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Carrier and James the Brother of Jesus

I hope I am not beating a dead horse by going at some length into this discussion of James, the brother of Jesus, in response to the Mythicists, who have a very real stake indeed in saying that he wasn’t really Jesus’ brother, since that would mean Jesus existed.  I’m pursuing the matter in part because it is such a key issue and as well to show that it would be possible to argue to all eternity with Mythicists on point after point after point.  Some of them are truly inexhaustible.  If I wanted to spend my entire life and career doing nothing but answering Mythicists rejoinders to my replies to their responses to my comments on their claims – it could occupy my next twenty years!

I am giving a taste of what it involves here.  The short story: The historical man Jesus from Nazareth had a brother named James.  Paul actually knew him.  That is pretty darn good evidence that Jesus existed.  If he did not exist he would not have had a brother.

Yesterday I explained that in the New Testament “brother” can mean either a literal “blood brother” or a “spiritual brother” – that is, someone who is connected by common bonds of affection or perspective to another, a person who is sympatico with another.  The simplest Mythicist solution to the claim that James was Jesus’ brother is to say that this is what it means.  James was in tune with the heavenly Christ so much that he was his “brother.”

I’ve shown why that doesn’t work in Galatians 1:18-19, where James is called Jesus’ brother.  It’s because the term is used to *differentiate* James from Cephas, to identify him in a way that clarified his distinctive relationship with Jesus, indicating what he was that Cephas was not.  But no one can think that Cephas / Peter was not also Jesus’ “brother” in this spiritual sense.  So the interpretation doesn’t work.

Some Mythicists have realized this and so come up with other explanations for how to explain the passage.  They have to explain it away, because otherwise they don’t have a case that Jesus didn’t exist.  If you want to see some rather imaginative attempts, I give them in my book Did Jesus Exist, and explain why they simply don’t work.    Here I’ll take an explanation that has been given by Richard Carrier in his response to the debate I had with Robert Price a couple of weeks ago

Carrier wrote a very long and detailed response which was meant to show, as is his wont, that I don’t know what I’m talking about.  I have been asked several times by several people to respond to his response, but I know where that will go – it will take a response twice as long as his to show why his views are problematic, he will reply with a reply that is four times as long to show I don’t know what I’m talking about, I will respond with a response twice as long as that to show that I do, he will rejoin with ….

So I’m not going to do that.  I’m simply going to respond to this one key point.  Carrier …

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What If the Mythicists Were Right: Mailbag November 6, 2016
James the Brother of the Lord



  1. jchilders79  November 5, 2016

    I’m glad you focused on this point, Dr. Ehrman. While I do think there’s a lot of value in some of the current mythicists’ work, especially Dr. Carrier, unless this passage and the “born of a woman” and “seed of David” passages are demonstrated to be interpolations, these constitute strong evidence, almost to the point of a moral certitude, that Jesus existed. Where I find value in their work is not so much in challenging his existence, but in presenting evidence that might point to a pre-Jesus Jewish mystery Christ-cult that may have paved the way for the rapid divinization of the historical Jesus and merged with his movement. (Or not. Just something I’m exploring.)

    Thanks for your awesome work, Doc!

  2. puzzles  November 5, 2016

    What was the meaning of “apostle”? I have heard various things such as the Twelve, somebody who founded churches, or somebody who was visited by the resurrected Jesus. Of course James was the first to be visited by the resurrected Jesus according to some traditions.

  3. jc.johanning  November 5, 2016

    Carrier argues in his book “On the Historicity of Jesus ” that according to Paul Trudinger the passage has been mistranslated from the Greek.
    “In fact, the Greek here is quite strange, unless Paul actually meant ‘other than the apostles I saw only James’, meaning quite specifically that this James was not an apostle. Ordinarily, to say you saw ‘no other apostle’ you would write heteron ton apostolon ouk (compare Rom. 7.23; 13.9; etc.) or oudena heteron tōn apostolōn (as Paul usually does: e.g. 1 Cor. 1.14; 2.8; 9.15; etc.) or things similar. But here Paul instead chose the unusual (and for Paul, unprecedented) construction heteron tōn apostolōn . Without oudeis , the word heteron plus the genitive in this fashion more often means ‘other than ’, rather than ‘ another of ’ .”
    -On the Historicity of Jesus

    • Bart
      Bart  November 7, 2016

      There’s nothing particularly weird about the Greek, so far as I can see. I don’t know who Trudinger is. I assume Carrier knows Greek, since he has a degree in Ancient History; I have no way of knowing how good his Greek is. In the verse, heteron (= “other” or “another”) is the accusative direct object of the verb (“see”), and tōn apostolōn is a partitive genitive, indicating that the substantive controlling it is part of the group being mentioned (another one “of the apostles”). The key is what comes next ei me clearly means “except,” so that James, mentioned next is one other of the apostles.

      • jc.johanning  November 7, 2016

        Thanks for clearing this up Dr. Ehrman! It’s easy to be fooled if one doesn’t know the Greek. Carrier always mentions this “mistranslation” in his interviews, so I always had the doubt. Thnx

      • Abaddon  November 8, 2016

        Carrier lists his own qualifications in Greek on his blog as such: “I took a full graduate course in textual criticism under Leonardo Taran at Columbia University, as well as courses in ancient Greek dialects and linguistics and a year long course in papyrology under Roger Bagnall (likewise at Columbia), plus many course-years in Greek and Latin translation and documents. I also presented a paper on textual criticism at an academic conference (at UC Berkeley, but during my tenure at Columbia)”. Some samples of his graduate work in Greek are posted on his website: http://www.richardcarrier.info/papyrus/

        L. Paul Trudinger is published at The Evangelical Quarterly (http://biblicalstudies.org.uk/pdf/eq/1973-1_036.pdf) – note that this is not a mythicist “twisting” the Greek to fit his needs.

        Τhe late James L Boyer, another non-mythicist, also argued this kind of exegesis of this verse in Grace Theological Journal 4.2 (1983) on page 180 (https://faculty.gordon.edu/hu/bi/ted_hildebrandt/new_testament_greek/text/boyer-otherconditionals-gtj.htm): “εἰ μή < = adversative conjunction 'but' – It is readily admitted that εἰ μή may often be translated 'but' or 'but only' in English, particularly in those instances belonging to the last-mentioned category… Gal 1:19 is a passage where the difference is of considerable importance, but the issue must be settled on other considerations than the meaning of εἰ μή”

        • Abaddon  November 8, 2016

          Here are the citations of the actual literature referenced:

          L. Paul Trudinger, ‘[Heteron de tōn apostolōn ouk eidon, ei mē iakōbon]: A Note on Galatians I 19’, Novum Testamentum 17 (July 1975), pp. 200-202.

          George Howard, ‘Was James an Apostle? A Reflection on a New Proposal for Gal. I 19’, Novum Testamentum 19 (January 1977), pp. 63-64.

          Hans Dieter Betz, Galatians: A Commentary on Paul’s Letter to the Churches in Galatia (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress
          Press, 1979), p. 78.

        • Bart
          Bart  November 9, 2016

          Thanks. That’s very helpful.

        • Pattycake1974
          Pattycake1974  November 11, 2016

          Learning ancient Greek in a general sense is not the same as devoting time, effort, and energy into learning it in order to understand the text of the New Testament. Did Carrier spend a lifetime deciphering Paul’s words or Mark’s or John’s, etc.? Did Carrier study Hebrew? It seems to me that Hebrew would be a very important language to know if a person is that interested in understanding the text of the bible. Maybe he did. I don’t know.

          I think you should consider that when Carrier approaches the bible, there’s a purposeful intention there. Does he allow the text to lead him where it wants to go or is he leading the text to say what he wants it to say in order to argue his point? I see there’s a tax papyrus listed on his website, but where’s all of the NT papryi that he translated?

          • Abaddon  November 16, 2016

            No, Carrier doesn’t claim to speak Hebrew. And yes, he’s fully competent in Biblical Greek exegesis. Obviously, you’re not (even “in a general sense”, whatever that means). Do you care to cite some specific examples of Carrier “leading the text to say what he wants it to say in order to argue his point”? Or are you just speaking in a general sense?

          • Pattycake1974
            Pattycake1974  November 19, 2016

            What I meant was that I’m not aware of Carrier being able to read Hebrew. I’m not sure how he’s fully competent in Biblical Greek exegesis either.

      • thomstark  March 30, 2017

        Carrier has a habit of calling phrases he doesn’t know how to read properly “strange.” Here he says the Greek is “quite strange.” In an exchange with me on Daniel 9, he said that the term “anointed prince” was an “oddity” and a “strange construction.” But he didn’t read it as anointed prince, he kept referring to it as “Christ Prince.” Even after I explained to him that anointed is adjectival not titular here, he still didn’t get it. So we know he has problems with basic grammar. Calling a phrase “strange” seems to be one of his go-to maneuvers for dealing with data problematic to his thesis.

        • Bart
          Bart  March 30, 2017

          Interesting! Thanks. I don’t know how good his languages are. My sense is that, among other things, he doesn’t know Hebrew at all.

          • thomstark  March 30, 2017

            Yes, my engagement with him on his pre-Christian Dying Messiah thesis made it abundantly clear he doesn’t know a lick of Hebrew.

            In the case of Daniel 9, he was trying to argue that because “Christ Prince” was a strange construction, we should postulate that it is missing a conjunction, “Christ and a Prince,” because he wanted two figures in Daniel 9. All of this was a roundabout way of supporting his thesis that Christ died in Daniel 9.

  4. RonaldTaska  November 5, 2016

    Hmm? Why do you think this issue is so important to mythicists? They sound like fundamentalists spinning all evidence to fit their cognitive biases. In my limited experience, some atheists can be as dogmatic, I hesitate to say more dogmatic, as fundamentalists.,

    If they want to debunk most of Christianity, can’t they get to essentially the same place by claiming that most, but not all, of what the Bible says about the historical Jesus is legendary? This would be similar to what you wrote in “Jesus, Apocalyptic Prophet …” Why do they need to debunk the existence of Jesus?

    • Bart
      Bart  November 6, 2016

      yes, that’s my view. They’d be better off doing that.

      • godspell  November 7, 2016

        But their goals are emotional, not logical. They want to do much more than just convince people Jesus was not God (and never claimed to be, either). They want to erase Christianity itself from existence. Which for them means negating all the central beliefs of Christianity.

        Now you can’t prove a god doesn’t exist. It’s impossible. For all I know, Zeus and Odin are up there having a drink together, and talking about going down to earth in human form to seduce some maidens (I’m not sure Odin does that in any of the Norse myths, but Zeus could have corrupted him).

        You can prove a man didn’t exist. It’s hard to do, when he lived thousands of years ago, but it’s within the realm of possibility. And there’s something about disproving something everybody accepts as truth (even most atheists), that can appeal to certain types of personalities (like the people who try to prove Shakespeare didn’t write Shakespeare, men never landed on the moon, or the earth is flat).

        This is why I don’t envy you your task of trying to persuade them, because their beliefs are not logical. You’ve never, to my knowledge, gone to a gathering of Christians to try and persuade them there is no God. You would have no factual basis for this, and your opinion is basically as good as anyone else’s on that insoluble question. To you, the question of Jesus’ existence is a matter of analyzing the available facts, and making reasonable conclusions based on them. To these people, his nonexistence is an article of faith, and faith exists beyond the realm of logic. Which is fine, as long as it doesn’t PRETEND to be based on logic.

