When Did James Become the Brother of the Lord?

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by Neil Godfrey

What we have is a tradition that fairly consistently understood James to be the biological relative of Jesus, even when it eventually found it awkward to view him as Jesus’ biological brother because of other doctrines that had been developing surrounding Jesus and Mary. Religion Prof

Yes, and the earliest evidence we have of that tradition appears in a work by Origen almost 200 years after (most scholars believe) the following was penned by Paul:

Galatians 1:

18 Then after three years, I went up to Jerusalem to get acquainted with Cephas and stayed with him fifteen days. 19 I saw none of the other apostles—only James, the Lord’s brother. 20 I assure you before God that what I am writing you is no lie.

21 Then I went to Syria and Cilicia. 22 I was personally unknown to the churches of Judea that are in Christ. 23 They only heard the report: “The man who formerly persecuted us is now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy.” 24 And they praised God because of me.

Origen in his Commentary on Matthew referred to that Galatians passage:

And depreciating the whole of what appeared to be His nearest kindred, they said, Is not His mother called Mary? And His brethren, James and Joseph and Simon and Judas? And His sisters, are they not all with us? They thought, then, that He was the son of Joseph and Mary. But some say, basing it on a tradition in the Gospel according to Peter, as it is entitled, or The Book of James, that the brethren of Jesus were sons of Joseph by a former wife, whom he married before Mary. Now those who say so wish to preserve the honour of Mary in virginity to the end. . . . .

And James is he whom Paul says in the Epistle to the Galatians that he saw, But other of the Apostles saw I none, save James the Lord’s brother.

And to so great a reputation among the people for righteousness did this James rise, that Flavius Josephus, who wrote the Antiquities of the Jews in twenty books, when wishing to exhibit the cause why the people suffered so great misfortunes that even the temple was razed to the ground, said, that these things happened to them in accordance with the wrath of God in consequence of the things which they had dared to do against James the brother of Jesus who is called Christ. And the wonderful thing is, that, though he did not accept Jesus as Christ, he yet gave testimony that the righteousness of James was so great; and he says that the people thought that they had suffered these things because of James. 

Eusebius, Epiphanius and Jerome, of the fourth and fifth centuries, also comment on “the tradition that fairly consistently understood James to be the biological relative of Jesus”.

Before Origen we have no indication that anyone noticed that passage in Galatians about the relationship of James and Jesus. The canonical gospels speak of James as a brother of Jesus but that James is evidently a non-believer. He was certainly not a follower of Jesus. The Acts of the Apostles sets a James in a position of ultimate authority in the Jerusalem Church (ch. 15) but there is no suggestion that this James was related to Jesus.

In 1 Corinthians 15 we read that the resurrected Jesus appeared to Peter, then to The Twelve, then to 500 brethren, then to James. Again, there is no suggestion that this James had any family relationship with Jesus.

Justin Martyr, writing in the early half of the second century, makes no mention of any especially distinguished James figure in the early church. Justin appears to know nothing of the Acts narrative because he tells us that all the apostles scattered from Jerusalem after Jesus’ ascension and preached the gospel throughout the world. Neither Paul nor James appears in Justin’s writings. (The only James Justin mentions is the son of Zebedee.)

We next come to Tertullian who wrote at length a diatribe against the teachings of Marcion. One of those teachings was that Jesus was not a literal human as we are but only took on the appearance of a human. Though Tertullian made many references to Marcion’s copy of Paul’s letter to the Galatians, and though he regularly castigated Marcion for chopping out verses he did not like as interpolations, Tertullian makes no mention at all Paul ever having acknowledged that James was the brother of the Lord or of Jesus. It is as though that passage did not exist in either Marcion’s or Tertullian’s copy of the epistle.

Accordingly, Jason D. BeDuhn in The First New Testament: Marcion’s Scriptural Canon, states that the passage quoted above, 1:18-24, “is unattested” (p. 262).

Adolf Harnack, an early scholar of Marcion, wrote in Marcion: The Gospel of the Alien God, of the same passage in Galatians:

Chapter 1:18-24 probably were omitted because Marcion could not allow these connections of the apostle with Peter and the Jewish-Christian communities to stand . . . (p. 31)

Yet  Harnack finds no opportunity to inform readers that Tertullian took the opportunity (as he did elsewhere) to excoriate “the heretic” for cutting out passages he did not like.

Another author in his book arguing against Christ Myth proponents of his day, A. D. Howell Smith, noted a further indication that Galatians 1:18-19 was unknown to anyone, “orthodox” or “heretic”, at that time:

There is a critical case of some slight cogency against the authenticity of Gal. i, 18, 19, which was absent from Marcion’s Apostolicon; the word “again” in Gal. ii, 1, which presupposes the earlier passage, seems to have been interpolated as it is absent from Irenaeus’s full and accurate citation of this section of the Epistle to the Galatians in his treatise against Heretics. (p. 76 of Jesus Not A Myth by A. D. Howell Smith.)

As for the passage about “the brother of Jesus called Christ, James by name” in Josephus’s Antiquities, note only that Origen’s discussion was confused because it states that Josephus claimed that the Jews believed Jerusalem was destroyed because of their unjust treatment of James — Josephus says nothing like that in our copies of his work. (Notice, further, that no-one appears to have had any knowledge of such a passage until, once again, the time of Origen!) As for the rather strange phrasing of the reference that points to the likelihood of marginal notes being incorporated into the text at some point, and the reliance of the passage upon Josephus having made the unlikely identification of Jesus as the Messiah or Christ in an earlier passage, see earlier posts:

It is not unreasonable to suspect that the Galatians 1:19 passage was added at some point after the time of Tertullian.

Against Heresies 3.13.3.

Quoniam autem his, qui ad Apostolos vocaverunt eum de quaestione, acquievit Paulus, et ascendit ad eos cum Barnaba in Hierosolymam, non sine causa, sed ut ab ipsis libertas Gentilium confirmaretur, ipse ait in ea quae ad Galatas est epistola: Diende post XIV annos ascendi Hierosolymam cum Barnaba, assumens et Titum. Ascendi autem secundum revelationem, et contuli cum eis Evangelium, quod praedico inter Gentes

Supporting the idea that only one visit to Jerusalem was depicted in the Epistle to the Galatians (and that the first visit in which Paul says he met Peter/Cephas along with James the brother of the Lord was an interpolation) is Irenaeus’s apparent quotation of Galatians 2:1. He indicates that Paul only paid one visit to Jerusalem, not two. He does not know the word “again”. See the extract in the side box from the Benedictine text available at archive.org: translated Irenaeus has “After 14 years I went up to Jerusalem”, no “again” in there. If Irenaeus indicates the original here then this section of Galatians read:

17 I did not go up to Jerusalem to see those who were apostles before I was, but I went into Arabia. Later I returned to Damascus.

18 Then after three years, I went up to Jerusalem to get acquainted with Cephas[b] and stayed with him fifteen days. 19 I saw none of the other apostles—only James, the Lord’s brother. 20 I assure you before God that what I am writing you is no lie.

21 Then I went to Syria and Cilicia. 22 I was personally unknown to the churches of Judea that are in Christ. 23 They only heard the report: “The man who formerly persecuted us is now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy.” 24 And they praised God because of me. Then after fourteen years, I went up again to Jerusalem.

Thus went the original, or so it appears on the basis of Irenaeus. (For the source of this argument see my earlier notes from Howell Smith at James Brother of the Lord: Another Case for Interpolation.


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56 thoughts on “When Did James Become the Brother of the Lord?”

  1. Gal 1:18-24 (criterion 2 weakly, criterion 3 weakly, and criterion 4)

    These verses are unattested as being in Marcion. Irenaeus (A.H. 3.13), Tertullian’s quotation of Marcion (AM 5.3.1), Augustine (Quaestionum Evangeliorum 2.40, Migne PL vol. 35 col. 1355), John Chrysostom (Commentary on Galatians 2.1, Migne PG vol. 61 col. 633), a certain Greek Catena in epistulam ad Galatas (e cod. Coislin. 204, page 27, line 10), the Bohairic Coptic version, and a manuscript of the Vulgate have Galatians 2:1 without the word “again.”

