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The Brother of Jesus and the Book of James

Finally I get to explaining reasons why the brother of Jesus, in my judgment, almost certainly did not write the book of James.   The explanation will come in two parts, or possibly three.  In this one I build on my last post, by arguing that it seems completely implausible that James *could* have written the letter.  (For those of you inclined to think he used a “secretary” to do it for him — I’ve posted on this a bunch in the past, to show why that didn’t happen; just search for “secretary” on the blog).  In my next post or two I’ll give additional reasons, for those of you not completely enthralled with questions of who could read and write in antiquity.   Both discussions are edited versions of what I say in my book Forgery and Counterforgery.


There are solid reasons for thinking that whoever wrote this letter, it was not James, the brother of Jesus.  The first, as already mentioned, is that James of Nazareth could almost certainly not write.

Whoever produced this letter was a highly literate native speaker of Greek, grounded in Hellenistic modes of discourse and able to use abundant rhetorical devices and flourishes.  It is often noted that the book employs a sophisticated use of participles, infinitives, and subordinate clauses.  Even Luke T. Johnson, a supporter of authenticity and author of The Writings of the New Testament, points out that …

To see the rest of this argument, you will need to be a blog member.  Joining has never been easier or cheaper (or harder or more expensive).  Join now.  Every nickel will go to charity and you’ll get access to all sorts of intriguing information about the past that you almost certainly never heard in Sunday School!

… points out that the language consists of “a form of clear and correct koine [Greek] with some ambitions toward rhetorical flourish… comparable in quality if less complex in texture, to that of Hebrews.”[1]  Johnson also notes that the author makes vigorous use of rhetorical devices found in many Greco-Roman moral discourses, but associated especially with the diatribe.[2]  Matt Jackson-McCabe, author of Jewish Christianity concurs:  not only does the author evidence a “relatively high proficiency in Greek grammar, vocabulary, and style”; he “is “more generally at home in literate, Hellenistic culture,” using commonplaces of Greco-Roman moralistic literature (horses with bits, ships and rudders, controlling the tongue in order to control the body, and so on).645

It seems unlikely that an Aramaic-speaking peasant from rural Galiliee wrote this.  Here I can simply refer the reader back to the discussion of literacy in antiquity, and in Palestine in particular, in the previous post.  What applied to the fisherman Peter applies to the common laborer James as well (an apprentice carpenter?  We don’t know how he earned a living), or even more so.  As far into the backwoods as Capernaum was, the little hamlet of Nazareth was more so; excavations have turned up no public buildings, let alone signs of literacy.  Even if James’s well-known brother could read – and so was considered highly exceptional by his townsfolk (Luke 4:16; cf. Mark 6:2) – it would have been Hebrew; nothing suggests that Jesus could write; if he could do so it would have been in Hebrew  or Aramaic, not Greek.  And by all counts he was the star of the family.

This was a part of the world where literacy was likely 1-2% or even less.  Where would James have learned to write Hebrew?  Or to read Greek?  To write Greek?  To write literary Greek?  Greek that shows knowledge of the diatribe? And that uses rhetorical flourishes known from Greco-Roman moralists?   All of that would have taken many years of intensive education, and there is precisely zero indication that James, the son of a local τέκτων, would have had the leisure or money for an education as a youth.  Moreover, there were no adult education classes to make up the deficit after his brother’s death years later.  One should not reason that James could have picked up Greek after Jesus’ death on some of his travels.  If he did learn any Greek, it would have been of a fumbling kind for simple conversation; writing literacy was not (and is not) acquired by sporadic conversations in a second language – especially writing literacy at this level.   And James certainly would not have mastered the Scriptures in Greek, as the author of this letter has done (see 2:8-11, 23; 4:6).  And so, despite the remarkably sanguine claims of some scholars about the Greek-writing skills of uneducated rural peasants of Nazareth, it is virtually impossible to imagine this book coming from the pen of James.[3]  The conclusion of  Matthias Konradt is understated at best: “it remains questionable . . . whether one might expect the rhetorical and linguistic niveau of James from a Galilean craftman’s son.”[4] More apt is the statement of Wilhelm Pratscher:  “Even if one assumes a widespread dissemination of Greek in first century C.E. Palestine, one will nevertheless scarcely consider possible the composition of James by the brother of the Lord, especially when one compares it to the markedly simpler Greek of the Diaspora Jew Paul.” [5]


[1] The Letter of James; AB 37A (New York: Doubleday, 1995), p. 7.

