Were Jesus "brothers" actually his cousins?

Were “the brethren of the Lord” in such passages as Matthew 12: 46, Matthew 13: 55, etc., His actual brethren? or were they his cousins, as some teach?

Were it not for controversial reasons I do not think any such question would ever have been raised. The word for “cousin” is distinct, and that used for the Lord’s “brethren,” though sometimes meaning “stepbrother,” is the ordinary one for brother, and there is no hint in the Gospels of Joseph having been married before. This effort to make the word mean “cousin” is supposed to be necessary in order to defend the miraculous birth and the false idea existing that it is holier not to have children, than to have them; whereas the two thoughts—the Virgin Birth and the perpetual virginity of Mary, are quite distinct and independent. While we believe unswervingly in the former, we hold that the testimony of Scripture is against the latter. The expression, “the brethren (adelphoi) of the Lord,” occurs nine times in the Gospels and once in the Acts. In Matthew 12:46 and its parallels in Mark and Luke (where His mother and brethren come to Him); Matthew 13:55 and its parallel in Mark (where the brethren are named Jacob, Joseph, Simon and Judas, four common Jewish names), in connection with His mother and sisters. The four others are: John 2:12—”His mother and His brethren,” and chap. 7. 3, 5, io, where His brethren are said not to have believed in Him. However, it is asserted by the advocates of the perpetual virginity of Mary, that “these brethren” were the sons of Alphus, the husband of the sister of the mother of our Lord, and therefore his cousins. If this were so, it is remarkable that they should be so consistently found with the mother of Jesus, their aunt, rather than with their own mother, the wife of Alphus or Clopas, who was still alive. Now, it is nowhere affirmed that any of the Lord’s brethren were among the twelve apostles; indeed it is plainly stated in John 7, “Neither did His brethren believe on Him.” But among the apostles there were at least two sons of Alphus, James and his brother Judas, and possibly Matthew, who in Mark’s Gospel is said to be “the son of Alphus,” and these certainly could not be among those who did not believe on Him. The two things are inconsistent. Afterwards the brothers did believe, but they never entered the ranks of the twelve apostles. In fact they are in some places distinguished from the apostles, e.g., in Acts 1:14, where they were present in the prayer meeting, but apart from the eleven. See also 1 Corinthians 9:5, “As well as other apostles and as the brethren of the Lord and Cephas.” In reality there are two verses in the New Testament which state implicitly that Mary had other children besides our Lord, namely Matthew 1: 25 (“till she had brought forth her first-born son”); and Luke 2:7 (“And she brought forth her first-born son”). Now, though the Revisers have omitted, “first-born,” in Matthew 1:25, the word is not a plain and clear error, and therefore by the canon of authority laid down for the Revisionists,* it ought to have been left alone. The Luke passage is not disputed and is very emphatic. Had our Lord been the only Child of Mary, He wouldcertainly have been called her only Son—her “monogenës.” As it is, He is called in both these passages her first-born, her “prötotokos.”

W.H.