    There is some level of expectation that Tertullian would have quoted it in an attempt to show subordination of Paul to Peter and James.

    Some or all of these verses are considered an interpolation on other grounds by J. C. O’Neil (The Recovery of Paul’s Letter to the Galatians, p. 25), Frank R. McGuire (“Did Paul Write Galatians?“), Hermann Detering (“The Original Version of the Epistle to the Galatians,” p. 20), David Oliver Smith (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and Paul, p. 72), Robert Price (The Amazing Colossal Apostle, p. 415), and in some comments online.


    Quoting ‘Jesus Not A Myth’ by A. D. Howell Smith, –

    There is a critical case of some slight cogency against the authenticity of Gal. i, 18, 19, which was absent from Marcion’s Apostolicon; the word “again” in Gal. ii, 1, which presupposes the earlier passage, seems to have been interpolated as it is absent from Irenaeus’s full and accurate citation of this section of the Epistle to the Galatians in his treatise against Heretics.


    Neither Tertullian nor Epiphanius comments on vv. 1:18-24, but Evans (following Harnack) writes:

    He omitted 1:18-24 [the visit to Jerusalem and the meeting with Cephas and James, followed by retirement to Syria and Cilicia].

    There appears to be no authority for this statement other than the fact that these verses are not attested as having been present in the Apostolicon.

    1. There appears to be no authority for this statement other than the fact that these verses are not attested as having been present in the Apostolicon.

      It’s a bit more than that. If they are not in Marcion’s version then we must ask why Tertullian failed to remark on that when the passage was such strong evidence against Marcion’s teaching about Jesus.

      But that is just the beginning of our questions. Why is there no spin-off reference in any of the writings, including gospels, Acts and Justin Martyr, where we would expect some acknowledgement/explanation re a “brother of Jesus” coming to be among Jesus’ followers and then head of the Jerusalem church.

      1. There are a few passages that refer to a James among his followers, and among ‘brothers’ (and sisters), though these are contradicting, –

        eg, Mark 3:13-34, where first James his brother is not appointed one of the twelve —

        13 Jesus went up on a mountainside and called to him those he wanted, and they came to him. 14 He appointed twelve[a] that they might be with him and that he might send them out to preach 15 and to have authority to drive out demons. 16 These are the twelve he appointed: Simon (to whom he gave the name Peter), 17 James son of Zebedee and his brother John (to them he gave the name Boanerges, which means “sons of thunder”), 18 Andrew, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James son of Alphaeus, Thaddaeus, Simon the Zealot 19 and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him.

        Then Jesus is accused by his family and by teachers of The Law, and he fails to specify his family, –

        20 Then Jesus entered a house, and again a crowd gathered, so that he and his disciples were not even able to eat. 21 When his family [or his ‘associates’] heard about this, they went to take charge of him, for they said, “He is out of his mind.”

        22 And the teachers of the law who came down from Jerusalem said, “He is possessed by Beelzebul! By the prince of demons he is driving out demons.”

        23 So Jesus called them over to him and began to speak to them in parables: “How can Satan drive out Satan? 24 If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. 25 If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand. 26 And if Satan opposes himself and is divided, he cannot stand; his end has come. 27 In fact, no one can enter a strong man’s house without first tying him up. Then he can plunder the strong man’s house. 28 Truly I tell you, people can be forgiven all their sins and every slander they utter, 29 but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven; they are guilty of an eternal sin.”

        30 He said this because they were saying, “He has an impure spirit.”

        31 Then Jesus’ mother and brothers arrived. Standing outside, they sent someone in to call him. 32 A crowd was sitting around him, and they told him, “Your mother and brothers are outside looking for you.”

        33 “Who are my mother and my brothers?” he asked.

        34 Then he looked at those seated in a circle around him and said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! 35 Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother.”

        There’s John 7:5, 10

        2 … when the Jewish Festival of Tabernacles was near, 3 Jesus’ brothers said to him, “Leave Galilee and go to Judea, so that your disciples there may see the works you do. 4 No one who wants to become a public figure acts in secret. Since you are doing these things, show yourself to the world.” 5 For even his own brothers did not believe in him …

        10 However, after his brothers had left for the festival, he went also, not publicly, but in secret.

        Acts 1, after Jesus had been taken up, there is is no indication either of the two James who are apostles is a brother of Jesus; indeed, the apostles are joined by in prayer with unspecified brothers of Jesus (v.14), –

        12 Then the apostles returned to Jerusalem from the hill called the Mount of Olives, a Sabbath day’s walk[c] from the city. 13 When they arrived, they went upstairs to the room where they were staying. Those present were Peter, John, James and Andrew; Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew; James son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot, and Judas son of James. 14 They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers.

        In Acts 12, after Peter had escaped from prison, “he went to the house of Mary the mother of John, also called Mark, where many people had gathered and were praying” (v.12).

        16 … when they opened the door and saw him, they were astonished. 17 Peter motioned with his hand for them to be quiet and described how the Lord had brought him out of prison. “Tell James and the other brothers and sisters about this,” he said, and then he left for another place.

        A James is called an elder who met Paul in Acts 21:18.

        1 Cor 15:3-8 has Paul recounting what he [Paul] “received” about Jesus and sequential appearances, –

        3 For what I received I passed on to you at the first / as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve. 6 After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, 8 and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.

        1. Correct, but not one of those references explains the James as a head of the Jerusalem church. In fact, those references are the problem that won’t fit with Galatians 1:19. I referred to those references sometimes generally and in the case of 1 Cor. 15 explicitly.

          Those passages tell us that James a brother of Jesus was not a believer or follower of Jesus.

          1 Cor 15 gives us no idea which James is being referred to, and keep in mind that that was supposedly written long before the gospel narratives.

          The idea that there is a brother of Jesus called James as head of the Jerusalem church who first appears in a passage that is not testified until the late second century despite the existence of groups with a strong interest to make use of it. Justin indicates that the Acts story of James was unknown to him in the early second century.

          If the author of Acts (or really Luke-Acts) thought that the James who was the head of the Jerusalem church was the brother of Jesus then we have major unanswered and very strange questions arising.

          The implications of James a brother of Jesus being head of the Jerusalem church are staggering and simply defy belief, in my view. See https://vridar.org/2017/12/05/thinking-through-the-james-the-brother-of-the-lord-passage-in-galatians-119/

          I can understand (though I disagree with their rationale) Christ myth proponents bending over backwards to avoid appealing to interpolation, and as far as I am aware not a single one has appealed to interpolation in the case of Gal. 1:19. Those who have noticed the plausibility of interpolation are a few mainstream critical scholars.

  2. There is an alternative history that John the Baptist wasn’t the forerunner who announced Jesus. According to the alternative history of the Mandaeans, Jesus was a usurper of the secrets and liar. John was the real healer, exorcist, prophet, of the first century. But he was a diviner and diviners were anathema. The Romans wanted god worship. Brother of the Lord is assumed to be James (the brother) and Jesus (the Lord). Why couldn’t James be John’s brother and Mary be John’s wife? But John’s entire history was discarded because it didn’t fit the agenda of the god worshippers. A new (false) history was written. If anybody can learn to be a healer when the secrets are known, then God isn’t needed.

  3. Now that people familiar with the material, the epoch, the region, have had an opportunity to comment, I would like to go off on a couple of tangents, one here, and another in a 2nd comment.

    First, are there any knowledgeable comments on the words, “I assure you before God that what I am writing is no lie?”

    To this 20th to 21st century naive observer this is an odd comment. Does anyone else want to remark on it?

    Nowadays one tends to be so trained to distrust people who volunteer such comments, which are red flags at least nowadays at least in English in much of the English-as-1st-language world. A modern author (interpolating a few phrases or writing a larger section) trying to make a serious case would have used subtler language to assert honesty.

