James the Just

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James the Just

Icon of James
Martyr, Adelphotheos
Born unknown
Died 62, Jerusalem
Venerated in All Christianity
Canonized pre-congregation
Feast May 1 (October 23 in the Lutheran Church)
Attributes fuller's club; man holding a book
Controversy James is sometimes identified with James, son of Alphaeus and James the Less. There is disagreement about the exact relationship to Jesus.
Saints Portal

Saint James the Just (יעקב "Holder of the heel; supplanter"; Standard Hebrew Yaʿaqov, Tiberian Hebrew Yaʿăqōḇ, Greek Iάκωβος), also called James Adelphotheos, James, 1st Bishop of Jerusalem, or James, the Brother of the Lord[1] and sometimes identified with James the Less, (died AD 62) was an important figure in Early Christianity. According to tradition, he was the first bishop or Patriarch of Jerusalem, the author of the Epistle of James in the New Testament, and the first of the Seventy of Luke 10:1-20. Paul of Tarsus in Galatians 2:9 (KJV) characterized James as such: "... James, Cephas, and John, who seemed to be pillars..." He is described in the New Testament as a "brother of Jesus" and in the Liturgy of St James as "the brother of God" (Adelphotheos) (Philip Schaff: History of the Christian Church, chapter 4, section 29).


[edit] Name

James was called "the Just" because of his ascetic practices, which involved taking Nazarite vows. The name also helps distinguish him from other important figures in early Christianty, such as James, son of Zebedee.

He is sometimes referred to as "James Adelphos", i.e. "James the Brother of Jesus" (Greek : Iάκωβος ο Αδελφόθεος ), based on New Testament descriptions, though different interpretations of his precise relationship to Jesus developed based on later Christian beliefs about Mary, the mother of Jesus.

The name "James" could not have been James' actual name because it was translated from Ya'akov in Hebrew. Since there is no "J" sound in Hebrew, the name James was supposed to have been translated into Jacob. The translation of Ya'akov became James because it was first translated into Greek, which became Ιakovos (Iάκωβος), Jacobus latinised. The name Jacobus was then translated into Jacomus in Latin, then finally Jaime in Spanish. Finally, English translators changed that name into what we know as James. This means that James' actual name was Jacob. James' name was important in the genealogy of Jesus because he always appears first when someone lists Jesus' brothers and sisters, this means that James was the eldest brother of Jesus.

[edit] Life

The canonical writings of the New Testament, as well as other written sources from the early church, provide some insights into Saint James' life and his role in the early church. The Synoptics mention his name, but nothing else about him, whereas the Gospel of John and early chapters of the Acts of the Apostles do not even mention James.

Acts of the Apostles, in later chapters, provides evidence that James was an important figure in the Christian community of Jerusalem. When Peter, having miraculously escaped from prison, must flee Jerusalem, he asks that James be informed (12:17). When the Christians of Antioch are concerned over whether Gentile Christians need be circumcised to be saved, and they send Paul and Barnabas to confer with the Jerusalem church there, James played a prominent role in the formulation of the council's decision (15:13ff). Indeed, after Peter and Paul have made their case, it is James who finally delivers what he calls his "judgement"-- the original sense is close to "my ruling"-- and afterwards, all accept it. James, in other words, is shown in charge of the Jerusalem group, which conflicts with later claims of Peter's primacy there. And when Paul arrives in Jerusalem to deliver the money he raised for the faithful there, it is to James that he speaks, and who insists that Paul ritually cleanse himself at Herod's Temple to prove his faith and deny rumors of teaching rebellion against the Torah (21:18ff) (a charge of antinomianism).

Paul further describes James as being one of the persons the risen Christ showed himself to (1 Corinthians 15:3-8); then later in 1 Corinthians, mentions James in a way that suggests James had been married (9:5); and in Galatians, Paul lists James with Cephas (better known as Peter) and John, as the three "pillars" of the Church, and who will minister to the "circumcised" (in general Jews and Jewish Proselytes) in Jerusalem, while Paul and his fellows will minister to the "uncircumcised" (in general Gentiles). (2:9, 2:12). These terms (circumcised/uncircumcised) are generally interpreted to mean Jews and Greeks, who were predominant, however it is an oversimplification as 1st century Iudaea Province also had some Jews who no longer circumcised, and some Greeks (called Proselytes or Judaizers) and others such as Egyptians, Ethiopians, and Arabs who did.

