Friday, September 3, 2010

The Ascents of James

James the Just


There are three people named James in the New Testament. These are James the Just, James the Son of Zebedee and James the Less. James the Just also known as James the Brother of Our Lord and as St. James of Jerusalem. He is also the author of the Epistle of James. James was the leader of the Christian community. James the brother of John. He was the son of Zebedee and was given along with his brother the nick-name of Boanerges by Jesus. Boarnerges in Aramaic means "Sons of Thunder". He was murdered by King Herod. St. James the Less was an apostle of whom we know very little. The Ascents of James is an ancient account about James the Just, the Brother of Jesus. The James we are talking about here is James the Just, the Brother of Jesus and leader of the Church at Jerusalem James the Just could more accurately be translated as "Jacob the Righteous." He was widely respected for his virtue and sagacity. James is an old English form of the name Jacob.

James was called the Brother of Jesus by the early church. Another brother of Jesus was Jude, who like Paul, was a missionary. Both James and Jude wrote epistles that are included in the New Testament. Many ancient traditions about James that originated from the Aramaic speaking Jewish Christian Church have come down to us. The martyrdom of James is mentioned in the works of the great first century historian, Flavius Josephus. James was greatly beloved for his wisdom and sanctity even by the unbelieving Jews. After James was murdered the city of Jerusalem was in an uproar and the populace demanded that the high priest responsible be defrocked, and he was. According to ancient church tradition and scriptural references, James, not Peter, was the leader of the church (Acts 15:13, Acts 21:18, Galatians 2:9). Some of the Aramaic traditions of James were written by the early Jewish Christian historian Hegissipus and are included in the Church history written by Eusebius Pamphylius around 325 AD. One such tradition says that James's knees became like the knees of a camel due to his constant praying in the temple.

James was the leader of the church with authority over Peter (Cephas) and the rest of the apostles. According to the Gospel of Thomas Christ himself appointed James to lead the church. [Parts of The Gospel of Thomas may be authentic but the original is lost and it now exists only in a version that was reworked by heretics. Thus it should be used only by specialists and only with extreme caution.] Thomas Verse 12, "The Disciples said to Jesus, "We are aware that you will depart from us. Who will be our leader?" Jesus said to them, 'No matter where you come it is to James the Just you shall go, for whose sake heaven and earth have come to exist.'" (The latter part of the Thomas saying is a primitive Jewish idiom used to praise those of virtuous character. It is stated in Jewish proverbs and in Jewish tradition that God created the Heavens and the Earth for the sake of the righteous. James the Just is another way of saying Jacob the Righteous.) This verse from Thomas's Gospel doesn't tell us whether Christ commissioned James during his pubic ministry or after the resurrection. Either way his authority is unquestioned. In Galatians, Paul describes the church being led by the 'pillars' James, Cephas and John. Here James is given precedence over Peter (Cephas). At the Counsel of Jerusalem James decision was final and not subject to debate. "James answered, saying, 'Men and brethren, listen to me…I judge that we should not trouble those from among the gentiles who are turning to God…" (Acts 15:13-21). We know that James was extremely "Torah-observant". He was a devotee of the Mosaic Law, which he described as "The Perfect Law of Liberty" (James 1:25). However, he decreed that gentiles do not need to be circumcised in order to be saved. Gentiles were to avoid pagan worship so much as to avoid food that was consecrated to false gods. And they were commanded that they must not commit sexual immorality. (James did not include Sabbath observance among the basic requirements necessary for Gentile converts to be viewed as acceptable by their Jewish brethren.) Paul met with James soon after his conversion (Galatians 1:19). James was called the Zaddick, which means in both Hebrew and Aramaic, 'the Just' or 'the Righteous'. He was very Torah Observant and Christian Jews who were "Zealous for the Law" surrounded him (Acts 21:20). Cephas (Peter), was intimidated by these people (Galatians 2:11-12). The other "Brothers of Our Lord" [Joseph, Judah and Simeon] also had a special function in the Church as apostles and missionaries. Like Cephas (Peter) they were married (1 Corinthians 9:5). This verse implies that James was married as well. When Cephas (Peter) was freed from prison by the angel he instructed Rhonda to tell James and the other Brothers that he was safe (Acts 12:17). Paul reported to James on the progress of his missionary endeavors and to bring an offering to support the Ebion, the poor saints of Jerusalem (Acts 21:18). Paul was an observant Jew, but he stressed the difference between being saved and observing Jewish rites. James instructed Paul to worship with some brothers in the temple and perform Jewish rites and to pay their expenses. This was to show that Paul was a Jew and had a deep respect for Jewish tradition. Neither Paul nor James was in error for doing this. The Epistle of James the Just, the Brother of Our Lord is the first of the General Epistles because James was the preeminent apostle and had authority over Peter, whose epistles follow that of James. James's teaching style is the most similar to that of Jesus as found in the Synoptic gospels. (Matthew, Mark and Luke). It is wisdom literature and actually only mentions Jesus once. It is addressed to the Jewish Diaspora specifically but it is obviously intended for all Christians as well. It has a strong focus on works, "Be doers of the word, not only hearers" (1:19-27) and "faith without works is dead' (2:14-26). He also encourages praise and worship and Charismatic ministry, especially praying for supernatural physical healing (5:13-15). He also stresses the power of prayer (5:16). James is a powerful and inexhaustible book.

