Ehrman and James the Brother of the Lord

On the matter of the historicity of Jesus, Bart Ehrman has replied to what I recently summarized about the problems with Paul’s reference to brothers of the Lord in the Epistles. In Carrier and James the Brother of the Jesus (already distorting his facts in the title; Paul never uses the phrase brother “of Jesus”), Ehrman outlines a logically valid argument:

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 brother.

I agree. Hence I’ve long noted this is the best evidence there is for historicity. I even count it as 2 to 1 in favor of historicity in OHJ. The problem, however, is not the validity of the argument, but its soundness. A sound argument has to be not only valid, but its premises also have to be well-established as true—and not in doubt. Otherwise any doubt we have in the premises transfers to the conclusion, and we then have to doubt the conclusion as much or even more. And ample doubts exist as to the central premise: that Paul ever says he knew an actual biological brother of Jesus (much less a Jesus “of Nazareth,” since Paul never mentions anything like Nazareth or “Nazarene” being connected to Jesus).

Ehrman complains about the length of continuing debates. Reading the peer reviewed literature of his own field is too hard for him, you see; a waste of time, really. So I’ll summarize my response to him (which is explained in more detail below) in two sentences, so he can save himself the time it takes to learn facts and just catch up on what’s wrong with what he is saying:

Multiple experts in the peer reviewed literature have already established that he is probably wrong about the grammar of Galatians 1:19; and he is rebutting an explanation essentially the opposite of the one I actually presented in the peer reviewed literature. Since he is on both accounts not addressing the peer reviewed literature of his own field, he has not said anything even capable of rebutting it.

That was said in under 70 words. Ehrman can hardly object that 70 words is too much for him to read. If he wants to actually respond to the actual peer reviewed literature of his own field, he will have to read more than 70 words. But if “the peer reviewed literature refuting me is too wordy therefore I can’t be bothered to read it” is his reply, he is literally declaring himself no longer interested in doing actual professional history and has joined the ranks of every armchair hack he despises.

My Basic Point

In what I designated Argument 12 of Ehrman’s defense of historicity in the Ehrman-Price Debate I summarized the problem:

Paul also never says Jesus had biological brothers. Brothers by birth or blood appear nowhere in Paul’s letters. He only knows of cultic brothers of the Lord: all baptized Christians, he says, are the adopted sons of God just like Jesus, and therefore Jesus is “the firstborn of many brethren” (OHJ, p. 108). In other words, all baptized Christians are for Paul brothers of the Lord, and in fact the only reason Christians are brothers of each other, is that they are all brothers of Jesus. Paul is never aware he needs to distinguish anyone as a brother of Jesus in any different kind of way. And indeed the only two times he uses the full phrase “brother of the Lord” (instead of its periphrasis “brother”), he needs to draw a distinction between apostolic and non-apostolic Christians (more on that below; but see OHJ, pp. 582-92).

Then I summarized some of the details elaborating on this under Argument 14. The relevant citations and evidence are in my peer reviewed book, at the pages designated.

Ehrman concedes that “brother” can be meant non-literally, a “spiritual brother” as Ehrman describes it, meaning “someone who is connected by common bonds of affection or perspective to another.” That actually isn’t what any peer reviewed mythicist argument claims. Christians were not brothers because they were “connected by common bonds of affection or perspective.” They were brothers because they were at baptism the adopted sons of God. Literally. Paul explicitly says that. And this made them all brothers of the Lord Jesus. Again, Paul explicitly says that. And I reiterated this point in my assessment of Ehrman’s Argument 14. It was disingenuous of Ehrman to only respond to the non-peer reviewed arguments for mythicism and ignore the peer reviewed arguments. Ask yourself, why would he do that?

Ehrman also says this can’t be the meaning in Galatians 1:18-19 because there the James thus called a brother of the Lord is being differentiated from Cephas (Peter) the Apostle. As I wrote in my summary, that’s indeed true: Paul is making a distinction; he uses the full term for a Christian (“Brothers of the Lord”) every time he needs to distinguish apostolic from non-apostolic Christians. The James in Galatians 1 is not an Apostle. He is just a rank-and-file Christian. Merely a Brother of the Lord, not an Apostolic Brother of the Lord. The only Apostle he met at that time, he says, was Cephas (Peter), the first Apostle (according to 1 Corinthians 15:5 in light of 1 Corinthians 9:1). Likewise the “Brothers of the Lord” Paul references in 1 Corinthians 9:5 are, again, non-apostolic Christians—and thus being distinguished from Apostles, including, again, the first Apostle, Cephas.

Given what we have from Paul, this is just as likely, if not more likely, than the alternative reading, because we have evidence direct from Paul that he knows of cultic Brothers of the Lord (as in Romans 8:29 he says all Christians are brothers of the Lord), but no evidence he knows of biological brothers of the Lord, a significantly different category of person. So when Paul says “Brothers of the Lord,” he never says which kind he means; and had he known that there were two different kinds of such brothers, the cultic and the biological, he would need to clarify which he meant. That he never clarifies which he meant, means he only knew of one kind. And the only kind of such brother we can clearly establish he knew, was the cultic. And if even that doesn’t move you, he still doesn’t tell you which he meant; so you can’t otherwise claim to know.

