James The Just

by Shakita 14 Replies latest watchtower bible

  • Shakita
    Hi everyone. I am still alive and well. It's just that I have been reading voraciously. Can one eat what they read or have a diet of ink and paper? Ptooie!

    A few weeks ago I read Bart Ehrman's book : Lost Chritianities; The Battles For Scripture and the Faiths we never knew. This book was mind blowing. The belief that there was homogenity of thought among the first century Christians is a delusion. I am going to sum up in my own words what I learned from Ehrman's book.

    Rght from the start of Christianity, there was a battle for the hearts and minds of the Jewish and Gentile populace. There were several different belief systems that were presented as the true path to God. The system that won is the Christian orthodoxy that we are all familiar with today. In other words, those that were in power and had the money and influence determined what was to be considered as part of the true NT canon and what orthodox system of beliefs would be acceptable for Christians everywhere.

    In the year 325, Bishop Eusebius was appointed by the Roman Empereor Constantine to compile an orthodox canon that would become the accepted NT word of God. Officially, the NT canon was not complete until 367 when Athanasius determined that the books of the NT were the books that we have in our Christian Greek scriptures today.

    However, as I have written in other posts, books that we now consider apocryphal and uninspired were viewed by the early Christians as inspired and canonical. Books such as The Shepherd of Hermas, The Book of Enoch, The Didache, I and II Clement, etc.

    The interesting point is that there were different types of Christians during the first century. We may think that the Apostles such as Peter, James and John were Christians apart from the Jewish religion, but not so. The persons that we are familiar with in our present day canon were actually Jews that happened to believe that Christ was the Messiah. These persons were still practicing Jews that now embraced Messianism. It would be incorrect to seperate these persons and say that they started a new religion and that they sperated themselves from the Jews. On the contrary, those individuals that had close contact with Jesus were still of the mindset that to please God one still had to strictly follow the tenets of Judaism, while embracing the Messiah, Jesus Christ.

    These Apostles and early followers of Christ were actually Jewish Christians known as Ebionites. Ebion is translated as poor. Not that the Ebionites were poor in understanding. It is that the first Jewish Christians took the task seriously to provide for all in their midst. They would often sell their belongings and share their goods in common so that all would have something and none would be truly poor. (Acts 2:44,45)

    The Ebionites believed that being Christian did not entail seperating themselves from Judaism. Rather, they felt that belief in Christ still meant observing Kosher laws, observing the Sabbath, all males being circumcised, observation of ritual cleanliness, the avoidance of idols, etc. It is this insistence on the compusion to continue observing Jewish law that spurred Paul to write his letters and challenge the ruling authority in Jerusalem. I will write later about the prominent individual at the center of this controversy.

    The next Christian viewpoint is what is practiced by most Christians today. This is the orthodoxy of belief that eventually won out at the behest of Constantine. This is what is referred to as Pauline Chritianity. The early followers of Christ actually called Paul a liar and they believed that his vision on the road to Damascus was also a lie. The book of Galations brings this point to a head.

    While Paul is on the road to Damascus to persecute more followers of the Way, a bright light surrounds Paul and temporarily blinds him. Jesus asks Paul: "Why are you persecuting me?" Through Ananius Paul finds out that Jesus wants him to make his name known to the Gentiles and kings and to the people of Israel. This is where the controversy begins.


    Contrary to popular belief, Peter was not the first head of the early Christian congregation. It may shock everyone to learn that Jesus's own fleshly brother James, referred to as James the Just, was actually elected by the big three, James and John Zebedee and Peter and seventy others to take the rulership of the first century Christian church of Jerusalem. He held this position from the early forties until his execution in 62. James the Just and the early Christians of Jerusalem were considerd Ebionites or Jewish Christians. As mentioned earlier, these Christians were in every way Jewish and they expected all those that embraced Christ to also embrace Judaism and all the peculiarities of that religion.

