20. Earl Doherty’s Response to Bart Ehrman’s Case Against Mythicism – Part 20

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by Earl Doherty


The Brother of the Lord



  • brother of the Lord
  • the meaning of “brother” in the epistles
  • brethren of a sect?
  • plain meanings
  • apologist objections:
    • who is “the Lord”?
    • battle of the prepositions
  • question begging as methodology
  • why not “brother of Jesus”?
  • or “brothers of Jesus”?
  • separating Cephas and James
  • G. A. Wells: a Jewish messianic group?
  • more grammar: genitive vs dative
  • Josephus’ James
  • Ehrman on Robert Price
  • “brother of the Lord” as a marginal gloss
  • question begging as methodology: Ehrman as beggar


* * * * *

Paul’s Associations

(Did Jesus Exist? pp. 145-156)


English: James the Just, Lord´s brother. Russi...

In his 5th chapter (approximately halfway through the book), Ehrman says he will “wrap up” his discussion of the historical evidence for Jesus by putting forward two points, two pieces of “Key Data” which confer a “high degree of certainty that (Jesus) was an historical figure.”

The first of these is a favorite of apologists everywhere, because it is so straightforward, so plain. No complex study of a text is required, no knowledge about ancient philosophy or obscure languages is necessary. We merely need to bring an obvious meaning to a five-word phrase, a phrase that is simple even in the original Greek where it is only four words, prefaced by a man’s name: “Iakōbon ton adelphon tou kuriou”:

James, the brother of the Lord

What could be simpler? We ‘know’ from the Gospels that Jesus had a brother named James. Here Paul is declaring that when he visited Jerusalem three years after his conversion to get to know Cephas, he also saw “James, the brother of the Lord” (Galatians 1:19). How could Jesus have had a brother if he had not lived on earth? Can mythicists not read?

Fortunately, we can. We can read a host of other appearances of the word “brother” (adelphos) in the epistles. Here are a few:

Rom. 16:23 – Greetings also from . . . our brother Quartus.

1 Cor. 1:1 – Paul . . . and our brother Sosthenes

1 Cor. 5:11 – you must not associate with anyone who calls himself a brother but is immoral or greedy . . .

1 Cor. 7:12 – If any brother has an unbelieving wife . . .

1 Cor. 8:13 – If food causes my brother to stumble . . . I will not cause my brother to fall.

1 Cor. 16:11-12 – I am expecting (Timothy) along with the brothers. As for brother Apollos, I strongly urged him to go to you with the brothers.

2 Cor. 2:13 – . . . because I did not find my brother Titus there.

2 Cor. 8:18 – We are sending with him the brother who is praised by all the churches . . .

Phil. 2:25 – . . . to send back to you Epaphroditus, my brother and fellow-worker . . .

Col. 4:7 – (Tychicus) is a dear brother and faithful servant in the Lord.

1 Thes. 3:2 – Timothy, our brother and fellow-worker of God in the gospel of Christ.

1 Tim. 3:15 – Yet do not regard him as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother.

1 Pet. 5:12 – Silvanus, the faithful brother . . .

2 Pet. 3:15 – Paul, our friend and brother . . .

Rev. 1:9 – I, John, your brother, who share with you . . .

Brethren of a sect

All of these refer unmistakably to men who are members of the sect (and there are a handful of occurrences of the word “sister” referring unmistakably to a female member of the sect). The above amount to 14 out of a total of over 40 in the epistles.

In addition, there are about a dozen which, while ambiguously worded, are also virtually certain to be meant as members of the sect, such as:

1 Cor. 6:6 – Is it possible that there is nobody among you wise enough to judge a dispute between believers [brothers], but one brother goes to law against another, and this in front of unbelievers?

James 2:15 – If a brother or a sister is in rags with not enough food for the day . . .

James 4:11 – He who disparages a brother or passes judgment on his brother disparages the law and judges the law.

1 Jn 2:9 – Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates his brother is still in the darkness.

1 Jn 3:10-11 – No one who does not do right is God’s child, nor is anyone who does not love his brother. The latter means a member of sect, since: For the message you have heard from the beginning is this: that we should love one another.

And that’s just in the singular. References to “brothers” in the plural also abound in the dozens, with a clear meaning of “brethren” of the sect, such as:

1 Cor. 15:6 – Then he was seen by over five hundred brothers at once.

Heb. 2:11 – . . . for which reason, he [Jesus] is not ashamed to call (the ones made holy, i.e., believers) his brothers.

1 Pet. 5:9 – You know that our brotherhood throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings.

And at this point we need to note the reference in 1 Corinthians 9:5 to “the brothers of the Lord” which is regularly paired with Galatians 1:19 as allegedly referring to siblings of Jesus.

Plain meanings

In the singular, I have been able to locate in the epistles and Revelation only two usages of the word “brother” having the clear meaning of “sibling”: a reference in 1 John to Cain as the murderer of his brother Abel, and the ascription heading the epistle of Jude: “Jude, a servant of Jesus Christ and brother of James.” In the plural there is technically one, in 1 Timothy 5:2. As far as the world of the epistle writers is concerned, a “plain meaning” of “brother” equals the sense of “brethren” in a religious group; it is at least as natural as the sense of sibling. We in the 21st century rarely employ that sense, so to impose our idea of ‘plain meaning’ on theirs is an unjustified anachronism.


But the apologist objects: “Your examples don’t refer to any of these ‘brothers’ in relation to Jesus!”


1. Who is “the Lord”?

Well, first of all, neither does Galatians 1:19 or 1 Corinthians 9:5. James and the others are not stated as the brothers of Jesus, but brothers of the Lord. Since “Lord” is applied to both Father and Son in the epistles, can we even be sure which Lord is meant here? Consider 1 Thessalonians 3:2 noted above:

Timothy, our brother and fellow-worker of God in the gospel of [i.e., about] Christ.

Here Paul refers to Timothy as a worker for God, a theocentric focus very common in the epistles, and the work they do is to spread the gospel about Christ, who is regularly said to be revealed (using various revelation words) in scripture. We cannot assign the “gospel” to Christ himself, because Paul calls his gospel the “gospel of God” found in scripture (as in Rom. 1:2, 16:25), as well as assigning just about everything else to God. It is God who does the calling, the disclosing, who sends the Spirit. It is “God’s act of redemption” (Rom. 3:24); it is God “who began the good work” (Phil. 1:6). “It is all God’s doing,” says Paul (2 Cor. 1:21). So if this passage seems to suggest a brother in the sect as being linked with God, doing his work on behalf of God, not Jesus, this may give us an indicator of who “the Lord” is in Galatians 1:19 and 1 Corinthians 9:5.

2. The battle of the prepositions

Second, there are in fact—in answer to the apologist’s objection—a number of further cases in which the word “brother” is linked with “the Lord” (never Jesus). While they, too, are ambiguously worded, if they were to be interpreted in terms of Christ we would nevertheless have a clear reference to a sect member, or members, in that linkage.

Eph. 6:21 – “Tychicus, the dear brother and faithful servant in the Lord.” (Cf. Col. 4:7 above)

Phil. 1:14 – “…most of the brothers in the Lord have been encouraged to speak the word of God…

What separates this phrase, in singular and plural, from the “brother of the Lord” in Galatians 1:19 and “the brothers of the Lord” in 1 Corinthians 9:5? A single preposition (in English; in the Greek it is the difference between the genitive case entailing “of” and the dative case with the preposition “en”).

Historicists are convinced that this single difference makes the meanings absolutely unrelated: one means siblings, the other means devotees. Well, I’d hate to have to put money on it.


With this survey in view, we can now consider what Ehrman has to say on the matter.


Question-begging as methodology

In approaching the famous passage in Galatians, Ehrman links Cephas (whom he identifies with the Peter of the Gospels) with James, whom Paul calls (if these are authentically his words) “the brother of the Lord.” Ehrman regards Cephas/Peter as Jesus’ “most intimate companion and confidant for his entire public ministry.” When Paul says that he went up to Jerusalem three years after his conversion, Ehrman admits that he might have gone there to “strategize” with him about his own gospel to the gentiles and other aspects of the movement. However,

But it defies belief that Paul would have spent over two weeks with Jesus’s closest companion and not learned something about him—for example, that he lived.” (DJE? p. 145)

This is undoubtedly the most ludicrous statement Bart Ehrman makes in the entire book. Has he not heard of the concept, the logical fallacy, of “begging the question”? He even begs a question within that statement. If Paul spent time with a man who was Jesus’ closest companion — and knew that (and how could he not?) — then he didn’t need to learn from Peter that Jesus had lived. But there is a second additional fallacy here, in that if Paul was himself preaching a cosmic Christ who had been a Jesus on earth, he had to know that as well, so there was doubly no question about learning from Cephas that Jesus had lived. (Or . . . maybe this is the solution to the traditional Pauline problem! Paul learned about the cosmic Son from scripture, but wasn’t aware that he had been on earth, so naturally he knew nothing about that earthly life and could hardly have referred to anything in it! Peter clued him in about the incarnation to earth!)