The Peer Reviewed Literature on the Grammar

Ehrman now asks how this can work when “no one can think that Cephas / Peter was not also Jesus’ “brother” in this spiritual sense” too. But it works the same way as now, when, for example, we distinguish pastors and priests from just “Christians.” If we say “the only Pastor I met was John, but I also met the Christian, Jacob” we are not saying Pastor John is not also a Christian; we are saying Jacob is not a Pastor—but still a Christian. This is why Paul’s grammar is so convoluted in Galatians 1:17-19. Rather than simply say “I met two Apostles, Cephas and James the Brother of the Lord,” a way of saying it that would definitely mean Cephas was not whatever a “Brother of the Lord” was, Paul chose instead to say:

I did not go to Jerusalem to those who were Apostles before me [then]…[but] after three years I went to Jerusalem to visit Cephas and stayed with him for fifteen days. But I saw no other Apostles—just the Brother of the Lord James.

Bible translations are written with Christian dogmatic assumptions, so how this gets translated varies widely, in some cases more clearly trying to make this James an Apostle, other times more honestly making that ambiguous, as Paul’s actual vocabulary entails. You can see a broad comparison at Bible Hub, ranging from the more honest “I saw none of the other apostles–only James, the Lord’s brother” (NIV) to the more distorted “The only other apostle I met at that time was James, the Lord’s brother” (NLT). The latter is definitely not what the Greek says. It’s an interpretation of what the translator thinks the Greek text means; but it’s not what the text says. The former is closer to what the text actually says.

As I wrote in OHJ (pp. 588-90):

Whether Paul is actually lying about any of this is not relevant to what Paul wants the Galatians to think and thus what Paul means to say here. And what he means to say is that no one in Judea ever met him. He swears to this most emphatically (Gal. 1.20). He admits there were only two exceptions, Peter and James, and only for a brief time (and that years after he saw the Lord personally). But in saying so, why didn’t Paul just say ‘of them that were apostles before me [1.17] I met none except Peter and James [1.18-19]’? Why does he construct the convoluted sentence ‘I consulted with Peter, but another of the apostles I did not see, except James’? As L. Paul Trudinger puts it, ‘this would certainly be an odd way for Paul to say that he saw only two apostles, Peter and James’.[n. 98] To say that, a far simpler sentence would do. So why the complex sentence instead? Paul could perhaps mean that he consulted with Peter (historeô) but only saw James (eidô)—that is, he didn’t discuss anything with James. But if that were his point, he would make sure to emphasize it, since that would be essential to his argument. Yet he doesn’t. In fact, if he is saying that he saw none of the other apostles, that would entail he was claiming he did not consult with any, either.

So it’s just as likely, if not more so, that Paul means he met only the apostle Peter and only one other Judean Christian, a certain ‘brother James’. By calling him a brother of the Lord instead of an apostle, Paul is thus distinguishing this James from any apostles of the same name—just as we saw he used ‘brothers of the Lord’ to distinguish regular Christians from apostles in 1 Cor. 9.5. Indeed, this would explain his rare use of the complete phrase in only those two places: he otherwise uses the truncated ‘brother’ of his fellow Christians; yet every time he specifically distinguishes apostles from non-apostolic Christians he uses the full title for a member of the Christian congregation, ‘brother of the Lord’. This would be especially necessary to distinguish in such contexts ‘brothers of the apostles’ (which would include kin who were not believers) from ‘brothers of the Lord’, which also explains why he doesn’t truncate the phrase in precisely those two places.

I here cite Trudinger’s peer reviewed article demonstrating that the grammatical construction Paul uses in Gal. 1:19 is comparative. In other words, “Other than the apostles I saw no one, except James the Lord’s brother.” Thus, the construction Paul is using says James is not an Apostle. And both Trudinger and Hans Dieter Betz (who wrote the Fortress Press commentary on Galatians) cite a number of peer reviewed experts who concur (OHJ, p. 590, n. 100). There were of course Jameses who were Apostles. So Paul chose this construction to make clear he didn’t mean one of them (or a biological brother of Cephas, for that matter). He meant a regular “Brother of the Lord,” an ordinary non-apostolic Christian. But a Christian all the same—which was important for Paul to mention, since he had to list every Christian he met on that visit, lest he be accused of concealing his contacts with anyone who knew the gospel at that time.

Ironically, in his attempt to answer Trudinger, George Howard, the only person to answer Trudinger in the peer reviewed literature (OHJ, p. 590, n. 101), observed that the examples Trudinger referenced still involve “a comparison between persons or objects of the same class of things,” such as new friends and old friends belonging to the general class of friends, and indestructible elements and destructible elements belonging to the general class of elements. But that actually means Cephas and James belong to the same class (Brothers of the Lord, since Jesus is “the firstborn of many brethren…”), which entails the distinction is between Apostolic and non-Apostolic Brothers of the Lord, just as Trudinger’s examples show a contrast being made between destructible and indestructible elements and old and new friends. Howard’s objection thus actually confirms the very reading I’m pointing to. It thus does not in fact argue against Trudinger at all—who would agree both Cephas and this James belonged to the same class of things: Christians. Howard’s only other objection was to suggest Paul could have said James was not an Apostle by an even more convoluted sentence; when Occam’s Razor entails the reverse, that Paul would have said such a thing, had he intended to say such a thing, in a much simpler way, not a more complex one—after all, it would be far easier to just say “I met two apostles.” Exactly as Trudinger observes. (I discuss in OHJ several other simpler ways of saying the same thing than Howard suggests.)