    James was very popular among the people. He was viewed as a righteous one. One that was born holy from the womb, a Nazirite. James was also considered to be the High Priest of the early Christians. So popular was James that the Jewish authorities would often go to him to quell disputes among the people.

    Eusebius quotes from Josephus who makes a powerful assertion. The people of Jerusalem did not believe that the Romans came to destroy Jerusalem because of the wrongful execution of Jesus Christ. Rather, they believed that the Romans destroyed Jerusalem as punishment for the wrongful execution of James the Just, the fleshly brother of Christ that was considered holy, a Zaddik or righteous one, a Nazirite, chosen from God at birth to fulfill this role.

    Pauline Chrisitianity

    The book of Galations is very revealing because it highlights the ongoing dispute between the Ebionites or Jewish Christians of the Jamesian camp and the Gentile Christianity postulated by Paul.

    Note this revealing statement by Paul at Galations 1:11, 12: "Let me tell you my brothers, that the gospel that I preach is not of human origin. 12 I did not receive it from any man, nor did anyone preach it to me. It was Jesus Christ himself who revealed it to me.

    Can you see the point Paul was making? Paul was not elected by men to head the Christian church in Jerusalem. James the Just, fleshly brother of Christ was elected by men to head the Church. Paul was not elected by men, but he was chosen directly by Christ and he revealed to Paul what he wanted him to preach to the Gentiles.

    Paul makes this other point at Galations 1:15: But God in his grace chose me EVEN BEFORE I WAS BORN, and called me to serve him.

    Do you see the comparison? James the Just was revered by the early Christians as a Nazirite, a Zaddik or righteous one. It was claimed that James was chosen by God before he was born to fulfill this holy purpose. James was popular with the people, so any late upstart would have difficulty convincing the people of his credentials. Paul was attempting to ensure his Christian listeners that his credentials were on a par with James the Just. That he was also chosen by God before birth to be a holy one, a Nazirite, a righteous one.

    Neither did Paul need to go to Jerusalem to get James's permission and blessing to preach to the Gentiles. Galations 1:17-20: 17 "nor did I go to Jerusalem to see those who were Apostles before me. Instead, I went at once to Arabia, and then I returned to Damascus. 18 It was three years later that I went to Jerusalem to obtain information from Peter, and I stayed with him for two weeks. 19 I did not see any other apostle except James, the Lord's brother. 20 What I write is true. God knows that I am not lying.

    So, Paul didn't need permission from James the Just or any other Apostle to preach to the Gentiles. Note Paul's insistence that he is not lying. People from the Jamesian camp were accusing Paul of being a liar because Paul's views were so diametrically oposed to the view of the Ebionite or Jewish Christians with James The Just as head of the Ebionites or Jewish Christians.

    Many times in Paul's letters he insisted that following the law makes one condemned because no one can keep the law perfectly. Rather than exercising faith in the law, one must exercise faith in our Lord Jesus Christ who nailed the law to the stake and took away our resultant condemnation by becoming accursed for us by his shed blood.

    This groundbreaking view was seen as heresy by the Jamesian camp. It was the Ebionites insistence that the tenets of Judaism must be followed to have God's approval. The neophyte Paul insisted the opposite view. That following the tenets of Judaism ws no longer necessary. The only requirement was putting faith in Christ and following the underlying principles that the law embodied; namely; that we love God with all of our heart and love our neighbor as ourself.

    Lastly, Paul makes this amazing assertion at Galations 2: 3,4: 3 My companion Titus, even though he is a Greek, was not forced to be circumcised, 4 although some wanted it done. Pretending to be fellow believers, these men slipped into our groups as spies, in order to find out about the freedom we have through our our union with Christ Jesus. It may be shocking to realize that these pretenders were men sent from James to spy on the Christian freedom of the Gentile Christians. What did this spying entail? Those from James would actually inspect the private parts of the males to assure that they were circumcised. This is what Paul meant when he stated that these pretend believers wer spying on their freedom. These pretend believers were none other than the Ebionite or Jewish Christians under the leadership of Jesus's brother James the Just, who insisted that to gain God's approval one still needed to practice the tenets of Judaism.

