An Excerpt of Doctoral Dissertation
Presented to the Pontifical Gregorian University
MARTYRDOM OF JAMES AND THE
DESTRUCTION OF JERUSALEM
Returning from Rome to Jerusalem, two significant facts
about the Jewish hostility stand out during the sixties: the
martyrdom of James (ca. A.D.62) and the destruction of Jerusalem
with the related flight of the Christians (ca. A.D.68-70).
The Jewish historian Flavius Josephus informs us that the
High Priest Hanan, who succeeded his father at his death:
was a bold man in his temper, and very insolent; he was also
of the sect of the Sadducees, who were very rigid in judging
offenders, above all the rest of the Jews, as we have
already observed; when, therefore, Ananus was of this
disposition, he thought he had now a proper opportunity (to
exercise his authority). Fetus was now dead, and Albinos was
but upon the road; so he assembled the Sanhedrin of the
judges, and brought before them the brother of Jesus, who
was called Christ, whose name was James, and some others and
when he had formed an accusation against them as breakers of
the law, he delivered them to be stoned. 24
The execution of James, of whom Eusebius 25
reports the accounts of Clement of Alexandria, Hegesippus and
Josephus, inflicted another wound on the Christian community
(along with the martyrdom of Peter and Paul in Rome), a wound
which further contributed to alienate the Christians from the
Jews. The martyrdom of James struck not only the Christians, but
all the people of Jerusalem who admired the ascetic and
devotional life of this Saint. Josephus adds that the moderate
spirits denounced the High Priest to Albinus, and this resulted
in his deposition and substitution with Jesus, son of Damea. 26
Hegesippus, on closing his report of the martyrdom of James,
adds: "Soon afterwards Vespasian besieged them." 27
This historical inaccuracy - since the siege of Vespasian
took place toward the end of the sixties (summer of A.D.68) -
could possibly be explained not only by the tendency of
Hegesippus to embellish his narrative 28
14 Flavius Josephus, Antiquitates Judaicae 20, 9, 1, trans. by
William Whist, "Josephus Complete Works" (Grand Rapids: Kregel
Publications, 1974),. p.423.
25 See Eusebius, "Hist. Eccl." 2, 23, 10.
26 Flavius Josephus, "Antiquitates judaicae" 20, 9. 1.
27 The text of Hegesippus is quoted by Eusebius, in "Hist. Eccl."
2, 23, 18.
28 Hegesippus relates, for instance, that James remained kneeling
in prayer for such prolonged periods of time that the skin of his
knees became as hard as that of a camel (Eusebius, "Hist. Eccl.
2, 23, 6).
by the fact that for the Christians the most significant
following event after the martyrdom of James was their flight
from the city (about A.D.68, possibly after the withdrawal of
Costius Gallus), followed by the siege first by Vespasian and
afterwards by Titus.
After the martyrdom of James, the city was controlled by the
extremist party who was anti-Roman and anti-Christian, and who
made life extremely difficult for the latter. The Judeo-
Christians, warned by a prophecy according to Eusebius, 29
abandoned the city and withdrew to Pella, a city in the region of
Perea. This exodus of the Judeo-Christians from Jerusalem marks
an historical break in the relationship with the Jews.
J. Lebreton conveniently summarizes the historical significance
of the event:
This exodus had decisive consequences for the Church of
Jerusalem: the last link was broken which bound the faithful
to Judaism and to the Temple; down to the end they had loved
its magnificent construction, its ceremonies, and its
memories; now there remained of it not a atone upon a atone;
God had weaned them from it. And this exodus finally
alienated Jewish opinion from them; they had abandoned
Jerusalem at the hour of its great tribulation; their faith
was, then, not that of their nation, and they were seeking
their salvation elsewhere. 30
Richardson notes that the sudden separation from Judaism
took place in the year 70 and not later, since the rabbinic
Judaism which was reconstituted at Jamnia was not radical nor
In fact the new religious leaders did not adhere to
revolutionary movements and their hostility toward the Christians
- for example, the cursing of the minim - assumes now a polemic
character, but not coercive as before.