But apart from the internal illogic of the statement itself, Ehrman is writing a book about mythicism and the arguments against it. In other words, the existence of Jesus is the subject of the book and the end result sought in the debate. Is Ehrman going to demonstrate that the Galatians passage proves the existence of Jesus by claiming that Paul must have learned about the historical Jesus from Peter since the latter had been his chief disciple and confidant (thus assuming that existence), and that Paul could not have spent two weeks with him without learning the details of his life and even the fact that he had existed?!

The term “begging the question” is almost inadequate to characterize this absurd line of argument.


Why not “brother of Jesus”?

And there’s more. Moving on to James, Ehrman admits that Paul calls him “the brother of the Lord,” not “brother of Jesus.”

But that means very little since Paul typically calls Jesus the Lord and rarely uses the name Jesus (without adding “Christ” or other titles). (DJE? p. 145)

So now we are not permitted to claim that “the Lord” does not mean the human Jesus, says Ehrman, because Paul typically calls (the human) Jesus “the Lord.” The words in brackets here have to be intended by Ehrman, otherwise his claim that this “means very little” would have no force. But that very thought in brackets makes this another blatant case of begging the question. And since it is indeed true that Paul rarely uses “Jesus” without “Christ” or other titles like “the Lord,” this would indicate that for him even the name “Jesus” has no discernible human-man implication, but is part of the terminology for his heavenly Christ and Lord.

But let’s consider another aspect of the question. Ehrman is quite sure that “the Lord” refers to the human Jesus, as are other historicists, and ridicules the idea that it could be anything else. But let’s consider for a moment what Paul would have in mind. If he was indeed speaking of James as a sibling, there is certainly no question that to say “brother of Jesus” would have been the most natural and most fitting way to express it.

It has been suggested that in Greek letter-writing, a respected figure was often addressed, such as a father by a son or a politician by a citizen, as “Lord” rather than by his personal name. It was a mark of deference. True enough. But there is surely a significant difference here. What, for Paul, was the connotation of his term “Lord” in regard to his Jesus? A simple father or respected figure? Let’s consider a few passages:

1 Cor. 8:6 – There is . . . one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and we through him.

Rom. 14:9 – Christ died and returned to life, so that he might be Lord over the dead and the living.

1 Cor. 2:8 – The rulers of this age [which the ancients understood as demon spirits] would not have crucified the Lord of glory.

Eph. 5:29 – (from the Pauline school) . . . but he feeds and cares for it, just as the Lord does the church, for we are members of his body.

Col. 1:15f – (from the Pauline school) (the Son) who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible. . . . He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.

The latter passage does not use the term “Lord” but it could certainly be applicable here. This is what Paul, and those who wrote soon afterward in his name, understand by “the Lord,” the figure they worship. Now, in a context of referring to a sibling of the human incarnation on earth of this cosmic figure, would Paul have been likely to call James “brother of the Lord”? Given the associations with this term which are constantly in Paul’s mind, it would be like saying: James the brother of the creator and sustainer of the universe, James the brother of the head of the body which is the church and of which we ourselves are the limbs, James the brother of the Lord of glory.

Given the “Lord’s” exclusively cosmic associations in the epistles, it is quite legitimate for mythicists to question whether Paul would ever have said “the sibling of the Lord.” Such a juxtaposition would be quite jolting. Moreover, Paul is constantly referring to his Christ Jesus as the son of God the Father (and clearly not in the mild biblical sense), as in 2 Cor. 11:31. Would “sibling of the Lord” not conjure up an image of James as a son of God in the same way as well? As Ehrman points out, Paul is capable of referring to the name “Jesus” by itself, though it is a relative rarity. There should have been no impediment or reluctance to referring to James as the “sibling of Jesus.”

If Paul had anywhere given us a sense that he thought about Jesus on the scale of a human man, someone who had experiences on earth, a family and friends, a mother whom he could name, talked of him walking the sands of Galilee, facing the ordinary trials of life, if he had mentioned the sites of his ministry, had talked about what it meant for the Son of God to live in human flesh and the challenges that presented, then perhaps we could be comfortable with him stating that his “Lord” had a sibling. But in the face of that void, the phrase as so interpreted rings anything but true. In the face of that void, the historicist’s smugly insistent claim that Galatians 1:19 can only mean one thing becomes highly dubious and quite unprovable.

(By later in the second century, we find the phrase “brother of the Lord” in reference to James the Just common, but this is building on the earlier occurrence of it; it is the reinterpretation of a traditional phrase which had begun with a different meaning. It now has Gospel-level associations to the term “Lord” which Paul shows no sign of. By now the Christian mind would have envisioned the term much closer to earth, and there would be no sense of anomaly.)

And so in the letter to the Galatians Paul states as clearly as possible that he knew Jesus’s brother. Can we get any closer to an eyewitness report than this? The fact that Paul knew Jesus’s closest disciple and his own brother throws a real monkey wrench into the mythicist view that Jesus never lived.” (DJE? pp. 145-146)

If a noted New Testament scholar can engage in the special pleading and illogical argumentation we have seen (and it is far from limited to Ehrman), it is no wonder that mythicism can make little headway in winning over hearts and minds within academia—especially minds.


The brothers of the Lord

Ehrman now moves sideways to consider the phrase “the brothers of the Lord” in 1 Corinthians 9:5. He has already noted, he says, that this could not be referring to brothers “in some kind of loose, spiritual sense” (which I essentially agreed with in the way he phrased it previously). But he now presents it this way:

Paul does frequently use the term brothers in this metaphorical way when addressing the members of his congregations. (DJE? p. 146)

Well, we have noted above that Paul, not just frequently, but consistently uses the term in application to fellow believers, fellow apostles, and members of Christian congregations. He actually never uses it in the sense of sibling, though this, of course, does not of itself preclude such a meaning in Galatians 1:19 or 1 Corinthians 9:5. It just puts a damper on Ehrman’s egregious claims.


Separating Cephas and James

In regard to the latter passage, Ehrman repeats his argument that by separating out Cephas and himself from those “brothers of the Lord” he is denying to both whatever status the phrase represents, and thus it could not be the status of being a believer or Christian apostle. Well, as I pointed out previously, Ehrman himself in another passage (15:5-7) does not deny Cephas the status of apostle just because he is named separately from a reference to “the twelve” (under the assumption that this means the Gospel disciples) and to “all the apostles.” Ehrman has made two opposite claims from the same kind of linguistic situation.

In turn, Ehrman thinks to apply his 9:5 claim to the Galatians passage. If Paul mentions Cephas, then says he only saw James, the brother of the Lord, and meant a member of the sect, this would constitute an exclusion of Cephas from being a brother of the Lord in that sense. First of all, this by no means follows from Paul’s statement. There is no necessary differentiation or comparison intended. The two thoughts are separate.

Paul went to Jerusalem to get to know Cephas and spent fifteen days with him. Then he adds that while he was there he did not see any of the other apostles except James, and he identifies him as “(the/a) brother of the Lord.” The fact that, for whatever reason, he made such an identification for James but had not made a similar one for Cephas does not have to imply an intention to differentiate. To claim such an intention (which Ehrman does) is not even valid if we were to understand the phrase to mean sibling of Jesus, for why would Paul be concerned with implying that Cephas was not a sibling of Jesus? The phrase would have been simply a way of identifying James. Thus, playing the differentiation card is a red herring.

But if Paul included the descriptive “brother of the Lord” as a way of identifying James, we may then ask: if it meant a member of the sect, why might that identification have been included and why was Cephas not given the same identification? Reasonable possibilities present themselves.

  • From 1 Corinthians we get the impression that Cephas was a well-known figure in the cult’s circles;
  • he may have needed no identification as one of the “brethren”;
  • or Paul may simply not have thought to include it at that point.

James, on the other hand, is mentioned only in this part of Galatians and as part of the “seeing” traditions enumerated in 1 Corinthians 15:5-7. Perhaps when Paul got to his mention of James, he may have felt a need to supply such an identification.

I made the point in Jesus: Neither God Nor Man (p.62) that one cannot place any significance on the definite article “the” before “brother of the Lord.” Grammatical practice encouraged its insertion, even if only an indefinite-article sense was in mind (Greek had no indefinite article). So claiming a singling out of James by Paul with the implication that no one else enjoyed the same status of “brother” is entirely unjustified. On that basis, too, we can set aside this being an implied reference to James as the leader of the sect.

Context also is against Ehrman. Paul in that letter (let alone anywhere else) gives us no hint that James enjoyed any privileged position due to a sibling relationship with an historical Jesus, and only a few verses later (2:6) he disparages the whole Jerusalem lot as of no importance, not even recognized by God as important. That lack of privilege and connection to Jesus is clinched in 2:7-8 when Paul says that Peter (and presumably the other ‘pillars’) were given their responsibility by God, not by Jesus or by virtue of their association with him, for carrying the gospel to the Jews. Such a context, and the wider one throughout all the epistles which never make any such associations, does not support Ehrman’s preferred reading of “brother of the Lord” as “sibling of Jesus.”


