The True Jesus Christ Unknown to Christianity—The Missing Years
When most people think of Jesus Christ’s time on earth as a human being, they think either of a dead Savior hanging from a cross or a helpless baby lying in a manger.
Few picture a growing, energetic boy who played games with His childhood friends and performed household chores. Few imagine God-in-the-flesh—a Man who sweated as He eagerly labored in His human father’s profession. Who may have had to diplomatically rebuff peer pressure from family and friends to get married and start a family—or to participate in any other activities that would have thwarted His supreme Purpose. Who freely laughed and expressed a good sense of humor. Who was unafraid to shed tears in empathy for others. Who enjoyed delicious food and drink, and life in general, yet always with perfect moderation.
Jesus was real—He felt, He spoke, He observed, worked, ate and breathed. He was both Man and God, physical yet divine. During His 33½ years of human existence, Christ experienced life as a baby, then a toddler, boy, teenager and young adult, into manhood. God inspired Matthew, Mark, Luke and John to record the details of Jesus’ 3½-year ministry. Yet, when it comes to His early years, from ages 12 to 30, the Bible reveals very little.
Some, relying on human reasoning and theory, have invented stories about these “lost” years. One tells of a young Jesus learning the mystic arts in Egypt. Another tale has Him journeying across the Atlantic Ocean to preach to the American Indians, who some believe to be the “lost ten tribes” of Israel. But these or other fictional stories are not supported by the Bible.
Scripture gives a few details about Christ’s boyhood and coming of age years—and we should not be surprised. For example, God’s Word provides only a basic outline, along with a few highlights, of the Pre-Flood World, a 2,000-year period from Adam to Noah in which hundreds of thousands—perhaps even millions—of people had lived.
Psalm 12:6 states, “The words of the Lord are pure words: as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times.” The Bible says exactly what God wants it to say, and the Creator wants human beings, His creation, to focus on the things He requires us to know.
While we cannot know every event that occurred on Christ’s path from adolescence to adulthood, we can piece together certain scriptures, along with history and the traditions of the time, to capture a broad yet clear view of Jesus’ early life. As we do, we will see God’s overarching two-fold Purpose for His Son’s First Coming.
God sent an angel to warn Joseph in a dream that Herod the Great sought to murder the Christ Child (Matt. 2:13). Joseph quickly followed God’s instruction to gather Mary and little Jesus, and take refuge in Egypt, which was outside of Herod’s legal jurisdiction. They returned to Judea after Herod’s death, thus fulfilling the prophecy of Hosea 11:1, in which God said that He “called My Son out of Egypt.”
The Jews, reading Micah 5:2, expected the Messiah to publicly appear from Bethlehem: “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of you shall He come forth unto Me that is to be Ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting.”
However, God had other plans. Though His Son was born in Bethlehem, God chose to rear Him in a place most people least expected: Nazareth, in Galilee, Joseph and Mary’s hometown.
The name “Nazareth” means “separated, crowned, sanctified” and “the guarded one.” Easton’s 1897 The Bible Dictionary describes the town as being “situated among the southern ridges of Lebanon, on the steep slope of a hill, about 14 miles from the Sea of Galilee and about six west from Mount Tabor…The main road for traffic between Egypt and the interior of Asia passed by Nazareth near the foot of Tabor, and thence northward to Damascus.”
The people of Judea, especially citizens of Jerusalem, looked down upon the Galileans, whom they viewed as socially unsophisticated—in effect, “backwoods” people. But God declares, “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways…For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts” (Isa. 55:8-9).
Although the Messiah was foretold to come from Nazareth, when Christ’s ministry began, His Galilee upbringing still became a stumbling block for many in “cosmopolitan” Jerusalem. (SeeJohn 1:45-46 and 7:40-42.) Of the many that God would call, only a few would look past physical appearances and social backgrounds and appreciate the hidden treasure (Matt. 13:44) of truth in Christ’s teachings.
