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25

CHAPTER III.
THE AUTHOR OF THE EPISTLE:
JAMES THE BROTHER OF THE LORD.

"James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ."—Jas. i. 1

WE have still to consider the second half of the question as to the authenticity of this letter. Granting that it is a genuine Epistle of James, and a writing of the Apostolic age, to which of the persons in that age who are known to us as bearing the name of James is it to be attributed? The consensus of opinion on this point, though not so great as that respecting the genuineness of the letter, is now very considerable, and seems to be increasing.

The name James is the English form of the Hebrew name Yacoob (Jacob), which in Greek became Ἰάκωβος, in Latin Jacōbus, and in English James, a form which grievously blurs the history of the name. From having been the name of the patriarch Jacob, the progenitor of the Jewish race, it became one of the commonest of proper names among the Jews; and in the New Testament we find several persons bearing this name among the followers of Jesus Christ. It would be possible to make as many as six; but these must certainly be reduced to four, and probably to three.

These six are—

1. James the Apostle, the son of Zebedee and brother 26 of John the Apostle (Matt. iv. 21; x. 2; xvii. 5; Mark x. 35; xiii. 3; Luke ix. 54; Acts xii. 2).

2. James the Apostle, the son of Alphæus (Matt. x. 3; Mark iii. 18; Luke vi. 15; Acts i. 13).

3. James the Little, the son of Mary the wife of Clōpas (John xix. 25), who had one other son, named Joses (Matt. xxvii. 56; Mark xv. 40).

4. James the brother of the Lord (Gal. i. 19), a relationship which he shares with Joses, Simon, and Judas (Matt. xiii. 55; Mark vi. 3) and some unnamed sisters.

5. James the overseer of the Church of Jerusalem (Acts xii. 17; xv. 13; xxi. 18; 1 Cor. xv. 7; Gal. ii. 9, 12).

6. James the brother of the Jude who wrote the Epistle (Jude i. 1).

Besides which, we have an unknown James, who was father of the Apostle Judas, not Iscariot (Luke v. 16); but we do not know that this James ever became a disciple.

Of these six we may safely identify the last three as being one and the same person; and we may probably identify James the Apostle, the son of Alphæus, with James the Little, the son of Mary and Clopas; in which case we may conjecture that the epithet of "the Little" (ὁ μικρός) was given him to distinguish him from the other Apostle James, the son of Zebedee. Clopas (not Cleophas, as in the A.V.) may be one Greek form of the Aramaic name Chalpai, of which Alphæus may be another Greek form; so that the father of this James may have been known both as Clopas and as Alphæus. But this is by no means certain. In the ancient Syriac Version we do not find both Alphæus and Clopas represented by Chalpai; but we find 27 Alphæus rendered Chalpai, while Clopas reappears as Kleopha. And the same usage is found in the Jerusalem Syriac.

We have thus reduced the six to four or three; and it is sometimes proposed to reduce the three to two, by identifying James the Lord's brother with James the son of Alphæus. But this identification is attended by difficulties so serious as to seem to be quite fatal; and it would probably never have been made but for the wish to show that "brother of the Lord" does not mean brother in the literal sense, but may mean cousin. For the identification depends upon making Mary the wife of Clopas (and mother of James the son of Alphæus) identical with the sister of Mary the mother of the Lord, in the much-discussed passage John xix. 25; so that Jesus and James would be first cousins, being sons respectively of two sisters, each of whom was called Mary.1717   The supposed relationship may be exhibited thus:—           Mary = Joseph.   Mary = Clopas or Alphæus.   |       JESUS CHRIST. James the Apostle. Joseph. Simon Judas (Apostle?). (Apostle?).

The difficulties under which this theory labours are mainly these:—

1. It depends on an identification of Clopas with Alphæus, which is uncertain, though not improbable.

2. It depends on a further identification of Christ's "mother's sister" with "Mary the wife of Clopas" in John xix. 25, which is both uncertain and highly improbable. In that verse we almost certainly have four women, and not three, contrasted with the four soldiers just mentioned (vv. 23, 24), and arranged in 28 two pairs: "His mother, and His mother's sister; Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene."

