Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
March 19, 1964

Kinsmen Of The Lord--(No I)

Jerry C. Ray

When the angel Gabriel appeared to Mary to tell her she was to be the mother of the Messiah he said,

"And behold, Elisabeth thy kinswoman ("cousin" — KJV), she also hath conceived a son in her old age; and this is the sixth month with her that was called barren." (Lk. 1:36)

The world translated "kinswoman" (suggenis) literally means "born with." "The word is a general term, meaning of the same family. The nature of the relationship, however, is unknown." (Vincent's Word Studies, I, 260) It means "not necessarily cousin, but simply relative." (A. T. Robertson's Word Pictures, 11, 15)

Most Bible students are aware of the fact that John the Baptist was a kinsman of Jesus and six months his senior, but few know that the sons of Zebedee were first cousins to Jesus.

The Women At The Crucifixion

In telling of women who witnessed the crucifixion Matthew and Mark mention three women. Both mention Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James the less and Joses. Matthew (27:56) mentions also the mother of the sons of Zebedee, while Mark speaks of Salome (15:40), whence it is thought that Salome was the name of the wife of Zebedee and the mother of James and John the apostles.

There has been a misconception that the apostle James (the son of Alphaeus) was either a brother of Jesus or a first cousin.

(1) Cousin of the Lord? This based upon two points. First, Alphaeus — "in its Hebrew form it may be pronounced Alphi or Ceephi. In its Arimaean form it is Chalphai. So in the New Testament we sometimes find it Alphaeus, and again Cleopas, or Clopas. Secondly, John 19:25 is interpreted to mention only three women, and Mary's sister is understood to be Mary, the wife of Clopas (or Alphaeus). Hence Jesus and James would be first cousins, their mothers being sisters.

The correct evaluation depends upon an understanding of John 19:25. Does the writer speak of:

Chart Goes Here

McGarvey's evidence for the latter view is overwhelming.

(a) It is unlikely that two sisters would bear the same name.

(b) John lists two pairs of women, each pair coupled by an "and." The first pair is kindred to Jesus, and is unnamed; the second pair is not kindred and is named. Hebrew writers often use such parallelism.

(c) It was John's custom in his gospel nowhere to give his own name, nor his mother's, nor his brother's. Nor does he give Mary's name, for she is his aunt.

(d) This relationship (that Salome, the mother of James and John, is the sister of Mary, the mother of Jesus) would explain why Jesus left Mary in the care of John as one of His last acts. (John 19:26, 27) It was not unusual to impose such a responsibility upon a kinsman.

(2) Brother of the Lord? This is based upon dubious reasoning. First, James, the Lord's brother, is called an apostle. (Gal. 1:19) Since it cannot be James, the son of Zebedee, it must be James the son of Alphaeus (called James the less in Mark. 15:40) The difficulty that James is the "son of Alphaeus" is explained away by some "that the Lord's brethren had a double parentage, a legal as well as an actual father, Joseph having raised seed to his deceased brother Clopas by his widow according to the Levirate law" (J.B. Lightfoot, Comm. on Galatians, p. 254)

Again, it is argued that the meticulous Luke would not mention James the apostle in Acts 1:13 and introduce a different James in Acts 15 without some explanation.

This entire line of reasoning is based upon assumptions and the silence of the scripture. First, the term "apostle" is used of several who were not of the twelve. The word "apostle" means "one sent." Hence, anyone with a mission could be called an apostle in a particular sense. Barnabas is called an apostle. (Acts 14:14) In 2 Cor. 8:32 Paul speaks of Titus and some of the brethren as "messengers" (Greek word same as "apostles") of the churches. Jesus Christ is an apostle. (Heb. 3:1)

The fact that James is called an apostle in Gal. 1:9 does not mean that he is the James mentioned as one of the twelve.

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