The Function of “Brother of the Lord” in Galatians 1:19

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by Tim Widowfield

James the Just
James the Just

It seems hardly a month passes without somebody on Vridar bringing up Galatians 1:19, in which Paul refers to James as the “brother of the Lord.” Recently I ran a search for the phrase here, and after reading each post, it struck me how much time we’ve spent wondering what it means and so little time asking why it’s there in the first place.

What is the function of “brother of the Lord” in that sentence? Notice we can ask this question without raising the hackles of either the mythicists or historicists. Forget what it might mean. Forget (at least for the moment) who you think wrote it. It could have been Paul. It might have been the very first reader who added it as a marginal note or a scribe at some point along the transmission path. Instead, let’s ask why.

It would appear on the surface, at least, that “brother of the Lord” is a kind of descriptor. In other words, it tells us which James Paul met. Since 1:19 is the first time Paul mentions James in Galatians, perhaps that’s why we see it here. But then why didn’t Paul do the same thing in 1 Corinthians, which he probably wrote in the same year?

1 Cor 15:7  Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. (ESV)

One could argue that since he’d already referred to “the twelve” in 1 Cor 15:5, Paul didn’t need to explain which James he meant. In fact, he may have been reciting an early resurrection credo, and as such everyone would already have known who all the characters were — Cephas, the Twelve, the 500 brothers. They needed no introduction, so to speak.

Which James?

On the other hand, one could argue that in Galatians Paul could only have meant one James. He was, after all, starting an extended tirade against the Jerusalem pillars, and his Galatian audience would surely have known who he meant. He probably told that story all the time — “Then James sends a bunch of his thugs up to Antioch, and old Cephas is like, ‘I’m not eating with those Gentiles. No way!'”

Nothing would lead a reader of his letters to suspect that Paul ever knew any other prominent follower of Christ named James. Of course, we know of a few others, thanks to the gospels and Acts. Besides the leader of the Jerusalem church, we have James the Lesser, James the son of Alpheus, and James the brother of John (son of Zebedee) — any one of whom might actually be the same James. (See James the Less at Wikipedia.)

In Gal. 2:9, Paul invokes the names of Peter, James, and John as “reputed pillars.” Actually, Paul puts James first, while the Synoptics put Peter in the lead role. Of course, the James in the gospel of Mark is presumed to be a different guy — not Jesus’ brother, but John’s.

The confusion over which trio did what and which James was which emerged early on. Eusebius in Book 2 of his Church History tries to set the record straight:

2. Then James, whom the ancients surnamed the Just on account of the excellence of his virtue, is recorded to have been the first to be made bishop of the church of Jerusalem. This James was called the brother of the Lord because he was known as a son of Joseph, and Joseph was supposed to be the father of Christ, because the Virgin, being betrothed to him, “was found with child by the Holy Ghost before they came together,” as the account of the holy Gospels shows.

3. But Clement [of Alexandria] in the sixth book of his Hypotyposes writes thus: For they say that Peter and James and John after the ascension of our Saviour, as if also preferred by our Lord, strove not after honor, but chose James the Just bishop of Jerusalem.”

4. But the same writer, in the seventh book of the same work, relates also the following things concerning him: The Lord after his resurrection imparted knowledge to James the Just and to John and Peter, and they imparted it to the rest of the apostles, and the rest of the apostles to the seventy, of whom Barnabas was one. But there were two Jameses: one called the Just, who was thrown from the pinnacle of the temple and was beaten to death with a club by a fuller, and another who was beheaded.” Paul also makes mention of the same James the Just, where he writes, “Other of the apostles saw I none, save James the Lord’s brother.” (Church History, NewAdvent.org)

Competing traditions, two different triumvirates

So it appears that Christians had two parallel, incompatible, and competing traditions. In the first, immediately after the resurrection, Jesus appeared to James the Just, Peter, and John. In the second, Peter, along with the sons of Zebedee, James and John, picked James the Just as the head of the church in Jerusalem. I suspect that the first (Pauline) tradition is older, but in any case, it’s the tradition the Galatians would have known. Just as in 1 Corinthians, when Paul wrote “James,” he naturally intended the person we call James the Just, and his readers knew whom he intended.

The latter tradition probably became more prominent just before Mark wrote his gospel — unless he himself invented the new triumvirate, perhaps with an eye toward expunging James the Just from the record. Mark’s new tradition would shift the center of attention from Jerusalem to Galilee, casting James as an unreliable brother who failed to follow Jesus, not as the pious pillar of the Jerusalem church. In a similar move, the gospel of John displaces James with the Beloved Disciple at the crucifixion when Jesus declares: “Behold, your mother.”

An unlikely title

Returning once more to Gal 1:19, I contend that Paul had no need for any title when mentioning the individual members of the triumvirate in Jerusalem. When Paul says Jesus appeared to James or that James sent some of his goons from Jerusalem, he and his audience knew what that meant. Even if he did apply some title (which I think is unlikely), “brother of the Lord” seems a strange one for Paul to use. We get the feeling elsewhere that Paul didn’t like James very much. We’ve discussed many times at length how the term may have meant coreligionist and not male sibling in this instance. However, in either case, it just sounds too . . . nice.

At this point I’d like to bring in good old Joe Hoffmann, our erstwhile pal. Back in 2009 he wrote:

The early Christians were renowned for their use of familial terms to describe their fellowship, a fact which led to their rituals being castigated as incestuous by pagan onlookers. In short, the use of the term “brother” to refer to James is honorific (religious) rather than genetic. Paul nowhere refers to other “Jameses” –- no biological brother, no “James the Just” or “the righteous” or “the younger.” Those characters are created by necessity and fleshed out in the future, by gospel writers, and perhaps echo late first and early second century confusion over misremembered details of the historical period that Paul represents, more or less contemporaneously. In the light of Paul’s complete disregard for the “historical” Jesus, moreover, it is unimaginable that he would assert a biological relationship between James and “the Lord.” (R. Joseph Hoffmann)

An interpolated title for confused readers

That’s an interesting thought, but I would instead argue that Paul simply had no need to identify James further, and that in the original text, just as in the 1 Corinthians statement of faith, Paul initially referred to James as James. Moreover, I think the text would have remained unchanged by scribes except for the text in Gal 2:9, just a few verses later, in which Paul writes:

And when James, Cephas, and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that was given unto me, they gave to me and Barnabas the right hands of fellowship; that we should go unto the heathen, and they unto the circumcision. (KJV)

The pressure for interpolation comes from the “pillars” verse, but only once readers and listeners became familiar with the new triumvirate, namely the fictional inner circle of Jesus’ disciples — the three who witnessed the raising of Jairus’s daughter and the Transfiguration. At some point, probably as early as the 70s CE, a scribe inserted a reader’s marginal note [“brother of the Lord”] into the letter. By that time, the title may or may not have had a deeper, theological meaning.

