James the Just: Censored Sholiach
Second Presentation at Goshen BeTzafon Feast of Tabernacles, 2012
An Introduction to the Historical Personage Ya'aqov haTzadik
Dedicated to Larry Beck, 1943 - 2012
The Parapet of the Temple, a 30-foot Drop to the Stones Below
Acts 15:12. And all the assembly kept silence; and they listened to Barnabas and Paul as they related what signs and wonders God had done through them among the Gentiles. After they finished speaking, James replied, “Brethren, listen to me…”
James 5:6. You have condemned, you have killed the just one; he does not resist you.
In Acts 15, we have what has been described as the first council of the Assembly of Yahweh, which took place in Jerusalem sometime in the 4th decade of the first century. Appearing before the assembled elders are Paul and Barnabas, giving their account of the outpouring of the Spirit upon the Gentiles, and begging the council to give them approval for their work. The question Paul brings the council is, “What yoke are we to put upon the necks of the Gentiles, seeing as how they are already saved by the favor of the Master Yahshua?” Answer is made to this question by Yaaqov (whom I will refer to as James), who is the brother of Yahshua, who says, “Brothers, listen to me.” We can well imagine that his voice is the voice of authority as he goes on to make his judgment in the case, and his judgment is primarily that the Gentiles are to keep the food ordinances and the Sabbaths until they learn the more advanced ways of the Nazarene faith.
A Major Dispute in the Movement
This council of the assembly comes as the result of a dispute in Antioch earlier among the brethren, described first-hand by Paul in his letter to the Galatians. He says that Jew and Gentile believers were having table fellowship when a group came from James in Jerusalem to observe what was happening (Paul calls this ‘the circumcision party’), and at their approach, the Jews, including Peter, get up from the table and left the Gentiles reclining there alone. Of course, prior to this Antiochian fellowship, Jews didn’t eat with Gentiles, believers or not. (It’s clear in the Nazarene Acts of the Apostles that Jewish disciples continued to not eat with Gentiles until they were fully proselytized into the community of faith through the washing of miqvah. The reason for this separation is also revealed in the Nazarene Acts.) Anyway, Paul rails against Peter when he along with Barnabas and the rest of the Jewish believers get up from the table and join the circumcision party apart. Then Paul makes religious history by writing the whole story up and circulating it, and in it Paul refers sarcastically to James as one of the “those who were reputed to be something – but they have nothing over me.” In this extremely candid second chapter of Galatians, we learn that not everything was as rosy in the movement as Luke records in the Acts. Paul’s vitriol nearly drips from the page.
Why Don’t We Know Anything About James?
Furthermore, if we put parts of the Letter of James and Paul’s Letter to the Galatians in parallel columns, we come to the conclusion that James was written first, and that Paul is replying to James and making commentary on James’ letter. And most of the commentary Paul makes is to criticize and contradict James on just about every point, especially in regards to James’ insistence upon a judgment of works in accordance with the Torah. The whole story of the conflict in Antioch got back to James quickly and set up the circumstances for the Jerusalem Council that I have already mentioned, which I suppose was not the tidy, innocuous affair recorded so by the historian of the Acts. The tension and friction between James and Paul is so obvious that most conservative preachers have to either admit it or ignore it completely. I’m not afraid of bringing it up because there’s a great deal to be learned from this conflict. And just as obvious (if anyone will read the scriptures critically) is the immense power that James had in the first assembly, even to the overruling of both Peter and Paul in matters of faith. The strange thing is that we don’t find James the brother of Yahshua formally introduced anywhere in the scriptures until Acts 15, when all of a sudden he makes binding decisions upon the assembly not only in Jerusalem, but in the whole known world. Yes, it’s very strange that we know nothing about the leader of the movement before this. ¿So who is James, and why don’t we as neo-Nazarenes know anything about him? Why is his history censored in the New Testament? Don’t you think it’s important to learn the ways and means of the one who was actually in charge of the entire ministry after his brother left? Of course it is. And that is the purpose of this essay: to introduce James the Just, known in antiquity as Ya’aqov ha Tzadik, the brother of Yahshua ha Moshiach.
