A good reason to accept the theory of evolution is that it predicts what we will find in the fossil record and its predictions have not yet failed. No one has found a rabbit fossil in pre-Cambrian rocks.
If James had been a sibling of Jesus and a leader in the Jerusalem church (along with Peter and John), then we can expect to find certain indicators of this in certain kinds of evidence. If our reasonable expectations (predictions) fail, then we have an obligation to reconsider our earlier conclusions that led to our expectations.
Dr James McGrath demonstrates an unfortunate oversight of this fundamental principle (and also shows a taste for porky pies) when he writes:
It is entertaining to watch mythicists, who claim to be guided by the principle that the epistles are earlier and more reliable, while the later Gospels essentially turned a mythical Christ into a historical figure, jettison that supposed principle whenever it becomes inconvenient. When evidence of a historical Jesus is highlighted in the epistles, they will appeal to Acts, or epistles likely to be later forgeries, in an attempt to avoid the clear meaning of Paul’s reference to James as Jesus’ brother.
Mainstream historical scholarship can be discussed in terms of whether it’s conclusions are justified upon the basis of its methods. Or one can discuss whether the methods themselves are valid. In the case of mythicism, neither is possible, because it has no consistent methods and no conclusions, just foreordained outcomes and the use of any tools selectively that will allow one to reach them.
Or to put it simpler still, why do you trust Acts to indicate what Paul meant by “James” yet reject it when it comes to what Paul meant by “Jesus”?
Firstly, James McGrath knows very well that Earl Doherty at no point based his interpretation of Galatians 1:19 on the evidence of later epistles or Acts. Some readers might even be excused for suspecting McGrath is being a bald-faced friar, so he might like to write a clarification of this comment to dispel any suggestion that he is telling an outright porky about Doherty’s argument.
Doherty has approximately a three and a quarter page discussion about the question of “James, the brother of the Lord” in chapter 6, with each page around about 500 words at a guess. It is only in the final “quarter page” section that Doherty introduces the evidence of the later (post-Pauline) epistles of James and Jude. There is no reference to Acts at all.
And what does Doherty say of these epistles in relation to Galatians 1:19? Perhaps McGrath should be asked that question so he can assure his readers that he at no point meant to say that Doherty interprets Paul through the later letters, and that what he wrote was only the result of a late-night effort and he should not be held to anything said under those conditions.
Here is how Doherty introduces the discussion of the evidence of those later epistles:
But there are further indications that early Christians knew of no sibling relationship between James and Jesus. The New Testament epistle of James opens this way: “James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ . . .” (p. 63).
Two paragraphs follow. Neither Paul nor Galatians appears in either of them. I have outlined Doherty’s entire argument in chapter 6, including his discussion of the Brother of the Lord verse in Galatians 1:19, in an earlier post for quick reference. I had initially hoped (in vain, as it turns out) that by making Doherty’s argument transparent online that McGrath would have confined himself within the bounds of honesty in whatever he said about the arguments found there.
But back to the prediction discussion I began with. (This is a separate discussion from Doherty’s argument per se.) The problem with the historical Jesus hypothesis is that it keeps running up against evidence that has to be explained away to make it work. One would expect more references to the life and sayings of the earthly Jesus in the New Testament epistles, but this lack is (quite seriously) explained away by suggesting that everyone knew about all of that so there was no need or interest in referring to any of it in any of the letters. Absence of evidence for a knowledge of a historical Jesus is thus twisted into evidence for knowledge of the historical Jesus. If James were the sibling of Jesus, we could reasonably expect there to be some indicator of that in a letter claiming to be by James, in another claiming to be by a brother of James, and in a narrative that presents James as a leader in the church. There are other anomalies, too, that Doherty has covered in his chapter — the one I linked to above.
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