But to what shall I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the market places and calling to their playmates, 'We piped to you, and you did not dance; we wailed, and you did not mourn.'

-Matthew 11:16-17


Blessed are you that weep now, for you shall laugh.

-Luke 6:21

I am big; I am small; I contradict myself'

- Walt Whitman


Tuesday, June 28, 2011

In the House of James

Among the puzzling things about the early Christian history few can match Eusebuis’ silence on the Pentecost. The inaugural event of the faith, the consecration of Christ church by mass action of the Holy Spirit, an event which instantly convinced five percent of Jerusalem that the crucified Jesus was Messiah, did not make it into the encyclopaedic History of the Church. When we discussed this at Richard Carrier’s FRDB chat group, a couple years back, some people felt that this was just too much of a tall tale to be considered a historical event by a former lawyer. I was not convinced that was the reason as Eusebius had not shied away from an even more improbable event, the exchange of letters between the Abgar, the Toparch of Edessa and the Saviour, in which Jesus in Jerusalem (then still alive), blessed the ruler in writing in the manner of John 20:29 and promised to send help. So, it was not as though the bishop of Caesarea’s history was immune to the eyebrow-raising kind of affectations . Likewise, the argument that the Pentecost was well known and did not need to be further harped on, strikes me as gratuitous. It would sure seem odd if a history of the French Revolution recorded as its first important happening the creation of the Consulate, and it was explained that the preceding events, including the taking of the Bastille, were historically trivial clichés
There are probably two reasons Eusebius’s skipped the event. The larger one seems having to do with the challenge of Judaism as the senior faith. The bishop says in his introduction to his Church History that Abraham received Christ as the Word of God and predicted Christians as a nation in whom all nations were going to be blessed. (Gen 12:3, 18:18). Christians were the true heirs to the faith of the patriarch of Israel, and they practiced faith as he had done. So, said Eusebius, the teachings of Christ is not new or strange but, in all honesty, ancient, unique and true’. To a fourth-century literate believer the ideas of Christ’s pre-existence did ring true and the new status of the faith as imperial religion would have convinced most doubters who did not happen to be Jewish. If Constantine chose the cross as the sign by which to conquer, then Christ talked to Abraham . It seemed perfectly logical. Actually, Paul seemed to have said as much himself (Rom 4:12-13). Justin Martyr argued along the same lines against Trypho, without even acknowledging Paul.
Despite the efforts of Eusebius to put a best face on it, Christianity in his time was a modern faith, a fact no doubt often played upon by the main proselyte rival of Christianity. Eusebius knew that, being a diligent church chronicler. He knew his church, its traditions and the texts accepted by the episcopal authority as sacred scripture inspired by God. The scripture, in this case Acts of the Apostles, gave an account of the church founding and it belied a notion that Christ’s faith stretched back millennia as Eusebius seems to have claimed. By the book, the church was founded suddenly, in Jerusalem, by the descent of the Holy Spirit on the assembled followers of Jesus of Nazareth, tried and executed there by the authorities shortly before. There were multitudes present at the event and many were so impressed with what they saw and heard, that they joined on the spot, swelling church body from the original one hundred and twenty believers to over three thousand (Acts 1:15, 2:41). Contrary to Isaiah 66:8, quoted in the History, the traditional account did declare the church was consecrated in a mass baptism, and born in a day. Yet, Eusebius’ history gave no hint of any act or event that would account for its coming into being.
The second reason for Eusebius’ wanting different beginnings for his church, is that the Pentecost was embarrassing the church. In Eusebius' time, the church was becoming Rome’s official religion, alas with only a fraction of Romans confessing Christ. The intellectuals of the empire were mostly pagan, and held the new religion in disdain as superstitious nonsense. In a few decades after the Church History was written, Julian the Apostate would mock the Christians “The idea of an incarnation of God is absurd: why should the human race think itself so superior to bees, ants, and elephants as to be put in this unique relation to its maker?... Christians are like a council of frogs in a marsh or a synod of worms on a dung-hill croaking and squeaking ‘for our sakes was the world created.’” In addition, there were internal dissensions and challenges to the imposed theological doctrines, which the church sought to suppress in search of unity and uniformity of belief in the cultural manifold of the empire.
Speaking in a tongue, or glossolalia, was a well known phenomenon in Mediterranean antiquity, and understood as one of the manifests of an individual being possessed by a god or a demon. Within the new Christian milieu, different individuals and groups claimed their own unique visions of the Redeemer based on the presence of Holy Spirit in their congregations. Possessed by the Spirit, the leading figures in the groups entered into unio mystica with Christ and claimed revelations came to them directly from the risen Lord. This was not good news for the church administrators. Already John gospel warned against the kleptēs kai lēstēs (‘a thief and a robber’), who climbs into the sheepfold to preach by means other than the door, i.e. by church-authorized access (Jn 10:1) Later in the second century, Irenaeus, the first of the Church heresiologists, expounded on the viles of certain Marcus, a magician and deceiver of the flock. It appears probable enough that this man possesses a demon as a familiar spirit by means of whom he seems able to prophesy and also enables as many as he counts worthy to be partakers of his Charis themselves to prophesy (i.e speak in tongues). He devotes himself especially to women, and those such as are well-bred, and elegantly attired, and of great wealth, whom he frequently seeks to draw after him…(Against Heresies 1.13.3) The difference between authorized testimonies by the Holy Spirit and mindless ravings of the demon possessed, was a point of radical distinction for Irenaeus, the late second century church father and the bishop of Lyons.
By Eusebius time, the authority of the Spirit was all but gone. The Spirit was too wild and unpredictable; the church at last suppressed a big challenge in Montanism, a movement which directly ran counter to the apostolic authority. The bishop himself had unkind words on Montanus in which he revealed distaste for wanton prophesying and tongue-speaking nonsense.