The question might be raised as to the consequences the
abandoning of the city might have brought in the orientation of
the Judeo-Christian community toward Jewish institutions such
the law and particularly the Sabbath. Regan poses this question
and suggests that the year 70 might mark the decisive break
between Sabbath and Sunday:
29 Eusebius, "Hist. Eccl." 3, 3, 3 ; ef. Matt. 24: 15-22.
30 Lebreton-Zeiller, "Primitive Church" 1: 306.
31 Richard, "Israel," p.35, writes: "There is little to
distinguish R. Yohannan from the Jerusalem church so far as
attitude to the revolt is concerned."
Can one point to any one event in particular, in which the
decisive break occurred between the Sabbath and that day we
now call Sunday? A most likely date would probably be the
year 70 A.D., with the destruction of the Temple of
Jerusalem. For although the more articulate agents of that
group which clung to the observance of the law while still
professing the Christian faith were far from silenced by the
martyrdom of their leader James, in 61 or 62 A.D.,
nevertheless their influence and prestige must have been
considerably weakened. And just before the destruction of
the city the Christians, fled to Pella and established their
residence there." 32
To trace the introduction of Sunday worship in the Judeo-
Christian continuum of Palestine back to the year 70, or even
earlier as Rordorf does 33
would seem to want to anticipate its origin, in the light of the
(1) Even though the Judeo-Christians (after their exodus from
Jerusalem) abandoned the nationalistic aspirations of their
fellow-countrymen, both the orthodox current (such as the
nazarenes) as well as the extremist one (such as the Ebionites),
retained their attachment to the law of which the Sabbath
constituted the benchmark. Eusebius informs us that not only the
radical wing of the Ebionites but even the liberal one "share in
the impiety of the former class, especially in that they were
equally zealous to insist on he literal observance of the Law. 35
(2) If it is true, on the one hand, as Eusebius informs us, that
the liberal wing of the Ebionites adopted the observance of
Sunday besides that of the Sabbath, 36
we must remember, on the other hand, that our informer writes
almost two and a half centuries after the destruction of
Jerusalem, without specifying the time of the adoption of the new
32 Regan, "Dies Dominica," p.18.
33 Rordorf, "Sunday," pp.215-237. The author maintains that
Sunday originated in the primitive community of Jerusalem. His
construction is very ingenious but not too convincing. With
tortuous argumentation he associates the "breaking of bread" of
Acts (2:46; 20:7) and the "Lord's Supper" of I Cor.11:20 with the
meals which the disciples took with the resurrected Christ on
Sunday (not always) and he reaches the conclusion that "the
breaking of bread for which no definite date is mentioned in Acts
2:42-46, took place weekly on Sunday evening" (ibid., p.237.)
34 See, "Encyclopedia delle Religioni," ed. 1970, s.v. "Ebioniti"
by Atlfonso di Note.
35 Eusebius, "Historia Ecclesiastica" 3, 27, 3, trans. by Kirsopp
Lake, Eusebius, "The Ecclesiastical History," 2 vols (Cambridge,
Mass.: Harvard University frees, 1949), 1: 263. (Hereafter cited
as Lake, "Eusebius Hist.")
36 Eusebius, "Hist. Eccl." 3, 27, 5.
On the contrary, Irenaeus, 37
nearer in time, as Rordorf himself observes, "in his report about
the Ebionites (which is, in fact, almost identical with that of
Eusebius) makes no mention of a Sunday observance. 38
The more probable explanation, as we shall see shortly, is
that after the disappearance of the Bishops of the circumcision
(ca. A.D.135), a group of into the majority, adopted the
observance of Sunday in addition to the Sabbath.
(3) The Bishops who administered the Church of Jerusalem after
the year 70, continued to be of the circumcision. Eusebius, after
having listed their names until the time of the seige of Hadrian,
adds: "Such were the bishops in the city of Jerusalem, from the
Apostles down to the time mentioned and they were all Jews. 39
Not only the Bishops were from the circumcision, but,
according to the same historian, "the whole church at that time
consisted of Hebrews who had continued Christians from the
Apostles down to the time when the Jews again rebelled from the
Romans and were beaten in a great war." 40
The fact that the Jerusalem Church up to 135 was adminis-
ered by and composed of Judeo-Christians who as Eusebius writes
"were zealous to insist on the literal observance of the Law" 41
would make it unreasonable to suppose that they would have taken
the initiative to abandon Sabbath keeping and introduce Sunday
(4) Epiphanius, bishop of Salamis and a native of Palestine
(ca. A.D.315-403), reports at length the Easter controversy in
his treatise "Adversua Haereses" 42
and he clearly states that:
37 Irenaeus, "Adversus haereses," 1, 26, 2, PG 7, 687, write:
"Those who ere called Ebionites... practice circumcision and
persevere in those customs according to the law and Jewish way of
life and they pray toward Jerusalem, as if it were the house of
38 Rordorf, "Sunday," p.217.
39 Lake, "Eusebius History" 4, 5, 11, p.311; Eusebius clearly
distinguishes between the Bishops of the circumcision who
governed the Church before the destruction of the city (A.D.135)
from the Gentile Bishop, who succeeded after the destruction of
the city by Hadrian.
