From Mocker to Martyr: The Unlikely Conversion of James the Brother of Jesus

For many years, James, the brother of Jesus, was all but neglected when it came to biblical scholarship. Around four decades ago, a resurgence of serious inquiry began concerning James. Since that time, a considerable amount of scholarly material has been published about him, including a possible connection between James and a first-century ossuary box that bears his name. But one aspect of James’s life has not enjoyed such widespread discussion, namely, his conversion. The reason his conversion has been ignored is because there is so little prominent information that is available. The only clear glimpse afforded to us comes from Jesus appearing to James in 1 Corinthians 15:7, which most scholars believe is the turning point. However, highly respected scholars have challenged this notion. As a result, renown resurrection scholars, Gary Habermas and Michael Licona have proposed that the conversion of James needs to be explained.

This work seeks to offer plausible reasons that Jesus’s appearance to James was the critical turning point in his life from a possible skeptical mocker of his brother to a loyal and faithful martyr. Given the paucity of data to come to concrete conclusions, reasonable inferences drawn from religious and sociological first-century realities must be employed to present this thesis as the best possible explanation for the conversion of James.

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