3. It assumes that two sisters were both called Mary.

4. No instance in Greek literature has been found in which "brother" (ἀδελφός) means "cousin." The Greek language has a word to express "cousin" (ἀνεψιός), which occurs Col. iv. 10; and it is to be noted that the ancient tradition preserved by Hegesippus (c. A.D. 170) distinguishes James the first overseer of the Church of Jerusalem as the "brother of the Lord" (Eus. H. E. II. xxiii. 1), and his successor Symeon as the "cousin of the Lord" (IV. xxii. 4). Could Hegesippus have written thus if James were really a cousin? If a vague term such as "kinsman" (συγγενής) was wanted, that also might have been used, as in Luke i. 36, 58; ii. 44.

5. In none of the four lists of the Apostles is there any hint that any of them are the brethren of the Lord; and in Acts i. 13, 14, and 1 Cor. ix. 5, "the brethren of the Lord" are expressly distinguished from the Apostles. Moreover, the traditions of the age subsequent to the New Testament sometimes make James the Lord's brother one of the Seventy, but never one of the Twelve, a fact which can be explained only on the hypothesis that it was notorious that he was not one of the Twelve. The reverence for this James and for the title of Apostle was such that tradition would eagerly have given him the title had there been any opening for doing so.

6. The "brethren of the Lord" appear in the Gospels almost always with the mother of the Lord (Matt. xii. 46; Mark iii. 32; Luke viii. 19; John ii. 12); never with Mary the wife of Clopas; and popular 29 knowledge of them connects them with Christ's mother, and not with any other Mary (Mark vi. 3; Matt. xiii. 55). "My brethren," in Matt. xxviii. 10, and John xx. 17, does not mean Christ's earthly relations, but the children of "My Father and your Father."

7. But the strongest objection of all is St. John's express statement (vii. 5) that "even His brethren did not believe on Him;" a statement which he could not have made if one of the brethren (James), and possibly two others (Simon and Judas), were already Apostles.

The identification of James the son of Alphæus with James the Lord's brother must therefore be abandoned, and we remain with three disciples bearing the name of James from which to select the writer of this Epistle—the son of Zebedee, the son of Alphæus, and the brother of the Lord. The father of Judas, not Iscariot, need not be considered, for we do not even know that he ever became a believer.

In our ignorance of the life, and thought, and language of the son of Zebedee and the son of Alphæus, we cannot say that there is anything in the Epistle itself which forbids us to attribute it to either of them; but there is nothing in it which leads us to do so. And there are two considerations which, when combined, are strongly against Apostolic authorship. The writer does not claim to be an Apostle; and the hesitation as to the reception of the Epistle in certain parts of the Christian Church would be extraordinary if the letter were reputed to be of Apostolic authorship. When we take either of these Apostles separately we become involved in further difficulties. It is not probable that any Apostolic literature existed in the lifetime of James the son of Zebedee, who was martyred, under Herod Agrippa I., i.e. not later than the spring 30 of A.D. 44, when Herod Agrippa died. That any Apostle wrote an encyclical letter as early as A.D. 42 or 43 is so improbable that we ought to have strong evidence before adopting it, and the only evidence worth considering is that furnished by the Peshitto. The earliest MSS. of this ancient Syriac Version, which date from the fifth to the eighth century, call it an Epistle of James the Apostle; but evidence which cannot be traced higher than the fifth century respecting an improbable occurrence alleged to have taken place in the first century is not worth very much. Moreover, the scribes who put this heading and subscription to the Epistle may have meant no more than that it was by a person of Apostolic rank, or they may have shared the common Western error of identifying the brother of the Lord with the son of Alphæus. Editors of the Syriac Version in a much later age certainly do attribute the Epistle to the son of Zebedee, for they state that the three Catholic Epistles admitted to that version—James, 1 Peter, and 1 John—are by the three Apostles who witnessed the Transfiguration. The statement seems to be a blundering misinterpretation of the earlier title, which assigned it to James the Apostle. And if we attribute the letter to the son of Alphæus we get rid of one difficulty, only to fall into another; we are no longer compelled to give the Epistle so improbably early a date as A.D. 43, but we are left absolutely without any evidence to connect it with the son of Alphæus, unless we identify this Apostle with the brother of the Lord, an identification which has already been shown to be untenable.1818   It seems to be right to take this opportunity of preventing a name of great authority from being any longer quoted as favouring the identification. Dr. Döllinger, in his Christenthum und Kirche in der Zeit der Grundlegung (1860), translated by H. N. Oxenham as The First Age of Christianity and the Church, advocated the identification (chap. iii.). The venerable author told the present writer, in June, 1877, that he was convinced that his earlier opinion on this subject was entirely erroneous, and that the Apostle James of Alphæus was a different person from James Bishop of Jerusalem and brother of the Lord. He added that the Eastern Church had always distinguished the two, and that their identification in the West was due to the influence of Jerome.
   The evidence of Martyrologies and Calendars is worth noting as indicating the tradition on the subject. The Hieronymian Martyrology and other early Roman Martyrologies commemorate James of Alphæus June 22nd, and James the Lord's brother December 27th; the Ambrosian Liturgy, James of Alphæus December 30th, and the Lord's brother May 1st; the Byzantine Calendar, James of Alphæus October 9th, and the Lord's brother October 23rd; the Egyptian and Ethiopic Calendars, James of Alphæus October 2nd, and the Lord's brother October 23rd.