    An extreme cynic might wonder whether a person writing such words might be trying to discredit the hypothetically interpolated verses and their religious tendency by including these words.

    However a modern reader would wonder whether a true believer would employ such devious methods in a presumably holy endeavor, even if it was an era when it was considered o.k. for authors to falsely identify themselves as disciples or other important figures.

    Comments from the more knowledgeable?

    1. I have seen nothing in the commentaries I have come across that suggests such a phrase need indicate any sort of psychological motivation that is contrary to how we would interpret the words today. “The games people play” today are not very different from those “people have played for millennia”. I have come across nothing to suggest otherwise. All my reading of ancient literature suggests to me we are the same psyches today as we were 2000 years ago. Cultural expression may change, but ancient literature is interpreted through the same motives and psychological understanding as make us tick today, and it works.

  4. This is a question about how modern scholarship has presented the “church fathers” and the degree to which they were or were not certain about the Jesus narratives.

    In reading this post and many others here I am struck by how the early “church fathers” themselves seemed unclear what exactly was the correct Jesus narrative, that they found themselves consciously having to select elements from sources that contradicted each other, probably without being able to be certain that they could be correct in their choices. I would be interested in being corrected–or confirmed–in thinking that this apparent lack of clarity goes against what I was taught about early orthodox Christianity.

    Decades ago out of interest I spent much time reading liberal Biblical studies’ analyses of early Christianity. By my memory I read that there was indeed a proliferation of versions of Christianity: orthodoxy, multiple versions of Gnosticism, Docetism, Ebionites’ Christianity, presumed unknown sects, and so forth and so on. However it was presented as if the orthodox bunch, the “church founders” had their set opinion, which was more or less homogeneous, they were sure of it, and they all were comfortable with it. I do not remember seeing much hint–certainly much emphasis– that they might have been at all unsure of what happened–their faith and their conviction in their knowledge, I had thought, was solid. My question: is my memory about scholarship about early Christianity wrong? In modern times did the church at large, including rather liberal biblical scholars, try to play down or cover up the uncertainty orthodox “church fathers” might have had when confronted with different versions? Or was it always in the open if one read modern sophisticated biblical scholarship reasonably carefully that even from early on there was a certain amount of uncertainty within the orthodox group? Or am I framing the question improperly?

    1. In my background reading to the post all readings pointed to the same origin: the question of the James who was leader of the Jerusalem church being the brother of Jesus derived directly from Galatians 1:19. There was never any suggestion among any of them prior to Origen’s citation of Gal. 1:19 that Jesus’ brother James had any role or existence at all — apart from what we read in the gospels: that is, he was one of the disbelieving family members. And before the gospels, nothing, apart from 1 Cor. 15. And in 1 Cor 15 he is not said to be related to Jesus. He is as unprovenanced there as he is in Acts 15.

      That is, without Gal. 1:19, the question of James as brother of Jesus having any significance at all in the “orthodox” church would not have arisen.

      Speculation: Jesus among gnostic-type groups was known to have had brothers. Not only James (or Jacob/Israel by an earlier form and variant of the symbolic name) but also Thomas Didymus, the Twin (of Jesus). Such “gnostic” brothers (and sisters) were taken care of by the gospel authors who assigned them to literal biological brethren of a disbelieving family. Luke-Acts removed all family links entirely. But in other quarters the spiritual family relationship clung fast. The biological family relationship that had appeared in the early gospels needed to be countered, and was done so by assigning the children to Joseph by a previous marriage – to preserve the ascetic teaching of the value of asceticism and creating role-models for Mary in particular to this end. This struggle was contemporary with the conflict with Marcionism and some form of docetism, and it was this conflict that saw someone insert the passage into Galatians that James had been brother of the Lord. This passage, though, was unknown before Origen.

  5. I think there is more going on in Galatians than a simple minded Gal 1:19 “James the Lord’s brother”, considering the polemics of the letter, and Paul’s statement in the following verse, “I do not lie!”
    Combined with “false believers” referring to Jerusalem leadership (including James) in 2.4, especially since the “false believers” are actually “false brothers” in Greek, I do not think any conclusion about “the Lord’s brother” can be taken as gospel (excuse the pun). Perhaps Paul was being sarcastic, considering rather caustic polemics involved!

    My source:
    Putting a few interesting sentences together from my New Oxford NRSV commentary regarding Galatians –
    “The content and sharp polemics of the letter were worked out in reply to what Paul knew of his opponents’ teaching and of their attacks upon him. Despite the efforts of scholars to identify and reconstruct the arguments of Paul’s opponents, they remain a shadowy group. Most commentators describe them as Judaizers because they insisted on circumcision. Whether they belonged to the same opposition that Paul had faced in Antioch or during his visit to the Jerusalem leaders (the “false believers” in 2.4) cannot be decided from Paul’s letter.”

    Then, going to the text in the referenced 2.4, it says –
    “But because of false believers (superscript note a) secretly brought in, who slipped in to spy on the freedom we have in Christ Jesus, so that they might enslave us— we did not submit to them even for a moment, so that the truth of the gospel might always remain with you. And from those who were supposed to be acknowledged leaders (what they actually were makes no difference to me; God shows no partiality) — those leaders contributed nothing to me.”

    Note a — Gk “false brothers”

  6. Why scholars totally ignore non Canon documents is rather stupid. Ok, they were written many years afterwards. But the canon gospels were also written many years after the fact, by non-witnesses. But the canon gospels were also hand-selected by believers, so they are hardly any more “correct” than any other biased data. As a minimum, the 1st and 2nd Revelations of James can show that several hundred years after Jesus, people were still arguing the actual status of James. Just like today. But this, combined with my previous comment, I think, shows that no definitive conclusion can be drawn from the Galatians text, anymore than from the Revelations of James text.

    1st Revelation 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.””

    2nd Revelation of James,
    “He said to me, “Hail, my brother; my brother, hail.” As I raised my face to stare at him, (my) mother said to me, “Do not be frightened, my son, because he said ‘My brother’ to you (sg.). For you (pl.) were nourished with this same milk. Because of this he calls me “My mother”. For he is not a stranger to us. He is your step-brother […].””

    1. “non Canon documents … were written many years afterwards”

      — not necessarily.

      “As a minimum, the 1st and 2nd Revelations of James can show that, several hundred years after Jesus, people were still arguing the actual status of James. Just like today. But this, combined with my previous comment, I think, shows that no definitive conclusion can be drawn from the Galatians text, anymore than from the Revelations of James text.”

      = good points.

  7. fwiw,

    1:18 “Then three years later I went up to Jerusalem”
    The emphasis of this sentence is that Paul had no contact with Jerusalem or the Twelve until three years after his conversion. The book of Acts records five visits by Paul to Jerusalem, but Galatians only records two. It is very difficult to know which of the visits recorded in Acts are similarly recorded in the book of Galatians or if there were additional visits. Most people believe that this visit mentioned inGal. 1:18 is equal to the visit recorded in Acts 9:26-30. See Introduction, Date and Recipients, C.

    1:19 “But I did not see any other of the apostles except James, the Lord’s brother”
    This Greek sentence is very ambiguous. The context implies that James was an apostle, but this meaning is not certain. It (apostles) could refer to Peter in Gal. 1:18. James seems to be an “apostle” in the same sense as Barnabas (cf. Acts 14:4, 14); Andronicus and Junias (cf. Rom. 16:7); Apollos (cf. 1 Cor. 4:9); Epaphroditus (Phil. 2:25); or Silvanas and Timothy (cf. 1 Thess. 2:6; Acts; 18:5).


    That article goes on to say this “James was identified as the Lord’s half-brother”, citing Matt. 13:55 and Mark 6:3, “in order to differentiate him from James the Apostle, part of the Inner Circle [and brother of John], who was killed very early” (Acts 12:2) – but both Matt 13:55 and Mark 6:3 just refers to a non-specific James (and Joseph/Jose, Simon and Judas).