  5. rememberwhite
    rememberwhite  November 5, 2016

    Big fan of Bart’s work here … so forgive me if I link to this point by point assessment of the debate on Carrier’s website. I understand Bart’s point that to refute each and every point would take several books worth …

    For the layman, however, a lot of Carrier’s points seem just as valid as Bart’s points. So in the end it comes down to authority … the fact that Bart has studied for so long at prestigious universities must mean that he has some grasp on the truth at least!

    Here is Carrier’s point by point rebuttal in full …

    Might I add that I enjoy Bart’s humour … a lot … though Carrier doesn’t seem to is evident!

  6. talmoore
    talmoore  November 5, 2016

    Richard Carrier is a hairsplitter who would make the most fastidious Medieval scholastic proud. Dr. Carrier, if for some reason you’re reading this comment, I have to ask you how many spiritual brothers of the Lord do you think can dance on the head of a pin?

    • Pattycake1974
      Pattycake1974  November 7, 2016

      Talmoore, you crack me up. I read Carrier’s assessment. Okay, I read some of it. When I saw that I had scrolled for 5 minutes, and the side scroll bar wasn’t moving, I knew it was going to be skim-reading for me. People keep saying that his arguments are so well thought out and compelling. He is *the* one who is Bart’s equal in setting forth an argument and could win in a debate against him. I think they’re dreaming. No way. No how. I could be really truthful about some of the tactics I think he uses when setting forth some of his arguments, but I’ll refrain.

      • talmoore
        talmoore  November 7, 2016

        I skimmed Carrier’s reponse as well, and I got frustrated by his almost childish obsession with fallacy hunting. If this debate hinged on important deductive arguments, then, yes, there may be some profit in singling out each and every logical fallacy, but since we’re talking about a painstaking reconstruction of history through limited document evidence, then focusing on logical fallacies in an opponent’s argument comes across as petty and unproductive. Carrier acts like a second year philosophy student who just learned rhetoric and is over eager to use his new toy, even when and where it’s not appropriate.

  7. roycecil  November 5, 2016

    Dr. Bart , what is the earliest historical reference we have of the mythicist position? Was there any, jewish , christian or secular mythisict in the first century? Is it logical/rational to have a myth suddenly develop at a point in time without a whole bunch of people being deluded ? Are there some other examples in history?

    • Bart
      Bart  November 6, 2016

      The first to propose the view was a French scholar at the time of the French Revolution. I mention his work in my book Did Jesus Exist?

  8. living42day  November 5, 2016

    Robert Price has also argued that Paul may have used the word “brother” in a spiritual sense–as though the phrase “brothers of the Lord” could be taken as a particular group within the early church. But, given what Paul says in 1 Corinthians 1:10-17 against factions in the church there, it seems very unlikely that Paul would have tacitly endorsed such a distinction in his letter to the Galatians.

    To his credit, Price does acknowledge that Paul’s contact with James constitutes “powerful evidence that Jesus was a recent historical figure” (Christ-Myth Theory, 333).

    It seems to me that Price often builds arguments around what could be termed “possibilities” with the idea that the cumulative effect of such arguments would somehow undermine the opposition’s case, whereas Carrier presents similar arguments and then treats those “possibilities” as though they reflected what is “probable.”

  9. benholman  November 5, 2016

    Interesting post! So is the James mentioned in Galatians 2.9 someone different then? “James and Cephas and John, who were reputed to be pillars”. In Gal 1, isn’t Paul talking about the James of the three pillars that he mentions again in 2.9? Or is he referring to two different James’s in Gal 1 & 2, but just doesn’t make the distinction between them? Because the “pillar” James in 2.9 is thought by the Gospel writers to be the brother of John, not Jesus.

    “And He allowed no one to accompany Him, except Peter and James and John the brother of James.” Mark 5:37

    “And he had James the brother of John put to death with a sword.” Acts 12:2

    • Bart
      Bart  November 6, 2016

      No, the James of ch. 1 is also the James of ch. 2. Galatians was written long before Mark and Acts, of course, and is not presupposing knowledge of them (or any of the other Gospels)

  10. Mhamed Errifi  November 5, 2016

    hello Bart

    i want to ask you a question it may not be relevant to the thread . i have read in the gospel of John 10:8 All who have come before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep have not listened to them.

    thieves and robbers who is refering to in other words who are those thieves and robbers ?


  11. Hume  November 5, 2016

    Bart, I do not know why you say your wife is smarter because that rolls royce of a mind powers through everything!

  12. Hume  November 5, 2016

    Bart, I’ve bought several of your books but not How Jesus Became God, so that aside.

    1. Water into wine at Cana: As useful as it is, do you think this didn’t happen, and whoever wrote this down added this piece?

    2. Also, do you think all the miracles were added/created/made up when the stories of Jesus were told after his death or during his life?

    • Bart
      Bart  November 6, 2016

      1. No, I don’t think it happened 2. Definitely mostly after his death, but possibly some during his life.

  13. Pattylt  November 5, 2016

    I want to thank you for giving this detailed response. Quite often the discussions just seem to be “I see it this way and you see it that way”. This discussion explained the interpretation so that I can now see your point of view clearly. I certainly don’t expect you to have to respond in this detail to every mythicist point but I sure wish a group of scholars would respond with this level of detail to some of the mythicists strongests points. I think it would advance the history of what can be known and what will always be speculation and would perhaps make the mythicist position either go away or accept that they might have a point or two to contribute. Not all mythicists are raving conspiracy theorists. Some just see holes in the history (me).
    One quick question: Do you think Paul implies that what makes someone an Apostle is seeing the risen Jesus like he did, not just knowing the earthly Jesus? Mythicists claim that Paul ONLY defines Apostles as those who see the risen Jesus. I think that I don’t know enough to know who to believe! Ha!

    • Bart
      Bart  November 6, 2016

      The word “apostle” means “one who is sent,” and technically would apply to anyone who thinks that Christ or God has sent them on a (missionary) mission.

      • SBrudney091941
        SBrudney091941  November 7, 2016

        Bart, PattIt wrote above, “I sure wish a group of scholars would respond with this level of detail to some of the mythicists strongest points.” That sounds like a good book for you to introduce and edit–an anthology of criticisms of mythicist positions.

  14. Pattycake1974
    Pattycake1974  November 5, 2016

    I replied to pueblo’s comment before seeing this post. Good to know I was on the right track.

    I have a completely unrelated question: When Paul used the word “revelation” in his writings, it seems that he wrote it so frequently that it doesn’t have much of an impact as to what I take it to mean today, as in, some grand, spiritual epiphany. Could Paul have thought a revelation was just an average part of spiritual life, like, speaking in tongues? For example, in Galatians 2– 1 Then after fourteen years, I went up again to Jerusalem, this time with Barnabas. I took Titus along also. 2 I went in response to a revelation and, meeting privately with those esteemed as leaders, I presented to them the gospel that I preach among the Gentiles.

    There’s probably no way to know for sure, but could Paul’s vision of Jesus have been the point of origin that lead to more spiritual things: revelations, tongues, interpretations, etc… In other words, he didn’t have a revelation about anything until he saw Jesus.

    • Bart
      Bart  November 6, 2016

      Well, speaking in tongues doesn’t seem particularly “average” to me, but fairly remarkable. But yes, a “revelation” would be a similar manifestation of a divine spirit.

      • Pattycake1974
        Pattycake1974  November 7, 2016

        I suppose “average” isn’t a good word to describe tongues. When people speak in tongues, it can be rarely, occasionally, or as often as every day if they so choose. Since Paul wrote about having a revelation several times, could that have also been a frequent occurrence for him? As in, having revelations was an accepted and normal part of a Christian’s spiritual life much like speaking in tongues. But when Paul did have a revelation, I’d like to know what was actually happening with him. Are there any good books about this topic?

        • Bart
          Bart  November 7, 2016

          Nothing comes to mind. YOu might try books on Jewish mysticism.

  15. drmightie  November 5, 2016

    Thank you, Prof Ehrman. Excellent right up. Concise and straight to the point. I saw the debate between you and Dr. Price and I have also read Dr. Carrier’s summary of it. I’m no expert in biblical studies but there isn’t any way around what Paul meant in Galatians 1:18 – 19, other than that Jesus had a blood brother. I think with these two verses their whole argument falls apart unless they want to claim Galatians wasn’t written by Paul or that the verses were interpolated.

  16. darren  November 5, 2016

    One thing I’m realizing as the years pass is just how many people want to defend their position, rather than understand and seek truth. I always assumed it would be Christians who would be the most intransigent, but the mythicists — and, come to think of it, Trump supporters I’ve engaged with this year — are the same. Left, right, up, down, whatever. People are crazy sometimes, regardless of their beliefs or politics.

  17. rburos  November 5, 2016

    Thanks for this thread. The common placement of Cephas with James in Galations 1 is a pretty rock solid defense of the hypothesis, and will become part of my arsenal. I’m aware of fundamentalists who hold the same view of James as the mythicists, because of the doctrine of Mary’s eternal virginity. Where would that have come from? I don’t see it as necessary in any way?

    • Bart
      Bart  November 6, 2016

      Most fundamentalists don’t hold this view; it’s a Roman Catholic doctrine, that arose from beliefs in the sanctity and sinlessness of Mary, who was taken up to heaven at the end of her life because she had never been connected to/corrupted by sin (such as in the sex act)

  18. John4
    John4  November 5, 2016

    If you are beating a dead horse, Bart, that’s fine with me. Beat away! I very much enjoy your many posts in which you engage in ” this kind of detailed examination” to make your points. The mythisist position strikes me as absurd. But, it does have the benefit of prompting you to share detailed examinations of scripture with us. For that I am grateful. 🙂

  19. jlparris  November 5, 2016

    What motivates the Mythicists? Some seem evangelical in advocating their uninformed positions.

    Is it scar tissue from earlier fundamentalist experiences? Frustration at not being able to find an entry level position teaching? Sleeping during history classes?

    Did your experience at the debate indicate a low level of scholarship and a desire for confirmation bias from audience members?

    From Carrier’s blog: “To be fair to Robert Price, he is in failing health. And he’s a sweet guy. But I have to be honest. Even granting that, he didn’t respond to hardly anything Ehrman said. So there wasn’t actually a debate Friday night. It was mostly just Bart Ehrman making numerous dubious and misleading assertions that were never questioned, combined with Price defending bizarre positions wholly unnecessary to the issue, making mythicism look close to crank.”

    Perhaps Mythicism is crank?

    • Bart
      Bart  November 6, 2016

      yes, that may be what’s motivating some of them. Yes, I was surprised at how many people there didn’t have even basic knowledge about the Bible or early Christianity, but latched on quickly to anything which supported their views. But they were a great group of people, on the personal level.

  20. dragonfly  November 5, 2016

    Maybe we should talk about why mythicists are even trying to argue their case. It seems to me the only way to find evidence that Jesus didn’t exist, is if you already start with that assumption, and go looking for evidence to support it (and ignore evidence that doesn’t). I don’t see how you could come to that conclusion by looking at the evidence without an agenda. And why have you become Carrier’s public enemy no.1? Every other scholar out there also thinks Jesus existed.

  21. Greg Matthews
    Greg Matthews  November 5, 2016

    Better watch out, Carrier’s going to accuse you of another ad hominem if you keep saying his responses are 4 times longer than your statements! I saw his lengthy response last week and had a hard time keeping my eyes from rolling back into my head. On reddit someone posted that perhaps Carrier desperately seeks your approval, but never gets it so he does what he does. I think that might be true….

