Never throw out old books. I have caught up with my 1942 edition of Jesus Not A Myth by A. D. Howell Smith. The book is an argument against mythicism as it was argued by a range of authors in its day: J. M. Robertson, Thomas Whittacker, L. Gordon Rylands, Arthur Drews, Bergh van Eysinga, L. Couchoud, Edouard Dujardin and W. B. Smith. It’s a refreshing book for its professional spirit and respectful tone, and for its acknowledgement of both weaknesses and strengths of the mythicist case.
Here are two excerpts from the discussion concerning the question of the Galatians 1:19 reference to James the brother of the Lord. Pages 76 and 77/8. Keep in mind that the author is arguing against mythicism and for the historicity of Jesus. He not only acknowledges the possibility of interpolation, but goes on to explain a possible motive for it. I have marked the argument for interpolation in bold type.
Unless the allusion is interpolated, Paul had an interview with a brother of Jesus, who was one of the three “pillars” of the Church of Jerusalem (Gal. i, 19). There is a critical case of some slight cogency against the authenticity of Gal. i, 18, 19, which was absent from Marcion’s Apostolicon; the word “again” in Gal. ii, 1, which presupposes the earlier passage, seems to have been interpolated as it is absent from Irenaeus’s full and accurate citation of this section of the Epistle to the Galatians in his treatise against Heretics. Robertson maintains that the “Brothers of the Lord” were originally a religious group. Perhaps there was such a group, the members of which claimed to belong to the Davidic clan and so could regard themselves as kinsmen (“brothers” in the loose Oriental sense) of the coming Messianic king of David’s line. But Robertson admits, as one would expect all persons of common sense to do, that the designation “brother of the Lord,” as applied to James in Gal. i, 19, cannot be a group name. Drews, however, finds no difficulty in supposing this, and even equates the name with Christians generally. On the strength of 1 Co. ix, 5, where Paul insists on his right to “a wife that is a believer, even as the rest of the Apostles, and the Brethren of the Lord, and Cephas,” Draws concludes: “There it is evident that the expression by no means necessarily refers to bodily relationship, but that ‘Brother’ serves only to designate the followers of the religion of Jesus.
Why, then, does Paul distinguish the “Brothers of the Lord” from “the other Apostles” and Cephas? Were the latter not “followers of the religion of Jesus”? Drews offers an additional explanation of James’s fraternal relation to Jesus. James, it appears, “was specially so called, because the Lord at his death had confided to him the sons of his mother.” These words are cited from Jerome, who was determined to explain away everything in the New Testament that conflicted with his theory of the perpetual celibacy of Joseph, the putative father of Jesus. “The sons of his mother” Drews expounds as meaning “the members of the community at Jerusalem.”
Who was the James who is called in Gal. i, 19 “the brother of the Lord”? Eisler has given a number of reasons, not without weight, for identifying this “pillar” with James the Son of Zebedee. If, as has been surmised, Gal. i, 18, 19 is an interpolation, the principal object of which is to stress the pre-eminence of Peter, there is no other passage in this Epistle to throw light on his origin. . . . . .
. . . . . . It is certainly strange that three favourite disciples of Jesus (Peter, James, and John) should play so prominent a part in the beginnings of the Church of Jerusalem, and that, when James has been executed, another man of the same name should at once mysteriously take his place. If Drews, instead of building on Jerome’s quibbles, had delved more carefully into the New Testament and other data on the three traditional early Christian leaders of the name of James, he might have opened a fruitful line of research. . . . .