Families In the New Testament

Perhaps surprisingly there are very few mentions of families in the New Testament. We know virtually nothing about the Apostles’ families–which of them had wives and children or not. We know that Peter, James, and “other apostles” did: “Do we not have the right to take along a believing wife, as do the other apostles and the brothers of the Lord and Cephas?” (1 Cor. 9:5). Jesus healed Peter’s mother-in-law when she had a bad fever (Luke 4:38, 39).

Mary and Martha appear to be single and we don’t know whether their brother Lazarus was married or not. We hear about the 84 year old widow prophetess Anna who prayed at the temple day and night. We can probably assume she had no children. Timothy, who became a prominent evangelist, was the son of a Jewish mother and a Greek father: “A disciple was there named Timothy, the son of a Jewish woman who was a believer, but his father was a Greek” (Acts 16:1). This marriage arrangement was forbidden (Deut. 7:3-4), yet Paul took Timothy along and mentored him to be an evangelist.

Timothy may have remained single. In fact, the same is true of Barnabas, Silas, and Titus. We know for sure that Paul was single. The Samaritan woman at the well had five previous husbands and was with a current man when Jesus spoke to her. We have no idea if, or how many, children she might have had. The Bible doesn’t say. But she evangelized an entire village. There is no such thing as a “typical family” described in the New Testament. Like today, some families were divided. Some married. Some didn’t. Some were divorced or widowed. But God used them all to do his kingdom work!