Dynamics of Family Life
Jesus had four younger brothers—James, Joses, Simon and Judas—and at least two sisters (Matt. 13:55-56; Mark 6:3). While all of the seven or more siblings were born from the same mother, Jesus’ brothers and sisters were from the union of Mary and Joseph.
After Gabriel first appeared to Joseph in a dream, “Joseph being raised from sleep did as the angel of the Lord had bidden him, and took unto him his wife: and knew her not [did not engage in sexual relations] till she had brought forth her firstborn Son” (Matt. 1:24-25). Joseph married Mary, but did not have marital relations with her until after Jesus was born.
This and other passages disprove the popular—yet unscriptural—tradition of Mary’s “perpetual virginity.” This false doctrine originated from pagan beliefs of various idol-worshipping mystery religions, tracing all the way back to Nimrod and the tower of Babel.
The “perpetual virginity” belief—which falsely teaches that Jesus’ mother “must” have been sinless and perfect for her to give birth to the Son of God—only serves to blur Mary’s true purpose, and elevates her to a godlike status. Today, a billion-plus professing Christians have been deceived into praying to Mary for her intercession in their lives—when it is Christ who is the Mediator between God and man (I Tim. 2:5; Heb. 8:6; 9:15; 12:24).
As do siblings in other families, Jesus’ little brothers and sisters looked up to their big Brother. When they fell into mischief (as little ones tend to do), Jesus was there to set the right example.
Nonetheless, growing up in Joseph and Mary’s household was far from being picture perfect. Wherever there is flesh, there is human nature (Rom. 8:7). Galatians 5:19-21 lists the “works of the flesh”—the natural tendencies of man’s nature. These include “hatred [enmity, hostility, antagonism], variance [quarrel, strife, discord], emulations [jealousy, zealous ill will toward others], wrath [fury, rage, anger], strife [selfish ambition, faction], seditions [division, dissension]” and “envyings.” In a family of at least six siblings, one can expect some degree of rivalry, jealousy and strife during the formative years.
The young Jesus knew He had to rise above this, yet at the same time not allow Himself to fall into self-righteousness. He rejected the pulls and pressures of the flesh, society and Satan, and—being full of God’s Spirit from the womb—actively exercised the power of God to produce the evident fruit of “love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance [self-control]” (vs. 22-23). Jesus was balanced in all things. He had to be—He could not afford to sin, not even once!
No doubt Joseph and Mary told their children on more than one occasion to behave. Perhaps they may have occasionally added, “You should be more like your brother Jesus.” It is likely Jesus’ balanced, good-natured approach to life may have led a brother or sister to feel jealousy or resentment toward Him, as Cain did toward Abel. Carnal nature has a way of accusing the innocent of wrongdoing.
It is not uncommon for a child to receive blame, even punishment, for wrongs he or she did not commit. Sometimes a brother will falsely accuse another, or allow his sister to take the blame for something that was not her fault. Injustices happen in families—and they probably happened to Jesus. If He were wrongly punished, He would not have sought revenge. He allowed injustice to develop and strengthen Him, to keep Him humble.
Such moments served to reinforce in Jesus the patience described in James 1:2-4, defined as “hopeful, cheerful endurance.” It is this godly, patient endurance that builds up holy, righteous character that is “perfect and entire, wanting nothing.”
Christ was the One who inspired the apostle Peter to write, “Servants, be subject to your masters with all fear; not only to the good and gentle, but also to the froward. For this is thankworthy, if a man for conscience toward God endure grief, suffering wrongfully. For what glory is it, if, when you be buffeted for your faults, you shall take it patiently? But if, when you do well, and suffer for it, you take it patiently, this is acceptable with God.
“For even hereunto were you called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow his steps: Who did no sin, neither was guile found in His mouth: Who, when He was reviled, reviled not again; when He suffered, He threatened not; but committed Himself to Him that judges righteously” (I Pet. 2:18-23).
Jesus did not just teach the Way of God—He lived it!
