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Post Info TOPIC: Brothers of Jesus and the Mythicists


Guru

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Brothers of Jesus and the Mythicists
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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 Jesus’ own brother. (There are a number of other deal-breakers as well; but this is a good one.) What follows is what I discuss in my book about the issue. At this point of the book I have just finished talking about how Paul also knew Jesus’ right-hand man, Peter, another big problem if Jesus never existed! Then I start talking about the brothers, as follows:

*************************************************************************************

Even more telling is the much noted fact that Paul claims that he met with, and therefore personally knew, Jesus’ own brother James. It is true that Paul calls him the “brother of the Lord,” not “the brother of Jesus.” But that means very little, since Paul typically calls Jesus the Lord and rarely uses the name Jesus (without adding “Christ,” or other titles). And so, In the letter to the Galatians Paul states as clearly as possible that he knew Jesus’ brother. Can we get any closer to an eyewitness report than this? The fact that Paul knew Jesus’ closest disciple and his own brother throws a real monkey wrench into the mythicist view that Jesus never lived.

 

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Guru

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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  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!

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…

Bart Ehrman  October 27, 2013

I wouldn’t say it’s a fact. But he gives not the slightest indication of knowing Aramaic in his letters.

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).

Bart Ehrman  October 25, 2013

Yeah, I’d love to know how Paul communicated in Jerusalem. Through an interpreter, I would assume…



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