Montanus, they say, first exposed himself to the assaults of the adversary (the Satan) through his unbounded lust for leadership. He was one of the recent converts and he became possessed of a spirit, and suddenly began to rave in a kind of ecstatic trance, and to babble jargon, prophesying in a manner contrary to the custom of the church which had been handed down by tradition since the earliest times. …Some that heard his bastard utterances rebuked him as one possessed of the devil,…remembering the Lord’s warning to guard vigilantly against the coming of false prophets. But others were carried away and not little elated, and thinking themselves possessed of the Holy Spirit and the gift of prophecy.
(Eusebius, Chronicle, quoted in Charismatic Chaos, John F. McArthur Jr., Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1992, p.86)
I am sure Saint Peter would have been fooled by the ‘custom of the church’ and the elation of the Montanists which looked so much like that of those possessed at the Pentecost.
……these men are not drunk, as you suppose, since it is only the third hour of the day; but this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel: 'And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams.. Acts 2:15-17
But as we know, the last days did not materialize; instead of Christ’s parousia , the Church came. Montanus and his two prophetesses Maximilla and Priscilla did not succeed in renewing the ethos of living on the edge of time, in the advent of the second coming. There would be no more homage paid to mass exhibitions of spiritual empowerment from above

Incidentally, the Pentecost event never happened anyhow. The mighty inaugural arrival of the Holy Spirit seems to have originated as an argument against Paul, who warned against wholesale displays of ecstatic verve such as he saw among the Corinthians believers: If, therefore, the whole church assembles and all speak in tongues, and outsiders or unbelievers enter, will they not say that you are mad? (1 Cr 14:23)

Such hypothetical could have hardly come from someone who knew the church he was ostensibly part of was founded by the very event he was warning against.

