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Jesus’ Brother and the Mythicists (Part 2)

In my previous post I pointed out that mythicists have a real problem on their hands when it comes to insisting that Jesus didn’t exist (well, they actually have a *boatload* of problems; but this is one of them): Paul actually knew, personally, Jesus’ own brother, James. It’s hard to say that Jesus never lived if he in fact had a brother….

It doesn’t solve the problem to say that this was in fact Jesus’ cousin, since, well, he would still then be the cousin of (the real) Jesus (!) (plus the word Paul uses is “brother” not “cousin”) and it doesn’t work to say that he is Jesus’ brother meaning he is a member of the Christian church (since Paul differentiates him from himself and Peter by calling him the “brother” – and both Peter and Paul were also members of the church!).

Mythicists have tried other approaches, including the one I discussed yesterday, of trying to claim that there was a group of fervent missionaries in Jerusalem called “the brothers of the Lord,” and James was one of them. No need to repeat yesterday’s post: that claim is bogus.

The one mythicist with qualifications in NT studies is Robert Price, a smart, interesting, and good guy (unlike some of the others …). But he too doesn’t think Jesus existed and he too has to explain then how it is that Paul knows his “brother.” One of the other possibilities that Price sets forth is the one I discuss below, again in an extract from my fuller study, Did Jesus Exist.

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Price himself puts forward a different way to interpret Paul’s words so as not to concede that the James that Paul knew was actually related to Jesus. In this second view (which, I need to add, stands at odds with the first), James is said to be the brother of the Lord because he reflected on earth so well the views of Jesus in heaven that he was his virtual twin. As evidence Price appeals to several apocryphal books from outside the New Testament, including the famous Acts of Thomas. This is the second-century account of the missionary endeavors of the apostle Thomas after Jesus’ resurrection, most famous for its stories of how Thomas was the first to bring the gospel to India. In this account Thomas is called the “twin” of Jesus. And why is he Jesus’ twin? For Price it is because Thomas, better than any of the other disciples, has a true understanding of who Jesus is, as indicated in yet another apocryphal book, the Gospel of Thomas (saying 13). In addition, Price notes several apocryphal works that deal with James of Jerusalem, which also call him Jesus’ brother. Price argues that this is because of his particularly close ties to Jesus and his clear understanding of Jesus and his teaching.

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This last piece of evidence shows where Price’s argument unravels itself.  The reason James is called Jesus’ brother in these other apocryphal works is because it was widely believed in early Christianity that James was in fact his brother.  These texts say nothing, not a thing, to counteract that view.  They simply assume a sibling relationship.

So too with the Acts of Thomas.  The whole point of the narrative of this intriguing book is precisely that Thomas really is Jesus’ brother.  In fact he is his twin.   Not only that: he is his identical twin.  This is not because he uniquely agrees with Jesus or understands him particularly well.  Quite the contrary, the very first episode of the book shows that Thomas does not agree with Jesus and does not see eye-to-eye with him in the least.   After Jesus’ resurrection, Thomas is instructed by the other apostles to go to India to convert the pagans, and he refuses to go.  It is only when Jesus appears from heaven that he forces his twin brother to proceed against his wishes.   It is only in a different book, the Gospel of Thomas, that Thomas is said to understand Jesus better than any of the others.  But strikingly, the Gospel of Thomas decidedly does not say that for that reason Thomas was Jesus’ brother, let alone his twin.

The reality is that there was a tradition in some parts of the early Church that Thomas really was the twin of Jesus.  The Aramaic word Thomas, itself, means “twin.”  That Jesus and Thomas were identical twins plays a key role in the Acts of Thomas itself, in one of its most amusing episodes.   While Thomas is en route (reluctantly) to India, his ship stops in a major port city, where the king’s daughter is about to celebrate her wedding with a local aristocrat.  Thomas as an outside guest is invited to the wedding, and after the ceremony he speaks to the wedded couple, but in a highly unusual way.  As a good ascetic Christian, Thomas believes that sex is sinful, and that to be fully right with God, people – even married people – need to abstain.  And so he tries to convince the king’s daughter and her new husband not to consummate their marriage that night.