Josephus was a contemporary of St. Paul who wrote two important histories of the period of the New Testament. In his works he mentions John the Baptist, Jesus Christ and James the Brother of Jesus. He presents us with one of the most important accounts of the martyrdom of James the Just. Josephus was probably an eye-witness of these events since it is known that he was in Jerusalem when these events transpired. Josephus, although not a Christian, was opposed to the persecution and murder of James. He says,


Ananus…was a bold man in his temper and very insolent…he though he now had a proper opportunity…and he 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; but as for those who seemed the most equitable of the citizens, and such as were the most uneasy at the breach of the laws, they disliked what was done; they also sent to the king [Agrippa] desiring to send to Ananus that he should act no more, for that what he had already done was not to be justified.

Felix had died and the new Roman governor was in route. Ananus became high priest and there was no one there to check his power. He had an opportunity to pursue his personal vendetta against James and the other Christian Jews. The new high priest had James murdered before he was authorized to hold office. The people were outraged and this led to the high priest being deposed. Other apostles were probably also martyred at this time. James's popularity among the people is proven by their rising up against the high priest after he had James put to death. Eusebius quotes another saying of Josephus, "Some held that these calamities happened to the Jews to avenge Jacob (James) the Just, who was the brother of Jesus called Christ, and who at this time the judges had executed, although he was a man distinguished for his justice." Many early Christian Jews and non-Christian Jews believed that the temple was destroyed because James intercession was ceased by his murder. Hegisippus mentions a prophecy in connection with the martyrdom of James that of Isaiah 3:10, "Who unto their soul! For they have rewarded evil unto themselves. Say ye to the righteous that it shall be well with him; but they shall eat of the fruit of their doings. Woe to the wicked! It will be ill with him; for the reward of his hands will be given him. The Lord will enter into judgment with the ancients of his people, and the princes thereof: for ye have eaten up the vineyard; the spoil of the poor is in your houses. What mean ye that ye beat my people to pieces, and grind the faces of the poor? Saith the Lord of Hosts…Thy men shall fall by the sword, and thy might in the war". The early Messianic Jews believed the destruction of the temple was God's wrath for the death of James. James was interpreted as being the Righteous One referred to in this passage.

Many scholars see James as a champion of the poor and of the oppressed. The Sadducean Religious establishment was a small group of closely related priests who ran the temple and enriched themselves by exploiting the people. Some scholars believe that one of the motives the priest had in murdering James was that he was a champion of the poor, especially of poor priests. While the high priestly family fatten themselves off of the people's offerings many Levites were starving. (The Levites were an Israelite tribe that was a priestly caste.) The high priests seized and confiscated for themselves tithes that were to go towards the support of impoverished priests. Their corrupt practices enraged the populace so much that certain high priests met violent ends. Many priests, because they didn't have connections, were not allowed to serve in the temple, or like Zacharias the father of John the Baptist, were allowed only to function in the temple once in their entire life, if their name came up on the roll. Many priests waited their whole lives for an opportunity to worship in the temple and were never allowed to. Jesus opposed the High Priest's corrupt practices when he cleansed the temple. [Although Jesus had strong words against the Pharisees He had much more in common with them than with the Sadducean Priestly establishment. Not all priests were Sadducees but all the Sadducees were wealthy priests. Certain Bible scholars consider Jesus a Pharisee. Paul still considered himself a Pharisee years after his conversion (Acts 23:6). Many Pharisees were hypocrites, but not all of them were. There are also interesting similarities between early Christianity and the Essenes, or the Qumran community. Either way both the Pharisees and the early Christian Jews opposed the beliefs and corrupt practices of the Sadducees.] James probably did oppose these evil practices of the high priest, the way his brother had done. James also focuses on the needs of the poor in his epistle (James 2:3-4, 15-16; Galatians 2:10). One of James's titles (according to the most ancient sources) was Oblias, which is from a Hebrew word meaning "Bulwark of the People".

According to ancient Aramaic tradition, James was instrumental in founding the church in Assyria. After the successful mission of Thaddeus to Edessa, James commissioned other apostles and relatives of Jesus to continue the work in Mesopotamia initiated by Thomas and Thaddeus.


James the Just and the Ebionites: The Theological Significance of Vegetarianism

There are Biblical figures that were vegetarian and these include, Adam, Enoch, Daniel, James the Brother of Jesus and all of the Twelve Apostles (at least according to early church historians Hegissipus and Eusebius). (John the Baptist also may have been a vegetarian, but he did eat 'kosher' insects.) By their practice James and the Apostles commended vegetarianism to all Christians. The early Jewish Christians were especially devoted to James the Just the brother of Jesus Christ. (Are the vegetarians Paul speaks of Jewish Christians? In Romans 14 this does seem to be the case, because Paul also mentions them "esteeming" days, i.e., sabbaths and Jewish festivals. Who were the "Ebionites"? They were Christian Jews who called themselves "the Poor," from the Hebrew word Ebyon. In the Beatitudes Jesus says, "Blessed are the Poor" (Luke 6:20). Paul refers to the Christian Jews as "the poor living among the saints in Jerusalem" (Romans 15:26). Later some Ebionites had a defective Christology. This doesn't mean that their beliefs about vegetarianism were wrong or not traced back to the apostles. A defective Christology is not seen in all of the extra-biblical Jewish Christ writings that have come down to us.) It is evident from the New Testament that James was the leader of the church and had authority over the other apostles including Peter. Peter is also identified in the New Testament as being a leader of the Jewish Christian community. The early Christian Jewish community preserved important writings about James the Just. The most important are found in the writings of the Jewish Christian historian Hegesippus, who according to Eusebius "flourished nearest to the days of the apostles" (Eusebius, Ecclesiatica Historia XXII). Hegesippus probably lived in the early part of the second century. Unfortunately, the writings of Hegesippus are now lost and survive only in quotations found in the church fathers such as Eusebius, who quotes from him extensively. Hegesippus described James saying,

James the brother of the Lord…was surnamed the Just by all, from the days of our Lord until now, received the government of the church with the apostles. This apostle was consecrated from his mother's womb. He drank neither wine nor fermented liquors, and abstained from animal food. A razor never came upon his head, he never anointed with oil, and never used a [Roman or "Turkish" public] bath. 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, in consequence of his habitual supplication and knelling before God.

