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My Work Habits the Letter allegedly by Jesus’ Own Brother: Mailbag 2/12/2017

I will be addressing two quite disparate questions in this week’s Readers’ Mailbag: one about my work habits and one about the New Testament epistle of James: how do we know that the author expected his readers to think (or know) that he was actually the brother of Jesus himself?  If you have questions you’d like me to address in a future Mailbag, send them along!



I notice you seem to get quite a bit done in a day (more than most people I know,) and that you have been doing that from a fairly young age (at one point you even experimented with decreasing your sleeping hours, If memory serves). The biggest hindrance to productivity for me is procrastination (like right now for example). How do you deal with it? You must feel it too sometimes. Did you always have an easier time concentrating than other folks? Did you learn it early in life (maybe by watching your parents)? If so, what techniques do you employ to deal with it?



Yes, my wife and I both agree that I may not have many fine qualities, but one I do have is the ability to get a lot done in a short amount of time.  And yes, that is a gift I’ve cultivated since my early years.  I’ve been crazy busy since I was about 17, always with more to do than could reasonably be done.  And so early on I developed (and worked hard on) habits that could make me productive in what little time I had.

I don’t know that there’s a recipe for these habits, but the two personal qualities I have that seem to matter the most are my abilities to compartmentalize and to focus.  They go hand in hand.  I compartmentalize easily – being able to turn to one aspect of my life without allowing other aspects to bleed over into it.  When I’m working on my blog, I’m not thinking about the movie I saw last night.  When I’m teaching my class I’m not thinking about the book I just read.  When I’m writing a chapter of a book, I am not thinking about what I’ll be having for dinner.  I move from one task to the other with my full attention.

And relatedly, I can then focus on the one thing I’m doing.  Even when I multi-task (you’re not supposed to do that, but I do, and can get away with it because I can shift my focus quickly and decisively from one thing to the next) I turn completely to the new thing and then back again, completely.  Focus for me is the key to productivity.  By concentrating entirely on whatever it is I’m doing at the moment, I can accomplish the task more quickly and efficiently.

For my line of work, it also helps that I can write unusually fast.  That has developed over time, and it is directly related to focus.  When my mind is completely centered on what I’m writing, then basically I can write as quickly as my fingers will fly over the key board.  That’s a real gift – not one that I’ve earned, but one that I am very grateful to have been given.



I’m not sure why you think the author of James wants us to think he was “that” James [i.e., the physical brother of Jesus].  He identifies as a slave of God and as a teacher but doesn’t seem to mention anything that would associate himself directly with the brother of Jesus. Couldn’t we have the same situation as the John of Revelation where an author with the same name because associated with one of the early leaders of the Church by later Christians and their writing was privileged on that basis alone?



              Yes, I’ve struggled with this question in the past, but now feel very comfortable with my view that the author definitely wanted his readers to think he was Jesus’ own brother.  Here is how I explain the (persuasive to me) reasons in my book Forgery and Counterforgery:


The letter of James begins simply enough: “James, a slave of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes in the dispersion, greetings” (1:1).    A number of persons are named James in the New Testament, including the father of Joseph (Jesus’ “father,” Matt. 1:16), the son of Zebedee (Matt. 4:21 etc.), the son of Alphaeus (Matt. 10:3 etc.), the father of Jude (Luke 6:16), and, most famously, the brother of Jesus (Mark 6:3 etc.).   There is a compelling two-pronged argument that the author of this short letter intends his readers to understand that he is the best known James, Jesus’ brother, the head of the church in Jerusalem.   On one hand, the author does not further identify himself, to indicate which James he is, in a world where the name was exceedingly common.  This must mean that he can assume – at least he thinks he can assume – that his readers will know “which” James he is.  That would work if this were a letter written to his own close-knit community, for whom further identification would be unnecessary.  But the letter is addressed instead – this is the second prong – to the twelve tribes of the dispersion.  That is, it is going everywhere.

