Did the Writer of the Epistle of James Know a Historical Jesus ?

Dec 2011
586
Perth
Greetings all,

Now James was allegedly the brother of Jesus,
so we would expect his letter to be chock-full of personal details about Jesus, right ?

Well, guess what?
The letter of James only even mentions the name "Jesus" twice in the whole letter. It has NO personal details at all. Not one shred of historical information about Jesus can be found in the letter allegedly from a member of his family.

The only two places to use the name Jesus are here :
1:1 James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes which are in the Dispersion: Greetings.
The introduction of the letter, mentions he is a 'servant' of God and of Lord Jesus Christ (ie. a typical faithful phrase invoking a divine name) but totally fails to mention he is brother of Jesus.
2:1 My brothers, don't hold the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ of glory with partiality.
Another faithful non-historical phrase telling us nothing about Jesus. No mention James is his brother.


What DON'T we see in James :

NO mention of Jesus' family at all - NO Mary or Joseph or siblings.
NO mention of the birth stories - NO Bethlehem, Nazareth, Magi, Herod, the flight...
NO mention of teachings Jesus - NO sermon, Lord's prayer, food regulations
NO mention of miracles - NO Lazarus, feeding the multitude, healing the sick...
NO mention of any Gospel event - NO Teaching at the Temple, Temple Cleansing, Triumphal Entry, Temptation, Baptism in Jordan etc, etc...
NO mention of the trial of Jesus - NO Pilate, Sanhedrin, Judas etc...
NO mention of the empty tomb, the crucifixion, the resurrection ...

There is not one single piece of historical information about Jesus in the whole epistle of James. From a person who was supposedly in Jesus' very family and probably would have experienced many of these events if they had really happened.


Even when expected

Even worse, there are many places where you would expect him to mention Jesus or his teaching -

Chapter 1 talks about resisting temptation - no mention of the temptation of Jesus !

Chapter 2 starts like this in some versions - "do you .. really believe in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ?" (a different translation of the phrase which in the Greek goes something like this: "do not with partiality believe in Jesus Christ the glorious").

Here is James trying to convince them to believe in Jesus Christ, and he totally fails to even mention he knew Jesus, let alone was his brother - instead all he gives to try and prove Jesus is some preaching about the poor and the rich without mentioning anything Jesus said about the poor.

James quotes "Love Thy Neighbour as Thyself " - but not from Jesus, just 'scripture'.

James preaches about adultery - no mention of Jesus' teachings.

James argues that faith without works is useless - when he provides examples, it's from the OT - Abraham, Rahab - no mention of Jesus.

James reminds people not to curse or speak evil - no mention of Jesus' teachings on that.

James preaches about suffering and patience - no mention of Jesus as example, just Job and the prophets.

James talks about the church elders bringing healing and forgiving sins - no mention of Jesus doing that.

James even invokes Elijah who was a "human being like us" - no mention of Jesus !


James never knew any Jesus


In dozens of places, James preaches something that cries out for a mention of Jesus or his teachings - but it looks like James has never even heard of Jesus of Nazareth - just the risen Christ, a spiritual being.

Note that James uses the phrase "my brothers (and sisters)" dozens of times - not the slightest hint that HE is the brother of Jesus anywhere in the letter.

There simply is nothing about Jesus in the letter of James to indicate the writer had ever even heard of a historical Jesus.


Kapyong
 
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abram

Ad Honorem
Oct 2014
2,181
oklahoma
I doubt that the epistle of James was written by James the Just, Jesus's brother and head of the Jerusalem church. Nowhere does the author claim to be the brother of the Lord. The author of the epistle claims to be James, but that was a common name. Ehrman thinks the letter was a forgery written to rebut pro-Pauline forgeries, including the forged epistles of Peter.
 
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Dec 2011
586
Perth
Gday there abram :)

I doubt that the epistle of James was written by James the Just, Jesus's brother and head of the Jerusalem church. Nowhere does the author claim to be the brother of the Lord. The author of the epistle claims to be James, but that was a common name. Ehrman thinks the letter was a forgery written to rebut pro-Pauline forgeries, including the forged epistles of Peter.
Yah, thanks :)
It's a pretty firm consensus (*)

Actually, I posted this as an off-shoot from chatting with Fictitious on the Jesus' Historicity thread, which is long and convoluted, aiming for a smaller focussed issue. Maybe TOO small :)

My main point was this :

  • None of NT books were written by anyone who met Jesus.
Which is a widely accepted view (although not usually stated so bluntly).

