The Gospel of the Nazarenes is an early Jewish-Christian gospel, now known only in a few quotations in works by ancient Christian writers.


The list in John 19:25 reads as follows: “[Jesus’] mother and his mother’s sister, Mary of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene.” This could be read as a list of four women. Most likely, however, there are only three. “Mary of Clopas” is probably in apposition to “his mother’s sister.” If Mary of Clopas was Clopas’s wife, then she was in fact Jesus’ mother’s husband’s brother’s wife—a relationship that, not surprisingly, the evangelist has preferred to state less precisely as his mother’s sister.


We know of this event only from Julius Africanus, who says that Herod attempted to obscure his own non-Jewish origins by destroying the record of others’ Jewish descent.


Kokhaba is most likely the Galilean village of that name (modern Kaukab), about 10 miles north of Nazareth.



Protoevangelium of James 19:3–20:4; Gospel of Philip 59:6–11; Epiphanius, Panarion 78.8.1; 78.9.6.


For a recent argument, by a Roman Catholic New Testament scholar, that this is the most probable implication of the New Testament evidence, see John P. Meier, A Marginal Jew: Rethinking the Historical Jesus, 2 vols. (New York: Doubleday, 1991–1994), vol. 1, pp. 316–332, and “The Brothers and Sisters of Jesus in Ecumenical Perspective,” Catholic Biblical Quarterly 54 (1992), pp. 1–28. For a critique of Meier’s arguments, see Richard Bauckham, “The Brothers and Sisters of Jesus: An Epiphanian Response to John P. Meier,” Catholic Biblical Quarterly 56 (1994), pp. 686–700.


Protoevangelium of James 9:2, 17:1–2, 18:1; Infancy Gospel of Thomas 16:1–2; Gospel of Peter, according to Origen, Commentary on Matthew 10.17.


Quoted in Eusebius, Historia Ecclesiastica (Hist. Eccl.) 2.23.4; 3.11; 3.20.1; 4.22.4.


Quoted in Eusebius, Hist. Eccl. 3.11; 3.32.6; 4.22.4.


The other is an Aramaic document from the early second century C.E., found at Murabba‘at (Mur. 33, line 5).


Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews 20.9.1. The more legendary account in Hegesippus agrees that he suffered death by stoning.


Quoted in Eusebius, Hist. Eccl. 1.7.14.


In my Jude and the Relatives of Jesus in the Early Church (Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1990), chap. 7, I argue in detail that the Lukan genealogy of Jesus derives from the circle of the brothers of Jesus, who adapted a traditional family genealogy to make it the vehicle of a quite sophisticated christological message.


According to E.M. Smallwood (“Atticus, Legate of Judaea Under Trajan,” Journal of Roman Studies 52 [1962], pp. 131–133), the martyrdom may be more firmly dated to either between 99 and 103 C.E. or between 108 and 117 C.E.


Quoted in Eusebius, Hist. Eccl. 3.19.1–3.20.7; 3.32.5–6. The brothers’ names are preserved not in Eusebius’s quotations from Hegesippus but in another ancient summary of Hegesippus’s account of them (Paris MS 1555A and Bodleian MS Barocc. 142).


Apart from the information that members of the third generation of the family of Jesus were still active in Christian leadership, the most interesting aspect of the story is what it tells us about the farm that the brothers held in partnership. The size and value given are so precise that it is likely that they rest on accurate detail. The farm was not divided between the brothers but owned jointly, no doubt because this family continued the old Jewish tradition of keeping a small holding undivided as the joint property of the “father’s house,” rather than dividing it between heirs. So, two generations back, this farm would have belonged to Joseph and his brother Clopas. Unfortunately, since the plethron has two possible sizes, it seems impossible to determine whether the farm was about 12 or 24 acres. In either case, this is not much land to support two families, and Joseph had at least seven children to feed. It is not surprising that he (and later Jesus) supplemented the family income by working as a carpenter.


The Franciscan excavators discovered a fourth-century mosaic bearing the inscription “Gift of Conon, deacon of Jerusalem” at the entrance to the cave beneath the Church of the Annunciation. They speculated that the cave was dedicated to the local cult of Conon, the martyred gardener, and that a later gentile Christian from Jerusalem dedicated the mosaic out of reverence for his namesake, who was honored there.


Readers wishing to study the relatives of Jesus more fully can turn to my longer studies: Relatives of Jesus, esp. chaps. 1–2; “Salome the Sister of Jesus, Salome the Disciple of Jesus, and the Secret Gospel of Mark,” Novum Testamentum 33 (1991), pp. 246–254; “Mary of Clopas (John 19:25),” in G.J. Brooke, ed., Women in the Biblical Tradition (Lewiston, NY: Mellen, 1992), pp. 231–255; “James and the Jerusalem Church,” in Bauckham, ed., The Book of Acts in Its Palestinian Setting.