In describing James ascetic lifestyle, Saint Jerome, De Viris Illustribus, quotes Hegesippus' account of James from the fifth book of Hegesippus' lost Commentaries:

"After the apostles, James the brother of the Lord surnamed the Just was made head of the Church at Jerusalem. Many indeed are called James. This one was holy from his mother's womb. He drank neither wine nor strong drink, ate no flesh, never shaved or anointed himself with ointment or bathed. He alone had the privilege of entering the Holy of Holies, since indeed he did not use woolen vestments but linen and went alone into the temple and prayed in behalf of the people, insomuch that his knees were reputed to have acquired the hardness of camels' knees."[2]

Since it was unlawful for any but the high priest of the temple to enter the Holy of Holies once a year on Yom Kippur, Jeromes quotation from Hegesippus indicates that James was considered a high priest. The Pseudo-Clementine Recognitions suggest this. [1]

[edit] Death

According to a passage in Josephus's Jewish Antiquities, (xx.9) "the brother of Jesus, who was called Christ, whose name was James" met his death after the death of the procurator Porcius Festus, yet before Lucceius Albinus took office (Antiquities 20,9) — which has thus been dated to 62. The High Priest Ananus ben Ananus took advantage of this lack of imperial oversight to assemble a Sanhedrin who condemned James "on the charge of breaking the law," then had him executed by stoning. Josephus reports that Ananus' act was widely viewed as little more than judicial murder, and offended a number of "those who were considered the most fair-minded people in the City, and strict in their observance of the Law," who went as far as meeting Albinus as he entered the province to petition him about the matter. In response, King Agrippa replaced Ananus with Jesus, the son of Damneus.

Though the passage in general is almost universally accepted as original to Josephus, some challenge the identification of the James whom Ananus had executed with James the Just, considering the words, "who was called Christ," a later interpolation. (See Josephus on Jesus.)

Eusebius, while quoting Josephus' account, also records otherwise lost passages from Hegesippus (see links below), and Clement of Alexandria (Historia Ecclesiae, 2.23). Hegesippus' account varies somewhat from what Josephus reports, and may have been an attempt to reconcile the various accounts by combining them. According to Hegesippus, the scribes and Pharisees came to James for help in putting down Christian beliefs. The record says:

They came, therefore, in a body to James, and said: "We entreat thee, restrain the people: for they are gone astray in their opinions about Jesus, as if he were the Christ. We entreat thee to persuade all who have come hither for the day of the passover, concerning Jesus. For we all listen to thy persuasion; since we, as well as all the people, bear thee testimony that thou art just, and showest partiality to none. Do thou, therefore, persuade the people not to entertain erroneous opinions concerning Jesus: for all the people, and we also, listen to thy persuasion. Take thy stand, then, upon the summit of the temple, that from that elevated spot thou mayest be clearly seen, and thy words may be plainly audible to all the people. For, in order to attend the passover, all the tribes have congregated hither, and some of the Gentiles also. (See Fragments from the Acts of the Church; Concerning the Martyrdom of James, the Brother of the Lord, from Book 5.)

To the scribes and Pharisees dismay, James boldly testified that Christ "Himself sitteth in heaven, at the right hand of the Great Power, and shall come on the clouds of heaven." The scribes and pharisees then said to themselves, "We have not done well in procuring this testimony to Jesus. But let us go up and throw him down, that they may be afraid, and not believe him."

Accordingly, the scribes and Pharisees

...threw down the just man... [and] began to stone him: for he was not killed by the fall; but he turned, and kneeled down, and said: "I beseech Thee, Lord God our Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do."
And, while they were thus stoning him to death, one of the priests, the sons of Rechab, the son of Rechabim, to whom testimony is borne by Jeremiah the prophet, began to cry aloud, saying: "Cease, what do ye? The just man is praying for us." But one among them, one of the fullers, took the staff with which he was accustomed to wring out the garments he dyed, and hurled it at the head of the just man.
And so he suffered martyrdom; and they buried him on the spot, and the pillar erected to his memory still remains, close by the temple. This man was a true witness to both Jews and Greeks that Jesus is the Christ.

Vespasian's siege and capture of Jerusalem delayed the selection of Simeon of Jerusalem, to succeed James.

Josephus' account of James' death is more credible because the Acts of Apostles doesn't mention anything about James after the year 60. Josephus, however, does not mention in his writings how James was buried, which makes it hard for scholars to determine what happened to James after his death.

[edit] Influence

Part of the series on
Jewish Christians

John the Baptizer
James the Just
Simeon of Jerusalem
Pillars of the Church
Patriarchs of Jerusalem
Symmachus the Ebionite

Early sects

Modern sects
Ebionite Jewish Community
Messianic Jews
Sacred Name Movement

Clementine literature
Gospel of Matthew
Gospel of the Ebionites
Gospel of the Hebrews
Gospel of the Nazoraeans
Epistle of James

Aramaic of Jesus
Aramaic name of Jesus
Christian Torah-submission
Council of Jerusalem
Sermon on the Mount


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The Epistle of James has been traditionally attributed to James the Just. A number of modern Biblical scholars, such as Raymond E. Brown, while admitting the Greek of this epistle is too fluent for someone whose mother tongue is Aramaic argue that it expresses a number of his ideas, either rewritten by a scribe or by a follower of James the Just. Other scholars, such as Luke Timothy Johnson and James Adamson, argue that the historical James could have had such fluency in Greek, and could conceivably have authored the Epistle himself.