James Wins the Battle; Paul Wins the War
The reason James is nearly absent from the historical books of the New Testament is that most of the New Testament is pro-Paul, and Paul’s theology of being justified not through righteous actions, as James taught, but through faith in the favor of the one he called Christos Iésous won out by the time the New Testament took its present form. Though James won the battle of Antioch (calling believers back to the Torah), Paul won the war of the world through the Gentile mission, and by the 4th century, Paul’s way was the only way, with the Gentile theologians of the day decrying the Nazarene way of James a vile heresy, and the Nazarene faith going underground to avoid Christian persecution. (The funny thing is that these 4th and 5th century heresiologists admitted that the first believers, shlichim and talmidim were Nazarenes and Ebionites, but they still decry these movements to be godless heresies because they relied on the Torah. If these churchmen are understood in their fullest manifestation – that is, as reformed theologians – they would say that Torah-keeping is a sin unto death because to keep any part of the law was to distrust the favor of Christos Iésous. This understanding is derived, in part, from an unsound reading of Galatians 5:2-4:
Now I, Paul, say to you that if you receive circumcision, Christos will be of no advantage to you. I testify again to every man who receives circumcision that he is bound to keep the whole Torah. You are severed from Christos, you who would be justified by the Torah; you have fallen away from favor.
Passages like this make it all the more import that we have honest [though not necessarily popular] scripture translators in our movement. )
The Briefest Biography of James
As Nazarenes of these latter days, we should be looking to James as our primary sholiach rather than Paul, for we live far more like James taught the Jews (as the successor to Yahshua) than Paul taught the Gentiles. The fact is, you and I are not Gentiles anymore, but we have become as much “the circumcision party,” the party of James (as Paul calls it), as the first followers of Messiah were. Are we not of the circumcision? Look at your pickle! Yes, we are. Then let’s follow James! And there’s the problem. In order to follow him, first we have to find him, for we can only find a small part of him in the NT, and in there, his life story is concealed. Fortunately, outside the New Testament, there is a lot of ancient biographical material that can help us in our quest for the historical James. (The sources for the following information can be found here:
Knees of a Camel
¿Did you know that James’ genealogy on both sides is found in the NT? Where? (Matthew 1 and Luke 3.) James is the son of Yosef and Maryah, which puts him in the line of both David and Zadok and makes him a candidate not only for the King of Israel but also for the High Priesthood. He is set-apart for rulership and ministry from his birth – a life-long Nazirite – a vegetarian who also abstained from intoxicating drink of any kind – and James, in accordance with the vow in Bamidbar 6, didn’t cut his hair. This means he was dedicated to YHWH and Torah his whole life, and became a man as close to scriptural holiness as humanly possible, to be a beacon for the zealous of the people and emulate the condition of his brother, Yahshua. He owns a house close to the Temple, and it was his habit to enter the temple daily to pray for the absolution of the sins of the people – so much so that he has the knees of a camel from staying on them for so long a time. There might well be another reason for him having the knees of a camel. For in the Nazarene Acts of the Apostles there is recorded James’ first experience with Paul. It reports James’ habit of teaching daily upon the steps of the temple, himself sitting on the higher step while his Nazarenes sat below where they could see and hear better. One day Paul and his group of vigilantes approaches James’ group, and as loud as he can Paul calls for the death of James and the Nazarenes (hoping to get some volunteers to do his dirty work), thereupon the James Gang is attacked on those steps, and Paul casts James headlong down the steps, breaking his legs. James is left for dead, but his followers escape with him back to his house. From here, James and five thousand followers leave Jerusalem to sit out this persecution in the wilderness, while Paul and his vigilantes head out the Damascus Road. This may well explain why James had deformed knees just as well as his kneeling in prayer. Some time later, after Paul has a religious experience on the Damascus Road, he tells us that he made a trip to Jerusalem to visit Peter, and there he saw James, the Master’s brother. Had he not been such a brave man, James would have been terrified at such a visit. What will he break next? Will he take my life? Paul doesn’t say anything about this meeting – no comment; but I think Paul must have come to survey James’ deformed legs, make a fervent apology, and offering to assist him any way he could. That would be the mission of a good man.