Even though the Pentecost event did not occur historically, the legendary mass action of the Holy Spirit on the congregation is nonetheless very important for the understanding of the headset of the Jerusalem messianists. The story informs us how the Jacobite community, that venerated Jesus, viewed itself even though, it is a record a from a number of generations later made by a different community for its own internal purposes.
In the proclaimed happening, all members reached the ecstatic state as it was orchestrated from above in a fulfilled promise of the risen Lord to baptize his congregation with the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:5). Whether or not they all received this baptism in one place at the same time, they event testifies to the belief in the reality of the spirit and its accessibility by all the church members without distinction. All were deemed capable of achieving ecstasy, and bring themselves into states of enormous euphoric excitement that gave them utterance. The ecstatic state was not only tolerated by the community but the principal sought-after, unmediated, blissful communion with God, liberating the sectarians from the humdrum of daily cares of the world. Indeed, for the promised transports to God through Spirit and the sense of empowerment such excursions brought to members of the community, the converts were willing to part with whatever property and material goods they individually had. The novices recruited from all walks of life; the thing they had in common was dissatisfaction with the world, engulfing them at times in waves of intense despair.[1] Some of them experienced sudden breaks from melancholy into rapturous happiness, and exalted grandeur, with intensity of living, and understanding of the world, as they never knew, or thought possible. The glorious ecstasies would alas leave them and they would be left as they were before, unhappy and afflicted by debilitating spiritual sickness, that kept turning heavens above into the skies of doom. As they wandered around they found many like themselves, living at the edge of Abaddon, reaching dizzying heights of glory only to be brutally cast down and left to totter in fear of the end, wondering what it all means.
Enter Jesus of Galilee
In plotting the probable earliest historical background against the myth-making of the Acts, a few things traditionally neglected need to be considered. I have already indicated (Notes on Jesus Historicity) that some of Paul’s verses are best interpreted via recent historical figure. The earliest of the gospels, Mark, was written with aims similar to Paul, to discredit the earthly discipleship of Jesus and its false promise of a messianic kingdom on earth. Mark leaves us an important self-dating clue. In chapter 13, plotting the Pauline parousia (13:26-27) Mark’s Jesus warrants that this generation shall not pass, till all these things be done. Mark worked with a double-tracking time system; that of the time of Tiberius and his own, and he freely mixed events from those two time frames. The little apocalypse, like so may plots in his gospel, lampooned the Petrine view of the coming messianic kingdom (into Jerusalem below) and their puerile view of it, through the apocalyptic themes borrowed from Zechariah (14). For this decoy to work Mark’s writing could not be removed beyond the living memory of Tiberius reign.
If then Mark wrote ~70CE, Paul’s conversion and activities would have been earlier than ~37CE ( the Aretas IV. marker in 2 Cr 11:34) and this means the Jerusalem missions proclaiming Jesus would have been in place some time prior to that. On this schedule, it does not seem at all probable, that a community of believers in an executed wrongdoer would have been able to establish itself in a hostile environment like Jerusalem (where their Galilean ways, and northern accent would have caused instant frictions) without some kind of a prior larger community support and protection.
In the most probable scenario, Jesus walked into Jerusalem some time 28-30CE with a small retinue and shortly after was either killed outright in the precinct of the Temple or executed later for an uproar he instigated there. Jesus’ miraculous escape from death in the Temple had at least two versions, John’s attempted stoning of him (8:59) and the Markan account where no reaction follows immediately to his destructive public rage in the Temple, as it certainly would have been the case. In the latter account, when Jesus indicates to the arresting party later that he is simply giving up to fulfil the scriptures (14:49), he is acting out a script.
Faithfully, this type of mythologem repeats itself in almost any apologia for a fallen leader by his surviving followers, who first deny he was killed (if it is possible) and then admit the death with stipulations that their hero won a short reprieve from death before succumbing to a pre-ordained fate. You may count in among them Ali, the son-in-law of Muhammad, the Báb, founder of the Baha’i faith, Juro Jánošík, the Slovak highlander hero, and the Sikh militant Jamail Singh Bhindranwale who was killed in the storming of the Amritsar Golden Temple in 1984. They will likely soon be joined by the latest martyr, the myth of whom still lingers in the first phase. The leader of the Tamil Tigers, Velupillai Prabhakaran was ambushed and killed in 2009. His corpse was displayed publicly by the Sri Lankan military. It was a case of mistaken indentity, say the Tigers.
If Jesus preached messianic kingdom, as not many people would dispute, then his killing by the authorities would have outraged the community of messianic ecstatics in Jerusalem. The disciples would have found their way to the congregation and would have been sheltered by the group. It may have been even that the Jerusalem notzrim learned that some men were taken with Jesus and demanded their release, and this would have been done to placate raw emotions, and lessen the guilt if Jesus indeed was released by the Sanhedrin to the Romans who subsequently killed him with minimum ceremony, or even without trial (as Philo told us Pontius Pilate was in habit of doing). Cephas and the Zebedees would then become a part of the assembly and eventually sent out to raise money for the brothers in the diaspora.
Based on Heb 3:1, it appears the group’s apostolic seers connected the Galilean Jesus’ ignominous death in midrash with Zechariah 3, and he became venerated as one rehabilitated in heaven, as a high priest an intercessor for the coming of messiah. The imagery is striking:
Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the LORD, and Satan standing at his right hand to accuse him.
And the LORD said to Satan, "The LORD rebuke you, O Satan! The LORD who has chosen Jerusalem rebuke you! Is not this a brand plucked from the fire?"
Now Joshua was standing before the angel, clothed with filthy garments.
And the angel said to those who were standing before him, "Remove the filthy garments from him." And to him he said, "Behold, I have taken your iniquity away from you, and I will clothe you with rich apparel." And I said, "Let them put a clean turban on his head." So they put a clean turban on his head and clothed him with garments; and the angel of the LORD was standing by.
And the angel of the LORD enjoined Joshua,
Thus says the LORD of hosts: If you will walk in my ways and keep my charge, then you shall rule my house and have charge of my courts, and I will give you the right of access among those who are standing here.
Hear now, O Joshua the high priest, you and your friends who sit before you, for they are men of good omen: behold, I will bring my servant the Branch.
Zech 3:1-8
In this scenario then, Jesus (Joshua) would have been apprehended by the messianic cult, not as a Messiah himself but as an instrumental in-between, an apostle (Heb 3:1) and the high priest after the order of Melchizedek (Heb 6:20, 7:17)
James the Just in Epiphanius and the Early Witnesses
I observe with amusement that Robert Eisenman in his James the Brother of Jesus, sifting through the mass confusion of Nazarene, Nazoraean, notzrim, Nazara, Nazirite, Nazaret, Naassene, Nazareth seems uninterested in the Nasaraeans, a sect no-one seems to have known anything about until they appeared in Epiphanius’ Panarion. The bishop of Salamis identified them on the list of heretics as
….. "rebels," who forbid all flesh-eating, and do not eat living things at all. They have the holy names of patriarchs which are in the Pentateuch, up through Moses and Joshua the son of Nun, and they believe in them - I mean Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and the earliest ones, and Moses himself, and Aaron, and Joshua. But they hold that the scriptures of the Pentateuch were not written by Moses, and maintain that they have others. (Panarion 1:18)
The lack of interest of Eisenman is understandable because he has vested interested in re-dating of the Qumran scrolls to make them speak of the 1st century Christians. The Nasaraeans, who look like an invention of Epiphanius , on the other hand are said to pre-date Christ (Panarion 29.5.7) and worship a different Jesus (Joshua of the Old Testament). This is a fascinating piece of the puzzle. If the Medicine Chest of Epiphanius deals with Christian heresies, why would these deplorable folks even be mentioned if they do not qualify on account being earlier than Jesus Christ ? Further, in the section where Epiphanius reveals this group was before Christ he makes a point to separate them from the ascetic ‘nazirites’, the first-borns consecrated to God, like Samson and John the Baptist. What were these heretics rebelling against, if their distinguishing characteristic was that they venerated the patriarchs, Moses and Jesus namely, and abstained from meat just like James the Just, whom the bishop describes as the paragon of holiness ? Does it have something to do with their belief that scriptures were written by the Holy Spirit ?
If it was just Epiphanius, then fine, he got it wrong or his sources were unreliable. But it isn’t: all the written accounts of James have a strange property of contradicting the beliefs about him as the first Christian bishop in Jerusalem and the brother of Jesus of Nazareth. All of them.
James is first registered in Paul’s letters. However, if you read my previous essays in the blog (How Many Were the Twelve, Through the Galatians Darkly), you would know that I do not consider two of the mentions to be an authentic Paul. Paul’s first visit to Jerusalem (Gal 1:18-24) is highly suspect as Paul has no reference to James and Cephas from the first visit, when he goes to Jerusalem the second time
Paul’s 1 Cr 15:3-11 also is a later interpolation. It was inserted by the Nazorean Petrines to combat Mark’s claim on the primacy of Paul’s gospel’s proclamation of the resurrected Christ. The passage lists James as one of those of whom Jesus was seen after his death. However, despite almost all documents agreeing on an undisputed leadership of James, in this inventory of Jesus appearances, his was listed low, after Cephas, the Twelve and some five hundred brethren who had seen Jesus at one time.
The only genuine reference to James in Paul is in Gal 2:12, where men come from James to Antioch and Cephas out of fear of the great leader withdraws from Gentile tables. If you read my essay on Galatians you would see I dispute the generally held view that James the “pillar” refers to James the Just. The latter simply was too dominant figure by all accounts, and his authority over the messianic groups extended far and wide, for Paul to have referred to him as “so-called pillar”, and claimed that he “added nothing” to his stature of apostle.
Outside of Paul’s corpus , chronologically , the first mention of him comes from the Gospel of Thomas:
GoT(12) The disciples said to Jesus : "We know that You will leave from us. Who is to be our leader ?" Jesus said to them : “From wherever you are now, You are to go to James the Just, for whose sake heaven and earth came into being."
This is an oracle of Jesus, which speaks, as it presumes an unknown locale of the disciples. Jesus “leaving” the disciples refers to the cease of the spirit phenomena through which they “see” him. The saying then directs those who have had the Jesus experience and possess the oracle to go to James the Just, in Jerusalem, once the oracular powers leave them. James is the divinely mandated protector of the Jesus oracle. This saying would have made no sense if it dated after James’ death in 62. Evidently, even if the reader of this does want to maintain it is real Jesus who speaks, then it would need to be explained why he is Jesus referring to his brother by a nickname he acquired after Jesus’ death as a leader of his church.
