That James was likely Jesus’ biological brother.
That James was possibly among the twelve, and likely a supporter of Jesus before his death (and that Jesus’ family generally were likely supportive of his ministry)
That James was a very important figure in the Jerusalem church, and therefore in early Christianity
That James was a devout Jew, continued to worship in the Temple, and maintained good standing with the non-Christian Jewish community in Jerusalem
That there was real tension between Paul and the apostles, especially those associated with the Jerusalem church, and this tension was resolved in Paul’s favor only after the death of James and the sack of Jerusalem. This tension was chiefly due to Paul’s view of the Law.
That the Saducees were opposed to James because of his disapproval of Temple polity, a disapproval shared by Jesus.
The role of James (and the family of Jesus generally) was intentionally obscured in the canonical gospels, and the controversies with Paul were intentionally played down in Acts and, to some degree, in Paul’s epistles.
A friend from church lent me his copy of James the Brother of Jesus. Rather than review it properly, I’ll just list what the author tries to achieve in terms of my response to it.
Heading 1: Those items I felt the author achieved convincingly.
These are items which the author convinced me of or that I already accepted and found that he wrote convincingly of…
Heading 2: Those items I felt were inadequately argued, but toward which I entertain at least a somewhat sympathetic view…That James was a Pharisee That James upheld a very strict view of the Law, and was possibly a Nazirite That Jesus’ view was very similar to James’ in terms of mission and eschatology That Jesus was also a Pharisee. That James’ leadership and subsequent leadership of the Jerusalem church were held dynastically, corresponding to a more-or-less literal view of Jesus’ kingship. Jewish Christianity in the Diaspora, including the Ebionites and other so-called heretical sects of “Judaizers” are the remnants of the Jerusalem church and represent a more authentic Jesus tradition than does the “proto-orthodox” movement.
Heading 3: Those items which I feel are inadequately argued, and toward which I am quite suspicious…That Jesus’ view was very similar to James’ in terms of the Law, and that Jesus was also likely a Nazarite. That Jesus, knowing the fate of John the Baptist and being devoted to a similar mission, predicted his own death.
Heading 4: Unqualified statements, not argued per seAt least some among the disciples of Jesus during his life experienced or thought they experienced resurrection visitations. This is uncontroversial. That James and the Jerusalem church held a low and adoptionistic Christology, with higher Christology emerging in stages at a later time. This is controversial, but I believe as well or better founded in the evidence as any other. A quesiton of particular importance is how views of the Divinity of Jesus arose in a monotheistic Jewish culture. Several lines of evidence are currently under discussion that relate the origin of Jesus’ Divinity to certain Jewish notions of Divine Emanation, the bestowal of the Divine Name, and/or Angelic co-Divinity. I am inclined to think that adoptionistic Christology represents a form of this so-called “Two Powers” thinking, and that such thinking represents a first step (or two) in the direction of the Divinity of Jesus. No arguments in favor of a Two Powers interpretation of the Divinity of Jesus or in favor of adoptionism appear in the book.
Heading 5: Grand notions of the import of James scholarship to modern politics and religion… to say that I am skeptical of this is quite an understatement.Because Muhammed is likely to have encountered Jewish Christians in his travels and to have been influenced by them in his theology,a Jamesian (since “Jacobite” is taken) Christianity would represent common ground between Islam and Christianity. Since Jamesian Christianity was thoroughly Jewish, it represents a common ground between Christianity and Judaism. Since such common ground can exist, a revival of James can serve to bring together an ecumenical fellowship of Jews, Christians, and Muslims and bring peace to the modern world. Pollyanna would be proud. Pauline Christianity was the salvation of Jesus’ ethical message despite being unfaithful to it. Without Paul’s missionary work to the Gentiles and his insistence on eradicating barriers to their full fellowship, Christianity would not have survived the fall of Jerusalem and become a major world religion. Without Paul, the writings that do authentically represent Jesus would not be available to us today. While there is some truth to this, very similar ethical teachings from Hillel and other first century Jews would likely have survived, as would have those from other major religions that echo the progressive ethics shared by Jesus.
A couple of final notes… I found this book disappointingly haphazard on critical backgrounds for the texts, both canonical and extra-canonical, upon which it relies. Traditions are often cited with only the barest speculation about their provenance in historical reality, leaving one somewhat at a loss to evaluate the strength of the arguments they support. Furthermore, I was disappointed by the absence of mention of Marcion who existed at the anti-Jewish extreme of early Christianity, and whose interaction with the proto-orthodox might have been instructive. Lastly, I found that the book places too much importance on the (much later) Catholic doctrine of perpetual viriginity in explaining the New Testament treatment of Jesus’ family. I would not recommend this particular volume to anyone, but I would encourage anyone to try to get a better glimpse of James and the implications of his tradition for ancient Christianity.