Blogs,  Vic Stanley

Five Minimal Facts Part IV: James The Brother of Jesus

Written by Victor Stanley Jr.

The Christian faith receives a great deal of criticism from the secular world on its claims of Jesus being God, and the savior of the world. While many agree that he was a ‘good’ teacher who died for his beliefs, they deny that he resurrected and is indeed the one true God. Dr. Gary Habermas, who is a leading theologian, apologist, and philosopher specializing in the historical Jesus, offers what he calls the “Minimal Facts approach to a critical study of the resurrection of Jesus.”[1]

These five minimal facts are used to establish the resurrection of Jesus as historical fact, and are as follows: Jesus died by crucifixion; Jesus’ disciples believed that he rose and appeared to them; The church persecutor Paul was suddenly changed; The skeptic James, brother of Jesus, was suddenly changed; and the tomb was empty. I will briefly explore each of these five points.[i]

Fourth is the conversion of Jesus’ brother James. James, and the rest of his family, initially did not believe in Jesus, as far as his claims of being God, and actually thought that he was a madman.

“[20] Then he [Jesus] went home, and the crowd gathered again, so that they could not even eat. [21] And when his family heard it, they went out to seize him, for they were saying, ‘He is out of his mind.’”[2]

“[1] After this Jesus went about in Galilee. He would not go about in Judea, because the Jews were seeking to kill him. [2] Now the Jews’ Feast of Booths was at hand. [3] So his brothers said to him, ‘Leave here and go to Judea, that your disciples also may see the works you are doing. [4] For no one works in secret if he seeks to be known openly. If you do these things, show yourself to the world.’ [5] For not even his brothers believed in him.”[3]

So we see that his family in the first passage, and specifically his brothers in the second passage thought that he was crazy, and they did not believe in what he claimed about himself. Yet, not only does James come to later believe in Jesus after seeing him in his resurrected body,[4] but he also became one of the most respected leaders in the Church, and the head of the church in Jerusalem.[5] So again we see a radical change take place in person, and that person claiming said change is based solely on the truth of the resurrection.

Still many criticize James’ conversion by saying that there are several people called James in the New Testament making it impossible to know if the one referenced is actually the brother of Christ except where it is specifically mentioned, such as Paul’s references to him. Some detractors also point out that while scripture says Jesus’ brothers did not believe in him, it never explicitly states that this included James, thus James may have always believed. These criticisms rely heavily on assumption and speculation, and deny the fact that the Early Church, and the Early Church Fathers affirmed that this was undoubtedly James the brother of Jesus.

[1] Gary Habermas, “The Minimal Facts Approach to the Resurrection of Jesus: The Role of Methodology as a Crucial Component in Establishing Historicity,” Southeastern Theological Review 3, no. 1 (Summer 2012): 15, Accessed November 19, 2014,

[2] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), Mark 3:20-21.


[3] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001) John 7:1-5.

[4] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), 1 Corinthians 15:3-8.

[5] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), Acts 15:13; Acts 21:18; Galatians 1:19; Galatians 2:9; Galatians 2:12.

[i] Disclaimer: While this is not by any means an exhaustive or even mildly in depth look into the argument from historical facts for the resurrection of Jesus, it does provide a brief overview. This overview of Dr. Habermas’ five minimal facts provides a starting point for anyone interested in seriously pursuing the research to grapple with and truly understand these facts and the evidence they provide for the veracity of the resurrection.

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