Germanisches National Museum, Nürnberg, Germany

“Where did this man get this wisdom?” (Matthew 13:54) the crowd gasps when Jesus unfurls a scroll and begins to preach in the synagogue of Nazareth. Their astonishment is apparent on their faces in this illumination from the Codex Aureus of Echternach, made for the Holy Roman Emperor Henry III in about 1055. The congregation declares it knows Jesus well: “Is not this the carpenter’s son? Is not his mother called Mary? And are not his brothers James and Joseph and Simon and Judas? And are not all his sisters with us?” (Matthew 13:55–56).

Though exegetes have long disputed what the terms “brothers” and “sisters” might mean here (are they half or step siblings or even cousins?), this gospel passage indicates that these siblings were clearly well-known members of Jesus’ inner family circle.