    It also refers to http://www.freebiblecommentary.org/special_topics/james.html

    1. The point made in relation to 1:19 is nothing but a modern interpreter injecting his beliefs about James into his reading. He/she provides no grounds in evidence to support the assertions. There are many such comments made in the literature — so many simply assuming that Gal. 1:19 should be interpreted through the gospels and that there was a tradition of family affiliation there. That is entirely church tradition talking. There is no basis in evidence for the assumption.

      We have Gal. 1:19 which raises many questions, very difficult questions, about Paul and the early church if it is to be read as fact. That doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be read as fact, but only reminds us that all facts inferred from the data we have are necessarily always provisional. That rule applies everywhere, not just biblical studies.

      We then have — at least if we take the gospels and Acts as being written after Galatians and Gal. 1:19 in particular — references to a James who is either identified as belonging to a family who were not followers of or believers in Jesus, or a James who is a stand-alone figure with no reference at all to any family relationship to anyone. All of that is very odd indeed if the same James really did become a leader of the church. Those questions cannot be brushed aside.

      Then we have a total avoidance of the mention of James and Jesus’ family relations in the heat of a direct argument between Tertullian and Marcionites where the very physical/human nature of Jesus was a central point of contention. That again raises very problematic questions.

      Finally we have, around the year 200 or shortly after, our first reference to Paul meeting James the brother of the Lord.

      Scholars who over the top of all of that data simply write as if the James in the gospels was somehow mysteriously converted and became the leader of those he and his family stood against during Jesus’ lifetime — …. the questions left hanging far, far outnumber any answers on offer.

      Yet many scholars write into their interpretations blatant church tradition. They believe it, always have, so that settles the matter for so many.

      (I have read and could quote many more articles like the one you linked to where scholars repeat the same line. But they are only making assertions. They are not providing any evidence to buttress their claims because there is none.)

      1. I agree the point made in that webpage relation to 1:19 is nothing but a modern interpreter injecting their beliefs about James, hence my point that both Matt 13:55 and Mark 6:3 just refer to a non-specific James, and, as you have said, and as I said in another post, Mark 3; John 7:5, 10; 1 Cor 15:3-8; and Acts 1 and 12 give no support for the motion that the James in Galatians 1:19 is the brother of Jesus.

        But at least the author that webpage says “This Greek sentence – ie. Gal 1:19 – is very ambiguous. The context implies that James was an apostle …”

        and they have interesting things to say about Gal 1:18 and a few other passages in Galatians, viz. –

        The emphasis of this sentence – ie. Gal 1:18 “Then three years later I went up to Jerusalem” – is that Paul had no contact with Jerusalem or the Twelve until three years after his conversion. The book of Acts records five visits by Paul to Jerusalem, but Galatians only records two [visits]. It is very difficult to know which of the visits recorded in Acts are similarly recorded in the book of Galatians or if there were additional visits*. Most people believe that this visit mentioned in Gal. 1:18 is equal to the visit recorded in Acts 9:26-30.

        * visits to reflect later embellishment??

        1. No-one is doubting that there was a James who was very prominent, most likely the/a leader of the Jerusalem church sometime between 30 and 70 CE. There is no question about that as far as I am aware.

          As for Gal. 1:18, let’s just stick with the evidence.

          The Galatians reference is attested as known first by Origen, despite our knowledge of the situation before O’s time leading us to have good reason for it surfacing in the literature at least as early as Tertullian’s time.

          The narrative of Acts is first attested in the late second century and is evidently unknown to by any of our interested authors any time earlier.

          There is nothing at all in any of the references to James prior to Gal. 1:19 that woulld lead anyone to suspect that this figure would become leader of the church; on the contrary, all we learn of him is that he would not appear in that place.

          There is other evidence that the author of Acts has played fast and loose with the epistles of Paul to recreate a Paul who bears no resemblance to the author of the “genuine epistles”.

          If there really had been a brother of Jesus at the head of the Jerusalem church it is virtually inconceivable that no early author would have explained how that happened or made the point explicit.

  8. This is an interesting case where, IMO, it’s more clear that whoever James was, he wasn’t a brother of Jesus then it is that the passage from 1 Gal 19 is an interpolation. Yet, having said that, the case for interpolation is stronger than I thought.

    But really, no matter where the passage came from, it’s clear that no one in the first century conceived of some person named James who was a brother of Jesus and leader of the Jesus worshiping movement. And I think powerful evidence supporting this that you didn’t address is the epistle of James itself, which is either written by the real James, or written pseudonymous by someone in James’ name. In either case, whoever wrote that letter had no concept of James as a brother of Jesus, that is very clear. If the real James write it, its one of the strongest pieces of evidence not only against James having been Jesus’ brother, but of Jesus having existed at all. If a “fake James” wrote it, it still shows that at the time it was written no one had yet conceived of the idea that James was a brother of Jesus.

    Oh, and add the letter of Jude to this along the same lines.

    1. Somewhat far above Neil has written, “Speculation: Jesus among gnostic-type groups was known to have had brothers. Not only James (or Jacob/Israel by an earlier form and variant of the symbolic name) but also Thomas Didymus, the Twin (of Jesus). Such “gnostic” brothers (and sisters) were taken care of by the gospel authors who assigned them to literal biological brethren of a disbelieving family. Luke-Acts removed all family links entirely. But in other quarters the spiritual family relationship clung fast. The biological family relationship that had appeared in the early gospels needed to be countered…”

      You are clearly not Neil, and he states he’s speculating, and his wording “gnostic-types” is in the context appropriately nonspecific, but…

      Do you, rgprice (or anyone else) think it took a while for Gnostics to come up with the idea that a Christ figure on earth had siblings? I apologize for being naive at this topic, and rather confused, and hope this question is useful for others, not just myself.

      1. re

        “Do[es] anyone…think it took a while for Gnostics to come up with the idea that a Christ figure on earth had siblings?”

        I think there are a number of permutations. I think the canonical gospels arose out of a milieu of texts, including various streams of gnostic texts, including jewish-gnostic texts, or non-Jewish/’Gentile’/pagan/mystery religion texts, rather than all or most of the gnostic texts being a response to the canonical texts as has been predominantly asserted.

        Even “a Christ figure on earth” has various permutations: there are likely to have been narratives about celestial, angelic saviour Christ-figures who visited earth in various ways and for varying amounts of time (various amounts of time in the narratives or various amounts of time in the narrated life of those ‘saviour’ figures, or both).

        The notion of brothers is variable too; from full human siblings to celestial figure siblings to concepts of faith brotherhood, etc.

    2. Re the epistles of James and Jude, — agreed, they do appear to add to the problem of James being identified as a brother of Jesus at an early period. The reason I held back from mentioning them was that I have come across several in depth articles and chapters on those letters that I decided to put aside to read another time.

  9. “Mark” (author) may show particular irony in the fact that he places the brothers and sisters of Jesus just in Nazareth: afterall, the brothers of the Lord were called also Nazarenes.

    1. Neil – why did you include Galatians 1:21-24 as part of the interpolation? There is nothing in the Irenaeus passage that would dictate it. The absence of the “again” in Against Heresies 3.13.3 suggests that the first Jerusalem visit is an interpolation, but not vv 21-24.

      1. Only because the whole section between verses 18 and 24 is questionable in relation to the Marcionite debates. I could have opted to be minimalist in what I inferred was not known to Irenaeus but this time I chose to be maximalist if only to preserve some overlay of consistency across the different discussions.

  10. I’ll try to catch up with comments soon, and get back to posting again just as soon. Meanwhile I’m continuing to enjoy more rest than usual with some rather strong medications till I fully recover from a mishap a few weeks ago.

  11. “In 1 Corinthians 15 we read that the resurrected Jesus appeared to Peter, then to The Twelve, then to 500 brethren, then to James. Again, there is no suggestion that this James had any family relationship with Jesus.” as you say Neil… and there is more….

