Fact #4: The conversion of the skeptic James, Jesus’ half-brother
The Gospels tell us Jesus had at least 4 half-brothers; James, Joseph, Judas, and Simon; as well as half-sisters whose names we don’t know (Mark 6:3-4). Concerning the brothers we read in John 7:3-5 “Jesus' brothers said to him, ‘You ought to leave here and go to Judea, so that your disciples may see the miracles you do. 4 No one who wants to become a public figure acts in secret. Since you are doing these things, show yourself to the world.’ 5 For even his own brothers did not believe in him.”
John 7:5 is the sort of evidence historians love to find; skepticism of who Jesus is by his brothers. We see them taunting him to do miracles even though they don’t believe in him. Historians see this is an example of the principle of embarrassment. If you are going to write a myth or a legend you wouldn’t create a hero who is doubted by his own family. During this time period it would be particularly humiliating for a first century rabbi to not have the support of his family.
Another interesting event happened at the crucifixion. Who does Jesus entrust the care of his mother while hanging on the cross? He tells John, a true follower of Jesus, to take care of her. The omission of Jesus’ half-brothers is hard to miss; why didn’t he entrust his mother’s care to them? Because they were not believers; they were skeptics not worthy of Jesus to identify them as caregivers. Jesus on the cross demonstrates a lack of trust for James and his brothers.
However, a pivotal event occurs in the life of James. In 1 Corinthians 15 Paul reports the risen Jesus appears to James. This creed reported by Paul, which the many scholars believe to be a very early creed, was in place just a few years after the crucifixion. This particular creed, given to the early church, is historically accepted as reliable.
As a result of this encounter with the risen Jesus, James a total skeptic becomes a strong follower of Jesus Christ. From the books of Acts and Galatians we read that James becomes the leader of the Jerusalem Church. And then later because of his faith in the resurrection, James is martyred, an event reported by Christian and non-Christian sources.
And why wasn’t James convinced about who Jesus was before the death and resurrection of Jesus. Scholar William Lane Craig says this, “What would it take to convince you that your brother is the Lord? Really, the only thing could account for that would be what’s reported in the early creed: that the crucified Jesus appeared alive to James.”
Strobel, Lee, “The Case for the Real Jesus,” Zondervan, 2007 p. 122,123
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