Gnostic Doctrine

Tuesday, 4 May 2021

James the Just

 James the Just, Apostle Brother of Jesus 

James (Ya'aqov) the Just was the Apostle brother of Jesus (Yeshua) the Nazarene who became the leader of the early Jewish-Christian community in Jerusalem. James and the other brothers initially didn't approve of Jesus' ministry. But they did become followers later, and were members of the early community of believers who lived in Jerusalem after Jesus departed. 

James was one of the three Apostles who were always with the Savior in the most intimate moments of His inner life and exaltation (James, John and Peter). Among the three he was the more learned on the formal side. James and the other early followers in Jerusalem still regarded themselves as Jewish and followers of The Way taught by Jesus. They worshiped regularly in the main Jewish Temple, and continued to adhere to many of the old Jewish laws and traditions. Outsiders regarded them as a new Jewish sect and refered to them as Nazarenes.

After Paul began to convert non-Jews to the faith, a dispute arose over whether these new converts had to follow the old Jewish religious laws and traditions. Around 48 CE, Paul traveled to Jerusalem to try to resolve the issue. According to the Canonical 'Book of Acts', it was James who made the final decision. The fact that James made the final decision indicates that at this time he was the highest authority in the existing Christian community in Jerusalem. 

According to Apostolic tradition, James was the author of the Canonical 'Epistle of James.'

Further evidence for the importance of his role was uncovered hidden in a cave in Egypt in 1945, with the discovery of 13 leather-bound codices containing 52 Apocryphal treatises buried in a sealed jar. Written in Coptic and Greek during the 3rd and 4th centuries the leather-bound codices became known as 'The Nag Hammadi Scriptures.' A passage found in 'The Gospel of Thomas', indicates that Jesus designated his brother James to take over the leadership after he departed. And 'The Secret Book of James' (Apocryphon of James) a letter attributed to James of esoteric revelations which Jesus made only to Peter and himself. Singled out at a time when the Apostles were together writing down their books of what they remembered of Christs words and life. 

But ultimately the overall leadership gradually shifted from James to Paul. This happened because the number of converts in other cities grew rapidly, and soon far outnumbered the members of the original group in Jerusalem. James died in 62 AD, as a result of conflicts with the Jewish authorities in Jerusalem. According to the 1st century Roman Jewish historian Flavis Josephus, a Jewish council condemned him 'on the charge of breaking the law,' then had him executed by stoning. Another account of James' death was reported by 3rd-4th century early Christian historian Eusebius of Caesarea. It says that the Pharisees, upset by his teachings, threw him from the summit of the Temple, stoned him, then broke his skull with a fuller's club. 

In 2002 an ancient ossuary (stone box which Jews used as a storage vessel for the bones of dead relatives) was discovered in Jerusalem bearing an Aramiac inscription 

'Ya'aqov bar Yosef akhui Yeshua' 

(James son of Joseph brother of Jesus) 

The ossuary was discovered empty and dates between the 1st century BC and 70 CE. And currently belongs to a private antiquities collector, its authenticity is still being questioned. If aithentic as indicated, the inscription would be the earliest surviving written reference to Jesus (Yeshua) the Nazarene. 

~“The Lord imparted the gnosis (knowledge) to James the Just, to John and Peter, after His Resurrection these delivered it to the rest of the Apostles, and they to the Seventy.”

-Clement of Alexandria

~"We are aware that you will depart from us, who will be our leader?"

Jesus answered "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." 

-The Gospel of Thomas

~You have asked me to send you a secret book revealed to Peter and me by the master, and I could not turn you down, nor could I speak to you, so I have written it in Hebrew and have sent it to you, and to you alone. But since you are a minister of the salvation of the saints, try to be careful not to reveal to many people this book that the savior did not want to reveal even to all of us, his twelve students. Nonetheless, those who will be saved through the faith of this treatise will be blessed.

~Now, the twelve students were all sitting together, recalling what the savior had said to each of them, whether in a hidden or an open manner, and organizing it in books. I was writing what is in my book. Look, the savior appeared, after he had left us, while we were watching for him. Five hundred fifty days after he rose from the dead, we said to him, 

“Did you depart and leave us?”