Modern historians of the early Christian churches tend to place James in the tradition of Jewish Christianity; where Paul emphasized faith over observance of Mosaic Law, which he considered a burden, James is thought to have espoused the opposite position which is derogatively called Judaizing. One corpus commonly cited as proof of this are the Recognitions and Homilies of Clement (also known as the Clementine literature), versions of a novel that has been dated to as early as the 2nd century, where James appears as a saintly figure who is assaulted by an unnamed enemy some modern critics think may be Paul.

Robert Eisenman has set forth a thesis that James and the observant Christian Jews were marginalized by Paul and the Gentile Christians who followed him, a thesis that has been widely criticized for his recreation of the hostile skirmishes between Jewish and Pauline Christianity, relating his reconstruction to "proto-Christian" elements of the Essenes, as represented in the Dead Sea scrolls. Some of the criticism deconstructs as Pauline apologetics, but Eisenman is equally harsh on the Christians at Jerusalem, whom he portrays as a nationalistic, priestly and xenophobic sect of ultra-legal pietists.

Some scholars, such as Ben Witherington, believe that the conflict between these two positions has been overemphasized and that the two actually held quite similar beliefs.

Some apocryphal gospels testify to the reverence Jewish followers of Jesus (like the Ebionites) had for James. The Gospel of the Hebrews fragment 21 relates the risen Jesus' appearance to James. The Gospel of Thomas (one of the works included in the Nag Hammadi library), saying 12, relates that the disciples asked Jesus, "We are aware that you will depart from us. Who will be our leader?" Jesus said to him, "No matter where you come [from] it is to James the Just that you shall go, for whose sake heaven and earth have come to exist."

Fragment X of Papias refers to "James the bishop and apostle". Epiphanius' Panarion 29.4 describes James as a Nazirite.

The pseudepigraphical First Apocalypse of James associated with James's name mentions many details, some of which may reflect early traditions: he is said to have authority over the twelve Apostles and the early church; this work also adds, somewhat puzzlingly, that James left Jerusalem and fled to Pella before the Roman siege of that city in 70 CE. (Ben Witherington suggests what is meant by this was that James' bones were taken by the early Christians who had fled Jerusalem).

The Protevangelion of James (or "Infancy Gospel of James"), a work of the 2nd century, also presents itself as written by James — a sign that his authorship would lend authority — and so do several tractates in the codices found at Nag Hammadi.

[edit] Relationship to Jesus

Jesus' brothers—James as well as Jude, Simon and Joses—are unequivocally mentioned in Matthew 13:55, Mark 6:3 and, more equivocally, by Paul in Galatians 1:19. Even in the passage in Josephus' Jewish Antiquities (20.9.1) the Jewish historian describes James as "the brother of Jesus who is called Christ," though this passage has been suggested as an interpolation.[citation needed]

Paul refers to James, at that time the only prominent Christian James in Jerusalem, as an Apostle. In Galatians 1:18 – 19, Paul, recounting his conversion, recalls "Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to visit Cephas, and tarried with him fifteen days. But other of the apostles saw I none, save James the Lord's brother."

The relationship of James to Jesus has been rendered problematic to many Christians due to the belief that Jesus Christ was the Son of God, born of a Virgin. Hence many Christians believe James and the other brethren of Jesus therefore can at best be co-uterine half-brothers. (This is the view of most Protestants, who believe Mary and Joseph lived as a normal married couple after the birth of Jesus, as stated in Matthew 1:25.)

However, the problem has become further compounded by the developing dogma of the Perpetual Virginity of Mary. Following the belief that Mary's virginity continued even after the Virgin Birth (not directly attested in the canonic New Testament), Eastern Orthodoxy treats James as a step-brother, being the son of Joseph, but not Mary and instead by a previous wife of Joseph, unmentioned in canonical texts.

