At Luke 2:48 we read of St. Mary's complaint to Jesus for `getting lost'at the Temple:

His mother said to him, “Son, why have you treated us like this? Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you.”

Some denominations believe that Jesus had siblings on the earth. I am therefore, curious to know why Mary did not mention the said brothers and sisters who would have definitely joined the parents in the search for their dear brother Jesus, who was 12 years of age at that time . How does the Protestant Church explain the said omission ?

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    I think the answers provided give a good overview of Protestant opinions, I'd like to refer you to a short Catholic article if you're interested, since a full-fledged answer might be considered off-topic. catholic.com/tract/brethren-of-the-lord
    – Glorius
    Commented Jul 8, 2019 at 11:15

4 Answers 4


If we accept the bible teaching that Mary/Joseph had children, then they would have been younger than Jesus. In the question, the age of Jesus was 12. The oldest sibling was probably no older than 10 at that time.

Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary, the brother of James, and Joses, and of Juda, and Simon? and are not his sisters here with us? And they were offended at him. Mark 6:3

So there is no sense in saying, your father and me and your younger brothers or sisters are searching for you. In other words, if you've "lost" one child, you're not going to send out an even younger child to do your searching for you. Most likely when Mary/Joseph went back to Jerusalem after a few days to look, they would have left their other children with trusted relatives or neighbors.

But they, supposing him to have been in the company, went a day's journey; and they sought him among their kinsfolk and acquaintance. Luke 2:48

They wouldn't bring their other children on the journey back to Jerusalem from Nazareth.

  • Can you cite who are the well known Protestant founder who espoused your biblical interpretation? As it stand, this answer is purely biblical speculations and did not cite any Protestant church or denominations, even a similar line of protestant commentary perhaps. Commented Jul 5, 2019 at 10:33
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    Not sure what you are asking about. Is it about whether Jesus had brothers/sisters who were born from the marriage of Mary/Joseph? That's the clear reading of scripture. Tradition (early) also agrees (see Irenanaeus, Clement of Alexandria, Origen, Clement of Jerusalem, and others. With that in mind, then the explanation would be accurate.
    – SLM
    Commented Jul 5, 2019 at 16:51

The difference between Protestants and Catholics here all starts with the Catholic view that Mary died a virgin. This is despite the plain talk in Matthew's gospel:-

And he knew her not till she brought forth her firstborn son: and he called his name JESUS (Matthew 1:25, Douay-Rheims Bible); or in plainer English "But he did not have sexual relations with her until her son was born. And Joseph named him Jesus" (New Living Translation).

Some scriptures talk of Jesus's brothers, such as Matthew 12:46-50, Matthew 13:55-57, and Mark 6:3.

One RC opinion: "brothers" means "cousins"

So some Catholics say that brothers here means cousins. Protestants reply that there is a specific Greek word for cousins ("anepsios", see Colossians 4:10 - "cousin of Barnabas") which would have been more appropriate to use. Furthermore these brothers are always mentioned alongside Mary, but the supposed mother if they were cousins is never mentioned:

While Jesus was still talking to the crowd, his mother and brothers ("adelphio") stood outside, wanting to speak to him. Someone told him, “Your mother and brothers are standing outside, wanting to speak to you.” He replied to him, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” Pointing to his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.” (Matthew 12:46-50, NIV).

And when the people of Nazareth do not believe on him they speak of Mary, his brothers (adelphio) and sisters being with them all. And Jesus replies "a prophet is not without honour except in his own country and in his own house" (Matt 13:57). These brothers and sisters who did not believe in him lived in the same house as him.

Second RC opinion - sons and daughters of Joseph by a previous marriage

Some Catholics agree with Protestants and say Jesus had real brothers. But then they say Mary could not have been their mother because she died a virgin. Therefore they must be half-brothers and Joseph had been married before and had children by a previous marriage.

Seeing these supposed children were by a previous marriage they would have been older than Jesus, who was 12 at the time he remained in the Temple. They would then have been suitable to help in the search for Jesus.

But the subsequent children of Mary which Protestants believe in would have been younger than Jesus and entirely unsuitable to help in the search for Jesus.