40 Lake, "Eusebius History," 4, 5, 2, pp.309-311.
41 Lake, "Eusebius History," 3, 27, 3, p.263.
42 In chapter, 50 and 70 of "Adversus Haeresm" Epiphanius deals
specifically with the quartodeciman controversy, quoting
significant documents like the Apostolic Constitutions (a
document which apparently was used by the Judeo-Christian bishops
of Jerusalem to justify the observance of the quartodeciman
Passover, but which seemingly are lost (PG, 42, 355-358).
"the controversy arose after the exodus of the bishops of the
circumcision (ca. A.D.135) - and it has continued until our
The bishop makes specific reference to the fifteen bishops
of the circumcision who administered the church at Jerusalem up
to 135 and who followed the quartodeciman Passover basing
themselves on the documents known as the "Apostolic Constitutions
- apparently lost, where the following rule is given: "You (i.e.
Gentile Christians) ought to celebrate Easter at the same time as
your brethren who from the circumcision have entered the Church."
This loyal adherence to Jewish festivals, such as the
quartodeciman Passover, would seem to preclude the possibility
that the Jerusalem Church prior to 135 attempted any liturgical
calendar changes. If however, the Easter-Sunday custom was
introduced in Jerusalem after 135 when the new Gentile leaders
and members colonized the city, it then seems feasible that the
weekly-Sunday-observance was introduced contemporaneously since
 as we have seen, 45
both days (weekly-Sunday and Easter Sunday)were considered as one
feast commemorating at different times the same event of the
resurrection, and since  as we shall see shortly, the Emperor
Hadrian at that time forbade expressly the observance of the
The indications that follow seem to show, however that such
liturgical calendar changes occurred gradually and not without
opposition and resistance on the part of some.
(5)Bagatti, a specialist of the history of the Judeo-Christians,
maintains that the Easter controversy became acute in Palestine
about 60 years after Hadrian's War, under Narcissus and
Alexander, bishops of Jerusalem. He writes:
About sixty years after Hadrian's War, a strife arose
between the hellenistic hierarchy and the Judeo-Christian
believers, specifically under bishop Narcissus and his
successor Alexander. The origin of the controversy seems to
be found in the divergent opinions regarding the customs of
43 Epiphanius, "Adversus Haereses" 70, 9, PG, 42, 355-356.
44 Ibid., 70, 10, PG 42, 356-357.
45 The relationship between the yearly Easter-Sunday and the
weekly-Sunday is discussed in the preceding chapter in connection
with the Jubilee Calendar. Sew also below pp. 84-86.
46 For a discussion of Hadrian's edict against Sabbath
observance., see: below pp.39-41.
Narcissus had taken part in A.D.196 at the Council of
Caesarea which fixed the celebration of Easter on Sunday
instead of the 14th of Nisan, and it is likely that the
bishop met opposition when he promulgated the conciliar
decree. The Judeo-Christians were in fact convinced of the
immutability of the traditional day of the 14th of Nisan.
Epiphanius confirms this hypothesis when he states that the
controversy arose after the disappearance of the "bishops of
the circumcision" (PG 42, 355-356). Facing opposition at the
beginning of his episcopate, bishop Alexander thought to ask
for help. to his teacher Clement of Alexandria, who
endeavored in his writings to justify the new usage (PG 9,
Eusebius, in his account of the Easter controversy, where
"the number and intensity of the conflicts are reduced to a
minimum," as Jean Juster rightly observes, is guilty of "wilful
It is difficult in fact to accept as accurate Eusebius'
claim that with the exception of "the dioceses of Asia, ... the
churches throughout the rest of the world " 49
celebrated Easter on Sunday; when we consider the following
47 Bagatti, "L' Rghae," p.9. The author discusses again the
Easter controversy and particularly the Council of Caesarea on
pp.65 and 66 of the same work. See also Eusebius, "Hist. Eccl."