Wells: A Jewish messianic group?

Ehrman now addresses an argument by G. A. Wells, which brings us back to a consideration of “the brothers of the Lord” in 1 Corinthians 9:5. Wells, reflecting J. M. Robertson in 1927, suggested — as have I — that there was a fraternity of messianic Jews in Jerusalem who called themselves “brothers of the Lord.” This explains the term of identification as applied to James, for whatever reason Paul felt it necessary. But Ehrman asks:

And what evidence does Wells cite for such a group of zealous messianic Jews in Jerusalem that separated themselves off from all the other Jerusalem Christians? None. At all. What evidence could there be? No such group is mentioned in any surviving source of any kind whatsoever. Wells (or his predecessor, Robinson) made it up. (DJE? p. 150)

Ehrman confuses a lack of external corroboration with a lack of justification for making a reasonable interpretation of something, especially when there are problems with the preferred alternative and the record as a whole would accommodate it well (which would disallow the accusation of “ad hoc”). If there is no evidence in the epistles that any figures mentioned were physically related to Jesus, that they enjoyed privilege and respect on such a basis, or owed authority and precedence to having sat at his feet, that Jesus himself had appointed anyone to be apostles, or that anyone connected to Jesus — or for that matter to the entire Gospel story — existed within the movement (historicists ignore all these considerations as though they don’t exist), then it is reasonable to postulate other meanings for seemingly ambiguous phrases.

One of those is the one I’ve put forward, perhaps an expansion on that of Wells: that the Jerusalem sect began as a community of monkish Jews who called themselves “brothers of the Lord,” which could even have been a reference to God. This title stayed even when the group expanded its ideas and activities, and its membership.

In fact, we can see an indication of such an expansion in the 1 Corinthians 15:5-7 “appearances” tradition. The sect was already formed when those visions of the Son were experienced. We can’t be sure what the nature of their belief was prior to these pivotal experiences, but they may have produced faith in the existence of the Son and his role (just as happened with Paul in Galatians 1:16), and been the catalyst for prompting a new proselytizing undertaking. In other words, this “brothers of the Lord” sect may have embarked on apostleship to preach their dying and rising Christ, and this may have attracted new members to augment the ranks of “apostles,” members who were not part of the original group and thus did not fall under the appellation that applied to the original members.

There is certainly no need on the basis of the text of 9:5 to deny Cephas membership in the original group. He may well have been added for emphasis by Paul, singled out from the “brothers of the Lord” because of his importance. As I said, Ehrman, in the case of 15:5, makes exactly that sort of denial of exclusion from a separately stated group.


Genitive vs. Dative

Do we have other indicators that “brother(s) of the Lord” may be a devotee and not a sibling designation? We certainly do. I itemized above the occurrence of both singular and plural phrases which link “brother(s)” to “the Lord” differing only by a preposition. Leaving that difference aside for the moment, consider what Ehrman has said. No such group of ‘messianic Christians’ enjoys evidence in the record. Well, what does he think Philippians 1:14’s “brothers in the Lord” refers to? Moreover, it has the ring of a group name, just as the 1 Corinthians 9:5 “brothers of the Lord” does.

The fact that in one case a dative construction with the preposition “en” is used while in another case the genitive is employed is hardly evidence that there is an unbridgeable divide between the two forms of expression. Linguistic practice often has multiple ways of putting the same thing. “The Founding Fathers” and “Fathers of Confederation” hardly entail two distinct groups, let alone two vastly different meanings. (Here, too, we do not have “fathers” used in the sense of physical progenitors, but in a metaphorical sense.)

Nor is it significant that later apocryphal works universally assume that James was Jesus’ sibling. What else would Ehrman expect, given the tradition by that later time? But he once again begs the question by itemizing four “independent traditions” of such a view which include not only both Mark and John (the latter could well have been dependent on Mark, since John shows a clear general dependence on the Synoptics), but Paul himself. One cannot simply declare a correspondence with other passages on the part of the very passages which are the subject of the debate.


Josephus’ James

Ehrman also throws Antiquities 20, with its “brother of Jesus, called Christ,” onto the pile as an “independent tradition” of the phrase. I have dealt with this passage in instalment 6, as I did quite thoroughly in Jesus: Neither God Nor Man. Ehrman failed to address any of it, especially the point that, like the Testimonium, Eusebius is the first to witness to the presence of that phrase in Antiquities 20.

Naturally, Josephus would hardly have said “brother of the Lord,” nor would Eusebius, or some other interpolator, have made the glaring mistake of making him do so, but Ehrman can hardly appeal to it as a tradition supporting “brother of the Lord” in Galatians 1:19 precisely because it is not the same wording. To declare that both have the same meaning is once again to beg the question. And it illustrates the point that “brother of Jesus” would indeed have been the more natural way to express the idea.

Besides, “brother of Jesus” may even have been written by Josephus, but referring to another Jesus (the son of Damneus mentioned immediately after), with only “called Christ” added by a Christian.


Ehrman and Robert Price

Ehrman spends a lot of space dismissing various possibilities put forward by Robert M. Price for understanding how James could be a brother of Jesus without an understanding of sibling. Ehrman is perhaps partly justified in regarding these as a bit of a “stretch,” especially as applicable in the time of Paul, but my point would be that we don’t need to ‘stretch’ to come up with an understanding of the phrase as a reference to being a devotee of “the Lord,” whomever that referred to.


Could it have been a marginal gloss?

Finally, there is always the feasible possibility that the whole thing began simply as a marginal gloss by a later scribe which got inserted into the text. Here it would have meant sibling and been a case of differentiation: not with Cephas, but with the fictional Gospel apostle James, son of Zebedee. Again, when one considers the epistolary record as a whole, with its absolute silence on anyone said or claiming to be associated with a human Jesus, it is unwise to rule such a possibility out. I’m happy to be on the fence to that one.


Ehrman as beggar

To bring us full circle to his starting strategy of begging the question, Ehrman sums up:

In other traditions that long predate our Gospels it is stated that Jesus had actual brothers and that one of them was named James. (DJE? p. 156)

And what are those “other traditions” predating the Gospels? Why, 1 Corinthians 9:5 and Galatians 1:19, of course. Too bad they could not have been set beside the ascriptions to the epistles of James and Jude, which curiously failed to receive or mention the same tradition. James is simply called “the servant of Jesus Christ.” Jude is called the same, but he is also stated as a “brother of James.” This identification would have been made to clarify who Jude was and to increase the authority of a letter from him by reason of being a brother of James the Just. Normally, this would also have made him the brother of Jesus, a relationship far more effective for creating authority. But nothing in the New Testament record reflects the “normal” run of things.

The point is not that mythicism has made an airtight case that “brother(s) of the Lord” cannot under any circumstances refer to siblings or that it must refer to devotees. The point is that historicist appeals to the phrase as some kind of slam-dunk proof of an historical Jesus can easily be shown to be simplistic, often fallacious, and anything but a giant-killer.


. . . to be continued


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35 thoughts on “20. Earl Doherty’s Response to Bart Ehrman’s Case Against Mythicism – Part 20”

  1. As a counterpoint on a the same subject, see the dissertation by R. Joseph Hoffmann in the recent blog “The Jesus Process: A Consultation on the Historical Jesus”.

    “On a few occasions, to nullify the “judaizing” fraternal claims of the superior apostles (hyperlian apostoloi) who are related to Jesus by blood (as brothers or cousins) or adoption, especially James the Lord’s brother,[85] Paul sometimes generalizes the concept of the brothers (adelphoi) to refer to Christian believers, converts or neophytes symbolized in the mystical body of Christ (the “man from heaven”) though Jesus himself does not become (and is never accounted to be) one of these brothers; he is rather the spiritual sine qua non—The Lord–through which the community comes into being.[86] No one can “boast” because all are one in Christ Jesus. Without understanding Paul’s apologetic motive for this usage, the author of Acts maintains it as a synecdoche for the community (e.g., Acts 1.16; 11.1; 13.26; 20.26 [KJV only]), often associated with believers, listeners, aspirants or “children of Abraham” but also maintains the historical precedent that the apostles are distinguished from the brothers and the unique status of James.[87]

    The elimination of James as a “prop” for the historical Jesus has been a priority of the myth theorizers from the beginning of the twentieth century, but has also simply exploited the confusion over the identity of James, or multiple James’s, as an alternative structure of facts. The most familiar example of this is Arthur Drews’s[88] insupportable contention in The Christ Myth (German, 1909) that the easiest way to dispense of the brother-tradition is to recognize that the term “brother” is used equivocally in the sources:

    Certainly that James whose acquaintance Paul made in Jerusalem is designated by him Brother of the Lord and from this it seems to follows that Jesus must have been an historical person. The expression Brother is possibly in this in this case as so often in the Gospels a general expression to designate a follower of Jesus, as the members of a religious society in antiquity often called themselves Brother and sister among themselves. 1 Cor. 9.5 runs “Have we not also the right to take about with us a wife that is a sister even as the other apostles and brothers of the Lord and Cephas.” 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.”[89]

    [Here Hoffmann, true to his cantankerous type, cannot refrain from bad-mouthing Drews to immediately put a negative color before any concrete presentation. ROO]

    Famous for his academic inexactness and sensationalism [Take that, Drews!] even in his own time, Drews begins his observation with the glaring mistake [pile it on, Hoffmann!] that the “followers” of Jesus may here “as is so often the case in the gospels” be referred to as brothers in an honorary or cultic sense. In fact, followers and disciples of Jesus are never once addressed as brother(s) in the gospels in any of the instances where a clear biological relationship is asserted.[90] Then, into the tortured syntax of 1 Corinthians 9.5, he inserts a relative construction missing in the Greek, to justify his belief that “sister” is being used as a circumlocution for “believer.” μὴ οὐκ ἔχομεν ἐξουσίαν ἀδελφὴν γυναῖκα περιάγειν ὡς καὶ οἱ λοιποὶ ἀπόστολοι καὶ οἱ ἀδελφοὶ τοῦ κυρίου καὶ Κηφᾶς; The more obvious meaning of course is “a sister,” [or] “a wife” (i.e., a woman), which has, in fact, become the majority translation. As to the phrase “brothers of the Lord,” it either excludes the higher ranks of “apostles and Peter” or must envisage them as biological brothers (cf. Mk 3.31, Matt. 12.46; K; Lk 8.19; Jn 2.12, 7.3, 5, 10), such as James, who is not mentioned here. Without Drews’s conclusion that the language of the mysteries, absent in the gospels, can be invoked to explain a verse in the epistles, the most obvious translation would be that brothers of Jesus, along with apostles, were seen by Paul as having a right to female companionship or service. The context of the passage, indeed, makes this the only coherent translation: Paul is here talking about the right of an apostle to be served, be paid, and have a share of the earnings (“the fruit’) of his labour, not about “the Christian mystery.” The phrase “brothers in the Lord” in Philippians 1.14 suggests that the author could make a clear distinction between a relational genitive such as Galatians 1.19 (ἀδελφὸs τοῦ Κυρίου) and an instrumental dative (ἀδελφῶi ἐν Κυρίῳ) such as we find in Philippians 1.14.[91]”

    The notes [85] to [91] are particularly relevant to this discussion. Note [85] is extremely instructive on James the Just, called “the Brother of the Lord” and the huge confusion revolving around the name. It is worth reading in full on the site.

    While note [91] is directly aimed at Doherty:

    “[91] One mythicist confidently says after missing this simple grammatical point that “Brothers in the Lord” (ton adelphon en kurio) appears in Philippians 1:14 (the NEB translates it ‘our fellow-Christians’). Surely this is the clue to the meaning of the phrase applied to James.” Earl Doherty, The Jesus Puzzle website http://jesuspuzzle.humanists.net/rfset3.htm (retrieved 10 May 2012)”.

    Note [86″ which had mysteriously disappeared, which I took the trouble of commenting about to Hoffmann (who never paid me the courtesy of acknowledging my comments, which were not published), has suddenly reappeared as “[86] 1 Cor. 12.27; cf. 1.2; Rom. 12.5.”

    1. Whenever Hoffmann starts bad-mouthing and vilipending another NT scholar, we should pay close attention to the arguments of his opponent, because it usually is a sign that the victim of Hoffmann’s derogatory comments may have some serious valid points.
      So, nobody should be deterred by the putdowns of Arthur Drews proffered by Hoffmann. Drews was the major exponent of the non-historicity of Jesus Christ in the early 20th century.
      After publication of his masterpiece, “The Christ Myth” (1909),Arthur Drews put all his ideas in order in “The Witnesses to the Historicity of Jesus” (1912), analyzing all the arguments relative to
      1) The Jewish Witnesses (Philo, Justus, Josephus, Talmud)
      2) The Roman Witnesses (Pliny, Suetonius, Tacitus, Destroyed Pagan Testimonies)
      3) The Witness of Paul (with the discussion of James “The Brother of the Lord” in the first section)
      4) The Witness of the Gospels.
      Practically all discussions of the “Witnesses of Jesus’s Existence” follow the lines laid out by Drews’s argumentation.

      Arthur Drews, a pioneer of “radicalism” and “mythicism”, was enormously influential in his time.
      When Frederick Cornwallis Conybeare (1856-1924) decided to make a stand in favor of the existence of Jesus by refuting the leading radicals of the day, his major book was “The Historical Christ; or, An investigation of the views of Mr. J. M. Robertson, Dr. A. Drews, and Prof. W. B. Smith ” (1914), where all the arguments on both sides are neatly catalogued and diligently refuted in Conybeare’s optic. This was the first scholarly refutal of the major arguments of the non-existence theory.

      Later, Drews came back to the same subject, in “The Denial of the Historicity of Jesus in Past and Present” (1925), which is a historical review of the major deniers of Jesus historicity (radicals, mythicists) from the French Volney and Dupuis to Georg Brendes. Drews established the first historical list of the key mythicists, which has been copied and amplified ever since.
      The prevailing term then was “radicalism”, and Drews was closely connected to what was called the school of “Dutch Radicalism”, which not only denied the existence of Jesus Christ but also that of Paul.
      Drews lent special attention to the adherents of Radicalism in Germany, England, France and the US.

      Arthur Drews was especially influential on the development of the theories of Paul-Louis Couchoud and G. A. Wells, and left his mark on practically all mythicists who followed him.

      1. Note that “The Denial of the Historicity of Jesus in Past and Present” (1926) was meant to be Arthur Drews’s pendant response to Albert Schweitzer’s “Quest for the Historical Jesus” (1906). Drews’s book is constructed in a similar fashion as the “Quest for the non-Historicity of Jesus”, with (like with Schweitzer) a historical review of the key advocates.

        “In the final conclusions, Drews describes the social consequences of a denial of historicity, and explains why so many theologians and secular researchers stick to historicity, though the ahistoricity of Jesus is scientifically as sure as that of Romulus and Remus, or the seven legendary kings of Rome. The consequences are generally underestimated.”

        In the same manner that Schweitzer is a seminal reference for historicists, Drews is a key reference for deniers of Jesus historicity. Drews emphasizes that deniers (radicals, mythicists) do not form a community, not even a movement (contrary to some contemporary mythicists who dream of “uniting” them against an entity called “Christianity”.)

        “It is quite understandable that the denial party is unique only in that point [of the non-historicity], and otherwise offers a variety of diverging explanations [each denier has his own independent theory]. The church has done everything for 2000 years to obscure and hide away the origins of Christianity, so that there’s no way to get any further without speculative hypotheses.

        It is obvious that no serious researcher could claim the historicity of Jesus, unless it were the savior of the dominating religion of the prevailing culture. So there’s nothing but Christian prejudice which keeps even secular researchers from admitting non-historicity, except of course the small minority of those who do.”

  2. Don’t forget about Marcion. He was a good reason and motive for the orthodoxy to forge Galatians 1:19 and 1 Cor. 9:5. Also, to later forge the paragraph in Antiquities 18 and add “the brother of Jesus called Christ” to the paragraph in Antiquities 20. Marcion did not believe that Jesus was a real person with brothers and sisters but a manifestation, a phantom that only appeared to be a man.

    1. I also just don’t see why they give James so much credibility. He could just as easily have been lying, since we know claims to being the relative or even the sibling of a deity that never had a human existence were not unique in antiquity.

      For example, since you brought up the Josephus reference, even if that portion is authentic and not an interpolation, it doesn’t mean jack shit. Sure, Josephus wrote of a James who claimed to be the brother of Jesus, yet it is often overlooked that this same Josephus also wrote that Caligula claimed to the brother of Zeus.

      Can expect to see Ehrman or anyone else in that camp to defend a historical human Zeus?

        1. Book 19, Chapter 1.


          “He also frequented that temple of Jupiter which they style the Capitol, which is with them the most holy of all their temples, and had boldness enough to call himself the brother of Jupiter.”


          Verse 4: “He asserted his own divinity and made his subjects show him more honour than is due to any human being. He then went up to the temple of Zeus which they style the Capitol, and is the holiest of all their temples, where he boldly declared himself the brother of Zeus.”

  3. Why have Historicists fixated on just one phrase, “James the brother of Jesus”? Is it likely because they know from earlier discussions years ago, in other contexts, that it is a quagmire. But suppose we take another, simpler example of an alleged “historical,” “materialistic” detail from the text?