But he is frustratingly unsuccessful in his pleas.  He leaves the scene and the couple enter their bridal chamber.  But to their great surprise, there is Thomas again, sitting on their bed.  Or at least they think that it’s Thomas, since he does, after all, look exactly like the man they were just talking with.  But it is not Thomas.  It is his identical twin, Jesus, come down from heaven to finish the task that his brother had unsuccessfully begun.  Jesus, more powerfully persuasive, of course, than his twin, wins the hearts of the newlyweds, who spend the night in conversation instead of conjugal embrace.

This tale is predicated on the view that Thomas and Jesus really were twins, in a physical, not symbolic or spiritual sense.

One might wonder how the Christians who told such stories could have possibly imagined that Jesus had a twin brother.  Wasn’t his mother a virgin?  Then where did the twin come from?

None of our sources indicates an answer to that question, but I think a solution can come from the mythologies that were popular in the period.   We have several myths about divine men who were born of the union of a God and a mortal.  In some of those stories, the mortal woman is also impregnated by her husband, leading to the birth of twins (it is hard to know how they could be identical twins, but anatomy was not among most ancient story-tellers’ long suit).   This in fact is how the divine man Heracles is born.  His mother Alcmene is ravished by the king of the gods Zeus, but only after she has already become pregnant by her husband Amphitryon.   And so she bears twins, the immortal Zeus and the mortal Iphicles.

Is it possible that the Christians who told stories of Jesus and his twin brother Thomas had a similar idea?  That Jesus himself was conceived while Mary was a virgin, but then her husband also slept with her, so that two sons were born?  We will never know if they thought this, but it at least is a viable possibility.  What does not seem viable, given what the stories about Thomas and Jesus actually say, is that they were unrelated.  On the contrary, for these stories they were actual, twin brothers.

Price claims that his view that a mortal could be a special “brother” of Jesus because he so well reflected his views is supported by a range of the Apocryphal Acts.  But he does not cite any of the others, just texts that deal with Thomas and James, the two figures in the early church best known precisely for being Jesus’ actual brothers.   But as a clinching argument  Price appeals to the nineteenth century revolutionary leader in China named Taiping Messiah Hong Xiuquan, who called himself “the Little Brother of Jesus.”  Price finds this figure to provide compelling evidence of his view.  In his own words “I find the possible parallel to the case of Hong Xiuquan to be, almost by itself, proof that James’ being the Lord’s brother need not prove a recent historical Jesus.”  That is, since Hong Xiuquan was notreally Jesus’ brother, the same could be true of James.

Now we are really grasping at straws.   A nineteenth-century  man from China is evidence of what someone living in the 30s CE in Palestine thought about himself?  Hong Xiuquan is living 1800 years later, in a different part of the world, in a different social and cultural context.  Among other things, he is the heir of eighteen centuries worth of Christian tradition.  He has nothing to do with the historical Jesus or the historical James.  To use his case in order to cinch the argument  is an enormous stretch, even by Price’s standards.

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I’ll stop here.  Jesus had a brother.  And it’s because Jesus really lived.


Upcoming Lectures at the Smithsonian
Brothers of Jesus and the Mythicists

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Comments

  1. Avatar
    hwl  October 24, 2013

    Has any mythicist argued that the phrase “brother of the Lord” was a latter scribal revision?

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  October 25, 2013

      Not to my knowledge (though all things are possible). There’s certainly no textual evidence against it, and Paul mentions the brothers in more than one place.

      • Avatar
        judaswasjames  November 4, 2013

        Bart,

        What does Price talking about a guy in China claiming something have to do with anything, is right. Why bother to go there at all? What is interesting is >
        Price claims that his view that a mortal could be a special “brother” of Jesus because he so well reflected his views is supported by a range of the Apocryphal Acts. But he does not cite any of the others, just texts that deal with Thomas and James, the two figures in the early church best known precisely for being Jesus’ actual brothers.