At the Temple
Consider: Mary saving her virginity until marriage. The integrity and mercy Joseph displayed when he thought his fiancé had been unfaithful. Circumcising their Baby on the eighth day (Luke 2:21-24), as instructed in the Old Testament. Clearly, Joseph and Mary feared and worshipped God, and they reared Jesus in a loving, God-fearing, religious household.
As with other Jewish families, they traveled to Jerusalem each spring to observe the Passover season at the Temple (vs. 41). It was an annual pilgrimage that required faith, since their caravan of family, extended family, friends and perhaps acquaintances had to travel through dangerous secluded regions where marauding thieves roamed.
When Jesus was age 12, there was a mix-up: on the return home from the Temple, Joseph and Mary discovered that Jesus was missing. They had assumed He was among the caravan in the company of relatives or friends—but Jesus could not be found.
“The caravan has already traveled a day’s journey from Jerusalem,” Mary said to her husband. “By the time we reach the city, Jesus will have wandered around on His own for two full days!”
Joseph tried to console her, but she said, “He’s only a boy! What is He going to do for food? What if something bad happens to Him?”
Joseph comforted her with reassuring words: “Don’t worry. It will all work out.”
Jesus’ parents returned to Jerusalem and searched the streets for their little Boy for a full day, until they eventually found Jesus where they had last seen Him: in the Temple. Joseph and Mary were amazed to find Jesus “sitting in the midst of the doctors [scholars of the Law], both hearing them, and asking them questions” (vs. 46). Here was the Son of God, a 12-year-old, surrounded by some of the world’s foremost scholars and experts of the Scriptures—“and all that heard Him were astonished at His understanding and answers” (vs. 47).
From the time that He was born, Jesus “grew, and waxed strong in spirit, filled with wisdom: and the grace of God was upon Him” (vs. 40).
Her Son being missing for three days brought mixed emotions for Mary: fear, worry, helplessness, sorrow, and—after she found her Firstborn safe, calm and without a hint of anxiety on His part—a touch of anger. “Son, why have You thus dealt with us?” she demanded. “Behold, Your father and I have sought You sorrowing” (vs. 48).
The preteen calmly replied, “How is it that you sought Me? Know you not that I must be about My Father’s business?” (vs. 49). Jesus had never been irresponsible nor did anything that would have shamed the family. Mary and Joseph knew this. Being a responsible Child, Jesus stayed at the Temple where He would be safe and where He naturally expected His parents to find Him.
Joseph and Mary were aware that Jesus was a special Child, brought into physical existence to fulfill incredible and pivotal roles. In staying at the Temple, Jesus was already preparing Himself for His future ministry, even though it would not start for another 18 years. From a young age, Christ’s life was focused on doing His “Father’s business,” also thought of and known as the Work of God.
Throughout millennia, all of God’s servants have had a part in doing God’s Work. That same Work exists today. The Restored Church of God is preaching and publishing the gospel of the kingdom of God “in all the world for a witness unto all nations” (Matt. 24:14; Mark 13:10), and in feeding, protecting, instructing and leading Christ’s sheepfold, the New Testament Church (John 21:15-17; I Pet. 5:1-4).
Though Joseph and Mary did not seem to fully grasp His future responsibilities (Luke 2:50), Jesus did not allow Himself to feel self-important. He humbled Himself and obediently submitted to their parental authority (vs. 51)—despite being the One who created the earth, moon, sun, stars and everything else in the universe! Christ understood that to someday wield authority one must first learn to respect authority.
“And,” as He walked meekly through boyhood, “Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man” (vs. 52).
Understanding the Plan of God
From His youth, Jesus Christ was well acquainted with the Law of God—His commandments, statutes, precepts and judgments. He should have been, since it was He Who, as the Rock of the Old Testament (I Cor. 10:4), declared the Ten Commandments to Israel from atop Mt. Sinai! Being God, Jesus was also well acquainted with the customs and traditions of the Jews, their origins and how they had developed. He knew which ones to honor and how to properly approach them—and which ones to reject.