The problem of Luke 2:48 exists, then, not for Protestants but for those Catholics who believe Jesus had elder brothers by a previous marriage of Joseph. Those brothers would have been old enough to help in the search: seeing they are not mentioned as helping, Catholics who agree that Mark 6:3 and Matthew 12:47 refer to real half-brothers of Jesus and not cousins have a bit of a problem: they should have been mentioned in Luke 2:48. Protestants, on the other hand, have no problem at all, because the younger brothers and sisters are too young to help in the search, so they are obviously not mentioned as helping in the search.

There is a problem with the view that Mark 6:3 and Matthew 12:47 are speaking of older sons of Joseph by a previous marriage: Joseph was the direct descendant of King David; if the royal house of David still ruled Israel, Joseph, upon the death of his father, would have been the King of Israel. His oldest son was also the direct descendant of King David. Jesus simply must have been Joseph's oldest son (by adoption), else he would not have been the King of Israel upon the death of Joseph. In truth Jesus was not only spiritually the King of Israel but also literally/in the purely earthly sense the King of Israel. (So this option, I think, is really quite disastrous theologically. The "cousins" option at least doesn't produce this terrible consequence.)

Final thoughts

There are two problems with the view that "brothers" simply meant "cousins":

  1. Galatians 1:19 speaks of James as being the Lord's brother.

"But other of the apostles I saw none, saving James the brother of the Lord." (Galatians 1:19, Douay-Rheims Bible)

It is really hard to imagine that what Paul meant was that James was the Lord's cousin, when there is a better word for "cousin" in the Greek. And

  1. The James' Ossuary has written on the side "James, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus". For reasons which are too detailed to go into here, I believe that ossuary is genuinely the ossuary of the brother of Jesus Christ our Lord. And it is impossible that "brother" on the side of an ossuary would mean "cousin".

Sorry to have to tell you this, but there is no Biblical evidence for the belief that Mary remained a perpetual virgin; there is evidence that she did not, both Biblical and extra Biblical.

The insistence that Mary remained a virgin her entire life is undoubtedly rooted in the unscriptural conception that celibacy is spiritually superior to marriage and child bearing. In both the Old and New Testaments, the Bible speaks of marriage as an honorable institution that was intended by God to be the norm for humanity from the very beginning of the Creation (Genesis 2:24; Proverbs 5:18-19; Matthew 19:4-6; 1 Corinthians 7:2-5; Hebrews 13:4). Mary’s marriage to Joseph, and their subsequent production of offspring after the birth of Jesus, had the approval and blessing of heaven. (https://apologeticspress.org/did-jesus-have-fleshly-half-brothers-1271/ )

Nevertheless, because of sexual immorality, let each man have his own wife, and let each woman have her own husband. Let the husband render to his wife the affection due her, and likewise also the wife to her husband. The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. And likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. Do not deprive one another except with consent for a time, that you may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again so that Satan does not tempt you because of your lack of self-control. (1 Corinthians 7:2-5).

Finally, even in the case of brothers and sisters who reject our witness for Christ we can take comfort that “We do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15). We might conclude, Jesus had to have brothers and sisters who did not believe on him so he could sympathize with us.

  • I met a 1st-generation Indian guy in college. We became very good friends and then roomates, living with each other for almost 5 years. It was only around year 3 that I realized all the guys and gals at our parties who he called "brothers" and "sisters" were not actually sons and daughters of his mother. They were cousins, aunts, uncles, and in-laws, but they grew up closer to each other than I did with the actual son of my own mother. Sometimes our hermeneutically sealed interpretation of the world isn't as accurate as we think it is.
    – qxn
    Commented Feb 11, 2022 at 16:10
  • @ken - sometimes true.. but for me Matthew 1:25 seals her fate. And if believers marry, what is God's purpose? "Has not the one God made you? You belong to him in body and spirit. And what does the one God seek? Godly offspring. So be on your guard, and do not be unfaithful to the wife of your youth" Malachi 2:15, NIV. Why would it have been different for Mary and Joseph? But granted cousins is better than half-brothers, its just the Greek words don't allow for it. The scripture tells us she was a virgin until after Jesus was born.. that is all that matters. Commented Feb 11, 2022 at 16:48
  • @ken - I think the idea is that if she died a virgin that that somehow makes her more holy. But in the Protestant view if she died a married virgin then she disobeyed God's will for her. She disobeyed Gen 1:28 - she did not help fill the earth; Mal 2:15 - she did not bring up children to fear the Lord as much as she was able; and 1 cor 7:5 - she defrauded her husband. Salvation is not gained by our purity but by God's mercy, "not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us" (Titus 3:5). Commented Feb 11, 2022 at 17:53

It was common at that time for several families to travel together, this was a necessity; since there were many highwaymen. And the smaller children were probably left in the care of a trusted member of the family; or a trusted friend.

