Useful Bible Studies > 1 Corinthians Commentary > chapter 15

James, the brother of Jesus

1 Corinthians 15:7

Paul writes that, after Jesus’ death, a man called James saw Jesus alive. The name James (which is actually the same name as Jacob) was a common name in Israel. Two of Jesus’ special students, that is, the disciples, had this name (Mark 3:17-18).

However, it seems quite likely that Paul actually refers to James, the brother of Jesus (Mark 6:3). Paul refers to this James in a similar manner in Galatians 1:19 and Galatians 2:12.

We know that James was worried about Jesus originally. (See John 7:5 and compare Mark 3:21 with Mark 3:31.) Even at Jesus’ death, it seems that James was not present to look after Mary, their mother (John 19:26-27).

However, when Jesus became alive again, there was a great change in James’ life. In Acts 1:14, he had already joined the first Christians, even before they had received the Holy Spirit. Afterwards, he became an important leader of the church in Jerusalem (Acts 15:13-21; Galatians 1:19).

The most likely explanation of this change in James’ life is that James met Jesus. James himself saw that Jesus, his brother, was alive. That is what Paul seems to say here.

It was not only James whose life changed because of these events. In 1 Corinthians 15:5, Paul told us that the disciples saw Jesus. Then, he refers to them simply as ‘the twelve’. In 1 Corinthians 15:7, he mentions the same men, but his word for them has changed. He now calls them ‘the apostles’. The word ‘apostle’ means someone whom a master sends to carry out an important task. Paul was careful not to call them ‘apostles’ before Jesus sent them to declare God’s good news. However, before Jesus left them, he gave these men that important task (Matthew 28:19-20; Mark 16:15; Acts 1:8). In other words, Jesus made them into apostles.

Next part: Paul met the living Christ (1 Corinthians 15:8-9)


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© 2014, Keith Simons.