After these things Jesus walked in Galilee: for he would not walk in Jewry, because the Jews sought to kill him.…
The family dispute which John relates from personal knowledge, with the frankness and simplicity of a genuine historian, gives us an insight into the domestic trials of our Saviour. The unbelief of His brothers need not surprise us any more than the unbelief of the Nazarenes generally (John 4:44). Not un-frequently the nearest relatives throw more obstacles in the way of God's children than strangers. Christ entered into the condition of fallen humanity with all its temptations and miseries. Hence His sympathy in this as in all (Hebrews 2:17, 18; Hebrews 5:7, 8). But the full significance of the passage depends upon the proper view of the brothers of Jesus. Here I must dissent from the cousin theory of , which assumes that three of them, James, Simon, and Jude, were apostles. This passage is one of the strongest arguments in favour of the more natural view that they were members of the Holy family, and under the care of Joseph and Mary, in whose company they constantly appear.
1. It is plain that John here, as in chap. John 2:12, and in harmony with the Synoptists and Acts 1:13, 1 Corinthians 9:5, distinguishes the brothers of Jesus from the apostles.
2. But what is more conclusive, John represents the brothers as unbelievers, and as using irreverent language against Christ, which could not have been the case had they been apostles. Not that they were unbelievers in the same sense as Jews or pagans, but not believers as the apostles must have been, at least from the miracle at Cana (John 2:11; comp. ver. 22; 16:17; 17:8). It would have been easy for John to have said, "some" of His brethren did not believe, had the others been believing apostles. John recognizes different degrees of belief (comp. John 2:23; John 4:39; John 8:31; John 12:42), and of unbelief, but he never confounds the sharp lines between belief and unbelief. Moreover, the language of the brothers contrasts with the reverence shown by the apostles on every occasion, even when they could not understand His conduct (John 4:27).
3. Our Lord characterizes them as men of the world whom the world cannot hate (ver. 7); while He says the very reverse of the apostles (John 15:18; Matthew 10:5, 22, 40). We infer, then, that all the four brothers were distinct from the apostles, and not converted till after the Resurrection (Acts 1:14; 1 Corinthians 15:7). As to the other question whether they were older from a former, otherwise unknown, marriage of Joseph (the Greek tradition defended by ), or younger children of Mary and Joseph (the view held by and , and denounced first by as heretical and profane, because of its conflict with the tenet of Mary's perpetual virginity), the passage gives no decisive answer. The patronizing tone of the brothers seems to favour the former view; but may be found also with younger brothers.
(P. Schaff, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: After these things Jesus walked in Galilee: for he would not walk in Jewry, because the Jews sought to kill him.