        This is because these two carry the tradition of BEING MASTERS themselves! Peter can be seen as Simeon CLeophas, another such ‘brother’, and successor to James in some of these very same sources (Hegesippus, Clement). They morph into “brothers of the Lord” because that is how the minds of the time could cope with the amazing dynamic of one Being (a Savior, or Master) merging into another > “exceed them all and sacrifice the man that bears me” of gJudas, or “I AM HE” of John 13:18-19. This, once again is Mystic teaching. Only by comprehending mystic union can these things be integrated into a meaningful understanding of Spirituality. The modern mystic Masters (RSSB.org) have said for years that the world is never without at least one such Master for the ready. That’s a long line from Seth to James to Baba Gurinder Singh. What does Price know of that?

  2. Avatar
    David Chumney  October 24, 2013

    Have you read K. Olson’s chapter “A Eusebian Reading of the Testimonium Flavianum” in Eusebius of Caesarea: Tradition and Innovations (2013)? You cite his work in Did Jesus Exist? If you’ve read this latest bit, what do you think?

  3. Avatar
    KungFuJoe  October 24, 2013

    While we’re on the subject of mythicist claims about Paul’s work, what’s your take on the use of the word “ginomai” over against “gennao” when Paul refers to Jesus’ birth?

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  October 25, 2013

      I believe they could be used interchangeably — but I haven’t dug deeply into it.

  4. Avatar
    dennis  October 24, 2013

    Might we safely assume Mr. Price never heard of Occam’s Razor ?

  5. Avatar
    jsoundz  October 24, 2013

    A agree, Robert Price is quick, witty, and certainly smart. And like you, he spends much effort debating theist that are of a conservative/literal bent. I do have to give him and others similar to him credit as they have a better grasp of biblical criticism than those who claim a Christian title in my experience. Nonetheless, at the end of the day the little details matter and the brother James factor is perhaps the strongest point in the discussion.

  6. Avatar
    dfogarty1  October 25, 2013

    I’ve become very interested in the connection of Paul to the Gospels and the character of James (The Just). And I am trying to come to resolution to the historicity of First Century Christianity. So here it goes: Am I right that Jesus’ legacy was largely left to James, not Peter and that the Peter thing only grew out after the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 CE; and that Paul was a kind of outlier to the Jerusalem Christians but that since he was an educated Greek speaking Jew who wrote, his legacy survived the Jerusalem destruction long enough for Mark (whoever he was) to become familiar with Paul’s theology and history of Jesus so as to write his gospel; then later copied in no small part by Mathew and Luke. And therefore, Paul is really the main source of Jesus’ alleged theology; but that Jesus’ life and times can be found in Q and the Didice (sp.)?

    If I went around living life with these conclusions, how close would I be to being consistent with history? Percentage? Am I 50 per cent there?

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  October 25, 2013

      Well, it’s a complicated theory. My sense is that Peter was probably the original leader of the Christians in Jerusalem, that James came along a bit later. When James did come along, Peter went on the road as a missionary. I”m not sure Paul *had* a “history of Jesus.” Mark would have had to get that elswhere; for that I think he is better than the Didache and at least as good as Q for information.

      Unlike some of the mythicists I don’t think we can assign a number to historical accuracy!

      • Avatar
        donmax  October 27, 2013

        Well, then, what’s probability all about? If you are dealing with history, what kind of scientific *accuracy* are you proposing??

        • Bart Ehrman
          Bart Ehrman  October 27, 2013

          There is no scientific accuracy in non-scientific disciplines. Something can be more probable, historically, than something else without being able to assign a *number* to it. (How much more likely is it that the Carolina Panthers won on Thursday night than that I ate a ham sandwich that afternoon? What number should we assign to that?)

