James, Brother of Jesus

  • Author: Pierre-Antoine Bernheim
  • Pub. Year: 1997
  • Language: English
  • Pages: 340
  • ISBN-10: 0334026954
  • ISBN-13: 9780334026952
  • Format: PDF*

James, the brother of Jesus, is a figure largely unknown to the majority of Christians. Doctrinally, the existence of a physical brother of Jesus — if this is what James was — is to say the least, an embarrassment. Furthermore, how he came to be head of the Jerusalem church so soon after the death of Jesus is shrouded in mystery. All this makes him a fascinating subject for a full-length study, all the more so since any attempt to answer the questions surrounding him necessarily leads to a wider investigation: of the nature of Judaism at the time of the birth of Christianity, of the person and message of Jesus, and of the earliest church. Here more attention than usual has to be paid to the perspectives of those who did not eventually come out on top and write the official Christian history.

Pierre-Antoine Bernheim is an expert and sure guide on all these questions, combining almost the style of a mystery writer with a clear grasp of the evidence and the results of wide research. He has a touch which many scholars can only envy. Those who have grown weary of the dullness of so much of current New Testament study and appreciate historical puzzles can for once simply sit back and enjoy following a great story-teller whose conclusions have serious implications, for all the lightness with which they are presented.

Most helpful reviews


By artyvaughan@yahoo.co.uk

Seldom have I enjoyed a book as much as I enjoyed this one. So much so that I feel compelled to reverse my prejudices and offer this on-line review. Pierre-Antoine Bernheim’s erudition and eloquence make this one the most gripping, surprising and rewarding histories that I have read in recent years. Jesus’s brother, James, for centuries reduced to a footnote in the history of Christianity, is brought to life with consumate skill by this author. Sifting through every shred of available evidence, Pierre-Antoine Bernheim manages to get closer than any exegete in our history to finding the answers to one of Christianity’s most elusive historical puzzles. Who was James, described by St Paul as “the brother of Lord”? Was he effectively first pope of the Christian Church shortly after the crucifixion? Was he even one of Jesus’ disciples? Why was he killed? What was his relationship like with Jesus? Why does the Catholic Church in particular play down the role of this seminal Christian? What makes a Jew? What does epipasm mean? Bernheim finds the answers to these and a thousand similar puzzles, writing in fluent prose, (beautifully translated from the original French by John Bowden), with an energy that never flags. As a scholar Bernheim leaves not a stone unturned in his exhaustive quest for the truth. He gives a fair hearing to all sides of all arguments. As a writer he ensures that this is a reading treat which can be enjoyed by anyone who feels the slightest atom of curiosity about the extraordinary historical enigmas of Jesus Christ and the early Christian church. What a feat! Bravo Bernheim!

A fresh look at the origins of the Christian Church

By Annabelle Whitestone

James, commonly knon as the Lord’s brother, has remained an elusive historical figure. New Testament and early Christian traditions suggest that he was the son of Mary and Joseph. However, he is often portrayed as Christ’s cousin to preserve the ideal of Mary’s virginity. Pierre-Antoine Bernheim has written a lively and well researched biography of this controversial character who played a crucial role, alongside Peter, in the early Church in Jerusalem. This book challenges our previous understanding of the origins of the Christian Church through the life of this enigmatic man who was almost written out of history.

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