What does Ehrman have to say in response?

Nothing in response to the peer reviewed literature. (He addresses neither my discussion of this in my peer reviewed book, nor in that of Betz, nor in the peer reviewed articles of Trudinger or Howard, all of whom I cite in my book.)

Starting to see a trend here?

The Consequences of Ignoring the Peer Reviewed Literature

Because Ehrman stalwartly refuses to read and respond to the peer reviewed literature, he instead tries to argue that I said Cephas was therefore not a Brother of the Lord. Since that is not what I have ever argued, but essentially the opposite, he simply isn’t replying to what I have said. Ehrman would know this if he would just read my book, the actual peer reviewed literature, instead of pretending to know what it says by “interpreting” my summaries of it on my blog. Paul is not saying in Gal. 1 or 1 Cor. 9 that Apostles were not Brothers of the Lord any more than Pseudo-Aristotle using the same construction meant that indestructible elements were not elements or that new friends were not friends. This is the very point of Greek grammar Trudinger explains, and that even Howard concurs on. Again, saying you met “no one but Pastor John, except the Christian Jacob” is not saying Pastor John is not a Christian. It’s saying Jacob is not a Pastor—but nevertheless still a Christian.

Because Ehrman stalwartly refuses to read and respond to the peer reviewed literature, he instead tries to argue that Paul never said all baptized Christians were brothers of the Lord, even though in fact Paul says all baptized Christians were brethren because they were the brethren of the Lord, and they were so because by baptism they were adopted as the sons of God, and that is the reason they would inherit God’s kingdom: being his sons, and therefore rightful heirs. Jesus differs from them in being the adopted son of God solely in respect to being the first one so adopted (and of course being assigned the special privileges of the firstborn: command over God’s estate). Romans 8 is all about this. I cite many other passages concurring and supporting—in the peer reviewed literature Ehrman continues to ignore, and thus remains ignorant of, and thus never responds to: OHJ, Chapter 4, Element 12 (p. 108, with n. 101).

Because Ehrman stalwartly refuses to read and respond to the peer reviewed literature, he instead tries to argue a point of Greek grammar challenged in the peer reviewed literature. Indeed, challenged not only by Trudinger, but even Howard, and by several others cited by Trudinger and Betz. Ehrman refuses to read the peer reviewed literature, and thus makes responses that only expose the fact that he is ignorant of the peer reviewed literature of his own field; that he does not know the underlying Greek grammar of the Galatians passage and has not compared it with the same construction elsewhere in ancient Greek; that he does not know what experts have said in the peer reviewed literature about the underlying Greek grammar of the Galatians passage when compared with the same construction elsewhere in ancient Greek. And accordingly, he fails to respond to the peer reviewed arguments against him. He instead ignores the peer reviewed literature of his own field and arm-chairs a response to a blog post that told him to read the peer reviewed literature of his own field.

Why is anyone still listening to this guy?


  1. Denis Gaudreau November 6, 2016, 6:46 pm

    Why did Paul just say James another brother of the Lord instead of what is actually written? Like saying another Christian instead of using the brother of the Lord?

    1. Because that’s how Greek worked. You’d commonly just say things like “Cephas the Apostle and Brother James.” You didn’t need to say anything more for hearers of Greek to know what you mean. Likewise the use of the definite article doesn’t work in Greek exactly like it does in English. It is routine for Paul to say “So-and-so the brother” of many Christians whom even Ehrman agrees are cultic and not biological brothers. See OHJ, p. 589, n. 99.

  2. He seems to think james the brother is also james the pillar. In response to a blog question about the gospels having james the pillar of Galatians 2 being the son of zebedee this is his response:

    No, the James of ch. 1 is also the James of ch. 2. Galatians was written long before Mark and Acts, of course, and is not presupposing knowledge of them (or any of the other Gospels)

    1. Giuseppe Ferri November 7, 2016, 5:55 am

      If the James of ch. 1 is also the James of ch. 2, then this would make the same James a Pillar (and probably also the James who saw the Risen Christ before Paul in the apparitions list of 1 Cor 15), and therefore an apostle. Do you think that mythicism needs inevitably the strict distinction between the two Jameses ?

      1. Yes.

        Paul cannot mean the same James in both places. This is already in contradiction with Acts (which places Paul’s visit in Gal. 2 at the same time James the Pillar dies, yet Paul says nothing about that James being killed when Paul visited, but instead that that James was still around long after that, in Gal. 2:9-12), and that’s not the only occasion where Acts has lied about the chronology of Paul’s travels (see my related comment and of course Ch. 9 of OHJ).

        The Pillars, Cephas, James and John, correspond too obviously with the top three “disciples” narrated in the Synoptic Gospels. And there they are certainly Apostles; and that James is the brother of John, not of Jesus. No brother of Jesus is numbered among the Apostles in any of the Gospels. To the contrary, the Gospels all have Jesus renounce his family, and they clearly don’t know that that ever changed (they have no evident knowledge of any brother ever even joining the church at all; Luke alone claims such in Acts 1, but no such fact is noted in his Gospel and they immediately disappear from history even in his own narrative in Acts).