31 Therefore, without further hesitation, we may assign the Epistle to one of the most striking and impressive figures in the Apostolic age, James the Just, the brother of the Lord, and the first overseer of the Mother Church of Jerusalem.

Whether James was the brother of the Lord as being the son of Joseph by a former marriage, or as being the son of Joseph and Mary born after the birth of Jesus, need not be argued in detail. All that specially concerns us, for a right understanding of the Epistle, is to remember that it was written by one who, although for some time not a believer in the Messiahship of Jesus, was, through his near relationship, constantly in His society, witnessing His acts and hearing His words. This much, however, should be noted, that there is nothing in Scripture to warn us from understanding that Joseph and Mary had other children, and that "firstborn" in Luke ii. 7, and "till" in Matt. i. 25, appear to imply that they had; a supposition 32 confirmed by contemporary belief (Mark vi. 3; Matt. xiii. 55), and by the constant attendance of these "brethren" on the mother of the Lord (Matt. xii. 46; Mark iii. 32; Luke viii. 19; John ii. 12); that, on the other hand, the theory which gives Joseph children older than Jesus deprives Him of His rights as the heir of Joseph and of the house of David; seems to be of apocryphal origin (Gospel according to Peter, or Book of James); and like Jerome's theory of cousinship, appears to have been invented in the interests of ascetic views and of à priori convictions as to the perpetual virginity of the Blessed Virgin. The immense consensus of belief in the perpetual virginity does not begin until long after all historical evidence was lost. Tertullian appears to assume as a matter of course that the Lord's brethren are the children of Joseph and Mary, as if in his day no one had any other view (Adv. Marc., IV. xix.; De Carne Christi, vii.).1919   Alford, Farrar, Meyer, Schaff, Stier, Weiss, Wieseler, Winer, and others support this view. See also McClellan's note on Matt. xiii. 55, and Plumptre's Introduction to St. James. Bishop Lightfoot contends for the Epiphanian theory.