    So, there was no little bit of disputing by those considered Ebionite or Jewish Christians and those that practiced the present day Christian orthodoxy or Pauline/Gentile Christianity. The belief that there was unity of belief among the early Christians is a delusion.

    Gnostic Chrisitanity, The Marcionites

    This system of beliefs were developed in the late first and into the second century CE. These Christians were not satisfied with God's portrayal in the OT. They felt that the OT God was a false god that had created the world and that actually sperated men from God. They couldn't make sense of a God that was warlike, jealous, vindictive and bloodthirsty. How did this God have any connection to the God of love as outlined in the NT?

    Jesus never actually came in the flesh. Rather Jesus was a righteous human that had the spirit of Christ enter him on the day of his baptism and left him when Jesus cried out: "My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?" They claim that Jesus said this because this was the point when the spirit of Christ left him and then the righteous human Jesus was left to suffer alone.

    The Gnostics (GR. knowledge) felt that God revealed himself to an elite few that reached for God in a mystical way. God would reveal secrets to these Christians that he wouldn't reveal to anyone else. Reading the scriptures was not the way to this knowledge, but a direct vision or revelation from God to the elite gnostic Christians.

    When the orthodox Christian view won out in 367, many of the Gnostic books were either destroyed or hidden. In 1945 these Gnostic books were discovered at Nag Hammadi in the wilderness of Upper Egypt. Some consider this find almost as important as the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls at Qumran in 1947. One example of a gnostic book is the gospel of Thomas that claims to have sayings of Jesus Christ himself.

    Of these three, orthodox Christianity won out because of the backing, wealth and power of Rome with Constantine as the head of the Roman state. Any Christian belief system that did not line up with this orthodoxy was either destroyed or ridiculed. Marcionite Christianity or the Gnostics were hostile towards the Jewish view and the Ebionites were hostile to the Gentile view. Pauline Chrisitanity or the orthodox set of beliefs that have come to be accepted as true Chrisitanity won out because of what I stated above. As we know, might doesn't always make right.

    I highly recommend a book by Robert Eisenman entitled: "James The Brother Of Jesus." His detailed reasonings will blow you away and you will be able to finally see the real truth behind first century fledgling Christianity. You will be surprised to learn that the most important person of the early Christian Jerusalem church was Jesus's fleshly brother; James The Just.

    Mr. Shakita
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  • serendipity

    Thanks Mr Shakita! That was very enlightening!

  • greendawn

    I think they are making too much about there being many christianities that were all valid. Jesus taught one faith and it was the group that came to be called orthodox that had it. The Gnostics had a fake christianity and the Jewish christians had to give up the Mosaic Law despite their understandable reluctance to do so. It was not Constantine that made the orthodox church valid but rather the gospels.

  • Quentin

    Was Paul a natural Jew or gentile convert? No question he was a mystic...Never been able to get an answer to that...

  • greendawn

    Paul was certainly a Jew and a fairly fanatical one in persecuting the Christians in his preconversion days. In his own words he was a Pharisee and the son of a Pharisee and taught by Gamaliel about the Mosaic law.

  • LittleToe

    History is written by the survivors. It's impossible to get a totally tidy picture of events that occured 2000 years ago. The view presented is as likely as any. There certainly were a number of competing camps, just as there are today.

    IMHO Augustine had the right approach when he stated (to paraphrase a translation) "in essentials, unity; in non-essentials, diversity; in all things, love". Thus to declare any particular brand as being "the true faith" is IMHO a bit of a joke.

    The two laws of love lead to gnosis, and such an intimate relationship surely surpasses mere legalism? As least that would be my take on it PS - Good writeup!

  • Shakita


    think they are making too much about there being many christianities that were all valid. Jesus taught one faith and it was the group that came to be called orthodox that had it. The Gnostics had a fake christianity and the Jewish christians had to give up the Mosaic Law despite their understandable reluctance to do so. It was not Constantine that made the orthodox church valid but rather the gospels.