    Historicists want to claim that the NT, and even Jesus himself, often referred to very physical, material, real things; as part of their contention that say, Paul referred to a real, historical, physiccal Jesus. But? To make their point, they might just as well have taken not the already-problematic phrase, “James the Brother of Jesus.” Instead, they might just as well have referred to one or two of the thousand apparent references to physical material things in Paul: like say, references to the historical City of Jerusalem. And then said: “See! The text references a real material city, Jerusalem! Therefore, Paul situates himself and Jesus, in a real. physical, historical, material place!”

    But what happens, when we use as our example, a simpler, less disputed reference to material fact? Then we more clearly see the flaw in Historicist arguments. Namely? We know from the example of Historical Novels and so forth, that presence of many things that are historically factually true in the Bible, does not prove that the ENTIRETY of the Bible, and all its many stories, are entirely historically situated. Because for example: in fact, historical novels, historical fiction, often use real historical details: “real, historical” details are often added to fiction. To try to give fiction the appearance of being historically real.

    And so? Suppose we finally, now, turn our attention from the already-problematic “James the Brother of the Lord.” And begin to look at the dozens of other examples, of apparent references to real, material, physical, earthly things in Paul. Like say, references to Jerusalem. It we do this, if we look at simpler examples? Then we see that … even if there are such references, they are insignificant.

    So? Even if there are many apparently physical, historical details in Paul? Like references to an historically real Jerusalem? Or even including the highly problematic “James the brother of Jesus,” those worldly, material, mundane “historical details,” might simply have been added into an essentially immaterial or even fictional tale. Just as writers add “realistic details” to Historical Novels today. (While for that matter? Liars often tell lies, about real people).

    Therefore? The existence of physical, material, “historical “details in the narratives of Paul, like references to a demonstrably real city of Jerusalem, 1) do not “prove” that everything Paul writes is really about this mundane sphere. (Consider for that matter, Jerusalem as the “heavenly city”).

    2) Nor indeed, do they “prove” that the various accounts of the New Testament are entirely, historically true. Since fiction, parable, and lies, often simply add in “real” details, to make their stories appear more plausible.

    3) For that matter? For gnostic, dualistic, Platonistic, spiritual writers, all historical material things are lowly, compared to heavenly, spiritual things. And “real” things are simply used, not with respect for them as real things; real things are used as simply metaphors, “inferior” “copies,” of assertedly better, “heavenly” things, models, or “paradigms.” So that gnostic, spiritual writers are prone to simply make up historical details. As are authors of parables; of often entirely made-up stories. Carrier makes a similar point in his responses: the whole point of the quite spiritual Paul, is that physical reality, “flesh,” is not as significant as spirit. So that the insistence on the physicality of Jesus, in Paul, is theologically perversely in opposition, to one of Paul’s major points.

    The presence of “realistic” or “historical” details in the stories of the Bible, includings the writings of Paul, therefore, prove nothing.

  4. Earl said “later apocryphal works universally assume that James was Jesus’ sibling.”

    No, it is not universal in ancient sources.

    Origen in Contra Celsus 1:47: “Paul, a genuine disciple of Jesus, says that he regarded this James as a brother of the Lord, not so much on account of their relationship by blood, or of their being brought up together, as because of his virtue and doctrine.”

    The First Apocalypse of James: “It is the Lord who spoke with me: “See now the completion of my redemption. I have given you a sign of these things, James, my brother. For not without reason have I called you my brother, although you are not my brother materially.”

    1. Origen here is too often misinterpreted. He is not saying that Paul (or himself) does not regard James as Jesus’ sibling. He is saying that this relationship is overridden by another aspect: that he is (also) a brother by virtue of his virtue and doctrine, and that’s the more important ‘brother’ connection.

      As for Apocalypse of James, I think the writer acknowledges the tradition that they were siblings but is making some kind of technical denial about materiality in order to accommodate gnostic doctrine.

      Anyway, now on to Hoffmann… [See comment #5]

      1. Thanks Earl.

        Origen at least implies that Paul did not know if James was a sibling of Christ. The Origen line “not so much” seems ambiguous, but I lack the Greek to say if that ambiguity exists in the original. It is also interesting that this ambiguous statement about James in Contra Celsus 1.47 is in the paragraph where Origen has AJ18 by Josephus open in front of him to comment on it in a book aimed at proving the historical Jesus, but fails to notice the TF.

        The Apocalypse of James statement has Jesus say James is “not my brother materially”. This ‘technical accommodation’ of Gnostic doctrine, as you put it, looks like a rejection of historicism. I can’t see why you would not want to claim it as ancient support for mythicism.


  5. I can see I’m going to have to enlarge my comparison of “brothers of the Lord” (1 Cor. 9:5) and “brothers in the Lord” (Phil. 1:14) in Part 20 when I create the e-book version of this series.

    Roo has kindly quoted RJHoffmann’s remarks regarding my linking of the two passages (note, by the way, that in two simple quotes in Greek, RJH has made two ‘glaring mistakes’):

    The phrase “brothers in the Lord” in Philippians 1.14 suggests that the author could make a clear distinction between a relational genitive such as Galatians 1.19 (ἀδελφὸs [sic] τοῦ Κυρίου) and an instrumental dative (ἀδελφῶi [sic] ἐν Κυρίῳ) such as we find in Philippians 1.14.[91]

    [91] One mythicist confidently says after missing this simple grammatical point that “Brothers in the Lord” (ton adelphon en kurio) appears in Philippians 1:14 (the NEB translates it ‘our fellow-Christians’). Surely this is the clue to the meaning of the phrase applied to James.

    What is the simple grammatical point I missed? That one is a dative construction and the other a genitive? Hardly. That I didn’t use the technical grammatical terms for the two different constructions? All Hoffmann has done is to show that he knows them. He hasn’t even attempted to demonstrate that the “clear distinction” between the two different constructions has to spell two entirely different meanings. He simply claims it and then accuses me of ignorance. That makes it more difficult to evaluate his thinking, or his reasons for making that claim.

    So let’s try to demonstrate that he is wrong by a couple of analogies. I am going to switch to “sisters” in these analogies, just to get away from entrenched associations with the epistle texts.

    We can postulate a situation in prehistoric times (some anthropologists see a matriarchal phase involving moon worship before the patriarchal worship of the sun, so let’s go with that). A female society at that time says:

    We are sisters in (our worship of) the moon.

    Let’s call that an “instrumental dative” (yes, I know they wouldn’t have been speaking Greek). It would be equivalent to Phil. 1:14 saying, “We are brothers in (our worship of) the Lord.” If we parsed the latter, we could say that in the context of (through the instrumentality of) our worship of the Lord, we are brothers. In my analogy, the women are sisters in the same way, in the context of their worship of the moon. No siblings involved. Hopefully, Hoffmann would see his way to agreeing here.

    But there could be another way these “sisters” would put it.

    We are sisters of (sister) moon.

    The moon herself is their sister, due to the relationship they have with her, and by association, her worshipers are themselves sisters to each other: in the fellow-believer way, not as actual siblings. Let’s call that a “relational genitive.” It would be equivalent to 1 Cor. 9:5’s “the brothers of the Lord.” The object of the brothers’ worship is the Lord (either the Father or the Son, we can’t be sure). Through their sharing in that worship, the group being referred to are themselves “brothers.”

    Let’s carry this alternative way a little further. They might say, “The moon has revealed to us that she is our sister; she governs our cycles and our lives.” More reason to use our “relational genitive,” but certainly with no meaning of sibling. This is a mystical sisterhood. Do we have a corresponding ‘statement’ in the epistles in regard to a brotherhood?

    I’ll remind Hoffmann of Hebrews 2:11-12:

    That is why the Son does not shrink from calling men his brothers, when he says, “I will proclaim thy name to my brothers…”

    So now we have a divine entity (as our analogous moon is) informing his devotees that they are “brothers” to him. As far as I know, and I assume this includes Hoffmann, this does not render the relationship between the Son and those on earth a sibling one. Now, if someone, hearing Hebrews 2:11-12, were to ask those devotees, “Who are you ‘brothers’ of?” how would they respond? It could well be: “We are brothers of the Lord.” A “relational genitive.” Would they be saying, in stark contrast to Phil. 1:14, that they are siblings?

    Hebrews, of course, was not written by Paul. But even with no close connection between the two, we can see a commonality in mindset and expression on many points across the uncoordinated Christ cult movement of the first century. Paul’s circles could have envisioned their Christ as having declared himself a brother to them.

    I think I have demonstrated that Hoffmann’s implied claim that a “relational genitive” and an “instrumental dative” must have entirely different meanings to be unfounded. Now, I could have spent hours trying to locate two different passages in the epistles having that sort of similarity on another topic, but that’s a lot of time, and there might not happen to be any. So an analogy will have to do. (Of course, it was too much to expect that Hoffmann on his side would have made the effort to back up his claim in either manner.)