We know that the early Church fathers did not think James was Jesus’ biological brother, and although (as we’ve noted before) that may stem largely from the doctrine of perpetual virginity, the point stands nonetheless. Recall that James was supposed to be extremely, almost preternaturally, pious. Maybe he wasn’t born the brother of the Lord, but earned the title.

We can at least be certain that if scribes inserted the title, it happened quite early. All of our extant manuscripts contain “brother of the Lord.” On the other hand we can see how “Petros” (Πέτρος) began as a marginal note, later inserted into the text in various places. Similarly, in many western manuscripts scribes changed the order of the pillars’ names from “James, Cephas, and John” to “Peter, James, and John,” presumably out of a desire to conform to the order in Mark.


I have argued here that “brother of the Lord” most likely served the function of discriminating from among the jumble of Jameses in the New Testament. However, Paul nowhere else sees the need to tell us which James he’s talking about any more than he needs to explain which John or which Cephas he’s referring to.

I have further argued that the pressure to add a descriptor to the text in Gal 1:19 arose from the reference to the pillars in Gal 2:9. Readers shortly after Paul’s era began to associate “Peter, James, and John” with the trio mentioned in the gospels. We noted indisputable evidence of interpolation pressure from the gospels in both Gal 1:19 and 2:9.

To prevent people from wrongly assuming that Paul meant James, the son of Zebedee, during oral recitations the reader would look up and say, parenthetically, “the brother of the Lord.” Finally, this reading note eventually became interpolated into the text as we have it today.

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Tim Widowfield

Tim is a retired vagabond who lives with his wife and multiple cats in a 20-year-old motor home. To read more about Tim, see our About page.

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96 thoughts on “The Function of “Brother of the Lord” in Galatians 1:19”

  1. The phrase does seem out of place. Paul believes that Jesus is a celestial being, as even Ehrman contends. How probable is it that ancient Jews would accept the divinity of a recently crucified martyr who still had living blood relatives? It is one thing to accept an angelic messenger as even an emanation of God, it is another to accept a flesh and blood human with flesh and blood brothers and sisters. The idea that the phrase is scribal gloss makes sense.

  2. Thanks Tim for this article. It was necessary.
    What do you think about how Carrier deals with that evidence in OHJ?
    I think that his view is good, too: ‘brother of the Lord’ identified the unique (merely baptized) witness of the secret meeting between Paul and Peter, to emphasize obsessively again and again that Paul’s vision was entirely independent and not copied from previous apostles.

    I think that the quality of your explanation is especially that it is a view that neither a Marcion nor a Tertullian would easily used (even) if they were aware about it.
    Marcion would have benefited greatly if the interpretation of Carrier was true (if he has not done so is because surprisingly his version did not include those passages), while Tertullian would benefit easily if the interpretation of Bart Ehrman was true (brother of Lord = biological brother of Jesus).

    1. I can understand Carrier’s desire to make “brother of the Lord” into a kind of religious moniker. My question goes to the heart of why it’s there in the first place. After pondering the issue for years, I’ve come to believe that Paul only knew of one James. And I think that none of the evangelists knew the names of “the Twelve” Paul talks about, so they had to invent them. That’s why we have no idea what happened to most of them; they were fictional creations.

      As sketchy as Eusebius is where it comes to actual history, I think he’s sincerely confused when he grapples with his contradictory sources. So when he brings up Clement’s confusing statements concerning the pillars, it sounds as if he’s trying to create a harmonized version that makes sense.

      How is it possible that Eusebius has access to all that information, but even he has to patch it all together? Is he not aware of any “rich oral tradition” that explains who all these damned Jameses are? What happened to all those stories that were supposedly circulating about Jesus and the early church? How do we account for that enormous gap in the church’s knowledge of itself?

      1. I think it’s clear from reading Eusebius that he is writing with an almost complete lack of records that go back to the early Church. It is evident that there has been a great institutional hiatus, and he tries to fill it either with legends or with guesswork. I looked into this in a post on my own blog – http://3stes.blogspot.com/2014/09/the-curiously-missing-history-of-early.html The natural answer for mythicists is that the orthodox Church was not same institution as the early Church: which also makes sense of how they could so egregiously misconstrue that early Church’s documents as to imagine an allegorical Jesus was a real human being.

  3. Too many people named James. Too many named Mary. One guy running around with the alias Cephas, Peter, Simon. We need an editor here. Can anyone sell me a scorecard?

    1. Don’t forget the literally thousands of people called ” lord.”

      It’s easy to see how popular rumors conflated or mixed together, concreted, many different stories, many different characters, into one “Lord.”

      Or even one “Jesus.” Jesus was about the fifth or sixth most popular name at that time.

      1. The Septuagint translators (and probably their predecessors) made a fateful choice to translate Adonai as Kurios. So now we have a term that can refer to an ordinary person, Jesus, or YHWH.

    2. Martha meant “lady”. Was “Mary” an honorary title for a beloved follower rather than necessarily a given name. Simon was presumably a given name, and Peter (translation) and Cephas (transliteration) have the same meaning as a “nickname”.

      1. From what I have read, Martha is Aramaic for “Lady”, as in the feminine version of a Lord, or even “Mistress” as the feminine version of “Master” and some sources give “Lady of the House”. John 11 portrays her as such. I don’t think it is a coincidence that Nephthys, sister of Isis, Osiris, and Set, is represented by two hieroglyphs meaning “Lady” with the same connotation as Martha, and “enclosure”, which could mean “temple” or “house”.

        If one Googles “maria lactans” and “isis lactans” for images, it is obvious that Mary’s imagery comes from Isis but that may have developed later. Isis was well-known for being the mother of Horus. The name “Mary” doesn’t seem to have a Semitic source and some suggest it has an Egyptian origin.

        John mentions the mother of Jesus but never gives the name “Mary” while specifying that she had a sister named Mary when they visited the cross.

        Randel Helms, in the chapter on John of Who Wrote the Gospels?, cites R. O. Faulkner on how the Lazarus resurrection came to be. Osiris was in a tomb in the House of the Sun in Eunu (or Anu) and his two sisters, Isis (also his wife) and Nephthys, wept outside. In one version, Horus resurrects him. As the story was translated and transliterated to Hebrew or Aramaic and then to Greek, Osiris becomes “El-azar” or “Eleazar”, then “Lazarus”. Anu becomes “Beth-Anu” then “Bethany”.

        There are several phrases in John 11 that correspond to lines from Utterances from the Pyramid texts. I have been able to trace all but one Utterance to the pyramid tomb of Pepi II. I have not found any specific location for that one Utterance mentioned by Helms but I did find a similar line in a difference Utterance that is in Pepi II’s pyramid.