For example, Jesus kept the yearly spring and fall Holy Days. His observance of them was far more than just a formality of Jewish tradition. As the One who instituted these millennia earlier among His people, Christ knew the significance of His annual Sabbaths and festivals, for they each represent a step in the fulfillment of God’s great Plan of Salvation:
Passover: On this day God provided the perfect sacrifice to remove all sin: the shed blood and death of Jesus Christ, “our Passover…sacrificed for us” (I Cor. 5:7).
To be born into the kingdom of God, one must first have his or her sins forgiven and be released from the penalty of death.
The Days of Unleavened Bread: This seven-day festival pictures Christ’s followers removing pride, vanity and the way of sin—“the leaven of malice and wickedness” (vs. 8)—replacing these with “the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth” (same verse), which is God’s Law (Psa. 119:142) and Word (Matt. 4:4; John 17:17), the Holy Bible.
God uses the number seven as a sign of perfection. The seven-day Feast of Unleavened Bread pictures the lifelong process of removing sin from one’s life, to “Be you therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect” (Matt. 5:48).
To be born into God’s kingdom, one must live according to the laws governing that kingdom.
The Feast of Firstfruits: Also known as Pentecost, this is the day Christ started the New Testament Church. From righteous Abel down through millennia to John the Baptist, only a few individuals have had the privilege of receiving the Holy Spirit—the awesome power and divine nature of God.
Yet on Pentecost in A.D. 31, God offered His Spirit to thousands, those whom He called to “come out of” (Rev. 18:4) the ways and pagan customs of this “present evil world [age]” (Gal. 1:4)—to become members of the Body of Christ, the Church of God (Col. 1:18) and the New Testament Temple of the Lord (II Cor. 6:16). Without this Spirit actively at work—converting the thoughts and desires of man to develop into holy, righteous, godly character—“the carnal mind is enmity [hostile] against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God” (Rom. 8:7-8).
For the past 2,000 years, the Father has been sowing “firstfruit”— spirit-begotten sons who, after having developed His perfect character within them, will be “raised in glory…in power” and “a spiritual body” (I Cor. 15:43-44), inheriting eternal life in the kingdom of God upon Christ’s Second Coming. At that time, God’s firstfruits will rule under Christ as kings and priests— Spirit-born leaders, judges and teachers who will assist Christ in preparing the rest of humanity for achieving its awesome potential!
To inherit the kingdom of God, one must have God’s Spirit in him: “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God…The Spirit itself bears witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: and if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together” (Rom. 8:14, 16-17).
The Feast of Trumpets: This pictures the triumphant day when Jesus Christ returns as “KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS” (Rev. 19:16) to establish the government of God and rule all nations. Also notice: “Behold, the Lord comes with ten thousands of his saints, to execute judgment upon all, and to convince all that are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have ungodly committed, and of all their hard speeches which ungodly sinners have spoken against Him” (Jude 14-15).
Those whom God calls now have been granted an opportunity to qualify for eternal life and rulership—to be resurrected into spirit beings at Christ’s Return (I Cor. 15:50-54; I Thes. 4:15-17) and reign with Him in administering God’s government throughout the earth (Rev. 5:10;20:6).
The Day of Atonement: On this day, the collective sins of mankind will be placed on the originator of carnal nature: Satan the devil, who, for the past almost 6,000 years, as the “prince of the power of the air” (Eph. 2:2), has broadcast every sick, vile, perverse attitude, motive and thought imaginable. With man’s sins placed on him, the devil—and his demons—will be cast by God into the bottomless pit, where they can no longer influence humanity. Finally, man will be at one with his Maker (“atonement” means “at-one-ment”), ready to come under the merciful dominion of God’s supergovernment.
The Feast of Tabernacles: Next is the 1,000-year Reign of Christ, during which He will rule over the wonderful world to come! No more wars—no violence of any kind. No more divorce, adultery, fornication or split families. People will learn to live God’s Way of give—the way of helping, cooperation, teamwork—as opposed to Satan’s way of get—cutthroat competition, stealing, robbing. The terror, despair and insecurity of this modern age will be replaced by true joy, prosperity and security—the fruit of diligently observing God’s Law.