          • Avatar
            donmax  October 28, 2013

            The comparison is ludicrous! A better question is “How accurate or *probable* are the claims/stories of biblical *history*?” something you yourself approach as a *historian*!! Another question is “How *non-scientific* is this *discipline* you, and so many others, practice?” To suggest that something is *more probable* than something else, begs the question “How much more???” Far too many scholars, including non-specialist academics (not to mention most ordinary people), think “more probable” means *true*. Even *very probable* is misleading. Capish?!

          • Bart Ehrman
            Bart Ehrman  October 29, 2013

            Of course I understand. But historians do not assign numbers to probabilities. It’s not *math*!

          • Avatar
            donmax  October 28, 2013

            So give it a number. You grade papers on a scale of 100, I suspect, or from 1 to 4, or at least A to F, don’t you??? 😉

          • Bart Ehrman
            Bart Ehrman  October 29, 2013

            Yes, but they aren’t unretrievable events of the past.

          • Avatar
            donmax  October 30, 2013

            From your responses it seems *historical accuracy* is not based on mathematical probabilities. I agree, 100%! 😉

          • Bart Ehrman
            Bart Ehrman  October 30, 2013

            Then I’m glad we’re 1 for 1.

          • Avatar
            donmax  November 1, 2013

            Batting a thousand, then!

      • Avatar
        Scott F  October 27, 2013

        When I first read about Carrier’s plan to use Bayes theory to calculate historical probability I thought, “Where in the world do you get the prior probabilities?” If historians had the data that produces those kind of numbers we would be having a very different discussion.

        • Avatar
          Scott F  October 27, 2013

          Oh yeah, and the arguments over mysticism just get pushed back into the calculation of the inputs to the Bayes calculation. It will “solve” nothing.

        • Bart Ehrman
          Bart Ehrman  October 27, 2013

          Yes indeed!

      • Avatar
        judaswasjames  November 3, 2013

        Why do you say that? What about the First and Second Apocalypses of James where James is clearly the successor, and Gospel of Thomas, l. 12? James is also given the last word in Acts 15 when Peter and James both speak to the ‘multitude’. I have other, more esoteric reasons (the lost Gospel According to the Hebrews has the sop going to James, not Peter, or any other), but I’d like to start with those.

        • Bart Ehrman
          Bart Ehrman  November 3, 2013

          Sorry — I don’t know what you’re replying to — I just have your comments here.

          • Avatar
            judaswasjames  November 4, 2013

            Thirteen posts up:
            Well, it’s a complicated theory. My sense is that Peter was probably the original leader of the Christians in Jerusalem, that James came along a bit later. When James did come along, Peter went on the road as a missionary. I”m not sure Paul *had* a “history of Jesus.” Mark would have had to get that elswhere; for that I think he is better than the Didache and at least as good as Q for information.

            Unlike some of the mythicists I don’t think we can assign a number to historical accuracy!

            I don’t know why you miss that James was the original leader after Jesus. Gospel of Thomas states it flat out in logion 12, in such exalted terms that James could only be a successor savior (the thesis in my book, The Bible says ‘Saviors’). Peter defers to James at the Jerusalem Council in Acts, and several church fathers admit it as well, as early as Papias, I believe.

  7. Avatar
    RonaldTaska  October 25, 2013

    You are one of the “good guys” as well. I have been reading Price’s “The Incredible Shrinking Son of Man” and so far it is quite good. However, as you explain above, there does seem to be some grasping at straws which, although interesting and thought provoking, does not seem much different, in process, than the grasping at straws done by those defending Biblical inerrancy.

  8. Avatar
    Wilusa  October 25, 2013

    I have no doubt that James was Jesus’s brother, and that Paul met him. But I’m wondering how that visit of Paul’s with James and Peter played out, if he didn’t speak Aramaic, or they Greek. Would there presumably have been other Christians around who spoke both languages, and could interpret? And if there were, how did *they* become bilingual? Why them, and not the “leaders”?

