James the Just

James the Just

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.

Robert Eisenman argues that the popularity of James and the illegality of his death may have triggered the First Jewish-Roman War from 66 to 73 C.E.cite book| author = Eisenman, Robert| title = | publisher = Viking | year = 1997 | id = ISBN 1842930265]


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, as rewritten either 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, an antinomian disposition, 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. Scholar James D. G. Dunn has proposed that Peter was the "bridge-man" (i.e. the "pontifex maximus") between the two other "prominent leading figures": Paul and James the Just. ["The Canon Debate", McDonald & Sanders editors, 2002, chapter 32, page 577, by James D. G. Dunn: "For "Peter was probably in fact and effect the bridge-man" (pontifex maximus!) "who did more than any other to hold together the diversity of first-century Christianity." James the brother of Jesus and Paul, the two other most prominent leading figures in first-century Christianity, were too much identified with their respective "brands" of Christianity, at least in the eyes of Christians at the opposite ends of this particular spectrum. But Peter, as shown particularly by the Antioch episode in Gal 2, had both a care to hold firm to his Jewish heritage, which Paul lacked, and an openness to the demands of developing Christianity, which James lacked. John might have served as such a figure of the center holding together the extremes, but if the writings linked with his name are at all indicative of his own stance he was too much of an individualist to provide such a rallying point. Others could link the developing new religion more firmly to its founding events and to Jesus himself. But none of them, including the rest of the twelve, seem to have played any role of continuing significance for the whole sweep of Christianity—though James the brother of John might have proved an exception had he been spared." [Italics original] ]

Robert Eisenman and James Taborcite book| author = Tabor, James D. | title = The Jesus Dynasty: A New Historical Investigation of Jesus, His Royal Family, and the Birth of Christianity| publisher = Simon & Schuster | year = 2006| id = ISBN 0743287231] have set forth a thesis that James and the Nazorean 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 Judaism 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 Nazorean Jews 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.

Relationship to Jesus

Jesus' "brothers" — James as well as Jude, Simon and Joses — are mentioned in "Matthew" 13:55, "Mark" 6:3 and by Paul in "Galatians" 1:19. Since James' name always appears first in lists, this suggests he was the eldest among them.cite book| author = Tabor, James D. | title = The Jesus Dynasty: A New Historical Investigation of Jesus, His Royal Family, and the Birth of Christianity| publisher = Simon & Schuster | year = 2006| id = ISBN 0743287231] 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,".

Paul refers to James, at that time the only prominent Christian James in Jerusalem, as an Apostle, hence his identification by some with James, son of Alphaeus. 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."

While Christians believe that Jesus was, as the Son of God, born of a virgin, the relationship of James the Just to Jesus has been rendered difficult by the Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox belief in the Perpetual Virginity of Mary, the belief that Mary's virginity continued even after Jesus' birth.


The most commonly held belief by Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholics alike is that James was the stepbrother of Jesus. The Protevangelium of James assumes the Greek nature of Jewish practices during this period in history and says that Mary was betrothed to an older relative in order to preserve her virginity (he could not have had sex with her, it would have been incest; that Joseph already had children - James was already a boy when Jesus was born. The Protevangelium of James is one of the earliest documents (150 AD) and although it was not included in scripture, its traditional testimony was accepted by the early church.

Full brother

It is believed by some that the Jews living in Jerusalem in Christ's time still adhered to the Mosaic Law, which advised married couples to be fruitful and have many children and that this would indicate, assuming Mary and Joseph were devout Jews, that they would have had more children after Mary gave birth to Jesus, thus making James a full brother of Jesus assuming Jesus was the biological son of Joseph, and not miraculously incarnated.


For proponents of the doctrine of Jesus' virgin birth, the claim that James may have been a full brother of Jesus is unacceptable; at most James and the other brethren of Jesus would have been co-uterine half-brothers. This is the view of most Protestants, who believe Mary and Joseph lived as a sexually active married couple after the birth of Jesus, as they believe is stated in Matthew 1:25.

A variant on this is presented by James Taborcite book| author = Tabor, James D. | title = The Jesus Dynasty: A New Historical Investigation of Jesus, His Royal Family, and the Birth of Christianity| publisher = Simon & Schuster | year = 2006| id = ISBN 0743287231] , argues that, after the early and childless death of Joseph, Mary married Clopas, whom he accepts as a younger brother of Joseph, according to the Levirate law. According to this view Clopas fathered James and the later siblings but not Jesus, who whilst legally adopted by Joseph, is presumed to be the product of an earlier pre-marital coupling, possibly with Panthera.

Crossan suggested that he was probably Jesus' older brother. [John Dominic Crossan. "Jesus: A Revolutionary Biography", 1994, ISBN 0-06-061662-8]

Other relationships

Those who assert that James and his brethren are not full or half-siblings of Jesus (the Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox and some Protestant churches) point out that Aramaic and Hebrew tended to use circumlocutions to point out blood relationships; it is asserted that just calling some people "brothers of Jesus" would not have necessarily implied the same mother. [http://www.catholic.com/library/Brethren_of_the_Lord.asp Brethren of the Lord] , Roman Catholic.] [http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/02767a.htm - Catholic Encyclopedia, "The Brethren of the Lord"] ] Rather, something like "sons of the mother of Jesus" would have been used to indicate a common mother. Scholars and theologians who assert this point out that Jesus was called "the" son of Mary" rather than "a" son of Mary" in his hometown (Mark 6:3).

piritual brother

According to the apocryphal First Apocalypse of James, James is not the earthly brother of Jesus, but a spiritual brother.


