Monday, October 3, 2011

The Ascents of James : The Lost Acts of the Apostles




Stephen Andrew Missick



James the Just


The Ascents of James is an account of the life of the Apostle James that has survived in certain Aramaic and Latin manuscripts. 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 is 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 the Brother of Jesus was the leader of the Christian community. James the brother of John was the son of Zebedee and was given along with his brother the nick-name of Boanerges by Jesus. Boanerges 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 in "The Ascents of James" 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. The name in the Greek New Testament is written Jacobus.

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 early 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 Jews who did not accept Jesus as the Jewish Messiah. After James was murdered the city of Jerusalem was in an uproar and the populace demanded that the high priest responsible for the judicial murder 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. (Aramaic is a Semitic language that is closely related to Hebrew and Arabic. It is the language that was spoken by Jesus Christ. The Assyrians of Iraq and Iran and certain other Middle Eastern Christians still speak the Aramaic language.)

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 Gnostic 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 this 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 public ministry or after the resurrection. Either way his authority is unquestioned. In Galatians, Paul describes the church being led by the 'pillars' James, Cephas (Aramaic for Peter) and John. Here James is given precedence over Peter (Cephas). (In our New Testament canon of Scripture, the Epistle of James is placed before the Epistles of Peter, because James had pre-eminence over Peter.) 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. 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 and the other disciples with her 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 of Jerusalem 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). The Epistle of James is wisdom literature and actually only mentions Jesus twice. 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).The Epistle of 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 by Ananus, the Jewish High Priest. 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 by Rome 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, may have only been allowed 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. (While it is true that all Levites were called to Jerusalem to work during major festivals such as Passover, only a privileged few were allowed to minister in the inner courts of the Temple.) 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. (Jesus is God's Messiah. As such, he was not a member of any Jewish sect. As King Messiah and Prophet he spoke with divine authority and did not follow any Jewish faction.) Paul still considered himself a Pharisee years after his conversion (Acts 23:6). Many Pharisees may have been 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".

Paul describes the appearance of the resurrected Jesus to his brother James the Just in 1 Corinthians 15:7. (This is believed to be the earliest account of the Resurrection.) The "Hebrew" Gospel contained a complete account of this appearance of Jesus to James. It has been preserved in the writings of Saint Jerome in a quotation. Jerome quotes from the now lost Gospel of the Hebrews in "The Lives of the Illustrious Men"


And when the Lord had given the linen cloth to the servant of the priest, he went to James and appeared to him. For James had sworn that he would not eat bread from that hour in which he had drunk the cup of the Lord until he should see him risen from among them that sleep. And shortly thereafter the Lord said; bring a table and bread! And immediately it is added: he took bread, blessed it and brake it and gave to James the Just and said to him: My brother, eat thy bread, for the Son of Man is risen from among them that sleep.


(Jerome states that this "Hebrew" Gospel was actually written in the language we know as Aramaic. In antiquity and late antiquity, the Jewish dialect of the Aramaic language was called "Hebrew." Also, the language we know as "Hebrew" is never called "Hebrew" in the Old Testament, it is called "Judean" and "Canaanite." (2 Kings 18:26, Isaiah 19:18). The Church Fathers state that Jesus and the Apostles spoke "Hebrew." Did they mean Aramaic or the language we know today as Hebrew? Papias was an early church father that interviewed people who had known the apostles. He wrote his book sometime around 110-140 AD. It has only survived in fragments. Some of his stories seem interesting or plausible, such as stories about Barsabas and that of the daughters of Phillip the Evangelist. Papias gives a legend that Matthew originally wrote his Gospel in "Hebrew." Some people often seize on this quote as proof that Jesus spoke Hebrew exclusively. Jerome (lived 347-420) knew of and described the "Hebrew" Matthew.


Matthew, also called Levi, apostle and aforetimes publican, composed a gospel of Christ at first published in Judea in Hebrew for the sake of those of the circumcision who believed, but this was afterwards translated into Greek though by what author is uncertain. The Hebrew itself has been preserved until the present day in the library at Caesarea which Pamphilus so diligently gathered. I have also had the opportunity of having the volume described to me by the Nazarenes of Beroea, a city of Syria, who use it. In this it is to be noted that wherever the Evangelist, whether on his own account or in the person of our Lord the Saviour quotes the testimony of the Old Testament he does not follow the authority of the translators of the Septuagint but the Hebrew…

Jerome, Lives of Illustrious Men


In the Gospel according to the Hebrews, which is written in the Chaldee and Syrian [meaning "Aramaic" in contemporary English] language, but in Hebrew characters, and is used by the Nazarenes to this day (I mean the Gospel according to the Apostles, or, as is generally maintained, the Gospel according to Matthew, a copy of which is in the library at Caesarea), we find…
Jerome, Against the Pelagians


Chaldean and Syrian are other ways of saying Aramaic. (Aram is an old way of saying Syria. In Daniel 2:4 the Chaldeans, Babylonian magicians and astrologers, are quoted speaking in Aramaic. For this reason Aramaic has been called Chaldee, or "Chaldean," in the past, as we see in Strong's Exhaustive Concordance to the Holy Bible. In the King James Bible Aramaic is called "Syriack." Aramaic, Syrian and Syriac are really equivalent terms. Nevertheless, in modern usage Syriac refers to the official dialect of Aramaic used by Aramaic Christians for liturgical purposes. Syriac Aramaic is a very important form of Aramaic and we have many ancient documents in this dialect of Aramaic, including the Bible and numerous biblical commentaries. Modern Aramaic Christians use Syriac during church services but speak a Modern form of Aramaic that didn't directly emerge from Syriac.) Also, in Jerome's "Commentary to the Book of Daniel" he uses the words Aramaic and Hebrew interchangeably almost immediately after differentiating between the two languages!

    Jerome, in his commentary on the Book of Daniel, differentiates between Hebrew and Aramaic, but then while in the Aramaic section of the Book of Daniel, consistently calls Aramaic "Hebrew." This proves that the early church fathers did call the language we know as Aramaic "Hebrew" at times and used "Hebrew" and other words for Aramaic interchangeably. This is illustrated by the following quotations from Jerome's commentary on the Book of Daniel the Prophet:


Verse 4. "The Chaldeans replied to the king in Syriac." Up to this point what we have read has been recounted in Hebrew. From this point on until the vision of the third year of King Balthasar [Belshazzar] which Daniel saw in Susa, the account is written in Hebrew characters, to be sure, but in the Chaldee language, which he here calls Syriac.


Verse 27. "As for the secret for which the king is asking, neither the wise men nor the magi nor the soothsayers nor the diviners are able to declare it to the king." In place of diviners (haruspices), as we have rendered it, the Hebrew [sic!-Here Jerome calls the Aramaic language "Hebrew"] text has Gazareni [actually the Aramaic word is gazerin.]
which only Symmachus has rendered…


…follows as far as the end of the Song of the Three Youths is not contained in the Hebrew [i.e. the Aramaic. Jerome uses the word "Hebrew" for Aramaic yet again!].


". ..I, Daniel, was much troubled with my thoughts, and my countenance was altered within me; but I preserved the word in my heart." Up to this point the Book of Daniel was written in the Chaldee and Syriac language. All the rest that follows up to the very end of the volume we read in Hebrew.


In his book Demonstration of the Gospel Eusebius of Caesarea (c. 275-339) describes the Twelve Apostles as "quite common men, and barbarians [non-Greeks] to boot, with no knowledge of any tongue but Syrian." After Jesus gives the Disciples the Great Commission and to preach his message to all the world, Eusebius has them ask, "But how…can we do it? How, pray, can we preach to the Romans? We are men bred up to use the Syrian tongue only, what language can we speak to the Greeks?" (As is noted above, the "Syrian tongue" is Aramaic, as Aram means "Syrian." See Eusbius Pamphylis Demonstration of the Gospel, in the English translation, DE Book III, chapters 5 and 7, cited Dem. Ev. III. 4.44; 7.10.) This helps us to understand that Eusebius means that Matthew wrote his Gospel originally in Aramaic when he states, "For Matthew, who had at first preached to the Hebrews, when he was about to go to other peoples, committed his Gospel to writing in his native tongue..." (Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History, Book III). Eusebius makes it very clear that the apostles spoke Aramaic only so obviously he refers to Matthew's "native tongue" he means Aramaic and not the language we now know as Hebrew. Eusebius-who is the source of our quote of Papias- was convinced that Jesus and the Apostles spoke only Aramaic! He had information available to him that we no longer possess today! This shows first, that the Greek word "Hebraidi" can indeed mean "Aramaic" and secondly, that the most ancient sources state unequivocally that the apostles spoke only Aramaic. Jerome later translated the "Hebrew" Gospel for himself. He says it was written in Aramaic. Jerome knew Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek and studied Hebrew and Aramaic from Jewish rabbis he had befriended.)

