22 Jan 2013 
#37 All about "the brothers of the Lord” in 1 Corinthians 9:5. Updated from OHJ

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Let's first examine1 Corinthians 9:4-7a NRSV:
“Do we not have the right to our food and drink? Do we not have the right to be accompanied by a believing wife, as do the other apostles and the brothers of the Lord and Cephas? Or is it only Barnabas and I who have no right to refrain from working for a living? Who at any time pays the expenses for doing military service?”

A) Comments:

a) I think
“a believing wife” does not make sense, because Paul was not married: then why did he complain about being unable to travel with a wife if he had none? I also object for “a sister as wife” (as also proposed by the NRSV) because that would look rather suspicious in case of a married man. What's left is “a sister, a wife” (as showing in some translations) with “sister” probably meaning a believing woman, not necessarily a blood relative. Of course, a married man would be expected to travel with his wife, but the others with a “sister”. The later one was likely most useful as a servant and that's probably the main reason why she would be a travel companion.

b) Who would be
“the Lord”? God or Jesus? Considering the previous mention of “Lord” is in 9:1 “Jesus Christ our Lord”, only four verses earlier, “Lord” applies most likely to Jesus.
Could members of a Jewish cult or sect be called
“brothers of the Lord”? Hardly so, because that would be understood as brothers of God, highly pretentious and outrightly heretical, probably calling for severe persecutions from other Jews.

c) Who were these “brothers of the Lord”? They were travelling, with either a wife or a “sister” and according to the context of 9:5, they probably did not have to work for a living. We can safely assume their travel would bring them in the same places as for
“the other apostles” (Paul & helpers and possibly Barnabas not among those!) and “Cephas”(Peter), that is Christian communities (such as Corinth), from where they would be paid (including for the added  expenses due to the accompanying “sister” or wife). “Cephas” & Paul were not among these “brothers”, who also, most likely, did not belong to “the other apostles”

But if these “brothers of the Lord” were not apostles, why would they be in demand in the Christian emerging world? Considering Jesus is described as having been human in the Pauline epistles (see here and  here and here and here and here and here and here) the most natural and obvious solution is they were blood brothers of Jesus (largely confirmed by Mark's gospel (and others) and Josephus' James' passage in Ant. XX (more here)).

B) Doherty's interpretation in 'Jesus: Neither God Nor Men' (JNGNM):

On pages 60-62, Doherty notes that “sister” in 1 Cor 9:5, because it refers “to a female member of the sect”, would render “the brothers of the Lord” as (only) members of the same sect. He also stresses that everywhere else in the Pauline epistles, “brother(s)” means essentially Christian(s) (my note: but the expression “brother(s) of the Lord” appears only here and in Gal 1:19 for “James”). The rest seems to me just rambling, imagining ("the Jerusalem sect known to Paul began a number of years earlier as a monastic group calling itself "brothers of the Lord" (possibly meaning God)", and digressions (mostly on Gal 1:19), which, at best, could bring some doubt but, in any way, would not prevent these “brothers of the Lord” to be considered blood relatives.

Remark: it is true (except for 1 Cor 9:5 & Gal 1:19) “brother(s)" does not mean blood relative(s) in Paul's letters. But “his sister” in Ro 16:15 is Nereus' own sibling. So Paul was not against using “sister” (therefore “brother” also when he had the opportunity) as blood relative.

C) Carrier's views on “brothers of the Lord” are different of Doherty's:

“Since all baptized Christians were the adopted sons of God, just as Jesus was (Romans 1:3-4), Jesus was only “the first born among many brethren” (Romans 8:29)
[see my post #80 against that notion], which means all Christians were the brothers of the Lord (Ref:  here)
Let's see if that definition fits 1 Cor 9:5 (where I replaced “brothers of the Lord” by “Christians”):
“Do we not have the right to our food and drink? Do we not have the right to be accompanied by a believing wife [a "sister", a wife], as do the other apostles and the Christians and Cephas? Or is it only Barnabas and I who have no right to refrain from working for a living? Who at any time pays the expenses for doing military service?”

However Carrier assumes "the brothers of the Lord" in 1 Cor 9:5 are not all Christians, but only those travelling on church business, as carrying messages or letters from one church to another. But would "the brothers of the Lord" be a proper expression to describe those?

Simply "brothers" could have been enough (with the context suggesting travelers on church business) or, more accurately, "helpers in Christ" or "fellow workers in Christ". Anyway "the brothers of the Lord" is a very misleading appellation to indicate lesser Christians, which Paul never used for his own messengers, helpers or Christians.

See also my other arguments against Carrier's views on the matter in my posts #80 & #81 & #93.

Here is an extract on the topic from Carrier's "On The Historicity Of Jesus" (pages 586-587):

"Likewise, by mentioning Cephas. Paul clearly assumes the Corinthians understood Cephas (i.e. Peter) and himself to be equals and deserving of equal rights. Paul assumes this elsewhere, toe (1 Cor. 1.12 and 3.22). Probably Cephas was known to frequently travel with his wife (more so than other apostles Paul might have named).
In any case, what is required for Paul's argument is that Cephas and Paul were of equal rank, and thus whatever Cephas got, the Corinthians would be forced to agree Paul should get. Otherwise Paul could not use Cephas to make this argument. And the same entails that Paul cannot mean the biological, brothers of Jesus: for how could Paul expect the Corinthians to assume he was the equal of even the Lord's own family? Unless the Corinthians would already have agreed that their being his family gained them no special privi­leges —but then, if that were the case, why would Paul single them out as an example?
Thus, Paul's argument here would make no sense if he was talking about the family of Jesus. But it makes perfect sense if he was talking about Christians as a whole, and especially Christians of lower rank than himself."


I do not see why the blood brothers of Jesus would be considered superior to Paul & Cephas. If superiosity is not OK, why would inferiory is? See next:
Carrier turns around and claims "the brothers of the Lord" were Christians of lower rank.
And why would Paul single out blood brothers of Jesus out as example? Rather dumb question; the answer is obvious: because those were travelling with "a sister" or wife, all paid for by the visited Christian communities.

I cannot understand the logic of his argument (spread over six pages of OHJ!), which looks very weak at best.

Cordially, Bernard

Tags: {1 Corinthians} {brother(s)} {brothers of the Lord} {Carrier} {Carrier's OHJ} {Doherty} {earthly & human Jesus} {mythicism}
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