19 votes, average: 4.95 out of 519 votes, average: 4.95 out of 519 votes, average: 4.95 out of 519 votes, average: 4.95 out of 519 votes, average: 4.95 out of 5 (19 votes, average: 4.95 out of 5)
You need to be a registered member to rate this post.

Is James Responding to Paul?

I now begin to explain why someone might have wanted to (falsely) claim to be James the brother of Jesus when writing the letter attributed to him in the NT.  My basic argument is that the letter is being written to oppose the writings of Paul (at least as they were being *interpreted*: whether Paul himself would have agreed with the interpretation of his views that they oppose is a completely different question), and the author needed someone of the stature of James in order to make the refutation convincing, both because James was the head of the Jerusalem church and because it was widely thought that he was at loggerheads with Paul.

I have taken this again from my book Forgery and Counterforgery.  It’s written for scholars, but I’ve tried to make it accessible by explaining the terms I use and translating the Greek.  This will take a few posts, so here’s the start, where I lay the groundwork: the letter of James does seem to be responding to the writings of Paul.


James as a Counter-forgery

Luke Johnson has made a strong argument that there is no hard evidence of real animosity between the historical James and the historical Paul, based in large measure on Paul’s neutral references to James in 1 Cor. 15:7; Gal. 1:19; 2:9, 12, and possibly 1 Cor. 9:5.[1]  This reading may falter on the Antioch incident of Gal. 2:11-14, as already mentioned (if you’re not familiar with the passage – go ahead and read it).  If “James” is not to be blamed for the highly controversial stance of Cephas – who acted “out of fear for the circumcision party” –why would Paul bother to specify that it was the representatives of James who created the problem in the first place?  Paul’s stance, in any event, is clear: these “men from James” represented a completely intolerable view that threatened the essence of his gospel message.  Would James have agreed?  We have no way, ultimately, of knowing.  What we do know is that later traditions portrayed James and Paul at loggerheads.

This can be seen, for example, in the graphic account of the (apocryphal fourth-century book called the Pseudo-Clementine Recognitions), where Paul is said to have tried to murder James for …

To see the rest of this post you’ll need to belong to the blog.  If you don’t, now’s your big chance!

You need to be logged in to see this part of the content. Please Login to access.

The Close Connections of James and Paul
Does James (the Book) Have the Same Concerns as James (the Man)? Part 2



  1. Avatar
    Brand3000  September 22, 2019

    Dr. Ehrman,

    In Galatians Paul meets with Peter, James, and John, historically, where do you think the rest of “the twelve” were at this point in time, preaching the Gospel elsewhere?

    • Bart
      Bart  September 23, 2019

      I imagine they were in Jerusalem. Yes, it’s odd that Paul doesn’t mention them.

You must be logged in to post a comment.