Part 2—Relatives of Jesus
CONTINUING the study as to the zealous relatives of Jesus that appeared in the September 15 Watchtower, the chart printed with this article will be of considerable assistance. The chart involves the two theocratically important tribes of Israel, Levi and Judah. To the left of the chart are the genealogies involving the tribe of Levi in relationship to Jesus, and to the right the tribe of Judah. The leading paternal house or most important subdivision of the tribe of Levi was the house of Aaron, from which came all the high and ministering priests of Israel. From the other houses of the Levites came lesser ministers or helpers in the temple organization. Likewise for the tribe of Judah, the most important paternal house was that of the royal house of David, through which the line or dynasty of kings ran.
The chart’s lowest level of names contains the generation contemporary with Jesus. The next level of names above it involves the generation of Jesus’ mother Mary and Joseph, whereas the middle level of names contains the generation of Jesus’ grandfather Heli. The left part of the chart illustrates the relationship of Jesus to John the Baptist, as mentioned in the previous article. Note that Jesus’ mother Mary was of the kingly house of David through her father Heli, who was married to Anna (according to tradition, this being said to be the name of Mary’s mother) a Levitess. Anna’s sister, in turn, married Elizabeth’s father of the house of Aaron. Elizabeth their child was thus born a true daughter of the house of Aaron and when she married Zechariah, also of the house of Aaron, their son John the Baptist was of the priestly house of Aaron both through his father and through his mother. From the chart one will clearly observe that Elizabeth was a first cousin of Mary in their generation. Further, that John the Baptist was a second cousin of Jesus in their succeeding generation.
Following Jesus’ genealogy, the chart indicates Mary was his natural mother, although Jehovah himself continued to be his Father by having arranged the human conception in such a way through the miraculous intervention of the holy spirit as to effect His Son’s transfer from a prehuman heavenly existence to that of becoming born a natural man. This enabled Jesus to be called both the “Son of God” and the “Son of man.” Mary’s father being Heli of the house of David through David’s son Nathan, Jesus received a natural right to the throne of David through Mary. However, as shown in the previous article, since Joseph legally adopted Jesus as his firstborn son, Jesus thereby acquired additionally legal right to the throne, because Joseph’s father Jacob was a direct regal descendant of King David through Solomon and all the reigning kings of Judah.
SALOME, JAMES AND JOHN
This now brings us to another very interesting family that was closely related to Jesus and associated with him in the early spread of Christianity. It is the family of the master fisherman Zebedee of Galilee to which we refer. Zebedee married Salome of the house of David, the natural sister of Mary the mother of Jesus.* They had two sons, James, who generally is mentioned first because he possibly was the older, and John. These two brothers were thus of Davidic descent like Jesus. This relationship made Zebedee and Salome Jesus’ uncle and aunt respectively and their sons James and John the first cousins of Jesus.
Some time following meeting John and Andrew at the Jordan River Jesus called at his uncle Zebedee’s place of fishing business. There in the hearing of their father Jesus gave an official call to both James and John to become full-time “fishers of men” and to abandon their fishing job. Apparently a man of faith, Zebedee raised no objection. (Matt. 4:21, 22) Even Zebedee’s wife, Jesus’ aunt Salome, was permitted to leave his household for long periods of time to be a zealous follower of Jesus in his preaching work, along with the many other women disciples. This relationship helps to explain why on one occasion Salome took courage to ask her nephew Jesus a special favor. Jesus appointed both of his cousins, James and John, as apostles, numbering them among the twelve.—Matt. 10:2; 20:20-23.
This study of Jesus’ relatives aids in understanding another very touching scene that again evidences the depth of Jesus’ love and care. It seems that by the end of Jesus’ public ministry his foster father Joseph had died. This meant that Jesus as the oldest son should make provision for the care of his mother Mary, and that he did. This was the last act he performed while still hanging on the impalement stake before he expired in death. Nearby stood his mother Mary and his aunt Salome, together with other devoted women. Incidentally, John, who records this event, does not mention his mother by name, as in his modesty he gives no prominence to his immediate family. Not even once in his entire gospel account does he mention either his brother James or himself by name. But Mark, who names the women present at the staking, gives John’s mother by name as Salome.—Mark 15:40; 16:1.
Jesus looking down from the stake on his mother, who was pierced through with deep sorrow, and noticing also John the disciple whom he loved, smitten with heavy grief, standing nearby, Jesus said in their hearing: “Woman, see! your son!” Then to John he said: “See! your mother!” What volumes these few words speak as to the three involved at this tragic climax! The Bible says that from that very hour John lovingly took his aunt Mary, Jesus’ mother, into his own home in Jerusalem. This incident indicates a loving tribute paid by Jesus to the woman who unselfishly gave herself to become Jehovah’s “slave girl” from the birth to the death of earth’s greatest man, whom she was privileged to bear. It likewise characterizes Jesus’ minute thoughtfulness. Who better could comfort Mary in her despair than her own fleshly sister Salome, who was in the truth as a zealous follower of Jesus and who undoubtedly resided with her devoted, understanding son, John?—John 19:25-27.