  22. Tony  November 5, 2016

    This is obviously an important issue to Historicists and Mythicists alike. Paul repeatedly addresses his audience as “brothers”. While the Greek word is technically gender neutral, the addition of “sisters” is a recent politically correct inclusion. Paul probably considered himself a brother as well.

    The key is, brothers of who? Paul clarifies that in Romans. They were going to be brothers of Jesus!

    Rom 8:22-24. “We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. 23 Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? “
    Rom 8:29. “For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brother’s “
    Notice that Paul says “we” wait for our adoption to sonship. He is including himself. It would appear to me that James was indeed a “brother of the Lord”, but not in any kind of biological sense. On balance I would consider this a strong argument for the Mythicist position.ip

    • Bart
      Bart  November 6, 2016

      I’m not sure you’re hearing what I’m saying. Yes, Paul does think believers are all brothers, of one another and of Jesus. But that’s true of ALL believers, not just James. It’s true of Cephas, e.g., as well. So if Paul calls James the brother of Jesus precisely to differentiate him from Cephas, then it doesn’t make any sense. They were *both* brothers of Jesus in that sense. Only if he means brother in a literal sense in this verse does what he say make sense.

      • Tony  November 6, 2016

        Dr Ehrman, I certainly agree that reading Gal 1:18-19 in isolation appears to indicate that James was an Apostle and a (biological) brother of Jesus (the Lord). Elsewhere in Paul’s letters there is mention of James without any further reference to him being the brother of Jesus.
        In 1 Cor 9:5 Paul writes again about a group identified as ‘Brothers of the Lord”. “Do we not have the right to take along a believing wife, as do the other apostles and the brothers of the Lord and Cephas?”. I suppose here we could have a group of biological Jesus brothers who were not Apostles.
        But in the context of other information provided by Paul makes the term “brothers” a much more loaded term. When Paul repeatedly addresses his audiences as “brothers” he certainly does not mean to address biological brothers of Jesus. The explanation he provides in Romans makes clear that he is not using the word “brothers” as meaning a general “Brotherhood” either. Paul talks about the promise that the Jesus believers would became sons of God and therefore brothers of Jesus (the Lord).
        That changes the possible interpretations of the term “brother” considerable. I’m not sure if readers of Paul’s letters realize the implications of the “brother” context for the historicity argument, but also in explaining on what basis Paul was selling his message.

        • Bart
          Bart  November 7, 2016

          That’s right — for Paul they are all brothers in a specific sense, not generally. It was true of all believers who had been baptized into Christ. (But that’s what shows he is not using it in that particular sense in relation to James, since James being a brother of the Lord is what, in Gal. 1, differentiates him from Cephas)

      • TWood
        TWood  November 7, 2016

        I just read Tony’s statement that “On balance I would consider this a strong argument for the Mythicist position.”

        I couldn’t help but laugh at this which leads me to my question… I listened to the moderator of your Price debate… He basically said you won the debate… but he took issue with you because (according to him) you openly laughed at Price when he said Paul didn’t write Galatians…

        Not that you do (or should) care, but for the record, I strongly support your laughing… but what roles do mockery and ridicule play in your view? These are powerful tools (can you imagine the late Hitchens without such tools?! perish the thought) … it’s the essence of freedom of expression (Muhammad cartoons show how free speech is destroyed when people are afraid to mock)… do you regret laughing at Price?

        • Bart
          Bart  November 7, 2016

          I absolutely did not mean to laugh at *him*. I was laughing at the idea. And I didn’t mean to laugh! It was just a natural reaction….

          • TWood
            TWood  November 7, 2016

            Yes—I think the moderator was way too sensitive when he said your laughter was a weakness in your debate performance. As you say, it’s the idea not the person—big difference—and the laughter was based on a denial of hard evidence—which is funny to most people.

        • Tony  November 7, 2016

          Robert Price belongs to a small group of scholars who believe Marcion wrote Galatians. The reason is that in “Against Marcion” Tertullian writes that Marcion found (discovered) Paul’s letter to the Galatians. This has led some scholars to suspect that Marcion himself wrote Galatians under Paul’s name in order to defend Marcionism.

        • Pattycake1974
          Pattycake1974  November 8, 2016

          A commenter on Dillahunty’s channel wrote that someone laughed at a statement Price made during the Dogma Debate podcast back in July. Price reacted by hanging up the phone, so it ended the show. During this debate he dropped his microphone and acted *hurt*. That’s passive aggressive behavior.

  23. twiskus  November 5, 2016

    It’s incredible how much can be drawn from such short passages with just a careful eye.

  24. SidDhartha1953  November 5, 2016

    Arguing with mythicists must be about as frustrating as arguing with flat-earthers or, a more recent fad, if Facebook is representative, hollow-earth Gaia enthusiasts.

  25. JoshuaJ  November 5, 2016

    Seems very similar to dealing with Christian apologists. Weird…

  26. gavriel  November 6, 2016

    The argument that “brother” in Gal 1:19 may designate any Christian except the apostles seems to contradict 1.Cor 9:5 in which Paul’s argument only works if the “brothers” referred to here is a small and important group. So Carrier’s argument would require that “brother” has at least two figurative interpretations in Paul’s letters. This way of reasoning is nothing but fundamentalism in reverse, coming up with clunky ad-hoc hypotheses to counter inconvenient facts.

  27. Colin P  November 6, 2016

    Hi Bart. You are right in saying that the plain reading of this verse is that James was Jesus’ earthly brother. However, it is surely possible that this had some other meaning that is lost to us today but was known to the recipients of Paul’s letters e.g. “brother of the Lord” as some kind of grouping or special title. Of course mythicists have to find another way of interpreting it. However I am sure you will agree that the likelihood of whether the historical Jesus existed should be considered on the basis of an evaluation of all of the evidence considered as a whole. Personally, I find the scarcity (mythicists would say absence) of references to a historical Jesus in the epistles a more weighty piece of evidence, something which historicists then have to “explain away”. I am not a scholar of the New Testament (most of my knowledge on the subject has been gleaned from your books), but having read Earl Doherty’s “Jesus Puzzle” and “End of an illusion” I am not sure that mythicist ideas should be so quickly dismissed.

  28. PhilipS  November 6, 2016

    In Carrier’s article you are addressing, he claims that the passage in Galatians 1:18-19 is generally mistranslated. He writes:

    “Grammatically, it has already been shown in the peer reviewed literature that in Galatians 1:18-19, Paul is saying the James there referenced was not an apostle (OHJ, pp. 589-90).”

    • Bart
      Bart  November 7, 2016

      Yeah, that’s pretty funny. I wasn’t familiar with this argument, and I wondered why he indicated that it had been shown in “peer reviewed literature.” That’s not something a scholar ever says. The only published work any scholar would ever reference is peer reviewed. So why point that out? I also didn’t know what OHJ was — I thought maybe it was a reference to an obscure academic journal. No, it refers to On the Historicity of Jesus. That’s a book. It was written by … Carrier! In other words, to support his claim he is referencing himself (and only himself).

      • PhilipS  November 7, 2016

        It is a bit ambiguous, but I think he only referenced his book here for further reading.

      • PhilipS  November 8, 2016

        Carrier has now posted the citations he was referring to on his blog:

        L. Paul Trudinger, ‘[Heteron de tōn apostolōn ouk eidon, ei mē iakōbon]: A Note on Galatians I 19’, Novum Testamentum 17 (July 1975), pp. 200-202.

        George Howard, ‘Was James an Apostle? A Reflection on a New Proposal for Gal. I 19’, Novum Testamentum 19 (January 1977), pp. 63-64.

        Hans Dieter Betz, Galatians: A Commentary on Paul’s Letter to the Churches in Galatia (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 1979), p. 78.

        • Bart
          Bart  November 9, 2016

          Thanks. That’s very helpful.

        • Pattycake1974
          Pattycake1974  November 11, 2016

          I see scholars reference their books all the time, but it’s the manner in which Carrier goes about doing it that is strange. Writers don’t explain a point and then reference themselves over and over and over again. I’ve seen them give a scholarly opinion and then make the audience aware that if we want to know more about a particular topic, we can read such and such book. They don’t quote themselves. Why would a scholar quote his own scholarly opinion? And it’s always just that one book, OHJ. One.

          He took courses to learn Greek. Well, I should think so! I still do not get the impression that he could be handed an ancient Greek papyrus and translate it on the spot. It’s not as if he has devoted his time and energy to translating Paul’s letters. The grammatical issue he argues is not from his own work which is why he has to quote Trudinger.

  29. webattorney  November 6, 2016

    I have no problem with mythicists marking various arguments on the possibilities of other interpretations, but to believe these arguments is to take a less likely scenario. A lot less likely scenario IMO.

  30. Abaddon  November 6, 2016

    Thanks for the post. I don’t think you’re beating a dead horse by addressing Carrier’s arguments. But it does seem like you’re beating a straw man at times, because you misrepresent the opposing argument (perhaps unintentionally).

    “Carrier’s definition (brother = baptized person not an apostle)” is not actually Carrier’s definition at all. He’s doesn’t assert that “Paul uses the term ‘brother’ to apply to someone who was baptized as a Christian (and therefore sympatico/in a close relationship with the heavenly Christ)…” His definition is actually limited to the two times that Paul uses the full term “brother(s) of the Lord”.

    So your point, about Paul’s nowhere using a two-pronged definition of “brother” as someone who was (a) baptized but (b) not an apostle, doesn’t really relate to what Carrier is arguing. And all other examples of Paul’s use of the term “brother” and his understanding of kinship are moot points.

    Carrier is saying that by calling James a “brother of the Lord”, Paul may be thus distinguishing this James from any apostles of the same name; as he does elsewhere to distinguish regular Christians from apostles (1 Cor 9:5 – “…as do the other apostles and the brothers of the Lord and Cephas”).

    To say that “some mythicists have realized this (that James is indeed the biological brother of Jesus)” sounds disingenuous, because it implies that they actually, secretly concede your point and are just lying to “explain away” irrefutable facts. But alternate interpretations of what Paul actually says in Galatians 1:19 (in the Greek) have been argued by scholars who are not mythicists.

    • Bart
      Bart  November 7, 2016

      Well, I certainly don’t *mean* to be misrepresenting him. In response to my position that Paul could not be calling James simply a Christian “brother” (like all other Christians) since he is calling him this precisely to differentiate him from Cephas (and that differentiation would not work if he meant “spiritual brother” or “fellow baptized Christian” — because Cephas was as well), he says this: “Grammatically, it has already been shown in the peer reviewed literature that in Galatians 1:18-19, Paul is saying the James there referenced was not an apostle (OHJ, pp. 589-90). Thus, he is contrasting apostolic and non-apostolic Christians: he is saying the James there is merely a baptized Christian, albeit still an initiated member of the sect, but not an apostle.” (As I pointed out in my response to another comment, the “peer reviewed” authority he cites is … himself!)

  31. Jason  November 6, 2016

    It just occurred to me that someday, when mythicism is its own religion, you’ll be eminently qualified to teach and write about the history of that too!

  32. clipper9422@yahoo.com  November 6, 2016

    It seems odd that James, Jesus’s brother, is just barely mentioned in the gospels but, according to Acts, plays such a big role as head of the Jerusalem Church in early Christianity. Plus, Jesus’s family including, presumably, James, thought Jesus was crazy. Is there an explanation for James’s turnaround and sudden reappearance?

