James the Brother of the Lord and James the Theologian of the Matrix

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by Neil Godfrey

In his crusading zeal to slash and burn mythicism James McGrath is demonstrating once more his unfortunate lack of awareness of the actual content mythicist arguments and has done his readers a more general disservice by misrepresenting the nature of mainstream arguments on how various interpolations have worked their way into manuscript traditions.

Somehow a discussion on the authenticity of Galatians 1:19 (Paul meeting James “the Brother of the Lord”) in http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/2015/10/does-coffee-prevent-temple-tantrums.html. A misinformed comment so impressed the professor that he made a special post of it titled Interpolation Mythicism.

Somehow the only argument for interpolation that I am aware of is not addressed from what I have seen of the discussion. The evidence for interpolation is not rock solidly indisputable but it is suggestive: See James Brother of the Lord: Another Case for Interpolation. There is evidence, as noted in this post, that the passage “brother of the Lord” was not original but a later copyists insertion.

And the evidence is of the sort that is used by mainstream scholars to argue for other cases of possible interpolation.

And the argument in this case is actually noted by someone arguing against mythicism.

And most mythicist arguments of which I am aware simply note that there is no mention of Jesus in the phrase and that the expression was has other known referents.

(Readers wondering why I have not made these points on McGrath’s blog should be aware that McGrath will not tolerate any comments from me on his blog.)

Interestingly James McGrath has “World Table” terms of service add-on for his blog comments. Conditions are most noble. I would be good to see James the Theologian practice them whenever he decides to address mythicism.

Be Honest

Honesty begins when you look in the mirror. It affects how you relate to yourself, how you talk to yourself, and what you think of yourself. When you get to a point in life that you can be perfectly honest with yourself, being honest with others happens naturally. And perfect honesty with others is easily understood and accepted by those who matter to you. The rest are not worth worrying about.

Be Kind

Kindness will go further towards building trust than any other virtue listed here. Kindness is never outdated. It is not weak, or naive, or small. Kindness is easily recognized and understood by everyone, so your ability to affect change and influence the world for good is greatly enhanced by sincere kindness. But, be wise about this. Nothing is more offensive or destructive than kindness that is forced, phony, or insincere.

Listen Well

Make no mistake, listening well is hard to do. It is not just being quiet. Even pausing one more second takes real effort and often much practice. To listen well means to listen with a desire to truly understand rather than with a need to respond. It is the epitome of love and empathy in action. But it is also a sign of self-respect. We all need a good listening ear from time to time. But sadly, so few have them. So be one of the few who do.

Presume Good Will

Too often we assume the “other” party involved doesn’t have our best interests in mind. Sometimes those concerns are valid. But more often than not, even with good intentions, we subconsciously sabotage our conversations because we presume that the other party has “bad” will, or, even worse, is incapable of “good” will. Presuming good will is not the same as accepting the other persons beliefs or positions. It means accepting the other persons intentions as being good.

Acknowledge the Differences

Acknowledging the differences frees us to know where we stand without having to guess. When we discuss differences openly, it validates both parties and sets the tone so a real conversation can finally happen. If done with a posture of humility it can indicate a sign of maturity that better preserves and ensures the dignity of everyone involved. If you are tempted to only discuss the similarities and hide the differences, something is out of balance in the relationship. Similarities are a great place to start, but a shallow and boring place to end.

Answer the Tough Questions

With genuine differences come tough questions – especially when both sides desire a trusting relationship. Asking and answering tough questions in a strait-forward and honest way builds more trust than avoiding them. This does not mean one party should subject themselves to endless interrogation or share private details carelessly. It simply means diving a little deeper to better understand the motives and biases that might be driving us. The mere act of vocalizing our answers to tough questions has a powerful effect on everyone involved.