    But as interesting as that analogy might have been, there is something available that is much simpler. When I was a boy, I took piano lessons from a Sister Agnes Teresa of the “Sisters of St. Joseph” whose convent was around the corner. I daresay that in Greek, the name of the order would have been expressed with a “relational genitive.” I’ve even heard of an order called “Sisters of the Cross.” In either case, I doubt that what was meant was that these “sisters” were siblings either of St. Joseph or of a wooden cross, no matter how holy. “Sisters of St. Joseph” means ‘sisters under the patronage of St. Joseph’ or ‘sisters having a spiritual relationship with St. Joseph.’ I am not aware that they ever referred to themselves as “Sisters in St. Joseph” or “Sisters in the Cross” but it would probably make equal sense to anyone. And we know that those Christian devotees did refer to themselves as “brothers in the Lord” with a non-sibling understanding.

    Sisters of the moon…Sisters of St. Joseph…Brothers of the Lord.

    Now, it happens that after several good years of studying piano under Sister Agnes Teresa, she was transferred and I fell into the clutches of Sister Mary Gertrude, a real b—h (as nuns could often be in those days), and after a few months I stopped my lessons, though kept it going on my own. Now, let’s say I later reported that situation to a friend in a letter. I might have put it to him like this:

    “After all those years of studying with Sister Agnes Teresa, I switched to Sister Mary Gertrude, a Sister of St. Joseph, but was unhappy with her.”

    Let’s say he was familiar with Sister Agnes Teresa (well known as a prominent piano teacher in the neighborhood) and knew of my lessons with her, but he had never heard of Sister Mary Gertrude. I didn’t need to inform him that the former was a member of the Sisters of St. Joseph, but since he was unfamiliar with Sister Mary Gertrude, I threw in a clarification that she, too, was a Sister of St. Joseph. (Please remember in my article that I pointed out there is no necessary meaning of “THE” Sister of St. Joseph on account of the Greek definite article.) Am I excluding Agnes Teresa from that membership, or making any other differentiation between the two? Am I calling Mary Gertrude a sibling of St. Joseph?

    Now let’s say that I became a piano teacher but, unlike the Sisters, I was not allowed by law to put out a shingle advertising that at my front door. I complain to the city bureaucrats:

    “Am I not a piano teacher? Did I not take the exam?…Have I no right to put out a shingle, like the Sisters of St. Joseph, and Sister Agnes Teresa?”

    The latter is not excluded from being one of the Sisters of St. Joseph, I have simply added her for emphasis since she is the most famous of the piano-teaching Sisters and well known to the city bureaucrats.

    In sum, Hoffmann relied on an implication, never demonstrated let alone proven, that the “relational genitive” had to be utterly different from the “instrumental dative.” I think that’s been shown for what it is.

    Finally, a related remark on one of Hoffmann’s other comments:

    As to the phrase “brothers of the Lord,” it either excludes the higher ranks of “apostles and Peter” or must envisage them as biological brothers (cf. Mk 3.31, Matt. 12.46; K; Lk 8.19; Jn 2.12, 7.3, 5, 10), such as James, who is not mentioned here.

    Well, though I’ve demonstrated the principle just above, Hoffmann need not take my word for it that 9:5 does not necessarily exclude the “apostles and Peter” from being “brothers of the Lord” just because they are mentioned separately. Ehrman himself, as I have pointed out, has maintained the same thing in 1 Cor. 15:5 in regard to separate citations of individuals and groups. Surely he would take Ehrman’s word for it!

    1. If I may add some geeky comments —

      First, the phrase in question is clearly in the dative:

      καὶ τοὺς πλείονας τῶν ἀδελφῶν ἐν κυρίῳ πεποιθότας . . .

      But is it in the instrumental dative? If so, then what does “in [the] Lord” modify? Recent translators and commentators (e.g., Gordon Fee, Peter O’Brien, etc.) have argued that “in [the] Lord” should indeed be understood as a true instrumental dative (i.e., “by means of”) and that it refers to the verb that follows — πεποιθότας. Hence the NASB’s rendering of:

      . . . most of the brethren, trusting in the Lord because of my imprisonment . . .

      Or as Gordon Fee put it:

      . . . have become confident in the Lord.

      In a literal sense, then, their confidence or trust has been increased “as a result of” or “through the help of” the Lord.

      However, if “in [the] Lord” refers to the preceding word — “brothers” — then it’s hard to see how the dative could be instrumental. What would it mean? — “brothers by means of the Lord”?

      C.F.D. Moule (An Idiom Book of New Testament Greek) is quite emphatic on this matter:

      In Phil. i. 14 τῶν ἀδελφῶν ἐν κυρίῳ clearly means the brothers who are in the Lord (unless — which is extremely unlikely — the ἐν κυρίῳ goes with the πεποιθότας which follows); and it must thus be regarded as a loose way of expressing τῶν ἀδελφῶν τῶν ἐν τῳ κυρίῳ. (p. 108, bold emphasis mine)

      If he’s right (and who am I to argue with Moule?), then Paul is probably using a construction similar to his well-known, although somewhat enigmatic, formula: “in Christ,” as in Col. 1:2:

      τοῖς ἐν Κολοσσαῖς ἁγίοις καὶ πιστοῖς ἀδελφοῖς ἐν Χριστῷ

      Moule puts ἐν Χριστῷ in its own, unique “other” group. He thinks it is certainly not the local, temporal, instrumental, etc. dative. (See Moule, p. 80 for a thorough treatment.) So for Moule, “in Christ” or “in the Lord” could refer to a spiritual incorporation, a mystical brotherhood, a communal religious bond, or all of it at once.

      Bauer puts it under the category of dative “to denote a very close relationship” (p. 259). He then cites many authors who bring out subtle nuances of this formula. I suppose could agree with that assessment.

      Blass and Debrunner put it under that dative instrumental; however, they offer the following stern caveat:

      The phrase ἐν Χριστῳ (ἐν κυρίῳ), which is copiously appended by Paul to the most varied concepts, utterly defies definite interpretation . . .(p. 118)

      Amen, brethren.

      If I had to make a ruling, I’d have to say that Hoffmann really doesn’t know what he’s talking about. It most likely is not an example of the dative instrumental.

      However, Earl, I do think that “in the Lord” means something a little more to Paul than the simple genitive (i.e., “of the Lord”). But it does not mean “in (our worship of) the Lord,” and it especially does not mean “(through the instrumentality of) our worship of the Lord.” That one made my teeth hurt when I read it. It rather has to do with the community of believers sharing the experience (or perhaps even the spiritual essence?) of Christ in a mystical and ineffable (hence, probably untranslatable) way.

      1. This is very persuasive. In fact, Paul seems to present the connection to Jesus as a mystical experience. We are not far from a classical “mystery cult”.

        1. Not far at all. Think of the saying in 1 Thess. 3:8 —

          For now we live, if you are standing fast in the Lord.

          It’s the power of the shared mystical experience. And beyond the shared initiation experience, there must also be the shared, secret knowledge of the inner mysteries.

          And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ. I have fed you with milk, and not with meat: for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able. (1 Cor. 3:1-2, KJV)

      2. Yes, I do like and prefer your “sharing the experience of Christ in a mystical and ineffable way,” though I can see that characterized as ‘instrumental’ (and I was doing my best to accommodate Hoffmann). Sorry to provoke a trip to the dentist, but don’t send me the bill.

        1. I won’t bill you. No worries!

          However, on the subject of accommodating Hoffmann, I see no point in it when he is wrong. He has shown you nothing but pitiless, relentless, and sophomoric disrespect — reprehensible behavior from a public “intellectual.”

  6. I have to ask: Has Ehrman attempted a response to any piece of your (so far) 20-part rebuttal? It seems to me that in at least several instances Mr. Doherty has bested Ehrman. If I were engaged in such a public debate — after having named one opponent in my book and attempted to discuss his work (as Ehrman does with Doherty) — then I think I would find it impossible not to engage that opponent as he keeps engaging me. Isn’t that what debate and public discourse is supposed to be all about?

    If I missed some substantive reply from Ehrman, please point me to it. If there has not been a substantive reply, then shame on Dr Ehrman.

    1. I’m not aware of any reply Ehrman has mounted. Perhaps he is waiting for me to finish my series and then he will deal me the death blow! Actually, I’d prefer him to wait, so that I wouldn’t get sidetracked into having to respond to piecemeal reactions on his part.

      He has engaged with Robert Price and Richard Carrier in a couple of running exchanges, but to their much shorter reviews and comments on his book.

      I’m looking forward to completing the series (within 2 months?) and having a point-counterpoint availability of books (ebooks, that is, I will not be publishing any more paper books) on places like Amazon.

