Jesus is the worlds most influential man to ever live. Indeed, His message and teachings have become greatly widespread and have won over billions of followers, and in fact the religion Jesus brought forth now composes the largest religious worldview on Earth. This man is simply beloved of His believers, and even those who do not believe in Him find great respect for Him and what He has done for the world. Historians are amazingly interested by Him, many through their analysis and study of His life have come to the belief that He is God and the prophesied Messiah of the Old Testament. Thousands of scholarly works have been published on Jesus, and the historicity of early Christianity and the New Testament quantify as the largest and most important field in historic academia. But mythicists will have none of it.
Mythicists are people who don’t believe Jesus ever existed. Apart from mythicism being universally rejected by historians on historical grounds because of the heavy historical attestation of Jesus that these people seem to be ignorant of, one of the larger problems for these trolls is the fact that we have people who literally knew the family of Jesus, which would be impossible if He didn’t exist. Indeed, the mere existence of the family of Jesus is a conundrum for mythicism. Even Paul knew the family members of Jesus, as he notes to us in Galatians.
[Galatians 1:19] But I saw none of the other apostles except James, the Lord’s brother.
Paul, as an early Church leader (who was later killed for the faith) knew quite a lot of acquaintances of Jesus, and he tells us a verse earlier that he had first met Cephas (Peter) before seeing James. In fact, it’s so hilariously easy to show the fault in mythicism that one of the worlds prominent historians named Bart Ehrman (who is not a Christian) said this when he was being interviewed by a radio show host (who just so happened to be a mythicist himself):
Paul says things about Jesus that are off-the-cuff comments where he’s not making a point… And see, that’s very important to historians — in other words historians want to find disinterested comments and Paul has disinterested comments, where he says things for example about James, ‘the brother of the Lord’, which is just an off-the-cuff comment because everyone he’s writings to knows who he’s talking about so he just makes the off-the-cuff comment, so that’s very important information… And he makes an off-the-cuff comment about the twelve disciples… So the whole point is that you’ve got a disinterested comment from somebody who actually knew these people!
Earlier in the discussion, Ehrman was having fun pointing out that no serious historian takes mythicism seriously. I’d highly recommend seeing the funny full 7-minute clip here where Ehrman slaps around this host. So, what’s the point of all this about mythicism being false because people like Paul knew the very family of Jesus like His brother James?
Well, in order to get around reality, some mythicists like to completely re-interpret entire passages in order to explain away facts and information that entirely invalidates their position, such as the aforementioned passage in Paul’s epistle Galatians. So, they will say here that when Paul calls James the “brother of the Lord”, he means brother in a spiritual sense, not a brotherly sense. That is to say, all the followers of Jesus were brothers in a spiritual sense. On its face, this response may sound actually coherent, but someone who starts to dig just a little bit realizes why this claim is atrociously false in perhaps every potential manner. So, for this post, we’re going to go over several reasons why we know James was the actual brother of Jesus. When we say brother, that is to say that Mary had not only Jesus, but several other kids — and James was one of them. Mary would have had these children with Joseph, whom the Bible tells us was the husband of Mary. Indeed, the Bible tells us Mary had many children (Jesus was the first).
Let us beat this horse to death and allow ourselves to examine a few evidences why we must understand that Jesus had legitimate brothers, and thus entirely invalidating mythicism from any historical potential, and we wont even go into the historical records on the historicity of Jesus (this will be done in future posts). One thing to point out is that the context of the Galatians quote above allows us to understand that a spiritual brother interpretation of this passage is not valid at all. We shall now take a look at the context.
[Galatians 1:18-19] Then after three years I did go up to Jerusalem to get to know Cephas, and I stayed with him 15 days. But I didn’t see any of the other apostles except James, the Lord’s brother.
Here, we see Paul contrast James, who is a brother of Jesus, with Cephas who is a simple apostle of Jesus. Paul is clarifying to us the distinctive position and title that James held by contrasting him with a simple apostle, and thus Paul’s statement that James was the “brother of the Lord” cannot bear an interpretation that this was meant in some spiritual brotherly sense, because Cephas in this passage was also a spiritual brother, yet was contrasted with James who was an actual brother. This contrast Paul makes shows that a spiritual interpretation of the verse is entirely invalid. Anyways, there is another saying in Paul’s letters that throws a boulder at anyone remaining to say that James was not an actual brother of Jesus.
[1 Corinthians 9:5] Don’t we have the right to be accompanied by a Christian wife like the other apostles, the Lord’s brothers, and Cephas?
It is almost unbearable to read this and see just how Paul makes it so abysmally evident for all of us to see that the term brother is not to be used in a sense where it is spiritually applied to every apostle, as Paul makes an entire outright distinction between the apostles of Jesus and the brothers of Jesus. So it seems that Paul understood James as an actual brother of Jesus, that is to say he was the son of Joseph and Mary. The horse is dead. But there is one thing I love doing — and that is beating the dead horse (not literally! I promise.. I mean spiritually!)