    What someone asked on the previous page about OT characters like Abraham…years ago, I looked at Amy-Jill Levine’s Great Courses lectures on the Old Testament. And I recall her saying one possibility is that Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were originally the tribal gods of three separate tribes…which merged.

    Umm…now the boxes below seem to be offering a choice of “email” or “e-mail”! That’s a hoot. Not checking any boxes, but I’m old-fashioned enough to prefer the hyphen in there…

  9. Avatar
    stuart  October 25, 2013

    Hi Bart – in the context of this discussion, at one point you state (in a reply) that Paul did not speak or know Aramaic, nor did the writers of the Gospels. I was of the belief that Jesus and his disciples all spoke Aramaic, and so presumably so did Jesus’ brother James. So when Paul says he knew James, you believe he did not speak the same language as James (or maybe James spoke to him in Greek)? I am not trying to trip you up here, just wondered if I missed something.

    I am also not familiar with the argument for why you believe the gospel writers did not know or speak Aramaic (obviously a problem for someone hanging on the belief that the Gospels have accurately expressed what Jesus said). Perhaps you have discussed it in a book or elsewhere in this site where I could read about it?

    Thx

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  October 25, 2013

      Yes, I think there must have been some kind of interpreter, since Paul shows no indication of knowing Aramaic but that would have been the language of james.

      Aramaic and the Glospels. Maybe I should post on that one! (It’s not much debated among linguists; the NT was certainly written originally in Greek).

      • Avatar
        Billy Geddes  October 26, 2013

        Apparently Paul could speak Aramiac:

        Acts of the Apostles – Paul in Jerusalem (NET bible)

        21:40 When the commanding officer had given him permission, Paul stood on the steps and gestured to the people with his hand. When they had become silent, he addressed them in Aramaic, 22:1 “Brothers and fathers, listen to my defence that I now make to you.” 22:2 (When they heard that he was addressing them in Aramaic, they became even quieter.) Then Paul said, 22:3 “I am a Jew, born in Tarsus in Cilicia, but brought up in this city, educated with strictness under Gamaliel according to the law of our ancestors, and was zealous for God just as all of you are today.

        • Bart Ehrman
          Bart Ehrman  October 27, 2013

          Thanks for bringing up this passage. (Yes, I do know it! [!]) But I do not think it is historically accurate — as is true with a lot of things Acts says about Paul. One reason: Paul himself indicates that the (Jewish) Christians of Judea did not know him by appearance (Gal 1) which would be very odd if in fact he had been such a prominent person among the Jews there. But apart from that, he shows no knowledge of Aramaic in his letters. Or at least that’s how I read him!

          • Avatar
            gavriel  October 29, 2013

            The Antioch Incident leaves one with the impression of a direct and very emotional confrontation between Peter and Paul (“I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned”), a confrontation that might have appeared a bit more diplomatic if conveyed through interpreters. Given the proximity and distribution of these great languages I find it hard to believe that missionaries moving between these language areas would be unable to speak a kind of pidgin version of one of them , while being fluent in the other. This is a natural way of thinking in Europe where nearly everyone has some knowledge of at least one other language than the mother tongue. In Scandinavia practically everyone speaks a kind of English.

          • Bart Ehrman
            Bart Ehrman  October 29, 2013

            I think the difference is that everyone in Scandinavia has an advanced education, which included English instruction, in school, starting at a young age. The vast majority of people in Palestine (or elsewhere, for that matter) never went to school. At all.

      • Avatar
        FrankJay71  October 27, 2013

        Hey, so that bring up the question for me, what scriptures where Paul reading? Was he reading the Septuagint?
        Also, I know that when I was a kid, some of the Jewish kids I knew went to Hebrew school, and learned Hebrew as part of their religious training. I’ve read somewhere that Jewish children in Israel, were schooled in Hebrew during Jesus’ time. Would a devout Jewish family, like Paul’s, maybe school their children in Hebrew, or maybe Aramaic, as part of his religious training?