THE ‘OTHER MARY’S’ FAMILY
By tradition, another zealous theocratic family is said to have been near relatives of Jesus, although there is no direct scripture to support this. It is the family of the ‘other Mary,’ a Jehovah-fearing woman who was a close companion of Jesus’ mother Mary and who followed Jesus during most of his earthly ministry. She was present at the impalement of Jesus in company with Mary and Salome. It was she and Mary Magdalene who went to anoint Jesus’ body on Nisan 16, but instead the two were privileged to be the first ones to talk with the glorious resurrected Jesus. (Matt. 27:56, 61; 28:1-10) This eager follower of Jesus, Mary, was the wife of one whose name in Aramaic was Clopas but whose name in Greek was, supposedly, Alphaeus.*—John 19:25; Mark 16:1; Luke 6:15.
The ‘other Mary’ had two sons, James and Joses. (Mark 15:40) If tradition is right in claiming that Clopas was the brother of Joseph the foster father of Jesus, then these two brothers were Jesus’ half cousins. Mary’s son James, also known as “James the Less” to distinguish him from the apostle James, the son of Zebedee, was a very active disciple of Jesus. He had the high privilege of being appointed by Jesus as one of his twelve apostles. (Matt. 10:3) Not only that, but James had a very devoted grown-up son by the name of Judas who likewise was designated as one of the “twelve apostles of the Lamb.” This Judas, his son, was further known as Thaddaeus, or merely as the “son of James” to differentiate him from Judas Iscariot. These possible kinsmen of Jesus were constantly in his company and proved loyal and faithful throughout.—Matt. 10:3; Luke 6:16; John 14:22.
JESUS’ BROTHERS AND SISTERS
That Jesus had half brothers and sisters the Bible clearly states. The fact that Jesus was mentioned as Mary’s firstborn implies that Mary must have had other children. (Luke 2:7) Furthermore, these other children must have been by means of her husband Joseph, because it is recorded that Joseph had relations with her after Jesus was born. (Matt. 1:25) The two scriptures that mention that Jesus had sisters, though they are not individually mentioned by name, indicate that in their home town of Nazareth the whole family of boys and girls were well known. (Matt. 13:56; Mark 6:3) The Bible gives the names of Jesus’ brothers as James, Joseph, Simon and Judas.—Matt. 13:55.
During Jesus’ ministry Mary took her children along with her on several occasions. This enabled her sons to follow the public career of their older brother. (Matt. 12:46; John 2:12) But for some time there was a lack of faith on the part of his half brothers, and this helps to explain why Jesus had appointed none of his immediate family to become any of the twelve apostles, as he had done with his faith-entrenched cousins. However, there is evidence that by the end of Jesus’ ministry his brothers became spiritually awakened. After Jesus’ resurrection and among his ten manifestations thereafter in the flesh, one was specially made to one James, but whether this was to his half brother is not provable.—1 Cor. 15:7.
The facts appear to be clear that on Pentecost day A.D. 33 Jesus’ fleshly brothers as well as his mother were among the 120 who became spirit-begotten, receiving the gift of the holy spirit. (Acts 1:14, 15; 2:1-4) This gave his brothers hope of living and ruling with Christ Jesus in heaven as part of the 144,000 kingdom joint heirs. There is no record that any of them became unfaithful. Of the four remaining brothers, two became prominent in the early congregation. James became the congregation servant of the large Jerusalem congregation. He also served as an outstanding member of the governing body with headquarters in Jerusalem. (Acts 12:17; 15:13; 21:18) James was also inspired to write the book of the Bible that bears his name. The other prominent brother was Jude, who also was an inspired Bible writer. The book Jude is named after his writership. Neither man ever laid claim to special privileges by reason of having been Jesus’ brothers. Rather, they humbly refer to themselves as ‘slaves of Jesus Christ.’—Jas. 1:1; Jude 1:1.
Truly the first century of the Christian era saw some of the great giants of true faith in action. In Jehovah’s well-developed program he saw fit for his beloved Son to be surrounded by the right kind of zealous associates and shielded with a rich family circle of men and women who were, above all, servants of the Most High God Jehovah.
The Catholic Encyclopedia, vol. XIII, p. 403; Hastings Dictionary of the Bible, vol. IV, p. 355; M’Clintock & Strong’s Cyclopædia, vol. IX, p. 258.
M’Clintock & Strong, vol. I, 176; vol. II, p. 384; Westminster Dictionary of the Bible, p. 380.
[Chart on page 667]
(For fully formatted text, see publication)
RELATIVES OF JESUS
TRIBE OF LEVI SCRIPTURAL REFERENCES
House of Aaron (Priests)
Elizabeth’s Father Luke 1:5
Other Houses of Levites Luke 1:36
Anna? (Mary’s Mother)
TRIBE OF JUDAH
House of David (Kings)
Nathan Luke 3:31
Heli Luke 3:23
Solomon Matt. 1:7
Jacob Matt. 1:16
Mother of Joseph
Other Houses of Judah
[Pictures on page 665]