Category Archives: brother of the lord

Paul’s Use of "Sibling"

So here are all of the places where Paul uses the word αδελφοι (adelphee – “brothers” or “siblings”) or the singular version of it:

1:13; 7:1; 7:4; 8:12; 8:29 (Jesus is the firstborn among many brothers); 9:3; 10:1; 11:25; 12:1; 14:10; 14:13; 14:15; 14:12; 15:14; 15:30; 16:1; 16:14; 16:15 (sister); 16:17; 16:23

1 Corinthians (no biological brothers)
1:1; 1:10; 1:11; 1:26; 2:1; 3:1; 4:6; 5:11; 6:5 (believer); 6:6; 6:8;
7:12 (believer); 7:14 (believer); 7:15 (man or woman who is a believer); 7:24; 7:29; 8:11; 8:12; 8:13; 9:5 (believing woman); 10:1; 11:33; 12:1; 14:6; 14:20; 14:26; 14:39; 15:1; 15:6; 15:31; 15:50; 15:5; 16:11; 16:12; 16:15; 16:20

*14:22 actually uses the word “believer” (πιστευουσιν)

2 Corinthians (no biological brothers)
1:1; 1:8; 2:13; 8:1; 8:18; 8:22; 8:23; 9:3; 9:5; 11:9; 12:18; 13:11;

*6:15 actually uses the word “believer” (πιστω)

1:2; 1:11; 1:19 (brother of the lord); 3:15; 4:28; 4:31; 5:11; 5:13; 6:1; 6:18;

*6:10 uses the phrase “family of believers” (οικειους της πιστεως)

1:12; 1:14 (brothers in the lord::των αδελφων εν κυριω );
2:25; 3:1; 3:13; 3:17; 4:1; 4:8; 4:21;

1 Thessalonians (no biological brothers)
1:4; 2:1; 2:9; 2:14; 2:17; 3:2; 3:7; 4:1; 4:6; 4:10; 4:13; 5:1; 5:4;
5:12; 5:14; 5:25; 5:26; 5:27

*1:7 actually uses “believers” (πιστευσυσιν)

1:1; 1:2 (sister); 1:7; 1:16; 1:20


1:1; 1:2; 4:7
(He is a dear brother, a faithful minister and fellow servant in the Lord);
4:9; 4:15;

(Tychicus, the beloved brother and faithful servant in the Lord::
τυχικος ο αγαπητος αδελφος και πιστος διακονος εν κυριω); 6:23

2 Thessalonians
1:3; 2:1; 2:13(brothers loved by the Lord::αδελφοι ηγαπημενοι υπο κυριου );
2:15; 3:1; 3:6; 3:13; 3:15

1 Timothy
4:6; 5:1; 5:2; 6:2

2 Timothy 4:21

So only in two instances does Paul use the word “sibling” in an unambiguously biological context: Philemon 1:2 and Romans 16:15. Other than that in the vast majority of times (118 times) Paul, Deutero-Paul (Eph, Col, 2 Thes.) and the Pastorals (1 & 2 Tim, [and Titus, but “sibling” isn’t found in that one]), use the word “sibling” to mean a fellow believer.

Above I noted other strange or ambiguous usages of “brother” like in Romans 8:29 where he says that Jesus was the firstborn among brothers. Did Paul mean literal brothers or brothers by faith?

In 1 Cor 6:5; 7:12; 7:14; 7:15 and 9:5 Paul uses “brother” (or “sister”) but the NIV translates it as “believer”. The more obvious interpretation of the NIV translators is at 7:15 where Paul simply says “brother or sister” (ο αδελφος ή η αδελφη:: lit. the brother or the sister) and the translators reveal Paul’s usage of sibling: a believing man or woman.

Later letters by Paul stop using “brothers of the lord” and start using “brothers in the lord” such as Ephesians 6:21, Philipeans 1:14, and possibly Colossians 4:7. But what I think the smoking gun is is at Galatians 6:10 where Paul writes “family of believers”, but actually uses the Greek word for “believers” and not “brothers”. The vast majority of the time Paul is using siblings in the context of the family of believers.

So who knows. Statistically, it’s more likely that Paul meant brother in the context of the family of believers and not an actual blood brother. The two instances of Paul using “brother(s) of the lord” (1 Cor 9:5; Gal 1:19) might be part of the larger context of the family of believers.