        1. ““Mary” doesn’t seem to have a Semitic source and some suggest it has an Egyptian origin.” I think this is a misunderstanding; there is wide consensus that “Mary” (Maria) is derived from the Hebrew/Aramaic name “Miryam”. Some suggest that this Hebrew/Aramaic name has Egyptian roots, but the derivation of Mary from Miryam is not in doubt.

          Miryam in the Hebrew bible (Exodus) is the older sister of Moses. Exodus does not give a clear clue why Jesus’ mother should be called Mary (NB nothing happens by accident in the bible). But Jewish traditions (as recorded in the Mishnah and Talmud) do give some hints: after Miryam was born, her father decided not to have more children, since the conditions in Egyptian slavery were too harsh for children. Miryam was a prophetess and she foretold that a brother would be born to her, and he would be a great man. She convinced her father to have 2 more children, Moses and Aaron, and so the prophecy was fulfilled.

          Don’t you think there is enough in this Jewish tradition to make a typological link to Jesus and his mother?

          1. “Mary” probably did come from “Miryam” but the whole story is about characters born in Egypt. “Moses” may come from a name like “Thutmoses”. Wikipedia says the meaning of the name “Miryam” is not clear but it could be It may mean “wished-for child”, “bitter”, “rebellious” or “strong waters”. Perhaps they are looking for meaning in the wrong language.

            Thutmoses captured a couple hundred thousand Canaanites and took them to Egypt to be slaves. I just came across that factoid a week ago and was struck by how similar the root of the Exodus story is a reversal of that event. I don’t know whether a link could be made besides that.

            Don’t you think there is enough in this Jewish tradition to make a typological link to Jesus and his mother?

            The early Christians favored the Septuagint where “Miriyam” appears as “Μαριαμ” and “Mary” appears in the Greek New Testament similarly, such as “Μαρίας”. As far as typological links go I would think that phonemes similar to “ma” in words for “mother” are quite common to many languages from East Asia to Western Europe. Greek and Latin had “mater” with difference of a diacritical mark. I don’t think Miriyam was thought of as a mother figure but her name in Greek may have an onomatopoetic association with motherhood. Just my guess.

            1. Regret I can’t verify that Thutmoses captured a couple hundred thousand Canaanites and took them to Egypt to be slaves. What is your source?

              With typology, I was also thinking of similarity in content:

              – the birth of a great man is announced – by God – to both Mary and Miryam

              – 2 brothers were born: one the leader & prophet (Jesus, Moses), the other the chief priest (James, Aaron).

              – After the leaders death, the leadership moved ‘out of the family’ (to Joshua, Peter/Paul), no kinship.

              – Mary and Miryam are important characters in the bible, without relying on a male consort.

              – the bible doesn’t mention that Miryam ever married.

              1. Sorry, it probably would have helped if I had been more specific with the name as it was “Thutmose III”, though there are variations on the spelling. I think I came across the information while looking for something else at http://www.touregypt.net/featurestories/tuthmosis3.htm

                However, the site is not responding now so I cannot verify this. My browser history shows I visited the site between one and two weeks ago.

                Mark 6:3 is the only time Mary’s name is mentioned in that gospel and that is as if she is a humble nobody. Jesus doesn’t have much use for her. She is not at the crucifixion or the tomb, though two other Marys are. Joseph is not mentioned at all by Mark.

                John talks about her in John 2:3-5 and John 19:25-27 but never mentions her name though she is at the cross with the two other Mary’s. Joseph is introduced as Jesus’ father in John 1:45 and mentioned a second time John 6:42 where the name Joseph is substituted for Mary from Mark 6:3.

                I think Matthew made up his genealogy and nativity story as an apology for John’s conundrum:

                John 7:41-42 (NRSV)41 Others said, “This is the Messiah.” But some asked, “Surely the Messiah does not come from Galilee, does he? 42 Has not the scripture said that the Messiah is descended from David and comes from Bethlehem, the village where David lived?”

                Mary is a completely passive character in Matthew 1:16-20 and Matthew 2:11 while Matthew 13:55 is Mark 6:3 all over again.

                Luke seems to have rejected Matthew’s apology, possible because Matthew left out some names from the OT genealogy and makes a big deal about fourteen generations but seems to count the Babylonian Exile as one of the generations. Luke may have choked on the idea that God would save Jesus and let all the other babies die because of him. So Luke changed everything.

                1. Joseph and Mary now live in Nazareth and go to Bethlehem with an entirely different reason for the travel.

                2. Now the angel appears to Mary instead of Joseph.

                3. Jesus is born in a barn instead of a house.

                4. Instead of Magi being notified by divine means, it is mere shepherds.

                5. Instead of an attempt on his life, Jesus is recognized by a prophet and a prophetess at the Temple as the Messiah.

                Matthew’s nativity story of jesus seems to be based on the nativity story of Moses from Josephus; account in Antiquities of the Jews 2 but Mary is nothing like Miryam there.

                Mary does not play a major role until Luke so her development is not from a major character and only appears that way because Luke played a game of opposites in his rejection of Matthew’s story. Luke 2:34 is the last time she is mentioned in that gospel.

                Mary was elevated to prominence by the early Catholic Church as she took on the role of Isis, the mother of Horus, in Egyptian religions.

      2. “Mary,” we are told, was probably the single most popular name for any woman, in and around the supposed time and geography of Jesus. As the number one name for a female, it is easy to find Marys who are similar.

        So we need to be careful, to look for many similarities, and not just a few, in the case of any attempted match-up between any two particular women named Mary.

        Though for that matter, the part of the NT Mary, allowing a birth where one was discouraged, might indeed have come from Moses’ sister, say.

    3. Too many modern biblical “scholars” think that the earlier Christians were more honest than Christians of today. Personally, I think the NT writers wrote a bunch of lies as witnessed by the ever changing stories. IOW, they made up stuff as they went.

  4. Jesus appearing first to James in 1 Cor. 15:7 couldn’t have meant a biological brother of Jesus because the brother of Jesus in the gospels is not an apostle. The writers of the gospels, written long after Paul, did not have the brother, James, as even a follower of Jesus but more of an opponent who, along with his mother, thought that Jesus was nuts.

    The purpose of Galatians 1:19 (and other select verses) is to make Jesus a flesh and blood man in opposition to the docetist teachings of Marcion. Marcion was first to introduce the letters of Paul and later corrected and re-introduced by the orthodoxy of the time, the Roman church. Marcion taught that Jesus was a manifestation of God who only appeared to be flesh and blood. Thus, the teachings of Marcion (and Simon of Samaria) became heretical teachings and hated by the likes of Tertullian and called “antichrist” in the epistles of John.