        So it’s not likely even on the historicity thesis that the James in Gal. 1 is the same as in Gal. 2 (and many experts concur, as I cite). It’s even less likely on ahistoricity. It’s not impossible (“Brother of the Lord” could be some special policed title that regular baptized Christians were not allowed to use even though in fact they are brothers of the Lord; but there is no evidence of that, any more than there is evidence of Paul meaning biological brothers by it). But it’s not probable (though maybe more probable than interpolation; interpolation is likewise possible, but without internal or external evidence, it’s inherent probability is worse than 1 in 200 and arguably 1 in 1000, and therefore the least likely explanation of the text).

        BTW, I’m skeptical of the James line in 1 Cor. 15:7 (it makes no sense there and is not a believable line by Paul’s hand), though I don’t require it to be an interpolation for ahistoricity to obtain; because it doesn’t identify that James as a brother of anyone, much less Jesus, whereas it is clearly identifying that James as an Apostle (and one of importance, hence most likely, yes, the Pillar, if Paul wrote that at all).

    2. It’s funny that Ehrman here argues you can’t interpret Paul using the Gospels, given that he does that constantly everywhere else. Once again, he has no coherent method. He drops methods when they don’t go his way, and picks them back up again when he needs them, producing numerous self-contradictions. This is not the first time he has done this.

      You can, of course, explain Gospel content by appeal to Paul when you have strong coordinating details and you can show the most likely explanation is common sourcing. That the Pillars, the top Apostles, were Cephas and the brothers James and John is the simplest explanation of both the content of Gal. 2 and the Synoptics and Acts (which were written with knowledge of the Epistles). To avoid that you have to come up with a more convoluted or conveniently coincidental explanation (both of which are by that very fact inherently less likely, due to the laws of probability—the presence of coincidences and convolutions both being less likely than their absence, by definition, unless you can make a case for the coincidence or convolution other than just presumption).

      Regardless, numerous experts in the peer reviewed literature (and several official translations of the Bible) agree that the James of Gal. 1 is not the James of Gal. 2, so Ehrman cannot stand on certainty here. That he doesn’t mention that there is no agreement on this in his field even in the peer reviewed literature and translations is another example of his deceptive behavior. He misleads the public by making assertions as if they were an undisputed fact, that in fact are widely challenged by his peers. Which is ironic, because he criticizes amateur mythicists for doing exactly the same thing (and even falsely accused Doherty of doing it). Another example of his incoherent method. He can commit any sin he wants as long as it gets the result he wants; and then denounce that sin as soon as it benefits him to.

  3. Though in OHJ I give the full citations on pp. 589-91, for those who want to pursue them directly:

    L. Paul Trudinger, ‘[Heteron de tōn apostolōn ouk eidon, ei mē iakōbon]: A Note on Galatians I 19’, Novum Testamentum 17 (July 1975), pp. 200-202.

    George Howard, ‘Was James an Apostle? A Reflection on a New Proposal for Gal. I 19’, Novum Testamentum 19 (January 1977), pp. 63-64.

    Hans Dieter Betz, Galatians: A Commentary on Paul’s Letter to the Churches in Galatia (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 1979), p. 78.

  4. What about Philippians 1:12-14: “Now I would have you know, brethren, that the things which happened unto me have fallen out rather unto the progress of the gospel; so that my bonds became manifest in Christ throughout the whole praetorian guard, and to all the rest; and that most of the brethren in the Lord, being confident through my bonds, are more abundantly bold to speak the word of God without fear.”

    This would appear to be a third use of the full ‘brothers of the Lord’ phrase.

    1. That’s a mistranslation. Paul actually wrote “confidence in the Lord” not “brothers in the Lord.” As most translations now agree. Compare the translations here. See OHJ, pp. 584-85 n. 94.

  5. Update: Illustrating his contempt for the peer review process of his own field, and his laziness in not even paying attention to what his critics say, Ehrman has posted the following in his comments:

    Yeah, that’s pretty funny. I wasn’t familiar with this argument, and I wondered why he indicated that it had been shown in “peer reviewed literature.” That’s not something a scholar ever says. The only published work any scholar would ever reference is peer reviewed. So why point that out? I also didn’t know what OHJ was — I thought maybe it was a reference to an obscure academic journal. No, it refers to On the Historicity of Jesus. That’s a book. It was written by … Carrier! In other words, to support his claim he is referencing himself (and only himself).

    By “peer reviewed” he means the book that he himself wrote. In other words, his authority is … himself!

    Why does it matter that I published the argument through peer review? Does Ehrman never cite his own peer reviewed demonstrations of conclusions? He never says “I proved that years ago, see my book Orthodox Corruption of Scripture“? Or “I proved that just recently, see my book Forgery and Counterforgery“?

    What would Ehrman think of a scholar who said “That’s worthless. I don’t care that it was peer reviewed. Since Ehrman wrote it, it deserves no credit or response. He can’t have proved anything under peer review that no one else has.” Such a view would destroy all peer review (no one could ever prove anything new, since there can never be a “first” to do so, because of the requirement that someone must already have done so, so nothing new can ever be published under peer review in his field). And Ehrman himself would laugh at anyone who said such a thing: “I know your book is part of the peer reviewed literature of my field, and indeed the latest peer reviewed literature on the subject I’m making declarations about, and it is normally an obligation on scholars to know and address the latest peer reviewed literature on a subject they make confident declarations about, but I don’t need to read or respond to that one, because you wrote it.”

