What Do Historians Say About James, the Supposed Brother of Jesus?


Quick Answer

Historians say that James, the supposed brother of Jesus, is both a brother and an apostle of Jesus and that he died by stoning at the hands of Jewish religious leaders. Historians also believe that James is the author of the Bible book of James.

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Historians say that James is one of several children of Mary and Joseph. Historians disagree as to whether James is a natural child born to Mary and Joseph or if he is Joseph's son from a prior marriage. Other historians believe that James is only Jesus' cousin.

The Bible book of John says that in Jesus' early life, Jesus' brothers consider him insane rather than the Christ. Later though, James becomes one of Jesus' disciples. James travels with Jesus to Capernaum after the wedding at Cana. James goes on to lead the early church in Jerusalem, according to historian Hegesippus of the second century. As part of his work, James meets with the apostle Paul.

James' literary work, the book of James, focuses on how to endure suffering in life. James encourages readers to ask God for confidence in order to endure trials. He goes on to say that trials develop character and perseverance.

James tells readers not to blame God for life's trials. In addition to death by stoning, Eusebius, a fourth-century historian, reports that church leaders throw James from a tall height at the temple before his stoning, and that a hit in the back of the head by a heavy club causes his death. Modern historians believe that survivors might have interred James' bones in a limestone box.

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