    All I know of Acts is what’s been read at the weekly Catholic Mass. I don’t recall James ever being mentioned. I have a sneaking suspicion that the Catholic Church downplays James because his existence is a challenge to Mary’s perpetual virginity.

    • Colin  June 4, 2017

      It puzzles me. James seems to be the elephant in the room. What stories was he telling? What was he teaching? Where is his gospel?

      • Bart
        Bart  June 5, 2017

        We wish we knew what he taught. He didn’t write a Gospel because he was almost certainly illiterate (as were most all the other people in his environment)

  33. oasis00  November 6, 2016

    @Bart – apparently in the peer reviewed literature the grammatical construction of Galatians 1:19 is ambiguous and disputed amongst scholars. Even if you look at the difference between 2 bible translations the meaning is vastly altered:
    “I saw none of the other apostles–only James, the Lord’s brother” (NIV)
    “The only other apostle I met at that time was James, the Lord’s brother” (NLT)

    The NIV translation may refute your point that ‘Whom did Paul visit and see? Cephas. And no other apostle EXCEPT James the Lord’s brother. In other words, James is the only other apostle Paul saw, except Cephas.’

    The NLT translation supports your view but the NIV translation can be taken to mean no other apostle except Cephas was seen, and also James the Lord’s brother was seen. A peer reviewed article by Trudinger also constructs it as: “Other than the apostles I saw no one, except James the Lord’s brother.” The meaning seems ambiguous at best and not conclusive that James was also an apostle.

    • Bart
      Bart  November 7, 2016

      By “peer reviewed” he means the book that he himself wrote. In other words, his authority is … himself!

      The NIV translation is ambiguous and unfortunately. The Greek is quite clear. It means “except.”

  34. Pedro  November 7, 2016

    Wonderful as usual. I don’t care that Ehrman is beating a dead horse. For me, the dead horse defended by Richard Carrier is not dead enough.

  35. hgb55  November 7, 2016

    Bart, I’m forwarding the following question from mythicist Frank Zindler, a question he had planned asking you during the Q&A session at your debate with Robert Price, according to Neil Godfrey. Godfey posted Frank Zindler’s question on the Vridar website.

    “Bart, many of us have used your research to support many of our own arguments. For example, in Orthodox Corruption of Scripture you show many examples of anti-Docetic passages in the NT, from the “born-of-woman” Gal 4:4 to the antichrist verses of 1-2 John. Galatians is usually dated to ~54 CE, and if Jesus ever existed, he died in 30 or 33 CE (although Irenaeus claimed he lived into the reign of Claudius, that ended in 54 CE—the very year in which Galatians was written!)

    As you know, there are no manuscript variants lacking the born-of-woman gynaikos of Gal 4:4. You have criticized me for claiming interpolation in cases where manuscript evidence is lacking. So……….

    According to you own method, the anti-Docetic Gal 4:4 is not an interpolation; it dates to 54 CE if the traditional dating be correct.


    If Jesus died in 33 CE, how is it possible that just 21 years later—or even in the very year Galatians was written—there could be widespread forms of Christianity that denied that Jesus had had a body? Was not some form of Docetism therefore the earliest form of Christianity?” [Frank Zindler]

    • Bart
      Bart  November 7, 2016

      Yes, it’s a good question. Paul himself believed Christ was an angel before he became a human. He was trying to clarify in this verse that when he did become a human, it was not a temporary appearance (like angels who appear as angels in the OT) but was a real flesh-and-blood birth to a human mother type of appearance.

  36. bradseggie  November 7, 2016

    I get tired of hearing people make up false statements. Often it’s evangelicals making it up. (E.g., Christians always agreed that the deuterocanonical books were Scripture, the Jews allowed tracing genealogies through a stepfather, and “wine” was just unfermented grape juice.)

    I appreciate you proving that the “brother” usage claim is impossible. But shouldn’t the Mythicists have to provide clear historical evidence to support their points, instead of making up nonsense and requiring you to disprove it?

  37. Pattycake1974
    Pattycake1974  November 8, 2016

    Well, Carrier did respond to this post and it was typical. ? It’s very apparent that he wants you to read the peer reviewed literature! He must have wrote the words “peer reviewed” fifteen times. It’s perfectly understandable that you’ve got other things to do.
    Personally, I think this all goes back to you not reading that book of his. It’s very apparent he wants you to read it. I can’t figure out if he’s a narcissist, just being childish, hates your guts, or secretly idolizes you and seeks approval in all the wrong ways. Could be all of the above. One thing is for sure, he wants Bart Ehrman’s attention.

    • Bart
      Bart  November 9, 2016

      Peer reviewed literature is just about the only literature I read. Same with all scholars. No one urges another scholar to read peer reviewed literature. What other kind of literature would they read???

  38. davitako  November 8, 2016

    Hi Bart,

    I’m sorry for bringing this up again. You probably already know this, but Carrier responded to this article: http://www.richardcarrier.info/archives/11516

    The reason I mention this is the amount of people who are fascinated by this topic. It has gained a huge interest! If you look at your posts (both in facebook and here), most of “likes”, comments and discussions come from the ones related to historicity of Jesus. You’re probably fed up with hearing about all this, but Richard makes some interesting points in that article and I (and lots of others) hope you’ll respond to it.

  39. jimlefferts  November 8, 2016

    I am curious about the Catholic doctrine that was alluded to in comments above. Do you know how that position would be used to explain away your convincing (to me) argument on the nature of James’ brotherly relationship to Jesus, particularly with regard to the Galatians text example?

    • Bart
      Bart  November 9, 2016

      They still think of Jesus as a family-relative of James, which for my argument is all that is needed I think.

  40. novotnycurse  November 9, 2016

    Scholars frequently have long standing differences of opinion that are not easily resolved by rational debate. Many years ago, I once asked one of my college lecturers Penry Williams how G. R. Elton had responded to his thorough demolition of the claim that Thomas Cromwell had revolutionised the use of parliamentary statutes. Penry said Elton simply did not respond.
    The leading scholars in particular fields can sometimes hold contemptuous views on those who question their key theories.

    • SBrudney091941
      SBrudney091941  November 10, 2016

      That G.R. Elton did not respond does not necessarily mean that he is not open to rational debate or that he is contemptuous. Is that what it would mean f Bart Ehrman did not respond to Carrier?

  41. novotnycurse  November 10, 2016

    Academics can get into a right pickle about how to translate ancient greek for the modern reader. In the Times Literary Supplement there has been an intense exchange of letters on how best to translate an adjective from Aristophanes. Should it be wide-arsed or arse-widened? Changing the word order alters the innuendo.
    It almost becomes a classic Monty Python sketch.

    Gideon Nisbet who has recently translated a selection of Martial’s Epigrams believes that all translations are fibs. A compromise between the author, translator and modern reader.

    The New Testament is written in a later form of ‘ancient greek’, but it’s still ancient as far as I can see.

  42. VincitOmniaVeritas  November 11, 2016

    This is a good critique of the flaw in Carrier’s arguments about James only being a “spiritual brother” of Jesus. Carrier has written a reply to you on his blog, but there are several faults in his assertions about James being a spiritual brother. Here are some I point out:

    1) Carrier completely ignores the fact that James is the only figure mentioned by Paul in all of his epistles as both an apostle and as the Lord’s brother. John and Peter/Cephas are only ever mentioned as apostles and never mentioned as brothers. Moreover, no other figure is simultaneously named by Paul AND mentioned as “the brother of the Lord” in his authentic epistles, and not even other Christian followers mentioned specifically as close Christian acquaintances to Paul, like Junias and Andronicus who were in prison with Paul (Romans 16:7).

    2) Carrier cites another other possible translation of Galatians 1:19 to support his stance of James being a “spiritual brother”, but he offers no evidence why this interpretation or translation is any more accurate than the one citing James specifically as an apostle and as the Lord’s Brother, but only supposition that some translations are due to the influence of “Christian dogma”. Carrier also doesn’t seem to admit that if the correct translation is that James was an apostle and the Lord’s Brother, that this clearly supports James being a blood brother, since no other apostle is labelled as both of these things.

    3) Finally, Carrier omits one extremely important, and obvious, detail about Galatians 1:19 common to all translations: that they all have James as “THE brother of the Lord”, or “THE Lord’s brother”. No other figure labelled as “brother” in all of Paul’s epistles is described as being THE brother of the Lord. If James was merely an average “rank and file Christian” as Carrier describes him, why then is he called THE brother of the Lord, and not A brother of the Lord ?? Clearly this James had enough special significance to be labelled THE brother of the Lord, and especially since this James is later mentioned as being put on trial by the Sanhedrin in Josephus’ AJ, Book 20.

  43. VincitOmniaVeritas  November 11, 2016

    Carrier decides that this translation, or interpretation, is apparently “the correct one”, but he provides no evidence to support that it is any more correct than other translations, nor does he specifically explain how the Greek does not say “but” or “except”:

    “I did not go to Jerusalem to those who were Apostles before me [then]…[but] after three years I went to Jerusalem to visit Cephas and stayed with him for fifteen days. But I saw no other Apostles—just the Brother of the Lord James.”

    However, even this supposed translation shows that James was both an apostle and THE Lord’s brother (again, the only person named, said to be an apostle and THE Lord’s brother).

    For example, I can say “I saw no other persons-just Bart Ehrman”. This obviously does not mean Bart is not a person ! The same is the case with that translation of Galatians 1:19, where clearly James is still considered an apostle as Paul “saw no other apostles-just the brother of the Lord, James”. Frankly, there is no evidence that the Greek translates here “just” (an singularly English usage) in such a sentence instead of “but”, “bar” or “except”, which are terms which would be used in such a sentence.

  44. VincitOmniaVeritas  November 11, 2016

    A final point about the errors of Carrier’s arguments here is that he ignores the level of importance placed on James by Paul at Galatians 2:9, where James is considered a church leader at that time (40 – 45 AD) on par with clear apostles like Peter and John: “James, Peter and John, who seemed to be the leaders,”. For James to be at a level of authority at that time on par with Peter and John, James clearly has to be an extremely early figure in the church, and thus an initial follower of Jesus like Peter and John. For this to be so, James had to be an apostle and not just a “spiritual brother”.

    This means that in Galatians 1:19, James very much was also an apostle on par with Peter and John, but is still being specifically distinguished from Peter, as James also being THE Lord’s brother. James is the only apostle to be described as THE Lord’s brother, and in fact is the only figure in the entire New Testament literature to be specified as THE Lord’s brother.

    This is further evidence for this description marking a special significance to James as singularly “THE brother of the Lord” among the first apostles, and thus likely the biological brother (half-brother) of Jesus.

  45. VincitOmniaVeritas  November 12, 2016

    One final point here is that Carrier claims there is ambiguity about the use of the defnite article “the” in Greek, in its use at Galatians 1:19. However, this still does not account for the unique occurrence of the definite article here with regards to referring to a named brother of the Lord (James) and the absence of the indefinite article in use by Paul elsewhere.

