Three logical guidelines support that James, the skeptic of Jesus, became a devoted follower of Jesus as the Messiah. Each guideline is discussed below. Each guideline is credible by itself, yet enhances the other two guidelines.
Guideline of Independent Attestation
The Guideline of Independent Attestation: requires us to have unique authors write about James, independent of each other. Eight independent authors are identified below:
- Independent Author of the gospel of Mark: identifies James by name as the brother of Jesus. "Isn't this the carpenter? Isn't this Mary's son and the brother of James, Joseph, Judas and Simon? Aren't his sisters here with us?" (Mark 6:3)
The gospel of Mark is considered to be the first synoptic gospel by most scholars. Since Matthew used Mark's gospel to write about James, only the synoptic gospel of Mark will be counted in the eight independently attested authors that wrote about James. (Luke did not write about James in the synoptic gospel).
In addition, the author of Mark reveals that the brothers and sisters of Jesus rejected him as the Messiah. Jesus said of them, "Only in his hometown, among his relatives and in his own house is a prophet without honor." (Mark 6:4)
- Independent Author of the gospel of John: identifies that Jesus has many brothers and sisters that are skeptics, though he does not cite them by name. "Jesus' brothers said to him, "You ought to leave here and go to Judea, so that your disciples may see the miracles you do. No one who wants to become a public figure acts in secret. Since you are doing these things, show yourself to the world." For even his own brothers did not believe in him. " (John 7:3-5)
Since the gospel of John is written independent of the synoptic gospels, it is another unique view of Jesus from the perspective of disbelieving family members.
- Independent Author of the book of Acts: identifies that Jesus' brothers being present on the day of Pentecost, though he does not cite them by name at this time. "They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers. " (Acts 1:14)
Since the book of Acts is unique to the New Testament, the author Luke gives another unique view of James.
In addition, Luke meets James face-to-face according to the book of Acts.
"The next day Paul and the rest of us (including Luke) went to see James, and all the elders were present" (Acts 21:18). Since Luke writes that he interviewed people who knew Jesus in person, it is certain that Luke met James face-to-face based Acts 21:18. This is why Luke begins his gospel by writing, "Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word. Therefore, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, it seemed good also to me to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus" (Luke 1:1-3).
- Independent Author Jude, another brother of Jesus: wrote the book of Jude and identifies James as his brother. "Jude, a servant of Jesus Christ and a brother of James" (Jude 1:1).
By the time that Jude wrote the book of Jude, his brother James had become the leader of the early Christians in Jerusalem.
- Independent Author, the Apostle Paul writes of meeting: James face-to-face on several occasions. "Then after three years, I went up to Jerusalem to get acquainted with Peter and stayed with him fifteen days. I saw none of the other apostles--only James, the Lord's brother" (Galatians 1:18-19)
Paul meets with James again about 14 years later. "Fourteen years later I went up again to Jerusalem, this time with Barnabas. " (Galatians 2:1)
Students of the book of Acts will acknowledge that Paul met with James again at the Jerusalem conference recorded in Acts 15 (~ AD 49) and prior to Paul's arrest as recorded in Acts 21 (~ AD 57).
- Independent Author, James wrote: the book of James and identifies himself. "James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ" (James 1:1).
- Independent non-Christian Author, Josephus: identifies James as being martyred for believing that Jesus is the Messiah about AD 62 in Antiquities 20.9.1, “…brother of Jesus, who was called Christ, whose name was James."
- Independent but Unknown Author credibly identifies: James by writing on the James ossuary, "James the son of Joseph the brother of Jesus."
Recent tests and analysis by Professor Krumbein, a world-renowned expert on geology, geochemistry and microbiology, supports the artifact is authentic. And probability calculations support that this is the ossuary of James at the 99.9997% confidence level. Although some may wish to dispute this view, the probability they are correct is only 3 chances in 1 million. It takes a lot more faith to believe that this is not James, the brother of Jesus as opposed to someone else. Finally, the identification of other biblical characters such as Caiaphas the high priest and Pontius Pilate supports that other New Testament characters will be verified by archaeological discoveries. It must also be noted that the writings of Josephus establish James, the brother of Jesus, as a historic character when Christianity began.
The written evidence recorded before the end of the 1st century gives us eight independent sources that support the existence of James, the brother of Jesus.
Guideline of Dissimilarity
The Guideline of Dissimilarity is about negative ideas or negative writing. If a person testifies against their interest, that testimony is likely to be true. For example, Jesus dying on the cross meets the criteria since it is a harmful expectation for Messiah.
In line with this idea, Jesus’ brothers and sisters being skeptics fit this criteria. In the gospels, James is identified as a skeptic of Jesus prior to Jesus' crucifixion. "...For even his own brothers did not believe in him. " (John 7:3-5)
Only after the resurrection did James accept Jesus as the Messiah. The Apostle Paul writes about James as a witness to the resurrection.