According to either view, James was the son of Joseph, and almost certainly was brought up with his Divine Brother in the humble home at Nazareth. His father, as St. Matthew tells us (i. 19) was a just or righteous man, like the parents of the Baptist (Luke i. 6), and this was the title by which James was known during his lifetime, and by which he is still constantly known. He is James "the Just" (ὁ δίκαιος). The epithet as used in Scripture of his father and others (Matt. i. 19; xxiii. 35; Luke i. 6; ii. 25; xxiii. 50; Acts x. 20; 2 Peter ii. 7), and in history of him, must not be understood as implying precisely what the Athenians meant 33 when they styled Aristeides "the Just," or what we mean by being "just" now. To a Jew the word implied not merely being impartial and upright, but also having a studied and even scrupulous reverence for everything prescribed by the Law. The Sabbath, the synagogue worship, the feasts and fasts, purification, tithes, all the moral and ceremonial ordinances of the Law of the Lord—these were the things on which the just man bestowed a loving care, and in which he preferred to do more than was required, rather than the bare minimum insisted on by the Rabbis. It was in a home of which righteousness of this kind was the characteristic that St. James was reared, and in which he became imbued with that reverent love for the Law which makes him, even more than St. Paul, to be the ideal "Hebrew of Hebrews." For him Christ came "not to destroy, but to fulfil." Christianity turns the Law of Moses into a "royal law" (ii. 8), but it does not abrogate it. The Judaism which had been his moral and spiritual atmosphere during his youth and early manhood remained with him after he had learned to see that there was no antagonism between the Law and the Gospel.

It would be part of his strict Jewish training that he should pay the prescribed visits to Jerusalem at the feasts (John vii. 10); and he would there become familiar with the magnificent liturgy of the Temple, and would lay the foundation for that love of public and private prayer within its precincts which was one of his best-known characteristics in after-life. A love of prayer, and a profound belief in its efficacy, appear again and again in the pages of his Epistle (i. 5; iv. 2, 3, 8; v. 13-18). It was out of a strong personal experience that the man who knelt in prayer until "his 34 knees became hard like a camel's" declared that "the supplication of a righteous man availeth much in its working."

Strict Judaism has ever a tendency to narrowness, and we find this tendency in the brethren of the Lord, in their attitude both towards their Brother, and also towards Gentile converts after they had accepted Him (Gal. ii. 12). Of the long period of silence during which Jesus was preparing Himself for His ministry we know nothing. But immediately after His first miracle, which they probably witnessed, they went down with Him, and His mother, and His disciples to Capernaum (John ii. 12), and very possibly accompanied Him to Jerusalem for the Passover. They would be almost certain to go thither to keep the feast. It was there that "many believed on His Name, beholding His signs which He did. But Jesus did not trust Himself unto them, for that He knew all men." He knew that when the immediate effect of His miracles had passed off the faith of these sudden converts would not endure. And this seems to have been the case with His brethren. They were at first attracted by His originality, and power, and holiness, then perplexed by methods which they could not understand (John vii. 3, 4), then inclined to regard Him as a dreamer and a fanatic (Mark iii. 21), and finally decided against Him (John vii. 5). Like many others among His followers, they were quite unable to reconcile His position with the traditional views respecting the Messiah; and instead of revising these views, as being possibly faulty, they held fast to them, and rejected Him. It was not merely in reference to the people of Nazareth, who had tried to kill Him (Luke iv. 29), but to those who were still closer to Him by ties of blood 35 and home, that He uttered the sad complaint, "A prophet is not without honour, save in his own country, and among his own kin, and in his own house" (Mark vi. 4).

The fact that our Lord committed His mother to the keeping of St. John harmonizes with the supposition that at the time of the Crucifixion His brethren were still unbelievers. The Resurrection would be likely to open their eyes and dispel their doubts (Acts i. 14); and a special revelation of the risen Lord seems to have been granted to St. James (1 Cor. xv. 7), as to St. Paul; in both cases because behind the external opposition to Christ there was earnest faith and devotion, which at once found its object, as soon as the obstructing darkness was removed. After his conversion, St. James speedily took the first place among the believers who constituted the original Church of Jerusalem. He takes the lead, even when the chief of the Apostles are present. It is to him that St. Peter reports himself, when he is miraculously freed from prison (Acts xii. 17). It is he who presides at the so-called Council of Jerusalem (xv. 13; see esp. ver. 19). And it is to him that St. Paul specially turns on his last visit to Jerusalem, to report his success among the Gentiles (xxi. 17). St. Paul places him before St. Peter and St. John in mentioning those "who were reputed to be pillars" of the Church (Gal. ii. 9), and states that on his first visit to Jerusalem after his own conversion he stayed fifteen days with Peter, but saw no other of the Apostles, excepting James, the Lord's brother (Gal. i. 18, 19); a passage of disputed meaning, but which, if it does not imply that James was in some sense an Apostle, at least suggests that he was a person of equal importance. (Comp. Acts ix. 26-30.) Moreover, we 36 find that at Antioch St. Peter himself allowed his attitude towards the Gentiles to be changed in deference to the representations of "certain that came from James," who had possibly misunderstood or misused their commission; but the narrowness already alluded to may have made St. James himself unable to move as rapidly as St. Peter and St. Paul in adopting a generous course with Gentile converts.