Hegesippus gives us an important account of the martyrdom of James the Just. Flavius Josephus also wrote an account of the judicial murder of James and how it caused a popular outcry against the culprits. We know why the early Jewish Christians condemned meat eating because some of their teachings have been transmitted to us by the Church Fathers and also by fragments of their literature. Additional information about James is found in what is called the Pseudo-Clementine literature, which includes the Homilies of Clement and the Recognitions of Clement. Jewish Christian literature was incorporated into theses two book that purport to be the story of Clement, a disciple of Simon Peter. Many of the stories of the conflict between Peter and Simon the Samaritan Sorcerer and Gnostic are found here. Certain scholars have identified sections of the Pseudo-Clementine literature as a separate work, The Ascents of Saint James. These writings are important for what they tell us about the theology of Jewish Christians and also stories about James and other apostles that may reflect authentic information. Of particular interest is The Ascents of James. In his ancient Jewish Christian book James and the 12 apostles explain their beliefs in Jesus as the Messiah and answer questions from their opponents on the steps of the Temple. The main argument made is that Jesus is the prophet like Moses prophesied in Deuteronomy 18: 15-22 and that animal sacrifices had ceased. According to The Ascents of James, "Lest perhaps they think that at the cessation of sacrifices there would be no forgiveness of sins for them, he established baptism by water for them. In it they would be freed from sins by the invocation of his names…because they had been cleansed not by the blood of animals, but by the purification of the wisdom of God." John brought people away from the Temple out into the desert where he practiced a baptism for the remission of sins where sins were washed away, not by the blood of animals but by repentance and immersion in the waters of the river Jordan. With the Incarnation, animal sacrifices were annulled. John the Baptist preached the washing away of sins in the water of baptism-not in the blood sacrifice system in the Temple. In the first century many Jewish groups rejected the temple rituals, including the Essenes, the Qumran Community and many of the early Christians. (According to Philo of Alexandria, a contemporary of Paul the Apostle, the Essenes rejected animal sacrifices.) The apostles prayed and preached in the Temple but certain early Christians, such as Stephen, condemned Temple worship. Jesus himself attacked Temple rituals and taught that worship of the Father in spirit would supercede temple rituals.

The Qumran community that is linked to the Dead Sea Scrolls may not have been Essenes at all. Some scholars believe that there was not Qumran community at and that the scrolls that were found at Qumran were part of the Temple library that was hidden in order to protect it during the Jewish War against Rome. However, the presence of sectarian literature makes this unlikely. The Qumran sect may have been a branch of Judaism that we simply knew nothing about until the discovery of the scrolls. They seem to have been a radical sect of Sadducees. One of the Dead Sea Scrolls praises a mass crucifixion of Pharisees. They may have had some similarities with the Essenes but, if they are to be identified with the Essenes, it should be noted that they had distinctive teachings that were not normative for most of the Essenes. They broke away from the Temple because they felt that the Temple rituals were not being preformed properly not because they were opposed to animal sacrifices. However, Josephus joined with the Essenes for three years. He joined with an Essene named "Banus" who "lived in the desert, and used no other clothing than grew upon the trees, and had no other food than grew of its own accord, and bathed himself in cold water frequently, both night and day, in order to preserve his chastity." The similarity between Banus and John the Baptist are obvious.



Introduction to "The Ascents of James"


The earliest date for the composition of "The Ascents of James" is AD 135. The title reminds us of the Psalms of Ascents (Psalm 120-134) that were sung by pilgrims while they ascended up to the Temple to worship during festivals. The story-a series of dialogues-takes place upon the steps going up to the Temple. In the "Ascents of James" the high priest calls upon the twelve apostles to debate whether or not Jesus is the Messiah. Various schools of thought provide objections, including the Sadducees, the Pharisees, the followers of John the Baptist and the Samaritans and one by one each of the apostles presents a response.


The theme of the Ascents of James is that Jesus is the prophet like unto Moses. Deuteronomy 18:18 states, "I will raise up for them a Prophet like you from among their brethren, and will put My words in His mouth., and He shall speak to them all that I command him. And it shall be that whoever will not hear My words, which he speaks in Myname, I will require it of him." The Ascents of James also deals with the ceasation of animal sacrifices.


The Ascents of James have been preserved because they were palagaized. In the 300s, someone began writing literature around the character of Clement, a disciple of Saint Peter. These works are The Recognitions of Clement and the Homilies of Clements (also called the Clemenite Homilies and the Clementine Recognitions. The person who wrote this story took Jewish Christian writings and incorporated them (palagarized them) into his story. This was actually a good thing, because now we have writings by Jewish Christians from the early second century that would have been lost otherwise. Modern scholars using textual cricism methodology have been able to identify the Ascents of James. Ascents of James has been preserved in Aramaic (Syriac) and Latin. A genuine epislte of Clement has survived and is known as 1 Clement. It was written in 96 AD and is as old as parts of the New Testament. (Clement isn't familiar with the Gospels as we have them now and quotes an ancient oral traditional form of certain saying of Jesus.) There is a 2 Clement. Scholars feel that it is misnamed and that it isn't by Clement but is rather the earliest example of a written Christian sermon outside of the New Testament. There is a Clement who is mentioned in the Bible who may be the same person who wrote 1 Clement (Phillipians 4:3). In the lists of "popes" Clement is sometimes listed after Peter, other times the second or third person after Peter. (Of course there was no "pope" until centuries after the time of Clement.