There are four possible relationships that James could have had with Jesus. James could have been the blood brother, half-brother, cousin or just a close friend of Jesus. First to explain how James could have been a blood brother of Jesus. When Mary gave birth to Jesus, she was supposedly a virgin. Mary and Joseph were assumed to have been devoute Jews which meant they followed the Law seriously. The Law stated that married couples were to be fruitful and have many children as long as they were not deformed in any way. Since Mary and Joseph were devote Jews, they would probably have had more children after Mary gave birth to Jesus, thus making James a blood brother of Jesus. The second possible relationship that James could have had with Jesus was James being the half brother of Jesus. If Mary had stayed a virgin after Jesus' birth, this would mean that James would not have been born by Mary. Joseph would have then have had a previous marriage before Mary and had children, thus James became a half-brother of Jesus, and all of Jesus' supposed brothers and sisters would have been half brothers and sisters to Jesus rather than full blood-siblings. The third possible relationship that James had with Jesus was James and Jesus were cousins because cousins were also known as "brothers" during Jesus' lifetime. The fourth possible relationship that James and Jesus could have had was none at all, and that "brother" just meant that James and Jesus were close friends or kins and just called each other "brothers". Although there are many possible relationships that James had with Jesus, James was generally known to have been the half-brother of Jesus because of Mary's prepetual virginity. If James was mentioned in the Bible with Jesus and their brothers and sisters, James was usually the first to appear, which meant that he was the oldest brother. After Jesus' death, James was one of the first to see Jesus resurrected because Jesus had appeared to his "brother".

Eusebius of Caesarea reports the tradition that James the Just was the son of Joseph's brother Clopas, and therefore was of the "brethren" (which he interpretes as "cousin") of Jesus described in the New Testament. The Greek word adelphos was not restricted to the literal meaning of a full brother in the Bible [2], a use still common today in Greece and other Balkan cultures. Jerome (died 420) argued vehemently (De Viris Illustribus, "On Illustrious Men") that James was merely a cousin to Jesus, the son of another Mary, the wife of Clopas and "sister" of Mary, the mother of Jesus, in the following manner:

"James, who is called the brother of the Lord, surnamed the Just, the son of Joseph by another wife, as some think, but, as appears to me, the son of Mary sister of the mother of our Lord of whom John makes mention in his book." Jerome's reference is to the scene of the Crucifixion in John 19:25.

Jerome's opinion suggests an identification of James the Just with James the Less. Despite this, some biblical scholars tend to distinguish them.

[edit] The ossuary

Main article: James Ossuary

In the November 2002 issue of Biblical Archaeology Review, André Lemaire of the Sorbonne University in Paris, published the report that an ossuary bearing the inscription Ya`aqov bar Yosef akhui Yeshua` ("James son of Joseph brother of Jesus") had been identified belonging to a collector, who quickly turned out to be Oded Golan, a forger posing as a collector. If authentic it would have been the first archaeological proof that Jesus existed aside from the manuscript tradition. It would also put Mary's perpetual virginity into question because James could have possibly been born by Mary, and this would mean that Mary hadn't stayed a perpetual virgin after Jesus' birth. The ossuary was exhibited at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto, Canada, late that year; however, on June 18, 2003, the Israeli Antiquities Authority published a report concluding that the inscription is a modern forgery based on their analysis of the patina. Specifically, it appears that the inscription was added recently and made to look old by addition of a chalk solution. Oded Golan has since been arrested and his forgery equipment and partially completed forgeries have been recovered. On December 29, 2004, Golan was indicted in an Israeli court along with three other men - Robert Deutsch, an inscriptions expert who teaches at Haifa University; collector Shlomo Cohen; and antiquities dealer Faiz al-Amaleh. They are accused of being part of a forgery ring that had been operating for more than 20 years. Golan denies the charges against him.

If the ossuary that supposedly belonged the James was indeed authentic, it would have meant that James would have been buried in a Jewish manner. The body would have first been left to decay then the bones would be gathered and placed into an ossuary. If the ossuary was authentic, then it would be evident that the people who buried James wanted to honour his name by writing on the ossuary that James was Jesus' brother and Joseph's son. But this is still being debated.

[edit] Notes

  1. ^ James as well as Jude, Simon and Joses — are mentioned in Matthew 13:55, Mark 6:3, and probably Acts 12:17. James alone is mentioned as a brother of Jesus by Paul in Epistle to the Galatians 1:19.
  2. ^ http://biblestudy.churches.net/CCEL/FATHERS/NPNF203/THEODORE/LETTERS/T62.HTM Jerome, Letters.

[edit] External links

[edit] Bibliography

  • Raymond E. Brown. An Introduction to the New Testament. New York: Doubleday, 1997. ISBN 0-385-24767-2
  • Robert Eisenman. James the Brother of Jesus: The Key to Unlocking the Secrets of Early Christianity and the Dead Sea Scrolls. New York: VikingPenguin, 1997. ISBN 0-670-86932-5
  • John Painter. Just James. Columbia: University of South Carolina, 1997 ISBN 1-57003-174-6
  • Hershel Shanks and Ben Witherington, The Brother of Jesus. New York: HarperSanFrancisco, 2003. ISBN 0-06-055660-9
  • Francis Watson. Paul, Judaism and the Gentiles. Cultural background.
  • Biblical Archaeology Review Articles in various issues in 2004 and 2005 concerning the ossuary.