The third historical notice - no less controversial - comes from Josephus Flavius in whose Antiquities (xx.9) James the Just was described as the brother of Jesus, called Christ. The genuinness of the writing has been disputed by many as the appellation (him called Christ - ος λεγομενος χριστος) is hardly thinkable to describe a relationship for Josephus, who notoriously did not suffer gladly all manner of fools and deceivers believing themselves to be messiahs. Second, the appellation itself is a copy of what Jesus is called in the gospel of Matthew three times and in gospel of John once. As two if these turns of phrase in Matthew come from the mouth of Pontius Pilate, it looks like the naïve interpolator believed that this is how non-believers would have refered to Jesus of Nazareth.
James in the Acts and Hegesippus
If the treatment of James in the documents quoted above seems to contradict the officially held view that he was Jesus kin and the first bishop of a Jerusalem Christian assembly, then the Acts of Apostles account of him is nothing short of mind-boggling. James the Just, the universally recognized leader of the congregation, is nowhere seen until the twelfth chapter. He appears in the story literally out of nowhere, in a casual remark by Peter, who had just been liberated from Herod’s prison by means of a literary contrivance, about whose real nature, the storyteller avers, he seemed to be confused. Peter asks that the news of his liberation be passed onto “James and the brethren” whereupon he disappears from the Acts except for a cameo appearance at the “Jerusalem conference” (15:7). James himself only speaks once in the Acts at the same gathering, giving a compromise ruling on observances among Gentile converts. The only other mention of James comes as Paul reports to him and the elders on his third missionary journey. Nothing is heard of James on that occasion. In roughly thirty years that the Acts cover, the leader of the congregation and no doubt its public face in Jerusalem has no role to play. Nothing of historical substance is remembered of him. By my reading of the Galatians (Through the Galatians Darkly) there was no “conference” and Paul did not get to see James when going to Jerusalem.
Interestingly Luke’s Acts do not seem to know anything about James as Jesus brother. Acts 1:13-14 names two groups who pray in a house in Jerusalem, the eleven apostles as one group with Jesus’ mother Mary and his brothers (και τοις αδελφοις αυτου) as the other group. The church doctrine after Jerome has been that James the Just was in fact James the Lesser ( the son of Alphaeus) who was not really a brother but Jesus’ cousin, since ο αδελφος, can indicate that. But the problem is Luke does not indicate one way or another what specific relationship he means. The apostles pray as one group with Mary and Jesus kin as another. Since James the son Alphaeus is included in one group, he cannot be a Jesus kin by Luke’s reckoning: if he Luke had known anything about the tradition he would have written instead in 1:14 and his other brothers (και ετεροις αδελφοις αυτου).
Like the Acts, perhaps the most extensive memento of James, Hegesippus’ account preserved by Eusebius in his History, also disagrees dramatcally with the church’s later revisions of James’ position vis-à-vis Jesus and the nature of his assembly.
Now some persons belonging to the seven sects existing among the people, which have been before described by me in the Notes, asked him: "What is the door of Jesus? " And he replied that He was the Saviour. In Consequence of this answer, some believed that Jesus is the Christ. But the sects before mentioned did not believe, either in a resurrection or in the coming of One to requite every man according to his works; but those who did believe, believed because of James. So, when many even of the ruling class believed, there was a commotion among the Jews, and scribes, and Pharisees, who said: "A little more, and we shall have all the people looking for Jesus as the Christ.
They came, therefore, in a body to James, and said: "We entreat thee, restrain the people: for they are gone astray in their opinions about Jesus, as if he were the Christ. We entreat thee to persuade all who have come hither for the day of the passover, concerning Jesus. For we all listen to thy persuasion; since we, as well as all the people, bear thee testimony that thou art just, and showest partiality to none. Do thou, therefore, persuade the people not to entertain erroneous opinions concerning Jesus: for all the people, and we also, listen to thy persuasion. Take thy stand, then, upon the summit of the temple, that from that elevated spot thou mayest be clearly seen, and thy words may be plainly audible to all the people. For, in order to attend the passover, all the tribes have congregated hither, and some of the Gentiles also."
The aforesaid scribes and Pharisees accordingly set James on the summit of the temple, and cried aloud to him, and said: "O just one, whom we are all bound to obey, forasmuch as the people is in error, and follows Jesus the crucified, do thou tell us what is the door of Jesus, the crucified." And he answered with a loud voice: "Why ask ye me concerning Jesus the Son of man? He Himself sitteth in heaven, at the right hand of the Great Power, and shall come on the clouds of heaven."
And, when many were fully convinced by these words, and offered praise for the testimony of James, and said, "Hosanna to the son of David," then again the said Pharisees and scribes said to one another, "We have not done well in procuring this testimony to Jesus. But let us go up and throw him down, that they may be afraid, and not believe him." And they cried aloud, and said: "Oh! oh! the just man himself is in error." Thus they fulfilled the Scripture written in Isaiah: "Let us away with the just man, because he is troublesome to us: therefore shall they eat the fruit of their doings." So they went up and threw down the just man, and said to one another: "Let us stone James the Just." And they began to stone him: for he was not killed by the fall; but he turned, and kneeled down, and said: "I beseech Thee, Lord God our Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do."
And, while they were thus stoning him to death, one of the priests, the sons of Rechab, the son of Rechabim, to whom testimony is borne by Jeremiah the prophet, began to cry aloud, saying: "Cease, what do ye? The just man is praying for us." But one among them, one of the fullers, took the staff with which he was accustomed to wring out the garments he dyed, and hurled it at the head of the just man.