Ascents of James was probably written in Pella, the place where the Jewish Christians fled after the Fall of Jerusalem in 70 AD.

Certain early Jewish Christians became known as the Ebionites, from the Hebrew word for "the Poor." Some of them would be what we would call heretics today. They denied the deity of Christ and the apostleship of Paul. On the other hand, there were many different sects of Ebionites. Apparently, most Ebionites were vegetarian. The Ebionites probably led the stuggle, and won the struggle agains Marcionism.


Marcionism was a mid-second century heretical movement which attempted to completely divorce Christianity from its Jewish heritage. The Old Testament was to be rejected and the God of the Old Testament was to be viewed as a false god. Marcion created his own version of the New Testament. This heretical movement was overcome.


James the Just, the brother of Jesus, was a very important person to the early Jewish Christians. Hegissipus was able preserve stories from early Jewish Christians about James the Just and other relatives of Jesus that have been preserved in Eusebius's Ecclesiastical History of 325.


The Martyrdom of James is preserved in Josephus and in Eusebius. James is brought into the Temple during passover. The High Priest attempts to force James to deny that Jesus is the Christ. James refuses and is stoned to death. Josephus gives a shorter account. Hegissipus's account, preserved in Eusebius is more dramatic.


Acts of James and Zokker, descendents of Saint Jude:


Of the family of the Lord there were still living the grandchildren of Jude, who is said to have been the Lord's brother after the flesh. Information was given that they belonged to the family of David, and they were brought to the Emperor Domitian…For Domitian feared the coming of Christ as Herod also had feared it. And he asked them if they were descendants of David, and they confessed they were. Then he asked them how much property they had, or how much money they owned. And both of them answered that they had only nine thousand dinarii, half of which belonged to each of them; and this property did not consist of silver, but of a piece of land which contained only thirty-nine acres, and from which they raised their taxes, and supported themselves by their own labor. Then they showed their hands, exhibiting the callousness produced upon their hands by continuous toil as evidence of their own labor. And then they were asked concerning Christ and his kingdom, of what sort it was and when it was to appear, they answered that it was not a temporal nor an earthly kingdom but a heavenly and angelic kingdom, which would appear at the end of the world, when he should come in glory to judge the quick and the dead, and give to every one according to his works. Upon hearing this Domitian did not pass judgement, but despising them as of no account, he let them go, and by a decree put a stop to the persecution of the church. But when they were released they ruled the churches because they were witnesses and were also relatives of the Lord.








The Ascents of James




But while Abraham was still in ignorance, as we said to you before, two sons were born to him, of whom one was called Ishmael, and the other Heliesdros. From the one are descended the barbarous nations, from the other the people of the Persians, some of whom have adopted the manner of living and institutions of their neighbors, the Brahmans. Others settled in Arabia, of whole posterity some also have spread into Egypt. From them some of the Indians and Egyptians have learned to be circumcised, and to be of purer observance than others, although in process of time most of them have turned to impiety what was the proof and sign of purity.


Nevertheless, as he had got these two sons during the time while he still lived in ignorance of things, having received the knowledge of God, he asked of the Righteous One that he might merit to have offspring by Sarah, who was his lawful wife, though she was barren. She obtained a son, whom he named Isaac, from whom came Jacob, and from him the twelve patriarchs, and from these twelve seventy-two. These, when famine befell, came into Egypt with all their family; and in the course of four hundred years, being multiplied by the blessing and promise of God, they were afflicted by the Egyptians. And when they were afflicted the true prophet appeared to Moses, and struck the Egyptians with ten plagues, when they refused to let the Hebrew people depart from them, and return to their native land; and he brought the people of God out of Egypt. But those of the Egyptians who survived the plagues, being infected with the animosity of their king, pursued after the Hebrews. And when they had overtaken then at the seashore, and thought to destroy and exterminate them all, Moses, pouring out prayer to God, divided the sea into two parts, so that the water was held on the right hand and on the left as if it had been frozen, and the people of God passed over a dry road but the Egyptians who were pursuing them, rashly entering, were drowned. For when the last of the Hebrews came out, the last of the Egyptians went down into the sea; and straightway the waters of the sea, which by his command were held bound as with frost, were loosed by his command who had bound them, and recovering their natural freedom, inflicted punishment on the wicked nation.



After this, Moses, by the command of God, whose providence is over all, led out the people of the Hebrews into the wilderness; and leaving the shortest road which leads from Egypt to Judea, he led the people though windings of the wilderness, that, by the discipline of forty years, tle novelty of a changed manner of life might root out the evils wlich had clung to them by a long-continued familiarity with the customs of the Egyptians. Meantime they came to Mount Sinai, and thence the law was given to them with voices and sights from heaven, written in ten precepts, of which the first and greatest was that they should worship God Himself alone, and not make themselves any appearance or form to worship. But when Moses had gone up to the mount, and was staying there forty days, the people, although they had seen Egypt struck with the ten plagues, and the sea had parted and passed over by them by foot, manna also was given to them from heaven for bread, and drink supplied to them out of the rock that followed them, which kind of food was turned into whatever taste any one desired; and although, being placed under the torrid region of heaven, they were shaded by a cloud in the day-time, that they might not be scorched by the heat, and by night were enlightened by a pillar of fire, lest the horrors of the darkness should be added to the wasteness of the wilderness;-those very people, I say, when Moses stayed in the mount, made and worshipped a golden calf's head, after the fashion of Apis, whom they had worshipped in Egypt; and after so many and so great marvels which they had seen, were unable to cleanse and wash out from themselves, the defilements of old habit. On this account, leaving the short road which leads from Egypt to Judea, Moses conducted them by an immense circuit of the desert, if haply he might be able, as we mentioned before, to shake off the evils of old habit by the change of a new education.