    Not one of the so-called eyewitnesses to meeting Jesus after an even called “resurrection” never gave one “testimony” to what is present in this very convoluted creed… and Paul’s actual testimony is absent as well!!! What a mess!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    there are other phrases from this convoluted “creed” (that some claim Paul got from the Pillars so to speak!!! But does mere parallelism of line in greek poetry or motif… prove historicity? Moreover, would a theological creed have any power in legal evidence being put forth???? !!!

    So problematic… How could Paul , a so-called lover of the historical Jesus which Jesus’ brother supposedly told him about … but Paul is clear in this text that he considers “falsehood” deception to be afoot and how on earth could Paul even feel close to a “spirit” Jesus if he was at odds or enmity with the pillars of Jerusalem…

    Neil.. where did this translation come from that you used… ? Not being critical… just interested…. different than most…

    Also, the later Christian Catholic Church is not totally supportive of “Paul’s” views… 2 Peter. 3:15 uses the word “hard to understand” which is so downgraded by orthodox supporters that they fail to see that the Peter (a fraud and a satan he is!) does not even call him an apostle and has problems with Paul;’s writings (does not necessarily mean what we understand by the technical and sacrosanct term ” scriptures”)..How could Paul’s letters become canon so soon???? I smell anachronisms everywhere… and see them before my eyes when I read the NT ,,even Paul’s “earliest” epistles…..

    just for info and fun….btw Lucian (a historian exposing other so-called historians),, the exposer of ancient baloney used this phrase in 2 Pet. 3:16 .”.dysnoeta tina” to describe the Alexander Quack -Channeling_Prophet… who spoke a lot of “convoluted” words to deceive people….. Paul in Galatians is super-sensitive about lies being spread about him……!!!!!

    Now read 2 Pet. 3:15ff again with a rhetorical hermeneutic in mind and the lights go on ..

    seeing how there is clearly a Petrine Pauline conflict… btw too the twisters of the texts are from the Pauline disciples………. read the context and see for yourselves….

    The catholic church scribes are sanitizing and satan-izing the texts very early already…..

    but don’t forget the epistle of 2 Pet. has been dated early (eg. Michael Green, etc.) and yet a great push back sends the letter even into the 4th cent.!! and not stupidly by some very reputable scholars I might say….!! eg. Edwin Abott (what a scholar!!! ) ..despite his orthodoxy at places… you will never regret reading the exegetical works of Abott

    I say these things above because it is so hard to cut through the polemical apologetics of these texts and traditions……. and yet not one of those texts was ever written to us and should even mean anything to us …today!!!

    How strange all this really is!!! I got more and more free when I began to discover that the entire “bible” in any form or context was not written to me…. we may make various personal parallel connections to texts of various genres and find something very much “personal” for our lives.. but these texts must be studied (not only that though– I allow a lot of imaginative hermeneutical approaches to texts for particular purposes ) with the best intentions of the reader or interpreter to find out what is this text doing here!!!??? What is its function?

    Obviously Paul is getting very personal,, but highly polemic at the same time….Paul interestingly says “I am not lying about this! Wow! Where did that come from?? right out of the blue , but Paul perceives deception and lying in connection with James,,,the alleged brother of the Lord…

    How intriguing! Also… I have spent a lot of time in the Hebrew texts these days and the LXX to notice something interesting.. I have no way yet of showing its relevance to the Galatians text about “the brother” term… Carrier, usually relates it to the Christian context!! A little too limited for me….It is clearly “Israelite” in origin and has theological import . Jewish in its import and clearly has something to do with blood or faith among Jews.

    Only “Jews” seem to be called “brothers” in the OT and NT… And usually no biological inference is supposed from the outset… Remember Moses….. who committed man-slaughter….he spoke proverbially of a fellow Jew as a “brother””…

    I say we are not finished yet with trying to discover what this text is really getting at… but who on earth really cares???????

    In 2 Cor. Paul clearly indicates to his receivers of his traditions (not necessarily anyone else’s) that we should get beyond the flesh based Jesus!!! Listen up all you flesh based apologists… and as Richard Carrier and many others have noted.. a religion can be born, continue , and survive without any “human fleshed body” existing on the planet ,, which many people do not know or care about!!!

    Christianity exists today and many Christians I meet do not give a damn about a flesh based Jesus in history and do not care to prove or disprove it…. So Paul’s converts never met Jesus in the flesh but only in spirit and neither did he… and he still thinks he is an apostle and has to get really defensive about it… !!

    Paul is as much a hypocrite as Peter in Galatians….

    And btw these conflicts have nothing to do with atheists or agnostics.. it is all about one faith perspective fighting against another.. or my Jesus against your Jesus…..

    Leave us atheists and agnostics alone!!! We are trying to work through our real lives here ion this earth.. not some other earth..

    We are not part of the story being told in the OT and NT… everyone in everyone of those texts has some “god” or this or that they believe it…

    Galatians 1 or 2 is not going to convince me Jesus existed or even had a blood brother..

    Neil,, you brought out more problems to question a lot of unfouned assumptions and smuggled your way into the texts to uncover some lacunae.

  12. sorry for some of my spelling and grammar mistakes… but

    bottom line.. thank you Neil and Tim, again, for bringing things to my attention and many others here who are trying to make sense of so much data from the ancient world…and from other contexts which may not now affect us but perhaps in the future…

    I feel at home in this blog site…

    But even at home there are conflicts and disagreements and differences…

    so let it be written,… so let it be done…

    1. “What we have is a tradition that fairly consistently understood James to be the biological relative of Jesus, even when it eventually found it awkward to view him as Jesus’ biological brother because of other doctrines that had been developing surrounding Jesus and Mary. — Religion Prof”

      I want to get two things off my mind. First, I have never accepted that John the Baptist lost his life because he criticized the marriage of Herodias and Herod II. It didn’t seem like John would be interested in throwing fire at the ruling Herods and their marriage choices, nor would they listen to him anyway.

      Second, it is recorded that Herod Agrippa I, had James killed. Has anyone brought it up that the Jerusalem Church was not Jews turned Christians looking for protection from Romans, but a growing Nazarite stronghold against the ever aggressive Romans who sought to kill Nazarites of the Nabataean Desert so that they couldn’t regroup to fight against the taking of their homeland?

      The Mandaeans who claim to have been the original Nazarites (Nazarenes) say that John the Baptist was not Jewish, but Nazarite. That’s their history. I would believe them faster than Roman writers who invented a story about a Jewish Messiah whose own people scapegoated him.

      I am thinking there was much more of an antagonistic situation between the Jerusalem Church and the Romans; in fact, this was war. Perhaps there can be found more history on why the two factions were enemies.

      I read a few days ago that the Romans were taking Nabataean Territory. John the Baptist’s ancestors had occupied the Nabataean Desert (called the Wilderness) for 600 years prior to his family settling in Jerusalem. In fact, his people built Petra and there is good evidence of this in corresponding architecture and Mandaean “art”. Going up the sides of the Petra Temple are carved out holes that look like a ladder going to the top, and these have divinatory significance going all the way back to Sumeria. These side-by-side holes represent the undulation of serpent energy (light). One can see these same carved holes going up the sides of the drawing of their Tree of Life. This art form between Petra and the Mandaeans (former Nazarites) is definitely connected historically.

      When Jesus tells Peter (Peter means Rock/Petra) that Peter would become the head of his church—“On this Rock (Petra) I will build my church”–this seems to be a story to cover or gloss over the taking of Petra and the Nabataean Desert by the Romans. Was James the brother of John who were both heads of the Jerusalem Church, and the Roman Christian writers removed a great deal of history by connecting James to Jesus? I have ever growing suspicion that this is so.

