Question: James, brother of Jesus, son of Joseph.

Answer: The Bible tells us that Jesus was the son of Mary and God. While Mary was pregnant with Jesus by the Holy Spirit, she became the wife of Joseph.

    Matthew 1:20b-25 "Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins." 22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: 23 "The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel"-which means, "God with us." 24 When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. 25 But he had no union with her until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.

Many people thought that Jesus was Joseph's son as he was raised as such (Luke 3:23). Scripturally we know that Mary and Joseph had other children after Jesus (Mark 3:32-35). One of these was James, who saw Jesus after His resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:7) and subsequently believed in Him. James went on to be a leader in the early church (Galatians 1:19, 2:9, Acts 21:18).

    Matthew 13:53-57a Coming to his hometown, he began teaching the people in their synagogue, and they were amazed. "Where did this man get this wisdom and these miraculous powers?" they asked. 55 "Isn't this the carpenter's son? Isn't his mother's name Mary, and aren't his brothers James, Joseph, Simon and Judas? 56 Aren't all his sisters with us? Where then did this man get all these things?" 57 And they took offense at him.

The ossuary (bone storage box) pictured below is inscribed with "James son of Joseph brother of Jesus"

A majority of experts agree that the box and style of writing are authentic for the first century, so it certainly could be the box of the scriptural James. First century historian Josephus places James death at 62 A.D. when he was brought before the Sanhedrin and condemned. Later church history states that James was buried in Jerusalem. The skeptics, of course, claim that this box could be from any James, because these names were quite common in the first century around Jerusalem. The fact that the inscription states a brother's name helps confirm that this box is unique. It was quite normal to state a father's name, even as today we use a last name. It was quite rare for a brother's name to be mentioned unless the brother was an important or well known personage. Jesus certainly would have fit this bill for James!

Narrowing the field even more, (as determined by people who study name usage in late second temple period Jerusalem) the percentage chance of a person living in the first century, during the two generations prior to the destruction of the temple, having the name James, a father Joseph, and a brother Jesus, is 0.05 percent. Based on the estimated population of Jerusalem at that time, this leaves a mere 20 people – over two full generations – that would be a James son of Joseph and brother of Jesus. Getting back to how many of them would have had an important or prominent brother – enough so to inscribe his name on an ossuary (a rare thing for a brother) – it again points us back to believing that this was James whose faith and hope was in Jesus.