Those whom God calls now celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles each fall—which is a foretaste of an incredible age, to be ruled by God’s kingdom, that is just over the horizon!
Verse 20 states, “There shall be no more thence an infant of days, nor an old man that has not filled his days: for the child shall die an hundred years old; but the sinner being an hundred years old shall be accursed.” Apparently, mankind will experience a 100-year period of judgment—a lifetime of learning to reject one’s carnal nature and wholeheartedly submitting to God’s will.
Today, God is judging His firstfruits, those He calls now: “For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God…” (I Pet. 4:17).
God will judge the rest of humanity after Christ’s millennial rule. Those few called now and the many billions called later will be given an opportunity to qualify for eternal life in His kingdom.
Unlike His contemporaries, Jesus knew the true purpose of the annual Holy Days. They outline the steps by which man can attain his ultimate destiny.
Sadly, very few people today observe these days, believing they were “only for the Jews” and popular teaching that “Jesus did away with them.” As a result, few understand God’s Plan of salvation for mankind.
What Did Jesus Look Like?
For hundreds of years, artists have used their vivid imaginations to illustrate what Jesus looked like as a man. But in doing so, they err in two ways. Some little space will be taken to clarify this.
Second, artistic renditions of Christ’s image depict Him as deathly thin, with long hair, soft, effeminate features, and a sentimental, sanctimonious look in His eyes. This is the common portrayal of Jesus found in paintings across the world, which started appearing on the scene hundreds of years after Jesus’ death.
While common as daylight, this depiction is simply not historically accurate on a number of fronts. It should be noted that the New Testament does not explicitly describe what Jesus looked like, and no eyewitness drawings of Him have ever been found. That said, Jesus Christ was Jewish, and as such would have looked like any other Jewish man of His time.
In a 2004 Reuters article, physical anthropologist Joe Zias, who has studied hundreds of skeletons found in Jerusalem, stated, “Jesus didn’t have long hair. Jewish men back in antiquity did not have long hair.”
If Jesus did have long hair, contrary to the accepted style of the time, He would have stood out in a crowd like a sore thumb. Yet on multiple occasions, Jesus managed to slip away amongst the masses and hide from His enemies, who wholeheartedly sought to kill Him (Luke 4:30; John 8:59; 10:39). This would have been most difficult to do if He had been the only man with long hair. Jesus was able to flee because He was an ordinary-looking Jewish man, not a long-haired “exception to the rule.”
Consider the account of Judas’ betrayal of Jesus in the book of Mark: “And he [Judas] that betrayed Him had given them a token [sign], saying, Whomsoever I shall kiss, that same is He; take Him, and lead Him away safely [securely]. And as soon as he was come, he went straightway to Him, and said, Master, Master; and kissed Him. And they laid their hands on Him, and took Him” (14:44-46).
If Jesus had long hair, would it have been necessary for Judas to use a special sign—a kiss—to betray Jesus to His enemies? Of course not. The scribes, chief priests and legionnaires would have easily spotted a singular long-haired person—a kiss would not have been required.
Though not in an obvious way, a particularly strong indication of Jesus’ hair length is given in the Bible, in I Corinthians 11:14. The apostle Paul states, “Does not even nature itself teach you, that, if a man have long hair, it is a shame unto him?” The Greek word for “shame” meansdisgrace, dishonor, reproach, vile. These are strong words! No doubt, Paul and some of the people to whom he was writing would have seen Jesus face-to-face, or at least heard descriptions of His appearance, including His hair length.
We might ask: Would an individual (Paul) who proclaimed to be an apostle of Jesus Christ make such a statement about hair length if Jesus had long hair? This would seem most foolish for Paul to do. It would have been a blatant contradiction, and would have probably incited anger or at least bewilderment from those in the Corinth congregation.