    When Ehrman ever publishes any defense of history under peer review (he still hasn’t done so; no one has in nearly a hundred years), I will certainly regard it as the latest and most important literature on the subject that I’d be obligated to read and respond to. I would not declare it a waste of my time to even look at it “because Ehrman wrote it.” That would be childish and irresponsible. It would be, quite simply, fundamentally unprofessional.

    It’s only worse that I mentioned several other peer reviewed scholars supporting my case that Ehrman has also not responded to. Yet he seems to think I only cite myself here (and in OHJ, which he has revealed again he still hasn’t read) when in fact I cite Trudinger, Howard, and Betz, who I note in turn cite many other scholars as well, all on an important key element of my case. So Ehrman is so unprofessional and lazy that he can’t even be bothered to read the article he is responding to, as demonstrated by the fact that he didn’t know (yet he would know if he’d read this article above; or my peer reviewed book as he is morally obligated to do as a professional) that I do not only cite my own book, but several other peer reviewed experts that he is also ignoring and not addressing.

    This laziness resulting in embarrassing errors of fact is not a new phenomenon for him. I have documented several examples before. And in some of those cases, rather than admit he screwed up, he lied about what he actually said. And IMO, liars deserve to occupy the worst circle of hell in the scholarly community.

  6. Update: A patron found another discussion in the peer reviewed literature of the grammar of Galatians 1:19. It’s not as on point as Trudinger, Betz, or Howard, but I’ll quote it for relevance:

    James Boyer, “Other Conditional Elements in New Testament Greek,” Grace Theological Journal 4.2 (1983) 173-188.

    Around p. 180:

    A special class of elliptical conditional clauses which occurs frequently and needs particular consideration involves the use of ei mê in the sense of ‘except.’

    … [But…]

    Included in the preceding category are a few examples which are not strictly exceptive. The ei mê protasis does not name the only exception to the negation of the apodosis, but rather it names the only alternative to the apodosis. For example, in Rev 9:4 ei mê tous anthrôpous [“except the men”] does not name the exceptions among ton chorton [etc.] who were not hurt, but rather states another class who, in contrast, were to be hurt. Rev 21:27 tells who will not enter the holy city, then after ei mê it describes a different group who will enter. So also probably Matt 12:4, unless we make the unlikely assumption that the priests mentioned were those who were present in David’s company. There is no difference in the idiom used, and the difference in sense is so obvious[n. 18] that it is almost unnoticed.

    [n. 18 reads:] Gal. 1:19 is a passage where the difference is of considerable importance, but the issue must be settled on other considerations than the meaning of ei mê.

    Boyer thus punts on the question of what Gal. 1:19 means. But he says it’s an “only-alternative” exceptive construction like the others he cites.

    He cites Rev. 21:27, for example, which says “and there shall in no wise enter into it anything unclean, or he that maketh an abomination and a lie: but only they that are written in the Lamb’s book of life,” where clearly the latter category is excluding the former (i.e. those in the second category are not unclean, abominable, or a liar). One might say this is like Gal. 1:19 where the second category (“brother”) excludes the former (which would say those in the that category are never apostles), but Gal. differs in two respects: Gal. 1:19 says “another of the apostles” and not “no apostles”; it therefore does not say, as Rev 21:27 does, that the second category wholly excludes the first (so some apostles may yet be brothers, and all Paul is saying is the next person he mentions is simply just not an apostle). Galatians is using a different construction, correctly identified by Trudinger as the genitive of comparison. Thus, it says “other than apostles I saw only the brother James.” So Rev. 21:27 is not directly analogous. Paul’s construction is not saying apostles aren’t brothers; it’s just saying he met someone other than an apostle, someone who happened nevertheless to at least be a brother (and not some outsider or family member of an apostle’s household etc.).

    Boyer also cites as an example Rev. 9:4, “they should not hurt the grass of the earth, neither any green thing, neither any tree, but only such men as have not the seal of God on their foreheads,” which again lacks the genitive of comparison and is thus a good parallel for Rev. 21:27 but not, again, Gal. 1:19, except in representing the exceptive force of the idiom (in both cases the second category is supposed in some sense to not include the first, but this construction, not used by Paul, is far stronger in its exclusion than the comparative construction Paul used).

    Boyer then cites as an example Matthew 12:4, “it was not lawful for him to eat it, nor for them who were with him, but only for the priests.” This is again not the comparative construction. It could be rendered “it was not lawful for him to eat it, nor for them who were with him, except the priests,” if we imagine David or some among his entourage were priests (which Boyer notes is not a plausible assumption), but that’s still not a grammatical parallel for what Paul is saying in Gal. 1:19.

    So though Boyer acknowledges something problematic about the exceptive force of Gal. 1:19 (so much so he is worried about its implications and thus just avoids the question altogether), he doesn’t really analyze its distinctive grammar. Trudinger and Howard do (as do the others cited by Betz).