    1. If Paul wrote the letter to Galatians in the 40s or 50s CE, he can hardly have been “in opposition to the docetist teachings of Marcion” (c. 85 to c. 160 ce)

      1. Not to put words in Corky’s mouth, but the thinking here is that the “select verses” Corky’s talking about originally had nothing in them to tie the celestial Christ to the earthly Jesus. When the orthodox or “proto-orthodox” Christians took over the Pauline epistles from the Marcionites who had preserved them, they removed offending passages and added anti-docetic bits here and there.

        1. So Tim, the question is, was there an earthly Jesus at all? I can see mythical qualities being attached to physical humans after death. There is a long tradition of that. But are you or others saying that Paul thought Jesus was a purely spiritual being? Didn’t he talk about his suffering and death as a human, or is that a later interpolation?

            1. Michael, do you mean the question is whether Paul believed Jesus’ suffering occurred on earth or in the heavens? Or whether we should? What would suffering in the heavens be like? I know Paul says almost nothing about Jesus’ life, but did he really believe he was just a spirit?

              1. If I may drop in a comment here . . .

                From the Book of Revelation we know that Satan will suffer torments though he is a spirit being.

                Our idea of spirits and heaven being so pristine and aloof from things we associate with corruption was an esoteric idea in Hellenistic times; the more common beliefs held that in the lower heavens, below the moon (that heavenly body seen to be changeable — unlike higher heavenly bodies like the sun and stars) was where the corruptible spirits lived, and these could suffer the sorts of feelings known to us humans even though they were not themselves real flesh and blood. I wrote some posts of the evidence for this some time ago — one of these is at http://vridar.org/2010/09/30/demonology-the-basics-of-middle-platonic-beliefs-as-a-background-to-early-christianity/

              2. 400 years before Paul, Plato and others speculated that things here on earth were just inferior “copies” or “shadows” of original governing ideal “forms” or patterns, models, living invisibly somewhere. Probably in the heavens. This related to other common ideas of invisible gods or spirits in heaven, creating things here on this material earth.

                So the basic ideas of Marcion were really there by 350 BCE. Jesus, as a son of God, was seen by some as an earthly version or statement of an ideal model – God – in heaven.

                Thus key elements of both Paul and Marcion’s views about Jesse exist long before both of them.

              3. In response to your first two sentence Paxton, I meant the question is whether Paul believed Jesus’ suffering occurred on earth or in the heavens.

                Neil answered your third question.

                Regarding Paul’s beliefs about Jesus, when we look at Philippians 2:7-8, we see that the Jesus who suffered, died, and was exalted was neither simply a spirit nor did he become a man in the traditional sense of Christian orthodoxy.

              4. Thanks Michael. It’s hard to get into the mindset of people back then who believed more in supernatural things. If Jesus didn’t really exist, imo Mark, Luke, and especially Matthew, did a damned good job of laying out a set of moral principles for the new religion. I’m especially impressed with their (Jesus’) emphasis on social justice, and condemning the rich for oppressing the poor. Is there any of that in Paul? It seems the early struggle was not just about their conception of Jesus, but about their conception of a just society. Paul says submit, but the gospels say rebel.

              5. Paul talks about Jesus a lot, by name and/or title about once for every five verses and by the ambiguous “Lord” and by pronouns about every three verses but it is mostly adulation about Jesus in heaven. He says very little about Jesus on earth but every one of those things appears to come from the Old Testament, primarily from Isaiah. I think he was reading the Suffering Servant as “the revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long ages but is now disclosed, and through the prophetic writings” (Romans 16:25b-26a) that was literally true and he thought Jesus lived on earth some time after David, being a descendant, but before or contemporaneous with Isaiah.

  5. To prevent people from wrongly assuming that Paul meant James, the son of Zebedee, during oral recitations the reader would look up and say, parenthetically, “the brother of the Lord.”

    This view assumes that who interpolated ”brther of Lord” had a historicist reading of the Gospel in mind, as necessary prerequisite to have the need ”of discriminating from among the jumble of Jameses in the New Testament”.

    If the first gospel was meant as allegory, then the interpolation occured not immediately, but only after the time sufficient to go from an allegorical reading to a historicist/literalist reading of the gospel.

    1. As allegorical reading of the ‘biological brothers” in the first Gospel, I mean one where the inhabitans of Nazareth see a ”presumed” Jesus from Nazareth, complete with a mother, brothers and sisters, and a father who recalls symbolically perhaps the same god of the Jews (carpenter=demiurge?), but which really is the Son of God.

      In short, the our ”confidence” that Jesus had biological brothers in the first gospel is strongly flawed by the fact that to do that same claim are either the brothers themselves (and readers know what they believe: that Jesus is crazy!), or the inhabitants of Nazareth (definitely not the best you can wait as true witnesses of the true identity of Christ!!!).

  6. While I’m sympathetic to Carrier’s argument that “brother of the Lord” meant “ordinary Christian” when used by contrast with the status of apostles, I’m rather more suspicious that the entire first visit of Paul to Jerusalem (Gal. 1:18-20) is an interpolation. It makes rather a mess of Paul’s claim to be unknown in Judea; it’s not in Tertullian’s Marcionite text; it doesn’t seem to be in Irenaeus’ text; it has a plausible purpose of making Paul more dependent on the Jerusalem Church by moving forward the date of contact with them. If it is an anti-Marcionite interpolation, then I am prepared to think that it does indeed mean James the literal brother of the Lord, a character newly reinvented by wishful thinking of the orthodox in combination with the lucky confusion of James in Acts. I wrote about all this today as a response to your post – http://3stes.blogspot.co.uk/2016/01/who-is-james-brother-of-lord.html All my best wishes to you!

    1. Even the nick of James, ‘the Just’, may hide an anti-marcionite allusion (the god of the Jews was just but cruel, for Marcionites).
      The first visit is suspect as anti-marcionite, I agree, but if I reject it as interpolation, then I would be moved to reject 1 Cor 9:5, too, where Paul is described as a kind of ‘Hunchback of Notre Dame’ commiserating himself constantly because lower compared to the pillars.

  7. Regardless of why it IS there, we can be almost certain that it ISN’T there to indicate biological kinship. As Carrier points out, it would completely undermine Paul’s point to claim in the same sentence that he never learned about Jesus through human sources but he did meet the Lord’s family.

    “Brother of the Lord” is perfectly plausible as a simple title meaning fellow Christian, not least because it’s still in use in Christianity and common parlance. If you read something written by a modern Franciscan monk, and he referred to a “Brother James”, you wouldn’t say “Aha, this must be the author’s brother”.

    1. Confirming that, Gal. 3.26-4.6 reaffirms a frequent New Testament theme: that biological kinship is unimportant. As it stresses instead the spiritual or metaphorical kingship, brotherhood, that all believers are supposed to have.