There have been protracted debates about the ostensible recipients of the letter.  Obviously it is not being sent to the twelve Jewish tribes, since these no longer existed; and there is nothing to suggest that it was being sent to non-Christian Jews around the world, as its concerns are Christian (even though Christ himself is mentioned only twice).  More plausibly, then, the letter is being addressed to Jewish Christians scattered throughout the empire or, possibly, to Christians in general.  Since there is nothing uniquely Jewish about the letter (nothing non-Jewish either, of course), perhaps the final option is the best.

With respect to authorship, in any event, the point is that this is a letter intended to be read far and wide by someone who simply calls himself “James” without indicating which James he was; the recipients would have no way of knowing his identity unless they assume that he is “that” James – the most famous one of all, the brother of Jesus in charge of the mother church in Jerusalem.  It is worth noting in this connection that this particular James is often named in the New Testament without further qualifier (Acts 12:17; 15:13; 21:18; 1 Cor. 15:7; Gal. 2:12).

There are other forgeries produced in the name of James from the early Christian centuries, including the Protevangelium Jakobi, which I will discuss in a later chapter, and three works discovered at Nag Hammadi: the Apocryphon of James and two separate Apocalypses of James.  Later times saw the production of other forgeries in his name as well.  No one thinks James wrote any of these other works; why should we think that he wrote the one that came to be included in the New Testament?  My view is that it, like the others, is forged in his name.  One leading reason for thinking so is that like his compatriot Peter, as discussed in the previous chapter, James could almost certainly not write.  [I go on to give the evidence that the letter was not really written by Jesus’ brother, even though the writer wanted his readers to think it was]

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A Major Controversy in New Testament Textual Criticism



  1. talmoore
    talmoore  February 12, 2017

    Do the letters attributed to James and Peter read like they were written by a native semitic speaker (such as Revelation), or do they read like they were written by a native Greek speaker?

    • Bart
      Bart  February 13, 2017

      Greek speakers, definitely. Some sophisticated rhetoric in places.

  2. clipper9422@yahoo.com  February 12, 2017

    With regard to your work habits, a key question is how do you get started? What motivates you to get started? What keeps you from procrastinating?

    The best advice I’ve heard – but am only able to implement occasionally – is to realize that motivation comes from getting started and not the other way around. Another that is occasionally helpful is to break down tasks into small doable pieces, do one thing at a time, and not set my goals too high.

    • Bart
      Bart  February 13, 2017

      What normally gets me started is the fact I have something to do *next* that I’m eager to do. So I get done with the first thing to get to the one I want to do.

  3. clipper9422@yahoo.com  February 12, 2017

    Do scholars have any idea how James the brother of Jesus became so prominent, eg, leader of the Jerusalem church, after hardly being mentioned in the gospels and mostly with respect to thinking Jesus was crazy?

    • Bart
      Bart  February 13, 2017

      He appears to have claimed he had a resurrection vision of Jesus, and since he was his blood brohter, that more or less automatically eleveated him to a position of authority among the earliest followers.

  4. Wilusa  February 12, 2017

    Here’s a question I’ve been thinking about. It’s been said that the coming of God’s “Kingdom” had been prophesied within, or shortly before, the lifetimes of the people who heard it from John the Baptist and Jesus. And obviously, it hadn’t happened. So how were John and Jesus able to get people to believe it was imminent, after previous “letdowns”? Do you think either or both of them claimed to have received direct revelations from God?

    • Bart
      Bart  February 13, 2017

      It’s a good question — but a perennial one. There are millions of people still today who are convinced that it’s imminent, even though millions more have said the same thing for millenia!! Hard to figure out how anyone can keep thinking so, except to say that it sure *seems* like we’re living at the end of time….

      • rbrtbaumgardner  February 13, 2017

        Emotions, including hope, often override rational thought or–better yet–thought is put into the service of justifying our emotions. Emotions make things feel real. Emotions also prioritize our thinking, so people spend a lot of time and effort justifying feelings, often without being aware that is what they are doing.