"For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James..."
(1 Corinthians 15:3-7)
The logical guideline of dissimilarity validates James as a skeptic that came to believe in Jesus despite unsurmountable doubt about his brother being the Messiah.
Consider this question: If your brother claimed to be the Messiah or some ethereal ideological person, would you believe in him?
Guideline of Contextual Credibility
The Guideline of Contextual Credibility relates to authors who wrote about Jesus as close as possible to when Jesus lived. Did the author know Jesus in person? Or did the author know people that knew Jesus in person?
In general, this limits the reliability of documents to the end of the 1st century. Authors that wrote about Jesus after 150 CE are too far removed from Jesus to have credibility (Muhammad lived 600 years after Jesus). Any tradition that does not fit into the early 1st century era would not be reliable.
For example, one of the last books of the Bible to be written was the gospel of John. In the early 20th century, hyper critical scholars thought that the gospel of John had to be written after 180 AD. However, the discovery of the John Rylands fragment dated John's gospel to as early as 117 AD. This archaeological find verified that numerous copies of the gospel of John had been in existence for decades. The gospel of John is now considered to have been written as early as AD 80.
In support of the earlier dates for authors writing New Testament books, Dr Colin Hemer logically concluded that the book of Acts was written by AD 62 due to how well Acts correlates to archaeological discoveries. The evidence supports that the gospels of Luke, Matthew and Mark would have been written earlier than AD 62.
Dr. Colin Hemer's dating method is based on data, not the hyper critical views of people who chose to evaluate biblical texts based on a preconceived philosophical bias.
Just as important, the non-Christian author, Josephus, wrote an eyewitness account of the Roman war with the Jews about AD 75. Antiquities of the Jews was published about AD 93, which contains information about Jesus, John the Baptist, James the brother of Jesus and many other New Testament characters.
How Credible is James?
Based on the evidence presented above, how certain can we be that James actually existed as a skeptical brother of Jesus that became a devout follower of the Messiah?
To evaluate the probability of James the brother of Jesus, I use a statistical tool referred to as a chi-square test of independence. This is the ideal tool since it is an enumeration statistical tool that simply adds up the number of items that would support the existence of James.
To use this tool, we must state a hypothesis that can be evaluated with known data. Then we can test whether the data supports if the hypothesis is true or false at a calculated confidence level.
Chi-Square Test of Independence
Some people will claim that James the brother of Jesus is simply a myth. Therefore, let's hypothesize by stating that "James the brother of Jesus is a myth due to no supporting evidence." Having made that statement as the hypothesis, we simply calculate a level of confidence that the hypothesis is true or false.
Since the hypothesis is "James the brother of Jesus is a myth due to no supporting evidence," we would expect to find zero evidence supporting that James the brother of Jesus actually existed.
This leads to a math-based problem in the chi-square test of independence. Since we are expecting zero events, we must be able to divide by zero, which is impossible. How can this problem be solved?
There is a viable math-based answer. Anytime the chi-square test of independence expects zero to be the answer, the inverse calculation must be done. Of course, the answer will need to be reversed when applied to the hypothesis after the calculation is done.
Since this method most likely confuses most people, I will walk through this problem with you by example. We expect zero items since the hypothesis is that James the brother of Jesus is a myth due to no supporting evidence. But the research of cited above reveals there are 8 credible independent authors, the negativity that James did not believe Jesus is the Messiah, and 8 independent sources written before the year 100. Therefore, we have a total of 17 items that support James the brother of Jesus actually existed. The inverse calculation would be the same as expecting 17 items, but finding zero items. Therefore, let's do the calculation using 17 as the expected value and zero as observed value, which is done below:
The chart above shows that we expected 17 items and observed zero. This yields the following values of 0 (Bottom Left Corner Above). The difference between the expected (+17) and observed (0) is +17units (Middle Column Above). The number +17 is squared to equal 289. The value of 289 is divided by the expected value of +17 to yield a chi-square value of +17 (Bottom Right Corner Above). What does the value of +17 mean?
This is where faith is required.
We can state that James the brother of Jesus was a real historic person at a probability level of 99.996% at the 95% confidence level. And it appears certain that James met with other New Testament characters such as Peter, Paul, Luke, John and all the apostles. In addition, the non-Christian author Josephus as well as the James ossuary serve to validate that James was the skeptical brother of Jesus.
But it does not prove the spiritual stories to be true.
This is where faith is required. We can state that James existed as the skeptical brother of Jesus and that James was martyred for his faith in Jesus as the Messiah. These events appear to be certain. However, the spiritual experiences of James are subjective and cannot be confirmed.
Nevertheless, the probability levels infer that James did in fact witness Jesus as the resurrected Messiah. The analysis done herein supports that biblical faith is credible. James the brother of Jesus did exist with about 4 chances in 100,000 that this would be false.