Since it was normal for all families in that era to watch over all children. This would have been quite normal. As a child I remember that in my neighborhood, when one of us three boys did anything unusual it was already telegraphed through the pipeline; and or folks were well aware of it by the time we got home.

A short study of Hermeneutics might be of help in understanding the nuances of the time period. And the antiquities of the Jews by Flavius Josephus can be invaluable in understanding the period. A quick google search of the words Antiquities of the Jews will give you comprehensive list of videos and other sources for study.

David Gusik; well known Catholic Bible scholar and commentator; explains it this way.

D. Jesus in His Father’s house. 1. (Luk_2:41-45) Jesus is lost on a Passover pilgrimage. His parents went to Jerusalem every year at the Feast of the Passover. And when He was twelve years old, they went up to Jerusalem according to the custom of the feast. When they had finished the days, as they returned, the Boy Jesus lingered behind in Jerusalem. And Joseph and His mother did not know it; but supposing Him to have been in the company, they went a day’s journey, and sought Him among their relatives and acquaintances. So when they did not find Him, they returned to Jerusalem, seeking Him. a. We know nothing of Jesus’ life from the time He was one month old to the time when He was twelve, except for the general statement in Luke 2:40. We may be curious about the details of His childhood, but there isn’t anything we need to know except what we are told by the Holy Spirit in the Word. i. To satisfy this curiosity, men wrote their own so-called “Infancy Gospels.” In them, we are told of strange, spectacular and silly miracles like Jesus talking from the manger; healing a man made into a mule by a spell; bringing clay birds to life with a clap of His hands; healing people with a sprinkling with his old bath water, and so forth. b. His parents went to Jerusalem every year at the Feast of the Passover: Attendance at the major feasts was commanded in Exodus 23:17 and Deuteronomy 16:16. It was customary for the faithful of Galilee to make these pilgrimages at feast time in large groups. It would not be difficult to lose track of a young boy with such a large group of travelers - we shouldn’t accuse Joseph and Mary of child neglect. But Mary must have felt badly enough, losing the Messiah.

This is in consonance with Protestant belief in that Mary was a virgin at the conception of Jesus, but that after actually moving Mary into his home they did consummate their marriage, after the birth of Jesus. Any children born to the couple would all be younger than Jesus by at least several years since:

Matthew 2:11  And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh.

Here Jesus is referred to as a young child most scholars believe that Jesus was about three years old at that time. Whether or not James (the next older sibling) was born in the period between Bethlehem and this is unknowable.

There is no disagreement between Catholics and Protestants concerning the Virgin Birth, however they depart in the concept of lifelong virginity.

If God being God had wanted Mary to remain a lifelong virgin he could have accomplished that in several ways; but God himself choose Joseph to be Jesus earthly step father.

 Matthew 1:19 through 1:21  Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not willing to make her a publick example, was minded to put her away privily. But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost. And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins. 


How does Protestant Church explain Luke 2:48?

The link below are numerous Protestant commentaries on Luke2:48

"And when they saw him, they were amazed: and his mother said to him, Son, why have you thus dealt with us? behold, your father and I have sought you sorrowing." https://biblehub.com/commentaries/luke/2-48.htm

Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary Luke 2:48 https://www.ewtn.com/faith/teachings/maryc2.htm

To answer your other question;

Some denominations believe that Jesus had siblings on the earth. I am therefore, curious to know why Mary did not mention the said brothers and sisters who would have definitely joined the parents in the search for their dear brother Jesus, who was 12 years of age at that time . How does the Protestant Church explain the said omission ?

Some denominations believe that Jesus had siblings on the earth.

There are some denominations but this denominations interpretation contradicted the well-known Protestant Founders and Leaders in the 16th century who teaches that Mary had no other children other than Jesus;

Protestant Reformers

The protestant reformers affirmed their belief that Mary, while remaining every-virgin, was truly the Mother of God. Here are only a few examples:

Martin Luther (1483-1546), On the Divine Motherhood of Mary, wrote:

In this work whereby she was made the Mother of God, so many and such great good things were given her that no one can grasp them. ... Not only was Mary the mother of him who is born [in Bethlehem], but of him who, before the world, was eternally born of the Father, from a Mother in time and at the same time man and God. (Weimer's The Works of Luther, English translation by Pelikan, Concordia, St. Louis, v. 7, p. 572.)