  7. Giuseppe Ferri November 8, 2016, 12:00 pm

    You write:

    That the Pillars, the top Apostles, were Cephas and the brothers James and John is the simplest explanation of both the content of Gal. 2 and the Synoptics and Acts (which were written with knowledge of the Epistles).

    I read that according to some scholars (for example, Tom Dykstra), ”Zebedee” is an allegorical allusion to a corrupted guy named “Acan son of Zebedee” in Josephus, Antiquities V:33-44 (the same story of Joshua 7:1-25), the effect being that the two Pillars James and John are implicitly despised by the pauline Mark as thieves of goods that belong to God (not coincidentially, the financial obligation that has been imposed by the Jerusalem ‘pillars’ on the Gentile Churches – Gal 2:10 – was perceived by the Paulines as a theft).

    Stantibus rebus, if the real father of James ”son of Zebedee” was the same earthly father of Jesus (i.e. the carpenter), then it becomes very impossible to think that ‘Mark’ arrived to despise the same Joseph of Nazareth (and by corollary, the historical Jesus himself!), by calling him with a so negative name as ”Zebedee”.

    The proto-catholic Hegesippus had a reason to intrepret the James ”brother of Lord” in a biological sense: counter-balance the Paul of Marcion.

    Hegesippus, who explictly writes against Marcion, would have been regarded by the latter as one of ‘those who defended the Jewish belief’ and united the Gospel with the Law and the Prophets’. Hegesippus’ quote ‘leaves no room for Paul as an authority’ ….Hegesippus reconnects the Church’s beginnings firmly with Jerusalem and the Temple, and roots the young community deeply in the wider family of Jesus and his brother James.
    Against, but also partly aknowledging Marcion, Hegesippus paints James as ‘the Just’ who was announced by the prophets, carries all the Marcionite ascetic ideals (no wine, a vegetarian, no cutting of hair, no perfumes, no bathing) and makes people believe in the resurrection and judgement. He is portrayed like a Jewish-Christian alternative to the Pauline Marcion: Jesus’ earthly family counts against Paul’s visionary authority of the Risen Christ.

    (Markus Vinzent, Christ’s resurrection in Early Christianity and the Making of the New Testament, Ashgate 2011, p.99-100, my bold)

    Just before, the prof Vinzent, talking about the Papias’use of 1 Peter against Marcion, writes:

    Moreover, 1 Peter calls Christ ‘the Just’, who has suffered ‘for the unjust’, an allusion to and summary of Isaiah (53:1-12), and also a clear stance against Marcion, who equated the ‘Just’ with the God of the Jews to distinguish him from the true God of Love.
    (ibid. p. 98)

    Several texts in the Tanakh makes it clear that Jacob/Israel was regarded as the son of God. For example, the famous “When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son”.
    If Jacob was the son of God according to the Old Testament, and Jesus was the Son of God according to the New Testament, then Jacob and Jesus had to be earthly brothers in some way or another, according to the proto-catholic Hegesippus, in reaction against Marcion (who rejected entirely the Old Testament).

    1. I read that according to some scholars (for example, Tom Dykstra), ”Zebedee” is an allegorical allusion…

      That’s speculation. Useless. Speculation in, only gets you speculation out. That’s the same error Price made in the Ehrman-Price debate. You can’t assert as probable things you are simply speculating might be the case.

      More credible is Vinzent’s theory of why a family was invented for Jesus. Still speculation, but it happens to be one with strong background support in the way that evidence was used, the timing of its creation, and the suspect nature of its grounding evidence.

      See my discussion of Hegesippus and Papias in OHJ, Ch. 8.7-8.

      If Jacob was the son of God according to the Old Testament, and Jesus was the Son of God according to the New Testament, then Jacob and Jesus had to be earthly brothers in some way or another, according to the proto-catholic Hegesippus, in reaction against Marcion (who rejected entirely the Old Testament).

      That’s too speculative. And we have no need of committing to any such specific hypothesis. The practical utility of inventing family, and converting apostles into family, subsumes hundreds of possible hypotheses for how that would come about, so it is folly to reduce your prior by committing to only one of hundreds of possibilities, when any of those possibilities has the same effective result.

  8. Giuseppe Ferri November 14, 2016, 5:52 am

    Prof Bermejo-Rubio criticizes your point of Proving History in his new article about the CoE, when he writes:

    “This material is also overlooked by Carrier, Proving History”
    (p. 14, n. 56)

    …the ‘material’ being the presumed pattern of seditious clues found in the Gospels.

    According to this prof, only a real seditious Jesus may make sense of the following three declared facts:

    1) we have disiepta membra of sedition. The risk is to see the single trees, but not the entire forest.

    2) any single element of the pattern is semi-hidden by other invented material, sometimes created to the precise goal to neutralize the relative seditious element.

    3) the pattern is been tamed deliberately sometimes. So we have the paradox of episodes who are clearly fantastic and not-historical even if they allude to sedition.

    My personal counter-argument would be similar to your answer to Lena Einhorn. I quote again your words from there:

    “…the Gospel authors were just borrowing “modern” ideas with which to construct their stories of Jesus.