    I personally find it difficult for James here to be nothing other than an apostle and a familial brother of the Lord (Jesus). This not just because of the special importance of James being uniquely described, among all apostles and Christians, as “THE Lord’s brother”, but also since he is clearly a highly important figure deliberately specified by Paul here. He is the only other person Paul meets besides Peter, right when he is importantly getting information about Jesus for the first time from the apostles themselves in Jerusalem. I really do not see how such an important figure specified by Paul, and uniquely labelled as “the brother of the Lord”, could somehow not be an apostle at this very early stage in the Jerusalem church (~ 33-38 AD).

    • Pattycake1974
      Pattycake1974  November 25, 2016

      Very good points Vincit

  46. TWood
    TWood  November 15, 2016

    I’ve heard Carrier’s responses to you… a lot of things he’s said… but one thing he said was that Herod Agrippa is a better attested to Palestinian Jew than Jesus… and he basically says you don’t know what you’re talking about because you say Jesus is…

    He also seems to think Q is not a legit theory anymore due to peer reviewed literature that has challenged it… is that true?

    • Bart
      Bart  November 16, 2016

      How many biographies do we have of Herod Agrippa? More than four that are each many chapters long? 🙂

      He is really obsessed with peer-reviewed literature. What other kinds of scholarship is he thinking about that’s not peer reviewed? All we scholars base our research on is peer reviewed literature. He surely knows that the majority view by far is the existence of Q.

  47. TWood
    TWood  November 15, 2016

    He also says Paul never says 1) Jesus had disciples, 2) Jesus was a teacher/preacher, 3) Jesus had a teaching/preaching ministry in Palestine (he goes as far as saying you “outright lie”)… the guy seems like a little worm to me… but I’m wondering what you’d say to this…

    • Bart
      Bart  November 16, 2016

      Paul mentions the 12. Paul says he ministered explicitly and only to Jews. And he quotes Jesus’ teachings. If I’m lying, I’ll eat my computer.

      • TWood
        TWood  November 16, 2016

        I know… it would appear he’s the one lying… he’s an inverted fundamentalist… there’s no doubt his worldview is internally consistent… but when external challenges crash into it… he’s exposed and he lashes out at anyone who dares challenge him… and he’s got a lot of followers… it’s crazy.

        • VincitOmniaVeritas  November 18, 2016

          Carrier makes a lot of strange assertions in his work, including in his book “On the Historicity of Jesus”. He also explained some of these strange viewpoints on his newest blog entry (http://www.richardcarrier.info/archives/11545)

          Carrier: “To get any result other than ‘never’ requires making assumptions not based in any data. Those assumptions can nevertheless be credible, if they derive from what is entailed by probability theory, namely, the probability it’s an ‘accident’ that all fourteen prior times this happened not once did it happen to a historical person.”

          This is a massive flaw in his reasoning with regards to determining the historicity of mythologized or euhemerised figures.

          Firstly, if you are unable to determine, beyond doubt, the historicity of those preceding figures themselves, then how can one assert that such deification or attribution of mystical qualities has no precedent in being done to historical persons in a similar manner to Jesus ? Clearly, there are a plethora of examples of persons being later mythologized, euhemerised or deified in manners similar to Jesus, in times preceding him and subsequent to him. This is even found with the case of prophets in the Old Testament.There are numerous cases of Kings, emperors, figures in Greek and Roman mythologies, pharaohs (e.g. Akhenaten), heroes, preachers, warriors, etc. having a possible historical basis and then becoming heavily deified, mythologized and worshipped. Just because only some have had evidence, in the form of, writings about them preserved (e.g. Elijah, Jesus, Zoroaster, Buddah, Muhammad, etc.) does not mean that these are unique cases.

          Carrier: “So what I am measuring is how often historical persons get that heavily mythotyped (and indeed that quickly, which should be near impossible for a historical person).”

          This is another fallacy of his. There are several cases of historical figures being mythologized, euhemerised and worshipped in such a short space of time, and so heavily. There were entire cults in the ancient world who worshipped living people as gods or demi-gods, and wrote mythologized details about them while there were still alive, from ancient Egypt to ancient Rome.

          Carrier: “That’s why non-delusional historians only consider non-miraculous theories of historicity. And those are, again, the only theories I consider as competing with mythicism in my analysis in OHJ.”

          This is another flawed assumption by Carrier, because the presence of “miracles” or “miraculous” acts performed by Jesus need not be necessarily supernatural for them to be considered as partially historical events in some form. There is clearly evidence from Josephus, in AJ, that there were several contemporaneous or near-contemporaneous anonymous prophets, and named prophets or “magicians” like Theudas, who were attempting to perform miraculous wonders or acts as “should only be done by the providence of God”. Thus, the miraculous acts mentioned in the narratives about Jesus need not necessarily be supernatural or historical in the manner described, and a few could still be counted as partial evidence in that they are based to some degree on somewhat historical events of “tricks” or attempted miraculous actions, like those of Theudas or numerous others around the same time in Judaea.

  48. toejam  November 19, 2016

    Reading the comments, I decided to order a book by the mysterious Paul Trudinger – “A Good Word for Jesus : A Heretic’s Testimony” (Open Gate 2007). According to Google, Trudinger was born in 1930 and was a professor of New Testament studies at the University of Winnipeg in Ontario, Canada, for 19 years. Seems a legit scholar then. I take it by the title of this book he is similar to yourself – an atheist with a soft spot for the Historical Jesus. I am just as much fascinated with the study of the study of the Historical Jesus as I am with the Historical Jesus himself haha.

  49. Pattycake1974
    Pattycake1974  November 23, 2016

    When I read this particular line–
    1 Corinthians 9:5 Don’t we have the right to take a believing wife along with us, as do the other apostles and the Lord’s brothers and Cephas[a]?

    I read it as Jesus’ biological brothers who were not apostles. How do you read that line?

    • Bart
      Bart  November 24, 2016

      It might seem that way, but then it would mean that Cephas also was not an apostle, but that can’t be right!

      • Pattycake1974
        Pattycake1974  November 24, 2016

        Regarding 1 Cor. 9 and the Lord’s brothers–they are both biological and apostles? Paul couldn’t mean brothers as in a spiritual sense because all of the Lord’s brothers wouldn’t have been apostles.

        • Bart
          Bart  November 26, 2016

          I wonder if Paul is referring to different missionary groups and individuals (one group: other apostles; another: brothers of Jesus; another individual: Cephas). It’s hard to make sense of it!

      • Pattycake1974
        Pattycake1974  January 7, 2017

        Are my eyes playing tricks on me because I cannot find the comment box. I’m replying to an older comment of mine but the regular comment box is gone?

        Regarding (again) 1 Cor. 9:5 Don’t we have the right to take a believing wife along with us, as do the other apostles and the Lord’s brothers and Cephas?

        I mentioned before that I thought the Lord’s brothers in this sentence are biological but not apostles. You said that would mean Cephas wasn’t an apostle either. Why is that exactly?

        • Bart
          Bart  January 8, 2017

          The only reason for thinking the brothers are not apostles is that they are mentioned alongside the other apostles; but so too is Cephas. So if the brothers are not apostles then there would be no reason to think Cephas is either (since the same logic applies to both)

          • Pattycake1974
            Pattycake1974  May 23, 2017

            I think I’ve changed my mind about Paul indicating that the brothers of the Lord were all apostles. In November, I said I didn’t think that was the case, but perhaps Paul really did view Jesus’ brothers as apostles. Considering he had his own issues with being accepted as an apostle and his negative view for those deemed as “super apostles.” Maybe it was his way of honoring Jesus’ immediate family even though others may not have felt the same way.

            Acts may not be reliable, but Luke does mention Jesus’ brothers being present when the movement began. They may have been more significant than we realize. I don’t see Luke throwing it in there as a fictional element because it doesn’t really add anything to the story.

  50. artlgeorge  December 16, 2016

    On this point, to me it seems relevant that Galatians 1:19 places the definite article before “brother.” If James were just one member of a group committed to Jesus, one would expect no article, in which case it would translate as “a brother of the Lord.” So it looks like the presence of the article singles out James as a blood brother rather than as a member of such a group, which supports your case. Any thoughts?

  51. Huxley-Agnostic  February 7, 2017

    After reading this post and Carrier’s response at http://www.richardcarrier.info/archives/11516. Then reading the section in Carrier’s book OHJ (On the History of Jesus) on the subject of James as the brother of the Lord. I did some reading of all the verses discussed between you and Carrier. Since I am not a professional scholar and just a lifelong student of the NT, I find it difficult to know which view is most probable. Ehrman, you above argue that the passage in Galatians 1:19 means as you write, ” In other words, James is the only other apostle Paul saw, except Cephas.” After a Google search for Carrier’s footnoted peer review articles I could not find them online but I did find today from biblehub:

    Expositor’s Greek Testament
    Galatians 1:19. εἰ μὴ Ἰάκωβον. εἰ μή may either state an exception to the preceding negative clause (= except, save), or merely qualify it (= but only), as it does in Luke 4:26, to none of them, sc., the widows in Israel, but only to Sarepta in Sidon; and in Galatians 1:7, no other Gospel, only (εἰ μή) there are some that pervert the Gospel. The latter appears to be its meaning here. If James had been entitled an Apostle, the author would probably have written that he saw no other Apostles but Peter and James. But here he states emphatically that he saw no second (ἕτερον) Apostle, only James. The Epistle, like the Acts (see Acts 12:17, Acts 15:13, Acts 21:18), fully recognises the leading position of James in the local Church (cf. Galatians 2:9; Galatians 2:12); and the ecclesiastical tradition which entitles him Bishop of Jerusalem corresponds to this. All the evidence left of his life suggests that he clung throughout his Christian life to Jerusalem and did not undertake such missionary labours as would entitle him to the designation of Apostle.—τὸν ἀδελφὸν … James is here described as the brother of the Lord in order to distinguish him from James the son of Zebedee, who was living at the time of Paul’s first visit; but elsewhere as James: after the death of the other James there could be no question who was meant.

    Source: http://biblehub.com/commentaries/galatians/1-19.htm 2/7/16

    This seems to contradict your argument or am I mistaken? The first section also seems to argue that Galatians 1:19 is saying something similar to what Carrier is saying, that the James here is not an apostle. I then turned to my favorite translation on Bible gateway:

    Galatians 1:18-19 Disciples’ Literal New Testament (DLNT):

    Three Years Later I Went To Jerusalem And Visited Peter And James
    18 Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to visit Cephas, and stayed with him fifteen days. 19 But I did not see another of the apostles except[r]James, the brother of the Lord.

    Footnote “r” reads: Galatians 1:19 Or, apostles, only James.

    Source: https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Galatians+1&version=DLNT

    So I think that means that verse 19 can read as “But I did not see another of the apostles, only James, the brother of the Lord.” If that is the case, then wouldn’t Carrier’s argument remain uncontested, given that brothers of the Lord means (according to Carrier) baptized-and-adopted-Christians-into-Christ-who-are-not-necessarily-apostles, since apostle means those in-Christ-whom-Christ-revealed-himself-to-and-called-to-proselytize?

    You also said, “First thing to say: nowhere in Paul’s writings, in the rest of the New Testament, or in any writing of all of early Christianity is there anywhere that you find a two-pronged definition of “brother” as someone who was (a) baptized but (b) not an apostle….”

