ST. JAMES THE JUST, NONBLOOD 'BROTHER'
OF CHRIST:
FIRST BISHOP OF THE CHURCH

©Fr. Photios (W) 2006-2012



Then there was James, who was known as the brother of the Lord; for he, too, was called Joseph's son, and Joseph [note: Joseph was The Lord's foster-father] Christ's father, though, in fact the Virgin was his betrothed, and before they came together she was found to be with child by the Holy Ghost, as the inspired Gospel narrative tells us (Matt. 1:18). This James, whom the early Christians surnamed the Righteous because of his outstanding virtue, was the first, as the records tell us, to be elected to the episcopal throne of the Jerusalem Church.

Eusebius, Early Church Historian, in The History of the Church from Christ to Constantine (tr. by G.A. Williamson), Revised Edition (rev/ed/intro by Andrew Louth), Penguin Classics Paperback, New York, New York, 1989, Book 2, pp. 35-36.

St. James the Just of Jerusalem, also referred to as the Righteous, is a towering spiritual figure of the New Testament.


Hegesippus of the first generation after the apostles left the most detailed explanation of St. James:
Control of the Church passed to the apostles, together with the Lord's brother James, whom everyone from the Lord's time till our own has called the Righteous, for there were many Jameses, but this one (emphasis supplied) was holy from his birth: he drank no wine or intoxicating liquor and ate no animal food; no razor touched his head; he did not smear himself with oil, and took no baths. He alone (emphasis supplied) was permitted to enter the Holy Place, for his garments were not of wool but of linen. He used to enter the Sanctuary alone, and was often found on his knees beseeching forgiveness for the people. Because of his unsurpassable righteousness he was called the Righteous and Oblias - in our language 'Bulwark of the People, and Righteousness'- fulfilling the declarations of the prophets regarding him.

Eusebius, ibid., quoting his fifth book, p. 59.


The Just was not the blood brother of Jesus Christ. He was not the younger brother of Christ as some believe. He was Joseph's son by a prior marriage. As a boy, he traveled with Joseph, the Ever-Virgin Mary, and the baby, Lord Jesus Christ, to Egypt so how could he be the Lord's younger brother?

Brothers and sisters meant different things in Apostolic days. The terms do not necessarily mean what we in the West are accustomed to believe. Those of you who have lived in Africa should know something about this. People are sometimes called "my brother" etc. even if there is no blood relationship or it is distant from 'real' brotherhood.

Here is what 'brothers and sisters' meant in the Apostolic time period:

'Brothers and sisters' of the Lord, as used in the Gospels, has a meaning completely different from what is meant by brothers and sisters of the Lord in contemporary terms. According to the custom of Eastern peoples of that time, as is now kept in the life of the Arabic people living in Palestine and Asia Minor, 'brothers' meant not only the relation of brother, but also cousins, second cousins and, in general, all close relatives.

There could not have been any actual (emphasis supplied) brothers of the Lord, as the Mother of God bore only one Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, and is called by the Holy Church Ever-Virgin because she was so until the birth of Christ, and in giving birth and after the birth of Christ remained the same, as she vowed to God never to enter into marriage. St. Joseph was not a real husband to her, he was only betrothed, the custodian of her virginity.

Archpriest Seraphim Slobodskoy, The Law of God, (First English Edition) [a wonderful book which serves many as the Catechism of the Orthodox Church], Holy Trinity Monastery, Jordanville, New York, 1996, p. 300.

St. James presided over the Apostolic Council in Jerusalem which heard the arguments regarding whether Gentiles would have to be circumcised after the Law of Moses. The Apostles' decision was a collective (conciliar) one, but recall that the Righteous spoke and delivered the Apostles' decision:

And after they had held their peace, James answered, saying, 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 (emphasis supplied), that we trouble not 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.

(Acts. 15: 13-21)


St. James shepherded the Church from the Mother Church for a long time, 30 years it is said, bringing many to Christ. As Orthodox Christians, we benefit from the wonderful Liturgy of St. James [the Liturgy upon which St. Basil the Great's and St. John Chrysostom's emanated]. According to The Rudder (Pedalion):

James the Apostle is the original author of the divine liturgy, of the bloodless sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ; and just as he received the mystery of the divine Eucharist orally from Christ (emphasis supplied), he delivered it in writing to be celebrated with leavened bread and wine. To save time St. Basil the Great shortened the Liturgy of St. James; and St. Chrysostom shortened that of St. Basil to that which we Orthodox Christians have kept to this very day;...

The Rudder (Pedalion), (Agapius, a Hieromonach and Nicodemus, a Monk), first published in 1800 A.D., English translation from the fifth edition of 1908 by D. Cummings, The Orthodox Christian Educational Society, Chicago, IL, 1957, p. xxvii.

St. James is also known for his Catholic Epistle including his preaching that illustrated the relationship between faith and works. Faith without works is dead. Our works grow from our faith; or, if not, we do not have faith. He suffered marrytrdom when he refused to deny Christ to the Jews, Scribes and Pharisees:

... So the Scribes and Pharisees made James stand on the Sanctuary parapet and shouted to him: 'Righteous one, whose word we are all obliged to accept (emphasis supplied), the people are going astray after Jesus who was crucified; so tell us what is meant by 'the door of Jesus'. He replied as loudly as he could:

'Why do you question me about the Son of Man? 'I tell you, He is sitting in heaven at the right hand of the Great Power, and He will come on the clouds of heaven.'... So they went up and threw down the Righteous one. Then they said to each other 'Let us stone James the Righteous', and began to stone him, as in spite of his fall he was still alive. But he turned and knelt, uttering the words:

'I beseech Thee, Lord God and Father, forgive them; they do not know what they are doing.'

While they pelted him with stones, one of the descendants of Rechab the son of Rachabim - the priestly family to which Jeremiah the Prophet bore witness, called out: 'Stop! What are you doing? The Righteous one is praying for you.' Then one of them, a fuller, took the club which he used to beat out the clothes, and brought it down on the head of the Righteous one. Such was his martyrdom. He was buried on the spot, by the Sanctuary. He has proved a true witness to Jews and Gentiles alike that Jesus is the Christ.

Immediately after this Vespasian began to besiege them.

Eusebius, continuing the account of Hegesippus, op. cit.,pp. 59-60.


St. James the Just, the Ultimate Christian, pray for us sinners.

Jesus Christ, Son of God,
Have mercy on us sinners
.

+Photios, OSB

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