Further confirming that Jesus did not have long hair is a wall painting that was erected after Jerusalem was captured in A.D. 70 to celebrate Rome’s victory. It pictures Jewish men withshort hair being taken into captivity.
An article in the December 2002 issue of Popular Mechanics, titled “The Real Face of Jesus,” also challenged the commonly held view of Jesus’ appearance. The article opens: “From the time Christian children settle into Sunday school classrooms, an image of Jesus Christ is etched into their minds. In North America he is most often depicted as being taller than his disciples, lean, with long, flowing, light brown hair, fair skin and light-colored eyes.
“Familiar though this image may be, it is inherently flawed. A person with these features and physical bearing would have looked very different from everyone else in the region where Jesus lived and ministered.”
The article continues: “Using methods similar to those police have developed to solve crimes, British scientists, assisted by Israeli archeologists, have re-created what they believe is the most accurate image of the most famous face in history.”
Using modern technology, this team recreated a face that appears nothing like traditional artist renderings.
Until about the age of 30, Jesus was a carpenter. The building trade of that time involved strenuous, back-breaking labor. Those who worked in this field were required to move and lift heavy stone (carpenters were also stonemasons at that time) and lumber without power tools or mechanical digging equipment of any kind. Week after week, Jesus cut down trees, hauled lumber and giant rocks, and constructed buildings.
Due to working in such an environment, Jesus would have been a rugged, physically fit, masculine-looking man. And He would have worn durable, practical clothing, which would have helped Him to blend in with the crowd, indistinguishable from the common “blue-collar” fisherman with whom He associated. This was another reason He needed to be identified with a kiss when arrested. Also, since Jesus spent most of His time under the Mediterranean sun, His skin would have been tanned—not pale and even chalky as Christendom portrays.
The above article also stated, “From analysis of skeletal remains, archeologists had firmly established that the average build of a Semite male at the time of Jesus was 5 ft. 1 in., with an average weight of about 110 pounds. Since Jesus worked outdoors as a carpenter until he was about 30 years old, it is reasonable to assume he was more muscular and physically fit than westernized portraits suggest.”
Ultimately, if we think about Christ’s appearance at all, we ought to think, in general terms, about how He looks today. Inspired by God, the apostle John in Revelation described Jesus’ present appearance: “His head and His hairs were white like wool, as white as snow; and His eyes were as a flame of fire” (1:14).
Under a Nazarite Vow?
Many have been taught that Jesus had long hair because, they claim, He was a “Nazarite”—but what does the Bible say about this?
History shows that the practice of men wearing short hair has been around for a long time—much longer than most realize. At the time Jesus lived, it was the accepted and general custom. For proof, all one need do is pick up any illustrated history book relating to the period. You will find pictures of busts and statues of famous Greeks and Romans of Christ’s time. In every case, the men are portrayed with short hair similar to what we find today.
Two excellent books that one may reference are A History of the Holy Land (Michael Avi-Yonah, editor) and Daniel to Paul (Gaalyahu Cornfeld, editor). On pages 126 to 127 of the former, you will find pictures of the busts of Roman leaders, such as Augustus, Pompey, and one believed to be Herod. Each has short hair. As a matter of fact, all the carvings and statues of the Roman legionnaires show them as having closely cropped hair. Motion pictures involving stories of this period always portray men with short hair. It would have been quite an oddity for a Roman man to wear his hair long. It used to be the same for all men in our society. The reality is that before, during and after the time of Christ, every Roman emperor from Julius Caesar to Trajan had short hair. And it was the emperor who set the pattern in style and mode of dress for the entire empire.
The Hellenistic Greek culture dominated the Eastern Mediterranean area, influencing Judea before the Romans came on the scene. Quite a large segment of the Jewish population spoke the Greek language and had a Hellenistic view in the time of Christ. (Notice John 12:20 andActs 6:1.) The style of hair for men of this culture was to wear it short (Cornfeld, pp. 15, 146).