      Ironically, those Christians who stress the biological provenance of Jesus, his alleged bio brother, are stressing something their bible told them not to stress.

        1. I think the real question is whether there was such a man, Jesus, as described in the synoptic gospels, or whether his biography was made up to fit a religious myth.

          1. Earl Dougherty and many here favor the mythology thicist theory that there was no real Jesus. Just a character made up to personify, symbolize, the abstract ideals.

          2. I think you’ll find most people commenting here assume that there was no such man as Jesus as described in the synoptic gospels and think the real question is did the author of Mark build the myth around around an historical figure (with a different biography) or did they create it out of whole cloth (perhaps inspired by Paul’s writings).

            1. Even parts of Mark have indications that biological relations with Jesus are less important than – and perhaps one and the same as – his spiritual relatives. Docetism – the notion it was all spiritual, even Jesus himself – was partially suppressed in the Bible. But chunks of it can be found throughout the New Testament. Particularly its hints that things are better taken as “spiritual, ” rather than physical or literal.

  8. If Gal 1:19 is an interpolation, what of 1 Corinthians 9:5, where Paul also references “brother(s) of the lord”? To my eyes, that passage(Do we not have a right to take along a believing wife, even as the rest of the apostles and the brothers of the Lord and Cephas?) seems to lack any motive for interpolation, though I will be glad to corrected on the matter.

    I doubt that in either passage Paul means “blood brother(s) of Jesus”, but I find an interpolation to be unlikely, as the phrase is used more than once, in different epistles and under rather different circumstances.

    1. To me it seems clear that Gnosticism or Marcionism was a live issue when the New Testament went through its last original edit. So in the Bible you can find chunks of two competing theologies.

      First we see 1) the simple position that the Bible is a literal, true account of real, actual, physical people and events. But next, this view is constantly opposed by 2) the view that all these things, like brothers and bread, are really just symbols, metaphors, for spirits, and spiritual things.

      The Bible thus contains two quite different theologies. So how were they kept from tearing the Bible apart, from their conflicts? For the sake of consistency most books in the New Testament, were edited. Edited in such a way so that every individual book was at least open somewhat, to both readings.

      So if a book seemed 1) too completely literal, a few sentences supporting a spiritual option as well, we’re inserted. Or? If a book, like one typically of Paul’s, seemed 2) too spiritual? Then a few appeals were added in behalf of the physical life.

      In the present example, some ordinary people ask to be not 1) entirely spiritual. But 2) to also keep or have actual, literal, physical wives, brothers, family.

    2. 1 Corinthians 9:5 seems to provide good support for the view that Paul uses ‘brother of the lord” in a spiritual sense.

      The translation ” believing wife” refers to the greek original “adelphen gynaika” Adelphen means ‘sister’ and gynaika means ‘wife. So Paul uses in 1 Corinthians 9:5 both adelphen (sister) and adelphos (brother). It looks highly unlikely to me that he would these words (both based on delphos, ‘womb’) in different ways; they are either both biological siblings, or both spiritually related.

      If Paul meant a biological sister, then he is saying in 1 Corinthians 9:5 that he has a right to marry his sister. Not impossible, but not a widely accepted reading of this verse.
      So more likely is a ‘spiritual sister’, which would mean ‘believing (in Christ) wife, which is the most accepted reading. But then ‘brothers of the lord in the same verse is most likely also a spiritual ‘brother’, believers in Christ.

      1. I agree that 1 Cor 9:5 provides good support for, as you say, Paul using “brother of the lord” in the spiritual sense. That is not the thesis of the OP though. The thesis is that Gal 1:19 was later interpolation to distinguish the James of the epistles with all the various Jameses(Jami?) that were later introduced in the gospels. Under that reading, a new and entirely different explanation must be come up with to explain the “brothers of the lord” reference in 1 Cor 9:5. That isn’t economical, nor particularly likely.

        1. I appreciate the arguments given for the thesis that BOTL is an interpolation in Gal. They might very well hold water. I just prefer other options over ‘interpolation’, since the latter opens you up to the criticism that you invoke ‘interpolation’ at any verse that doesn’t support your view.
          I don’t see a fatal discrepancy between Gal en Cor. Either Paul, or an interpolator, could have written BOTL in the spiritual sense.

          1. Question: Why not the “the brothers of the lord” as a Cult or sect or branch or rank, of which James was a member? This removes the need to postulate an interpolation, and makes perfect sense from my at least limited knowledge on the topic. Is there something eliminating this idea? It seems like like the most natural reading to me, if you take both versus as legit.

      2. Actually, the term ” sister wife,” is compound. And might signify an 1) actual physical wife, who is 2) also a believer, or a spiritual sister. Which seems to be the way translators take it.

        Why the reference to “brothers” of the lord in 1 Corrin.? Note that this is not really a firm descriptor. Since it notes many, not just one. Since it is therefore different from Galatians, it has no really firm bearing on that discussion. It was not needed for any firm discrimination. And it might therefore indicate any number of people. Who the text manifestly did not think were necessarily important to distinguish. Since it lumped them together, in a group.

        Was it noting blood relations, or spiritual ones? That is not the concern of the OP. Though in my framework, they could be either one. Without doing much damage to the finding that the Bible contains countless spiritual, Gnostic, Marconian elements. Which are visible if not here, then in literally hundreds of examples elsewhere. Throughout the entire New Testament.

        I prefer reading the Galatians brother as spiritual. But if it is not? Then likely it is indeed a later interpolation by anti Marcionists.

        Or? The possibility of a blood brother to Jesus, might have been raised, even by Marcionists. Simply to shut it down.

        Note that soon enough, many New Testament passages insist that our biological family in any case, is unimportant. Soon actual, literal brothers and mothers are produced. Only for Jesus to prominently leave them standing outside. Favoring his spiritual followers, his spiritual family, instead.

        So references to a brother of Jesus might even appear literal. But even so, then next we are told that such people are in any case unimportant, and irrelevant. To the real, spiritual/Marcionist message of the Bible.

  9. It still seems to more difficult to explain the gospels as brilliant works of didactic “biographical” fiction about a totally imaginary person than to posit the previous actual existence of a brilliant teacher. Whether he had been originally an advocate of social/political rebellion in some form or other remains arguable (see e.g. E. Bammel & C.F.D. Moule (eds), “Jesus & the Politics of his Day” (CUP 1984), esp.pp.11-68; J.H. Elliott, “Jesus was not an Egalitarian”, BTB, May 2002; miscellaneous critiques of J.D. Crossan &c).

    1. In either case, a brilliant person is required. So it’s a wash there.

      But then? The brilliant, Shakespearian writer has a slight advantage; slightly more plausibility. Since similar writers are historically known. (Eg, Shakespeare and Plato, and the many authors of the Constitution).

