James the Just

James was the bishop of Jerusalem, the oldest of Jesus' half brothers and early recognized as the most prominent overseer of the Jerusalem Church. He was known as an unusually righteous man and surnamed James the Just by his countrymen. His ascetic life and faithful attendance in the temple made him popular with the people, even endearing the Jews. There are many present day teachers who acknowledge James as the leader of the church at Jerusalem but James is never referred to as such, nor are any of the others. The Lord Jeshua is always the leader of these early Christians and for any of them to think otherwise would be tantamount to blasphemy in usurping the spiritual authority of leadership from the Son of God. So James opens his epistle as a "servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ" and not as an apostle. The greatest apostles are among the greatest servants.

Now there are many commentators who believe that this James was not the Lord's brother at all but a cousin, James the Less, the son of Mary and Alpheus and one of the twelve disciples. They have a good argument since both had a mother named Mary and had brothers called Jude and Joses. The word for brother in Greek, adelpho can be used also as a near kinsman. The historical tradition however, favors James as the brother of the Lord, the author of the book of James and the bishop of Jerusalem. This James was called the brother of Jesus by Josephus and martyred in Jerusalem while the historical tradition has James the less being martyred at Ostrakine in Lower Egypt.

In the gospels, the brothers of our Lord including James, did not believe and thought Jesus mad. Throughout Jesus' lifetime, James did not believe until the risen Christ had made His resurrection appearance. Jesus did appear to him and what the life of Christ did not do, the death and resurrection did. In I Corinthians 15, Paul mentions an appearance of the risen Jesus to James, and separates it from his appearances to Peter, to the 12, and to the 500 brethren in such a way as to suggest a private appearance. The conclusion is that James was not a disciple at the time of those earlier manifestations, but became such in his own vision of the risen Lord.

James was always distinguished as "the brother of the Lord." In the East it would have been the natural and the accepted thing for the next brother to take on the work and the task of an elder brother who had been killed. After the resurrection, it was believed that Jesus had revealed the "true gnosis" or deeper understanding of Christian doctrine to James and to Peter and John. After the martyrdom of James the son of Zebedee, and when the Lord broke Peter out of prison and he left for Judea, James remained behind at Jerusalem as the permanent overseer of the Mother Church and universally known throughout the church as the undisputed pastor of Judaic Christians.

James the minister of the now reduced and impoverished church in Jerusalem, practiced the law in all its severity, rivalling the Essenes in asceticism; he ate no meat, drank no wine, had only one garment and never cut his hair or beard. His character as a Jew counted for a great deal with the strict Jews of the Mother Church. He had a commanding influence and dominated the Jerusalem church with the presence of his personality. His strict observance of the law was all-important, not to nullify Christian freedom but as a witness to the Jews. He was a strict Jew himself yet authored the tolerant letter to the Gentile Christians, the book of James. James was certainly not a Judaizer, at the time of the Jerusalem Council he distinctly recognized the legitimacy of Gentile Christianity, and gave his approval to the work of Paul. Although endorsing Paul's Gentile work, he was mainly concerned with Jews. His life work was to win Jews, smooth their passage to Christianity and brought a large number of them to the Messiah.

James was so constant in prayer that his knees became hard and callous, they were said to be like camel's knees because he knelt so often and so long. He was so good, he was called James the Just according to the historian Josephus, even by his unbelieving Jewish countrymen. James was accorded a position of high eminence. He had a special vision, something hardly conceivable unless prepared to receive it through genuine faith, he certainly regarded it as proof of divine favor.

If the term "Bishop" is to be used at all in the apostolic age, it would seem James is certainly the first. The episcopate, like the deaconate, had its origin not in Jerusalem but in the churches of the Gentile world for different reasons than the elevation of James. So it may seem unhistorical to use the term for James and there was no sign that he held any official position or title, yet it is evident that he had a profound influence.

James was called an apostle along with Peter and John. "Then after 3 years, I (Paul) went up to Jerusalem to see Peter, and abode with him 15 days. But other of the apostles saw I none, save James the Lord's brother." Galatians 1:18-19. He was one of the 3 pillars of the church, from whom Paul received the right hand of fellowship and with whom he entered into the compact by which Christendom was divided into a Jewish and a Gentile wing. "And when James, Cephas, and John who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that was given to me (Paul), they gave to me and Barnabas the right hands of fellowship, that we should go unto the heathen, and they unto the circumcision. Only they would that we should remember the poor; the same which I also was forward to do." Galatians 2:9

James is thought to have been married. "Have we not power to lead about a sister, a wife, as well as other apostles, and as the brethren of the Lord, and Cephas?" 1Co 9:5

For 11 years under the guidance of James, the Christians were left undisturbed. As long as they were part of the Jewish people and worshipped in the Temple and the synagogue with their unconverted countrymen, there was no reason to form a separate community of their own with an independent organization. Such a step must be like cutting themselves off from the family of Israel, to which in reality they must have felt most closely bound.

In the year 62, the procurator Festus died and the delay in the arrival of his successor Albinus offered the high priest, Ananias, a son of Ananus the elder an opportunity to call for the death of James. Ananias called a Sanhedrin together and brought before the Jewish rulers, James the brother of Jesus who was called the Christ, and "certain others" who were also probably Christians. They commanded James to proclaim from one of the galleries of the Temple at Jerusalem that Jesus was not the Messiah. But instead James cried out that Jesus was the Son of God and Judge of the World. Then his enraged enemies hurled him to the ground, and stoned him. While on his knees praying "Father forgive them, they know not what they do" A charitable fuller ended his sufferings by dashing his brains out with his club. The murder of James showed a growing tension between the Christians and the Jews, and the flight of Judean Christians to Pella in 65 marks the final severance.
[291, 311, 315, 330, 334, I Cor., 338, Galatians, Acts, I Corinthians, 343, 12, 355, 15, 359]

The Lord has given Christians the grace to reconcile the children to their Fathers

As One Body

  • We prepare for the Marriage Supper of the Lamb
  • Harvest the Fruit of the Latter Rain
  • Follow Him as the Army of the Lord into His Glory

Help To Prepare A Holy Bride!

Issue Oriented Discussion Newsletter

Index | Search This Site | Aristide.Org | The Latter Rain | Babylon the Great | The Kingdom | The Nicolaitans | Jezebel
The Baptism With the Holy Ghost | The Grand Delusion | World Trade Org | Liberation Theology | Jay Atkinson | Alphabetical Index