    Just as they lifted the story of Jesus ben Ananias, from the era of Nero, to fabricate a plot for their Jesus ben Joseph (OHJ, pp. 428-30), they may well have done the same for The Egyptian, and indeed may have borrowed from all the Josephan Christs to build their mosaic (all of whom were portraying themselves as a Jesus Christ, i.e. a messianic Joshua reborn: OHJ, pp. 67-73, 245-46).

    if they ldid like those seditious figures, it is natural that they would have made also their invented Jesus like them, causing as a side effect the three ”facts” described above.

    Therefore it’s simply not true the opinion of J. A. Trumbover in The Historical Jesus and the Speech of Gamaliel (Acts 5.35-39), when he says:

    “… we can be fairly certain That no Christian (including Luke) would want to initiate such a process […] It Seems highly unlikely source That any Christian would want to paint the Christian hero in terms reminiscent of failed revolutionary or prophets.”
    (p. 15, n.59 of the Bermejo-Rubio’s article)

    A modern analogy would be as follows: If it is a Western fashion that women exhibit freely their body, then this does not mean that an Iranian media is right to define “prostitute” Carla Bruni.

    What do you think about?

    1. I’m not sure I understand your second argument; though it might perhaps be the correct one. Your first argument doesn’t work, though, IMO. I don’t think any of the supposedly violent-revolutionary material Bermejo-Rubio focuses on is such. I also don’t think such material would have been added in the way you suggest. It wouldn’t have been useful, but even counter-productive. And that’s also why Bermejo-Rubio can’t be correct, either. On his theory, this is precisely the kind of material that these authors wouldn’t have included. Thus, that such passages appear in the Gospels is highly unlikely on his hypothesis. That makes his hypothesis a bad hypothesis by definition. A good hypothesis is one that makes the evidence highly likely. Not highly unexpected.

      This is also a kind of “fallacy of convenience”: ignoring all evidence against you, cherry picking evidence that supports your theory, and then claiming your theory the best (worse, he even invents excuses for why this unexpected evidence would “sneak past” these authors, as if they were unthinking robots). These authors are supposed to be disguising this fact of a violent backstory by erasing what actually happened and adding fictive pacifist material, and yet, they don’t think to remove this offensive material? That is what makes no sense. This is the problem when historians don’t frame what they are saying in terms of probability. All of his excuses…are they even probable? No. More likely, Bermejo-Rubio is simply wrong that any of those passages are promoting violence. They have some other allegorical meaning.

      And allegorical meanings is what we know these authors were composing with, e.g. the fig tree story, the Barabbas story, etc. Anything you read literally in the Gospels, odds are, you are reading wrong. And that’s what Bermejo-Rubio is doing wrong. He isn’t explaining why these authors chose to include this material. His theory not only doesn’t explain that, it predicts that they wouldn’t, the opposite of what we observe. That’s falsification, not verification.

      Bermejo-Rubio’s hand-waving insistence that they just had to include such material because it was so popular is simply untenable. The Gospels themselves refute any such trend. Each author felt free to erase or change anything he wanted; and when he didn’t, he alters it in a way that attempts to explain it, he doesn’t leave it cryptic. There clearly was no scruple about maintaining popular material an author didn’t like or didn’t try to explain in a way that suited him. (Nor is there in fact any evidence that any of this material was popular. Bermejo-Rubio is simply presuming without evidence that any of this material predates the Gospels.)

      For example, there is no sense in which the clearing of the temple was ever historical. That never happened. It makes zero sense and is wholly unrealistic and implausible, and unrecorded by the one historian, Josephus, who surely would have included it had it happened (had it happened in any historically credible way, as Bermejo-Rubio’s theory requires). No. It was a fiction invented by Mark to illustrate a point he wanted to make about why God allowed the temple to be destroyed by pagans. (See my discussion of this, citing Hamerton-Kelly, in OHJ, pp. 433-35.)

      See also my previous discussion of these kinds of logical errors Bermejo-Rubio is prone to.

      BTW, thank you for calling my attention to his article. Keep me apprised of any such items you discover! It’s a good contribution to the debate. I think it’s worth writing a response article to that journal. I’ll plan on doing that in the coming months.

  9. Giuseppe Ferri November 16, 2016, 10:24 am

    My argument is only one, not two. Basically, it asks:

    Is not to find ‘seditious clues’ in the Gospels equivalent to claim that the authors were doing midrash from the Josephian Christs ?

    My counter-argument assumes that Bermejo-Rubio is right in finding apparent ‘seditious clues’ into the Gospels but that he is wrong when he assumes only his theory as unique possible explanation. I argue that there is another alternative (and better) reason (capturing all that same ‘evidence’) and it is: if it was an ancient Jewish fashion to imagine subversive messiahs, then why couldn’t the invented Jesus be also ‘subversive, but never seditious’?

    For example, Richard Miller writes:
    The New Testament works were often subversive, but never seditious, in their endeavor to trascend the political structures of their day.
    (Resurrection and Reception, p. 137)

    1. That holds for material that is merely subversive. But Bermejo-Rubio is talking about material that, taken literally, entails violence (like mentioning the disciples having swords, etc.). The problem is he is reading such passages literally. And the Gospels were not written to be taken literally. Exactly as Mark warns the insider to understand in chapter 4. Gospel authors didn’t add a mention, for example, of counting swords among the disciples (Luke 22:35-38) because it was some sort of memory fragment they couldn’t delete (Mark and Matthew deleted it on that theory, refuting the theory; it’s also wholly unintelligible and wildly implausible that such a scene ever happened, or that anyone would bother to remember it for sixty to eighty years), but because they weren’t talking about literal actual swords (nor could having two swords among a band of twelve possibly have ever related to any real rebel intentions; that would be like planning to capture the temple mount with a walnut and a piece of string). Whatever his past or training, Bermejo-Rubio just hasn’t escaped the biblical literalism of fundamentalists.