        • Bart Ehrman
          Bart Ehrman  October 27, 2013

          Yup, the Septuagint. We have no evidence of Jewish children learning Hebrew outside of Palestine — at least to my knowledge!

      • Avatar
        Steefen  October 28, 2013

        So, Paul was persecuting Aramaic-speaking Christians because “They said what?”

        • Bart Ehrman
          Bart Ehrman  October 29, 2013

          I don’t think he *was* persecuting Aramaic speaking Christians.

          • Avatar
            Steefen  October 31, 2013

            Okay, I’m asking around at two major churches. Hopefully, you can point us blog readers to more information about this.

            So, if he was not persecuting Aramaic speaking Christians, the probability rises that he was persecuting the Hellenistic Jews. Some would say Saul/Paul was present at that killing.

            Jesus comes to the defense, then, with high probability, of persecuted Hellenistic Jews, Greek-speaking Jews.

            Stephen and other Hellenistic followers of Jesus saw and probably were acquaintances of Jesus. A Greek theater was at Sephoris, Galilee. The famous Nicodemus-Jesus exchange was in Greek. Conclusion: A Greek theater is in Jesus’ stumping grounds, Mark writes a gospel with Homeric overtones, the Nicodemus-Jesus exchange makes sense in Greek only, Saul could have only understood what Jesus was saying if Jesus were speaking Greek to him, the Hellenist Stephen gives his life for Jesus who developed a following in the Hellenist community.

            Even if disciples with Greek names were translators for Jesus before he died. There is no translator present when he’s speaking with Nicodemus. Both Jesus and Stephen see the Son of Man at the right hand of the Power. Jesus speaks like a Hellenistic Jew when he says at John 10: 34, Is it not written in YOUR law, not OUR law. (A chapter of my book is on this topic.)

            Stephen means king. King-Jesus could be the Jesus that was stoned according to the Babylonian Talmud.

      • Avatar
        judaswasjames  November 3, 2013

        Not Matthew.

  10. Avatar
    Rosekeister  October 25, 2013

    What do you think of Robert Price’s Recommended Reading List ( http://www.robertmprice.mindvendor.com/study_list.htm )? It does have a Christ Myth Theory section but much of the rest appears to be classics of higher criticism. Despite leaning toward the radical rather than the consensus , I haven’t found any other reading list of comparable size and with comments on the books. Even so it would be nice to see a recommended list of recent scholarship. Maybe some of the blog readers can chip in with other on-line recommended reading lists by NT scholars. I suspect many of the blog readers (like myself) actually go through book bibliographies author by author, book by book, article by article looking for books that are found in many bibliographies and those mentioned in the books that obviously influenced the author.

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  October 25, 2013

      It’s a very nice list. An impressive number of real “classics” on there — more so than the more cutting edge modern stuff; I think that’s good, because I think too many students today skip over the important older stuff and go for only what has been written recently. Classics are classics for a reason!

      • Avatar
        toejam  October 26, 2013

        Good to see you made Price’s list for “Orthodox Corruption” haha! I must have read maybe 15-20 of these books over the past year or two, mostly on historical Jesus and Christian origins. Seeing this list makes me realise just how much of a novice I still am!

      • Avatar
        Steefen  October 28, 2013

        The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture: The Effect of Early Christological Controversies on the Text of the New Testament

        Victors not only write history: they also reproduce the texts. Bart Ehrman explores…

        It is totally unconvincing that the Flavians, Josephus, and the Roman Church did not contribute to the corruption of Jesus’ ministry.

        What comes with crucifixion, the destruction of the body, the destruction of the legacy, the destruction, banning, and corruption of the ministry.