    Yet it is my understanding that there are apostles that Paul seems to define as those whom Jesus reveals himself to via “revelation” and are called by Christ to preach the gospel like Paul does. This I think is why he warns against those preaching any other gospel, as in other apostles claiming to speak the words of Christ by revelation. Paul himself fits this definition of an apostle, as in one who Christ reveals himself to, as we see with Paul’s vision and Jesus speaking to him and such. This leads Paul to speak for Christ via revelations he receives. My reading of Paul’s writings leads me to conclude that the “brothers of the Lord” (a.k.a. saints or holy ones) in general do not claim revelations (and that they can speak for Christ like Paul does) unless they are called by revelation (as in Christ speaking to them/revealing himself) and only then do they become an apostle with the authority to proselyte and spread Jesus’ words they receive by revelation (as apostles). Thus, it seems to me that a person “in Christ” (a saint, a holy one) can be a “brother” of the Lord (baptized and spiritually possessed by Christ into the family of Christ) but not have had a personal “appearance” (revelation) of the Lord to them with the call by Jesus to preach the gospel revealed to them by Christ via revelation. As Paul says he did not receive the gospel via flesh and blood, etc. Paul is also conveying revelations from the Lord (making him an apostle) then saying basically this is my own opinion, as in not a revelation. I believe this overall is also Carrier’s argument. I fail to see any clear contradiction to his argument thus far.

    • Bart
      Bart  February 9, 2017

      The issue we are debating is less about the Greek phrase εἰ μὴ Ἰάκωβον, than about what it means to call James the “brother” of Jesus. I show in my book why Paul can *not* mean something like “spiritual ally.” He almost certainly has to mean “physical, blood-related brother.” Otherwise it makes zero sense to identify James with this designation in *contrast* to the other people mentioned in the context (who were all also spiritual brohters — e.g., Cephas and the apostles)

  52. Huxley-Agnostic  February 9, 2017

    I think I understand your position Professor Ehrman. Allow me to seek further clarification and insight while I wrap my head around all of this. In your post above you wrote:

    “…Paul actually says in Galatians 1:18-19. I’m afraid this is a killer from Carrier’s argument. Recall Paul’s exact words:

    18 Then after three years I did go up to Jerusalem to visit Cephas and stayed with him fifteen days; 19 but I did not see any other apostle except James the Lord’s brother.

    Whom did Paul visit and see? Cephas. And no other apostle EXCEPT James the Lord’s brother. In other words, James is the only other apostle Paul saw, except Cephas. He is telling us that James is an apostle. But he is also the Lord’s brother.” [End Quote].

    It is my understanding that this is why you said in the comment above, “…Otherwise it makes zero sense to identify James with this designation in *contrast* to the other people mentioned in the context (who were all also spiritual brohters — e.g., Cephas and the apostles).”

    Yet, as I posted, we read this:

    Expositor’s Greek Testament
    Galatians 1:19. εἰ μὴ Ἰάκωβον. εἰ μή may either state an exception to the preceding negative clause (= except, save), or merely qualify it (= but only), as it does in Luke 4:26, to none of them, sc., the widows in Israel, but only to Sarepta in Sidon; and in Galatians 1:7, no other Gospel, only (εἰ μή) there are some that pervert the Gospel. The latter appears to be its meaning here. If James had been entitled an Apostle, the author would probably have written that he saw no other Apostles but Peter and James. But here he states emphatically that he saw no second (ἕτερον) Apostle, only James. ….
    Source: http://biblehub.com/commentaries/galatians/1-19.htm 2/7/16

    So are you saying that your argument does not hinge upon the person James being an “apostle” in Galatians 1:18-19? Or do you disagree with Expositor’s Greek Testament quote at the biblehub.com link above? Because I read it saying that the verses in Galatians 1 have Paul saying he “saw no second (ἕτερον) Apostle, only James.” Yet you said that here Paul is “is telling us that James is an apostle.” Yet the Expositor’s Greek Testament seems to disagree? Can you understand why this confuses me and leaves me to decide between two scholarly authorities as a student of the Bible?

    Again, in your comment above, you said, “Otherwise it makes zero sense to identify James with this designation in *contrast* to the other people mentioned in the context (who were all also spiritual brothers — e.g., Cephas and the apostles).” But then I read Carrier’s explanation of Galatians 1 and it does seem to make ‘some sense,’ which adds even more to my indecision and confusion on this issue. Here is what he says in his response to this blog post:

    Ehrman also says this can’t be the meaning in Galatians 1:18-19 because there the James thus called a brother of the Lord is being differentiated from Cephas (Peter) the Apostle. As I wrote in my summary, that’s indeed true: Paul is making a distinction; he uses the full term for a Christian (“Brothers of the Lord”) every time he needs to distinguish apostolic from non-apostolic Christians. The James in Galatians 1 is not an Apostle. He is just a rank-and-file Christian. Merely a Brother of the Lord, not an Apostolic Brother of the Lord. The only Apostle he met at that time, he says, was Cephas (Peter), the first Apostle (according to 1 Corinthians 15:5 in light of 1 Corinthians 9:1). Likewise the “Brothers of the Lord” Paul references in 1 Corinthians 9:5 are, again, non-apostolic Christians—and thus being distinguished from Apostles, including, again, the first Apostle, Cephas. …I here cite Trudinger’s peer reviewed article demonstrating that the grammatical construction Paul uses in Gal. 1:19 is comparative. In other words, “Other than the apostles I saw no one, except James the Lord’s brother.” Thus, the construction Paul is using says James is not an Apostle. And both Trudinger and Hans Dieter Betz (who wrote the Fortress Press commentary on Galatians) cite a number of peer reviewed experts who concur (OHJ, p. 590, n. 100). There were of course Jameses who were Apostles. So Paul chose this construction to make clear he didn’t mean one of them (or a biological brother of Cephas, for that matter). He meant a regular “Brother of the Lord,” an ordinary non-apostolic Christian. But a Christian all the same—which was important for Paul to mention, since he had to list every Christian he met on that visit, lest he be accused of concealing his contacts with anyone who knew the gospel at that time. … Paul is not saying in Gal. 1 or 1 Cor. 9 that Apostles were not Brothers of the Lord any more than Pseudo-Aristotle using the same construction meant that indestructible elements were not elements or that new friends were not friends. This is the very point of Greek grammar Trudinger explains, and that even Howard concurs on. Again, saying you met “no one but Pastor John, except the Christian Jacob” is not saying Pastor John is not a Christian. It’s saying Jacob is not a Pastor—but nevertheless still a Christian.
    Source: http://www.richardcarrier.info/archives/11516

    So not knowing Greek it seems as if I am left to defer to experts, yet I have different experts telling me different things? I am left to ponder, is Carrier’s argument plausible or not? Or does it make “zero sense” as you say?

    I am humbly left undecided. Unless I am missing something, in which case I am open to further insight and explication by you Professor Ehrman.

    • Bart
      Bart  February 10, 2017

      I’m afraid this isn’t the forum for an extended response. The big question is whether there are any *grounds* for thinking that brother meant “non-apostolic Christian.” Does this mean that an apostle was not considered a “brother”? That seems unlikely — but is there some evidence for the view other than the fact that without it Carrier’s entire thesis collapses? As one obvious counter: if the term “brothers of the Lord” doesn’t mean a *specific* narrow group, then why does Paul refer to them all having wives? I see all sorts of problems with this view.

      • Huxley-Agnostic  February 11, 2017

        Thank you for your reply. I understand that an extended explication is not the agenda of this forum. I do appreciate your short responses though as it helps me become more informed on the topic.

        I see your point. I have read Carrier’s book and your book on the historicity of Jesus. In Carrier’s book he makes a case for thinking that brother can mean in certain contexts a “non-apostolic Christian.” I did reread the sections on this topic in your book Did Jesus Exist?. Yet I still remain undecided given Carrier’s perceivably plausible explanations (which I wish he’d make on the web without being combative with you sometimes). Then again in your book you say he is a smart fellow so maybe he is just very clever? Or has he stumbled upon a theory that best fits the data? I’m undecided. To answer your question, my understanding of Carrier’s theory is that it looks like this:

        > The “brothers of the Lord” are baptized Christians possessed by Christ and adopted into God’s family, who have various gifts of the spirit.
        > Apostles are “brothers of the Lord” that are not just baptized and indwelt by Christ but also receive revelations and speak for the Lord which is what Paul does all the time. Paul competes with other apostles who seek to compete for control of his Christian churches/assemblies. When Paul says to beware of those preaching another gospel he is warning against these other apostles who claim to have the authority to speak for the Lord by revelation.
        > Therefore, a brother of the Lord could very well mean non-apostolic Christian otherwise why would there be competition among other apostles over control of the assemblies (or brothers of the Lord). So yes, as you imply with your question, an Apostle was also a brother. As Carrier explains, “If we say ‘the only Pastor I met was John, but I also met the Christian, Jacob’ we are not saying Pastor John is not also a Christian; we are saying Jacob is not a Pastor—but still a Christian.” Source: http://www.richardcarrier.info/archives/11516

        For example, in response to your comment above here is how carrier explains it:

        The James in Galatians 1 is not an Apostle. He is just a rank-and-file Christian. Merely a Brother of the Lord, not an Apostolic Brother of the Lord. The only Apostle he met at that time, he says, was Cephas (Peter), the first Apostle (according to 1 Corinthians 15:5 in light of 1 Corinthians 9:1). Likewise the “Brothers of the Lord” Paul references in 1 Corinthians 9:5 are, again, non-apostolic Christians—and thus being distinguished from Apostles, including, again, the first Apostle, Cephas. Source: http://www.richardcarrier.info/archives/11516

        So I went ahead and looked up 1 Corinthians 15:5 in light of 1 Corinthians 9:1. The way I read 1 Cor. 9: 1-6, is that Paul is saying he has the right not to be working outside of his ministry to the Corinthians in order to support himself. To make this argument he offers rhetorical questions, like don’t we have the right to eat and drink (in payment for our ministry) or take a believing wife on our journeys (at your expense) if I/we want to just like the apostles and non-apostolic Christians and the first called, Cephas (whom, based on 1 Cor. 15:5, was the first to see the Lord). I say rhetorical because wasn’t Paul celibate per 1st Corinthians 7:1-8 and elsewhere. If so then this may all just be rhetorical questions not to be taken literally (unless Paul was saying he wanted to take his own wife which contradicts 1 Cor. 7:7-8). Or by humorous analogy for levity, if a Mormon in the 1850s were to say in defense of himself doing something, “Can I not take three wives with me into town like the Mormon apostles and the average male Mormon member (brothers in Christ) and Joseph Smith. The apostles, brothers, and Smith are all baptized Mormons who can take wives, but only the Apostles speak for the Lord by revelation for the whole church along with Joseph Smith. So if I were a Mormon in the 1850s, to write this I would be seeking to distinguish between the Mormon Apostles on one hand, the average Mormon member (or brothers indwelt by the Lord, who are not apostles) on the other, and I would mention Joseph Smith last to emphasize he was the first to receive a revelatory vision (compare 1 Cor. 15: 5). Is this reading of 1 Cor. 9: 1-6 not at least possible?

        • Bart
          Bart  February 12, 2017

          My sense is that most readings are possible, unless they are just flat-out crazy.

  53. Huxley-Agnostic  February 11, 2017

    P.S. After posting my last comment I did more thinking on your comment that, “The big question is whether there are any *grounds* for thinking that brother meant ‘non-apostolic Christian.’ Does this mean that an apostle was not considered a brother’?