According to ancient Aramaic tradition, James was instrumental in founding the church in Assyria. After the successful mission of Thaddeus to Edessa in Mesopotamia, 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 vegetarian Christians Paul speaks of in the Epistle to the Romans 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 Christian writings that have come down to us. Certain, but not all, early Jewish Christian sects denied that Jesus was God Incarnate. The New Testament clearly affirms the deity of Christ-as does the ancient "Maranatha" prayer. This Aramaic prayer is found in 1 Corinthians 16: 22, Revelation 22: 20, Didache 10:6. Maranatha is translated from the Aramaic as "Come, Our Lord." Early Aramaic Christians often prayed this short prayer, the most ancient Aramaic Christian prayer. A similar phrase is found in the Lord's Prayer. Jesus told his disciples to pray "Tethay Malkuthack" , "Your Kingdom Come". (The New Revised Standard Version of the Bible notes, "Marana tha. 'Our Lord, Come!" These Aramaic words can also be read Maran atha, meaning "Our Lord has come."). The Maranatha prayer has greater significance than just a prophetic significance. Ben Witherington III notes the importance of the Maranatha prayer in his book The Brother of Jesus, "In concluding his letter, Paul, in 1 Corinthians 16:22 offers up a prayer in Aramaic, "Maranatha", which means "Come, Lord." In other words, Jesus is already called Lord by Aramaic speaking Jewish-Christians, and he is prayed to. Now, early Jews did not pray to people who were merely revered dead rabbis, teachers, or even prophets. They might well pray for a rabbi to be raised on the last day, but they would not pray to him and implore him to come. Yet, that is what Paul is doing here, and he is probably echoing a prayer he heard offered in the Jerusalem church, where such prayers were spoken in Aramaic. The dramatic importance of such a prayer should not be underestimated. Jews were forbidden to pray to someone other than God. This prayer strongly suggests that Jesus was included within the earliest Aramaic Jewish Christians understanding of God. In other words, Jesus was already viewed very early on as divine by his earliest followers, and this included James [the Just]. The notion that seeing Jesus as a divine figure was added only late in the first century and was done so only by Gentiles is simply not true.") 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 in the Epistle to the Galatians as being a leader of the Jewish Christian community (Galatians 2:8). 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 eating animals. 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.

In 62 A.D. James the Just died a martyr's death. 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. (Clement was a very early Christian leader in the city of Rome. The First Epistle of Clement is dated to around the year 95 A.D. Scholars believe the 1 Clement is authentic.) Many of the stories of the conflict between Peter and Simon the Samaritan Sorcerer (and early Gnostic) are found in the Recognitions of Clement and the Homilies of Clement. Certain scholars have identified sections of the Pseudo-Clementine literature as a separate works, The Ascents of Saint James and The Epistle of James to Peter. 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 this 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." (See Ascents of James 1:39:2; Robert E. Van Voorst The Ascents of James: History and Theology of a Jewish Christian Community (Scholars Press, Atlanta, Georgia 1989) p. 55.) 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 (Philo of Alexandria Every Good Man is Free 12).) 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 super-cede 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 a Qumran community 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. The Essenes were vegetarians. The "Dead Sea Scrolls" community at Qumran was a distinct group from the Essenes that was had more similarities with the Sadducees than they did with the Essenes.

Peter said that Jesus' coming will inaugurate a restoration of all things in the Kingdom of God (Acts 3:21). Jesus Christ called Himself the Son of Man. He is known as the Second Adam (1 Corinthians 15:42-49). Jesus will restore the harmony between earth, animal and man that existed in the Garden of Eden. The Bible says that in that day God will make a New Covenant for them with the beasts of the field, with the birds of the air, and with the living things of the earth. Bow and the sword I will shatter from the earth, to make them to lie down in peace and safety (Hosea 2:18).The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, the leopard shall lie down with the young goat. The calf and the young lion and the fatling together, and a little child shall lead them. The cow and the bear shall graze together, their young ones shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like an ox. The nursing child shall put his hand in the vipers den and it will not harm him (Isaiah 11:6-8, 65:25).They shall not hurt or destroy in all of my holy mountain; for earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea! (Isaiah 11:9, Habakkuk 2:14). The Psalmist wrote, "I will praise the name of God with a song and magnify him with thanksgiving. This is what pleases the Lord rather than an offering of an ox or a bull that has horns and hooves. The humble shall see this and be glad. And you who seek after God, your hearts shall live! For the Lord hears the cries of the poor and he does not despise those who are enslaved." (Psalm 69:30-33)

Some modern Bible scholars view Jesus' cleansing of the temple as a symbolic act of destruction of the temple. Archeologist John Romer notes in his book Testament: The Bible and History, "Like John the Baptist, Jesus promised redemption from earthly sin, not by the orthodox Jewish method of making offerings at the Jerusalem Temple but by the simple gesture of genuine personal repentance. The acceptance of God was signified not by an expensive journey to Jerusalem and an offering a the Temple but, in John the Baptist's case, by immersion, by baptism in the free-flowing waters of the River Jordan, and in Jesus' case an internal act of will and faith…By proposing the redemption of sin outside the Temple and its system of offerings, both Jesus and John not only denied the spiritual efficiency of the priests but also hit at the source of their wealth. John the Baptist and Jesus were both executed; and both of them had struck at the heart of this priestly state…Jesus, like John the Baptist, preached the possibility of personal redemption outside the structures of organized Judaism. Unlike John, he did not preach with the rough fervor of a desert hermit, but with calmness and a love of life…Part of Jesus' preaching seems to attack both the sanctuary and the livelihood of the priest-as his physical attack on their Temple's money-changers, that bazaar brawl, makes clear." I believe the Cleansing of the Temple was a planned event. Others have portrayed it as a spontaneous act of righteous indignation. Which is true? Christians believe that Jesus, as God the Son, came with a purpose and acted according to God's plan. But did Jesus surprise His disciples by His cleansing of the Temple, or did He show them the common courtesy of informing them of his intentions beforehand? Let's look at what the Holy Bible says, "So Jesus came to Jerusalem and went to the Temple. He looked around carefully at everything, and then he left because it was late in the afternoon. Then he went out to Bethany (Mark 11:11)." The next morning, "Jesus entered the Temple and began to drive out the merchants and their customers (Mark 11:15)." The text seems to indicate that Jesus and His disciples scouted out and observed the Temple courts the day prior. Jesus' cleansing of the Temple was a prophetic pronouncement, a dramatic action that proclaimed God's word. The Old Testament prophets not only spoke God's word, they declared God's message through dramatic acts. The prophets communicated through words and deeds. As "signs" to accompany their words the prophets were commanded to perform odd things such as eating a scroll (Ezekiel 3:1) or building a miniature model of Jerusalem surrounded by siege engines (Ezekiel 4:1-3). Other examples include Jeremiah's wearing a yoke to symbolize that Israel would be enslaved (Jeremiah 27:2-5), Isaiah going about naked to demonstrate how that Egypt and Ethiopia would be humiliated (Isaiah 20:2) and Hosea being commanded by God to marry a prostitute to demonstrate how that Israel was unfaithful to God (Hosea 1:2). (Certain Bible scholars describe these events as God using His prophet as an "object lesson" to the Israelites.) Jesus' Cleansing of the Temple was prophetic statement and a sign of God's judgment against the Temple and its priestly hierarchy. In ancient times the Jews would pray toward Jerusalem three times a day. They were also required, if they were able, to journey to Jerusalem three times a year. In a similar manner, Muslims are required to face towards and prostrate themselves before the "Black Stone" which is kept in a temple called "the Kaba" in the so-called "holy city" of Mecca in Arabia, five times every day. Muslims are also required to travel to Mecca (if they are able) once in their lives and bow down before the Black Stone there. In John 4:21-24, Jesus transcended the Judaism of His day and taught that God is not only Omnipotent (All Powerful), He is Omnipresent (All Present). God is everywhere. As a Universal Spirit, He is everywhere and He is not localized in any one geographic location, whether it be Jerusalem or Mecca. As Jesus said, "God is a Spirit and they that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth." Building on these teachings of Jesus, early Christians taught that our hearts, and not some physical structure built by men, are the true Temple of God. Paul taught that we are God's building (1 Corinthians 3:9). In 1 Corinthians 3:16 Paul says, "You are a temple of God and the Spirit of God dwells in you." Again in 1 Corinthians 6:19 Paul states, "Your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit." Peter taught that all followers of Jesus are "living stones that are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices that are acceptable to God through Jesus Christ" (1 Peter 2:5). (Animal blood sacrifices are no longer acceptable to God. Worship "in spirit and in truth" is. Indeed, at the close of the Old Testament, the Lord says, "O that there were one among you who would close the gates to the Temple, that you may no longer uselessly kindle fire upon my altar. I am not pleased with you and neither will I accept an offering from you says the Lord of Hosts." (Malachi 1:10).) The Temple of Jerusalem had a barrier called "the veil" that separated the "Most Holy Place" from the rest of the Temple and that represented a barrier between God and Man. When Jesus died upon the cross, the Hand of God ripped the veil of the Temple from top to bottom (Matthew 27:51). Now we can boldly approach the throne of grace (Hebrews 4:16). Jesus taught that God is our loving Father and that He welcomes all repentant sinners who come to Him.

The sermon of Stephen the Proto-martyr is also important in understanding the context of the "Cleansing of the Temple." The Bible says, "And Stephen, full of faith and power, did great wonders and miracles among the people. Then there arose certain of the synagogue, which is called the synagogue of the Libertines, and Cyrenians, and Alexandrians, and of them of Cilicia and of Asia, disputing with Stephen. And they were not able to resist the wisdom and the spirit by which he spake. Then they suborned men, which said, "We have heard him speak blasphemous words against Moses, and against God." And they stirred up the people, and the elders, and the scribes, and came upon him, and caught him, and brought him to the council, And set up false witnesses, which said, "This man ceases not to speak blasphemous words against this holy place, and the law: For we have heard him say, that this Jesus of Nazareth shall destroy this place, and shall change the customs which Moses delivered unto us." And all that sat in the council, looking steadfastly on him, saw his face as it had been the face of an angel. Then said the high priest, "Are these things so?" (Acts 6:8-7:1) Then he answered saying, "Our fathers had the tabernacle of witness in the wilderness, as he had appointed, speaking unto Moses, that he should make it according to the fashion that he had seen. Which also our fathers that came after brought in with Joshua into the possession of the Gentiles, whom God drove out before the face of our fathers, unto the days of David; Who found favour before God, and desired to find a tabernacle for the God of Jacob. But then Solomon went and built Him a house. Howbeit the Most High dwells not in temples made with hands; as saith the prophet, "Heaven is my throne, and earth is my footstool: what house will ye build me? saith the Lord: or what is the place of my rest? Hath not my hand made all these things? (Isaiah 66:1-3)" You stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, you do always resist the Holy Ghost: as your fathers did, so do ye. Which of the prophets have not your fathers persecuted? And they have slain them which showed before of the coming of the Just One; of whom ye have been now the betrayers and murderers: Who have received the law by the disposition of angels, and have not kept it (Acts 7:44-53)." (Stephen praises the tabernacle but seems to denigrate the Temple. He also seems to allude to the "Tabernacle of David" where the "sacrifice of praise" was offered rather than blood sacrifice.)