    • Robby  February 13, 2017

      In the circles I ran in, the preachers would claim that it is all the “end times” since the beginning of time and all the biblical references to people alive during those “end times” events are the ones living at the time of the “end times”. This is how they get away with saying the biblical writers were wrong about the end times being in their lifetime. It’s all in the spin…Hope that made sense 😉

    • Ronhenn  February 14, 2017

      Groups such as Jehovah’s Witnesses manage to grow pretty consistently despite repeated failed predictions. Many fall away after each prophetic failure, but those who remain tend to be the most committed. And their ability to make new converts helps to justify their remaining in the faith. The more I learn about early Christians, the more similarities I see they have in common with modern day followers of Jesus. There’s something universal in the human psyche, I fear, that keeps repeating itself.

  5. Wilusa  February 12, 2017

    A while back, I asked a question you never answered:

    I remember your saying that in one of the conservative Christian colleges you attended, they gave you a course in Apologetics – presenting “proof” of the existence of God, and ultimately, I assume, “proof” of their form of Christianity’s being the One True Faith. Not because they wanted to convince you, but because they wanted you to convert others.

    Would you be willing to tell us, if you remember, what their arguments were?

    I was thinking primarily of the “proofs” offered for the existence of God. I thought that would be a relatively easy question for you to answer, and I was surprised that you seemed to think it was difficult.

    • Bart
      Bart  February 13, 2017

      No, it’s not particularly difficult. We heard the same arguments everyone always hear, for example (chiefly) an intelligent design (the amazing universe we live in) requires an intelligent designer. Or more … unusually: by definition, God is the greatest thing that could possibly be. But something that exists is greater than something that doesn’t exist. Therefore by definition, God has to exist. (!) As to Christianity being alone true: it is the one that alone fulfilled ancient prophecies. And you can *prove* that Jesus was raised from the dead (we believed).

      • Robby  February 13, 2017

        When I use to teach apologetics as an assistant pastor, I used the 1) Cosmological Argument, 2) Teleological Argument, 3) Complexity Argument, 4) Moral Argument and 5) Historical Argument.

        • Wilusa  February 14, 2017

          This certainly sounds more believable. Depending, of course, on the specific arguments you presented.

          I had to look up what “Teleological” means! But it turned out to be good old “Intelligent Design.”

          • SBrudney091941
            SBrudney091941  February 16, 2017

            Of course, “intelligent designer” does not imply the biblical God or one God or a perfect one or omniscient or ubiquitous god.

      • Wilusa  February 14, 2017

        “Or more … unusually: by definition, God is the greatest thing that could possibly be. But something that exists is greater than something that doesn’t exist. Therefore by definition, God has to exist. (!)”

        Good grief! And they expected you to convert possible non-believers with an argument like that?

        Let’s see. If one accepts how they’re defining “God,” it would be necessary to also define “greatest,” “thing,” and “possibly.” Oh, and “be,” in the sense of “exist”! I can’t imagine anyone’s agreeing on all those definitions, as applied to the concept of “God.” Let alone the ridiculous next sentence. Something that exists takes up more space than something that doesn’t exist? I’m sure it does, but they haven’t proven “God” takes up *any* space!

        Basically, they’re just *asserting* that “God” exists, and surrounding the assertion with so much rigmarole that they hope no one will notice.

        • Bart
          Bart  February 15, 2017

          Yes, arguments like this tend to be convincing to people who either already are or want to be convinced!

  6. Wilusa  February 12, 2017

    A P.S. to a question I posted previously: Did either John or Jesus actually add something new to the “Kingdom” concept – telling their followers they could speed its coming by “living as if it was already there”?

    • Bart
      Bart  February 13, 2017

      It’s not clear what John taught. Jesus taught that the kingdom was already being manifest in his ministry and among his followers, which was a sign that the culmination was near.

      • HistoricalChristianity  February 14, 2017

        From the synoptic gospels, John the Baptist and Jesus taught Jewish apocalypticism, like nearly all their peers. It was to happen on earth within a generation or two. By the end of the first century, nearly everyone realized it didn’t happen. That’s when they began to spiritualize it. We see the earliest trace of that idea (it’s happening now, spiritually) in late gospels (Luke). Even later, some said it would happen in an afterlife. We have some ambiguous hints of that in gospels.

  7. moose  February 12, 2017

    Mr. Ehrman.
    Surely, the letter of James was not written by James, but by someone who pretended to hold his authority.
    The question is which James this letter is meant to represent?

