Monday, October 19, 2020

The Gospels' Agreement About James And Corroboration Of Other Sources

In a post yesterday, I discussed agreements among the early sources regarding the apostles. Some evidence that's often neglected in that context is what the gospels tell us about Jesus' brother James.

I've discussed their material on him elsewhere. Something I don't believe I've discussed here before, though, and it's something that doesn't seem to get much attention in general, is James' position in the lists of Jesus' siblings in Matthew 13:55 and Mark 6:3. Notice that the two lists are different, and there are some differences in the surrounding context, so it's not just a matter of Matthew's copying Mark, Mark's copying Matthew, or both's copying some other source. What I want to focus on here, though is how they list the names of Jesus' brothers in a different order, yet agree in putting James first. As I've mentioned before, the order in which names appear in a list can be determined by a wide variety of factors. James could be listed first because he was the oldest brother of Jesus. Or it could be because he was the most prominent for whatever other reasons. Or it could be both. Maybe James was the most prominent, which was partly because he was the oldest and partly because of one or more other factors. Whatever the cause of his being listed first in both documents, that's consistent with his prominence elsewhere. He's prominent in Acts, much more prominent than the other siblings listed with him in Matthew 13 and Mark 6. He's the only sibling of Jesus mentioned by name in the resurrection appearances discussed in 1 Corinthians 15. He's the only brother of Jesus mentioned in Galatians 1-2 and the only one named anywhere in Paul's letters. Jude identifies himself in connection with James (Jude 1), but James sees no need to appeal to a relationship with any of his brothers in his letter. This sort of greater prominence James had, in comparison to his brothers, is corroborated by the passages in Matthew 13 and Mark 6.

Several years ago, I wrote an article addressing why the gospels don't include any reference to the resurrection appearance to James. I said that the best explanation for their not including the appearance to James is a desire to be consistent with their previous focus on Jesus' earliest followers and a desire to honor those earliest disciples. You can read the article just linked for a further discussion of that subject and others that are related. I want to note here, though, that since one of the gospels that doesn't include the appearance to James is Luke, there's an implication that Luke wanted to honor Jesus' earliest disciples above individuals like James in the manner I just described. That's significant in light of the fact that some people deny that Luke viewed James as an unbeliever during Jesus' public ministry. I've argued that Luke 8:19-21 probably alludes to his unbelieving status. But even if we didn't have that passage, or even if my view of it is wrong, I think the absence of any reference to the resurrection appearance to him is best explained if he was an unbeliever in the relevant timeframe. Even if I'm wrong about both of these matters, the meaning of the Luke 8 passage and the absence of the appearance to James, there has to be some reason why all of the gospels don't mention that appearance. And that's further common ground they have about James.

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