Did You Know?

Was Jesus related to any of his 12 apostles?

The Scriptures do not provide a definitive answer to this question. However, circumstantial evidence and tradition suggest that some of the 12 were related to Jesus.

The Gospel writers provide the names of the women who were looking on as Jesus was dying on the torture stake. John 19:25 identifies four of them: “His mother [Mary] and the sister of his mother; Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene.” Comparison of this verse with Matthew’s and Mark’s descriptions of the same scene may lead to the conclusion that the sister of Jesus’ mother was Salome. This Salome, in turn, seems to have been the mother of the sons of Zebedee. (Matthew 27:55, 56; Mark 15:40) Her sons, elsewhere identified as James and John, would thus be Jesus’ first cousins. Jesus called these two brothers, who were fishermen, to be his disciples.​—Matthew 4:21, 22.

Extra-Biblical tradition claims that Clopas, or Alphaeus, the husband of one of the women mentioned at John 19:25, was the brother of Joseph, Jesus’ adoptive father. If this tradition is based on fact, then James the son of Alphaeus, another of the 12 apostles, was also Jesus’ cousin.​—Matthew 10:3.

How were Jesus and John the Baptizer related?

Some believe that the two men were second cousins. This belief is based on an imprecise translation of Luke 1:36. In that verse, the King James Version, for example, states that John’s mother, Elizabeth, and Jesus’ mother, Mary, were cousins.

In reality, however, the word used in the original Greek of this verse is not so specific. It indicates merely that the two women were related, not necessarily that they were cousins. As The Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible puts it, “the term is too broad to be of help in determining their precise relationship.” From where, then, does the idea come that Jesus and John were cousins? The Catholic Encyclopedia answers: “All our information concerning . . . the parents of Mary . . . is derived from apocryphal literature.”

Thus, Jesus and John were at least distantly related, though not necessarily second cousins.