  7. All the aspects of the important issue about “the Brothers of the Lord” had already been thoroughly examined and discussed by Arthur Drews, partly in “The Christ Myth” (1909), but more systematically in his “Witnesses to the Historicity of Jesus” (1912), III The Witness of Paul, 1. (d) The Brothers of the Lord:

    “We have now to deal with “the brothers of the Lord” (1 Cor. ix, 5 and Gal. i, 19). Here the theologians believe that they play their trump. If Jesus had had corporal brothers, he must certainly have been an historical individual, and it is untrue that Paul knew nothing of any individual human feature of Jesus. “Have we not,” says 1 Cor. ix, 5, “power to lead about a sister, a wife, as well as other apostles, and as the brethren of the Lord, and Cephas?” If it could only be proved that Paul had in his mind corporal brothers of Jesus and not merely “brothers” in the sect! Weinel contests this on the ground that it is unlikely that a sect would call itself “brothers” of the God of the cult. Has he never heard of brothers of St. Vincent, brothers of Joseph, sisters of Mary, etc.; that is to say, religious brotherhoods whose members call themselves after the saint whose service they have entered, and who correspond to the heroes of the cult in the ancient mysteries? “But in the case of Paul,” he replies, “we can prove that he does not give that name to Christians; he calls them ‘brethren’ or ‘brethren in Christ’” (p. 109).”

    And, further down:

    “Here we also have the answer to the question about the brotherhood of James (Gal. i, 19). I have endeavoured to show that this also is merely brotherhood in the sect, and that the position of honour which James is supposed to have had in the community, according to Acts xv, 13 and Gal. i, 19 and ii, 9 and 12, was due to his personal qualities. “It was reserved for Drews,” says von Soden, “to explain the phrase ‘brothers of the Lord’ in the sense that James was the best Christian, the most like to the Lord” (p. 31). The learned writer evidently forgets that Origen had said long ago that James was called the brother of the Lord, not so much on account of blood-relationship with Jesus, or because he had grown up with him, as because he was faithful and virtuous.”

    Then Drews, leaving no stone unturned, discusses the possibility of an interpolation:

    “On the other hand, it is not impossible that “the brother of the Lord” is a later interpolation in Gal. i, 19, whether because a particular group of Christians wished to bring the venerated saint as close as possible to Jesus by making him a brother in the flesh, or, as Schläger (p. 46) thinks, in order to distinguish more clearly the various individuals who were named James. As Hegesippus says: “The community distinguished the apostle James, the brother of the Lord, by the name of ‘the just,’ from the time of Christ to our own days, as there were several with the name James.”

    And Drews to conclude his thorough (but always extremely clear) discussion:

    “and when Weinel says in regard to James, “It is all so simple, intelligible, and straightforward that it needs a good deal of art to evade the testimony of the connection of Gal. i and 1 Cor. ix and the terminology” (p. 116), I can only reply that, in spite of all my efforts to understand James from the writings of theologians, I have never been able to get at the real nature of the man. And as I find that others have had the same experience, it does not seem to be due to any defect on my part that the James-problem seems to me hopeless; every attempt to throw light on the obscure problem fails.[38] To base on an isolated passage such as the reference to “the brothers of the Lord” in Paul a belief in the historical character of Jesus seems to me too “simple”; I am not modest enough to do it. I can only see in the “brothers of Jesus,” as far as they are supposed to have been brothers in the flesh, and in his parents, the carpenter Joseph and Mary, mythical figures”.

    1. As much as I respect Drews as perhaps the most effective mythicist before our own time, there is always something new that can be said on any mythicist topic.

      By the way, have you by any chance placed a note on Hoffmann’s blog (assuming he’d post it) pointing to my above response to him regarding the two ways of expressing “brother(s) of/in the Lord”? I no longer wish to engage with him on the Processed Jesus, but he ought to be aware that a rebuttal was offered.

      1. Earlier links to Hoffmann’s blog have appeared as pingbacks in the comments section of his (Hoffmann’s) related post.

        Unless I’ve missed something it appears that the links in this thread to Hoffmann’s post do not appear on his site. I don’t know if that means there is a technical hitch somewhere or, most unlikely, Hoffmann has turned off the “pingback” mechanism or simply deletes any pingbacks from here to his blog. But of course no honest scholar would do such a thing so there must be a technical hitch somewhere.

        Or maybe the pingback notices to Earl’s responses are still awaiting his attention — all comments and pingbacks to his blog are moderated and he is no doubt a busy man.

      2. No doubt. But what they think of as a “destroying response” is usually an ad hominem remark and anything but a substantive counter-argument.

        Love your ‘Steph as Fury’! She’s something out of Alice in Wonderland. The Red Queen, perhaps, whose solution to everything is “Off with their heads!”

        I don’t blame you for wanting to exit the Processed Jesus. Going down that rabbit hole puts one’s sanity in danger. Hoffmann stands guard over the Tea Party, like a Mad Hatter crying “No room! No room!” to any mythicist who would dare approach their table. Or was that the March Hare, who insisted on recycling the resident historicists around the same dirty cups? I guess the Dormouse is the sleepy historical Jesus they keep stuffing into their academic teapot!

        Alice, of course, is our mythicist visitor to the asylum, who is subjected to ad hominem insults, like “Your hair wants cutting!” as if that had anything to do with the sanity she tries to bring to Wonderland’s halls.

        1. Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland is indeed an essential resource for understanding contemporary theological debate. Charles Dodgson was a fine Cambridge mathematician, and the absurdism of Alice as written by his nom de plume is a forebear of the fine English tradition of Monty Python and the Goons, reaching back to the satire of Swift in Gulliver’s Travels, and to Cervantes’ Don Quixote. His key underlying theme is that the alienation of modern life, grounded in longstanding supernatural fantasy, has generated broad cultural absurdity. So, we see Humpty Dumpty explaining scornfully that words mean just what he wants them to mean, and the King who is unable to comprehend any difference in meaning between the words important and unimportant, both presenting fine types of the historicist apologist. The claim that Jesus Christ was a historical individual, not a spiritual myth, is utterly absurd on any evidentiary investigation. Following Voltaire’s observation that believing absurdity permits atrocity, we see the comical intellectual atrocity of Hoffman and his Red Queen, resorting to aggression as a cover for their irrationality. No one with any dignity or self respect would deign to speak to them.

  8. Brettongarcia asks: Why have Historicists fixated on just one phrase, “James the brother of Jesus”?

    No, historicists have focused on a few more basic points that have become the key bones of contention between historicists and a-historicists (deniers, radicals, mythicists). They were all taken up in the controversy pitting Frederick C. Conybeare against the three major historicity deniers in his classical rebuttal “The Historical Christ: or, An Investigation of the Views of Mr. John MacKinnon Robertson, Dr. Arthur Drews, and Prof. William Benjamin Smith” (1914)

    To get the full scope of those major points, we must go back to its most lucid expression at the beginning of the 20th century in Arthur Drews’s review “1.—The Proofs of the Historicity of Jesus in Paul” (as first chapter of “The Witness of Paul”). They all have become since the classical topics of disputations. Drews lists them as follows:

    (a) Simple Proofs: the doctrine of the “Suffering Servant” in Isaiah 53, “the germ-cell of Christianity”, combined with the “Just Man” in Wisdom, which “confirmed the belief that the judgment of the world was near… Paul enlarged and deepened this idea… and deducing its metaphysical consequences. He gave greater clearness to the pagan idea of a suffering, dying, and risen saviour-god, which must have been familiar to the apostle from his Cilician home, and gave it life by infusing into it the spirit of the old mystery-religions. It follows from this that the supposed historical fact of a crucified Jesus is not absolutely necessary to explain the origin of the Paulinian doctrine of redemption.”
    (b) The Appearances of the Risen Christ
    (c) The Account of the Last Supper
    (d) The “Brothers” of the Lord
    (e) The “Words of the Lord.”

    Drews was not finished with Paul. He continued discussing the case of Paul in the following chapters:

    2.—Paul no Witness to the Historicity of Jesus.
    3.—The Question of Genuineness. “The Pauline Christ is a metaphysical principle, and his incarnation only one in idea, an imaginary element of his religious system. The man Jesus is in Paul the idealised suffering servant of God of Isaiah and the just man of Wisdom an intermediate stage of metaphysical evolution, not an historical personality. When we admit this, we remove the chief obstacle that has hitherto prevented theologians from studying seriously the question of the spuriousness of the Pauline Epistles”.
    (a) Emotional Arguments for the Genuineness.
    (b) Arguments for Genuineness from the Times: 1st century or 2d century?
    (c) The Spuriousness of the Pauline Epistles. Concluding:
    “But it is equally possible that the name of Paul is only a general title for a number of letter-writers, who invented the character in order to give an air of authority to a religious system that went beyond the original Christianity… But some sort of connection with the “historical” Jesus was needed in order to displace the older Christianity with its Judaic leanings, and to base the hostility to Judaism on a “revelation” that came from Jesus himself. Thus arose the character of the once pious Jew Paul, who rages against the Christians, and is then converted by a vision, and, as a zealot against the law, founds a purely spiritual Christianity, making it easier by his own example for the Jews to abandon the law.”

    Contrary to the hermetic language of Hoffmann, which betrays its stylistic kinship to Catholic apologists, Arthur Drews’s presentation of “The Witness of Paul” is crystal clear and allows any modern reader a firm grasp of all the fundamental issues between historicists and deniers. Reading Drews is infinitely more instructive and productive than reading Hoffmann.