James as Successor
That James succeeded Yahshua is recorded in several sources. In one very early source, the talmidim ask Yahshua who is to succeed him when he goes away. Yahshua says, “Go to James the Just, for whom shamayim and eretz came to be.” Yahshua calls him “the Just” (which in Hebrew is Ha Tzadik) because he was considered a righteous priest of YHWH within the Yahad and for the people of YHWH throughout the world. Each Yahad has at least three priests; and according to scripture, James was the chief priest of the Nazarene movement at this time. (His fellow priests, according to Paul, are Cephas and John.) The description, “for whom heaven and earth came to be” is a prophetic designation regarding James as a pillar of Israel – and that if the pillar falls from righteousness, the whole identity of Israel would also fall. James is called the Mevakkre of Mevakkrim (the Overseer of Overseers) by Kefa (Peter), who indicates that all official correspondence and all leadership within the Nazarene Faith was to go through James, and Kefa gives over all his writings to James for safekeeping in fear that false Kefas would disseminate false teachings in his name. James and his successors, with his library of apostolic writings, would then be able to validate any Nazarene teaching by comparing it with the genuine writings held in his trust. Today many of these original writings are available, but not in the Bible. They have been edited out by the Latin Church. It should be part of our mission to recapture genuine apostolic teaching, and we of the NYA are trying hard to do that by putting out many volumes of this genuine material. But unfortunately for Christianity, not too many are interested in going beyond their King James Bibles.
One thing we learn from his one-time enemy Paul is that the risen Yahshua appeared to James. There are several lengthy accounts of the risen Yahshua’s council with James. One of which elucidates the Emmaus walk narrative from Luke 24. In that account, Cleopas (who is the brother of Yahshua we know as Shimon) and “another disciple” who is James (interesting how the gospel editor disguises the names) – they’re walking toward Emmaus when they encounter an unrecognized man who begins to exegete the scriptures to the brothers James and Shimon. When they get to a hotel, they order some bread, and Yahshua is recognized in the breaking of the bread. And here we have three brothers reclining at the dinner table, Yahshua, Yaaqov & Shimon, and one of them has just arisen from the dead. Another source tells us that the reason for the bread is that James had vowed not to eat anything until he met his brother risen from the dead. When Yahshua broke the bread (according to this account), he didn’t disappear as he did in Luke, but he said to James,
“My brother, eat your bread,
for the Son of Man is risen from the dead.”
And the writer of this account continues by telling us that, after this, James ruled the Assembly of Yahweh for the next thirty years. And indeed, history tells us that James was the head of the worldwide movement from 33 AD until his martyrdom in 62 AD.
James, the People’s High Priest
Josephus implies that since the days of the Maccabees up until the end of the temple, the thousands of zealous were in the custom of electing their own popular high priest, and that this priest was permitted to go into the qadosh qadoshim each Yom Kippur to plead for atonement on behalf of those who elected him. There are four implications to the election of a popular high priest as distinguished from the appointed one: first, that there was a high priesthood of the people in competition with the appointed priests and, second, that the zealous were on a different calendar than the status quo (how else could they access the qadosh at the appointed time?) and, third, that the zealous didn’t consider the appointed priests as from the right families and, fourth, that the appointed priests were simply not righteous enough to carry out efficacious prayers and sacrifices. Hegesippus, a second century Nazarene, tells us that James was that popular priest given the opportunity each year to enter in the to qadosh qadoshim to make intercession for the people. He wore the white linen of a holy man, just like the Essenes, and just like the set-apart qadoshim described in Acts 1:10 and Revelation 7:9. And Hegesippus adds that this is why he was called “the Just,” (ha Tzadik) because he was a Nazirite, wore the white linen, was of the house of Zadok, and was one of the most righteous men of his time. And into the sanctuary he was permitted to go. Paul never knew Yahshua and speaks very little about him; but James was his brother, and few are closer than a brother. To learn of James’ high status makes us want to investigate the lives of Yahshua’s other brothers and sisters. But that might be the subject for the Feast next year. But now, we turn to James’ martyrdom. It will be no surprise to you who his murderers turn out to be.
