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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!   QUESTION: 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?   RESPONSE: [...]

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 [...]

James the Brother of the Lord

In my previous post explaining why I think the Mythicist position – that there never was a man Jesus – is simply untenable, I pointed out that among the things Paul says, none is more specifically relevant than the fact that he indicates that he was personally acquainted with Jesus’ own brother James (along with Jesus’ disciples Peter and John). When Paul mentions knowing and spending time with James, it is decidedly not in order to prove that he knew him.  The comments he makes are completely incidental, explaining to people who already know about James how it is that he, Paul, met with him on a couple of important occasions.   One of these occasions was just three years after Paul converted – so in about 36 CE. At that time Paul paid a visit to Jerusalem to meet with Cephas and James, the leaders of the church there.   Paul is reluctant to mention that he had gone there, since the entire point he is making is that he did not learn anything of relevance [...]

Paul’s Acquaintances: Jesus’ Disciples and Brother

I have pointed out that the information provided us by Paul shows that he, at least, understood Jesus to have been a real flesh-and-blood human being (even while acknowledging that he was also a divine being).  He really was born, was a Jew, had brothers, and so on.   The reason all this matters is that many Mythicists claim that Paul thought no such thing, that for him Christ was a cosmic being, not a human being, and that he had been crucified in outer space by demonic powers.   I don’t think a careful reading of Paul could lead to those conclusions. There are two things in particular that Paul says that make it virtually impossible for me to ascribe to a Mythicist view.  The first (I’ll deal with the second in later posts) is the fact that Paul actually knew at least a couple of Jesus’ earthly disciples, Peter and John the son of Zebedee, and even more impressive, his brother James. There can be no doubt about that.  Paul himself describes two meeting he [...]

2020-04-03T02:56:12-04:00November 2nd, 2016|Bart's Debates, Mythicism, Paul and His Letters, Public Forum|

Does James Contradict Paul?

              I have a number of questions that I want to address in my Readers’ Mailbag, but one particularly important one requires a rather long response, and so I dedicate this entire week’s mailbag to answering it.  Here it is:   QUESTION: Bart, what is your view with regard to Paul and James teaching on the doctrine of justification by faith – are they contradictory?   RESPONSE: Ah, this is a perennial question among readers of the New Testament.  I deal with it at some length in my textbook, The New Testament: A Historical Introduction to the Early Christian Writings, in a chapter called “Does the Tradition Miscarry,” where I talk about whether Paul saw eye to eye with Jesus, with James, and with later traditions about Paul (e.g. in the Acts of Paul and Thecla).  My answer about the letter of James may surprise some readers, who would expect me to find it completely at odds with Paul.  Here is what I say in the book:   ******************************************************   The most famous passage of [...]

Brothers of Jesus and the Mythicists

QUESTION: Since you’ve brought up the subject of Jesus’ family perhaps it won’t be too far off the subject to ask this question. Mythicists are forced by their arguments to deal with Paul’s encounter with Peter and James in Galatians 1:18–20. They claim that when Paul refers to James as “The Lord’s brother” he does not mean that James is Jesus’ biological brother (which of course would mean that Jesus actually lived) but that he was using the word “brother” in the sense that all the disciples were “brothers” i.e., metaphorically. What about this? Is the word translated as “brother” in English that ambiguous in the original Greek? Can it be other than a biological relationship? Elsewhere I believe Paul uses the word “brothers” to describe fellow believers. Does he use the same Greek word? Thanks for the clarification.   RESPONSE:   Great question! I’ve dealt with the issue in my book Did Jesus Exist. I think this is one of the real deal-breakers for the mythicist position – that Paul was personally acquainted with [...]

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