Keith Hunt - Church History #6 - Page Six   Restitution of All Things

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History of the Church #6

James the brother of Jesus




Next to Peter, who was the eecumenical leader of Jewish
Christianity, Stands JAMES, THE BROTHER OF THE LORD (also called
by post-apostolic writers "James the Just," and "Bishop of
Jerusalem"), as the local head of the oldest church and the
leader of the most conservative portion of Jewish Christianity.

(Once more he was not THE leader of any church, the rest of the
NT makes clear there never was ONE supreme leader or "head" of
any local church. My many studies on "Church Government" on this
website prove that comment of mine - Keith Hunt)

He seems to have taken the place of James the son of Zebedee,
after his martyrdom, A.D. 44. He became, with Peter and John, one
of the three "pillars" of the church of the circumcision. And
after the departure of Peter from Jerusalem James presided over
the mother church of Christendom until his death. Though not one
of the Twelve, he enjoyed, owing to his relationship to our Lord
and his commanding piety, almost apostolic authority, especially
in Judaea and among the Jewish converts. On one occasion even
Peter yielded to his influence or that of his representatives,
and was misled into his uncharitable conduct towards the Gentile

(Well that shows any leader could make a mistake, hence no
infallable leader, or top dog leader, for any Church of God -
Keith Hunt)

James was not a believer before the resurrection of our Lord He
was the oldest of the four "brethren" (James, Joseph, Judas,
Simon), of whom John reports with touching sadness: "Even his
brethren did not believe in him." It was one of the early and
constant trials of our Lord in the days of his humiliation that
he was without honor among his fellow-townsmen, yea, "among his
own kin, and in his own house." James was no doubt imbued with
the temporal and carnal Messianic misconceptions of the Jews, and
impatient at the delay and unworldli ness of his divine brother. 
Hence the taunting and almost disrespectful language: "Depart
hence and go into Judea ... If thou doest these things, manifest
thyself to the world." The crucifixion could only deepen his
doubt and sadness.

But a special personal appearance of the risen Lord brought about
his conversion, as also that of his brothers, who after the
resurrection appear in the company of the apostles. This
turning-point in his life is briefly but significantly alluded to
by Paul, who himself was converted by a personal appearance of
Christ. It is more fully reported in an interesting fragment of
the "Gospel according to the Hebrews" (one of the oldest and
least fabulous of the apocryphal Gospels), which shows the
sincerity and earnestness of James even before his conversion. He
had sworn, we are here told, "that he would not eat bread from
that hour wherein the Lord had drunk the cup [of his passion] 
until he should see him rising from the dead." The Lord appeared
to him and communed with him, giving bread to James the Just and
saying: "My brother, eat thy bread, for the Son of man is risen
from them that sleep."

In the Acts and in the Epistle to the Galatians, James appears as
the most conservative of the Jewish converts, at the head of the
extreme right wing; yet recognizing Paul as the apostle of the
Gentiles, giving him the right hand of fellowship, as Paul
himself reports, and unwilling to impose upon the Gentile
Christians the yoke of circumcision. He must therefore not be
identified with the heretical Judaizers (the forerunners of the
Ebionites), who hated and opposed Paul, and made circumcision
a condition of justification and church membership. He presided
at the Council of Jerusalem and proposed the compromise which
saved a split in the church. He probably prepared the synodical
letter which agrees with his style and has the same greeting
formula peculiar to him.

He was an honest, conscientious, eminently practical,
conciliatory Jewish Christian saint, the right man in the right
place and at the right time, although contracted in his mental
vision as in his local sphere of labor.

From an incidental remark of Paul we may infer that James like
Peter and the other brothers of the Lord, was married. The
mission of James was evidently to stand in the breach between the
synagogue and the church, and to lead the disciples of Moses
gently to Christ. He was the only man that could do it in that
critical time of the approaching judgment of the holy city. As
long as there was any hope of a conversion of the Jews as a
nation, he prayed for it and made the transition as easy as
possible. When that hope vanished his mission was fulfilled.
According to Josephus he was, at the instigation of the younger
Ananus, the high priest, of the sect of the Sadducees, whom he
calls "the most unmerciful of all the Jews in the execution of
judgment," stoned to death with some others, as "breakers of the
law," i.e. Christians, in the interval between the procuratorship
of Festus and that of Albinus, that is, in the year 63.

The Jewish historian adds that this act of injustice created
great indignation among those most devoted to the law (the
Pharisees), and that they induced Albinus and King Agrippa to
depose Ananus (a son of the Annas mentioned in Luke 3
John 18 :13). He thus furnishes an impartial testimony to the
high standing of James even among the Jews.

