EWTN Catholic Q&A
Question from Anne on 12-12-2012:

Dear Father,

I'm familiar with the explanation about why Jesus' extended relatives were refered to as "brothers and sisters," as there was no other word to describe that extended relationship. And to be clear, I certainly believe that neither Mary (nor Joseph) had any other children besides Jesus. There were no literal brothers or sisters. No question on my part about that.

But what about during the Annunciation, where the angel Gabriel is conversing with Mary. He says that her "relative, Elizabeth" was in her 6th month of pregnancy.

So I just need to be clear about this, so I'm not confused the next time the topic comes up during a discussion. Was there a word for "relative," or not? And if there was, why wasn't the same word used to describe Jesus' extended family that was used to describe Mary's relationship to Elizabeth.

Thank you, and blessed Advent.

Answer by Fr. John Echert on 12-12-2012:

There was a Greek word specific for this and was used with reference to Elizabeth, which was singular and specific. When used in plural and more broadly, the more generic semitic form was employed. Good follow up question, Anne

Father Echert