Wednesday, October 23, 2013

St. James, brother of our Lord

James the Just (?-62 A.D.), also knows as James the brother of Yeshua is reckoned as being the first Bishop of Jerusalem.  There are many questions about exactly who he was.  Depending on theology or churchmanship, some reckon him to be the son of Miriam (Yeshua’s mother), others think him to have been a son by previous marriage to Yosef, while others think he was a cousin to Yeshua (at issue here is the perpetual virginity of Miriam*).  Whichever he was, he apparently did not recognise Yeshua as Messiah, until after Yeshua’s resurrection, as St. Paul tells us that Yeshua appeared to James, the brother of the Lord.   Interestingly enough, the ancient Greek texts call him Iάκωβος ο Αδελφόθεος, which literally means, James, the brother of God, which would seem to indicate that he actually was Yeshua’s brother. 

James is important to us chiefly through his writings.  We find his writing and thoughts in the 15th chapter of the book of Acts: 

Men and brethren, hearken unto me: Simeon hath declared how God at the first did visit the Gentiles, to take out of them a people for his name. And to this agree the words of the prophets; as it is written, After this I will return, and will build again the tabernacle of David, which is fallen down; and I will build again the ruins thereof, and I will set it up: That the residue of men might seek after the Lord, and all the Gentiles, upon whom my name is called, saith the Lord, who doeth all these things. Known unto God are all his works from the beginning of the world. Wherefore my sentence is, that we trouble not them, which from among the Gentiles are turned to God: But that we write unto them, that they abstain from pollutions of idols, and from fornication, and from things strangled, and from blood. For Moses of old time hath in every city them that preach him, being read in the synagogues every Sabbath day."  In other words, the ruling found here and elsewhere in acts frees gentiles from following the Jewish dietary (except for blood and strangled animals) and ceremonial laws, but binds Christians to the Jewish laws of morality, especially sexual morality.

James also gives us the Epistle of James, giving us instruction in prayer and in healing.  James 3:16, “Faith without works is absolutely dead,” which added balance to what St. Paul stated about faith and works.  (To put it plainly, we have salvation by what Yeshua did for us on the cross.  All we have to do is accept that.  But once we have done so, our life should be rich in works that demonstrate that we are God’s children.).

Historically, James is believed also to be the author of the precursor of the rite of St. James used by the Eastern Orthodox church on certain feast days (and used by our church most Sundays.)  Also with James begins a long line of Jerusalem bishops who were physically related to Yeshua, all through Miryam, the mother of Yeshua.  The last of these was Judas, who died in the year 135 A.D. After 135, all Bishops of Jerusalem were Greek. 

James was asked to preach to the people of Jerusalem, but when he began proclaiming Yeshua, was hurled to the ground and beaten to death with a fuller’s club.  Some hesitated because they heard him praying for them.  According to Josephus, many of the residents of Jerusalem considered this to be a political assassination. 

Psalm 1
Acts 15:12-22a
1 Corinthians 15:1-11
Matthew 13:54-58
Preface of All Saints
Daily Office:
AM: Psalm 119:145-168
Jeremiah 11:18-23
Matthew 10:16-22
PM: Psalm 122, 125
Isaiah 65:17-25
Hebrews 12:12-24
Collect:  Oh Lord, as James the Just, brother of Yeshuah worked for reconciliation through prayer and preaching, grant that we too may fervently pray for the kingdom.  This we ask through Yeshuah, who lives and reins with you and Ruach haKodesh, one God in glory everlasting.  Amen. (red)

*The perpetual virginity of Miriam did not become church doctrine until the 4th century, lending some doubt to the doctrine.  We note that as well in the 4th century the development of the idea that celibate Christians were considered better Christians than non-celibate, and we wonder  if the whole case of Miriam’s perpetual virginity rests on these 4th century ideas, when monks and nuns were becoming the super-Christians of the church. 

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