      I feel like there was so much history changed that it has been very difficult to see the two main antagonists, the Herods and the Nazarites of the Jerusalem Church. There is actually a sustained killing over generations of lost family members on both sides. I can’t shake this feeling and believe there were more family members than we know, who were systematically disappearing on the Nazarite side. We were told in the story that Herod II was angered by John’s criticism of Herod’s marriage to his half sisters, but I think that Herod had John killed because John or his family members did something to anger Herod Agrippa I, which resulted in James’ death. This is jus like the Hatfields and McCoys. The fighting goes on and on Eventually, all of John’s family would be hunted, who fled to safety in surrounding lands. By this time they had lost Nabatea, their homeland, to the Romans.

      John was described as having a fiery demeanor. He probably pissed off the Herod family regularly. However, the writers only say a few things about him: He baptized Jesus, he questioned if Jesus was the Messiah to come. He was not fit to untie Jesus’ sandals. Period. Look at all the dialogue and story about Jesus. Am I the only one who thinks that John the Baptist’s history was fitted with a pour stop intentionally, and he was a real person, in comparison to Jesus whose existence is questionable?

      1. Has anyone brought it up that the Jerusalem Church was not Jews turned Christians looking for protection from Romans, but a growing Nazarite stronghold against the ever aggressive Romans who sought to kill Nazarites of the Nabataean Desert so that they couldn’t regroup to fight against the taking of their homeland?

        Interesting – this is all new to me. Do you have any references?

        1. I don’t keep records of what I read, but this afternoon I found some links that you can read.

          This is evidence of the takeover of Nabataea by the Roman Empire. Nabataea was well established by 4th century BCE, but lost control of Petra and surrounding lands before 1st century.


          The following several links explain the Nabataean Territory where John the Baptist spent long hours in the Wilderness, according to the New Testament. However, this is the land where he was raised, IMO, and was pursuing his “Nazariteship”. The Wilderness at that time was the Nabataean Desert, the location of Petra, the North Arabian Desert, and the Desert of Judea. All are in the same location but at different time periods. When men find John in the Wilderness, he is questioned as to who he is, and he says, “Make way for the Lord!”. We don’t know at this point who he is talking about. Is he talking about himself? Yet we are led to think he is talking about Jesus from surrounding text of Jesus. However, “Lord” is a word that means protector of bread. Protector of the bread is indeed a big thing if we’re on the subject of survival. I think as more of John’s and James’ history is filled out, there is a good case for survival crises of the Jerusalem Church. “Lord” also means head of the house, leader (leader of Jerusalem Church?). “Lord” only comes to mean God after Jesus becomes God in the flesh.





          The link below is some of Josephus’ History, where John is being asked to identify by himself by men who have come out to the Wilderness looking for him. He abruptly says: “Make Way for the Lord!” Is John talking about himself? The Holy City of Jerusalem collapses and it is believed Herod’s beautiful city comes to ruin as punishment by God for what he did to John. That’s how popular John was. Seems to me that Jesus was a shadow of John’s life. The NT writers also tell of Jesus going to the wilderness where he is tempted by the devil. The Romans wrote a pacifist version of John, why? to quell future rebellions against Roman Empire?


          Down at the bottom of the next link about Sabian Mandaeans, there is mention that the Mandaeans who claim to be the original Nazarites (Nazarenes) were persecuted by both Romans and Jews. The Mandaeans claim that John, their main prophet, was never a Jew, and that the Nazarites and Jews had different patriarchs. If Jesus was John’s relative, Jesus was never a Jew either. Biblical writers claim Jesus to be a Jew, but the Mandaeans say that the Nazarite tribe was only Jewish by census. According to the Bible history, both James and John were in the Jesus movement. John was moving large numbers of people to follow Jesus and attempting to keep the peace with his sermons. Lately, the existence of Jesus has come into question. If Jesus was not real, what then were James and John doing? Was the Jerusalem Church more than a Church? Was it a meeting place for Nazarite rebels?

          We are not told that James, the head of the Jerusalem Church, was a mover of people. There is not much about James. He is not as dynamic as John. In any event, I think John was the head of the Jerusalem Church and that item was discarded by the writers so not to call attention to him. Alternatively, both John and James were heads, but John was the primary. In my opinion, James was the brother of the Lord (John).

          The history is also contradictory in that John wasn’t considered a peacemaker, and Herod II was fearful that John would start an uprising so had him beheaded. Why would he behead a man trying to keep the peace? There is much we don’t know about John. Why would James be beaten to death? I see the violence directed exactly at the Jerusalem Church, and not the Jewish Temple, because the Jews weren’t a problem by comparison. They were in the pocket of the Romans, so to speak. So, down at bottom of the link, Romans and Jews persecute the Nazarites according to Mandaean history.


          If the Jews had their Temple, and John, James, and Jesus weren’t Jews according to the Mandaeans, what was the Jerusalem Church for? If the Nazarites were persecuted by Romans and Jews, John and James as followers of the Jesus movement (according to early church writers) were a church unto themselves. Nabataea was being invaded by the Romans starting roughly 200 BCE and absorbed the Roman Empire by 106 A.D. What this says to me is that the Nazarites and Herods had been going at it for centuries. All this history is not included in the New Testament.

          For me, Jesus isn’t a strong personality in the New Testament. John is, but his history is thrown out in favor of a largely composite personality, Jesus, to promote god worship. My opinion, John is the person to try to get a handle on, and this is the direction to pursue.

          The Nabataeans (Nabathenes or Nabathites) were thieves and pirates on the Red Sea. Recall in the Bible story, Jesus was crucified between two thieves. I think John was the one crucified, not Jesus, was taken down from the cross, had a period of recovery, but was later murdered. The Mandaean history is that he wasn’t beheaded. He was taken out on the Jordan and thrown overboard. Mathew 18:6 talks about: anyone who causes the little ones to stumble, should be taken out to sea and thrown overboard with a millstone around his neck. The Mandaeans claim John is at the bottom of the Jordan to this day.


          This is all my opinion: The Gospel of Thomas was John’s teachings, not Jesus’. They were renamed “Jesus sayings” after the Romans obliterated John’s memory and other histories which would compete with their Roman’s New Testament. John’s life and teachings most certainly were in the Alexandrian Library. Roman bishops had Theophilus set fire to the Alexandrian Library in two stages to destroy history, but beforehand, Roman clerics had been going to Alexandria, bringing copies of scrolls back to Rome. This was a long and arduous undertaking lasting for the better part of two, perhaps over three centuries.

            1. The Gospel of Thomas sayings involved a method that had to be shown and explained in person. They were secrets, nothing was written. These were divination and healing methods. Only a few friends and family knew. No others were to be given this information, nobody. The original Paul was involved in capturing and torturing information out of a few who were family and friends…Stephen? Thomas? who else? These people weren’t disciples, John didn’t have disciples. Disciples came much later. Disciples were those learning from the Roman Christians, the earliest of church fathers. Only a handful, or less than 10 sayings of the Gospel of Thomas are about divination and healing…not enough to be able to learn the method. The method was lost, not able to be understood from the few sayings finally put to writing, probably by Peter. Peter says he got them from an eyewitness (Stephen?), not Mark. What he got was probably enough to fill 12 inches of scroll, maybe a paragraph of less than 30 lines. But from that, a narrative formed which eventually resulted in the New Testament, which was all contrived by early church fathers. So, no, what you are talking about is the Gospel of Thomas that had been added to by early church fathers from peoples’ memories of John (children of those who knew him while he was alive), who didn’t know secrets, and only a few of John’s divination and healing methods from those who had been captured and probably tortured before they were killed.

              1. Christine, to be honest, until now I have been not been able to make much sense out of your comments here (as possibly people have not been able to make sense of mine for that matter). Now I see that your ideas cohere together in an interesting way connecting facts and with many thoughts. However there are many, many, many gaps in your depiction of what happened around the time when John the Baptist and Jesus were supposed to have walked the earth–gaps that I have not seen explained, whether by you or anyone else. However I must admit to not being persuaded, as interesting as your comments have been. Not being knowledgeable in this area, I might well be ignorant major references where those gaps are perfectly filled in, so the deficiency might well be might mine. Your comments are as if I have been missed the existence an entire literature, an entire discipline, one that seems generally to be ignored on this site. Is it possible I have missed an important literature in this regard?