  9. If “brother” in Gal 1:19 has the same meaning as “brethen” or “brother” elsewhere in epistles, then i must ask: why did not christians in the late first century mistakenly called Timothy, Silvanus etc, as Jesus siblings?

    1. Because those names don’t appear in any of the mentions of Jesus’s family in the gospels. It’s the coincidence (or not) of the name James in both contexts that led to the identification.

      1. But this is not what Doherty says. He says that: “By later in the second century, we find the phrase “brother of the Lord” in reference to James the Just common, but this is building on the earlier occurrence of it; it is the reinterpretation of a traditional phrase which had begun with a different meaning”. So my question i still around.
        Gal 1:19 says “Iakōbon ton adelphon tou kyriou”/ “James, the brother of the Lord”. Compare it with. Mark 3:17:
        Iōannēn [John] ton adelphon tou Iakōbou [James] “John, the brother of James”
        The wording is the same and in the latter case it means a sibling. Why not the first one?

        1. Why do “the gospel of Mark” and “the gospel of Paul” not mean the same thing? Because the term “gospel” has two different applications. One is the written narrative document we know as Mark, the other is the preached oral message about salvation delivered by an apostle like Paul. Knowing that there are two distinct meanings to the term “gospel” should prevent even an idiot from simply declaring the two phrases to mean exactly the same thing on the basis of the common word. (Would you go to a farm to learn pig Latin?)

          As for Paul’s James becoming the later brother of Jesus as opposed to someone like Timothy who did not, he is much more prominently figured in the legendary picture of the Jerusalem sect, which could be why Mark a half century later chose to make him a brother of Jesus. And he could have been influenced by being familiar with the phrase “brother of the Lord” applied to James and interpreted it as sibling even though it originally meant “brethren” of the sect.

  10. I would like to propose a different interpretation of “the brother of the Lord”, one inspired by my admittedly eccentric view of Christian origins. As I have explained in various posts and comments, I am of the opinion that the kingdom of God did indeed suffer violence—literary violence —around 130 CE. That is to say that the proto-orthodox, by their interpolation of Simonian writings and by forgeries composed from scratch, created a new version of Christianity that ultimately won out over the original one. GMark was one of the reworked writings. It was originally Simonian and its Jesus was an allegorical stand-in for Simon of Samaria/”Paul”. Simon’s troubled relationship with the leaders of the Jerusalem church is allegorically portrayed by Jesus’ relationship with the Twelve.

    With that background in mind, consider the Markan episode about the request of James and John to sit at Jesus’ side in his glory (Mk. 10:35-45). Their request was for positions of authority, for Jesus’ reprimand is: “You know that those who seem to be rulers of the Gentiles lord it (conduct themselves as lords – kataKYRIEuousin, my emphasis) over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. But it shall not be so among you” (Mk. 10:42-43). Instead of desiring lordship, he says, you must be “slave of all” (Mk. 10:44).

    I take this episode as a Simonian criticism of the way church authority was viewed in the Jerusalem community, especially the authority of the brothers James and John. The brothers were some kind of lords of the community; subordinate, no doubt, to the Lord of lords, but lords nevertheless. And in light of that criticism I would not be surprised if the title “the Lord” was used for one of them. As Earl points out in his post, “It has been suggested that in Greek letter-writing, a respected figure was often addressed, such as a father by a son or a politician by a citizen, as ‘Lord’ rather than by his personal name. It was a mark of deference.” In the New Testament the word ‘Lord’ is used regularly for non-divine figures. Notice how throughout the gospels strangers who do not yet believe in Jesus as being divine nevertheless address him as ‘Lord’. And the Paulines too regularly used the word ‘lord’ for human lords, e.g., “Now I say, that the heir, as long as he is a child, differs in nothing from a slave, though he be lord of all…” (Gal. 4:1); “Lords, give to your slaves that which is just and equal, knowing that you also have a Lord in heaven” (Col. 4:1).

    I suspect, then, that members of the Jerusalem community used “the Lord” as a title of respect for one of their number. And that it was he—not God, whether Father or Son—who is “the Lord” in the expression “the brother of the Lord.” Specifically, it was John, the brother of James, who was “the Lord” in question.

    But who was this John to hold such a title? The same Markan episode gives a clue. It tells us that like Jesus he died a violent death: “The cup that I drink you will drink, and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized” (Mk. 10:39). Now the violent death of James is related elsewhere in the New Testament (“About that time Herod the king laid violent hands on some who belonged to the church. He killed James, the brother of John…” – Acts 12:1-2), but nowhere is there further mention of the martyrdom of John. Or is there?

    The violent death that is given the most attention in the New Testament after that of Jesus himself was the death of someone named John: John the Baptist. And if, as I claim, proto-Mark was written by a Simonian sometime after Simon’s death, we need to be prepared to shift our perspective and consider how John the Baptist would have been viewed by later Simonians. For them it was Simon/Paul who was the real founder of Christianity, for he was not only the only apostle to understand and preach it correctly, he was himself a new manifestation of the Son of God. So the Twelve, inasmuch as they claimed to be apostles of the Son, were in reality just disciples of Simon’s without even realizing it. But they were sorry disciples, failing to properly understand him and, as part of that misunderstanding, were more concerned about who was “the greatest among them” (Mk. 9:34). It was they, not Simon/Paul, who would have put John the Baptist on a pedestal, saying that “among those born of woman none was greater than he” and that he was “a prophet and more than a prophet.” It was this incomparable John who they considered to be the saintly founder of their movement. And, if the passage about him in Josephus is authentic, they were seen as “ready to do anything he should advise” (Antiquities 18,5,2).

    To later Simonians John the Baptist would have been just another apostle of the Son who, due to the misguided beliefs of the Jerusalem church, had been elevated higher than the rest. His water baptism was nothing special. Especially compared to “the baptism with which I am baptized” (Mk. 10:39) which he received when he was beheaded by Herod. The repeated use of the word “baptism” to describe John’s death in the Markan passage is a clue as to his identity.

    It may be, too, that there is another clue in the open-ended way the initial request of James and John is worded: “We want you to do for us whatever we ask of you” (Mk. 10:36). Alfred Loisy noted that it is as if they want Jesus to first promise that he will give whatever they ask. I wonder whether the author of proto-Mark intends that his readers recall the open-ended promise of Herod to the daughter of Herodias that resulted in John’s head being delivered on a platter: “Ask of me whatever you wish and I will grant it to you. He even swore to her, I will grant you whatever you ask of me, even to half of my kingdom” (Mk. 6:22-23). James and John, of course, only ask for seats of authority in Jesus’ kingdom; Herod promises the dancer up to one half of his kingdom.

    Frank Zindler, in his The Jesus the Jews Never Knew, suggested that the two Markan passages that deal explicitly and extensively with John the Baptist (Mk.1:2-14; 6:14-29) were later interpolations (pp. 89-95). I think that contention is correct although I arrive at it on different grounds than Zindler. I am coming at this from the angle that proto-Mark was Simonian and GMark is the proto-orthodox corrected version of it. So I see a different motivation behind the insertions. When the proto-orthodox co-opted the Simonian gospel and corrected its shortcomings, one such shortcoming that required their attention was the short shrift given to John. He was just another of the negatively-portrayed thick-headed apostles who abandoned Jesus in his hour of need. Their interpolations at least restored him to a role of prominence by making him the precursor of the Lord. Unfortunately, it also caused the doubling of John and James.

    [The doubling gets carried over into the subsequent Synoptics. In GLuke James and John are the Sons of Thunder. They want to call down lightning from heaven to destroy the Samaritans who did not receive Jesus (Simon, Menander, and co?). Here perhaps we have the origin of baptism by fire! Moreover, John and his brother James may be the two witnesses (martysin) in Revelation 11 who prophesy clothed in sackcloth. “If anyone would harm them, fire pours from their mouth and consumes their foes…” ]

    I realize that my scenario is speculative and not without problems. Josephus, for instance, doesn’t say that John, even after his murder, was ever given a special title of respect by his followers. And he doesn’t say anything about John having brothers or sisters. (Of course he doesn’t say John was an only child either.) Still, I would keep open the possibility that the Jerusalem church regarded John the Baptist as the founder of their community and that they did in fact confer upon him—perhaps post mortem—the title “the Lord”. He had been dead for at least ten years by the time Simon/Paul wrote his letters, so perhaps respect for the dead founder is the reason why he used the title without adding the kind of dismissive words he used for the living pillars, namely, “And from those who seemed to be something (whatever they were, it makes no difference to me: God shows no partiality) those, I say, who seemed to be something added nothing to me.” (Gal. 2:6)

    Finally, if my scenario is correct, it would mean that, contrary to what is usually thought, Paul/Simon did in fact make mention of John the Baptist in his letters. He did so twice in passing but it was missed because he referred to him by his title instead of his name.

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