According to the Law of Moses, a man who slaughtered an animal was held to be guilty of "blood guilt." Leviticus 17:3-4 states, "What man soever there be of the house of Israel, that killeth an ox, or lamb, or goat, in the camp, or that killeth it out of the camp, and bringeth it not unto the door of the tabernacle of the congregation, to offer an offering unto the LORD before the tabernacle of the LORD; blood shall be imputed unto that man; he hath shed blood; and that man shall be cut off from among his people." Also in the Book of Leviticus, killing an animal is listed as a crime along with murder of a human being, "Whoever kills a man shall surely be put to death. Whoever kills an animal shall make it good, animal for animal" (Leviticus 24:17). Killing an animal does, of course, carry a lesser penalty but killing an animal is listed as a crime and put immediately after homicide in this legal code. (Isaiah 66:3 also states, "He who kills an ox is like the one who slays a man.") The Old Testament prophets were conscious about the environment. Isaiah said, "Woe unto them that join house to house, that lay field to field, till there be no place, that they may be placed alone in the midst of the earth!" (Isaiah 5:8). In the Law of Moses the practice of indiscriminatingly chopping down trees was condemned, "When thou shalt besiege a city a long time, in making war against it to take it, thou shalt not destroy the trees thereof by forcing an axe against them: for you can eat of the fruit of the trees, and you shalt not cut them down (for the tree of the field is man's life) to employ them in the siege…" (Deuteronomy 20:19-20). (I explore Christ's "Cleansing of the Temple" more in depth in my book Christ the Man.)

    Many early Christians were vegetarians. Some have argued that they didn't eat meat at all in order to avoid meat sacrificed to idols. However, John the Baptist didn't eat meat at all and he could have gotten meat that was not sacrificed to idols if he had a desire to eat meat. There are ancient traditions of many of the apostles being vegetarians. Therefore, they had other reasons for not eating meat besides avoiding meat sacrificed to idols. In ancient times, most animals that were slaughtered to eat as meat were slaughtered as an offering to a god. At most meat-markets outside of the Holy Land, most of the meat would therefore come from meat that was offered to a false god. Therefore, if a Christian purchased and ate an animal that has been sacrificed to an idol, they were participating in idolatrous worship. (This provides biblical justification for Christians to boycott corporations that support evil, exploit the poor or torment animals.) James the Just, the head of the church, forbade Christians from eating meat that had been offered to idols (Acts 15:20). In the first century, as is true today, most Jews lived outside of the Holy Land than lived in it. There was a large international Jewish Diaspora. "Kosher" meat was readily available from Jewish butchers. Jesus Christ himself forbade eating meat sacrificed to idols (Revelations 2:14-16). Paul states that vegetarian Christians were his "brothers." Paul refused to get involved in debates about eating or not eating meat between Christians. In order not to cause offense, Paul was a vegetarian (1 Corinthians 8:13, Romans 14:21). Paul's advice was that Christians who disagree about these issues should respect each others opinions and respect one another (Romans 14). (I discuss these issues more completely in my paper "The Second Adam and the Restoration of All Things: The Case for Biblical Vegetarianism.")

According to the Bible, Man was vegetarian until after the flood. The concession allowing the eating of meat was symbolic of a falling further away from the state Man dwelled at in Eden (Genesis 9:2-7). Also during the forty years in the wilderness the Israelites also only ate bread ("manna"). On one occasion they ate quail but they were punished for it (Numbers 11:31-35). The prophet Daniel was also a vegetarian. The Scriptures state that after he began eating only a vegetarian mixture, called "pulse" in the King James Bible, his health dramatically increased (Daniel 1:8-21). Judas Maccabeus also kept a vegetarian diet (2 Maccabees 5:27). John the Baptist ate only locusts and wild honey, he didn't participate in animal sacrifice because sacrifices were eaten (mostly by the priests of course). Animals were slaughtered in the Temple and what the priests left over was taken by the man who had offered it and it was then eaten by him and his household. (The Bible describes certain priests as more interested in taking the meat from sacrifice to eat rather than being interested in the sacrifice as an act of worship (1 Samuel 2:12-17). The priests are also described as being obese (1 Samuel 4:18). This passage in the book of Samuel describes priests seizing meat so that could eat in the midst of worship. Paul describes priests eating from the sacrifices at 1 Corinthians 8:13 and 10:18.) There must have been those, such as the Essenes, who ate a vegetarian Passover eating only bread. However, Jesus says John didn't even eat bread, that all he ate were the locusts and wild honey. It also appears that John the Baptist never left the desert. Since he remained in the desert and never went to Jerusalem, this means that he never participated in the Temple worship services and animal sacrifices. (As for his father, Zechariah offered an offering of incense in the Temple.) (Jews were required to celebrate certain Jewish holidays at Jerusalem. Perhaps John didn't observe holidays at all (Hosea 2:11, Amos 5:21, Isaiah 1:14, Romans 14:5).) A slaughtered animal is not mentioned in Jesus' Passover meal in the Bible.

St. Francis of Assisi felt that Jesus died to redeem the whole world, which includes animals, to Himself. St. Francis felt that the Gospel message was for animals and took Mark 16:15 as a command to preach to animals which he did. Psalm 148:10 says, "All animals wild and tame, animals of the land and birds of the sky, praise the Lord." Psalm 150:6 says, "Let everything that has breath praise the Lord."

According to ancient Jewish Christian tradition, James the Just, the Brother of Jesus, prayed in the Temple. This is in agreement with Christ's vision for the Temple. It was to be a house of prayer for all people and not a place of animal sacrifice. Certain Christians Zionists are actually working to rebuild the Jewish Temple and reinstate animal sacrifice. (And thus are attempting to undo the work of Christ.) A small group of Israeli Jews are attempting to rebuild the Jewish temple. The organization "Temple Mount Faithful" is making priestly vestments and building temple implements and breeding the red heifer. (A red heifer is needed as a sacrifice to initiate the temple.) A spokesman for the group travels the United States and raises untold tens of thousands of dollars for this endeavor from Evangelical churches. Prophecy teacher Grant R. Jeffrey promotes this hope in his book The New Temple and the Second Coming. The hope among these Christians is that a rebuilt temple in Jerusalem would be a sign of the soon coming "Second Coming" and its building is necessary for certain prophecies from the Book of Revelation to be fulfilled. Many of these Christians actually eagerly desire for animal sacrifices to be re-implemented in Jerusalem. Some Evangelicals interpret prophecies of the Temple in Ezekiel to mean that the Temple will be operating complete with animal sacrifices during Christ's Millennial reign over the earth. They actually believe that Jesus Christ will come back and that he will personally re-implement animal sacrifices in the Jerusalem temple. It is mysterious why he would do this when he made perfect atonement for sin by his death and resurrection. Others hold to the correct view which is that Ezekiel's vision is symbolic. (The Wesley Study Bible notes, "Ezekiel's restored temple is not a blueprint, but a vision that stresses the purity and spiritual vitality of the ideal place of worship and those who will worship there. It is not intended for an earthly, physical fulfillment, but expresses the truth found in the name of the new city: THE LORD IS THERE (Ezekiel 48:35). God will dwell in the new temple among His people.") Interpreting this passage literally is problematic for two reasons. First, Jesus came to end animal sacrifices forever. This is clearly stated in the Epistle to the Hebrews in the New Testament. Secondly, Ezekiel mentions a "Prince," an Israelite king, who worships in the Temple. This "Prince" will offer sin offerings for the sins that he committed (Ezekiel 45:22, 46:16). If this Prince is Jesus, then Jesus offers sin offerings for his own sins, but Christians believe Jesus is sinless. If this Prince is not Jesus, then there is another "King of Israel" coming in the future. This seems to suggest, if we read the text this way, that Jesus is not the Christ. If Jesus is the Christ then who exactly is this additional "Messiah"? If there is another Christ, why do we need an additional Christ, in fact an inferior one, being one who sins? Unlike Jesus, this new Messiah will not be sinless. If there is another Christ, what role will he fulfill? Therefore, the inescapable conclusion is that if this prophecy did have a literal fulfillment, it was in the Temples of Zerubbabel and Herod. This "Prince" must been Prince Zerubbabel and/or the Herodian rulers. Ezekiel's vision of a re-built Temple was revealed to him after Solomon's Temple was destroyed and before Zerubabel rebuilt the Temple. So, Ezekiel foresaw a rebuilding of the Temple and this indeed did come to pass. It is more logical to read this in the same way that we read Ezekiel's vision of the dry bones, as symbolic and not literal (Ezekiel 37:1-14). The vision of the dry bones that Ezekiel saw had perhaps two meanings. First, that Israel would rise again from exile. Secondly, he is affirming the resurrection and the afterlife. The rising of the dry bones was a vision and not an actual event. Isaiah is very clear that during Christ's peaceable Kingdom there will be no slaughtering of animals.