[2] Letter of James, p. 9. 645

Matt Jacson-McCabe, “The Politics of Pseudepigraphy and the Letter of James,” in Jörg Frey, et al., eds, Pseudepigraphie und Verfasserfiktion, pp. 621.

[3] Contra J. N. Sevenster, Do You Know Greek?  How Much Greek Could the First Jewish Christians Have Know (Leiden: Brill, 1968), who argues that James would have known Greek.  Sevenster’s study has been superseded, indeed, demolished by the more recent investigations of M.Chancey, M. Bar Ilan, and  C. Herzer mentioned in the previous chapter.  And so, Lindemann, Paulus, is precisely wrong to maintain. “The Greek of James is indeed the weakest argument against its authenticity” (“In der Tat ist die griechische Sprache des Jak das schwächste Argument gegen seine Echtheit,” p. 241, n. 57).  And when John Painter (Just James: The Brother of Jesus in History and Tradition [Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1997]) maintains that James could have been the author, since as a Galilean he would have been fluent in Greek, he is simply arguing on the basis of assertion, flying in the face of the evidence; his further claim that we need to take into account “the educative effect of the Jesus tradition” fails to address the hard issues (p. 238).  Training in Greek composition was not part of first-century cathechism.

[4] “Es [bleibt] gleichwohl fraglich … dass einem galiläischen Handwerkersohn das rhetorische und

sprachliche Niveau des Jak zuzutrauen sei.” “’Jakobus, der Gerechte’: Erwägungen zur Verfasserfiktion des Jakobusbriefes,” in Jörg Frey et al., eds, Pseudepigraphie und Verfasserfiktion, pp. 578.

[5] “Selbst wenn man eine weite Verbreitung des Griechischen im Palästina des 1. Jh.s n. Chr. annimmt,

wird man eine Abfassung des Jak durch den Herrenbruder selbst kaum für möglich halten, insbesondere, wenn man daneben das merklich einfachere Griechisch des Diasporajuden Paulus stellt.” Der Herrenbruder Jakobus und die Jakobustradition (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1987) p. 211.

Does the Book of James Have the Same Concerns as the Historical James?
Could Most People Write in Antiquity?



  1. Avatar
    RonaldTaska  July 24, 2019

    Long, long ago, I met a kid in kindergarten who then become my childhood buddy. We even attended the same university and the same medical school and did medical internships in the same hospital system. Just before he died, secondary to a brain tumor, I spent a weekend with him doing with him some last things on his bucket list. During this weekend, he asked me the first basic New Testament question which needs to be addressed before we start quoting scripture in theological discussions/debates: Who in the world were these guys who wrote most of these New Testament books in educated Koine Greek (they certainly were not uneducated Palestine fisherman who spoke Aramaic) and where in the world did these guys get their information? So, with the above blog, we’re back to this first essential question. Those new to the blog might find Dr. Ehrman’s “Jesus Before the Gospels” a good place to start with this very important first question. It looks like we are very unlikely to find an answer that is as clear and as good as we would like it to be.

    • Robert
      Robert  July 26, 2019

      Interesting story. Sorry about your friend.