Posted by on January 25, 2010 in brother of the lord, paul


Paul’s Use of "Sister"

Paul uses the word αδελφη[ν] (adelphee[n] – sister) in 1 Corinthians 9:5 and Romans 16:1 and 16:15. Here are how they’re translated in the NIV

Romans 16

1 συνιστημι δε υμιν φοιβην την αδελφην ημων ουσαν [και] διακονον της εκκλησιας της εν κεγχρεαις


15 ασπασασθε φιλολογον και ιουλιαν νηρεα και την αδελφην αυτου και ολυμπαν και τους συν αυτοις παντας αγιους

1 I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a deacon of the church in Cenchrea


15 Greet Philologus, Julia, Nereus and his sister, and Olympas and all the saints with them

1 Cor 9:5

μη ουκ εχομεν εξουσιαν αδελφην γυναικα περιαγειν ως και οι λοιποι αποστολοι και οι αδελφοι του κυριου και κηφας

Don’t we have the right to take a believing wife along with us, as do the other apostles and the Lord’s brothers and Cephas

Notice the shadiness. “Sister” is translated authentically in Romans, but is translated as “believer” in 1 Corinthians. Αδελφη is always translated as “sister” in the NT except for this one instance. Why is that? It sticks out like a sore thumb. In order to make sense of its use in 1 Cor it should be translated as “sister” or all instances of “brothers” (αδελφοι) should be translated as “believers” in Paul’s letters.

If Paul really did intend for this instance of “sister” to be rendered as “beliver”, then Paul’s phrase “the lord’s brother(s)” should be rendered as “believers of the lord”… αδελφοι του κυριου. This no longer makes James Jesus’ brother in Gal 1:9, but a “believer of the lord”. Paul might be using that word to distinguish between “apostles” who he says are those who had seen the resurrected Jesus (1 Cor 9:1). This would also make sense of Paul’s use of “our sister” in Romans 16:1. She’s not literally Paul’s sister, but a fellow believer.

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Posted by on January 21, 2010 in brother of the lord, paul


Epiphanius, Philo, the Nazarenes, and the Essenes

He [Philo of Alexandria] arrived during Passover and observed their [Jessaeans] customs, and how some of them kept the holy week of Passover (only) after a postponement of it, but others by eating every other day – though others, indeed, ate each evening.

– Epiphanius of Salamis, Panarion 29.5.1

This post is all just speculation, but I decided to write it anyway. So in the above quote, Epiphanius (writing in the fourth century) thinks that the Essenes (Jessaeans) were the Nazarenes, or early Christianity. But, the “Essenes” were around long before Jesus. I know a lot of people think that there’s a link between the Essenes and Christianity, but I’m still not entirely sure.

“Essenes” (εσσηνοι) is a Greek word, unlike Pharisee and Sadducee. It’s weird, in my opinion, for a highly ascetic group of religious Jews to have a Greek name for the name of their sect. Another weird thing about the Essenes is that they were supposedly all celibate and didn’t marry.

Jesus is a Greek name as well though. Jesus also seemed to be celibate and didn’t marry. Jesus’ brother, James the Just, also seemed to be celibate. Epiphanius thought that the (Jessaeans) Essenes were the early Christians and/or the Nazarenes. What’s going on here? The Ebionites, on the other hand, said that only members of Jesus’ family should be overseers of the new religion.

Did Jesus even have any other family? Why don’t we know anything about them? What if Jesus’ “brothers” were only the other members of the Essenes – since it was an all-male branch of initiates? What if he did have other family, but they thought he was part of some crazy cult (Essenes/Nazarenes)? Or what if he had other family, but this didn’t fit well with the type of power structure (i.e. non-Jewish) that the proto-Orthodox church wanted?

And then there’s the Dead Sea Scrolls, thought to belong to the Essenes. With their “Gabriel’s Revelation” of a messiah being brought back to life in three days, their messainic banquets, a “new covenant” borne from “living water”. Their “Teacher of Righteousness” who they likened to Joshua son of Nun? Joshua, which is “Jesus” in Greek, and “Chrestos” (χρηστος) meaning “good” in Greek is similar to “Christ” (χριστος)? Why did the Essenes disappear right when Christianity started becoming popular? It’s all highly coincidental.

What if the “Notzrim” were actually the Essenes? Notzrim is a Hebrew word, not Essenes

Weird stuff.

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Posted by on February 22, 2009 in brother of the lord, essenes, james the just, Nazarenes, notzrim

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