Hegesippus, a Jewish Christian historian about A.D. 170, puts the
martyrdom a few years later, shortly before the destruction of
Jerusalem (69). He relates that James was first thrown down from
the pinnacle of the temple by the Jews and then stoned to death. 
His last prayer was an echo of that of his brother and Lord on
the cross: "God, Father, forgive them; for they know not what
they do."

The dramatic account of James by Hegesippus is an overdrawn
picture from the middle of the second century, colored by
Judaizing traits which may have been derived from the "Ascents of
James" and other apocryphal sources. He turns James into a Jewish
priest and Nazarite saint (comp. his advice to Paul, Acts 21:23,
24), who drank no wine, ate no flesh, never shaved, nor took a
bath, and wore only linen. But the biblical James is Pharisaic
and legalistic rather than Essenic and ascetic. In the
pseudo-Clementine writings, he is raised even above Peter as the
head of the holy church of the Hebrews, as "the lord and bishop
of bishops," as "the prince of priests." According to tradition,
mentioned by Epiphanius, James, like St. John at Ephesus, wore
the high-priestly petalon, or golden plate on the forehead, with
the inscription: "Holiness to the Lord" (Ex.28:36). And in the
Liturgy of St. James, the brother of Jesus is raised to the
dignity of "the brother of the very God" (Greek is given).
Legends gather around the memory of great men, and reveal the
deep impression they made upon friends and followers. The
character which shines through these James-legends is that of a
loyal, zealous, devout, consistent Hebrew Christian, who by his
personal purity and holiness secured the reverence and affection
of all around him.

But we must carefully distinguish between the Jewish-Christian,
yet orthodox, overestimate of James in the Eastern church, as we
find it in the fragments of Hegesippus and in the Liturgy of St.
James, and the heretical perversion of James into an enemy of
Paul and the gospel of freedom, as he appears in apocryphal
fictions. We have here the same phenomenon as in the case of
Peter and Paul. Every leading apostle has his apocryphal shadow
and caricature both in the primitive church and in the modern
critical reconstruction of its history. The name and authority of
James was abused by the Judaizing party in undermining the work
of Paul, notwithstanding the fraternal agree ment of the two at
Jerusalem. The Ebionites in the second century continued this
malignant assault upon the memory of Paul under cover of the
honored names of James and Peter; while a certain class of modern
critics (though usually from the opposite ultra-or pseudo-Pauline
point of view) endeavor to prove the same antagonism from the
Epistle of James (as far as they admit it to be genuine at all).
The Epistle in our canon, which purports to be written by 
"James, a bond-servant of God and of Jesus Christ, to the twelve
tribes of the dispersion," though not generally acknowledged at
the time of Eusebius and Jerome, has strong internal evidence
of genuineness. It precisely suits the character and position of
the historical James as we know him from Paul and the Acts,
and differs widely from the apocryphal James of the Ebionite
fictions. It hails undoubtedly from Jerusalem, the theocratic
metropolis, amid the scenery of Palestine. The Christian com-
munities appear not as churches, but as synagogues, consisting
mostly of poor people, oppressed and persecuted by the rich and
powerful Jews. There is no trace of Gentile Christians or of
any controversy between them and the Jewish Christians. The
Epistle was perhaps a companion to the original Gospel of Mat-
thew for the Hebrews, as the first Epistle of John was such a
companion to his Gospel. It is probably the oldest of the
epistles of the New Testament. It represents, at all events, the
earliest and meagerest, yet an eminently practical and necessary
type of Christianity, with prophetic earnestness, proverbial
sententiousness, great freshness, and in fine Greek. It is not
dogmatic but ethical. It has a strong resemblance to the
addresses of John the Baptist and the Lord's Sermon on the Mount,
and also to the book of Ecclesiasticus and the Wisdom of Solomon.
It never attacks the Jews directly, but still less St. Paul, at
least not his genuine doctrine. It characteristically calls the
gospel the "perfect law of liberty,"" thus connecting it very
closely with the Mosaic dispensation, yet raising it by implica-
tion far above the imperfect law of bondage. The author has very
little to say about Christ and the deeper mysteries of
redemption, but evidently presupposes a knowledge of the gospel
history, and reverently calls Christ "the Lord of glory," and
himself humbly his "bond-servant." He represents religion
throughout in its practical aspect as an exhibition of faith by
good works. He undoubtedly differs widely from Paul, yet does not
contradict, but supplements him, and fills an important place in
the Christian system of truth which comprehends all types of
genuine piety. There are multitudes of sincere, earnest, and
faithful Christian workers who never rise above the level of
James to the sublime heights of Paul or John. The Christian
church would never have given to the Epistle of James a place in
the canon if she had felt that it was irreconcilable with the
doctrine of Paul. Even the Lutheran church did not follow her
great leader in his unfavorable judgment, but still retains James
among the canonical books. 