When meantime Moses, that faithful and wise steward, perceived that the vice of sacrificing to idols had been deeply ingrained into the people from their association with the Egyptians, and that the root of this evil could not be extracted from time, he allowed them indeed to sacrifice, but permitted it to be done only to God, that by any means he might cut off one half of the deeply ingrained evil, leaving the other half to be corrected by another, and at a future time; by Him, namely, concerning whom he said himself, "A prophet call the Lord your God raise unto you, whom ye shall hear even as myself, according to all the things which He shall say to you. Whosoever shall not hear that prophet, his soul shall be cut off from his people."


In addition to these things, he also appointed a place in which alone it should be lawful to them to sacrifice to God. And all this was arranged with this view, that when the fitting time should come, and they should learn by means of the Prophet that God desires mercy and not sacrifice, they might see Him who should teach them that the place chosen of God, in which it was suitable that victims should be offered to God, is his Wisdom.; and that on the other hand they might hear that this place, which seemed chosen for a time, often harassed as it had been by hostile invasions and plundering, was at last to be wholly destroyed. And in order to impress this upon them, even before the coming of the true Prophet, who was to reject at once the sacrifices and the place, it was often plundered by enemies and burnt with fire, and the people carried into captivity among foreign nations, and then brought back when they betook themselves to the mercy of God; that by these things they might be taught that a people who offer sacrifices are driven away and delivered up into tie hands of the enemy, but they who do mercy and righteousness are without sacrifices freed from captivity, and restored to their native land. But it fell out that very few understood this; for the greater number, though they could perceive`and obsgrve these things, yet were held by the irrational opinion of the vulgar: for right opinion with licerty is the prerogative of a few.


Moses, then, having arranged these things, ant having set over the people one Joshua to bring them to the land of their fathers, himself by the command of the living God went up to a certain mountain, and there died. Yet such was the manner of his death, that till this day no one has found his burial-place. When, therefore, the people had reached their fathers' land, by the providence of God, at their first onset the inhabitants of the wicked races are routed, and they enter upon their paternal inheritance, which was distributed among them by lot. For some time thereafter they were ruled not by kings, but by judges, and remained in a somewhat peaceful condition. But when they sought for themselves tyrants rather than kings, then also with regal ambition they erected a temple in the place which had been appointed to them for prayer; and thus, through a succession of wicked kings, the people fell away to greater and still greater impiety.


These things therefore having been fore-arranged, He who was expected comes, bringing signs and miracles as His credentials by which He should be made manifest. But not even so did the people believe, though they had been trained during so many ages to the belief of these things. And not only did they not believe, but they added blasphemy to unbelief, saying that He was a gluttonous man and a belly-slave, and that He was actuated by a demon, even He who had come for their salvation. To such an extent does wickedness prevail by t he agency of evil ones; so that, but for the Wisdom of God assisting those who love the truth, almost all would have been involved in impious delusion. Therefore the chose us twelve, the first who believed in Him, whom he named apostles; and afterwards other seventy-two most approved disciples, there, at least, in this way recognizing the pattern of Moses, the multitude might believe that this is He of whom Moses foretold, the Prophet that was to come.


But wome one perhaps may say that it is possible for anyone to imitate a number; but what shall we say of the signs and miracles which He wrought? For Moses had wrought miracles and cures in Egypt. He also of whom he foretold that He should rise up a prophet like unto himself, though He cured every sickness and infirmity among the people, wrought innumerable miracles, and preached eternal life, was hurried by wicked men to the cross; which deed was, however, by His power turned to good. In short, while He was suffering, all the world suffered with Him; for the sun was darkened, the mountains were torn asunder, the graves were opened, the veil of the temple was rent, as in lamentation for the destruction impending over the place. And yet, though all the world was moved, they themselves are not even now moved to the consideration of these so great things.


But inasmuch as it was necessary that the Gentiles should be called into the room of those who remain unbelieving, so that the number might be filled up which had been shown to Abraham, the preaching of the blessed kingdom of God is sent into all of the world. On this account worldly spirits are disturbed, who always oppose those who are in quest of liberty, and who make use of the engines of error to destroy God's building; while those who press on to the glory of safely and liberty, being rendered braver by their resistance to these spirits, and by the toil of greater struggles against them, attain the crown of safety not without the palm of victory. Meanwhile, when He had suffered, and darkness had overwhelmed the world from the sixth even to the ninth hour, as soon as the sun shone out again, and things were returned to their usual course, even wicked men returned to themselves and their former practices, their fear having abated. For somg of them, watching the place with all care, when they could not prevent His rising again, said that He was a magician, others pretended that he was stolen away.


Nevertheless, the truth everywhere prevailed; for, in proof that these things were done by divine power, we who had been very few became in the course of a few days, by the help of God, far more than they. So that the priests at one time were afraid, lest haply, by the providence of God, to their confusion, the whole of the people should come over to our faith. Therefore, they often sent to us, and asked us to discourse with them concerning Jesus, whether he were the Prophet whom Moses foretold, who is the eternal Christ. For on this point only does there seem to be any difference between those of us who believe in Jesus, and the unbelieving Jews. But while they often made such requests of us, and we sought for a fitting opportunity, a week of years was completed from the passion of the Lord, the Church of the Lord was constituted in Jerusalem was most plentifully multiplied and grew, being governed with most righteous ordinances by James, who was ordained bishop in it by the Lord.


