Teodoro Vidal Collection, National Museum of American Art/Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC/Art Resource, NY

Jesus’ family is arrayed on the tips of the fingers of this 10-inch-tall Puerto Rican carving known as La Mano Poderosa, or The All Powerful Hand (c. 1900). From thumb to pinkie, the minute figures depict Jesus, Mary, Joseph and Mary’s parents Anne and Joachim. The red gash across the palm represents the wounds of the crucified Jesus. Dangling from the thumb are two small metal cutouts in the shape of a human leg and chest; they were probably hung here in gratitude by the owner of the carving when prayers to heal these body parts were answered.

The names of Joseph, Mary and Jesus are, of course, well attested in the New Testament. Anne and Joachim appear first in a highly fanciful account of Mary’s childhood from about 150 C.E. There’s very little chance that their names are authentic. So who did belong to Jesus’ family? Poring over the pages of the New Testament and the earliest histories of the Church, Richard Bauckham has begun to reconstruct Jesus’ family tree. He has not only identified the names of Jesus’ brothers and possibly his sisters, an aunt, an uncle, a cousin, and several grand-nephews, but he has also determined the key role they played in the development of the early Church.