5, 23, 3 and 5, 24, 1.
48 Jean Juster, "Lea Juifa dens l'empire romain" (Now York: Burt
Franklin, 1965), p.309, footnote 3. The author provides a
valuable analysis of the influence of the Jewish liturgy on the
Church; see especially pp.304-326.
49 Lake, "Eusebius History" 5, 23, 1, p.503. That Eusebius
attempts to minimize and to limit the observance of the
quartodeciman Passover only to "the dioceses of Asia," is
evidenced by the very letter of Iranaeus, which Eusebius quotes
and where it says: "The presbyters before you [i.e., Victor]. who
did not observe it [i.e., the quartodeciman Passover] sent the
Eucharist to those from other dioceses who did." (Lake, "Eusebius
History" 5, 24, p.511). The Eucharist (a small piece of
consecrated bread called "Fermentum"), was in fact sent by the
Pope, as a symbol of union, to the main churches - titoli -
inside and outside the city, and not too far away bishops. (For a
discussion of the problem, see Mosna, "La Domenica", p.333 ; V.
Monachino, "La Cam pastorale a Milano, Cartalons e Roma ml sec."
IV, Analecta Gregoriana 41 (Rome: Pontificia Universita
Gregoriana, 1947). p.281; L. Hurtling, "Communio" (Rome:
Pontificia Universita Gregoriana, 1961), p.13; of., also
Hippolytus, "Traditio Apostolica" 22). This would seem to
indicate that there were quartodeciman Christians living in Rome
or in the outlying districts, with whom the predecessors of Pope
Victor maintained the "communio" (i.e., the Christian
fellowship). C. J. Hotel, suggests an interesting explanation for
the aversion of Pope Victor against the quartodeciman Passover.
He explains, it as a possible reaction of the Pope against a
certain Blastus, who according to Tertullian (de Prescriptione
53) "wanted to introduce Judaism secretly in Rome." (A History of
the Christian Councils [Edinburgh: T. and T. Clark, 1883] 1:
when we consider the following facts:
(1) Pope Victor (ca. A.D.189-199) demanded the convocation of
councils in various provinces 50
codify the Roman Easter 51
(Easter-Sunday) obviously because a divergent custom existed.
(2) The bishops of Palestine who assembled together to discuss
the matter, according to Eusebius, "treated at length the
tradition concerning the Passover" and then they formulated a
conciliar letter which was sent "to every diocese that we [i.e.
the bishops] may not be guilty toward those who easily deceive
their own souls." 52
The lengthy discussion and the formulation of a conciliar
letter aimed at persuading and preventing the resistance of the
dissidents (possibly Judeo-Christians who as Bagatti notes had
not been invited to the Council) again indicates that in
Palestine by the end of the second century there still existed a
strong Judeo-Christian current which urged loyalty to certain
traditional Jewish institutions, like the quartodeciman
(3) The various testimonies of the Fathers 54
50 That Pope Victor had requested the convocation of councils to
codify the Roman Easter-Sunday custom, is evidenced by the reply
of Polycrates, bishop of Ephesus, to the Pope, where he state:
"I could mention the bishops who are present whom you required me
to summon, and I did so." (Lake, "Eusebius History" 5, 24, 8, p.
507; italics mine.)
51 The expression "Roman Easter" as a designation of
Easter-Sunday, has been borrowed from Mosna, who uses it
frequently in his dissertation undoubtedly because it reflects
the role of Rome in the establishment of the custom. (See Mosna,
"La Domenica," pp. 117, 119, 333.)