    • Avatar
      Judaswasjames  July 28, 2019

      Have you by chance read anything from Dr. Robert Eisenman? If you are looking for answers based on deep, deep study, you will want to read him. http://roberteisenman.com/
      I met him and spent an afternoon talking about these things. Smartest man I ever met. (Sorry. Bart. We have not met yet.) He pays the price for being a leader, though. No colleagues will give him the credit due. His research, especially on Paul and his place in the Dead Sea Scrolls, is truly amazing. I recommend it even to those not interested in theology. He has information that will put the New Testament in an altogether new light: Inversion of Essene blood purity observances he says, were inverted to become the blood salvation doctrine in the Pauline tradition (the Gospels, and Paul’s letters). I found the same m.o. in the Nag Hammadi Apocalypses and the canonical ‘Betrayal of Christ’ as inversion of a gnostic mastership installation story. I can post the links to my books, but only if it is approved. Eisenman’s books are on his site, on “The DSS and the First Christians”, “James the Brother of Jesus” and “The New Testament Code”.

  2. Avatar
    AndrewHLivingston  July 24, 2019

    I don’t know why you’ve gotten me on this nitpicking streak when I agree with a lot of you’re saying, Doc, but I’m on it all the same. I probably have no one to blame but myself.

    “He is…using commonplaces of Greco-Roman moralistic literature (horses with bits, ships and rudders, controlling the tongue in order to control the body, and so on).”

    I don’t about the other two things off the top of my head but as soon as I read the words “horses with bits” I instantaneously thought of an Old Testament passage:

    “I will instruct you and teach you the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you. Do not be like a horse or a mule, without understanding, whose temper must be curbed with bit and bridle, else it will not stay near you.” (Psalms 32:8-9, NRSV)

    So allusion or no allusion, there’s precedent. Did you mean that the specific sentence in that horse verse of James 3 was some kind of well known Greco-Roman proverb or idiom?

    • Bart
      Bart  July 26, 2019

      I haven’t looked into it, but it does seem like a common way of thinking about it: a huge animal can be controlled by a small device. Nothing particularly odd about it that would make you think that only one person came up with it…. Or so I would think….

  3. Avatar
    Bernice Templeman  July 24, 2019

    Who, What, Where, When, Why & How?

    Questions: Does studying the Talmud help in understanding the Old and New Testaments?
    If so, is there a recommended order? I have been following the current Daf Yomi ( which is a 7 1/2 year study plan to read the Talmud). Would it be better to start from the beginning?
    Likewise is there a recommended order to reading the Old and New Testaments?

    I wouldn’t advise doing any of this reading without personal development affirming you are good, healthy, kind, loving, chosen, equal, prosperous, blessed, happy, etc.
    We were all created equal good, and connected to Spirit. We learned to sin and can unlearn it and relearn equality and loving-kindness.

    Jews and Christians all have Genesis 1 (which may have been added later by priests). Jews and Christians also have the rest of the Old Testament (Out of the garden). People can learn and change for better or worse. We have to choose to change for the better.

    • Bart
      Bart  July 26, 2019

      The problem is that the Talmud is many centuries after the NT, and scholars have shown that most of it does not reflect what was happening in the first century.

  4. Avatar
    Phil  July 24, 2019

    Dr Ehrmann, thank you for this very interesting set of pieces on the Book of James.

    May I ask about Peter? What do we know about the historical Peter, if anything? Did he exist? The evangelicals I grew up amongst all loved Peter, they saw him as having a personality and character more defined than any other NT figure except Jesus and maybe Paul. They saw him as committed, passionate, impulsive, prone to get the wrong of the stick (but entirely due to over enthusiasm), but straight to the point. Is there anything to all this?

    • Bart
      Bart  July 26, 2019

      Yup, he certainly existed. We can say a good bit about him. I devoted six chapters to him — both as a historical and a legendary figure — in my book Peter, Paul, and Mary Magdalene.

      • Avatar
        Phil  July 26, 2019

        Ah good – thanks! That book is next on my list. I’m halfway through ‘Jesus before the Gospels’ right now.

