Monday, January 21, 2008

Brief History of Jewish Christianity, Part Two: James (

In the last post on Peter and the Twelve I described how Luke presents the development of the leadership of the church in Jerusalem from being lead by Peter and the Twelve disciples to James and a group of elders (Acts 11:30 [“elders”]; 15:2 [“apostles and elders”]; 21:18 [“James and all the elders”]). Bauckham assumes perhaps rightly that if any of the Twelve remained in Jerusalem at this time they were likely subsumed within this larger body of leadership and no longer functioned as a unique collection of leaders.[1]
James was the eldest the four brothers of Jesus according to Mark (6:33; cf. also Gal 1:19; 1 Cor 9:5; Hegesippus in Eusebuis H.E. 2.23.4)) and although there is debate about whether or not these individuals were the offspring of Mary and Joseph it seems likely (cf. Bauckham’s detailed argument and his balanced opinion [2]). It is perhaps for this reason that he exercised authority over the Jerusalem church. That Luke’s picture of James’ role in the affairs of the Jerusalem church is reflective of history is confirmed by Paul and the later traditions about him. Paul recognizes James' unique authority with Peter and John in Galatians 2:9 where he refers to them as the “pillars”. The later traditions about James, which may contain some legendary features, surely reflect the reality of his role. I am thinking of not least the passage from the Gospel of Thomas:

The disciples said to Jesus: “We know that you will depart from us. Who is to be great over us?” Jesus said to them: “Whenever you shall come, you are to go to James the Righteous, for whose sake heaven and earth came into being.”

For other later evidence of James' leadership in the Jerusalem church see also Eusebius, H.E. 2.23.4-7 where among other things James is called the first bishop of the Jerusalem church (cf. also Psuedo-Clementines).

The above quotation not only suggests James’ unique leadership role in the Jerusalem church, but also with the epitaph “the righteous” an essential piety of James is remembered. James was known for his strict adherence to the Torah and was even honored by non-Jesus believing Jews at his untimely and unjust death supposedly at the hands of Ananus the high priest in A.D. 62 (cf. Josephus Ant. 20.197-203; Hegesipus in Eusebius H.E. 2.23. 1-19). Josephus writes, “those of the inhabitants of the city who were considered the most fair-minded and were strict in observance of the Law were offended by this” (Ant. 20.201). This impression of James is confirmed by the letter attributed to him in the New Testament. While there is debate as to whether it was written by James, that it reveals a high regard for the Torah is unassailable (cf. comments in Marcus[3]). And the fact that it was connected to James the brother of Jesus, although the familial relationship is not raised in the letter itself—note the author’s own self designation, “James, the servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Messiah” (1:1), shows at the very least how James was remembered.

Reference to James and Torah-observance leads obviously to a discussion of the controversy at Antioch between Peter and Paul recounted in Galatians 2:11-21 since the occasion seems to have been caused by the arrival of “certain men from James” (Gal 2:12). Furthermore, this controversy is often used as evidence for the supposed division between James and the Jerusalem church (Jewish Christianity) and Paul and his Gentile mission (Gentile
Christianity).[4] We will discuss this in the next post.

[1] Bauckham 2006:67.
[2] Bauckham 1990.
[3] Marcus 2006:91.
[4] Carleton Paget 199; Marcus 2006; Segal 1992.
Works cited
Bauckham, Richard. 1990. Jude and the Relatives of Jesus in the Early Church. Edinburgh: T & T Clark.
________. 2006. James and the Jerusalem Community. In A History of Jewish Believers in Jesus: The First Five Centuries, ed. Oskar Skarsaune and Reidar Hvalvik:55-95. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson.

Carleton Paget, James. 1999. Jewish Christianity. In The Cambridge History of Judaism: The Early Roman Period, ed. William Horbury, W. D. Davies and John Sturdy, 3:731-75. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Marcus, Joel. 2006. Jewish Christianity. In The Cambridge History of Christianity: Volume 1: Origins to Constantine ed. Margaret M. Mitchell and Frances M. Young:87-102. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Segal, Alan F. 1992. Jewish Christianity. In Eusebius, Christianity, and Judaism, ed. Harold W. Attridge and Gohei Hata, 42:326-51. Leiden ; New York: Brill.


Geoff Hudson said...

Galations 2.2b to 2.10, is later dissimulation to convey the idea that it was 'Paul' visiting Jerusalem instead of James. And fairly obviously, one would visit Jerusalem to 'set before them' in response to an invitation (not a revelation, 2.2a). The meeting was between James and the High Priests (the 'them') to explain what he had been telling the brothers in Rome, not the editor's Gentiles.

Joel Willitts said...


How do you substantiate such a claim?

Richard Fellows said...


In your next post, don't forget to explore the issue of whether the 'men from James' were those from Judea of Acts 15:1. If they were, then their pro-circumcision view did not have the backing of the Jerusalem leadership (see Acts 15:24), and this removes the supposed gap between James and Paul. In my view the equation of the men from James with those in Acts 15:1 is highly likely when we accept the well attested (and harder) reading 'he came' in Gal 2:12, as we must. This reading yields the following sequence of events:

1. Peter came to Antioch, ate with Gentiles and returned to Jerusalem
2. The men from James/Judea arrived in Antioch
3. Paul visited Jerusalem (Gal 2:1-10 = Acts 15)
4. Peter came to Antioch (again) and Paul opposed him.

This assumes Gal 2:1-10 = Acts 15. The Gal 2:1-10 = Acts 11 also permits the equation of the men from James with the men from Judea, of course, but Acts favours the Gal 2=Acts 15 theory, in my view.

Thanks for your post. You may like to look at my thoughts on the names/epithets of James here:

Richard Fellows