            2. Sili, I am happy to admit to knowing little in this area. I do know however that there is a diversity of opinion about the dating and origins of the Gospel of Thomas. The current Wikipedia article on the topic discusses how some prominent academics have given it a rather early date and others a late date. I certainly would not begin to know myself.

              1. Your question about having missed the literature and so you have not been informed. There are plenty groups trying to break the code of the Gospel of Thomas, along with Jesus was being an invention of Roman Christian clerics (1 Clement, Irenaeus, others).

                You haven’t missed the literature; there is no literature. All this has yet to be formulated. First, and this is my opinion, but I am not alone, people have to get past the idea there was a Jesus. I don’t want to hurt people who are deeply devoted to this man. There was a great teacher in the first century and he was a good man. The Jesus narrative is some fragments of John’s sayings, teachings and experiences, garnered generations from handed down stories, over 200-300 years during the time the New Testament were ideas, saved on parchment, until it was finally attached to the bulk of the Bible and disseminated. It had to be told by the gospel writers. Even if it was wrong.

                First the groundwork has to be laid. What the heck went on, and is simply WRONG about the New Testament? That digging has gone on for I don’t know, 50 years? There is probably a lot more of pointing out the utter nonsense of the NT coming. The NT was written by people who weren’t there. They never met the teacher, possibly didn’t know who it was themselves and so had to give him a name. IEOUS (Yeshua), which are vowels left out of Jewish holy books.

                How much did the Jews know, but was information later hidden by the Romans? The Romans were successful in writing a believable narrative about a real man who became a poster boy for the religion they wanted to spread.

              2. Christianity is a Roman god-worship religion. From what I’ve been told by a Mandaean physician about six years ago, the Mandaeans believe in The Knowledge and Kushta, which are from the Nazarite religion, if it can be called a religion. The Knowledge is the secrets which they don’t share, the Kushta is truth. They do not worship a man, a cross, or anything like that. They believe in the light world, in “messengers” who come in the form of an angel (messenger) or a man, from the primordial light (light world) to bring needed information, truth and comfort. They are not god worshippers now; they were not god worshippers when they were Nazarites. John is their prophet, not Jesus.

              3. Christine, before I continue, I should probably apologize to Neil on two counts. First, I am going way off topic from his post. Second, I am diverging rather farther from the skepticsm and rationality that I think he would prefer. Though a devoted skeptic, my skepticism ultimately derives from a religiously based iconoclastic hostility to fetishism and ideology, and here my underlying religious tendencies will come out.

                Frankly, I used to think that your posts were just plain nuts. I still do not necessarily know what to make of what you have written, but as I have noted I now see your perspective as coherently based on study, and thus interesting stuff rather than gobbldygook.

                Moreover you prompt me to note how many traditions combine light, water, healing, and another element that I think I thought of with derision when you mentioned it once. I also note that once when I was hospitalized, a bit near death, delirious, I suppose, I had an experience that in some settings people would describe as a “vision”. Later upon reading of near-death experiences of people who had survived cardiac arrests (I was not that sick) I found some of the described experiences remarkably similar, what with light and I think water, and of course recovery of health. I am highly reluctant even to mention the experience much less certain details.

                I have to wonder whether something about the extremest stress can provoke some neurologic reaction with similar subjective elements that is relatively independent of culture, definitely including light and water. (Some neurologic conditions, perhaps a touch temporal lobe instability might predispose, though severe stress to the brain might do it for anyone.) In my case the effects of the experience were so strong as to make me take the experience perfectly seriously, as I still do.

                Thus, although my experience had little in the way of plot or characters, I can very much relate to authors of Secret Visions/Histories of This and That, especially if they refer to light or water. I wonder whether such people might have experienced similar reactions to extreme stress (or other anomalous neurologic conditions) and offered their “visions” to confidants. If charismatic they or their listeners might have started religions or sects.

                Having read some of your explanations now, I now understand more of what you have been attempting to relate and am glad that you had the opportunity to explain in a bit more detail.

              4. Thank you, I appreciate your mention of your altered state experience and taking the time to write. If you think you should apologize for your post, I should probably apologize to him for my life. Just kidding. I want to post less but lately post more.

                To your mention of water, light and healing, and your thinking that extremest stress will bring on an acute mental event. Sure it will. A lot of people experience it, I have. I have shared my experience to a few people and got mixed reactions. Once, after telling it in a post, because a man asked, I ended with, “and I’m atheist.” He scolded me for having such an experience and not being a believer; I had blasphemed against the Lord. Another asked if I was on drugs. No. I was just on adrenaline from being scared out of my life and for all I know, left my body for a time and maybe was close to death. The peak experience I had changed my life. I got ‘hooked up’, whether anyone here agrees or not.

                We are made of water and elements; from the Periodic Table, about as much as would cost under 10 bucks at the local nursery that sells soil amendments. Last but not least, light (electromagnetic). Add some extremest stress and the gravy bowl spills out all over the table. That’s just the way it works. It’s science. Thanks again.

              5. Again, apologies to Neil for being tangential in my response to Christinel.

                Christine, a couple of follow-up comments in case you do see this comment.

                Actually there are several things, not just one in my experience while delirious when extremely sick (“vision”–actually repetitive “vision” or “visions”) that I still prefer not to communicate, not just to avoid polluting the blog with irrelevant material or indulging myself, but also because I still feel constrained by sense during and right after the delirium that I was to keep some things to myself. I therefore wonder whether the experience of feeling it desirable to keep a lid on aspects of “visions” provoked by extreme stress might be, along with light, water, and possibly other elements of such “visions”, a hard-wired part of the reaction, and thus part of the genesis of secret cults and the Secret History of… sort of thing sometimes.

                A completely different comment is that for me, for whom existence of a deity whom or which I do not at all well understand (I think Tillich wrote of the God beyond God as well as the near equivalence of belief and atheism) seems obvious, and in whom I actually take great comfort–is almost the equivalent of atheism, such that for me atheists are pretty much believers who see things better than most, but perhaps might be a touch tendentious.

                Apologies for the self indulgence and going way off topic again.

              6. “A Buddhist” fairly recently commented that in Buddhism the gods are seen as subject to error–perhaps even bumblers at times, if I recall correctly. Gnostics, at least some, saw Yahweh as evil or at any rate highly defective–like any number of angels and demons. These senses of reality beyond reality, deity or something else beyond God or gods and certainly beyond quotidian religious fetishism, are (like atheism) not far from my own religious beliefs, really, if you were to take away some of the elaborations and simplify, simplify, simplify (though I also find keeping the concept of Christ somewhat as from the “mythicists” coming from the beyond a great comfort).

                You may have had this sort of perspective before your event of “I was just on adrenaline from being scared out of my life and for all I know, left my body for a time and maybe was close to death”. You presumably were an atheist (ie, already not a religious fetishist) before your event before hand. I do have to wonder whether others such as the founders or inspirers of, say, some Gnostic sects have been provoked to turn from standard religions by such extreme brain-stressing experiences.

              7. Your sentence: “Moreover you prompt me to note how many traditions combine light, water, healing, and another element that I think I thought of with derision when you mentioned it once.”

                I am not aware of so many traditions combining light, water and healing.

                The Mandaeans have a special tradition with water, but we cannot assume it is because John did healing in water to protect people from illness or remove demons, or as a place to invoke God. It cannot be true that Jesus sent a hoard of demons into pigs and they rushed to the water to drown themselves. It is Roman interpolation that John baptized in water for the purpose of purifying the soul of sins, because water does not heal.

                But there is some understanding I got from reading some Mandaean text. They consider rivers of water a symbol for “rivers of light” that exist in the “light world” that humans do not see, but can partake of, and that is where the healing comes from. Not water. Another thing: They asked a rhetorical question: “How does one pound light from rock?”