They shall not hurt nor destroy in all My holy mountain, for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea. (Isaiah 11:9)

In Isaiah 2:2 Isaiah makes it clear that this is "the mountain of the LORD's house." So this means that during the Millennium that the Temple will be a "house of prayer for all people" and there will be no slaughtering, the "hurting or destroying" of animals. It is clear that the Mountain of the Lord is Mount Zion or Jerusalem, meaning the Temple Mount. Moslems, Samaritans and, on rare occasions, certain Eastern Christians (Ethiopians and Assyrians) still sacrifice animals to worship God. Aramaic Christians may sacrifice a sheep in welcoming a guest or consecrating a church. In modern majority Moslem countries like Egypt, every Moslem household will sacrifice (dabiha) a goat to Allah and consume it during a feast such as Eid ul-Adha. (I was in Cairo once when Islamic households across the city slaughtered probably hundreds of thousands of goats in one day. I found the numbers of animals sacrificed and the manner in which they were sacrificed shocking and disturbing. Anti-Terrorism activist Nonie Darwish had to participate in these animal sacrifices as a child and was emotionally scarred by them.) In the end of the Bible, in the Book of the Revelation of Jesus Christ, Jesus rebuilds the city of Jerusalem. In doing so he restores pure worship of Yahweh. This New Jerusalem that Jesus rebuilds has no Temple (Revelation 21:22, 3). (There will however, be a tabernacle. As the Scriptures declares, "Behold, the Tabernacle of God is now with Man, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself shall be among them, and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes…" (Revelations 21:3-4). Also, as there will be no night, therefore there will be a change in regard to observing days and calendars (Revelation 21:23-27).) So we see that animal sacrifice has been forever abolished. To re-institute it would be an abomination unto the LORD. The Bible clearly says, "It is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins" (Hebrews 10:4). Jesus abolished not only the blood sacrifice system, but also the priesthood. According to the Epistle to the Hebrews in the New Testament, Jesus became "a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek" (Psalm 110:4, Hebrews 7). This priesthood, to which Jesus belongs, is an ancient pre-Abrahamic priesthood of the Jebusites. Melchizedek was the gentile King of Salem (Jerusalem) and priest of the "Most High God" who offered an unbloody sacrifice of bread and wine in thanksgiving for Abraham's victory over the eastern kings who had held Abraham's nephew Lot hostage (Genesis 14:17-20). The Melchizedek, also called the Adoni-zedek, was the priest king of Jerusalem (Joshua 10:1, 3). David apparently became the Melchizedek priest when he came to rule over Jerusalem. (David's actions when he accompanied the Ark of the Covenant into Jerusalem were odd for a king. He wore a linen ephod, which is attire for a priest, that day (Exodus 24:4, 1 Samuel 2:28, 1 Chronicles 15:25-28). He then offered sacrifices and blessed the people. King David, in his dress and behavior on that day, was officiating as a priest (1 Chronicles 15:25-16:6, 2 Samuel 6:12-19). Performing sacrifices and pronouncing blessings were functions of the priesthood (Leviticus 9:22, Numbers 6:23). 2 Samuel 8:18 in the Hebrew says that "David's sons were priests." Since David belonged to the tribe of Judah as did his sons, neither he nor they were qualified to be priests. Unless, that is, they belonged to a different priestly order-that of Melchizedek. Early Jewish Christian writings about James the Just describe him officiating at the Temple as if he were a priest. Perhaps he could as a "Son of David.") As the Messiah, Jesus is the Son of David. He is the Priest of all priests as well as being the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.) In his glorification Jesus became the Great High Priest, far superior to the high priest of the Jewish Temple.







Introduction to "The Ascents of James"

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 My name, 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 Clementine Homilies and the Clementine Recognitions). The person who wrote this story took Jewish Christian writings and incorporated them (plagiarized 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. (The hero of these two books is Peter. In the stories Peter is a traveling missionary. The antagonist of these two books is Simon, the Sorcerer of Samaria. Simon is mentioned in Acts of the Apostles 8:9-24. In the books, Simon is spreading a distorted version of Christianity and is practicing black magic. Peter opposes Simon the Magician's false teachings and sorcery. Early Christians believed that Simon the Sorcerer founded Gnosticism.) Modern scholars using textual criticism methodology have been able to identify the Ascents of James that had been embedded within the Clementine Literature. The Ascents of James has been preserved in Aramaic (Syriac) and Latin. A genuine epistle 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 also 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 years after the time of Clement. The papacy evolved into what it is now through the course of centuries.)

The 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. Some of them denied the deity of Christ and others among them denied 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. According to the Marcionites, 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 by orthodoxy. Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox Christians received the Old Testament as the word of God.

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 story of 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.

The Jewish Talmuds seems seem to allude to a similar incident of the 12 Apostles debating their beliefs with the Jewish leaders as we find in the "Ascents of James." The Talmuds are the Rabbic commentaries that are authoritative texts for modern Judaism. (There are two Talmuds-the Palestinian (or "Jerusalem") Talmud and the Babylonian Talmud.) Jesus is mentioned in the Talmuds. He is seldom mentioned and when he is it is in a similar manner to the Toledoth Yeshu. (The "Toledoth Yeshu" is a hate-filled polemical Jewish anti-Gospel. In the "Toledoth Yeshu" Jesus is a blasphemer and a magician who is raped by Judas Iscariot.) In the Talmud it seems that Mary Magdalene is confused with Mary the Mother of our Lord. According to the Talmud, Jesus was the son of a whore and his biological father was a rapist named Pantera and this Pantera was a Roman soldier. Jesus is often called Ben Pantera meaning the Son of Pantera. In the Talmud Jesus is a sorcerer and an idolater and a practitioner of the Black Magic he learned while in Egypt. There are only two important references to Jesus in the Talmud. One may be a genuine lost saying of Jesus and the other is a description of the passion.


On the eve of Passover they hung Yeshu and the crier went forth for forty days beforehand declaring that "Yehsu is going to be stoned for practicing sorcery, for enticing and leading Israel astray. Anyone who knows something to clear him should come forth and exonerate him." But no one had anything exonerating him and they hung him on the eve of Passover. Ulla said: Would one think that we should look for exonerating evidence for him? He was an enticer and God said (Deuteronomy 13;9), "Show him no pity or compassion, and do not shield him." Yeshu was different because he was close to the government.

Talmud Sanhedrin 43a


The reference to his being "close to government" may be a concession that he was of royal Davidic decent. The next verse deals with the disciples. This is the portion that is reminiscent of the "Ascents of James."


It is taught Yeshu had five disciples -Mattai, Nekai, Netzer, Buni and Toda. They brought Matai before the judges. He said to them, "Will Matai be killed? It is written, (Psalm 42:2) "When [which is Mattai in Hebrew] shall I come and appear before God." They said, "Yes, Matai will be killed as it is written (Psalm 41:5) "When [which is Mattai in Hebrew] shall he die and his name perish."

They Brought Nekai. He said to them, "Will Nekai be killed" It is written (Exodus 23:7) "The innocent [which is Naki in Hebrew] and the righteous you shall not slay." They said to him, "Yes Nekai will be killed as it is written (Psalm10:8) "In secret places he splay the innocent [which is Naki in Hebrew]."

They brought Netzer. He said to them: "Will Netzer be killed? It is written (Isaiah 11:1) "A branch [which is Netzer in Hebrew] shall spring up from his roots." They said, "Yes Netzer shall be killed as it is written (Isaiah 14:19) You are cast out of your graves like an abominable branch [which is Netzer in Hebrew]."

They brought Buni. He said to them, "Will Buni be killed? It is written (Exodus 4:22)"My son [Beni in Hebrew], my firstborn, Israel." They said to him, "Yes, Buni will be killed as it is written (Exodus 4:23) "Behold, I slay your son [Bincha in Hebrew] your firstborn."

They brought Todah. He said to them, "Will Todah be killed? It is written (Psalm 100:1) "A Psalm for thanksgiving [which is Todah in Hebrew]." They said to him, "Yes, Todah will be killed as it is written (Psalm 50:23) Whoever sacrifices thanksgiving [Todah in Hebrew] honors me."


Talmud Sanhedrin 107b


In this passage the names of these five disciples are interpreted and texts and counter texts are given. Who are these disciples? Mattai is obviously Matthew. (Also, in the Ascents of James it is Matthew who begins the debates.) Bunni is elsewhere in the Talmud is identified with Nikodimon Ben Gorion or Nicodemus. What this represents is a trial and a sentencing to execution of disciples of Jesus. It also show a debate about Jesus fulfilling prophecy. The disciple offers a proof text and the rabbis offer a counter text. Now we know that Jesus had twelve disciples. Why are there five here? Notice, Matthew's Aramaic name, Mattai, which is still used by Aramaic Christians today, comes first. The next four names mean Innocent, Branch, My Son, and Thanksgiving. The five names also remind us of the five books of Papias and the five books of the Gospel of Matthew. Particularly important is the third name, Netzer, the Branch. This is a source of the word Nazarene and Nazorean. Let us look at the names like this: "Matthew" is the title and the history of Jesus he wrote and it becomes the subject of the debate. Jesus was righteous or innocent, which is the source of the name Nekai. Jesus is the Holy One. Secondly, Jesus is the Son of David and the Branch, Netzer, of Jesse. Then we see that Jesus is the Son of Man and the Son of God. In Hebrew the word for Son is Beni. Lastly we have Todah, for thanksgiving. Perhaps this is because the early Christian Jews interpreted thanksgiving Psalms, such as Psalm 118, as being Messianic prophecies. Perhaps, this quotation in the Talmud and the Ascents of James both reflect a genuine historic event. This Talmudic quotation represents the Pharisees version of the events and the Ascents of James represents the Christian Jews version of the events as preserved by the Ebionites. Josephus mentions that "others" were executed along with James the Just. Perhaps what we have here are the accounts of the trial of James the Just and certain of the other apostles.

Another saying is believed to contain an authentic lost saying of Jesus, the only one found in the Talmud. Rabbi Eliezar was condemned for associating with heretics, the Minnom, meaning Christians. He said


While walking in the supper streets of Sepphoris there I met with one of the disciples of Yeshu the Nazorean, by name Jacob of Kephar Sechania, who said to me, "It is found in your law, "Thou shalt not bring the hire of a harlot into the house of thy God" (Deuteronomy 23:19). May a toilet for the high-priest be made out of such a gift? I knew not how to answer him. Then he said to me, "This is what Yeshu the Nazorean taught me "Of the hire of an harlot has she gathered them and unto the hire of a harlot shall they return (Micah 1:7)" From the place of filth it has come and unto the place of filth it shall return." This saying pleased me.