    The letter begins with: “James, a Servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ(…)
    This presentation of “James” is not all that surprising, knowing that Israel(James) often is described as a Servant of God in the OT(Isaiah among others).
    Then it goes on to say:(…)to the twelve tribes in the dispersion…
    This is precisely what we should expect from a letter written by someone who pretended to be Jakob the patriarch!

    Yes, the Bible mentions lots of people named James – actually surprisingly many. We have James, the broter of the Lord, and we have James the son of Zebedee. Can these two actually be the same James?
    Look at it this way; What if James the son of Zebedee is a distortion of; Jakob son of Lord Sebaoth(one of the many names used for God)? The nickname “Boanerges” may in fact very easily be deduced from “Sebaoth”.
    Then we have James, the brother of the Lord. If James is the son of Lord Sebaoth (son of God), and Jesus is son of God, then James and Jesus should be brothers in one way or another.

    What if the New Testament was created as an allegory on the basis of the Old Testament?

    • moose  February 13, 2017

      In fact, the Lord Sebaoth is mentioned explicitly in the letter of James.

      James 5:4; “Behold, the hire of the laborers who mowed your fields, which is of you kept back by fraud, crieth out: and the cries of them that reaped have entered into the ears of the Lord Sabaoth.”

  8. uziteaches  February 12, 2017


    Thank you for your wonderful blogs.

    I was surprised by this:

    What is uniquely ‘Jewish’ about this letter is the focus on works, and its implied polemic with Paul.

    Also, I would have loved had you pointed out that the name ‘James’ was not common at all in the ancient world. In fact, it was non-existent. The name was ‘Jacob’, and for some reason when ‘Jacob’ appears in the New Testament about the Apostles, it gets transliterated as James.

    • Bart
      Bart  February 13, 2017

      Jacob wasn’t an ancient name either. It’s an English name, just like James. The ancient name is in Greek. It can be translated into English either as James or Jacob.

      • talmoore
        talmoore  February 13, 2017

        Dr. Ehrman, I assume you mean that James and Jacob are the English forms of the actual ancient name Ya’akov — יעקב. Incidentally, Jesus wasn’t Jesus’ name either. His name was Yeshu’a — יהושע, which also exists in two English forms: Jesus and Joshua.

        • Bart
          Bart  February 14, 2017

          Yes, I was referring to the names as they come to be translated into English from the New Testament itself. But indeed, their actual names would have been Aramaic.

      • Wilusa  February 13, 2017

        What would it have been in Aramaic? (I’ve always assumed New Testament characters with that name were really called Yaakov.)

        • Bart
          Bart  February 14, 2017

          יעקב (i.e. Ya’akov; Yakov; Yakob; Jacob; James)

          • Jason  February 14, 2017

            Tinfoil hat theory resulting from this info:Yakov Smirnov actually wrote the epistle of James. “In Soviet Russia, if you have faith, you get worked!” (Sorry I have a cold and the medicine made that seem funny.)

  9. John1003  February 12, 2017

    It seems that by the time that books were being written that Christianity was a somewhat mature movement representing people of all classes. Certainly James may have had access to people that could have written it. It also seems to fit what we know about James from acts and Paul. He seemed to put a lot of emphasis on works. Someone wrote those books , why would it seem so far fetched that the appostles had access to people those people writing. If Billy Graham had put out word to the Christian community that he needed help with a task. Do you think he would have had trouble finding help.

    • Bart
      Bart  February 13, 2017

      If you mean that it might be possible that the real James used a secretary/amanuensis to record his words, I deal with that at length in my book Forgery and Counterforgery and show why it is so unlikely. (I’ve dealt with it a bit on the blog as well; search for “secretary”)

  10. Jason  February 12, 2017

    You can also shift gears effortlessly between academic and popular, but that probably has more to do with your publishing success than getting stuff done.

  11. Eskil  February 12, 2017

    1. Who were able to write during those days? Could members of Sanhedrin write? Or were everyone using professional scribes?

    2. Almost certainly President Obama did not wrote any of his speeches. Pseudonymity? Forgery?

    Shouldn’t we be more interested about did Peter, James and Obama subscribe the ideas behind the texts?