  11. Avatar
    asjsdpjk  October 25, 2013

    Scolars are spending years of their lives analyzing what saint paul wrote. How much time did paul spend on them? I dont think one should assume every sentence he wrote came out exactely as he meant it….
    that his words can be read as a computer program …. so i think it is dangerous tto ground conclusions on a single statement

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  October 25, 2013

      Yes, possibly so. But if someone off the cuff mentions knowing someone’s brother — the fact that it *is* simply an off the cuff comment that he didn’t spend much time on shows that he almost certainly actually knew the person’s brother!

  12. Avatar
    Steefen  October 26, 2013

    You have established James is Jesus’ brother?
    I do not think so.

    Who is James’ father?
    Who is Jesus’ father?
    Who is James’ mother?
    Which side of the parents makes him brother?

    How can the very holy James the Just, with hard-skinned knees from kneeling on the ground be left out of the gospels? James seems to be as holy as John the Baptist. John is a cousin. James is a brother.

    What did Jesus say about James?
    James becomes a brother after Jesus’ crucifixion?
    James doesn’t seem to be the beloved disciple.

    James doesn’t seem to be at the crucifixion with his mother–and his brother is dying?

    Oh, no. I’m not persuaded that James is Jesus’ brother.
    A biological father and a biological brother does not materialize significantly in the four gospels.
    A biological father would have muddied up Jesus’ Father concept of God? Sounds like a deliberate obfuscation of History to me. And, Jesus, are you your brother’s keeper? Was James ever your neighbor?

    If James the Just was the brother of Jesus, why is Jesus giving his mother away to the beloved disciple? She has a son in James.

    • Avatar
      Steefen  October 26, 2013

      James wept? (at the crucifixion of his brother)

    • Avatar
      judaswasjames  November 5, 2013

      Because the beloved disciple was James. A lot of characters covered James in the gospels and Acts: Judas, Stephen, Lazarus, Nathanael, James Zebedee, beloved disciple, Joseph Barsabbas (‘son of Joseph’) JUSTus … even Jesus himself. Read this:

      http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/text/hegesippus.html

      Read around the second and third paragraphs. Notice something familiar in what James is quoted as saying? John the Baptist contributes to the character Jesus in the birth and death narrative parallels, so I have come to believe that ‘Jesus’ — not historically attested AT ALL — is fictional as well. The real Masters were John, James, Judas Thomas and Simeon Cleophas. (source for much of this: Dr. Robert Eisenman and RSSB.org). None were real brothers or cousins. That’s story-telling.

  13. Avatar
    Wilusa  October 26, 2013

    I have another question about language, so I’ll ask it here.

    In Jesus’s time, as I understand it, local rabbis would have read Scripture aloud to the mostly-illiterate believers. Did everyone know enough Hebrew to understand Scripture? If not, did the rabbis actually have Aramaic translations? Or did they themselves translate as they were reading (i.e., “read” Hebrew texts, aloud, in Aramaic)?

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  October 27, 2013

      YEs, it is often thought that there were Aramaic translations provided, ultimately leading to the Targums (Aramaic paraphrases of the Hebrew Bible).

  14. Avatar
    jsoundz  October 26, 2013

    Bart, I have an idea regarding the mythicist Robert Price and your discussion on O’Reilly’s ” Killing Jesus.” You probably are not aware that Price claims to be a big fan of the Fox host. Since shooting fish in a barrel , understandably, is not your thing perhaps having Price doing a guest piece would prove entertaining. You know him well? Thanks.

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  October 27, 2013

      Is he really? Wow. Anyway, I’ll think about it!

    • Avatar
      dewdds  October 28, 2013

      Price is already writing a rejoinder to O’Reilly’s distorted view of Jesus calling it, ‘Killing History’ I think he’s about as impressed by O’Reilly & Company’s work as our good Professor Ehrman here.