You will find on page 146 of the book Daniel to Paul a picture showing a “marble statuette of an unidentified man of the Hellenistic period—a time of close contacts between the Jewish and Hellenistic civilizations in thought, art, and everyday life. Whether Jewish or Gentile, he evokes his age and environment.” The man shown in the picture of this statuette had short hair. From the comment made by the author, an historian and archaeologist, it is clear that he could not tell if the man was a Jew or a Gentile. Why? Because throughout the Near-Eastern region, the styles were the same—including short hair on men.
Some argue that those Jews who did not have a Hellenistic view may have worn their hair long. However, in the anti-Hellenistic Jewish Talmud is the instruction that every thirty days, all the priests should cut their hair. Why this instruction if they grew their hair long? These priests were well aware of Ezekiel 44:20: “Neither shall they shave their heads, nor suffer their locks to grow long.” God intended that the priests set the example for the rest of the community. (Mal. 2:7). Further examination of the Talmud reveals that the hairstyle was “Julian,” or what would be called “a Caesar cut” (Sanhedrin 22b).
Did Jesus Have Brothers and Sisters?
There is a common misconception that Jesus Christ was an only child. In particular, the Catholic Church teaches that it was impossible for Jesus to have brothers and sisters because of the supposed “perpetual virginity” of His mother, Mary.
Yet, Matthew 13:54-56 (NKJV) states, “When He had come to His own country, He taught them in their synagogue, so that they were astonished and said, ‘Where did this Man get this wisdom and these mighty works? Is this not the carpenter’s Son? Is not His mother called Mary? And His brothers James, Joses, Simon, and Judas? And His sisters, are they not all with us? Where then did this Man get all these things?’”
From this single passage we can draw a number of conclusions:
• Mary was the mother of Jesus
• Jesus had four brothers
• Jesus had at least two sisters
• Jesus and His six or more siblings had a common mother; there is no mention of what would be other half-brothers or half-sisters
These are the most specific verses identifying the family relations of Jesus Christ. If one accepts these verses, it should be impossible to believe that Jesus was an only child, as this would plainly contradict the Bible.
Another passage clearly shows that Mary, who was a virgin at the birth of Jesus, came together in sexual union with her husband after His birth. Matthew 1:18(NKJV) states, “Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: After His mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Spirit.”
This implies that, as husband and wife, they eventually shared intimate relations.
Continuing in Matthew 1:20: “But while he thought about these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, ‘Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit.’”
The angel did not express any words forbidding Joseph to take Mary as his wife, but instead encouraged him with the words “do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife.” The angel did not say, “Do not dare touch Mary for she is to be a virgin throughout her life.”
The concept of Mary’s perpetual, or lifelong, virginity derived from the early writings of a Catholic scholar named Origen (A.D. 185-254). His claims, based on the apocryphal Gospel of James, which focuses on the childhood of Mary up to the birth and childhood of Jesus, appeared around the middle of the second century.
This idea dates back to the mystical practices of priestesses who worshipped various deities in Rome. The combination of Christianity and ancient pagan religions attracted early converts and became a dominant religious force. Mary’s traditional role as mother was changed and reworked as that of a life-long virgin who should be worshipped as a goddess. This pseudo-Christian ideology made it easier for pagan worshippers to identify with her and, therefore, support the counterfeit religion.
Jesus Christ was never under a Nazarite vow. He did, however, grow up in Nazareth, fulfilling a prophecy that He would be called a Nazarene (Matt. 2:23; Mark 1:9; Luke 1:26; John 1:45). This is why early Christians were sometimes referred to as Nazarenes.
Neither of these words has anything whatsoever to do with a Nazarite vow. Those under a Nazarite vow could not drink wine or touch a dead body. Notice: “Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, When either man or woman shall separate themselves to vow a vow of a Nazarite, to separate themselves unto the Lord: He shall separate himself from wine and strong drink, and shall drink no vinegar of wine, or vinegar of strong drink, neither shall he drink any liquor of grapes, nor eat moist grapes, or dried. All the days that he separates himself unto the Lord he shall come at [touch] no dead body” (Num. 6:2-3, 6).