(Yes Martin Luther called the epistle of James "an epistle of
straw" - Keith Hunt)

After the martyrdom of James he was succeeded by Symeon,
a son of Clopas and a cousin of Jesus (and of James). He
continued to guide the church at Jerusalem till the reign of
Trajan, when he died a martyr at the great age of a hundred and
twenty years. The next thirteen bishops of Jerusalem, who came,
however, in rapid succession, were likewise of Jewish descent.   
Throughout this period the church of Jerusalem preserved its
strongly Israelitish type, but joined with it "the genuine
knowledge of Christ," and stood in communion with the Catholic
church, from which the Ebionites, as heretical Jewish Chris-
tians, were excluded. After the line of the fifteen circumcised
bishops had run out, and Jerusalem was a second time laid waste
under Hadrian, the mass of the Jewish Christians gradually merged
in the orthodox Greek Church.

(Well those Christians were only in name - they had left the
faith once delivered to the saints - Keith Hunt)


There are three, perhaps four, eminent persons in the New
Testament bearing the name of JAMES (abridged from JACOB, which
from patriarchal memories was a more common name among the Jews
than any other except Symeon or Simon, and Joseph or Joses)

1. JAMES (the son) of ZEBEDEE, the brother of John and one of the
three favorite apostles, the proto-martyr among the Twelve
(beheaded A.D. 44, see Acts 12: 2), as his brother John was the
survivor of all the apostles. They were called the "sons of

2. JAMES (the son) of ALPHAEUS, who was likewise one of the
Twelve, and is mentioned in the four apostle-catalogues, Matt. 10
:3; Mark 3:10; Luke 6:15; Acts 1:13.

3. JAMES THE LITTLE, Mark 15:40 "the Less," as in the E. V.),
probably so called from his small stature (as Zacchaeus, Luke 19
3), the son of a certain Mary and brother of Joseph, Matt. 27:56;
Mark 15:40,47; 16:1; Luke 24:10. He is usually identified with
James the son of Alphaeus, on the assumption that his mother Mary
was the wife of Clopas, mentioned John 19:25, and that Clopas was
the same person as Alphaeus.  But this identification is at least
very problematical.

4. JAMES, simply so called, as the most distinguished after the
early death of James the Elder, or with the honorable epithet
BROTHER OF THE LORD, and among post-apostolic writers, the JUST,
also BISHOP OF JERUSALEM. The title connects him at once with the
four brothers and the unnamed sisters of our Lord, who are
repeatedly mentioned in the Gospels, and he as the first among
them. Hence the complicated question of the nature of this
relationship.  Although I have fully discussed this intricate
subject nearly forty years ago (1842) in the German essay above
mentioned, and then again in my annotations to Lange on Matthew
(Am. ed. 1864, pp. 256-260), I will briefly sum up once more the
chief points with reference to the most recent discussions (of
Lightfoot and Renan).

There are three theories on James and the brothers of Jesus. I
would call them the brother-theory, the half-brother-theory, and
the cousin-theory. Bishop Lightfoot (and Canon Farrar) calls them
after their chief advocates, the Helvidian (an invidious
designation), the Epiphanian, and the Hieronymian theories. The
first is now confined to Protestants, the second is the Greek,
the third the Roman view.

(1) The BROTHER-theory takes the term in the usual sense, and
regards the brothers as younger children of Joseph and Mary,
cousequently as full brothers of Jesus in the eyes of the law and
the opinion of the people, though really only half-brothers, in
view of his supernatural conception. This is exegetically the
most natural view and favored by the meaning of Greek (especially
when used as a standing designation), the constant companionship
of these brethren with Mary (John 2:12; Matt.12:46; 13:55), and
by the obvious meaning of Matt.1:25 and Luke 2:7 as explained
from the standpoint of the evangelists, who used these terms in
full view of the subsequent history of Mary and Jesus. The only
serious objection to it is of a doctrinal and ethical nature,
viz., the assumed perpetual virginity of the mother of our Lord
and Saviour, and the committal of her at the cross to John rather
than her own sons and daughters (John 19:25). If it were not for
these two obstacles the brother-theory would probably be adopted
by every fair and honest exegete. The first of these objections
dates from the post-apostolic ascetic overestimate of virginity,
and cannot have been felt by Matthew and Luke, else they would
have avoided those ambiguous terms just noticed. The second
difficulty presses also on the other two theories, only in a less
degree. It must therefore be solved on other grounds, namely, the
profound spiritual sympathy and congeniality of John with Jesus
and Mary, which rose above carnal relationships, the probable
cousinship of John (based upon the proper interpretation of the
same passage, John 19:25), and the unbelief of the real brethren
at the time of the committal.....