Unless there is a reference to St. James in Heb. xiii. 7, as among those who had once "had the lead over you," but are now no longer alive to speak the word, we must go outside the New Testament for further notices of him. They are to be found chiefly in Clement of Alexandria, Hegesippus, and Josephus. Clement (Hypotyp. VI. ap. Eus. H. E. II. i. 3) records a tradition that Peter, James, and John, after the Ascension of the Saviour, although they had been preferred by the Lord, did not contend for distinction, but that James the Just became Bishop of Jerusalem. And again (Hypotyp. VII.), "To James the Just, John, and Peter, the Lord, after the Resurrection, imparted the gift of knowledge (τὴν γνῶσιν); these imparted it to the rest of the Apostles, and the rest of the Apostles to the Seventy, of whom Barnabas was one. Now, there have been two Jameses—one the Just, who was thrown from the gable [of the Temple], and beaten to death by a fuller with a club, and another who was beheaded."2020   Comp. Strom. VI. viii., where Clement speaks of James, Peter, John, Paul (note the order) as possessing the true gnosis, and knowing all things. The narrative of Hegesippus is also preserved for us by Eusebius (H. E. II. xxiii. 4-18). It is manifestly legendary, and possibly comes from the Essene Ebionites, who appear to have been fond of 37 religious romances. It is sometimes accepted as historical, as by Clement in the passage just quoted; but its internal improbabilities and its divergencies from Josephus condemn it. It may, however, contain some historical touches, especially in the general sketch of St. James; just as the legends about our own King Alfred, although untrustworthy as to facts, nevertheless convey a true idea of the saintly and scholarly king. It runs thus: "There succeeds to the charge of the Church, James, the brother of the Lord, in conjunction with the Apostles, the one who has been named Just by all, from the time of our Lord to our own time, for there were many called James.2121   Hegesippus evidently distinguishes James the brother of the Lord from any of the Twelve. Now, he was holy from his mother's womb. He drank neither wine nor strong drink; nor did he eat animal food. No razor ever came upon his head; he anointed not himself with oil; and he did not indulge in bathing. To him alone was it lawful to go into the Holy Place2222   It is incredible that he should be allowed the privileges of the high priest.; for he wore no wool, but linen. And he would go into the Temple alone, and would be found there kneeling on his knees and asking forgiveness for the people, so that his knees became dry and hard as a camel's, because he was always on his knees worshipping God and asking forgiveness for the people. On account, therefore, of his exceeding justness, he was called Just and Oblias, which is in Greek 'bulwark of the people' and 'justness,' as the prophets show concerning him. Some, then, of the seven sects among the people, which have been mentioned before by me in the Memoirs, asked him, What is the Door of Jesus? And he said that 38 He was the Saviour. From which some believed Jesus is the Christ. But the sects aforesaid did not believe, either in the Resurrection or in One coming to recompense to each man according to his works. But as many as believed did so through James. When many, therefore, even of the rulers were believing, there was a tumult of the Jews and scribes and Pharisees, who said, It looks as if all the people would be expecting Jesus as the Christ. They came together, therefore, and said to James, We pray thee, restrain the people, for it has been led astray after Jesus, as though He were the Christ. We pray thee to persuade all that come to the day of the Passover concerning Jesus; for to thee we all give heed. For we bear witness to thee, and so do all the people, that thou art just, and acceptest not the person of any. Do thou, therefore, persuade the multitude not to be led astray concerning Jesus; for all the people and all of us give heed to thee. Stand, therefore, upon the gable of the Temple, that thou mayest be visible to those below, and that thy words may be readily heard by all the people. For on account of the Passover there have come together all the tribes, with the Gentiles also. Therefore the aforesaid scribes and Pharisees placed James upon the gable of the Temple, and cried to him and said, O just one, to whom we ought all to give heed, seeing that the people is being led astray after Jesus, who was crucified, tell us what is the Door of Jesus. And he answered with a loud voice, Why ask ye me concerning Jesus the Son of man? Even He sitteth in heaven, at the right of the Mighty Power, and He is to come on the clouds of heaven. And when many were convinced, and gave glory on the witness of James, and said, Hosannah to the Son of David, then again the 39 same scribes and Pharisees said unto one another, We have done ill in furnishing such witness to Jesus. But let us go up, and cast him down, that they may be terrified, and not believe him. And they cried out, saying, Oh! oh! even the Just has been led astray. And they fulfilled the Scripture, which is written in Isaiah, Let us take away the Just One, for he is troublesome to us; therefore shall they eat the fruit of their deeds. So they went up, and cast down the Just, and said to one another, Let us stone James the Just. And they began to stone him, seeing that he was not dead from the fall, but turning round, knelt, and said, I pray Thee, Lord God and Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do. But whilst they were thus stoning him, one of the priests of the sons of Rechab, son of Rechabim,2323   What is the meaning of this tautology? And could a Rechabite, who was not a Jew, become a priest? to whom Jeremiah the prophet bears testimony, cried, saying, Stop! what are ye doing? The Just One is praying for you. And one of them, one of the fullers, took the club with which clothes are pressed, and brought it down on the head of the Just One. And in this way he bore witness. And they buried him on the spot by the Temple, and his monument still remains by the Temple. This man has become a true witness, to both Jews and Gentiles, that Jesus is the Christ. And straightway Vespasian lays siege to them." That is, Hegesippus regards the attack of the Romans as a speedy judgment on the Jews for the murder of James the Just, and consequently places it A.D. 69. This is probably several years too late. Josephus places it A.D. 62 or 63. His account is as follows:—

