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If Jesus was my earthly brother…

by | Sep 11, 2013 | Blog, Theology, Worship

A guest post by D. Brian Nettles…

…Why would I not advertise that wherever I went? Indeed, that is an interesting question regarding the author of the book of James in the New Testament. James was the brother of Jesus and became a respected elder of the early church in Jerusalem. He was mentioned in the Gospels of Matthew and Mark and in Acts 1:14. Jesus’ brothers waited along with the disciples in Jerusalem after Jesus ascended into heaven. James is referenced several times again in the book of Acts and by name in some of Paul’s letters. He was in a position of leadership and prominence in the early church, yet, in James 1:1, he identifies himself only as “a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ.” Many scholars have proposed that he was so well known that no further identification was needed. Whoever received this letter would instantly have known which James had written it. Some scholars also point out that this may, in fact, highlight James’ humility.

Skeptics have long argued that because James does not promote his earthly relationship to Jesus, the true author of the book of James had to be someone else, either another person named James or someone else pretending to be James. It would be easier to answer such skeptics if James had simply added “my brother” to the verse above.

Another New Testament writer did take the extra step and identify his relationship to Jesus. Peter refers to himself as “a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 1:1). Because Peter chose to do so, modern critics have taken this as evidence that Peter could not have possibly been the one to write the epistle of 2 Peter because someone so well known as Peter would not have to promote his relationship to Jesus Christ. Therefore, someone pretending to be Peter actually penned the epistle bearing his name.

This is not an uncommon discrepancy in the logic of the critics, using conflicting reasoning to attack the legitimacy of the Bible. It has led one respected biblical scholar to remark:

“The criteria of pseudepigraphy [falsely attributed works] are so uncertain, we seem to be on surer ground if we assume that, even in the case of books which were received into the canon of the New Testament comparatively late, there was general agreement that they really were the works of the author whose names they bear.” – R.V.G Tasker

God led the writers of the Bible by the Holy Spirit to write what He wanted us to know and read. There is no need to wonder at who is the Author and Finisher of our faith.

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