52 Lake, "Eusebius History" 5, 25, 1, p.513.
53 Bagatti, "L'Eglise," p.85.
54 The most important sources for a quartodeciman Passover,
besides Eusebius "Hist. Eccl." 5. 23-25, are: "Epistola
Apostolorum" 15; two fragments from two works of Hippolytus (one
of them was on the "Holy Easter") preserved in the "Chronicon
Paschale" (PG 92,79) where he state: "Consider therefore in what
the controversy consists...." This would imply that the
controversy was still alive in his time and felt possibly in
Rome; Athanasius of Alexandria, who mentions the "Syrians,
Cilicians, and Mesopotamians" as observant of the quartodeciman
Passover (see his "de Synodis" 1, 5 and "ad Alms Epistola
Synodica" 2); Jerome, who paraphrases a statement from Irenaeus'
work, "On the Pascal Controversy," where the latter warns Pope
Victor not to break the unity with "the many bishops of Asia and
the East, who with the Jews celebrated the Passover, on the
fourteenth day of the new moon" (see "de Viris illustribus" 35,
NPNF, Second Series, 3:370); a fragment of Apollinarius, bishop
of Hierapolis (ca. A.D.170) from his work on "Easter," preserved
in the "Chronicon Paschale" 6 (PG 92, 80-81), where it says:
"The 14th Nisan is the true Passover of our Lord, the great
Sacrifice; instead of the lamb, we have the Lamb of God;"
Severian, bishop of Gabala (fl. ca. A.D.400), who strongly
attacks those Christian, who still maintained the Jewish Passover
ritual (sea his "homilia 5 de Pascha," ed. J. B. Anchor (Venice:
1827), p.180; Epiphanius, bishop of Salamis (ca. A.D. 315-403)
deals extensively with the quartodeciman controversy in his "Ad
versus Haereses" 50 and 70. The bishop suggests in various
instances that the quartodeciman custom, which he labels
"heresy," was widespread. He writes, for instance: "And another
heresy, namely the quartodeciman, (arose - rose up again) in the
world" ("Adversus Haereses" 50, 1, PC 41, 883).
55 Begetti, "L'Eglise," pp.8, 9.
56 See below p.34.
57 James Parkes, "The Conflict of the Church and Synagogue"
(London: The Soncino Press, 1934), p.78. (Hereafter cited as
Parkes, "The Conflict.")
The various testimonies of the Fathers who, though in some
cases condemned the quartodeciman Passover as practiced
especially in many Eastern areas, provide corroborating evidences
that there were Christians especially in many Eastern communities
who still observed Passover at the same time of the Jews.
(6) The survival of the "Jewish imprint" in the Church of
Jerusalem as well as in the neighboring communities, is
confirmed, as Bagatti rightly points out by additional historical
testimonies. In fact Bagatti provides the following indications:
On the "Jewish" character preserved at this time by the
church of Jerusalem and by many other Churches, we have,
among the witnesses, the one of Bardesane (180-223) who said
of his disciples (PS 2, 605) that they sanctified Sunday and
not Saturday, and that they did not practice the
circumcision "as the Christians of Judea." A letter of the
"Clementine Books" (PQ 2, 31-56), written under the name of
Clement, carries the heading: "To James, Lord and Bishop of
Bishops, who directs the holy Church of the Jews of
The survival, in Jerusalem as well as other parts of Asia, of
such strong influence of the Judeo-Christians (well over a
century after the first destruction of Jerusalem) who remained
loyal to the Jewish liturgical calendar, as in the reckoning of
the Passover, would seem to discredit any attempt to make the
year 70 the historical breaking point between the Sabbath and
(7) The Rabbinical authorities reconstituted at Jamaia (as
will be discussed in the next section), 56
introduced at this time (ca. A.D.80-90) a test to detect the
presence of Christians in the synagogue service. The test
consisted in a curse that was incorporated in the daily prayer -
Shemoneh Esreh - and was to be pronounced against the Christians
by any participant in the synagogue service. The introduction of
such a test indicates, as J. Parkes observes, that
"Judeo-Christians still frequented the synagogue." 57
If this were the case, it is hard to imagine that the
Christian Church of Palestine, composed primarily at that time of
Judeo-Christians still attending the synagogue, had already
broken away radically from Judaism by introducing the observance
In the light of these considerations it would seem
reasonable to conclude that the possibility suggested by Regan
of a break with the Sabbath and of the adoption of Sunday already
in the year 70, at the time of the destruction of Jerusalem, is
hardly conceivable. As we have seen, for 60 more years the
hierarchy and the majority of the members of the Jerusalem
Church, were even after the year 135, these fought to safeguard
such Mosaic traditions as the quartodeciman Passover. The
destruction of Jerusalem undoubtedly marked a break in the
relationships between Jews and Christians and accelerated that
process of separation at in time brought the abandonment, on the
part of the majority of the Christians, of both the Sabbath and
the quartodeciman Passover, as well as other typical Jewish
practices. This process, however, was gradual and, especially in
Palestine, did not seem to have made a significant start before
the disappearance of the "bishops of the circumcision."
TO BE CONTINUED