(This is the natural understanding from the Gospels. Mary and
Joseph had a normal sexual married relationship, with other
children after the birth of Christ. All other ideas are based
upon trying to uphold the Roman Catholic position and teaching of
the silly idea of the perpetual virginity of Mary - Keith Hunt)

(2) The HALF--BROTHER-theory regards the brethren and sisters of
Jesus as children of Joseph by a former wife, consequently as no
bloodrelations at all, but so designated simply as Joseph was
called the father of Jesus, by an exceptional use of the term
adapted to the exceptional fact of the miraculous incarnation.
This has the dogmatic advantage of saving the perpetual virginity
of the mother of our Lord and Saviour; it lessens the moral
difficulty implied in John 19:25; and it has a strong traditional
support in the apocryphal Gospels and in the Eastern church. It
also would seem to explain more easily the patronizing tone in
which the brethren speak to our Lord in John 7:3,4. But it does
not so naturally account for the constant companionship of these
brethren with Mary; it assumes a former marriage of Joseph
nowhere alluded to in the Gospels, and makes Joseph an old man
and protector rather than husband of Mary; and finally it is not
free from suspicion of an ascetic bias, as being the first step
towards the dogma of the perpetual virginity.

(All other ideas as given by Schaff are silly and useless to
produce for they only get further away from the natural marriage
that Joseph and Mary would have had, and more into trying to
uphold the teaching of the RC church to the perpetual virginity
of Mary - Keith Hunt)

II. The description of James by HEGESIPPUS (from Eusebius, H. E.
II. 23). "Hegesippus also, who flourished nearest the days of the
apostles, gives (in the fifth book of his Memorials) this most
accurate account of him:

"'Now James, the brother of the Lord, who (as there are many of
this name) was surnamed the "Just" by all from the Lord's time
even to our own, received the government of the church with (or
from) the apostles in conjunction with, or according to another
reading, which would more clearly distinguish him from the
apostles. This man  [not this apostle] was consecrated from his
mother's womb. He drank neither wine nor strong drink, and
abstained from animal food. No razor came upon his head, he never
anointed himself with oil, and never used a bath [probably the
luxury of the Roman bath, with its sudatorium, frigidarium, etc.,
but not excluding the usual ablutions practised by all devout
Jews. He alone was allowed to enter the sanctuary [not the holy
of holies, but the court of priests]. He wore no woolen, but
linen garments only. He was in the habit of entering the temple
alone, and was often found upon his bended knees, and interceding
for the forgiveness of the people; so that his knees became as
hard as a camel's, on account of his constant supplication and
kneeling before God. And indeed, on account of his exceeding
great piety, he was called the Just [Zaddik] and Oblias  
[probably a corruption of the Hebrew Ophel am, Tower of the
People], which signifies justice and the bulwark of the people   
as the prophets declare concerning him. Some of the seven sects
of the people, mentioned by me above in my Memoirs, used to ask
him what was the door, [probably the estimate or doctrine] of
Jesus? and he answered that He was the Saviour. And of these some
believed that Jesus is the Christ. But the aforesaid sects did
not believe either a resurrection, or that he was coming to give
to every one according to his works; as many, however, as did
believe, did so on account of James. And when many of the rulers
also believed, there arose a tumult among the Jews, Scribes, and
Pharisees, saying that the whole people were in danger of looking
for Jesus as the Messiah. They came therefore together, and said
to James: We entreat thee, restrain the people, who are led
astray after Jesus, as though he were the Christ. We entreat thee
to persuade all that are coming to the feast of the Passover
rightly concerning Jesus; for we all have confidence in thee.    
For we and all the people bear thee testimony that thou art just,
and art no respecter of persons. Persuade therefore the people
not to be led astray by Jesus, for we and all the people have
great confidence in thee. Stand therefore upon the pinnacle of
the temple, that thou mayest be conspicuous on high, and thy
words may be easily heard by all the people; for all the tribes
have come together on account of the Passover, with some of the
Gentiles also.
The aforesaid Scribes and Pharisees, therefore, placed James upon
the pinnacle of the temple, and cried out to him: 'O thou just
man, whom we ought all to believe, since the people are led
astray after Jesus that was crucified, declare to us what is the
door of Jesus that was crucified.' And he answered with a loud
voice: "Why do ye ask me respecting Jesus the Son of Man? He is
now sitting in the heavens, on the right hand of the great Power,
and is about to come on the clouds of heaven." And as many were
confirmed, and gloried in this testimony of James, and said: 
"Hosanna to the Son of David," these same priests and Pharisees
said to one another: "We have done badly in affording such
testimony to Jesus, but let us go up and cast him down, that they
may dread to believe in him." And they cried out: "Ho, ho, the
Just himself is deceived." And they fulfilled that which is
written in Isaiah, "Let us take away the Just, because he is
offensive to us; wherefore they shall eat the fruit of their
doings."  [Comp. Is.3:10.]
And going up, they cast down the just man, saying to one another
"Let us stone James the Just." And they began to stone him, as he
did not die immediately when cast down; but turning round, he
knelt down, saying: "I entreat thee, O Lord God and Father,
forgive them, for they know not what they do." Thus they were
stoning him, when one of the priests of the sons of Rechab, a son
of the Rechabites, spoken of by Jeremiah the prophet (35:2),
cried out, saying: 'Cease, what are you doing? The Just is
praying for you.' And one of them, a fuller, beat out the brains
of the Just with the club that he used to beat out clothes. Thus
he suffered martyrdom, and they buried him on the spot where his
tombstone is still remaining, by the temple. He became a faithful
witness, both to the Jews and Greeks, that Jesus is the Christ.
Immediately after this, Vespasian invaded and took Judea."

