This revised post I originally wrote in 2015 and it has received an enormous amount of traffic over the years–definitely in the “Top Ten” category of over 500 posts on this Blog. I have revised it here and there but it sets forth a solution to the matter of how one might account for all the children of Mary, the mother of Jesus, in terms of their paternal relationships–whether half-brothers, step-brothers, or cousins. What I present here depends on ones understanding of the mysterious man known as “Alphaeus,” (Aramaic) or “Clophas,” (Greek), and his relationship to both Joseph, husband of Mary, as well as Mary herself. We read of a “James the son of Alphaeus,” as well as his brother Jude–and we know of a Simon son of Clophas/Alphaeus, who succeeded James in leadership after he was murdered. This begins to sound uncannily like Jesus’ three brothers: James, Simon, and Jude–leaving the brother Jose/Joseph as possibly Joseph Matthias–or “Matthew” aka Levi son of Alphaeus (Mark 2:14). Levi, as well as other priestly, even Hasmonean, names, including a half dozen “Matthews,” are included in the Luke 3:23-38 genealogy of Jesus–which I take to be that of Mary, descended of David through Nathan–not Solomon. That would then mean that Jesus included among the Twelve–three if not four of his brothers.
On the statistic probabilities of this in terms of the names themselves, see the fascinating article by mathematician Andrew Sills, “The Apostles and Brothers of Jesus,” in The Tomb of Jesus and His Family?: Exploring Ancient Jewish Tombs Near Jerusalem’s Walls, James H. Charlesworth, editor (Eerdmans, 2013), available on-line here: https://digitalcommons.georgiasouthern.edu/math-sci-facpubs/176