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.
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!'”Continue reading “The Function of “Brother of the Lord” in Galatians 1:19″
Never throw out old books. I have caught up with my 1942 edition of Jesus Not A Myth by A. D. Howell Smith. The book is an argument against mythicism as it was argued by a range of authors in its day: J. M. Robertson, Thomas Whittacker, L. Gordon Rylands, Arthur Drews, Bergh van Eysinga, L. Couchoud, Edouard Dujardin and W. B. Smith. It’s a refreshing book for its professional spirit and respectful tone, and for its acknowledgement of both weaknesses and strengths of the mythicist case.
A good reason to accept the theory of evolution is that it predicts what we will find in the fossil record and its predictions have not yet failed. No one has found a rabbit fossil in pre-Cambrian rocks.
If James had been a sibling of Jesus and a leader in the Jerusalem church (along with Peter and John), then we can expect to find certain indicators of this in certain kinds of evidence. If our reasonable expectations (predictions) fail, then we have an obligation to reconsider our earlier conclusions that led to our expectations.
Dr James McGrath demonstrates an unfortunate oversight of this fundamental principle (and also shows a taste for porky pies) when he writes:
It is entertaining to watch mythicists, who claim to be guided by the principle that the epistles are earlier and more reliable, while the later Gospels essentially turned a mythical Christ into a historical figure, jettison that supposed principle whenever it becomes inconvenient. When evidence of a historical Jesus is highlighted in the epistles, they will appeal to Acts, or epistles likely to be later forgeries, in an attempt to avoid the clear meaning of Paul’s reference to James as Jesus’ brother.
Mainstream historical scholarship can be discussed in terms of whether it’s conclusions are justified upon the basis of its methods. Or one can discuss whether the methods themselves are valid. In the case of mythicism, neither is possible, because it has no consistent methods and no conclusions, just foreordained outcomes and the use of any tools selectively that will allow one to reach them.
Or to put it simpler still, why do you trust Acts to indicate what Paul meant by “James” yet reject it when it comes to what Paul meant by “Jesus”?
Added two concluding paragraphs 2 hours after original posting, along with typo corrections.
In the first section of the Jesus Neither God Nor Man Earl Doherty had in part argued that the early Christian correspondence is silent on
ethical teachings from Jesus,
Jesus’ apocalyptic predictions
and Jesus’ calling of apostles during an earthly ministry.
In the next two chapters he argues that New Testament epistles are just as silent with respect to the life of Jesus itself.
This survey will . . . demonstrate that Christian documents outside the Gospels, even at the end of the 1st century and beyond, show no evidence that any traditions about an earthly life and ministry of Jesus were in circulation. Even in regard to Jesus’ death and resurrection, to which many of the documents refer, there is no earthly setting provided for such events. (p. 57)
Doherty also states that while modern critical scholarship has long rejected many elements of the Gospel narrative as unhistorical, he intends to examine all of them — miracles included — to show that the Gospels are unreliable as an historical record and provide no basis for supporting the historicity of Jesus.