"Now, the younger Ananus, whom we stated to have 40 succeeded to the high-priesthood, was precipitate in temper and exceedingly audacious, and he followed the sect of the Sadducees, who are very harsh in judging offenders, beyond all other Jews, as we have already shown. Ananus, therefore, as being a person of this character, and thinking that he had a suitable opportunity, through Festus being dead, and Albinus still on his journey (to Judæa), assembles a Sanhedrin of judges; and he brought before it the brother of Jesus who was called Christ (his name was James) and some others, and delivered them to be stoned, on a charge of being transgressors of the law. But as many as seemed to be most equitable among those in the city, and scrupulous as to all that concerned the laws, were grievously affected by this; and they send to the king [Herod Agrippa II.], secretly praying him to order Ananus to act in such a way no more; for that not even his first action was lawfully done. And some of them go to meet Albinus on his journey from Alexandria, and inform him that Ananus had no authority to assemble a Sanhedrin without his leave. And Albinus, being convinced by what they said, wrote in anger to Ananus, threatening to punish him for this. And for this reason King Agrippa took away the high-priesthood from him after he had been in office three months, and conferred it upon Jesus the son of Damnæus" (Ant. XX. ix. 1).

This account by Josephus contains no improbabilities, and should be preferred to that of Hegesippus. It has been suspected of Christian interpolation, because of the reference to Jesus Christ, whom Josephus persistently ignores in his writings. But a Christian who took the trouble to garble the narrative at all would probably have done so to more purpose, both as regards 41 Jesus and James. In any case Hegesippus and Josephus agree in confirming the impression produced by the New Testament, that James the Just was a person held in the greatest respect by all in Jerusalem, whether Jews or Christians, and one who exercised great influence in the East over the whole Jewish race. We shall find that this fact harmonizes well with the phenomena of the Epistle, and it leads directly to the next question which calls upon us for discussion.


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