"Such," adds Eusebius, "is the more ample testimony of
Hegesippus, in which he fully coincides with Clement. So
admirable a man indeed was James, and so celebrated among all for
his justice, that even the wiser part of the Jews were of opinion
that this was the cause of the immediate siege of Jerusalem,
which happened to them for no other reason than the crime against
him. Josephus also has not hesitated to superadd this testimony
in his works: 'These things,' says he, 'happened to the Jews to
avenge James the Just, who was the brother of him that is called
Christ and whom the Jews had slain, notwithstanding his
preeminent justice.' The same writer also relates his death, in
the twentieth book of his Antiquities, in the following words..
Then Eusebius gives the account of Josephus.

Preparation for the Mission to the Gentiles

The planting of the church among the Gentiles is mainly, the work
of Paul; but Providence prepared the way for it by several steps,
before this apostle entered upon his sublime mission.

1. By the conversion of those half-Gentiles and bitter enemies of
the Jews, the SAMARITANS, under the preaching and baptism of
Philip the evangelist, one of the seven deacons of Jerusalem, and
under the confirming instruction of the apostles Peter and and
John. The gospel found ready entrance into Samaria, as had been
prophetically hinted by the Lord in the conversation at Jacob's
well. But there we meet also the first heretical perversion of
Christianity by Simon Magus, whose hypocrisy and attempt to
degrade the gift of the Holy Spirit received from Peter
a terrible rebuke. (Hence the term simony, for sordid traffic in
church offices and dignities.) This encounter of the prince of
the apostles with the arch-heretic was regarded in the ancient
church, and fancifully represented, as typifying the relation of
ecclesiastical orthodoxy to deceptive heresy.

2. Somewhat later (between 37 and 40) occurred the conversion of
the noble centurion, CORNELIUS of Caesarea, a pious proselyte of
the gate, whom Peter, in consequence of a special revelation,
received into the communion of the Christian church directly by
baptism, without circumcision. This bold step the apostle had to
vindicate to the strict Jewish Christians in Jerusalem, who
thought circumcision a condition of salvation, and Judaism the
only way to Christianity. Thus Peter laid the foundation also of
the Gentile-Christian church. The event marked a revolution in
Peter's mind, and his emancipation from the narrow prejudices of


3. Still more important was the rise, at about the same time, of
the church at ANTIOCH, the capital of Syria. This congregation,
formed under the influence of the Hellenist Barnabas of Cyprus
and Paul of Tarsus, seems to have consisted from the first of
converted heathens and Jews. It thus became the mother of Gentile
Christendom, as Jerusalem was the mother and centre of Jewish.   
In Antioch, too, the name "Christian" first appeared, which was
soon everywhere adopted, as well denoting the nature and mission
as the followers of Christ, the divine-human prophet, priest, and

The other and older designations were disciples (of Christ the
only Master), believers (in Christ as their Saviour), brethren
(as members of the same family of the redeemed, bound together by
a love which springs not from earth and will never cease), and
saints (as those who are purified and consecrated to the service
of God and called to perfect holiness).

To be continued

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