    • Bart
      Bart  February 13, 2017

      1. Mainly it was proessional scribes (some of whom may have been in the Sanhedrin); 2. If someone wrote a book claiming to be Barack Obama, when it was not in fact he, yes, that would be a forgery. If someone wrote a speech that Obama delivered, no, that would not be forgery (since Obama is claiming it for his own based on an agreement he had with the speech writer). 3. Yes indeed, that is what we are far more interested in. The problem is that if Peter and James did not write anything, and we don’t have anyone who would actually know tell us what they thought, we have no access to their views.

    • talmoore
      talmoore  February 14, 2017

      In today’s world, where a majority of people are able to both read and write, we naturally assume both skills go together. But they’re actually separate skills. It’s possible to be able to read well yet write poorly. In ancient times there were probably more people who could read poorly then could read well, and there were probably more people who could read and write poorly than could read and write well. In other words: read and write poorly > read well but write poorly > both read and write well. Professional scribes were those men who were trained to both read and write well.

  12. Hume  February 12, 2017

    What would you say if you died Bart and the Christian or Jewish worldview turned out to be correct? If you stood before a tribunal. Would you be furious that the problem of suffering wasn’t helped by heaven, or beg forgiveness for not seeing the truth?

    • Bart
      Bart  February 13, 2017

      I’m definitely one of the begging for forgiveness types. If there is a greater purpose, I will bow down before it.

      • Hume  February 13, 2017

        That is very interesting! What if it’s morals are in our view worse than ours? For instance, the biblical warrant for slavery. I’ve tried but I just can’t get my mind and heart to think it’s a good idea.

        • Bart
          Bart  February 14, 2017

          Right! One has to hope for the best!

          • Wilusa  February 17, 2017

            I wonder whether many others will chime in?

            I know that if I died and discovered Christianity (or some other set of teachings I don’t believe in) was really the truth, I *wouldn’t* “beg for forgiveness”! If I’d encountered good *reasons* for believing whatever-it-was was the truth, I *would* have believed it; so there wouldn’t have been any fault on my part.

          • Bart
            Bart  February 19, 2017

            Ah, I left out a point. What I’m imagining is that at that moment it would all become clear to me and I would then understand what I cannot understand now. So I wouldn’t think it was my fault, since, well, I’m trying to think through it as well as I can now, and it simply makes no sense, no matter how I try.

  13. SidDhartha1953  February 12, 2017

    You mention that 1st century Jews no longer knew their tribal ancestry. It is understandable that Matthew and Luke would have invented genealogies to link Jesus with David and the tribe of Judah. But how and why did Paul come to identify himself with the Benjamites? Did the association with Benjamin have some rhetorical purpose, rather than being a factual claim? Was identifying himself with the youngest of Israel’s sons a form of self-deprecation?

    • Bart
      Bart  February 13, 2017

      Calling yourself a Benjaminite was roughly comparable to saying your family comes from Germany. You may have no clue who your great-great granfather was, but you know where he ultimately derived.

  14. Pattycake1974
    Pattycake1974  February 13, 2017

    “Yes, my wife and I both agree that I may not have many fine qualities, but one I do have is the ability to get a lot done in a short amount of time.”

    My husband and I agree that I am highly distractible. And forgetful. Google calendar can only do so much….

    • Pattycake1974
      Pattycake1974  February 14, 2017

      Was there a reason behind giving children similar names? Authors of antiquity identified people by pointing out their next of kin: (Paul) James, the brother of the Lord….(Gospel author) James, the son of Mary….(Josephus) Jesus, the brother of James, etc… It seems like there was some kind of motivation behind giving their children such similar names, but what was it?

      • Bart
        Bart  February 14, 2017

        Some names were just popular (like now). Others were chosen both because they were popular and because they had special resonance: “Joshua” (or Jesus) denotes the idea that God brings salvation; Jacob (or James) was the name of the father of the twelve tribes of Israel; Joseph was the name of the great figure in the book of Genesis, etc.

  15. moose  February 13, 2017

    There is one more thing I just have to mention. James’s letter makes perfect sense when read in the context of Exodus!