  10. Giuseppe Ferri November 16, 2016, 10:43 am

    About the James affair, I find another evidence in the same Hegesippus (!) about his identity with a mere baptized Christian.

    So Hegesippus, per Eusebius:

    No iron implement had touched his head, he had never visited a bath house, had never eaten meat. He did not own a change of clothing and wore only a threadbare linen garment, as it says in the Gospel, “The young man fled, and left the cloth where with he was clad.”

    Hence, according to Hegesippus, “James the brother of Jesus” is the “young man”.

    But in Mark the “young man” is often considered an allegory of all the baptized Christians. For example, this old article makes a case that the young man who fled naked from the scene of Jesus’ arrest in Gethsemane and the young man (reappearing?) in the tomb to announce Jesus’ resurrection were originally created as symbols of the baptism ritual for new converts to Christianity.

    Hence the next logical step is short: ifeven Hegesippus identified the James of Gal 1:19 with the “young man” of Mark 14:51-52 and Mark 16:5 – himself a symbol of all the Christian “brothers”- , then the evidence is very strong that the James of Gal 1:19 was originally a mere baptized Christian even for who invented an earthly brother of Jesus: Hegesippus (or his source).

    What do you think?

    1. That doesn’t hold. That later Christians tried linking the two figures centuries later, tells us nothing about what Paul actually originally meant. To the contrary, those later Christians were starting from assumptions already contrary to Paul’s or not attested in Paul and based on late wild legends. So that wouldn’t tell us anything useful. Also, that’s not in Eusebius or Hegesippus. The text you quote comes from the medieval author Epiphanius, writing in the 5th century. And he does not credit it to any previous author. It looks clearly to be his own inference; he probably read the mere “wore linen” in Hegesippus, and then conjectured a link to the linen-wearing boy in the Gospel of Mark on his own.

  11. Giuseppe Ferri November 16, 2016, 1:12 pm

    My impression is that Bermejo-Rubio defends his theory (as the best and more simple one) simply by denouncing those who interpret allegorically the ”seditious” material of being without an explanation about precisely what would work as allegory behind, for example, the Two Swords saying.

    How do you answer to this his particular criticism?

    1. That’s an example of not knowing how probability theory works.

      We have confirmed pericope after pericope was written with allegorical and not literal intent (Chapter 10 of OHJ summarizes the scholarship). This entails that the prior probability another pericope will have been written that way is high (above 50%) regardless of whether we know what the nonliteral intent was (OHJ, pp. 443-56). In other words, the evidence is abundant that “writing their stories nonliterally” is what the Gospel authors do. Therefore, we need evidence that they ever did otherwise; without which, we have to assume the rest is the same. This is essentially the same point established by Stephen Law’s Contamination Principle (OHJ, p. 394 n. 14).

      If we could show that it is highly expected that we would know what the secret meaning of every story was, then our not knowing would be unexpected, and as such would generate a likelihood ratio favoring the argument Bermejo-Rubio wants to make. But to the contrary, not only has no one shown that, the evidence is abundant that we should expect not to know what every secret meaning was (e.g. the numerology in the Gospel of John: OHJ, pp. 505-06). Not only because it was deliberately intended to be hidden (Mark 4; OHJ, pp. 108-24), but also because the religion changed so rapidly and had such diverse sectarian ideologies (and yet almost no documentation was preserved about any of it) that the secret meanings were clearly very rapidly lost (the example of how quickly the purpose of John’s Lazarus and Cana narratives, and of Mark’s Barabbas narrative, were lost to almost all early Christian authorities).

      So on the hypothesis that every pericope in the Gospels is nonliteral, we should expect to observe a large number of those pericopes with lost meanings. That’s entailed by the theory. Therefore, observing a large number of those pericopes with lost meanings cannot argue against their being nonliteral. It would violate probability theory to think that. Just as it would violate probability theory to argue that we should not see runs of matching sequences in lottery numbers; in actual fact, coincidental runs are expected, and in fact we can predict exactly how many we will observe, so observing them does not argue the lottery is rigged. At all. Much less enough to allow us, a la Bermejo-Rubio, to assume the lottery is rigged.

      So it is simply not logically valid to argue “every pericope for which we don’t know the allegorical meaning is literally true.” That is the exact opposite of the correct conclusion on sound probability reasoning from the evidence available. It’s like observing someone lying repeatedly, and then concluding that in any case where you can’t tell if they are lying, they are telling the truth. No. Once you’ve established that they routinely lie, you should assume everything they say is a lie until you can independently confirm any specific thing they are saying is true. And in the case of the Gospels, we have no access to any means to do that (all independent sources are lost, by which we would “fact check” the Gospels on any pertinent matter; the exceptions are not pertinent, e.g. our ability to corroborate independently that Pontius Pilate was governing Judea at the same time as Caiaphas served in the priesthood, a fact that itself has nothing to do with Jesus or Christianity).


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