      I think it unfair to label Price a mythicist outright. Price has said many times in his Bible Geek podcast that he does NOT view the mythicist position as dogmatic, but that he’s agnostic on the issue, meaning when all the accounts of Jesus are viewed with a critical eye, there leaves little to point to a real, living figure in the past. This is not unusual, especially among religious figures of distant history (e.g. Buddha, Moses, Muhammad), because they all have myths, legends and hagiographic material piled upon them that obscures an honest view of the original character in question. I don’t believe in the prophethood or divine nature of any of the above mentioned religious figures, but that does not make me a mythicist. Knowing with certainty the historical origins of ancient, legendary characters is not as easy as it seems.

      • Avatar
        jsoundz  October 30, 2013

        RE: dewdds
        As I have said before Price is sharp, witty, and often humorous. While I am glad to hear he’s doing a rejoinder on O’Reilly’s books I am also hoping Price can keep his objectivity. My previous correspondence with Price STRONGLY suggests a fan-boy attitude toward the FOX host. In other words it certainly is possible to be objective but I would think Price first needs to be upfront with his readers. All in all I would love to read what he has to say regarding “Killing History”..

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    donmax  October 27, 2013

    Sounds like we’ve moved from “Did Jesus exist?” to “Did he have brothers?” to “What about James?” As I see it, the answers are yes, yes and lots more than what most people realize. Without the pioneering work of scholars like Robert Eisenman, this debate and discussion would not even be happening. Any serious investigation of the subject thus requires careful reading of JAMES THE BROTHER OF JESUS. It’s hard plowing, but well worth the effort! 🙂

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  October 27, 2013

      Yes, people should read it! But it’s also worth pointing out that this discussion was going on long before Eisenman was born!

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        donmax  October 28, 2013

        Not with the intensity and scope that came AFTER his books were born!!! 😉

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        judaswasjames  November 5, 2013

        But they didn’t have the benefit of the Dead Sea Scrolls, Nag Hammadi, or Eisenman’s amazing command of the period sources.

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      judaswasjames  November 5, 2013

      Don,

      You have only just begun your journey. Eisenman was the inspiration for my adventure into James the Just. I met with him a few years ago, and wrote a book of my own on James. It turns out that anywhere Judas appears he is James, inverted, as well as a whole bevy of other characters being James as well, inverted. The intention was to hide James, the *successor* of Jesus, not the brother of Jesus. He is specifically said in the second Apocalypse of James (50:20) to be merely “step-brother” (meaning spiritual brother). All the Bible is cryptic mysticism, or a cover-up of it, in the case of the NT.

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      prestonp  October 26, 2014

      “Any serious investigation of the subject thus requires careful reading of JAMES THE BROTHER OF JESUS. It’s hard plowing, but well worth the effort!”

      Jesus had four brothers: James, Joseph, Simon, and Judas He had sisters, too. Their descendants may be posting on Dr Bart’s blog.

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    jsoundz  November 6, 2013

    Bart. Help me out here. In one of your Great Courses you mentioned Paul probably spoke up to three languages? Hebrew, Greek, and Latin? Please correct my errors.

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  November 6, 2013

      I don’t think I said that. If I did — it’s not what I think! I think Paul only knew Greek.

      • Avatar
        jsoundz  November 7, 2013

        Sorry, I need to re-listen. Could there be another character who was (possibly) trilingual? Thanks again.

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    kidron  March 13, 2014

    If this quote in Acts is historical then Paul must have been familiar with Hebrew since I doubt Gamaliel taught “the perfect law of the fathers” in Greek.

    “I am verily a man which am a Jew, born in Tarsus, a city in Cilicia, yet brought up in this city at the feet of Gamaliel, and taught according to the perfect manner of the law of the fathers, and was zealous toward God, as ye all are this day.”

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  March 13, 2014

      Yes — both Hebrew and Aramaic. But I don’t think it’s historical. This is the author of Luke trying to give Paul impeccable credentials. (Evidence: Paul himself says that the Christians of Judea didn’t know what he even looked like; if he was a prominent figure nad persecutor in Judea, that doesn’t seem plausible)

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