The Martyrdom of James
Three early historians tell us about James death; Josephus, Eusebius, and Hegesippus. I’m going to read you an excerpt of the latter’s testimony (edited):
As there were many of the rulers that believed [through the testimony of James], there arose a furor among the Jews, Scribes, and Pharisees, saying that there was danger, that the people would now expect Yahshua [to come] as the Messiah. So they came together, and said to James, ‘We beg you to hold down the people who are led astray after Yahshua, as if he were the Anointed One. We beg you to persuade all that are coming to the feast of the Passover rightly about Yahshua; for we all have confidence in you. For we and all the people bear the testimony that you are just, and you do not respect persons. So persuade the people not to be led astray by Yahshua, for we and all the people have great confidence in you. Stand on the wing of the temple, so you can be seen and your words easily heard by all; for all the tribes have come together for Passover, with some of the Gentiles also.’
The Scribes and Pharisees put James on a wing of the temple, and cried out to him, ‘O you just man, whom we should all believe, since the people are led astray after Yahshua who was crucified, tell us now, What is the gate to the Yahshua that was crucified?’ Then James answered with a loud voice, ‘ Why do you ask me about Yahshua the Son of Man? He is now sitting in the skies, on the right hand of great Power, and is about to come on the clouds.’ And by this many were confirmed in their faith at James’ testimony, and said, ‘Hosanna to the son of David!’ But the same priests and Pharisees said to one another, ‘We have done wrong in allowing this testimony, so let’s go up and throw James down, that the people will dread to believe in him.’
So the Scribes and Pharisees cried out, ‘No! The Just One himself is deceived!’ and they fulfilled what is written in Isaiah, ‘Let us take away the Just One, because he is offensive to us.’ (Isaiah 3:10) So going up, they cast down the just man. Then they said to one another, ‘Let us stone James the Just.’ And they began to stone him, as he did not die immediately when thrown down; but turning round, he knelt there praying, ‘ I beg you, O Yahweh Elohim and Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.’
“While they were stoning him, one of the Rechabite priests cried out, ‘What are you doing? Stop! The Just One is praying for you.’ And one of them, a fuller, beat out the brains of the Just One with the club that he used to beat out clothes. And James became a faithful witness, both to the Jews and Greeks, that Yahshua is the Anointed One. Immediately after this, Vespasian invaded and took Judea."
Note how Hegesippus connect the death of the Just One with the invasion of the Romans. This is because, when this Tzadik falls, Israel falls with him. And Israel did indeed fall over the next seven years.
It’s obvious to me and maybe now is to you that James was censored by the editors of the New Testament. Whether this is because James was just too just, too holy, or too Hebrew, or to save his family from further persecution and assassination, I don’t know. But I do know that we should recover the historical James, if for no other reason than where you find the historical Ya’aqov, you also find the historical Yahshua.
 Galatians 2:6.
 As per Hegesippus, second century,
 As per the Recognitions of Clement (aka The Nazarene Acts of the Apostles), 1st – 3rd centuries.
 Galatians 1:19.
 Gospel of Thomas, 50 – 100 AD.
 “Letter from Peter to James,” The Homilies of Clement, 1st – 3rd centuries.
 1 Corinthians 15:7.
 The Gospel of the Hebrews, 1st century.