James could also have been cousin to Jesus, along with the other named "brethren". This is justified by the claim that cousins were also called "brothers" and "sisters" in Jesus' postulated native language, Aramaic; it and Hebrew do not contain a word for "cousin". Furthermore, the Greek words "adelphos" and "adelphe" were not restricted to their literal meaning of a full brother or sister in the Bible; nor were their plurals. This use is still common in Greece and other Balkan cultures. This assumes that the Middle Eastern authors' usage of Greek reflects their way of speaking. The tradition of considering cousins as brothers or sisters is still evident in most Eastern cultures; in some languages the term "cousin" does not even exist.

Eusebius of Caesarea (c. 275 – 339) reports the tradition that James the Just was the son of Joseph's brother Clopas, and therefore was of the "brethren" (which he interprets as "cousin") of Jesus described in the New Testament.

This is echoed by Jerome (c. 342 – 419) in "De Viris Illustribus" ("On Illustrious Men") - James is said to be the son of "another" Mary - the wife of Clopas, and the "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 refers to the scene of the Crucifixion in John 19:25, where three Marys - the mother of Jesus, Mary of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene - are said to be witnesses. John also mentions the "sister" of the mother of Jesus, often identified with Mary of Clopas due to grammar. Mary "of Clopas" is often interpreted as Mary "wife of Clopas". Mary of Nazareth and Mary of Clopas also need not be literally sisters, in light of the usage of the said words in Greek, Hebrew and Aramaic.

Mary of Clopas is suggested to be the same as "Mary, the mother of James the younger and Joses", "Mary the mother of James and Joseph" and the "other Mary" in Jesus' crucifixion and post-resurrection accounts in the Synoptic Gospels. Proponents of this identification argue that the writers of the Synoptics would just have called this Mary the mother of Jesus if she was indeed meant to be the mother of Jesus, given the importance of her son's crucifixion and resurrection. These proponents find it odd that Mary would be referred to by her biological children other than Jesus at such a significant time (James happens to be the brother of one Joses, as spelled in Mark, or Joseph, as in Matthew). [This position is articulated in footnotes of the "Christian Community Bible", published by Claretian Communications (Roman Catholic) [http://www.amazon.com/dp/8428520496 Amazon.com link] ]

Jerome's opinion suggests an identification of James the Just with the Apostle James, son of Alphaeus; "Clopas" and "Alphaeus" are thought to be different Greek renderings of the Aramaic name "Halpai". Despite this, some biblical scholars tend to distinguish them; this is also not Roman Catholic dogma, though a traditional teaching.

Since this Clopas is, according to Eusebius, Joseph of Nazareth's brother (see above) and this Mary is said to be Mary of Nazareth's sister, James could be related to Jesus by blood and law.

This view of James-as-cousin gained prominence in the Roman Catholic Church, displacing the "stepbrother" view to an extent. Roman Catholics may choose for themselves whether James was a stepbrother or cousin of Jesus, since either could be true.

Vaguely related

Also, Jesus and James could be related in some other way, not strictly "cousins", following the non-literal application of the term "adelphos" and the Aramaic term for "brother". Being close blood relatives, James and his kin could have been treated as brothers to Jesus anyway.

The 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. If authentic it would have been the first archaeological proof that Jesus existed aside from the manuscript tradition. There is no mention of Jesus' and James' mother. 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.

In summary Myllykoski wrote "The authenticity and significance of the ossuary has been defended by Shanks (2003), while many scholars — relying on convincing evidence, to say the least — strongly suspect that it is a modern forgery." [Myllykoski, Matti (2007), "James the Just in History and Tradition: Perspectives of Past and Present Scholarship (Part II)", Currents in Biblical Research; 6; 11,p.84, DOI: 10.1177/1476993X07080242 ]


External links

* [http://www.dammarilys.com/comm/jacob_en.html James the Just, Cleopas'companion]
* [http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/text/hegesippus.html "The martyrdom of James, the brother of the Lord"] Quotes from lost writings of Hegesippus in Eusebius.
* [http://www.studylight.org/his/bc/wfj/antiquities/view.cgi?book=20&chapter=9 Flavius Josephus "Antiquities of the Jews" Book 20, Chapter 9]
* [http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/2708.htm Jerome, "De Viris Illustribus"] ch.2, the second chapter, directly following Simon Peter.
* [http://earlychristianwritings.com/text/papias.html Fragments of Papias]
* [http://www.catholic.com/library/Brethren_of_the_Lord.asp Catholic Answers: The Brethren of the Lord]
* [http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/08280a.htm Catholic Encyclopedia: St. James the Less] , whom this article identifies as James the Just
* [http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/02767a.htm Catholic Encyclopedia: The Brethren of the Lord]
* [http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/view.jsp?artid=145&letter=J&search=James%20the%20Just Jewish Encyclopedia: James]
* [http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/hcc1.i.IV_1.27.html Schaff's History of the Christian Churchon James, section 27]
* [http://www.depts.drew.edu/jhc/RPeisenman.html Robert M. Price's extended review of Eisenman, 1997]
* [http://encyclopedia.jrank.org/INV_JED/JAMES_Gr_IlrKwl3or_the_Heb_Yaak.html James] in the 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica
* [http://www.christusrex.org/www1/ofm/sbf/escurs/Ger/07santuarioGiacomoBig.jpgTraditional site of the Martyrdom of St. James] in the Armenian church of St. James in Jerusalem (photo)


* 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.

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