Another important saying states:


It happened that Eliezar ben Dama was bitten by a serpent. Then came Jacob of Kephar Secania to heal him. But Rabbi Ishmael would not allow it. Ben Dama said, "Rabbi Ishmael, allow me to be healed by him, and I will bring thee a verse from the Torah showing it is allowed." But he died before he had the opportunity. Then Rabbi Ishmael said, "Blessed art thou, Ben Dama, that thy body is pure, and that thy spirit has passed away in purity, and that thou hast not transgressed the words of thy companions."


Thus, according to the Talmud, it is better to die rather than to be prayed over or healed by a believer in Jesus. (This Jewish Christian "James" mentioned here reminds us of the James of the Bible-who encouraged Christians to pray for the sick (James 5:14-15).


Papias and the Discourses on the Oracles of Our Lord


Papias was one of the early church fathers. He interviewed people who knew the apostles and wrote down saying of Jesus that had been handed down orally. He knew three of the apostolic generation, John the Elder, his disciple Polycarp and someone name Ariston. Papias work has been preserved only in fragments. He was a second generation Christian and lived at the end of the first century and the beginning of the second. Papias stated "Matthew collected the oracles in the Hebrew language and each interpreted them as best as he could". In the New Testament and in the early Church era the Aramaic dialect of the Jew's was called 'Hebrew'. In the New Testament sometimes Aramaic and sometimes Hebrew is referred to as 'Hebrew'. For example, Golgotha is called a Hebrew word in John's Gospel. It is Aramaic. But in the Revelation Abaddon and Armageddon are Hebrew and not Aramaic.

Papias' book was in five parts. We also find five books in the Gospel of Matthew. Matthew like the Torah has five books. This is noted by the imminent British scholar William Barclay in his New Testament translation.


Prelude: The Infancy Narrative (note: Hebrew versions of Matthew did not start with the genealogy nor with the birth narrative. It began with the words, "And so in the days of Herod, king of Judea, John came baptizing a baptism of repentance in the river Jordan. He was said to have come from the tribe of Aaron the priest…"

Book One: The Law of the Kingdom (Chapters 5-7)

Book Two: Ambassadors of the Kingdom (10)

Book Three: Parables of the Kingdom (13)

Book Four: Greatness and Forgiveness (18)

Book Five: The Coming of the Kingdom (24-25)


According to Papias Peter dictated his account of the Life of Jesus to John Mark. Papias included additional stories of Phillip and his daughters including a story of how they raised a dead man to live. He also preserved a narrative of Barsabas drinking a deadly substance and it doing him no harm. According to Papias Judas Iscariot was obese. Part of the reason why Papias was not preserved was it contained sayings of Christ that referred to his millennial reign. Many important church leaders decided that John's and Isaiah's prophecy of the Peaceful kingdom were not to be taken literally. Thus Papias fell from acceptance. In Papias Jesus speaks of the earth being fertile and animals living at peace with man in the coming kingdom and rebukes Judas Iscariot for his incredulity.


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.

[Note: Today, people think of Abraham as the father of two nations: the Arabs through his first born son Ishmael, and the Jews through Isaac, his son by his wife Sarah. This is not how the passage was interpreted in the Greco-Roman period. Paul the Apostle says in Romans 4:16-17, "Therefore it is of faith that it might be according to grace, so that the promise might be sure to all the seed, not only to those who are of the law, but also to those who are the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all as it is written, "I have made you a father of many nations" (Genesis 17:5). So, Abraham was seen as the father of many nations and not of just Israel and the Arabs. According to the Bible, Abraham had a total of eight sons. He had Ishmael through Hagar, Isaac by Sarah and Zimran, Joksan, Medan, Midian, Ishbak and Shuah through Keturah (Genesis 25:1-6). In 1 Maccabees 12, Jonathan, the Jewish High Priest declared that the Spartans were of the family of Abraham (1 Maccabees 12:21). It was believed that the Spartans were descended from one of the sons of Abraham and Keturah. Here the author of "The Ascents of James" likewise claims that certain gentile nations are of Abrahamic descent. It is assumed that Abraham married Keturah after Sarah died, but some rabbis believed that Abraham married her while Sarah was still living.]


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 them, 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, the novelty of a changed manner of life might root out the evils which 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 (Deuteronomy 18:18-19)."


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 the hands of the enemy, but they who do mercy and righteousness without sacrifices are 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 observe these things, yet were held by the irrational opinion of the vulgar: for right opinion with liberty is the prerogative of a few.


Moses, then, having arranged these things, and 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 the 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 He 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 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 of 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 some 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 congregation 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 such 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 God and 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, began 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 with 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 diverse 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 with 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?" [Referring here to Simon Peter not Simon the Sorcerer.] 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 Desposyni: The True Story of the Holy Family of Jesus


The Da Vinci Code claims that there is a secret family of Jesus Christ. In reality the family of Jesus was known in history. This family of Jesus was known and widely respected and played an important role in the early church. This family of Jesus was made up of his brothers, his cousins, and their children. Jesus himself remained unmarried and had no children. In the Biblical account and in the most ancient historical sources, it is seen that the family of Jesus played a vital role in the early church. The man who played the most important role was James the Brother of Jesus. When Jesus departed into Glory, James became head of the church. After James was brutally murdered, another near-kinsman of Jesus, Simeon, his cousin, succeeded him. Stephen Neill in A History of Christian Missions states that "great change came about when Jerusalem was destroyed by the Romans in A.D. 70. Until that date Jerusalem had been without question the mother Church of the whole Christian world. James the brother of Jesus had presided over its fortunes, and there seems to have been a feeling in the minds of some Christians that a kind of caliphate out to be developed in the family of the Lord." The first eighteen bishops of Jerusalem were all Jewish Christians and most of them were close relatives of Jesus, being his brothers or first cousins, or their descendants. Originally, the Christian Church had its headquarters in Jerusalem. Stephen Neill compares the practice of the earliest Christians to elect one of the closest relatives of Jesus to be the leader of the church to be similar to the practice of the later Shiite Moslems in their view of the Caliphate. The Caliph is the secular and religious of a Moslem state. It comes from the Arabic word Khalifa, successor, which is derived from the word khalafa to succeed. A Caliphate is the office, jurisdiction, or reign of a caliph. The Shiite faction believes that the Islamic world ought to be ruled over by a caliph who is a descendant of the so-called "prophet" Mohammed. In a somewhat similar manner the brothers of Jesus led the early church. Preference was also shown to Jesus' nephews, Jacob and Sokker, when they gave a bold confession of their faith in their uncle as Messiah, during the Roman persecutions. Jacob and Sokker were chosen to govern the church.

"Ya'kov bar Yosef akhui diYeshua", James the Son of Joseph, the Brother of Jesus. So reads the Aramaic inscription on the recently discovery Sarcophagus of St. James the Apostle, the leader of the Jewish Christians at Jerusalem. This discovery has become very controversial with some maintaining it is an authentic relic and others denouncing it as a fraud. This bone box is a twenty inch long lime stone box with an Aramaic inscription (not Hebrew or Greek) that reads, "James, the Son of Joseph, Brother of Jesus". It is a 10 inch by 20 inch by 12 inch limestone box. It is properly called a ossuary or "bone-box". At the time of Jesus people were buried in caves. Bones of those whose bodies had decayed were collected and put in stone boxes called ossuaries. The ossuary of Caiphas, the High Priest behind the death of Jesus, has been discovered. His bones were still inside the box. The ossuary of Caiphas was also inscribed in Aramaic. If the James bone box is real or not doesn't change the fact that James the Just, the brother of Jesus, played a central role in the early church in Jerusalem.

Although Jesus is known to have "brothers" what this means was interpreted in different ways. Early church fathers such as Tertullian, Hegesippus, Helvidius of Rome and others believed that they were sons of Joseph and Mary after the virgin birth of Jesus. Eastern Orthodox interpretation is that they were sons of Joseph, a widower, from a previous marriage. Catholic Interpretation is that 'Brothers' a Semitic idiom for 'cousin'. Jerome is credited with this interpretation.

What the scriptures say: Matthew 1:25, "and he [Joseph] did not have sexual intercourse with her [Mary] until she brought forth her firstborn son. And he called his name Jesus." This verse strongly implies that Mary and Joseph did have sexual intercourse. God blessed their love with four sons and at least two daughters. The boys names were James [James is an old English form of the name Jacob], Joseph, Judah and Simeon (Mark 6:3). His sisters' names may have been Mary and Salome.

As with all the disciples who had their moments of doubt, so did his brothers. Apparently, even Mary his mother when through a crisis of doubt. In the Bible we see the family of Jesus actively involved with his ministry at the very beginning and also at its very end (John 2:12, John 19:25). When the church began after the glorification of Jesus, the brothers of Jesus played an important role in its leadership. For a time they thought Jesus had lost his mind and went to attempt to discourage him from continuing his ministry (Mark 3:20-21, Matthew 12:46-50, Luke 11:27-28). Here they believe Jesus is out of his mind. In this passage they attempt to take Jesus away from the crowds and put an end to his ministry. At the Feast of Tabernacles, James and his other brothers showed a lack of faith in Jesus. John states, "even His brothers did not believe in him" (John 7:1-9). This time they want him to prove Himself. So then, when did the brothers of Our Lord come to a complete faith in Jesus? The Bible isn't specific but we can infer that it was either in the midst of his ministry or during the Holy Week. Ancient extra-biblical accounts state that James was present during the Last Supper. According to St. Paul, the Resurrected Jesus appeared unto James and then later unto the rest of the apostles (1 Corinthians 15:7). This account by Paul is the early written account of the Resurrection that we now possess. We know that on the day of Pentecost that James, Mary and the rest of the brothers of Our Lord were present awaiting the coming of the Holy Spirit along with the other apostles and saints (Acts 1:14). Due to the fact that they quickly rose to prominence in the early church shows that they must have played an important role during the earthly ministry of Jesus.

