then Jesus entered a house, and again a crowd gathered, so that he and his disciples were not even able to eat. When his family heard about this, they went to take charge of him, for they said, ‘He is out of his mind’” (Mark 3:20-21).
We don’t know much about Jesus’ childhood, as the Bible does not give us much insight into what that was like. That alone could imply that his childhood was most likely uneventful. While he was the Messiah, I don’t think he went around the house or his neighborhood proclaiming that while he was growing up. If he had done that, then when he identified who he really was, it may not have been as shocking to them.
The Journey to Faith for Mary and Joseph’s Children
One thing that is easy to overlook when you think about Jesus’ brothers and sisters is they had to take that same journey we all must take to come to faith in Jesus as Messiah. Initially, his brothers did not believe in him. It might be safe to add his sisters into this mix as well.
“Jesus’ brothers said to him, ‘Leave Galilee and go to Judea, so that your disciples there may see the works you do. No one who wants to become a public figure acts in secret. Since you are doing these things, show yourself to the world.’ For even his own brothers did not believe in him” (John 7:3-5).
This again reminds us of the difficulty of growing up in a household where Jesus is your sibling. Taking that step from Jesus being one who lives in your household to Jesus being the savior of the world is not an easy leap. Yet this is the reality we are all faced with.
In Matthew, Jesus asked his disciple this question.
“’But what about you?’ he asked. ‘Who do you say I am?’” (Matthew 16:15).
The question he asked of his disciples is the same question we must all answer. His family members had to do the same thing.
The Children of Mary and Joseph Became Followers of Christ
We know that during the life of Jesus, his brothers shifted from unbelievers to believers. The Bible does not declare when it happened, but we know it did. After Jesus’ death and resurrection, Jesus’ brothers are among the one hundred and twenty praying in the upper room.
“They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers” (Acts 1:14).
The Bible does not mention it, but I wonder if his sisters were among the women who were praying there. We know that Mary and his brothers were filled with the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost and became contributors to the birth of this new church that was formed in the book of Acts.
The One Child of Mary and Joseph We Know the Most About
Of all the children of Mary and Joseph, besides Jesus, the one we know most about is James. Like his other family members, James started as a skeptic but became a follower of Jesus. He went from being a cynic to a champion, and became an influential leader in the developing church. By the time we get to Acts 15, James is standing and addressing the council at Jerusalem regarding how to address the Gentile converts who were coming to Christ.
“The whole assembly became silent as they listened to Barnabas and Paul telling about the signs and wonders God had done among the Gentiles through them. When they finished, James spoke up. ‘Brothers,’ he said, ‘listen to me’” (Acts 15:12-13).
Even though there are many James’ mentioned in Scripture, this could not be the Apostle James because he had been killed by Herod. This James is also the same one who eventually wrote the book of James. He went from being a skeptic to being a servant while counting it joy to suffer trials and persecutions for the name of Jesus Christ.
“James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ…” (James 1:1).
The Other Sons of Mary and Joseph
Outside of James, the other sons of Mary and Joseph became traveling ministers of the gospel.
“Don’t we have the right to take a believing wife along with us, as do the other apostles and the Lord’s brothers and Cephas?” (1 Corinthians 9:5).
We don’t know where they went or who they ministered to, but they proclaimed the message of the gospel as well. There was also one other author among the group. Judas (also known as Jude) was a half-brother of Jesus and wrote the book of Jude.
“Jude, a servant of Jesus Christ and a brother of James…” (Jude 1:1).
While the story of Mary and Joseph’s other children may not have started well, it looks like it all ended well. They grew up with Jesus and, while they did not believe at first, they eventually came to know he was truly the Messiah and savior of the world. I wonder how they looked back on their childhood memories once they understood that truth.