Introduction to the Dialogue


But when we twelve apostles, on the day of the Passover, had come together with an immense multitude, and entered into the church of the brethren, each of us, at the request of James stated briefly, in the hearing of the people, what we had done in every place. While this was going on, Caiaphas, the high priest, sent priests to us, and asked us to come to him, that either we should prove to him that Jesus is the eternal Christ, or he to us that He is not, and that so all the people should agree upon one faith or the other; and this he frequently entreated us to do. But we often put it off, always seeking for a more convenient time.


Debate between the High Priest and Matthew Concerning Baptism and Animal Sacrifice


However, as we were proceeding to say, when the high priest had often sent priests to us to ask us that we might discourse with one another concerning Jesus; when it seemed a fit opportunity, and it pleased all the Church, we went up to the temple, and, standing on thu steps together with our faithful brethren, the people kept perfect silence; and first the high priest began to exhort the people that they should hear patiently and quietly, and at the same time witness and judge of those things that were to be spoken. Then, in the next place, exalting with many praises the rite of sacrifice which had been bestowed by God upon the human race for the remission of sins, he found fault with the baptism of our Jesus, as having been recently brought in in opposition to the sacrifices. But Matthew, meeting his propositions, showed clearly, that whosoever shall not obtain the baptism of Jesus shall not only be deprived of the kingdom of heaven, but shall not be without peril at the resurrection of the dead, even though he be fortified by the prerogative of a good life and an upright disposition. Having made these and such like statements, Matthew stopped.


Debate between Sadducees and Andrew Concerning Life after Death


But the party of the Sadducees, who deny the resurrection of the dead, were in a rage, so that one of them cried out from amongst the people, saying that those greatly err who think that the dead ever arise. In opposition to them, Andrew, my brother, answering, declared that it is not an error, but the surest matter of faith, that the dead rise, in accordance with the teaching of Him whom Moses foretold that He should come, the True Prophet. "Or if," says he, "you do not think that this is He whom Moses foretold, let this first be inquired into, so that when this is clearly proved to be He, there may be no further doubt concerning the things which He taught." These, and many suck like things, Andrew proclaimed, and then stopped.


Debate between James and John and a Samaritan Concerning Mount Gerizim


But a certain Samaritan, speaking against the people and against Godl aod asserting that neither are the dead to rise, nor is the worship of God to be maintained which is in Jerusalem, but that Mount Gerizim is to be reverenced, added also in opposition to us, that our Jesus was not He whom Moses foretold as a Prophet to come into the world. Against him, and another who supported him in what he said, James and John, the sons of Zebedee, strove vigorously, and although they had a command not to enter into their cities, nor bring the world of preaching to them, yet, let their discourse, unless it were confuted, should hurt the faith of others, they replied so prudently and so powerfully, that they put them to perpetual silence. For James made an oration concerning the resurrection of the dead, with the approbation of all the people; while John showed that if they would abandon the error of Mount Gerizim, they should consequently acknowledge that Jesus was indeed He who, according to the prophecy of Moses, was expected to come; since, indeed, as Moses wrought signs and miracles, so also did Jesus. And there is no doubt but that the likeness of the signs proves him to be that prophet of whom he said that He should come, "like himself." Having declared these things, and more to the same effect, they ceased.


Debate between a scribe and Phillip concerning the accusation that Jesus was a Magician


And behold, one of the scribes, shouting out from the midst of the people, says; "the signs and miracles which your Jesus wrought, he wrought not as a prophet, but as a magician." Phillip eagerly encountered him, showing that by this argument he accused Moses also. For when Moses wrought signs and miracles in Egypt, in like manner as Jesus also did in Judea, it cannot be doubted that what was said of Jesus might as well be said of Moses. Having made these and such like protestations, Phillip was silent.


Debate with a Pharisee and Phillip Concerning whether Jesus was a prophet like unto Moses


Then a certain Pharisee, hearing this, chided Phillip because he put Jesus on a level with Moses. To whom Bartholomew, answering, boldly declared that we do not only say that Jesus was equal to Moses, but that He was greater than he, because Moses was indeed a prophet, as Jesus was also, but that Moses was not the Christ, as Jesus was, and therefore He is doubtless greater who is both a prophet and the Christ, than he who is only a prophet. After following this train of argument, he stopped.


James the Son of Alphaeus argues to the people that we should`believe the Prophets because Christ testified of them and not vice versa


After him James the son of Alphaus gave an address to the people, with the view of showing that we are not to believe on Jesus on the ground that the prophets foretold concerning Him, but rather that we are to believe the prophets, that they were really prophets, because the Christ bears testimony to them for it is the presence and coming of Christ that show that they are truly prophets: for testimony must be borne by the superior to his inferiors, not by inferiors to their superior. After these and many similar statements, James also was silent.


Lebbaeus argues the people should have believed in Jesus after having witnessed his miracles


After him Lebbaeus began vehemently to charge it upon the people that they did not believe in Jesus, who had done them so much good by teaching them the things that are of God, by comforting the afflicted, healing the sick, relieving the poor; yet for all these benefits their return had been hatred and death. When he had declared these and many more such things to the people, he ceased.


Simon the Zealot argues with a Disciples of John the Baptist, that the Baptist was Christ's inferior


And, behold, one of the disciples of John asserted that John was the Christ, and not Jesus, inasmuch as Jesus Himself declared that John was greater than all men and all prophets. "If, then," said he, "he be greater than all, he must be held to be greater than Moses, and than Jesus himself. But if he be the greatest of all, then he must be the Christ." To this Simon the Canaanean, answering that John was indeed greater than"all the prophets, and all who are born of women, yet that he is not greater than the Son of Man. Accordingly Jesus is also the Christ, whereas John is only a prophet: and there is as much difference between him and Jesus, as between the forerunner and Him whose forerunner he is; or as between Him who gives the law, and him who keeps the law. Having made these and similar statements, the Canaanean was silent.