    I went to Bible gateway and looked up the word “brother” in the DLNT. Then I looked up “apostle” in the DLNT. Everything I read in the authentic letters of Paul seemed to support the idea that for Paul brother meant a baptized Christian indwelt by Christ but who was not necessarily also an apostle, while an apostle could simultaneously be an apostle and a brother of the Lord. For example, here were just a few verses that stood out to me from the DLNT:

    Romans 8:29 Because whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be similar-to-the-form of the image of His Son, so that He might be firstborn among many brothers.

    Galatians 1:1 Paul— an apostle not from humans nor through a human, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father, the One having raised Him from the dead—

    1 Corinthians 12:28 And God placed some in the church as first, apostles; second, prophets; third, teachers; then miracles; then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, kinds of tongues.

    1 Corinthians 12:29 All are not apostles, are they? All are not prophets, are they? All are not teachers, are they? All do not do miracles, do they?

    2 Corinthians 12:11 [ I Ought To Be Commended By You, For I Did The Signs of The Apostle Among You ] I have become foolish— you compelled me! For I ought to be being commended by you! For I in no way came-short-of the superlative apostles, even though I am nothing;

    • Bart
      Bart  February 12, 2017

      Yes, that’s part of my point. The idea that “brother” means “non-apostolic Christian” is just a made up idea to get around a very big problem (for someone who doesn’t think Jesus exists) — what might be called a counsel of despair. And you’ve pointed out one very good reason for thinking so: it would mean apostles were not considered brothers, when obviously they were.

      • Huxley-Agnostic  February 12, 2017

        I see I did not communicate clearly enough as actually I’m not saying “apostles were not considered brothers.” I was trying to make the point that in Paul’s writings there was, according to Christopher Mount, a rank order of positions. What I’m trying to say is that if I said “I went to the university today and met with Professor Stevens, and the teachers of the University, and the Dean,” I’m not saying that Professor Stephens is not also a teacher but that he has a higher rank as a Professor. I am saying that apostles are both “brothers of the Lord” *and* those with a special calling/gift to speak on behalf of the Lord through revelation. Even if Carrier and his mythicist position did not exist would that not be true (as I think Christopher Mount demonstrates in his article titled, 1 Corinthians 11:3-16: Spirit Possession and Authority in a Non-Pauline Interpolation)?

        I am pretty sure Christopher Mount is not a mythicist, so we can’t say he made up this idea that in Paul’s writings there is a ranking of spiritual gifts among the “brothers” with some being apostles and some not. As Mount writes:

        “Footnote 28 reads: The social hierarchies enshrined by the antitheses Jew-Greek, slave-free, and male-female have been replaced by a hierarchy determined by spirit possession: apostles, prophets, teachers, et al. (1 Cor 12:28-31a).”
        Elsewhere Mount writes “…Paul’s problem is that his authority is entirely from heaven,43 yet he must persuade his followers to validate that authority (see esp. 2 Cor 10-13). … Paul asserts his authority as an apostle who has seen Jesus in 1 Cor 9:1-3,…Paul establishes a spiritual hierarchy for the different gifts of the spirit. Apostles stand first; those who speak in tongues stand last.46 “Are all apostles? Do all speak in tongues?” Paul asks. No. Each “I” possessed by the spirit stands in relation not only to the deity but also to other members of the spirit-possession cult in a hierarchy of spiritual power. ….Whereas he can ask the Corinthians in 12:29-30, “Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all workers of miracles? … Do all speak in tongues?” and expect a negative answer, he himself claims to have all these gifts of the spirit. …Paul has constructed a community that must acknowledge his role and authority as apostle or cease to exist.54 … Nevertheless, Tb .tocrriptov that Paul proclaims (1 Cor 2:2; cf. 15:51; 1 Thess 4:15; Gal 1:6-9) finally depends on his authority as one possessed by Jesus to speak the word of the Lord. AoKcoi & Kayo)b VEptL]” [End quote]
        Source: http://www.umass.edu/wsp/forum/wswg28/1Cor%2011.3-16%20(Mount).pdf

        Can one then say of Christopher Mount that this idea that “brother” can mean “non-apostolic Christian” (in that some brothers do not have the gift of being an apostle like Paul) is “just a made up idea to get around a very big problem (for someone who doesn’t think Jesus exists)” when Mount is not a mythicist?

        • Bart
          Bart  February 13, 2017

          Yes, it seems like we are talking at cross purposes. My question is how can “brother” mean “Christian who is not an apostle” if apostles are also brothers. Then the word does *not* mean “someone who is not an apostle.” It could be like saying “teacher is someone who is not a professor.” On your other question, I’m afraid I don’t know who Christopher Mount is.

          • Huxley-Agnostic  February 13, 2017

            I see what you are getting at. Yes we are crossing purposes for sure.

            Professor Ehrman: My question is how can “brother” mean “Christian who is not an apostle” of apostles are also brothers. Then the word does *not* mean “someone who is not an apostle.”

            Me: I completely agree. Brother(s) does not mean “someone who is not an apostle.” Moving on …

            Do you Professor Ehrman, agree that brother(s) means a baptized Christian with any number of spiritual gifts? Are all brothers apostles? Are all brothers teachers? etc.?

            Again, I refer to Christopher Mound’s article I linked to in this thread that shows Christians held varying spiritual gifts and there was a rank order, first apostles, then others like speaking in tongues. So my answer to, “Why does Paul say things like, “Why can’t I do X when the apostles do X and the brothers do X,’ when brothers also includes apostles?” is you’d have to ask Paul why he used such language. No one can read Paul’s mind right? Another question is, how else should Paul have written the sentences in 1 Cor. 9:5 and Gal. 1: 19 if he did not mean blood brothers and meant to distinguish between Christians-in-general and specifically Christian-apostles? How would he write that sentence?

            Professor Ehrman: It could be like saying “teacher is someone who is not a professor.”

            Me: I guess I see what you’re getting at but I don’t see how it is a problem. I could say, “Why can’t I do X, when the professors do X, and the teachers of the faculty do X and professor-Jacobs does X,” and it might be clear in my mind what I was trying to say even if others might accuse me of confusion. For example, I could have been writing to convey the sentiment, “The professors do it, the whole teaching faculty does it, and even professor Jacobs does it, so why can’t I?” For someone could then say to me that “professors *are* teachers, so what do you mean?” And I would say that I meant tenured Professors and teachers in general (including instructors, etc.).

            If we were criticizing Paul we could ask Paul, why does he mention apostles and *then* mentions Cephas in Gal. 1:18-19? Is Cephas not an apostle? Why say “other apostles, and the brothers of the Lord, and Cephas” if Cephas is an apostle? You see we could ask why Paul doesn’t make more sense all day long.

            Or, using the DLNT translation, if I said, “I went up to the University to visit Professor Cephas, … But I did not see another of the professors, only James, a member of the faculty at the university,” that might make sense in my mind even if it leads to ambiguity or confusion among my readers. The reader could ask, what kind of faculty member is James? The problem would be with me not my readers.

            Let’s say that instead of 1 Cor. 9:5, he said something like, “We do not fail to have the right to take walking shoes, do we?— as also the other tongue-speakers, and the brothers of the Lord, and Barnabas.” Well if I read that sentence alone I would think that he meant to single out the speakers in tongues and the brothers in general, and threw in Barnabas because his writing style might be to say things in a sequence of thees. I might think, well Paul wasn’t being precise but I get it.

            We could argue, well Paul has words for baptized Christian like “slaves of Christ,” “saints,” or “holy ones.” So why doesn’t he plug in those terms instead of brother(s) of the Lord. But that is fallacious reasoning. We could just as easily ask why he doesn’t say I met with Jesus’ brother(s) then list them by name. Shoulda-woulda-coulda. On page 145 of Did Jesus Exist? you argue that it means very little that Paul does not say “brother of Jesus” in Gal. 1: 19, because he uses the term Jesus by itself very rarely (per footnote 2 on the page). But wouldn’t that rarity of use actually be an argument for using the term Jesus in Galatians 1:18-19 if he wanted to clearly signify the blood brothers of Jesus and not Christians in general?

            Using these other terms doesn’t really solve the problem, for say he said “I did not see another of the apostles, only James, one of the holy ones.” or “We do not fail to have the right to take along a sister who is a wife, do we?— as also the other apostles, and the Saints, and Cephas.” I could see Paul saying this and we’d have the same problem. We could ask, “Why does he say Saints when an apostle is a Saint? Is an apostle not also a Saint?” Demanding he use the terms saints or slaves or holy ones doesn’t work because to Paul there is one body of sons/brothers of God with first, apostles and second, prophets and third, teachers etc, with all the Christian-brothers (whether apostle or teacher) being literal members of one body (i.e. possess by one Spirit). So with such convoluted mystical language it makes sense that he’d mention apostles and the body of brothers in one sentence leading to your question, “how can ‘brother’ mean “Christian who is not an apostle’ if apostles are also brothers.” To which Paul might say, “brother” means one who is of the body of Christ, whereas the specific terms apostles or teachers are separate gifts given to certain limbs of the body of Christ. For not all apostles are teachers and not all teachers are apostles, as “.. God placed some in the church as first, apostles; second, prophets; third, teachers; then miracles; then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, kinds of tongues” (1 Corinthians 12:28, DLNT). Again, see the article by Christopher Mount for more details.

            So, the way I see it, part of the problem is that Paul himself does not use very clear or systematic language. This leads to various readings of Paul’s words and why we have say The New Perspective on Paul now. Or why Elaine Pagels can write the book the Gnostic Paul and show how Gnostics could interpret Paul differently than the Orthodox. Thus, is it not possible that Paul was ambiguous in his language leading to conflict among scholars and that the fault is with Paul? We can argue, why would Paul say this or that or if this makes more sense than that, but in the end, maybe Paul did not make clear sense every time so that an objective reader would know exactly what he meant.

            Based on the idea that there are different “spiritual gifts” (apostles, prophets, teachers, healers, kinds of tongues) among the brothers, how do you, Professor Ehrman, think Paul would write the sentence that conveyed the idea of clearly distinguishing between apostles and non-apostolic Christians in those verses. In other words, if you were to change perspectives for objectivity and assume Paul did not mean blood-brothers, how else would Paul write those sentences in 1 Cor. 9 and Gal. 1?

            In short: I think these Pauline passages reveal a ‘draw’ between the mythicists and historicists. Or maybe Sevan Davies is right (see below). I think the problem is with Paul’s use of ambiguous sounding words and sentence structures. Like the joke about the priest saying an old scroll and looking distraught says, it says “celebrate!” not “celibate.” At this point we have to assess all the data and argue probabilities which is what Carrier does in his book On the Historicity of Jesus. I am not saying he is right on the probabilities. Only that on some issues there is ambiguity.

            By the way I am not committed to mythicism or the historicist position. I’m just trying to be as objective as possible and thus far I remain agnostic on the issue, or undecided. Stevan L. Davies, Professor of Religious Studies at Misericordia University, I think tows a middle path of saying the conflicting historical portraits of Jesus are not credible and thinks seeing Jesus as an exorcist is a better starting point. I have not yet read his book Spirit Possession and the Origins of Christianity but I am curious about it. Finally, both the mythicist and historicist could be wrong about 1 Cor. 9 and Gal. 1:19 and maybe there was a historical Jesus but these passages don’t actually mention his blood brothers.

            So again, my main question is, how do you, Professor Ehrman, think Paul would write the sentence that conveyed the idea of clearly distinguishing between apostles and non-apostolic Christians. How would he write that sentence?
            If we can’t argue how Paul would write that sentence to mean non-blood brothers then don’t we lack falsifiability? Then doesn’t that make a mythicist reading just as plausible as a historicist reading? So again, if you were to change perspectives for objectivity and assume Paul did not mean blood-brothers, how else would Paul write those sentences in 1 Cor. 9 and Gal. 1?