    James 5:3ff: “Your(the Egyptians) gold and silver are corroded. Their corrosion will testify against you and consume your flesh like fire. You have hoarded treasure in the last days. 4 Look, the wages you withheld from the workmen(the Israelites) who mowed your fields are crying out against you. The cries of the harvesters(the Israelites) have reached the ears of the Lord Sabaoth”
    “The cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord Sabaoth!”
    Compare this with Exodus
    Exodus 3:6-7: “He said also, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” Then Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God. 7The LORD said, “I have surely seen the affliction of My people who are in Egypt, and have given heed to their cry because of their taskmasters, for I am aware of their sufferings.”

  16. rbrtbaumgardner  February 13, 2017

    Then there is Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal. 🙂


  17. CharlesM  February 13, 2017

    Just wanted to say thank you. 🙂

  18. ComputersHateAndrewLivingston  February 13, 2017

    Dr. Ehrman, what did the title “Lord” originally mean in reference to Jesus before Christians deified him? Is Anthony Buzzard right in saying that it was supposed to be a Davidic moniker referring to a purely mortal Messiah?

    • Bart
      Bart  February 14, 2017

      “Lord” was a term you would use for your master if you were a slave, for your employer who hired you, for your patron if you were a client, for your revered leader, etc. It was also used for God, your ultimate master, patron, and leader.

      • HistoricalChristianity  February 14, 2017

        Jews eventually came to use lord as a euphemism for a name of God, when they decided the real name was too holy to write or to speak. Even some modern Jews use euphemisms like g-d. It’s an example of the Hedge of Hillel, taken to an absurd extreme. You can’t take the name of God in vain if you never use it at all.

      • clipper9422@yahoo.com  February 15, 2017

        “Lord” and “Master” sound so inegalitarian and medieval. Do you think Jesus’s followers actually addressed him, a poor, Galilean peasant, as “Lord”? I suppose they might have if they thought he was the Messiah.

        Your remarks make sense about the variety of people who could properly be addressed as Lord. However, I also sometimes get the sense that, at least among Jews, “Lord” was reserved for God, eg, calling Jesus “Lord” meant they thought of him as God. Maybe it’s context-specific. And didn’t calling God Lord have something to do with Jews not pronouncing the divine name?

        • Bart
          Bart  February 15, 2017

          No, Lord was used for masters, teachers, and others by Jews. It may sound medieval to us, but it was simply how they talked.

          • Wilusa  February 15, 2017

            I’ve assumed Jesus’s actual disciples probably called him “rabbi.” Is that right?

          • Bart
            Bart  February 16, 2017

            Yes, I think so. It just means “teacher”

          • HistoricalChristianity  February 16, 2017

            Yet, we don’t see rabbi / rabban used until considerably later. It’s not in the Dead Sea Scrolls. We see it first in Mishnah, around 200 CE. I think it’s unlikely his disciples would have called him that.

          • Bart
            Bart  February 19, 2017

            It’s just a word. When they said “teacher” to someone, what word do you think they used?

          • talmoore
            talmoore  February 19, 2017

            Well…”rabbi” doesn’t literally mean teacher. Today it carries the connotation of a teacher because of how it has been used as an honorific for Jewish religious teachers over the past two thousand years. The word rabbi actually comes from the Hebrew root for “great” — rav — which, when used to address a person, carries an honorific meaning similar to “O Great One” (i.e. “master”). Hence, Jewish religious leaders were called either “my Great One” (rabbi) or “our Great One” (rabban) by their students, and the title simply stuck.

        • HistoricalChristianity  February 15, 2017

          These writings are much older than medieval. What matters is how they used the words, not how we use the English words to which they are translated. A sage (rabbi) and his students were not peers. The sage was the master (teacher).

          As I noted above, Jews eventually used that word as a euphemism for the name of their god.

  19. TWood
    TWood  February 14, 2017

    You mention your ability to write fast… I like to think I have that too (although I admittedly don’t think I’m on your level)… but my question/observation is… when software was invented that allows dictation… I initially thought typing would be obsolete… why learn to type fast when you can always talk faster? But I’ve found writing is different and most of the times better (although not always)… it forces you to choose phrases and words differently… have you tried dictating instead of writing… just curious what your thoughts are on this…

    • Bart
      Bart  February 15, 2017

      I write differently from how I talk, so I don’t foresee changing my approach.