                So they are understanding light as a physicist would, though they have separated themselves from the world for 2,000 years. Electromagnetic, or atomic. And Jesus supposedly said, “If you carry the cross as I do…” The cross has been a divination symbol for thousands of years. To John the Baptist’s group it meant life, not death. It means north, south, east and west, where the major electromagnetic fields of the planet are the strongest (in each of the four quadrants) or the four cardinal points.

                The Nazarite divination was completely different than anything we know. It didn’t involve sacrificing animals or reading entrails. It isn’t the divination of other cultures, i.e., reading cards, reading runes, reading tea leaves, putting oneself into an altered state by taking drugs or inducing pain. None of that. Their divination was simply to ask a question and get an answer, (it was more like “ask and you shall receive”) and there were bodily responses to the question that were clear ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answers.

                I just want to say something about your altered state that had a very large impact on you. In indigenous cultures your experience would be considered a gift. We are hardwired for healing, and altered states remove our conscious mind barriers and we see things in a different way.

            3. Not necessarily. Some scholars think The Gospel of Thomas, since it is simply a collections of “sayings”, is a collection of some really old sayings, and a few new sayings added later – redacted, as most everything is, including the synoptic Gospels.

          1. Since you mentioned “The link below is some of Josephus’ History”…
            Any idea if there is a connection with Zealots, Sicarii, Idumeans, (all violent against Romans and establishment Jews), Essenes (didn’t like Temple establishment), along with John the Baptist, their desert connections, all mentioned in Josephus, but all rather confusing. Seems like they all have more similarities than differences.

            1. I agree they were connected in this way… They wanted to live free and unharmed, and were successful most of the time. They had their own more ancient religions connected to Assyria, Egypt, Mesopotamia, and India.

              These former ancient cultures were divining cultures, but became religious as the priesthoods came to power. Still, divining was a survival skill used by desert dwellers. There is the story of Moses smiting the rock and out gushed water. He had to know where the water was. Divining.

              Does anyone here remember that the Book of Revelation was by John the Divine? Historians don’t know who that John was. That word ‘Divine’ was formerly ‘diviner’. Revelation was originally a book of prophesy by John the Baptist. All the Old Testament prophets who were worth anything were diviners and therefore prophets who could tell the future. Early church writers added their Jesus story to Revelation, Christianized and edited over 2,000 years, which leaves no reliable information.

              Today’s historians haven’t scratched the surface with what went on in divining cultures. Not just water, but information was divined for, by getting yes and no answers to questions. Eventually a healing method was discovered, simply by using divining skills.

              The problem was, divining culture clashed with god-worshipping culture.

              1. I don’t know, but I have to admit the interest in one of your points. You said,
                “There is the story of Moses smiting the rock and out gushed water. He had to know where the water was. Divining.”

                Actually, there were two versions. One, Moses did it. One God did it. In the Moses one, he got in trouble, and supposedly wasn’t allowed to go to the promised land because of ???
                Unknown, maybe not giving credit to God. This is one of the P,J,E,D, redactions. So from what you said, this does fit in with conflict over “devining”, within different groups of text writers. Essenes in Qumran probably could have used the practice, given their bathing habits. Although maybe “devining” may have meant more, obsession with water, than actually finding water.

  13. I am sorry folks that I follow up old blogs, but they must not be forgotten!

    Too many important pieces of data and perspectives would be ignored…. but someone must begin to question and ask for imput since we are all down here and don’t have so-called “transcendent” perspectives as all Christians claim and many other major religions which depend on old books for their views…and those texts are “pleromic” in nature…to fill up one motif and “event’ . word… everything…. they could bring in to defend their own very special faith…ie. the Jews..we get nothing like this in the NT except by editing and re-editing of all these ancient MSS..

    …and I don’t believe anyone of the gods or supernatural sources have been observed helping us along the way… and I myself have had beautiful experiences that do not demand any Christian theistic experience and explanation…

    and perhaps in some Christian perspectives those supernatural sources are about to intervene soon… prophetic kooks and events…we call them…. and rightly so in my work in the field of so-called prophetic events within texts, traditions, and actual contacts with these communities!!!.

    but we must see how Paul’s own apocalyptic world view or those of others is quite active in his own context… eg. Paul’s ‘rapture” language in I thess. 4 which this sight has already explored on this blog site….. It is clear that he expected that things will change in an instant…quite soon too…. no new creation of body and spirit came into existence even during the life of Jesus or James… or the other apostles… The end did not come as infallibly claimed by these texts……I would encourage all readers to check out 4 esdras… 4th Ezra and you will see some clues as to where Paul is getting his apocalyptic and wisdom related ideas, images, and Ideals…

    and I find it so weird that nothing of the “historical”Jesus comes to light in that so called meeting of James and Paul… what the heck…???. I smell a big stinky pile of personal bullshit and a lot of other smells in that context…. so Paul receives not one piece of historical information from either the apostles or James, the so-called physical brother of Jesus…

    My bloggers there is seriously something wrong with this picture.!!!!! Not one piece of historical info has been passed onto to Paul except through Revelation…. did Jesus tell Paul that he appeared to Peter first….??? Come on now….

    so here we go again regarding the James and Jesus connection….

    so thus this blog… and I apologize if I have take the discussion beyond the bounds , but believe my comments are important to consider…. simply to test out….

    Was Paul still waiting for Jesus to come when he and James the brother of the Lord met….?

    Paul simply says he met this “brother” of the Lord….what does that mean?

    so we keep looking as we should for more re(sources) to help us get to the bottom of many anomalies.

    It is so sad that things get lost in transition and translation…….:)

    We just need more information all the time…and here we must share sources and “in” sights.. to help each one of us……. go forward ….learn more…. and more…and more… don’t just say you are educated,,,but you have become an educator…..!


    1. Paul says he was an active opponent of this cult the “pillars” led. It isn’t very likely he knew nothing about them before his Damascus “experience”. He probably genuinely believed he’d “got nut’n fr’m nobody”; but that is what all folk who have these experiences say. We think it is our own de novo; but, on investigation, 99.999% of the time it turns out we’ve absorbed it unconsciously and/or unawares from our environment.

      The mind is an extremely powerful tool, it should not be underestimated what it can do when the neurons misfire and make connections they wouldn’t under normal circumstances! But it can ONLY use what it already has been exposed to – It is unsurprising that folk from the same culture exposed to the same myths and religious writings should re-integrate them in similar fashion when thrown into an “altered state” for whatever reason.

      “… did Jesus tell Paul that he appeared to Peter first….??? Come on now….” Well, in effect, yes (if you mean Cephas: I think Paul is clear Cephas and Peter are not the same person). The cult existed before Paul “persecuted” it. You can hardly persecute something that doesn’t exist yet! Paul makes it clear also that all the other “Apostles” experienced Jesus/Christ the same way.

      How come no one mentions JC having a brother until X in Y century? No one had mined that bit of Paul yet. First you have to get JC historicised and create the primary legendary background needed to generate the secondary material off. Just as material was generated from the surah of the Koran to create the bulk of the Mohamed legend, so Paul’s writings were used to generate the bulk of the Jesus legend. (I distinguish the Apostles myth(s) from the two, three, or more centuries later legend.)

      Much of the earlier material seems to be shipwrecked; from G.Mt on I don’t think anyone grasped, or could make head nor tail of, what they were dealing with.

  14. Steven Watson….

    Just a brief note here re: the Cephas issue…. It is perhaps right now at this point to prove Cephas is Peter…I am still struck though by the Aramaic term Kepha… and btw if you didn’t know already…Jesus promised the “pillar” Caiphas a resurrection appearance in Mark 14:62!!!
    The same Aramaic word… Kepha… Would be interesting if that were the case…

    There were Kephai at Qumran…priestly leaders…..and Acts 5 or so says many priests came to the faith….

    But I can’t bring myself to settle the question of the identity..and don’t forget both Cephas and Petros…are paralleled in Gal. 1:18

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