Jesus said, “No, but I shall return to the place from which I came. If you want to come with me, come.”

They all answered and said, 

“If you order us, we shall come.”

He said, “I tell you the truth, no one will ever enter the kingdom of heaven because I ordered it, but rather because you yourselves are filled. Leave James and Peter to me that I may fill them.”

When he called the two of them, he took them aside and commanded the rest to keep doing what they were doing.

~Again after this we wished to send our spirits up to the majesty. When we ascended, we were not allowed to see or hear anything. The other students called to us and asked us, 

“What did you hear from the teacher? What did he tell you? Where did he go?”

We answered them, “He ascended. He gave us his right hand, and promised all of us life. He showed us children coming after us, having commanded us to love them, since we are to be saved for their sakes.”

When they heard this, they believed the revelation, but they were angry about those who would be born. Not wishing to give them reason to take offense, I sent each of them to a different location. I myself went up to Jerusalem, praying that I might acquire a share with the loved ones who are to come.

I pray that the beginning may come from you. This is how I can be saved. They will be enlightened through me, by my faith, and through another’s that is better than mine. I wish mine to be the lesser.

-The Secret Book of James

~But after Paul, in consequence of his appeal to Cæsar, had been sent to Rome by Festus, the Jews, being frustrated in their hope of entrapping him by the snares which they had laid for him, turned against James, the brother of the Lord, to whom the episcopal seat at Jerusalem had been entrusted by the apostles.The following daring measures were undertaken by them against him.

Leading him into their midst they demanded of him that he should renounce faith in Christ in the presence of all the people. But, contrary to the opinion of all, with a clear voice, and with greater boldness than they had anticipated, he spoke out before the whole multitude and confessed that our Saviour and Lord Jesus is the Son of God. But they were unable to bear longer the testimony of the man who, on account of the excellence of ascetic virtue and of piety which he exhibited in his life, was esteemed by all as the most just of men, and consequently they slew him. Opportunity for this deed of violence was furnished by the prevailing anarchy, which was caused by the fact that Festus had died just at this time in Judea, and that the province was thus without a governor and head.

The manner of James’ death has been already indicated by the above-quoted words of Clement, who records that he was thrown from the pinnacle of the temple, and was beaten to death with a club. But Hegesippus, who lived immediately after the apostles, gives the most accurate account in the fifth book of his Memoirs. He writes as follows

“James, the brother of the Lord, succeeded to the government of the Church in conjunction with the apostles.He has been called the Just by all from the time of our Saviour to the present day for there were many that bore the name of James.

He was holy from his mother’s womb and he drank no wine nor strong drink, nor did he eat flesh. No razor came upon his head he did not anoint himself with oil, and he did not use the bath. He alone was permitted to enter into the holy place for he wore not woolen but linen garments. And he was in the habit of entering alone into the temple, and was frequently found upon his knees begging forgiveness for the people, so that his knees became hard like those of a camel, in consequence of his constantly bending them in his worship of God, and asking forgiveness for the people."

Because of his exceeding great justice he was called the Just, and Oblias, which signifies in Greek, ‘Bulwark of the people’ and ‘Justice,’ in accordance with what the prophets declare concerning him.

Now some of the seven sects, which existed among the people and which have been mentioned by me in the Memoirs, asked him, ‘What is the gate of Jesus?’

and he replied that he was the Saviour.

On account of these words some believed that Jesus is the Christ. But the sects mentioned above did not believe either in a resurrection or in one’s coming to give to every man according to his works. But as many as believed did so on account of James.

Therefore when many even of the rulers believed, there was a commotion among the Jews and Scribes and Pharisees, who said that there was danger that the whole people would be looking for Jesus as the Christ. Coming therefore in a body to James they said, 

‘We entreat thee, restrain the people for they are gone astray in regard to Jesus, as if he were the Christ. We entreat thee to persuade all that have come to the feast of the Passover concerning Jesus for we all have confidence in thee. For we bear thee witness, as do all the people, that thou art just, and dost not respect persons. Do thou therefore persuade the multitude not to be led astray concerning Jesus. For the whole people, and all of us also, have confidence in thee. Stand therefore upon the pinnacle of the temple, that from that high position thou mayest be clearly seen, and that thy words may be readily heard by all the people. For all the tribes, with the Gentiles also, are come together on account of the Passover.’