  20. moose  February 15, 2017

    Mr. Ehrman.
    I hope I’m not annoying you, but I really want to share an explanation of the phrase “Sons of thunder.”

    Luke 9:52-55: “And he sent messengers on ahead, who went into a Samaritan village to get things ready for him; 53 but the people there did not welcome him, because he was heading for Jerusalem. 52 “When the disciples James and John saw this, they asked, “Lord, do you want us to call fire down from heaven to destroy them?”55 But He turned and rebuked them, and said, “You do not know what kind of spirit you are of;”

    What does this mean? Well, It was the God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel that rained down brimstone and fire on Sodom and Gomorrah, and it was the God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel that rained down fire and burned up the sacrifice for Elijah. It was the Lord Sebaoth.

    1 Kings 18:36 “At the time of sacrifice, the prophet Elijah stepped forward and prayed: “LORD, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, let it be known today that you are God in Israel and that I am your servant and have done all these things at your command(…)38 Then the fire of the LORD fell and burned up the sacrifice, the wood, the stones and the soil, and also licked up the water in the trench.”

    But James was a truer son of Zebedee. That is why it’s often said; “and he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John” – as if John was not a real son of Zebedee.

  21. Salvador Perez  February 15, 2017

    quick question Dr Ehrman, do we have any writings from James (the Lords brother) pertaining to his early life with his brother Jesus? eg anecdotes, biographies, memories. If not, How do we reconcile Paul’s constant usage of “brothers and sisters” and “God our father (this being the reason for brothers and sisters)” when he addresses Christians vs when he addresses people who are blood relatives?

    • Bart
      Bart  February 16, 2017

      No, we have no writings from James, probably in part becaues he could not write. In each place that Paul uses “brother” one needs to look at the context to see what he means (just as is true with all words: context determines meaning). In some places it is clear he is not referring to blood brothers and in other places it is clear that he must be.

      • Salvador Perez  February 19, 2017

        thanks for the clarification Dr. Ehrman.
        Is there a reason Paul called James an apostle before saying James is the Lords brother?
        “but I did not see any other apostle except James the Lord’s brother.” – Galatians 1:19
        a more clear sentence would have been “but I did not see any apostles, I only saw the Lords brother James – son of Joseph – “

        • Bart
          Bart  February 20, 2017

          The point he is making at this place in his argument is that he did not receive his Gospel from anyone who was an apostle before him, and he’s mentioning which apostles he did meet later, including James. But he has to identify which James he means, and so he says that it was Jesus’ brother James (not one of the other Christian apostles named James)

  22. RonaldTaska  February 15, 2017

    I have known a lot of very productive people in my life, including the great surgeons Michael DeBakey and Denton Cooley, the psychiatrist Keith Brodie, Coach K, and the author Reynolds Price, but your productivity is truly astounding. You have a gift and also have worked very hard to develop that gift. Whatever the factors involved, I am glad for your productivity. Your work has changed much of the way I think about really important things. Thanks.

  23. dankoh  February 20, 2017

    You mention that the 12 tribes no longer existed (if they ever did). That brings to mind Paul’s description of himself as “a Benjaminite.” I’ve always wondered why he would do that, since, other than the tribe of Levi, no one had identified themselves by tribe since First Temple days.

    • Bart
      Bart  February 20, 2017

      The two tribes (apart from the Levites) to survive down to the first century (after the Assyrian invasions 700 years earlier!) were Judah and Benjamin.

      • dankoh  February 20, 2017

        Well, yes, but that’s because the tribe of Benjamin was the smallest and in closest proximity to Judah. But also for that reason, Benjamin lost its separate identity and became part of the kingdom of Judah. Are you aware of any references to Benjamin (other than Paul’s) as a separate identifiable unit in Second Temple times?

        • Bart
          Bart  February 21, 2017

          Not off hand. I’ve never thought much about it! Maybe someone else on the blog can pitch in.

    • HistoricalChristianity  February 20, 2017

      Perhaps Paul was making a vacuous claim.

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