Matthias argues that, if the people are not sure of Jesus they should at least not blaspheme"and mock him


After him Barsabas, who also is called Matthias, who was substituted in the place of Judas, begen to exhort the people that they should not regard Jesus with hatred, nor speak evil of Him. For it were far more proper, even for one who might be in ignorance or in doubt concerning Jesus, to love than to hate Him. For God has affixed a reward for love, a penalty to hatred. "For the very fact,' said he, "that He assumed a Jewish body, and was born among the Jews, how has not this incited us all to love Him?" When he had spoken this, and more to the same effect, he stopped.


Thomas debates Caiaphas concerning the content of Christ's teachings

Then Caiaphas attempted to impugn the doctrine of Jesus saying that He spoke vain things, for He said that the poor are blessed; and promised earthly rewards; and placed the chief gift in an earthly inheritance; and promised that those who maintained righteousness shall be satisfied with meat and drink; and many things of this sort He is charged with teaching. Thomas, in reply, proves that his accusation is frivolous; showing that the prophets, in whom Caiaphas believes, taught these things much more, and did not show in what manner these things are to be, or how they are to be understood; whereas Jesus pointed out how they are to be taken. And when he had spoken these things, and others of like kind, Thomas also held his peace.


Caiaphas attacks Peter for his supposed lack of education


Therefore Caiaphas, again looking at me, and sometimes in the way of warning and sometimes in that of accusation, said that I ought for the future to refrain from preaching Christ Jesus, lest I should do it to my own destruction, and lest, being deceived myself, I should also deceive others. Then, moreover, he charged me with presumption, because, though I was unlearned, a fisherman and a rustic, I dared to assume the office of a teacher, As he spoke these things, and many more of the kind, I said in reply, that I incurred less danger, if, as he said, this Jesus were not the Christ, because I received Him as a teacher of the law; but that he was in terrible danger if this be the very Christ, as assuredly He is: for I believe in Him who has appeared; but for whom else, who has never appeared, does he reserve his faith: But if I, and unlearned and uneducated man, as you say, a fisherman and a rustic, have more understanding than wise elders, this, said I, ought the more to strike terror into you. For if I disputed with any learning, and won over you wise and learned men it would appear that I had acquired this power very long learning, and not by the grace of divine power but now, when, as I have said, we unskilled men convince and overcome you wise men, who that had any sense does not perceive that this is not a work of human subtlety, but of divine will and gift?


"For we," said I, "have ascertained beyond doubt that God is much rather displeased wiuh the sacrifices which you offer, the time of sccrifices having now passed away; and because ye will not acknowledge that the time for offering victims is now past, therefore the temple shall be destroyed. And the abomination of desolation shall stand in the holy place; and then the Gospel shall be preached to the Gentiles for a testimony against you, that your unbelief may be judged by their faith. For the whole world at different times suffers under divers maladies, either spreading generally over all, or affecting specially. Therefore it needs a physician to visit it for its salvation. We therefore bear witness to you, and declare to you what had been hidden from every one of you. It is for you to consider what is for your advantage."


Conclusion (Including incident of pre-Damascus Road Experience Saul of Tarsus assaulting James)


When I had thus spoken, the whole multitude of priests were in a rage, because I had foretold to them the overthrow of the temple. Which when Gamaliel, a chief of the people, saw who was secretly our brother in the faith, but by our advice remained among them-because they were greatly enraged and moved with intense fury against us, he stood up, and said, "be quiet for a little, O men of Israel, for ye do not perceive the trail which hangs over you. Wherefore refrain from these men; and if what they are engaged in be of human counsel, it will soon come to an end; but if it be from God, why will you sin without cause, and prevail nothing: For who can overpower the will of God? Now therefore, since the day is declining towards evening, I shall myself dispute wit these men tomorrow, in this same place, in your hearing so that I may openly oppose and clearly confute every error." By this speech of his their fury was to some extent checked, especially that the next day we should be publicly convicted of error; so he dismissed the people peacefully.


Now when we had come to our James, while we detailed to him all that had been said and done, we supped, and remained with him, sending the whole night in supplication to Almighty God, that the discourse of the approaching disputation might show the unquestioned truth of our faith. Therefore, on the following day, James the bishop went up to the temple with us, and with the whole church. There we found a great multitude, who had been waiting for us from the middle of the night. Therefore we took our stand in the same place as before, in order that, standing on an elevation, we might be seen by all the people. Then, when profound silence was obtained, Gamaliel, who, as we have said, was of our faith, but by a dispensation remained amongst them, that if at any time they should attempt anything unjust of wicked against us, he might either check them by skillfully adopted counsel, or might warn us, that we might either be on our guard or might turn it aside;-he therefore, as if acting against us, first of all looking to James the bishop, addressed him in this manner:-


If I, Gamaliel, deem it no reproach either to my learning or to my old age to learn something from babes and unlearned ones, if haply there be anything which it is for profit or for safety to acquire (for he who lives reasonably knows that nothing is more precious than the soul). Ought not this to be the object of love and desire to all, to learn what they do not know, and to teach what they have learned: For it is most certain that neither friendship, nor kindred, nor lofty power, ought to be more precious to men than truth. Therefore you, O brethren, if ye know anything more, shrink not from laying it before the people of God who are present, and also before your brethren; while the whole people shall willingly and in perfect quietness hear what you say. For why should not the people do this, when they see even me equally with themselves willing to learn from you, if haply God has revealed something further to you? But if you in anything are deficient, be not ye ashamed in like manner to be taught by us, that God may fill up whatever is wanting on either side. But if any fear now agitates you on account of some of our people whose minds are prejudiced against you, and if through fear of their violence you dare not openly speak your sentiments, in order that I may deliver you from this fear, I openly swear to you by Almighty God, who liveth for ever, that I will suffer no one to lay hands upon you. Since, then, you have all this people witnesses of this my oath, and you hold the covenant of our sacrament as a fitting pledge, let each one of you, without any hesitation, declare what he had learned; and let us, brethren, listen eagerly and in silence.