  5. Avatar
    Judaswasjames  July 24, 2019


    You are skirting the real question. Why is the towering historical figure James the Just so minimized in the Gospels and Acts that he is all but nonexistent in the Bible?

    • Bart
      Bart  July 26, 2019

      In the Gospels because he didn’t believe in his brother; in Acts he’s fully existent.

      • Avatar
        Judaswasjames  July 27, 2019

        “In the Gospels because he didn’t believe in this brother” is proto-orthodox propaganda. In Acts he is overwritten at least twice: In Acts 1 by Judas and in Acts 7 by Stephen. Haven’t you read Eisenman? It’s a done deal. He is over-written in the Gospels in Matt. 26, Mark 14, Luke 22 and John 13 as Judas. Man, you need to get up to speed. You have a huge deficit in recognizing the Church disinformation campaign. I could fill a column with proofs (mostly from Dr. Eisenman, but I have a few of my own).

        Scholars will never progress until they take the work of Eisenman seriously. Judas is the key, like I keep telling you. You separate yourselves into consensus and revisionist camps on Judas in the good/bad Judas debate over the Gospel of Judas, never stopping to consider that Judas is a TRANSFORMING Judas. At the climax. ‘Judas’ is not Judas, but James, and he is covered there for the same reason he was covered in Acts 1 and 7. James was STONED BY FELLOW DISCIPLES, as Judas sees in his ‘vision’ in the Judas Gospel narrative. No other first century religious figure suffered this fate but James. His ascension (inverted as ‘Judas’ to hide him and ridicule him), as Eisenman correctly observes, comes at precisely the time that a successor TO JESUS should be chosen. He is selected by lot to “the office of episcopate” of the Assembly, not as replacement apostle. That is not an “office.” This is all pulled from Tanak stories as you may already know.

        The early Church wanted rid of James because he was at odds with PAUL. Paul KILLED James:
        http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/anf08.vi.iii.iii.lxx.html (told as ‘Stephen’ in Acts 7)
        Look carefully at it. Notice the word “headlong”? It is the same as Acts 1 describes the “fall” OF JUDAS to his death.

        • Bart
          Bart  July 28, 2019

          We really don’t separate ourselves into camps. We look at evidence. You’re welcome to look at it differently.

          • Avatar
            Judaswasjames  July 28, 2019

            You sure work hard to find the distinctions without difference. Why do you studiously avoid comment on the SUBSTANCE? You did this before with me years ago. Grrrr.

            I know well what you think about the Gospel of Judas, and it is not correct. The part you are incorrect about makes all the difference. Judas is the sacrifice, and it is, I think, the origin of the entire Gospel story of Jesus (Yes, it came BEFORE the Gospels. No one knows when Greek gJudas was conceived.) This is a difference I wish you would try to defend for a change. You can’t do it? Jesus was answering a question from Judas on page 55, about what those baptized in his Name would DO. What do they do? He will exceed the rest and sacrifice HIMSELF, becoming Master (read the ode that follows), merging into the luminous Cloud where they can’t see each other because they are ONE. Now the narrative makes sense. No scholar in the world knows this because they do not understand Gnosticism. I practice it. There are parallels all throughout the Bible. My first book, on saviors in the Bible, has many of them.
            This is important to this discussion because Judas covers James, and provably so. I am not the first to say this.

            Btw, I got that idea about camps from a paper submitted to one of the International Conferences on the Gospel of Judas and Codex Tchacos. I’ll look for it and post it if I find it,

      • Avatar
        Judaswasjames  July 27, 2019

        The proto-orthodoxy needed to write James out of the story so they could get on without interference from the Jamesians. This is why the DS SCROLLS came about (the Pesherim). They are the Jamesians record after they were run out of Jerusalem under pressure from Paul. Professor Eisenman proves the gnostic origins of the blood sacrifice doctrine of Paul in the Scrolls (Pesherim, not biblical). You really haven’t read it?
        It was originally blood PURITY observances by James at Qumran that became inverted in the Pauline corpus just like the details of mastership succession in the James Apocalypses were inverted to become the details of the Betrayal in the Gospels. Read my book! I can’t believe scholars missed it., really. The kiss? “The flesh is weak:”? Stripped and rising naked? Armed multitudes seizing? A ‘sign’? Prayer on a rock? Distress and an interrupted prayer? “Hail BROTHER!” not “Hail, Master!” proving gnostic origin (virgin birth). Not just a “headlong” fall, but dozens of tips to the origin of the story. Please. Get on it. I’ll mail a free copy of my (award-winning) book.