      So here, no supernatural miracles are required. Just standard, ordinary, human brilliance.

      1. No miracles, but an explanation of the motives for composing narratives of the character in question with some detailed verisimilitude and strikingly consistent parables. One can see the theological drama and symbolism throughout the fourth gospel, but the synoptic matter does not strike me as the literary achievement of a set of ancient unknown Platos, Miltons or Shakespeares. Incidentally, some of the latter’s plays are “based” on real people.

        We shall have to agree to disagree over “Jesus and his disciples – a complete and utter myth”.

        1. The motive was clearly to create an (alleged) ideal role model for humanity. A vivid image of a moral exemplar. Making him seem real, made him more detailed, convincing, and imitatible.

          Likely for that matter, details of his life were borrowed from dozens of real and mythical figures. Mainly heroic, but martyred young lords, or heirs apparent. Their heroic deaths were useful in encouraging our young men to likewise give their lives in the service of trying to save their people, their country.

          Possibly this compositing of many related heroic martyrs was not done entirely by conscious artifice or fabrication. Likely there had been many similar figures in history. Likely there were dozens of similar figures who were naturally mixed up, conflated, composited. First by oral folk storytellers.

          But today we should question the historically of this figure. And for that matter, we can question his ethics.

          Is dying in the service of your god, or people, really always the greatest good, for example? And does it always give us a place in paradise or heaven? Does it really give us miraculous powers? Or does it just make us all too slavishly obedient servants, to be exploited by the State.

          We might therefore question not only the historical accuracy of this idealized figure, but also the goodness of its ethical teachings as well.

          1. Who were behind this rare attempt to fabricate an “ideal role model for humanity” – why and when? What concrete data support your speculation?

            1. Probably all cultures have tales of heroes, for instance. Anthropology, social science, in countless writings, have told us this. And they have told us why.

              Where did those tales come from, exact ? Typically they are described as coming from the kinds of sources noted here. Oral folklore, and written accounts from them.

              1. Bee, isn’t Jesus an unlikely hero to make up? The Iliad was apparently based on a real war and possibly some of the characters were based on real people. Like the stories of the patriarchs and Moses in the OT, probably the stories were passes on orally go generations before being written down. Hear were heroic characters, establishing the identity of a nation. I see none of this in Jesus. He was the hero of the amorphous mass of poor people and the enemy of both the state and the religious infrastructure. He died an ignoble death. He’s not exactly Achilles, or his namesake Joshua. If you wanted to make up a man-God, why someone like him. Clearly he is in the mold of Hebrew prophets lime Amos and Hosea, preaching a message of social justice and mercy. But is that connection explicitly made. The OT connection he and others made were about fulfillment of God’s kingdom, not about further progress in social justice. Or am I wrong?

          2. Note for example, the current Vridar article on the related problem of Muslims being willing to give up their lives, for Paradise.

            Though the point there seems to be that is not their only motive, likely that motive, and fighting for their people and God, is among their many major motivations.

            And? It seems to have helped create problems. Including international terrorism.

            1. And? A strong mythic and folkloric tradition, and then a few dozen brilliant editors (Luke 1; Eusebius?etc.), were all that was required to put it together.

              1. Euhemerism: William Tell, yes; Arthur & Robin Hood, no. Paxton Marshall makes some good points.

                Why didn’t the Jewish and pagan opponents of the primitive church say that Jesus never existed at all?

                You need to examine specific events and teachings in their probable cultural and geographical context, rather than making vague claims, and excessive inferences from e.g. the contrived Lukan prologue or the much later work by Eusebius. The Aramaic basis of much gospel material suggests a pre-70 CE origin.

                The writing up from OT imagery is a separate question from a postulated “mythic and folkloric tradition” as the sole basis of Christian belief, practice and organization.

                Also, you can’t just dismiss bits that don’t fit as “interpolations”.

              2. I’m of course offering chapters full of evidence in the book I’m writing on this. Roughly I’m seeing the sources for the Jesus myths beginning as early as 167 BCE, with Eleazar and the seven resurrecting sons of God; who die to save us. In 2 Mac. 6-7.

                Some real figures were behind some of this. But many; not just one.

                Nobody after 70AD objected. .. among a dozen other reasons, because the destruction of Jerusalem, full of Jews for Passover, eradicated most key witnesses live or written, for or against, any gospel accounts.

                Lots more needs to be established of course. And it’s in my current draft.

                A dying hero by the way, is anything but unusual. Lots of martyrs out there.

  10. Look forward to your book. Please read around the subject a bit more before you complete.

    My first sentence was badly constructed & gave the opposite impression. Arthur, Robin Hood & other legendary/fictionalized heroes were based on several actual personages, whereas Tell seems to have been conjured out of thin air.

    1. I’ve read quite a bit. I’m not ignorant of opposing theories, but after due consideration of them, I am placing my emphasis in different places.

      For example, I clearly see OT influence in the NT. Which however I would say is partly myth. And which in any case does not, in itself, fully predict the New qualities that are the peculiar, defining characteristics of Jesus. Those crucial, new elements, I am showing, came from the sudden, massive infusions of Greco Romaan culture. Greeks, c 332 BCE. Romans in 64 BC, and 70 AD.

      Can’t say more without disservice to the present post.

  11. I argue that Paul was being sarcastic when he called James “the Lord’s brother”. In Galatians 2:9, he calls James, Cephas, and John “pillars” three verses after he expressed disdain at the pillars and that God agrees with him. Galatians 5:11-12 says Paul wished the circumcisers would go the whole way and emasculate themselves. That points to Galatians 2:11-12 where Paul says James ordered people from the circumcision faction to go to Antioch. Then compare Galatians 1:1 with the opening verse of other epistles where you never see Paul explicitly saying that he is not sent by human authorities. So the first time he writes the name “James”, he is saying that James sends people on missions the way the Lord sends Paul himself on missions, thus James is assuming the same power as the Lord as if he is a “the Lord’s brother”.

    His motive seems to be that James and Cephas were undercutting Paul’s message, so he spends the first two chapters tearing them down to build himself up. He says he didn’t get anything from them on his visit with them. He recounts the time he showed up Cephas in Antioch. I think the “agitators” in Galatians 5:11-12 point to “Who has bewitched you?” in Galatians 3:1, where somebody must have denied the crucifixion, as Paul goes on to cite several OT verses to explain it.

    In 1 Corinthians 9, it appears that someone has been trying to deprive Paul of his financial support from the Corinthians, so he calls his detractors “the brothers of the Lord”. In 1 Corinthians 9:8, he rhetorically asks “Do I say this on human authority?”, then cites Moses on not muzzling an ox when they tread the grain.

    It is apparent that Paul used the phrase “brother(s) of the Lord” when people assume human authority to do what only the Lord should be doing.