These saying of Gamaliel did not much please Caiaphas; and holding him in suspicion. as it seemed, he began to insinuate himself cunningly into the discussions: for, smiling at what Gamaliel had said, the chief of the priests asked of James, the chief of the bishops, that the discourse concerning Christ should not be drawn entirely but from the Scriptures; "That we may know," said he,`"whether Jesus be the very Christ, or no." Then said James, "We must first inquire of what Scriptures we are especially to derive our discussion. " Then he, with difficulty, at length overcome by reason. answered that it must be derived from the lew; ane afterwards he made mention also of the prophets.


To him our James began to show, that whatsoever things the prophets say they have taken from the law, and what they have spoken is in accordance with the law. He also made some statements respecting the books of the Kings, in what way, and when and by whom they were written, and how they ought to be used. And when he had discussed most fully concerning the law, and had, by a most clear exposition, brought into light whatever things are in it concerning Christ, he showed them by abundant proofs that Jesus is the Christ, and that in Him are fulfilled all the prophecies which related to his humble advent. For he showed that two advents of Him are foretold: one in humiliation, which he had accomplished; the other in glory, which is hoped for to be accomplished, when He shall come to give the kingdom to those who believe in Him, and who observe all things which he has commanded. And when he had plainly taught the people concerning these things, he added this also: That unless a man be baptized in water, in the name of the threefold blessedness, as the true Prophet taught, he can neither receive remission of sins nor enter into the kingdom of heaven: and he declared that this is the prescription of the unbegotten God. To which he added this also: "do not think that we speak of two unbegotten Gods, or that one is divided into two, or that the same is made male and female. But we speak of the only-begotten Son of God, not sprung from another source, but ineffably self-originated; and in like manner we speak of the Paraclete." But when he had spoken some things also concerning baptism, through seven successive days he persuaded all the people and the high priest that they should hasten straightway to receive baptism.


And when matters were at that point that they should come and be baptized, some one of our enemies, entering the temple with a few men, began to cry out, and to say, "What mean ye, O men of Israel? Why are you so easily hurried on" Why are ye led headlong by most miserable men, who are deceived by Simon, a magician?" While he was thus speaking , and adding more to the same effect, and while James the Bishop was refuting him, he began to excite the people and to raise a tumult, so that the people might not be able to hear what was being said. Therefore he began to drive all into confusion with shouting, and to undo what had been arranged with much labor, and at the same time to reproach the priests, and to engage them with reviling and abuse and like a madman, to excite every one to murder, saying, "What are you doing? Why do you hesitate? Oh, sluggish and inert, why do we not lay hands upon them, and pull all these fellows to pieces?" When he had said this, he first, with a strong brand from the altar, set the example or smiting. Then others also, seeing him, were carried away with like madness. Then ensued a tumult on either side, of the beating and the beaten. Much blood was shed; there was confused fighting, and in the midst of which that enemy attacked James, and there him headlong from the top of the steps; and supposing him to be dead, he cared not to inflict further violence upon him.


But our friends lifted him up, for they were more numerous and more powerful than the others; but, form their fear of God, they rather suffered themselves to be killed by an inferior force, than they would kill others. But when the evening came the priests shut up the temple, and we returned to the house of James, and spent the night there in prayer. Then before daylight we went down to Jericho, to the number of five thousand men. Then after three days one of the brethren came to us from Gamaliel, whom we mentioned before, brining us secret tiding that that enemy had received a commission from Caiaphas, the chief priest, that he should arrest all who believed in Jesus, and should go to Damascus with his letters, and that there also employing the help of the unbelievers, he should make havoc among the faithful; and that he was hastening to Damascus chiefly on this account, because he believed that Peter had fled thither. And about thirty days thereafter he stopped on his way while passing through Jericho going to Damascus. At the time we were absent, having gone out to the sepulchers of two brethren which were whitened of themselves every year, by which miracle the fury of many against us was restrained, because they saw that our brethren were had in remembrance before God.




The Ascents of James: History and Theology of a Jewish Christian Community by Robert E. Van Voorst


Jewish Christianity: Factional Disputes in the Early Church by Hans-Joachim Schoeps


The Lost Religion of Jesus: Simple Living and Nonviolence in Early Christianity by Keith Akers


Jewish Believers in Jesus: The Early Centuries by Oskar Skarsaure and Reidar Hvalvik and In the Shadow of the Temple: Jewish Influences on Early Christianity by Oskar Skarsaune.


Jewish Christianity Reconsidered: Rethinking Ancient Groups and Texts by Matt Jackson-McCade


The recent discovery of an ancient Jewish burial chest, a bone box called an ossuary, drew much attention to the person of James the Just, the Brother of Jesus. The bone box was inscribed with the Aramaic words that are translated, "James Son of Joseph, Brother of Jesus". This discovery has become controversial with some saying that it is authentic and others saying it is a forgery. Regardless of its authenticity, James was a very important leader in the early church.


James and the Ossuraries


1 comment:

Patrick Goggins said...

Fascinating. Thanks for sharing.