The aforesaid Scribes and Pharisees therefore placed James upon the pinnacle of the temple, and cried out to him and said

‘Thou just one, in whom we ought all to have confidence, forasmuch as the people are led astray after Jesus, the crucified one, declare to us, what is the gate of Jesus.’

And he answered with a loud voice, 

‘Why do ye ask me concerning Jesus, the Son of Man? He himself sitteth in heaven at the right hand of the great Power, and is about to come upon the clouds of heaven.’

And when many were fully convinced and gloried in the testimony of James, and said, ‘Hosanna to the Son of David,’ 

these same Scribes and Pharisees said again to one another, ‘We have done badly in supplying such testimony to Jesus. But let us go up and throw him down, in order that they may be afraid to believe him.’

And they cried out, saying, ‘Oh! oh! the just man is also in error.’ And they fulfilled the Scripture written in Isaiah, ‘Let us take away the just man, because he is troublesome to us therefore they shall eat the fruit of their doings.’

So they went up and threw down the just man, and said to each other, 

‘Let us stone James the Just.’ 

And they began to stone him, for he was not killed by the fall but he turned and knelt down and said, ‘I entreat thee, Lord God our Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.’

And while they were thus stoning him one of the priests of the sons of Rechab, the son of the Rechabites, who are mentioned by Jeremiah the prophet, cried out, saying, 

‘Cease, what do ye? 

The just one prayeth for you.’

And one of them, who was a fuller, took the club with which he beat out clothes and struck the just man on the head. And thus he suffered martyrdom. And they buried him on the spot, by the temple, and his monument still remains by the temple. He became a true witness, both to Jews and Greeks, that Jesus is the Christ. And immediately Vespasian besieged them.

These things are related at length by Hegesippus, who is in agreement with Clement. James was so admirable a man and so celebrated among all for his justice, that the more sensible even of the Jews were of the opinion that this was the cause of the siege of Jerusalem, which happened to them immediately after his martyrdom for no other reason than their daring act against him.

Josephus, at least, has not hesitated to testify this in his writings, where he says,  

“These things happened to the Jews to avenge James the Just, who was a brother of Jesus, that is called the Christ. For the Jews slew him, although he was a most just man.”

And the same writer records his death also in the twentieth book of his Antiquities in the following words “But the emperor, when he learned of the death of Festus, sent Albinus to be procurator of Judea. But the younger Ananus, who, as we have already said, had obtained the high priesthood, was of an exceedingly bold and reckless disposition. He belonged, moreover, to the sect of the Sadducees, who are the most cruel of all the Jews in the execution of judgment, as we have already shown.

Ananus, therefore, being of this character, and supposing that he had a favorable opportunity on account of the fact that Festus was dead, and Albinus was still on the way, called together the Sanhedrim, and brought before them the brother of Jesus, the so-called Christ, James by name, together with some others, and accused them of violating the law, and condemned them to be stoned.

But those in the city who seemed most moderate and skilled in the law were very angry at this, and sent secretly to the king, requesting him to order Ananus to cease such proceedings. For he had not done right even this first time. And certain of them also went to meet Albinus, who was journeying from Alexandria, and reminded him that it was not lawful for Ananus to summon the Sanhedrim without his knowledge.

And Albinus, being persuaded by their representations, wrote in anger to Ananus, threatening him with punishment. And the king, Agrippa, in consequence, deprived him of the high priesthood, which he had held three months, and appointed Jesus, the son of Damnæus high priest.”

These things are recorded in regard to James, who is said to be the author of the first of the so-called catholic epistles. But it is to be observed that it is disputed at least, not many of the ancients have mentioned it, as is the case likewise with the epistle that bears the name of Jude, which is also one of the seven so-called catholic epistles. Nevertheless we know that these also, with the rest, have been read publicly in very many churches.


-Church History

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