    1. But even if James was not Jesus’ biological brother, this whole account of Paul, seems to assume that Jesus had been a real human, and that Cephas and others had known him personally. Therefore contradicting the hypothesis that Paul thought Jesus was a purely spiritual being?

          1. A rival? an influential church leader(“pillar”)? an asshole? All of that is made pretty explicit, but Cephas as the follower of a real man? There is no mention of that. I’ll put it this way: If you didn’t already know that Cephas was supposed to be the follower of a real human being who he knew personally, would that idea have ever occurred to you based on the epistles alone? My answer is “no”, but I guess you have to come to your own conclusion.

          2. Paul never says he saw Jesus. Paul says he didn’t get his information from anyone, suggesting he got it by revelation from scripture. That checks out as everything Paul says about Jesus on Earth can be found in the Old Testament, especially Isaiah. In 1 Corinthians 15, he says that Jesus “died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures (Isaiah 53:5), that he was buried (Isaiah 53:9), and that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures (Hosea 6:2). “In accordance with the scriptures” is a translation choice which could be “according to the scriptures” as if he was reading them as history.

            He uses the same Greek word (“optanomai”) for “appeared to” that he uses for himself as well as for Cephas and the twelve, the five hundred, and James. Paul doesn’t think their experiences were any different than his own. He apparently thought they derived the resurrection from the scripture of the day. Cephas must have been the first to see it, he preached it to others who went along with it.

            Paul must have surmised that the suffering, punishment, and dying for sins meant crucifixion, which he backs up in Galatians 3. It seems that Cephas and James had undermined the message of the crucifixion and Paul’s salvation through faith formula as he spent about two chapters disparaging their credibility of the “circumcision faction” in Galatians 1, 2 & 5.

      1. I don’t argue that Paul thought Jesus was only a spiritual being. I think Paul thought Jesus existed on Earth several hundred years earlier, after David, being his descendant, and before or during Isaiah’s time, as the Suffering Servant songs are written in the past tense. I think Paul was reading the allegory as having a hidden mystery of actual history embedded in it. The fact that the mystery was being revealed during his generation made him expect the Messiah was coming during that generation. He was not the last person to read into scripture what he wanted to see.

  12. question for the author of this article

    “You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified.”

    can one interpret this verse to mean that some of the galatians were denying the crucifixion?
    or is he saying that they are leaving the faith for the law, even though the law was nailed?

    1. “Before your very eyes, Jesus was portrayed as crucified”. Funny way of saying it. Not that Jesus WAS crucified before anyone’s eyes, but that he was “portrayed ” as crucified.

      1. different translations

        Oh, foolish Galatians! Who has cast an evil spell on you? For the meaning of Jesus Christ’s death was made as clear to you as if you had seen a picture of his death on the cross.

        GOD’S WORD® Translation
        You stupid people of Galatia! Who put you under an evil spell? Wasn’t Christ Jesus’ crucifixion clearly described to you?

        is this teaching or a play on the stage?

      2. It is indeed a very odd wording. Not quite a smoking gun, but highly suggestive for those with ears to hear, because, whatever Paul is saying, it sure isn’t “hey, Galatians, everybody knows Jesus was crucified, since he had all those followers who were there and saw it or heard about it right after.”

        The Greek word here is προεγράφη (proegráphē). Parvus has argued that this should be read simply as “forewritten”: http://vridar.org/2014/10/28/a-simonian-origin-for-christianity-part-14-simonpaul-and-the-law-of-moses-continued/

        Strong’s gives three readings:

        “(a) I write previously (aforetime); I write above (already), (b) I depict or portray openly, (c) I designate beforehand.”


  13. Problem with dates. You say Matthew was responding to John’s conundrum, and that he based nativity story on Josephus’ antiquities. But isn’t Matthew’s gospel usually dated well before John’s and Josephus’ works?

  14. I recently saw a Carrier video where is claims that in there is a great debate among scholars as to whether Galatians 1:19 is talking about the biological or theological brother of Jesus. I have spent a couple of weeks looking for evidence of any significant debate. Is this really a debate of any significance among scholars? If so, which scholars support the position that it is a theological brother and not biological?

    1. Welcome little jimmo. (I see from your avatar you are one of our younger readers here. Good to have you on board.)

      Speaking as a librarian I am very sorry you have spent such a frustrating two whole weeks in fruitless search. It is a pity you did not come here sooner. There are special tools scholars and academic librarians use to answer questions like yours and it can take closer to 20 minutes than two weeks to find the answer. I can introduce you to them if you like. They are well known in the academic community.

      So let me help you with your inquiry. But first, can you give me the source of your particular concern? Can you give me the link to the video and give me some idea of where I can find the words in question? What we like to do is understand the provenance of such claims — their context, their date, their import. The reason is that we all know from common experience that even the more learned among us have at some time been known to have misstated something or left an unintended ambiguity, so it is important to know how the audience originally understood the remark and if it has been repeated since and if not, what has been said. Sometimes we find memory, even only seconds old, can be faulty or selective.

      Here at Vridar you will read several posts taking a critical view of some of Carrier’s viewpoints and specific arguments, so if you find any misstatement or clear error at all, would you like us to construct a special archive where we can collate all of these and dedicate it to all the misstatements and errors of Carrier, with the implication being conveyed that readers are fools if they take seriously anything that charlatan says? Should we do the same for other scholars, such as Bart Ehrman? Or should we restrict ourselves to those scholars advancing other views that we find objectionable? Such an archive could prove very handy for us to point to whenever we find anyone actually bothering to engage with a particular point of argument central to their thesis and would save us all a lot of serious intellectual effort.

      Looking forward to your further helping me with your inquiry and to hearing of your views about the dirt-archive we might set up to replace intellectual engagement with published arguments.

      1. Thank you for your quick reply, Neil. I would extremely grateful for any pointers about where to look for this kind of information. The video in question is here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mwUZOZN-9dc . The discussion about Galatians 1:19 starts at about 40:00. Here is claims that this passage is “the weakest pillar you can rest historicity on”. (The phrase “great debate among scholars” seems to be an error on my part, perhaps the result of a ” faulty or selective” memory.)

        Your post comes across to me as sarcastic. (e.g. “replace intellectual engagement with published arguments”), but I don’t see what I said/wrote in my original post that would provoke such a reaction. My original interpretation was that Carrier was claiming there is a debate. In reviewing the video, he seems to be claiming there is no debate, rather scholars, in general agree that this the “weakest pillar”. (admittedly that is my interpretation of what Carrier is saying)

        IMO any archive of “misstatements and errors” should include all scholars and not just a specific one, and I think the emphasis should be on the topic and not individual. That is, there might be a section on Galatians 1:19 listing scholars who believe it supports historicity, those who do not, erroneous claims about the passage, etc. I have engaged with both Carrier and Ehrman on various blogs and I am certain Ehrman would not have a problem with people pointing out his errors. I personally corrected him once on his blog and he thanked me for the correction.