        I only tell you this because it is important, not that I am trying to steal your thunder. I need help filling in the holes in the story. I know a lot of it, but I don’t know the languages and can help with certain word translations that I am sure are not correct and can help show that Eisenman and I are right. Then you will see that there is much, much more to the story of the New Testament than is currently acknowledged. I PRACTICE mysticism. I know this is what happened. http://www.rssb.org Go to Fayetteville tomorrow, or Petaluma Tues-Weds. to see a living Master in person: http://www.Fayettevilleprogram.org and http://www.Petalumaprogram.org

  6. Avatar
    Jim  July 24, 2019

    Is it remotely possible that Jesus was from a religious family who were somewhat monetarily self-sufficient and were not just common labourers? Jesus pursued itinerant preaching, presumably before his followers began thinking he was the messiah. James became the leader of the Jerusalem ecclesia, and it seems that he was executed for something related to Jewish law practices (Antiq. 20,9) and not for defending Jesus’ empty tomb.

    I am still puzzled by how a family of that time, whose survival was presumably hand-to-mouth, managed to be cool with the idea that not just one, but two family members (both labour-aged males) forewent their wage earner roles/responsibilities in order to pursue (full-time(?)) religious leadership roles. (Possibly Mary used the gold and proceeds from selling the frankincense and myrrh to send two of her boys away to college so that they could learn to write NT books in Greek. 🙂 🙂 )

    • Bart
      Bart  July 26, 2019

      No, it doesn’t seem likely they were economically self-sufficient. No one in that setting was. As to his family being cool about it — I don’t know that they were.

  7. Avatar
    Hormiga  July 24, 2019

    > This was a part of the world where literacy was likely 1-2% or even less.

    Because I like numbers, could you give an estimate of the absolute numbers those percentages represent? I.e and e.g., if the total population was 100,000, the 1% would be 1,000.

    I get the impression that there was basically nobody in Galilee except for the occasional visitor who could write educated Greek, and not many in all of Judea except for some of the Roman overlords.

    • Bart
      Bart  July 26, 2019

      I don’t know what number of total inhabitants were in rural Galilee, no. The only authors of the entire first century from all of Galilee/Samaria/Judea known to produce writings in Greek were Josephus (after he had moved away to Rome and had extensive training and help in Greek) and John of Damascus, whose writings don’t survive.

  8. Avatar
    cristianp  July 24, 2019

    dear doctor Ehrman. Excuse me, my question has nothing to do with Santiago
    Romans 10:17 in its last part in the Greek language, mentions “the word (or declaration) of Christ”, the translations mention “the word of God”; are there any differences in that last part between the codexes or papyri?

    • Bart
      Bart  July 26, 2019

      Yes, most manuscripts say “of God” but the earliest and generally best manuscripts say “of Christ.” And so it is usually imagined that the less familiar in this kind of phrase “Christ” was changed to the more familiar “God.”