In Galatians, Paul describes the church being led by the 'pillars' James, Cephas and John (Galatians 2:9). Here James is given precedence over Peter (Cephas). The Bible and early church history is very clean in stating the fact that James and not Peter was the leader of the church. At the Counsel of Jerusalem the decision of James 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). (There was a controversy in the church about circumcision. After a discussion, James, as head of the church, dictated church policy. No one questioned his authority. Peter was in submission to James. The reason for this is because the citation from "The Gospel of Thomas" is authentic, Christ Himself put James in charge over the church. 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). Paul met with James 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 the disciple Rhonda that she was 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.

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. His writings include Antiquities of the Jews and War of the Jews. 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 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 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." Hegisippus was an early Jewish Christian church historian whose work was heavily borrowed from by Eusebius "the Father of Church History". Hegisippus lived in the early 100s. Most of what we know about the Life of St. James outside of the New Testament was written by Hegisippus. Hegisippus visited Jewish Christian communities studied archives and spoke to eye-witnesses. Most of Hegisippus work that we still have is what Eusebius included in his History of the Church that was written around 325. Eusebius says that there were volumes written on the life of St. James the Just. According to Hegisippus's account during the Passover on 62 AD the high priest Ananus took James to the temple and took him to an elevated place and attempted to force him to publicly deny Jesus Christ. Instead James began preaching and people began to be converted and shouted out, "Hosanna to the Son of David". When the priests saw that their plan had failed they pushed James off of the platform where he had been standing. He fell a long ways and broke his legs. The priests proceeded to stone him. The sect of the Rechabites attempted to save James's life. Before they could a member of the Sadducees took a club that was used by laundrymen and beat James's brains out. James was greatly loved by the general populace and so they demanded that Ananus be deposed. When he was being interrogated, James was asked by the priests (according to Eusebius), "What is the door to Jesus?" he answered, "That he is Savior." He was murdered for that answer. This incident makes sense when it is put back into Hebrew and you see the word-play. The priest asked, "What is the Door to God's Salvation?" To which James answered, "That He is Savior!" [Jesus/Joshua in Hebrew means "God's Salvation" The Hebrew is "Mah petach yeshuah?" meaning "What is the door (or, means) or God's Salvation?'] Thus James affirmed that Jesus of Nazareth is the Messiah and God incarnate. For this the Sadducee establishment stoned James in the Temple. Many early Christian Jews and non-Christian Jews believed that the temple was destroyed because James intercession was ceased by his murder. James is said to have been so continually on his knees in the temple that his knees became as hard as a camel's. Even the unbelieving Jews were filled with awe at his devotion and called him "Jacob the Righteous." According to ancient Jewish Christian sources he was martyred during the Fest of the Passover by being thrown down from a tower of the temple, stoned and then clubbed to death. According to ancient Jewish Christian sources, James officiated as a priest in the temple. There are also strong traditions that he was a vegetarian. In this tradition, bishops of the Aramaic Assyrians Church of the East are also vegetarians. (In the Aramaic church tradition, pastors may marry. However, currently bishops take a vow of celibacy. In the past there were married bishops in the Aramaic churches. Vegetarianism among certain early Christian Jews is mentioned by Paul the Apostle in Romans 14:1-4. Early Christian Jews were called Ebionites. Many Ebionites were vegetarians. A theological argument for vegetarianism is presented in Matthew Scully's Dominion: The Power of Man, the Suffering of Animals, and the Call to Mercy (St. Martin's Griffin, 2003). Proverbs 12:10 states that "A righteous man regardeth the life of his beast, but the tender mercies of the wicked are cruel." Thus the Bible enjoins the humane treatment of animals. The slaughtering of animals should be done in the most humane way possible. I learned while I was preaching in Iowa that kosher slaughtering is not necessarily humane slaughtering. Christ's teachings and morality super-ceded those of the Old Testament.)


The Aramaic Christians believe their Churches were founded by the Brothers of Our Lord. The Syriac Syrian Orthodox Church counts James as its founder and uses a liturgy called "The Liturgy of St. James". The Syriac Ancient Church of the East claims to have been founded by the Apostle Thaddeus, a disciple named Mari and by first cousins of Jesus. They have a tradition that Simeon the Brother of Jesus sent apostles to maintain the ministry to the Aramaic speaking Assyrians and Babylonians. These missionaries included Abras, who was a first cousin of Jesus and of the family of Joseph. Thomas founded the Church in Assyria, Babylonia, Persia and India. He is also believed to have been a near kinsman of Jesus. The Liturgy of St. James is described as "The Anaphora of Mar James, the brother of our Lord. And this is the first Corban, which he said he heard from the mouth of the Lord. And he did not add, and did not omit in it a single word…For also James, the brother, according to the flesh of Christ our God, to whom the throne of the church of Jerusalem was first entrusted…"

Jude the Brother of Jesus was an important Christian missionary who is alluded to by Paul (1 Corinthians 9:4). Like the apostle Paul Jude was a traveling missionary and went from city to city preaching the Good News of the Kingdom of God. Jude wrote an epistle that is included in our New Testament. Jude quotes from the Book of Enoch and a lost work called "The Assumption of Moses." This epistle has a strong Jewish flavor. Jude was married, as Paul states, and when he traveled and preached his wife accompanied him to assist him in his ministry. His wife probably also preached and had also personally known Jesus. Jude had children and his grandchildren played an important role in early church history. Probably no one knew Jesus better than his brothers, James, Jude, Simeon and Joseph.

Another brother of Jesus was Simeon. After James was murdered Simeon succeeded him. Simeon was also a near-kinsman of Jesus. Even though he was a very aged man over one hundred years old, the Romans crucified him. This was how Simeon the Aged, the Brother of Jesus and Bishop of Jerusalem suffered the martyr's death.

There are reliable historical accounts of the relatives of Jesus. Eusebius, the Father of Church History, mentions them in The Church History which was written about the year 325 AD.


So Herod, with no Israelite ancestry and pained by his base origins, burned the genealogical records, thinking he would appear of noble birth if no one were able to trace his bloodline from public documents. A few, however, carefully kept private records of their own, wither remembering the names or finding them in copies, and took pride in preserving the memory of their aristocratic birth. Among these were the desposyni ["Belonging to the master" in Greek, since Jesus was Lord or "Despot". In a spiritual context the Greek flavor of "despot" was not politically pejorative.], so called because of their relation to the Savior's family. Living in the Jewish villages of Nazareth and Cochaba, they went through the rest of the land, explaining the above genealogy of their descent and quoting from the book of daily records as much as they could.


Later members of this sacred family were persecuted by the Emperor Domitian. Eusebius quotes from theActs 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 everyone according to his works. Upon hearing this Domitian did not pass judgment, 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.


They were released and became the leaders of the church. The names of these two young men were Jacob and Sokker. Apparently, over the centuries the family of Jesus either died out or somehow forgot its true identity. They are lost to history. It is very possible that there are people in the Middle East, maybe among the Christian population, who are of the family of Jesus. These people, if they exist, would be totally ignorant of this. In the early centuries of Christianity, the Desposyni were known. But now this family of Jesus has been totally lost and forgotten. The Desposyni of history, were not the children of Jesus and Mary of Magdala, they were the family of his brothers, sisters and near cousins. Jesus and Mary of Magdala never married and never had children. This is a recently devised myth. We have historical accounts of the Desposyni. There are no historical accounts of the children of Magdalene because this is not history but the product of twentieth century imagination. (For information about the Desposyni Eusebius consulted the writings of the Jewish Christian historian Hegisippus. He lived in the early second century and got his information from ancient Aramaic sources. Unfortunately, the writings of Hegisippus only survive in quotations from his works that are found in other writings such as those of Eusebius.)

The sisters of Jesus Christ are mentioned in Mark 3:32, 6:3 and Matthew 13:56. In this passage the people of Nazareth say, "Are not his sisters here with us." In the History of Joseph the Carpenter the sisters are named Lysia or Assia and Lydia. In Epiphanius of Salamas they are named Mary or Anna (perhaps Mary Hannah or Marianne) and Salome. Epiphanius is a more reliable source. The names of Jesus' sisters were probably Maryanne and Salome.

In the ancient Aramaic The Acts of the Apostle Thomas, Thomas, who is called Judah Thomas, is depicted as the identical twin brother of Jesus! This is, of course, impossible. In Aramaic Thomas means "the Twin." In Greek the name Thomas didn't create such curiosity and confusion as it did among Aramaic speakers. It is supposed that Judah was given the nickname "Thomas" because he was a close relative of Jesus and bore a striking resemblance to him. It is very possible that Thomas was a cousin of Jesus. In an ancient tradition, Thomas, like Jesus, is a carpenter from Galilee. In The Acts of Thomas, Thomas is depicted as an Apostle of Jesus Christ and as a man who dies a martyr's death for Jesus in India. According to the ancient Aramaic tradition, Thomas evangelized Syria, Mesopotamia, Persia, the Island of Socotra and also India. In the Old City of Damascus, one of the ancient gates is called "Bab Tooma", or the Gate of Thomas, because it is held that Thomas passed through that gate on his missionary journey. In southern India there are many "St. Thomas Christians," who are the descendants of those who were converted at the preaching of Thomas. Thomas is held in an extremely high place of honor among the Christians in India who belong to the Aramaic Church Tradition. (When European explorers first came to India they were surprised to find that many Indians were already Christians. Christianity is as old in India as it is in Europe. The Acts of Thomas refers to events and personalities that have been verified by archeological discoveries. It does also contain much material that is obviously legendary. Many historians have conceded that the story of Thomas evangelizing India is most likely true. Some of the earliest Aramaic sources we have mention Christianity as being firmly established in India. Soon after arriving in India, the Roman Catholics arrested the leaders of the Aramaic churches there and began burning libraries of Aramaic books. The Catholics were deeply offended that these Aramaic people claimed to be Christians and yet they did not know who or what a "pope" was. Indian Christians were put through the inquisition. As the time, obviously, Roman Catholics viewed Aramaic Christians are heretics. The Catholics tried to violently convert the Saint Thomas Christians to European modes of worship but failed. A few short years ago, the Roman Catholic Church has decided that perhaps Aramaic Christians are not heretics after all.) Thomas is the reputed author of the Gospel of Thomas. There is also the "Revelation of Thomas" and the aforementioned "Acts of Thomas."