Jesus drank wine (Matt. 11:19) and, on occasion, touched a dead body (Matt. 9:25). If He were under a Nazarite vow, He would not have done either of these things. Those under this vow grew their hair long as a sign of humiliation. Men who wear their hair long today are anything but humble. Rather, they are very proud of their long locks and go to great lengths to show them off. It is a sign of pride—and it is also a sign of defiance against traditional values.
Also notice that when the time of the vow was over, the person under the vow was to shave his head (Num. 6:18)—ending this shameful period!
It is a shame for a man to have his hair long—period! Apart from God’s Word, even nature shows this. A man should not look like a woman! For one thing, long hair is not manageable and would just get in his way. A man’s hair was never intended to grow long. Long hair on a man interferes with the duties and responsibilities that are part of the male role.
Jesus simply would not have grown His hair long. To do so would have contradicted His Word. Remember, it was Christ—the Word (John 1:1)—who inspired the Bible. II Timothy tells us, “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness” (3:16). And since Jesus Christ also inspired I Corinthians 11:14, He would have been true to His word. And that Word guides and instructs us on the matter of hair lengths and styles for men and women.
Married, Divorced and Now Engaged
When a young man entered adulthood, parents, grandparents, other family members and peers would encourage him to settle down, get married and start a family. No doubt Jesus received the same pressure. But for Him, marriage was not an option. Jesus had already been married—in fact, He was divorced!
Scripture reveals that the One who became Jesus Christ—the Rock of the Old Testament (I Cor. 10:4)—was once married to ancient Israel, the physical “church in the wilderness” (Acts 7:38). But the tribes of Israel—the northern kingdom of the house of Israel and the southern kingdom of the house of Judah—were unfaithful to their Husband. They rejected His divine protection, guidance and instruction, and entered into sociopolitical/religious alliances—spiritual adultery in God’s eyes!—with nations that worshipped idols.
“They say,” the prophet Jeremiah wrote, recording God’s words, “If a man put away his wife, and she go from him, and become another man’s, shall he return unto her again? Shall not that land be greatly polluted? But you have played the harlot with many lovers; yet return again to Me, says the Lord” (Jer. 3:1).
Verses 8-10 states, “And I saw, when for all the causes whereby backsliding Israel committed adultery I had put her away, and given her a bill of divorce; yet her treacherous sister Judah feared not, but went and played the harlot also. And it came to pass through the lightness of her whoredom, that she defiled the land, and committed adultery with stones and with stocks [idols]. And yet for all this her treacherous sister Judah has not turned unto Me with her whole heart, but feignedly, says the Lord.” (Also read Isaiah 50:1 and 54:4-8.)
God used the ancient Assyrians to conquer and deport en masse the house of Israel into national slavery for their habitual unfaithfulness. The Babylonian Empire did the same to Judah decades later, but the Jews were eventually allowed to return to their homeland.
Only upon Jesus’ death was He legally free to marry another. When He returns to establish God’s kingdom on the earth, Christ will marry spiritual Israel, His Church (Rev. 19:7-17).
“I Change Not!”
Again, the Bible does not give explicit details of Jesus’ life from age 12 to the start of His ministry. But piecing together Scripture, history and the customs and practices of the day provides a fuller and better picture of what Christ must have been like as a youth and young adult.
This we do know: Jesus Christ and the Word are the same (John 1:1-2, 14). He declares, “For I am the Lord, I change not” (Mal. 3:6). He is “the same yesterday, and today and forever” (Heb. 13:8). The God of the Old Testament laughed, grieved (Gen. 6:5-6), was brokenhearted (Ezek. 6:9). He felt anger, suffered long with the failing of others, was gentle, astonished by men’s behavior (Jer. 32:32-35; I Kings 21:25-29), and was forgiving.
Jesus lived His physical life in the same manner.