This story, if you read it carefully against the other documents cited here, makes mockery of the claim that Jesus had a brother by the name of James who founded a congregation in Jerusalem to worship his fallen kin as Messiah. Whether Heggesippus account is historically grounded or not, it testifies to several important issues. One, even though the text is unclear some of the ‘seven sects’ likely refers to messianic groupings within James’ congregation or under his tutelage. Two, his congregation was not brought together to worship or venerate Jesus exclusively , if his revelation comes after three decades of operating a house of worship in Jerusalem and sending missions to many regions in the empire. Three, and this is the most important issue: the Hegesippus account knows nothing about any kinship between Jesus and James. Indeed, it would be absurd to claim that the authorities did not know for thirty years that James was a head of a clandestine cult preaching his brother as the messianic (Enochian ?) Son of Man, and upon the “just man’s” revealing his faith publicly, they promptly threw him down the tower, stoned him and beat him to death with a fuller’s This story, if you read it carefully against the other documents cited here, makes mockery of the claim that Jesus had a brother by the name of James who founded a congregation in Jerusalem to worship his fallen kin as Messiah. Whether Heggesippus account is historically grounded or not, it testifies to several important issues. One, even though the text is unclear some of the ‘seven sects’ likely refers to messianic groupings within James’ congregation or under his tutelage. Two, his congregation was not brought together to worship or venerate Jesus exclusively , if his revelation comes after three decades of operating a house of worship in Jerusalem and sending missions to many regions in the empire. Three, and this is the most important issue: the Hegesippus account knows nothing about any kinship between Jesus and James. Indeed, it would be absurd to claim that the authorities did not know for thirty years that James was a head of a clandestine cult preaching his brother as the messianic (Enochian ?) Son of Man, and upon the “just man’s” revealing his faith publicly, they promptly threw him down the tower, stoned him and beat him to death with a fuller’s club.