[Mark 6:3] Isn’t this the carpenter, the son of Mary, and the brother of James, Joses, Judas, and Simon? And aren’t His sisters here with us?” So they were offended by Him.
The Gospel of Mark (also see Matthew 13:55-56) gives us an understanding of the family of Jesus, which included four sons apart from Jesus and several sisters. That means that Jesus did in fact have actual brothers and sisters that existed within a physical sense. This saying in Mark’s Gospel is shared to us in Matthew’s Gospel. So the Bible makes it very clear that James was the brother of the Lord in a literal manner. There is more evidence as well, though. There are two historical records that we are going to look at now. One very early 1st century historian of Palestine was a man named Josephus, and Josephus tells us something very interesting — a confirmation that is very important that simply cannot be ignored. Josephus’ wrote a work called the Antiquities of the Jews, and he writes the following in Jewish Antiquities 20.9.1.
…Festus was now dead, and Albinus was but upon the road; so he assembled the sanhedrim of judges, and brought before them the brother of Jesus, who was called Christ, whose name was James, and some others, and when he had formed an accusation against them as breakers of the law, he delivered them to be stoned: but as for those who seemed the most equitable of the citizens, and such as were the most uneasy at the breach of the laws, they disliked what was done; they also sent to the king, desiring him to send to Ananus that he should act so no more, for that what he had already done was not to be justified; nay, some of them went also to meet Albinus, as he was upon his journey from Alexandria, and informed him that it was not lawful for Ananus to assemble a sanhedrim without his consent… [Emphasis added.]
Just to note, I had to dis-include about half of the quotation of Jewish Antiquities 20.9.1 (that’s Book 20, Chapter 9, Line 1) because it was too long of a passage, however if anyone wants to read the full thing then you can either click on the link provided above or click here. Anyways, what is made apparent is that the early historian Josephus tells us that Jesus had a brother whom was named James. What Josephus tells us makes it incontestable that the spiritual interpretation of James in Galatians 1:19 is a crashing attempt at history. This is the first historical record we wanted to see, and now let us discuss the second one. It’s a box.
This isn’t just any box though, it dates to 70 AD at the very latest (likely much earlier). Take a closer look at this box, it has an inscription on it written in the Aramaic language. Do you want to know what the Aramaic inscription says?
James, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus
This truly shoots down any doubt at all. This inscription was authenticated by two world-class paleographers named André Lemaire from the Paris-Sorbonne University and Ada Yardeni of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, and Norman Geisler summed up the data on this inscription very nicely for us all. Only 1.71 people at the time would have been named James with a father named Joseph and a brother named Jesus, as well as the fact that inscriptions like these almost never mention the persons brother unless that figure were very important — making it almost doubtless that this is referring to the Biblical James, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus. This inscription tells us that James was an actual brother of Jesus, and we know this because we are also told in the inscription that his father is Joseph, so this is talking about family. This shows James was the brother of Jesus, not a regular follower and Paul knew him. As I said earlier in the blog, the mere existence of Jesus’ family is a conundrum for mythicism. Let us sum up why we know James was the brother of Jesus.
1. Paul tells us James and Jesus were brothers, and contrasts James the brother of Jesus with a follower of Jesus who isn’t an actual brother
2. Paul makes a very clear distinction between what we know as an apostle of Jesus and a brother of Jesus
3. Mark 6:3 and Matthew 13:55-56 say James was a biological brother of JesusnoJesus, and not a mere follower
4. The early historian Josephus verifies James was an actual brother
5. An early Aramaic inscription verifies James was an actual brother
So, the epistles of Paul, two Gospels, the early historian Josephus and even an extraordinarily early Aramaic inscription have all confirmed to us that James was the true, legitimate brother of Jesus. In fact, all these sources are so plenteous that James being the brother of Jesus can be literally considered one of the most historically valid facts of ancient times. Paul knew and met with this person, meaning there is no possible way that Jesus was not a true historical figure if His very family existed and was known — and so as we have just saw with our own very eyes, mythicism was shot down in its entirety. A great thanks to the historian Ehrman for first bringing me to the knowledge of what Paul has to say about this. I also got to go over two very early historical records talking about the life of Jesus, being the first century Jewish historian Josephus and a remarkably early and authentic inscription on an old box, so we truly can have no doubts or issues regarding the historicity of Jesus. I will go into greater lengths regarding the documentation of the historicity of Jesus in future posts — but this should be good for now! Blessings to all readers.
personal notes: refutations: Larry Hurtado 1, Hurtado 2, Hurtado 3, Hurtado 4, Hurtado 5, Hurtado 6, Ehrman 1, Ehrman 2, Ehrman 3, Petterson (academic review), O’Neill 1, O’Neill 2, Ehrman-Price debate, RÖnnblom 1, McGrath 1, Tucker 1