  9. Avatar
    Matt2239  July 24, 2019

    What if their trades (carpenter, fisherman,assistant carpenter, tent-maker) were just literary devices? We know Paul was literate but worked making and selling leather goods. What sort of work would be available to Greek-speaking Jews who ran afoul of the religious establishment of their day? Carpenter, fisherman, assistant carpenter, etc. Jesus chose Peter to be the rock, and Peter led the first church in Rome, serving as the first pope. Could anyone without skill in Greek, the dominant language of the empire, have done that? And if Jesus chose him to be the rock, was it because he could catch fish? No, Jesus would choose as his rock someone who was as literate and capable in Greek as he was, maybe better. Occam’s Razor forces us to accept that the phenomenon of Christianity in its first century was the power of the Greek language and the new media of the codex. Gone were the days of scrolls in Hebrew (which nobody spoke anyway). Now people could read and hear the words in their preferred language and jump to the story or letter they wanted directly without scrolling through the scroll. The bound codex was like clicking on a link today. Along with the Septuagint, the first Greek version of the Old Testament (and a codex too), they had everything they needed to break loose from the religious establishment, (if they didn’t get crucified for trying).

  10. Avatar
    forthfading  July 24, 2019

    Dr. Ehrman,

    “Even Luke T. Johnson, a supporter of authenticity, points out that …”

    I am familiar with Luke Timothy Johnson’s work. I have read his book “The Real Jesus” and some of his commentaries on Luke and Acts. I know he is not a fundamentalist and he might not even be evangelical. What grounds does he have to support the authenticity of book of James?

    Thanks, Jay

    • Bart
      Bart  July 26, 2019

      He is Roman Catholic, and he accepts the traditional ascription as being probably right.

      • Avatar
        forthfading  July 26, 2019

        So would this be another case of faith being more important to a scholar than historical methodology, or do Roman Catholics think there is historical grounds for thinking James may have actually written a letter?


        • Bart
          Bart  July 28, 2019

          Scholars who support the authorship by James would claim they are doing it on historical grounds, absolutely. And a number of critical scholars accept the authorship by James himself even when their faith doesn’t ride on it at all. I’m not saying that I’m being historical and everyone else is just making a religious claim, but I’m arguing a historical case to be persuasive to people who are invested in history.

  11. Avatar
    dvhcmh  July 25, 2019

    You say nothing suggests Jesus could write. What about when Jesus wrote on the ground in John 8:6?

    • Bart
      Bart  July 26, 2019

      That passage was not originally in the Gospel. Do a word search for “adultery” and you’ll find some discussoin of it in the blog (I talk about it as a key example of a scribal change in my book Misquoting Jesus.)

  12. Avatar
    GeoffClifton  July 25, 2019

    I have enjoyed finding out more about James the Just. Thank you, Dr Ehrman. To go slightly off the point, some of the non-academic books that I have read on the early church (such as those in the Dan Brown mode, usually involving the Knights Templar and the Holy Grail) have often made great play of the fact that James was seemingly written out of history. They argue that he was effectively the first ‘Pope’, rather than Peter, because he was the head of the Jerusalem Church. Reading Acts, one gets the impression (but I may be stretching this) that he is regarded as superior to Peter in the loose hierarchy of the early Church. My Catholic friends get rather annoyed when I suggest this, and insist that Jesus clearly described Peter as the ‘rock’ on which he would build his Church and that James was not Jesus’ successor. I guess that James is also an uncomfortable figure for Catholics because of the suggestion that he may be Jesus’ actual brother. Is it possible to say whether James was regarded as the head of the early Church over and above Peter?

    • Bart
      Bart  July 26, 2019

      Yes, James was the head of the church in Jerusalem early on, not Peter. But he would not be the “pope” because that is the designation of the head of the church specifically in Rome.

  13. Avatar
    Hngerhman  July 25, 2019

    Dr Ehrman –

    At a tangent to this thread – is there a good (English) translation of Revelation that you think accurately reflects the gibberishness and immediacy of its Greek? Or, short of that, a commentary that in its discussion picks out key places where the Greek is warped/lacking and where it is inflected with Aramaic?

    Thanks a ton!

    • Bart
      Bart  July 26, 2019

      Most any critical commentary will do that. The best out there is Craig Koester’s. No, I don’t know of a translation that tries that, but possibly one does!