        1. Well there is a gang of “let’s go kick Carrier” types roaming the discussion groups and I took your comment as coming from that same quarter. They specialise in digging up any bit of dirt or lapse they can find. Your avatar was also unfortunately reminiscent of one belonging to particularly unpleasant character in that gang. It appears I was mistaken — (I saw a conspiracy that wasn’t there?) — so I do truly apologise.

          (The person I thought you were is also well aware of the scholarly tools hence my sarcasm — badly misdirected in this case. What I was thinking of were online databases and indexes that collate the published scholarly literature — such as the Social Sciences Citation Index — a few keywords entered into the search parameters can quickly identify areas of debate in the scholarly community. But as you probably realise by now there is not debate in the scholarly community over whether “the brother of the Lord” refers to anyone but Jesus. There may be a few articles challenging that idea but the community is not divided, so to speak. It’s one of those things generally taken for granted by professionals who mostly come from Christian backgrounds that assume such things about the Bible.)

          I am glad you have had positive exchanges with Ehrman. Unfortunately I have not. I did send him a series of questions on his claims about certain persons’ arguments in his book Did Jesus Exist? He never replied. My questions included quotations of his words about the arguments of Doherty, along with Doherty’s own words that refuted Ehrman’s claims. Ehrman made a number of blatantly false claims that led one to think he was very careless in his reading of the works he was criticising or that he was relying on what others said about them.

          On the question of mythicist arguments I have found Ehrman to be less than honest. I think most of us are open to being corrected on points that we find helpful and that don’t go to the foundation of our core interests and biases.

  15. No foul, no harm.

    The issue for me is not whether ‘ “the brother of the Lord” refers to anyone but Jesus’ but rather who “the brother” is. Does it talk about a biological or theological brother? In my mind since specifically refers to an “apostle” then it can only be James the son of Zebadee or James the biological brother (cousin?) of Jesus as these were the only known *apostles* named James. Since an apostle is almost *by definition* “*a* brother of the the lord” (theological brother), the extra caveat “the brother” indicates a biological brother. I realize that in the Gospels James, the brother of Jesus, is not mentioned as one of the 12 *disciples* that would not prevent him from being an Apostle in Paul’s eyes, especially when referring to him as a “pillar” later in Galatians.

    As for Ehrman, I seriously doubt that there was any malicious intent on his part. He has stated the he sometimes uses graduate students to provide summaries of books and probably something got lost in transmission between someone reading Doherty and then providing Ehrman with a summary. At worst he is guilty of not checking his sources. Personally, I find that more acceptable that calling people who disagree with you “insane”.

    1. We have posted on “the brother of the Lord” question many times now: see the “brother of the Lord” archive. After looking at arguments for different meanings (spiritual / biological) I have come to favour the view that the phrase was not written by Paul at all, and that appears to be Tim’s inclination, too, from the post above.

      When we bring in our respective ideas of James the Just and James the son of Zebedee, we are bringing in figures from a later period. We are assuming that those figures who only appear in much later literature were indeed the ones known to Paul. But as Tim points out in the post above, these James figures are the focus of rival traditions that appeared only decades after Paul presumably wrote Galatians.

      In other words, the question of James being a brother of any kind to anyone was never on Paul’s radar. When we ask the question we are not asking about Paul’s meaning, but about what was going on in the minds of later readers of Galatians.

      I am sure Bart Ehrman is a pleasant enough gentleman throughout his everyday life – I have no reason to think otherwise. But people say I am also a very friendly and easy-going person who would never harm a fly. Yet look how I responded to you at first. I responded with a bit of malicious sarcasm because I ignorantly assumed something about you that was not in fact true. I think it is the same with Ehrman and mythicists like Doherty. Ehrman has a certain assumption about mythicists that leads him to write distortions, falsehoods and very unprofessional personal denigrations of them and their actual arguments.

      Ehrman is not a Christian but in my experience the same is very often true of Christian scholars (and many other Christians, too). They are very likable people among their own kind and strangers and distant colleagues, but show a different side when they encounter anyone who raises serious questions about the belief systems upon which they have come to build their identities and reputations. (Some totally freak out at the very thought of anyone simply being an atheist!)

      1. I think Tim’s reasoning is sound. However, there was probably no need to add “brother of the Lord” unless it was also true in the literal sense. Why not also address Cephas or John also as “brothers” of the Lord, if being a “brethren” in the Christian sense was all that was required? The Gnostics certainly would not have liked that comment. And even the later Orthodox Christians would have abhorred the idea that Jesus had a biological brother. I think “brother of the Lord” goes against the grain, and was either original or was such an early comment that it could not be removed.

        1:05 pm

        The same goes for Mark 3. When Mark says even Jesus brothers and mother were looking for him, apparently it didn’t even cross Mark’s mind that Jesus having biological brothers would be offensive to the later “proto-Orthodox” and “Gnostic” churches. Mark didn’t even give it a second thought. Apparently Paul never gave it a second thought either. This was pointed out a long time ago by other scholars. Mark was so early, he escaped the later fully divine theology of Jesus.

        1.25 pm

        And I know you say that Mark was using “mother and brothers” as parable for the Jerusalem Church. And I suppose that could be true. But for the most part Mark’s hearers would not have known that and would have assumed that Mark was referring to Jesus’ biological family. Apparently it would not have caused any offense to Mark’s audience, otherwise Mark would not have used that parable. Which again points to a time when the fully divine status of Jesus had not yet evolved. So if there is anything that did not exist in the beginning of Christianity, it was this idea that Jesus had no family. In the beginning, Jesus was assumed to be human, in the flesh, and quite possibly also historical, with real brothers and sisters. That at least seems to be what the evidence suggests. That does not mean it is true, but only what early Christians assumed.

  16. James’ appearance in Mark as a sceptic about Jesus probably serves a theological function.

    For instance, in Mark we read:

    4Then Jesus told them, “A prophet is without honor only in his hometown, among his relatives, and in his own household.” 5So He could not perform any miracles there, except to lay His hands on a few of the sick and heal them. (Mark 6:4-5)

    Probably what had happened is that Mark was aware of early criticisms of Jesus suggesting Jesus was not able to perform Great Miracles, so he invented the story of Jesus’ rejection by his family to explain this criticism away: “Yes, Jesus couldn’t perform great works at times (like in his home town, around his relatives), but this is true of every prophet.”

    Matthew, envisioning Jesus as the New and Greater Moses, apparently had a problem with this because Matthew changed Mark’s “couldn’t perform any miracles,” to “couldn’t perform many miracles.”

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