          • Bart
            Bart  February 14, 2017

            I wish I had time for a lengthy interaction!

  54. Huxley-Agnostic  February 11, 2017

    One final comment on the subject that for me answers the questions you raise in your last comment. I offer here the article titled, 1 Corinthians 11:3-16: Spirit Possession and Authority in a Non-Pauline Interpolation, by author Christopher Mount. Source: Journal of Biblical Literature, Vol. 124, No. 2. Christopher Mount makes the case that Paul’s churches were a possession cult (just as Carrier argues) and his essay I think supports the view that there were a hierarchy of gifts of the spirit, making some apostles and some not, while all are brothers of the Lord with the Lord being the first-born among many brethren. I have taken the time to cut and paste the pertinent parts of his article that fits the context of this blog post and comments. Christopher Mount writes:

    The form of early Christianity associated with Paul can be characterized as a spirit-possession cult.12 Paul establishes communities of those possessed by the spirit of Jesus … the spirit that possesses members of Paul’s communities is thought to enable the speech of those in the community (see especially 1 Corinthians 14 on prophesying and speaking in tongues). The power to do miracles/magic, including exorcisms, is also identified as possession phenomena ..Such possession phenomena may have involved trance (e.g., visions [2 Cor 12:1-3], speaking in tongues [1 Cor 14:2, 23], perhaps prophesying [1 Cor 14:30]) but not necessarily (e.g., 1 Cor 12:28: dvtXtiwgeti, “helpful deeds”; K 3ppviaetg, “administrative roles”). …” Paul initiates pagan converts into the power and knowledge of this possessing spirit (1 Cor 12:3) that grants knowledge of heavenly mysteries (r6b gx~uiptov toi 8~o6, 2:1). Performances associated with spirit possession were one way of constructing the presence of a deity in the Greco-Roman world, and the possession phenomena displayed by Paul persuaded some pagans of the power of the new deity ‘Irlooq; Xptoixr; ~xotapcoCLvoq and of Paul’s authority to declare knowledge revealed by this deity.26 … Spirit possession reconstitutes the relation of individuals to one another (Gal 3:28, “neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor
    female”; 1 Cor 12:27, “you are the body of Christ, and individually members of it” [Footnote 28 reads: The social hierarchies enshrined by the antitheses Jew-Greek, slave-free, and male-female have been replaced by a hierarchy determined by spirit possession: apostles,
    prophets, teachers, et al. (1 Cor 12:28-31a). This new hierarchy reflects the true nature of the body as composed of many members]… One specific consequence of the redefinition of social boundaries and redistribution of power created by this knowledge is that on Paul’s authority the resources of members of the community are now taxed to support Paul’s interests.39 [Footnotes: 36 to 39 reads: 36 Those characterized by Paul in 1 Cor 1:26-31 as powerless (“not many wise according to the flesh, not many powerful, not many well born”) gain access to divine mysteries the world cannot understand.
    37 See 1 Cor 14:37: “What I write to you is a command of the Lord”; see also 1 Thess 4:8; 1 Cor 2:6-16.
    38 1 Corinthians 15:51, loio a’niptov Giiv Xyco, “I speak to you a mystery”; cf. 1 Thess
    4:15. Compare also the Mithras liturgy (PGM IV.475-829), in which an individual gains access to divine mysteries. Some mysteries are reserved only for the most powerful-see 2 Cor 12:2-4.
    39 See Rom 15; 1 Cor 16:1-14; 2 Cor 8-9; Phil 4:15; compare Lucian, Peregr. 11-13. Paul’s authority to extract wealth from his communities leads to the inevitable charges of fraud and misappropriation against which he constantly has to defend himself. See esp. 1 Thess 2:1-12; 2 Cor 8:18-21. Such charges of fraud were not uncommon against those establishing a new cult in antiquity. See, e.g., Lucian’s portrayal of Alexander in Alexander the False Prophet.]

    …Paul’s problem is that his authority is entirely from heaven,43 yet he must persuade his followers to validate that authority (see esp. 2 Cor 10-13). … Paul asserts his authority as an apostle who has seen Jesus in 1 Cor 9:1-3,…Paul establishes a spiritual hierarchy for the different gifts of the spirit. Apostles stand first; those who speak in tongues stand last.46 “Are all apostles? Do all speak in tongues?” Paul asks. No. Each “I” possessed by the spirit stands in relation not only to the deity but also to other members of the spirit-possession cult in a hierarchy of spiritual power. That such a hierarchy of roles would exist is rationalized by the metaphor of the body (12:12-27), though the specific hierarchy itself is not self-evident. The hierarchy is revealed by Paul, the possessed “I” speaking for the deity to the community: “God has appointed” (12:28).47

    …Amid the diversity of spiritual powers allotted to various individuals possessed by the spirit, Paul claims not only to be an apostle (the gift that occupies first position in his hierarchy in 12:28-31a) but also to be one who prophesies (the second gift) and one who speaks in tongues (the gift that occupies last position in his hierarchy of spiritual gifts). …Paul’s authority to resolve the conflict rests in his power as, what might be called, a spirit master.51

    Whereas he can ask the Corinthians in 12:29-30, “Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all workers of miracles? … Do all speak in tongues?” and expect a negative answer, he himself claims to have all these gifts of the spirit. Moreover, he mediates these gifts to the community (1 Cor 9:2). He is a “professional” when it comes to matters of spirit possession. He has more power than all the rest. His authority to establish a hierarchy rests on this construction of the superiority of his spiritual power-and this construction of authority will
    come back to haunt him as his relation to the Corinthians deteriorates. …Paul defines the community of the possessed
    in terms of his own status as spirit master.52
    ei T o; OKI ipo(|’rin vat rl vvCvla x t c6;, iitytvco)xcicT’o a ypd|)o jv i 6ot
    Kupion ieoTiv ivroXri- ei 6 ‘t; dyvoet, dyvoEtrat.
    Anyone who claims to be a prophet, or to have spiritual powers, must
    acknowledge that what I am writing to you is a command of the Lord. Anyone
    who does not recognize this is not to be recognized. (NRSV)
    Here Paul constructs the possessed “I” with which he speaks as an authoritative voice of the Lord …Paul has constructed a community that must acknowledge his role and authority as apostle or cease to exist.54 [Verse 58 reads: 58 This construction of his authority as a possessed “I” stands behind the opening rhetoric of several of his letters: Ha;io … 6nt6 toog he asserts in 1 Cor 1:1; 2 Cor 1:1; Rom 1:1; and Gal 1:1. Paul’s rhetorical strategies are not limited to claims of his authority as a spirit master (as, e.g., his attempts to rationalize spirit possession in 1 Cor 12:14-26 and 14:6-12 indicate). Nevertheless, Tb .tocrriptov that Paul proclaims (1 Cor 2:2; cf. 15:51; 1 Thess 4:15; Gal 1:6-9) finally depends on his authority as one possessed by Jesus to speak the word of the Lord. AoKcoi & Kayo)b VEptL]

    …When the equal standing of all those possessed by the spirit is called into question at Antioch by practices that Paul attributes to the Jerusalem church (Gal 2:12), whose authority to establish custom is accepted by others at Antioch, Paul breaks from the other leaders of the church.86 [Verse 86 reads: The Acts of the Apostles reports a different version of events associated with the Jerusalem council. The outcome of the council reported in Acts 15:22 thoroughly subordinates Paul to the customary practices of the church-T6tE 5o2e toi kinoaZTo ot ; Kai toit sipeopuirpot; o a6kr tl crita. nKKX Moreover, Paul’s conversion in Acts 9:1-31 is carefully narrated to subordinate Paul’s
    vision and possession by the spirit (9:17) to the authority of the church (9:6: d36,X dvda6ornlti Kca eice3X EiS; uiv n6Xtv KIca’ XalrOeTza Gota o01 6 ie 6 5i CotIiv, commands Jesus in Paul’s vision). Unlike Paul’s claims in Gal 1:15-17, in Acts 9 Paul’s commission and spirit possession are mediated by human agents acting on behalf of the church]

    Source: http://www.umass.edu/wsp/forum/wswg28/1Cor%2011.3-16%20(Mount).pdf

  55. Huxley-Agnostic  February 11, 2017

    In conclusion:

    If in Christ there is neither male nor female and all possessed Christian members of one body are brothers, as Jesus is the first-born among many brothers; and Paul uses “brothers” as a generic term for Christian, then mentioning taking wives on a journey and using the phrase ‘brothers of the Lord’ would not necessarily imply biological brothers of Jesus, but could just mean ‘possessed brothers of the Lord’ as in average members of the church who are possessed by Christ. Is that not at least plausible?

  56. earthcorners  April 12, 2017

    My Presbyterian Bible study group is currently reading James I and this question came up about him really being a biological brother and how Mary could be a perpetual virgin to the Catholics. I am a very liberal Christian who does not believe in the virgin birth idea (only one in the class!). I mentioned that I read an article in biblical archeology where they had uncovered a tombstone with the inscription, “James the brother of Jesus.” I too believe James was his real brother and was probably one of 6 kids. I visited some churches in Mexico which had Mary’s mother painted above her as also a virgin. Well, it is a fascinating subject indeed.

    • SBrudney091941
      SBrudney091941  April 13, 2017

      If there was a virgin birth, it would have been an important thing yet Paul never mentions it (when he easily could have in Galations 4:4, “But when the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law….” The old excuse that his letters were occasional doesn’t work here because, on this occasion, he chose to say something about the man Jesus–that he was born of a woman….the perfect moment in Paul’s writing where an important belief like the virgin birth could have been introduced or at least mentioned. Yet, he didn’t. The next Christian writer was the writer of Mark, the first Gospel, whoever he was: he didn’t mention a virgin birth either. It was not until at least 50 years after Jesus died that a Christian writer even mentioned it. It seems that, if the belief had been around, someone would have mentioned it a lot earlier.

      The inscription was not on a tombstone but on an Ossuary (a stone container in which the dead’s bones were kept). But there are a number of problems with trying attach this name James with James, brother of Jesus. One is that both names were quite common. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_Ossuary

      • earthcorners  April 17, 2017

        Thank you for informative link and comment. I agree with you. There are so many shared common names in the Bible. Even one of Jesus’ brothers is named Judas. Several in my Bible class were assuming that the Mary of Mary and Martha was the same Mary as Mary Magdalene.

  57. john76  April 12, 2017

    Paul spending two weeks with Cephas would mean Paul in all likelihood would have encountered many more non apostolic baptized Christians than just James that he mentions. Since Paul says he “only” met James, that suggests “brother of the Lord” does not mean what Carrier thinks it means.

    • john76  April 12, 2017

      It’s like in sports. They’re all on the same team: Christianity. Cephas was like the coach of the team, Paul was a star forward, and James was a sometimes overlooked minor league defenceman. So Paul writes to fans that he arrived and conferred with the coach, Cephas, and also saw James, who Paul indicates was a minor league defenceman in case the fans were not familiar with him. There was no reason to qualify who Cephas was, because all the fans were familiar with him. Oh, and by the way fans, James happens to be related to the team owner Jesus!

      • SBrudney091941
        SBrudney091941  April 13, 2017

        Dead people are not team owners.

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