  14. Avatar
    brenmcg  July 25, 2019

    Is it generally accepted that the greek of paul is simpler than james?

  15. Avatar
    Phillipos98  July 25, 2019

    Really interesting Dr. Ehrman. I’m curious about the Johannine epistles, have you commented on them before on the blog?

    • Bart
      Bart  July 26, 2019

      I’m not sure that I have! Yet 1 John is one of my favorite books. I need to do so!

  16. Avatar
    gavriel  July 25, 2019

    Why didn’t key actors like James and Peter organize a written exposition of Jesus’ life and teaching, by means of skilled assistants?

    • Bart
      Bart  July 26, 2019

      Presumably because they didn’t think of it or have the means to do so. It’s the sort of thing that would occur to us, but I don’t know of anything like that ever happening in antiquity.

  17. Avatar
    Hngerhman  July 25, 2019

    Dr Ehrman –

    On topic this time: Is there any evidence of Aramaic inflection or substratum in James?


  18. Telling
    Telling  July 25, 2019

    Is it possible that James was educated at a good Jerusalem school similarly as was Paul? Would we know this, either way?

    • Bart
      Bart  July 26, 2019

      Acts says Paul studied with Gamaliel, but he himself gives no indication that he spent any time in Jerusalem when he was younger. If he did study there it would have been in Aramaic and Hebrew, not Greek. Peter was known to be uneducated and since he was from Galilee and was a day-laborer, nothign suggests he had any kind of sophisticated education.

      • Telling
        Telling  July 26, 2019

        So, then, where would Paul have learned Greek? Tarsus?

        And with so little apparently known about James, how can we know he didn’t also learn Greek?

        • Bart
          Bart  July 28, 2019

          Yes, wherever he was born and raised; it was his native language. We don’t think James did because he grew up in rural Galilee where the language was Aramaic and there weren’t any Greek schools.

  19. Avatar
    PeteSammataro  July 26, 2019

    Prof Ehrman,

    A bit off topic, but I hope not too far. Many believe Jesus and his “stepfather” Joseph worked as “carpenters.” When I think of a carpenter, I envision a skilled worker in the building trades; however, I’m not sure that’s the same meaning the Gospel authors intended.

    My questions are:
    -What is the best translation from Greek for the words that the Gospel authors used to describe Jesus and Joseph’s occupation?
    -Is there any reason to believe or disbelieve in the historical accuracy of this point?

    Thank you in advance for your thoughts.

    • Bart
      Bart  July 29, 2019

      The term is “tekton” and it means someone who makes something with their hands. It can indeed be used of carpenters, but we’re not talking fine cabinetry here. If Joseph worked with wood, it would be to make gates, and yokes, and the like. We have only one source of information for Joseph and/or Jesus being a tecton, and that is Mark 6:3. Is he accurate? I don’t know!

      • Avatar
        JohnKesler  July 30, 2019

        Did Matthew change the identity of the tekton from Jesus to Joseph (Matthew 13:55) because of some unease with Jesus’ being one, or, since Matthew has a birth narrative which mentions Joseph, was Matthew more concerned about referring to Jesus as a tekton’s son rather than as Mary’s son, as Mark 6:3 says?

        • Bart
          Bart  August 1, 2019

          It’s usually thought that he didn’t want Jesus to be seen as a lower-class day laborer.

  20. Avatar
    JohnKesler  July 30, 2019

    John 19:26-27
    26 When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing beside her, he said to his mother, “Woman, here is your son.” 27 Then he said to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” And from that hour the disciple took her into his own home.

    Was the author of this passage unaware of the tradition that Jesus had a brother named James (as well as other brothers–Mark 6:3, Matthew 13:55), or is this passage a polemic against Jesus’ fleshly brothers? Why else would Jesus ask the beloved disciple to take care of Mary if she had other sons?

    • Bart
      Bart  August 1, 2019

      Great questions! We don’t know. In John 7 his brothers don’t believe in him. Maybe that’s why?

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