(*) On the issue of consensus -
Of course I accept the consensus of scholars on almost everything. I only dare to disagree with the consensus on a HJ because of good reasons :

  • the evidence for HJ is weak and corrupt
  • there is a good case for the MJ
  • there is a clear and obvious bias to the HJ consensus
  • there are scholars who argue for the MJ

Kapyong
 

Kotromanic

Ad Honorem
Dec 2011
5,087
Iowa USA
@Kaypong

The presentation you have made in the last two weeks in Chamber has been easier for me to comprehend than your first thread on the topic. That thread may now be almost six months old.

Thank you for re-organizing your thoughts and presenting the theory with clearly stated evidence, even if you have sacrificed a prose format. The evidence is more clear to me with the manner you have used this time around.

Clearly, whether one is more convinced by the evidence for HJ or becomes enamored of the alternate "Olympian type" Christ: Paul's central role is a constant in either construct of the writing of the NT, as a source for the gospels. Unlike some others on the thread I don't read Greek and can't claim to be a serious student of the NT. However, from my reading of the NT in translation and my understanding of Greek philosophy, I am comfortable with the conclusion that lacking Paul's authentic epistles as a source: Mark's gospel would have had a different rising action and conclusion. Paul is the first to have written about the crucified Christ.

Thanks.
 
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Dec 2011
586
Perth
Gday Kotromanic and all )

@Kaypong

The presentation you have made in the last two weeks in Chamber has been easier for me to comprehend than your first thread on the topic. That thread may now be almost six months old.

Thank you for re-organizing your thoughts and presenting the theory with clearly stated evidence, even if you have sacrificed a prose format. The evidence is more clear to me with the manner you have used this time around....
Thanks buddy :)
Self-improvement is a never ending goal...
I try to use pictures and lots of space too.


Kapyong
 

pugsville

Ad Honorem
Oct 2010
9,970
None if the writers of the Bible had personal knowledge of Jesus , written well after events and the names assigned to the various books is just not any indication about who wrote them.
 
Dec 2011
586
Perth
Gday pugsville and all :)

None [o]f the writers of the Bible had personal knowledge of Jesus , written well after events and the names assigned to the various books is just not any indication about who wrote them.
Yah, we generally all agree, so does the consensus of scholars. But not everybody - our colleague Fictitious takes the more traditional view of the church and some scholars. I invited him to pop in here :)


Here's something passing strange about the Gospels -

Most people probably know the Gospels were assigned their titles rather late - it was almost certainly Irenaeus of Lyons who named the four Gospels sometime in the 180s.

But what is not fully appreciated is that the Gospels themselves only became known outside their own private communities from about 150 on.


First clues about Gospels c.130, Papias

The very first CLUE about written Gospels is from Papias c.130, as quoted by Eusebius centuries later. Papias mentions two writings and drops two names - Mark (with Peter) and Matthew. He does not use the word 'Gospel', and his descriptions do not quite match our modern Gospels. He doesn't give any quotes from the Gospels, nor give any indication he had ever seen them.


First quotes from un-named Gospels c.150 Justin

The first writer to give quotations from the Gospels was Justin Martyr c.150, who has several "Memoirs of the Apostles" which are "also called Gospels", thus they were still un-named at that point. Justin's quotes are also rather different to modern Gospels.


First to Number the un-named Gospels as Four c.172 Tatian

Strangely - the first to NUMBER the Gospels was Justin's young pupil Tatian, who apparently inherited the Gospel MSS when Justin died. He wrote an important early Gospel Harmony combining the four Gospels which he even called the 'DiaTessaron' which means '(Harmony) From Four'. But NO names - yet obviously Tatian would have cited the names of the author Apostles if he knew of them. This is clear and strong evidence that the Gospels were as yet UN-NAMED in 172.


First to name Four Gospels c.180 Irenaeus

Finally in the 180s the four Gospels were named by Irenaeus, two of them apparently following the hints in Papias.


But before Justin c.150, there are no quotes of any Gospels.

If G.Mark was written c.70 (followed by G.Matthew and G.Luke in the 80s and G.John in the 90s) they remained unknown outside their communities for up to 80 years after being written.

Yet the communities (and author(s)) that produced the Gospels are still unknown. The Gospels simply appeared from the mysts of time, and eventually became the basis for the faith.


Kapyong