The Epistle of Peter to James the Just and his Reply

I have decided to include the other lost Ebionite document found in the Pseudo-Clementine writings, although I consider it of a far lesser value than "The Ascents of James." In these epistles, Peter and James decide to place Gentile converts on a six-year probationary period after their conversion for discipleship purposes. I do not believe that these documents are authentic, although they are very ancient Ebionite writings. ( These documents below may represent the practices of early Ebionite Christian Jews, it is not my opinion that they represent the practice of the Apostles.)

The Epistle of Peter to James

Peter to James, the lord and bishop of the holy Church, under the Father of all, through Jesus Christ, wishes peace always.

Knowing, my brother, your eager desire after that which is for the advantage of us all, I beg and beseech you not to communicate to any one of the Gentiles the books of my teachings which I sent to you, nor to any one of our own tribe before a testing; but if anyone has been proved and found worthy, then to commit them to him, after the manner in which Moses delivered his books to the Seventy who succeeded to his chair. 

Wherefore also the fruit of that caution appears even till now. For his countrymen keep the same rule of monarchy and polity everywhere, being unable in any way to think otherwise, or to be led out of the way of the much-indicating Scriptures. 

For, according to the rule delivered to them, they endeavor to correct the discordances of the Scriptures, if any one, haply not knowing the traditions, is confounded at the various utterances of the prophets. Wherefore they charge no one to teach, unless he has first learned how the Scriptures must be used. And thus they have amongst them one God, one law, one hope.

In order, therefore, that the like may also happen to those among us as to these Seventy, give the books of my teachings to our brethren, with the like mystery of initiation, that they may indoctrinate those who wish to take part in teaching; for if it be not so done, our word of truth will be rent into many opinions. 

And this I know, not as being a prophet, but as already seeing the beginning of this very evil. For some from among the Gentiles have rejected my legal preaching, attaching themselves to certain lawless and trifling preaching of the man who is my enemy. [In the context of the book in which this epistle is found, the "enemy" is Simon the Samaritan Sorcerer. Some people believe it is an allusion to the Apostle Paul.]  

And these things some have attempted while I am still alive, to transform my words by certain various interpretations, in order to the dissolution of the law; as though I also myself were of such a mind, but did not freely proclaim it, which God forbid! For such a thing were to act in opposition to the law of God which was spoken by Moses, and was borne witness to by our Lord in respect of its eternal continuance; for thus he spoke: "The heavens and the earth shall pass away, but one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law." And this He has said, that all things might come to pass.

But these men, professing, I know not how, to know my mind, undertake to explain my words, which they have heard of me, more intelligently than I who spoke them, telling their catechumens that this is my meaning, which indeed I never thought of. But if, while I am still alive, they dare thus to misrepresent me, how much more will those who shall come after me dare to do so!

Therefore, that no such thing may happen, for this end I have prayed and besought you not to communicate the books of my preaching which I have sent you to any one, whether of our own nation or of another nation, before trial; but if any one, having been tested, has been found worthy, then to hand them over to him, according to the initiation of Moses, by which he delivered his books to the Seventy who succeeded to his chair; in order that thus they may keep the faith, and everywhere deliver the rule of truth, explaining all things after our tradition; lest being themselves dragged down by ignorance, being drawn into error by conjectures after their mind, they bring others into the like pit of destruction. 

Now the things that seemed good to me, I have fairly pointed out to you; and what seems good to you, do you, my lord, becomingly perform. Farewell.

James' Response to the Epistle Peter Which Wrote unto Him

Therefore James, having read the epistle, sent for the elders; and having read it to them, said: 

"Our Peter has strictly and becomingly charged us concerning the establishing of the truth, that we should not communicate the books of his teachings, which have been sent to us, to any one at random, but to one who is good and religious, and who wishes to teach, and who is circumcised, and faithful. And these are not all to be committed to him at once; that, if he be found injudicious in the first, the others may not be entrusted to him.

"Wherefore let him be proved not less than six years. And then according to the initiation of Moses, he that is to deliver the books should bring him to a river or a fountain, which is living water, where the regeneration of the righteous takes place, and should make him, not swear -- for that is not lawful -- but to stand by the water and adjure, as we ourselves, when we were regenerated, were made to do for the sake of not sinning.

"And let him say: 'I take to witness heaven, earth, water, in which all things are comprehended, and in addition to all these, that, air also which pervades all things, and without which I cannot breathe, that I shall always be obedient to him who gives me the books of the teachings; and those same books which he may give me, I shall not communicate to any one in any way, either by writing them, or giving them in writing, or giving them to a writer, either myself or by another, or through any other initiation, or trick, or method, or by keeping them carelessly, or placing them before any one, or granting him permission to see them, or in any way or manner whatsoever communicating them to another; unless I shall ascertain one to be worthy, as I myself have been judged, or even more so, and that after a probation of not less than six years; but to one who is religious and good, chosen to teach, as I have received them, so I will commit them, doing these things also according to the will of my bishop.

"But otherwise, though he were my son or my brother, or my friend, or otherwise in any way pertaining to me by kindred, if he be unworthy, that I will not vouchsafe the favor to him, as is not meet; and I shall neither be terrified by plot nor mollified by gifts. But if even it should ever seem to me that the books of the teachings given to me are not true, I shall not so communicate them, but shall give them back. And when I go abroad, I shall carry them with me, whatever of them I happen to possess. But if I be not minded to carry them about with me, I shall not suffer them to be in my house, but shall deposit them with my bishop, having the same faith, and setting out from the same persons as myself. But if it befall me to be sick, and in expectation of death, and if I be childless, I shall act in the same manner. But if I die having a son who is not worthy, or not yet capable, I shall act in the same manner. For I shall deposit them with my bishop, in order that if my son, when he grows up, be worthy of the trust, he may give them to him as his father's bequest, according to the terms of this engagement.

"And that I shall thus do, I again call to witness heaven, earth, water, in which all things are enveloped, and in addition to all these, the all-pervading air, without which I cannot breathe, that I shall always be obedient to him who gives me these books of the teachings, and shall observe in all things as I have engaged, or even something more. To me, therefore, keeping this covenant, there shall be a part with the holy ones; but to me doing anything contrary to what I have covenanted, may the universe be hostile to me, and the all-pervading ether, and the God who is over all, to whom none is superior, than whom none is greater. But if even I should come to the acknowledgment of another God, I now swear by him also, be he or be he not, that I shall not do otherwise. And in addition to all these things, if I shall lie, I shall be accursed living and dying, and shall be punished with everlasting punishment.

"And after this, let him partake of bread and salt with him who commits them to him."

James having thus spoken, the elders were in an agony of terror. Therefore James, perceiving that they were greatly afraid, said: 

"Hear me, brethren and fellow-servants. If we should give the books to all indiscriminately, and they should be corrupted by any daring men, or be perverted by interpretations, as you have heard that some have already done, it will remain even for those who really seek the truth, always to wander in error. Wherefore it is better that they should be with us, and that we should communicate them with all the fore-mentioned care to those who wish to live piously, and to save others. But if any one, after taking this adjuration, shall act otherwise, he shall with good reason incur eternal punishment. For why should not he who is the cause of the destruction of others not be destroyed himself?"

The elders, therefore, being pleased with the sentiments of James exclaimed, "Blessed be He who, as foreseeing all things, has graciously appointed thee as our bishop; "and when they had said this, we all rose up, and prayed to the Father and God of all, to whom be glory forever. Amen."





















Lost Aramaic Acts of the Apostles


In the early Christian era there were Jewish Christian communities and then the larger gentile Christian community. Our New Testament was completely written by Jews. Luke the Physician was a gentile but it make Bible scholars believe he was a proselyte to Judaism who later converted to Christianity. Extra-biblical literature of the early Christian Jews has survived. When we look at them we need to first review certain terms:


Apocrypha: Often people think of the Apocrypha as Roman Catholic literature, it isn't. It is pre-Christian literature. These are not ancient books that were added later to the canon of Scripture. They were part of the Greek Old Testament that the Jewish community used and that the early Church accepted as Scripture. Protestants later changed the canon of the Old Testament to match that of the Jewish people. Apocryphal books include First and Second Maccabees, Judith, Tobit, Ecclesiastes and Wisdom of Solomon.


Pseudepigrapha: This word means "false writings." After the close of the canon people would write under a pseudonym-such as Baruch or Enoch. These books are also ancient Jewish writings-but they were preserved by Christians. After the composition of the Talmud, Rabbis actually forbad these books to be preserved-so they were preserved by Christians, sometimes in Greek, Latin, Syriac, Coptic, Arabic or Slavonic translations.


Here is a listing of fragments of ancient Jewish Christian literature:


The Gospel of the Hebrews (preserved only in fragments)

The Diatesseron of Tatian

The Gospel of Thomas

The Doctrine of Addai

The Didache


The Book of Enoch

Second Esdras

The Testament of the Twelve Patriarchs



The Odes of Solomon (This is an ancient Jewish Christian hymn book)

The Revelation of Elschai

The Ascents of James


A few of these books are non-orthodox.


The Gabriel Prophecy: The "Dead Sea Scroll" on Stone


Three of these books are Jewish and pre-Christian. These are Enoch, Esdras and Testament of the Twelve Patriarchs. Because of their very specific prophecies of the Messiah, prophecies that were fulfilled by Jesus, scholars think that they were written by Christian Jews or that Jewish Christians made additions and alterations to them. Enoch has prophecies of a Messianic figure called "the Son of Man." Just because Jesus fulfilled messianic prophecies doesn't mean that these prophecies we written after the coming of Jesus. For instance, recently a stone with a Hebrew prophecy has been discovered. It is written as if the archangel Gabriel is the speaker. In it he prophecies that the Messiah will die and rise again on the third day. This stone has been dated to the time before Jesus.