Luther wrote on the Virginity of Mary:

It is an article of faith that Mary is Mother of the Lord and still a virgin. ... Christ, we believe, came forth from a womb left perfectly intact. (Weimer's The Works of Luther, English translation by Pelikan, Concordia, St. Louis, v. 11, pp. 319-320; v. 6. p. 510.)

The French reformer John Calvin (1509-1564) also held that Mary was the Mother of God.

It cannot be denied that God in choosing and destining Mary to be the Mother of his Son, granted her the highest honor. ... Elizabeth called Mary Mother of the Lord, because the unity of the person in the two natures of Christ was such that she could have said that the mortal man engendered in the womb of Mary as at the same time the eternal God. (Calvini Opera, Corpus Reformatorum, Braunschweig-Berlin, 1863-1900, v. 45, p. 348, 35.)

Calvin also up held the perpetual virginity of Mary, as did the Swiss reformer, Ulrich Zwingli (1484-1531), who wrote:

I firmly believe that Mary, according to the words of the gospel as a pure Virgin brought forth for us the Son of God and in childbirth and after childbirth forever remained a pure, intact Virgin. (Zwingli Opera, Corpus Reformatorum, Berlin, 1905, v. 1, p. 424.)


Your next question is;

I am therefore, curious to know why Mary did not mention the said brothers and sisters who would have definitely joined the parents in the search for their dear brother Jesus, who was 12 years of age at that time . How does the Protestant Church explain the said omission ?

Mary did not mentioned other brothers & sisters because they do not exist and the well-known Protestant Reformers upheld the teaching that Jesus had no other siblings.

How does the Protestant Church explain the said omission ?

If we follow the Protestant Reformers like Martin Luther, Zwingli, Calvin, etc teaching it is very clear that there's no ommision. But the New Protestant Reformers are the one introducing the novelty which Jesus solidly refuted in John19:26-27 when He entrusted His beloved Mother Mary to His beloved apostle St.John, erasing the confusions that Jesus had other siblings.

“Woman, Behold Your Son…Behold Your Mother”(John19:26-27)

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    Moderator notice: Stop commenting on answers that answers the questions they are posted under in the proper scope just because you disagree with them. We get it, you don't agree with Protestants in general. But this site is not a place to argue that in comments.
    – Caleb
    Commented Jul 5, 2019 at 7:09
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    Comments on the substance of this answer: This is not broadly representative of Protestantism. No Protestants believe that the stand-out names of the Reformation got every point of theology right, and this is one area a few of them (notably Zwingli) are widely considered to have erred in. Your other examples are not as strong as you make them sound, they are mostly affirmations of the virgin birth not of perpetual virginity. Calvin for example did not take a stance on the issue either way, only commenting that he didn't think the Scripture was clear on it either way.
    – Caleb
    Commented Jul 5, 2019 at 7:15
  • @Caleb Once upon a time, almost no Christians denied that Mary the mother of Jesus was perpetually a virgin: including Protestants. Of the early leaders of that movement, virtually all fully accepted this doctrine: including Luther, Calvin, Zwingli, Bullinger, Turretin, and Cranmer. Moreover, most Protestant exegetes continued to believe it for at least another 350 years or so. ncregister.com/blog/darmstrong/… See after Reformation for 350 years it remains accepted by all Protestant until someone introduce a novelty. Commented Jul 5, 2019 at 8:26
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    You're missing the point. The point is that you are trying to argue that Protestantism has gotten off track. This question doesn't ask about the Reformers or whether Protestant theology has changed, it asks about Protestant explanations about something. It is out of scope of this site to argue whether something is theologically true or not, the job of answers is only to document the extant state of affairs. Stop arguing with answers that attempt to document position X just because you think position X itself is wrong.
    – Caleb
    Commented Jul 5, 2019 at 8:36
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    If you have questions or concerns about how this site functions or is managed please post on Christianity Meta. In the mean time understand that comments on posts are not the place for you to defend the dignity of Mary or any other theological viewpoint. Comments to that effect will be removed and considered abuse of the system. Comments are for requesting clarification or suggesting improvements to answers.
    – Caleb
    Commented Jul 5, 2019 at 8:52

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