Give Credit Where Credit is Due


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Neil Godfrey

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9 thoughts on “James the Brother of the Lord and James the Theologian of the Matrix”

    1. I got banned only a little over a week ago, so I’m guessing that doesn’t apply to me ; )
      However, I have decided that being banned was for the best. Too many pointless conversations took place on that blog between myself and others. They are similar to creationists in that almost none of them have read any mythicist literature (only tirades against it). Moreover, commenting there can make you feel overwhelmed with all the people taking potshots at you, so its basically pointless to try and interact with them.

  1. Here’s a question…where is James, brother of Jesus mentioned as such in our current four gospels? AS “brother of the Lord?”

    To the best of my knowledge, nowhere.

    The irony being that he WAS mentioned as James the Just in The Gospel of the Hebrews. Crucially at the bit mentioning the Lord (the resurrected one) giving his Linen Cloth to someone before sitting down to eat with James.

    If I look at the Youth in the Linen Cloth as the Lord…then that helps identify the James involved. But it cannot be the same James as the one in the Clementines, Acts or the Epistle of James.

    1. The synoptics list James among the brothers of Jesus, e.g. Mark 6:3. What none of the Gospels do is mention that any of Jesus’ brothers ever became any kind of disciple. That is, as far as the evangelists are concerned, there’s James the disciple (i.e. James Boanerges, the son of Zebedee) and there’s the brother of Jesus, two totally separate characters.

      I believe Acts mentions James the brother of Jesus as a Christian, but I’m not sure I’m remembering right. Can somebody do me a favor and point me at a verse? But as I recall, in Acts the Jameses never appear on stage together and the wording is such that might indicate interpolation. That is, someone gave the text a light editing in order to split an originally singular “James” character into two: James Boanerges and James the brother of Jesus.

      1. Greg Pandatshang…fair point Mark 6.3.

        However…this is in the Catholic-transmitted Mark.

        From what I’ve read from people researching Marcion…some parts of the verse didn’t appear in Marcion’s Gospel of the Lord…and the phrase “Is this not the carpenter’s son” can have an entirely different meaning if no brothers or sisters are mentioned…Carpenter can be another name for “Workman/Demiurge.”

        Separate from Marcion…Gospel of the Hebrews may indicate it as James Boanerges.

      2. Acts and Luke do not identify any of the Jameses that appear in the narratives as Jesus’ brother. That Jesus had brothers is acknowledged, but they are not named.

  2. Jesus, whether he was real or fictional, might have agreed. He in effect said that all those who follow such principles were “brothers” and family. Even if they are not brothers literally or biologically.

    Jesus thus suggested that James’s status as actual brother or not, was at best unimportant to his own ministry.


  3. You can see how Carrier’s “On The Historicity Of Jesus” makes some interesting points. For example, (1) he argues that Jesus was meant to replace the Temple system. Mark is probably dated after the fall of Jerusalem to the Roman army in 70 CE. There are hints of this. In chapter 13, “the little apocalypse,” the words seem to describe the pain endured by the residents of that holy city during that catastrophe. The people are urged to flee into the hills of Judea and even to Galilee. In the story of the transfiguration of Jesus in chapter 9, Jesus is, as Carrier argues, portrayed as having replaced the Temple as the meeting place between God and human life, for the shekinah, the light of God that once was thought to have enveloped the Temple, now is made to shine on Jesus. That story makes no sense unless the temple is no more. (2) I don’t have any problem with Carrier interpreting the “James, the brother (adelphos) of the Lord (Gal 1:19)” passage as referring to James as a non-apostle baptized Christian, instead of being a blood brother of Jesus. Mark, for instance, though he thought Jesus had blood brothers, still preserves an early tradition whereby non family members of Jesus were still identified as Jesus’ family if they had sufficient faith: “Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother (Mark 3:33-35).” The followers of Jesus were also known as “the Brethren (eg. Luke 22:32),” another way of saying “Brotherhood,” so all Paul might have meant in Gal 1:19 is “Brother James.” Anyway, lots of interesting stuff to discuss in Carrier’s “On The Historicity Of Jesus.”

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