In one of the believable observations J.D.Crossan makes in his voluminous, discursive account of The Birth of Christianity, is that in the historical reconstructions historians have already made judgments about the relationships of all the early gospels, about dependence and independence between them, and about possible sources hidden within them. This is undoubtedly true. My own views are based on the analytical finding that Mark as the first gospel is wholly a Pauline allegory (Mark’s Recursive Gospel), an offer to the Petrine Nazoreans to accept the cross of Christ as the symbol of universal spirituality against clinging to illusory parochial hopes for the restorations of God’s rule in Israel. Such reading eliminates the possibility that Jesus as the crucified Messiah was known and worshipped in Jerusalem.
If then the accounts of Jerusalem in the Acts of the Apostles are understood as a myth of self-foundation of the Christian faith, as a retroactive fitting of facts and legends in support of such vision, a better historical grasp of the origins is surely needed.
From my perspective, instead of Eusebius’ pre-existent Christ that was the foundation of the church, it was James’ pre-existent messianist community which sheltered heterodox beliefs, bound by the ecstatic experiences of the kingdom to come. It was James the Just, perhaps by proxy, who adopted the orphaned disciples of the Galilean Yeshua, and declared him a martyred prophet of the last days, rehabilitated in heaven. It was James the Just who sent Peter, John and James the Zebedee to proclaim this Jesus on missions to the Diaspora. Their preaching of a martyr who ‘hanged on a tree’ but was seen in heaven as high priest, outraged the traditionalists in the Jewish communities, and pietists like Paul who deeply disliked and mistrusted the messianic fervour of the missions. They were not least bit inclined to root for restoration, which they thought hopelessly out of touch with the realities of the Roman empire. When Paul became an ecstatic himself, he did not change his overall view of the situation; he only declared his spiritual vision as the higher truth of Jesus’ sacrifice. In Paul’s vision there was to be no heaven on earth; there was to be resurrection in heaven for those who served God faithfully, and declared the risen Lord Jesus Christ as their guiding light.
As I indicated earlier, Cephas and the Zebedees as the “so-called pillars” were not at all the leaders of James’ community. Paul writing as late as Romans (15:31) only had hope that his collection for the Jerusalem saints was going to break the opposition to him there and convince James and his saints of his worthiness as apostle. Cephas’ apprehension of James’ emissaries at Antioch (Gal 2:12) bespeaks of high dominance of James, and the transference of his power. In analogy, Peter’s fear would have been that of a Soviet ambassador under Stalin, cowering before diplomatic couriers, who he knew were NKVD operatives. His rank compared to theirs would have not mattered a whit. There is no doubt about it: James was the master of the house because he was its foundation.
P.S. The introduction of James in the Acts despite looking disjointed, probably had a historical kernel. Herod’s random dispatch of James the Zebedee seems a ploy which gives itself away by claiming that the unexplained act pleased the Jews, encouraging him to grab Peter also. In reality, this story may have originated in the arrest of the Jesus’ retinue fleeing from the Temple and in James the Just’s securing their pardon. The heinous act of Herod on James the Zebedee, serves as a way to introduce the great leader through the back door. It could have been a literary manoeuvre as Luke might have been aware of sources indicating James died during his mission in Spain. The later claims that James' burial grounds were in Northwestern corner of the peninsula created Europe’s most famous pilgrimage destination (Santiago de Compostela). The church claims that his remains were translated to Galicia in a series of miraculous happenings.

[1] As no literary output outside of later Christian texts exists on the Jerusalem community of James, Qumran texts were used to analyze the apocalyptic confessions: [I am] as a sailor in a ship amid furious seas; their waves and all their billows roar against me; [ there is no calm] in the whirlwind that I may restore my soul…the deeps resound to my groaning and [my soul] has journeyed to the gates of death.

QH Thankgiving Hymns, in Geza Vermes, The Dead Sea Scrolls in English, Pelican, 1987, p.183

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