34 Ibid., pp. 95–96.
35 Ibid., pp. 53, 85.
36 See Rom. 16:7; 1 Cor. 1:12; 3:22; 9:5; 2 Cor. 11:4–5; 12:11; 1 Thess. 2:4–7. 37 Ibid., p. 85.
Initially, it does no good (and Martin does not suggest it) to assert that Paul believeditems like the resurrection appearances and their proximity to the life of Jesus but that he was mistaken. Although we can argue forcefully against the latter point, it is not the issue here. As Martin says in the words just quoted, the question is precisely whether Paul believed the proximity of these events. So how does Martin answer this material?
He does not really explain the connection between Paul and contemporary apostle-eyewitnesses like Peter and John, or the other apostles. But he does challenge the claim that the James that Paul knew was really the brother of Jesus. Repeating what he terms the “plausible” suggestion of Wells, Martin postulates that, since there were factions in the early church who favored Paul, Apollos, or Peter, “there may well have been one at Jerusalem called the brethren of the Lord, who would have had no more personal experience of Jesus than Paul himself.”^38 Later, Martin confidently asserts that “it is dubious that ‘James the Lord’s brother’ means ‘James, Jesus’ brother.”^39 Thus, James would have been the member of a Christian faction called “the brethren of the Lord” that had no physical, familial relation to Jesus!
Having already discussed this suggestion by Wells, we will only summarize our response here. Several decisive problems that plague this interpretation include the most natural way of understanding Paul in Galatians 1:19 and 1 Corinthians 9:5, the testimony of all four Gospel writers, Josephus (who calls James “the brother of Jesus, who was called Christ”^40 ), as well as the lack of any ancient evidence to support Wells’ position.
One gets the distinct impression in reading the dubious interpretations of Wells and Martin that the point is not to fairly explain Paul’s meaning, but to say anything in order to avoid the clear meaning of the texts. The reason in this instance is plain. If James is the actual brother of Jesus, then this defeats the supposition that Jesus could have lived much earlier and still be believed by early Christians to have appeared in the first century. But the sense of special pleading here is strong. Martin himself appears to recognize the weakness of Wells’ position when he adds: “Wells’s interpretation may seem ad hoc and arbitrary.”^41 I think most scholars would agree, and for reasons such as these.^42
38 Wells as cited by Martin, Case Against Christianity, p. 55.
39 Ibid., p. 92.
41 Martin, Case Against Christianity, p. 55.
42 In a discussion about what can be known of Jesus’ life, even Helmut Koester lists James as one of Jesus’ brothers (p. 73). Concerning Peter, he asserts “it cannot be doubted that Peter was a personal disciple of Jesus . . . .” (p. 164). Of further interest, Koester remarks about a first century dating for Jesus: “It is certain, however, that Jesus was arrested while in Jerusalem for the Passover, probably in the year 30, and that he was executed” (p. 76). (The italics in both quotations above have been added.) Helmut Koester, Introduction to the New Testament, vol. 2 (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1982).
2.The dating of the Gospels