We need to realize that certain expectations about the Messiah that Jesus fulfilled were pre-Christian. Also, after the destruction of the Temple and later developments, Judaism disassociated itself with certain beliefs and practices that it came to view as non-Jewish or Christian, which earlier were part of the Jewish tradition.


The Twelve


I am discuss three documents that deal with twelve. First, The Testament of the Twelve Patriarchs, Secondly, The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles, which is known as The Didache, and The Ascents of James, in which all twelve apostles, individually are engaged in a dialogue about Jesus with various sects of Judaism.


The Testament of the Twelve Patriarchs


This book contains the last words spoken by each of the twelve patriarchs the sons of Jacob (Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar, Zebulun, Dan, Naphtali, Gad, Asher, Joseph and Benjamin). Each recounts the past events of their life and tell stories, some from the Bible and others that are not. It is believed to have been written between 107 and 137 B.C. Part of The Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs were found among the Dead Sea Scrolls. This is an example of one of the Messianic prophecies from the Testaments, this one from the Testament of Levi,


Then shall the Lord raise up a new priest. And to him al the words of the Lord shall be revealed; and he shall execute a righteous judgment upon the earth for a multitude of days. And his star shall arise in heaven as of a king. Lighting up the light of knowledge as the sun the day; and he shall be magnified in the world. He shall shine forth as the sun on the earth, and shall remove all darkness under heaven…


The Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs contain a substantial amount of prophecies concerning the coming of the Messiah. From a Christian perspective, a number of statements can be associated with events in the life of Jesus. Many consider this significant since several of the books are thought to predate Jesus of Nazareth. This opinion, first propagated by Bacon in his "Opus Majus" is hardly defended in modern scholarship, where all passages that clearly refer to Jesus, are either considered Christian interpolations (by those who consider the author to be Jewish) or Christian writings (by those who consider the author to be Christian). (But not all of them are necessarily "interpolations.") For example, compare the following passages from the Testament of Levi:

The heavens shall be opened, and from the temple of glory shall come upon him sanctification, with the Father's voice as from Abraham to Isaac. And the glory of the Most High shall be uttered over him, and the spirit of understanding and sanctification shall rest upon him in the water. (Levi 5:21-22)

with this passage from the Gospel of Matthew

As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, "This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased."(Matthew 3:16-17)

Use of the Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs in the New Testament

Certain Bible Scholars have called attention to the frequent use of The Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs by Paul and other writers of the New Testament. I Thess. ii. 16 is a quotation of Test. Patr., Levi, 6:10; Rom. 12:19 of Gad, 6:10; Rom. 12:21 of Benjamin, 6:3; II Cor. 12:10 of Gad, 5:7; and Ephes. 5:6 of Naphtali, 3:1. Later scholarship has highly debated this issue. Current consensus is that, while there is similarity of thought, the New Testament authors do not utilize The Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs in any way.

The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles

This ancient writing, also known as the Didache, meaning "The Teaching," was considered a part of the New Testament in certain early Christian communities. It is listed in certain ancient listing of books of the New Testament. Certain scholars date The Didache to as early as 50 AD. Most scholars seem to date it from 70-125 AD. It has a Jewish flavour to it and uses Aramaic terminology. Here is an example from its liturgy for the Lord's Supper:

Now concerning the Eucharist, give thanks as follows. First, concerning the cup:

We give you thanks, our Father, for the holy vine of David your servant, which you have made known to us through Jesus, your servant; to you be the glory forever.

And concerning the broken bread:

We give thanks, our Father, for the life and knowledge that you have made known to us through Jesus, your servant; to you be the glory forever…We give you thanks, Holy Father, for your Holy Name, which you have casued to dwell in our hearts…May grace come, and may this world pass away. Hosanna to the God of David. If anyone is holy, let him come; if anyone is not, let him repent. Maranatha! Amen.

Here in The Didache we see references to David and Hebrew/Aramaic terminology such as Hosanna and Maranatha. Another important part of The Didache is called the "The Two Ways." This same message is found in the Epistle of Barnabas. Both The Didache and the Epistle of Barnabas forbid abortion. Apparently, in the first century, Jewish people rejected Abortion and saw it as a form of murder. This is also, as can be seen here, the teaching of the Jewish Christian church in the apostolic era. (Didache 2:2, Barnabas 19:5). (Barnabas interprets the Jewish dietary laws metaphorically. We should bear in mind that great Jewish thinkers in the Diaspora community, such as Philo of Alexandria, interpreted the Scripture in the same manner.)

The Didache is an ancient Christian teaching manual that gives basic doctrine, instructions on how to baptize and how to observe that Lord's Supper and it also contains moral instruction. The Epistle of Barnabas was written sometime between 70 AD to132 AD. The author is not the same person as the Barnabas mentioned in the Book of the Acts of the Apostles. Both of the Didache and Barnabas contain a teaching called the "Two Ways." This is a very ancient set of Christian moral instruction. In fact, a fragment of a "Two Ways Document" was discovered among the Dead Sea Scrolls (4Q473). A significant teaching of the "Two Ways Document" is the condemnation of abortion as murder. So, in two of the most ancient Christian writings we possess, writings that were once considered part of the New Testament, abortion is listed as a sin. Tacitus, the Roman historian who lived from 56-117 A.D. wrote of the Jews of his day, writing at about 110 A.D. he wrote, "The Jews see to it that their numbers increase. It is a deadly sin to kill a born or unborn child, and they think that eternal life is granted to those who die in battle or execution - hence their eagerness to have children, and their contempt for death. Rather than cremate their dead, they prefer to bury them in imitation of the Egyptian fashion, and they have the same concern and beliefs about the world below." This is evidence that the Jewish people at the time of Christ, held the same opinion of abortion that was held by early Christians, that it was the taking of a human life and to be equated with murder. With the Didache we have an ancient document from the first century containing the teaching of Jesus Christ and including His teaching against abortion. This doctrine is attributed to Christ and the apostles. The early church fathers, including men who personally knew the apostles, wrote that the apostolic teaching is that abortion is the taking of an innocent human life. The right to life of the unborn child and that the unborn child is a human being is an ancient and essential teaching of our Lord and Savior Jesus the Christ. Christians are obligated to oppose abortion. Anyone who claims to be a Christian and supports abortion stands in opposition to Christian tradition because he (or she) is rebelling against clear moral teachings that were given by Jesus Christ and transmitted through the Apostles. Jesus said, "Why do you call me "Lord, Lord" and yet you do not follow my commands. Depart from me you workers of iniquity! I never knew you!" Jesus also warned that false teachers would come in the future, who would teach people to do evil, such as to murder unborn babies, in his name. (The real reason that abortion is legal in the United States is that it is a million dollar industry. People will do anything to keep themselves becoming enriched by the taking of innocent human life.) Ancient medical ethicists such as Hippocrates condemned the practice of abortion. (Here is a reference list of Church Fathers who spoke out against abortion; Apocalypse of Peter 26; 2:264 (135 A.D.), Clement of Alexandria, Paedgogus 2 (150-180 A.D.), Athenagoras, Legatio 35 (165 A.D.), Tertullian, Apology 9:6, De Anima 26:4 (160-240 A.D.), Minucius Felix, Octavius (180-225 A.D.), Hippolytus, Refutation of All Heresies 9:7 (170-236), Basil the Great, Letter 188:2 (330-379 A.D. ), Jerome, Letter 22:13 (342-420 A.D.), John Chrysostom, Homily on Romans 24 (340-407 A.D.) and Ambrose of Milan (339-397A.D.).)

















The Ascents of James: History and Theology of a Jewish Christian Community by Robert E. Van Voorst (Society of Biblical Literature 1989)


John Painter Just James: The Brother of Jesus in History and Tradition (Fortress Press, 1999)


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 See "Literature on the Ebionites" 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 Brother of Jesus by Ben Witherington III


Jesus and the Ossuaries: What Burial Practices Reveal about the Beginning of Christianity by Craig A. Evans

Ancient Accounts of St. James


"St. Thomas" The Gospel of Thomas

Flavius Josephus Antiquities of the Jews

Eusebius Pampylius The Ecclesiastical History

Jerome The Lives of the Illustrious Men

Epiphanius The Panarion of Epiphanius of Salamis

The Aramaic Divine Liturgy of St. James the Brother of Jesus


Spurious Works falsely attributed to James

The Proto-Evangelion of St. James

The Apocryphon of James

The 1st and 2nd Apocalypse of St. James

Gospel of the Egyptians


Scholarly works on St. James


F. F. Bruce Peter, Stephen, James and John

Pierre-Antoine Berheim James, Brother of Jesus (Trinity Press, 1997)

Bruce Chilton The Brother of Jesus: James the Just and his Mission (Westminister John Knox Press, 2001)








About the Author


Reverend Stephen Andrew Missick is the author The Words of Jesus in the Original Aramaic: Discovering the Semitic Roots of Christianity and Christ the Man. He is an ordained minister of the gospel. He graduated from Sam Houston State University and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Rev. Missick has traveled extensively throughout the Middle East and has lived among the Coptic Christians in Egypt and Aramaic Christians in Syria. He served as a soldier in Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003 and 2004 and as a chaplain in the Army National Guard in Baghdad in 2009 and 2010. While serving as a soldier in Iraq he learned Aramaic from native Aramaic-speaking Assyrian Christians. Rev. Missick is the writer and illustrator of the comic book series The Hammer of God which dramatizes the story of Judah Maccabeus and Charles Martel.


Contact Stephen A. Missick at PO Box 882 Shepherd TX 77371 A monthly newsletter, The Aramaic Herald, is available free of charge. DVDs and Gospel tracts with an Aramaic focus are also available from the above address. Rev. Missick has several short video teachings and presentations at and a blog at





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