    Hi Greendawn. You are entitled to your opinion, but I beg to differ. First of all, the scriptures were not officially compiled until about the year 140 ce by none other than that heretical gnostic Marcion. It was only when Marcion published his list for the so-called acceptable NT canon that those with the more orthodox view began to compile what they thought were part of the "inspired" Christian NT canon. Why hadn't God moved those Christians with the "right view" to compile the NT canon before that heretical gnostic Marcion? Also, since James the fleshly brother of Jesus knew Jesus personally while he lived in the flesh, why didn't Jesus through the Holy Spirit, reveal to his brother that he was on the wrong track and that Pauline Christianity was the right way to go. James obviously believed that the right way to go was to continue practicing Judaism while embracing the Christ. Why was there two diametrically opposed beliefs about the way to God. One side embraced Jewish Chrisitanity and the other side embraced freedom from the law. If the Holy Spirit was truly directing the early Christians, why didn't it make this clear so that there wouldn't be any wrangling over this issue? If Constantine had been convinced that either Jewish Christianity or Gnostic Christianity was the true path to God then it is possible that there would be a completely different system of beliefs that would determine the "true Christian." It is very true that due to the power, influence and wealth of the Roman empire under Constantine that what we now accept as the true orthodoxy of the Christian church was determined. In 325 ce Constantine appointed Bishop Eusebius to compile an acceptable NT canon. Because of Constantine's influence Eusebius's choices eventually became what we accept today as the "inspired NT canon." It wasn't until 367 ce that Bishop Athanasius finalized the NT canon that we have today. It is interesting to note that the Gospel of John and the Book of Revelation met stiff opposition for a while because these books were viewed as having a gnostic bent. When you read these books they have the unmistakable stamp of gnosticism. There is a far more mystical approach in these books than in the synoptic Gospels. The point that I am making is that it was men with their own opinions of what constituted truth and what constituted orthodoxy is what eventually became part of the NT canon. So, to the winner went the spoils. This is not evidence of God's direction, but it is evidence of men that had a particular belief seeing to it that their doctrines and their orthodoxies won out as being "God inspired." Shouldn't God have a say in whether or not a book is considered part of his word or not? Mr. Shakita

  • Shakita
    IMHO Augustine had the right approach when he stated (to paraphrase a translation) "in essentials, unity; in non-essentials, diversity; in all things, love". Thus to declare any particular brand as being "the true faith" is IMHO a bit of a joke.

    Good point Ross. It is my belief that most Christians today missed the point of Jesus incarnation. He didn't come her to start a new religion or a new orthodoxy or to have scores of books written that men would wrangle over ad infinitum as to what was true and what was false. He didn't come here to start the cult of Jesus. We here have already experienced that and we have had enough of that. He simply was teaching us that we should treat our fellow humans with love, kindness, mercy, etc. If having the "true faith" was what concerned Jesus then why did he share the parable of the Good Samaritan? How could these persons be approved by God if they weren't practicing the "true faith?" Jesus simply indicated that the one doing good was the one that helped his Jewish neighbor that was wounded even though he himself as a Samaritan was despised by the Jews. Jesus motto was keep it simple stupid. Loving God and our neighbor is all that we would ever need to do. Mr. Shakita

  • Shakita
    Was Paul a natural Jew or gentile convert? No question he was a mystic...Never been able to get an answer to that...

    Hi Quentin. Paul was definitely a natural Jew. He claimed that he had a supernatural experience on the road to Damascus where a light came from heaven temporarily blinding him. Jesus asked Paul why he was persecuting him. Paul was then taken to Ananius who revealed that Paul would preach to Gentiles and kings and to the people of Israel.

    If you look at 2 Corinthians 12:1-4 Paul claims to have had a mystical experience. I would say that his experience reeks of gnosticism.

    1 I must go on boasting. Although there is nothing to be gained, I will go on to visions and revelations from the Lord.

    2 I know a man in Christ (Paul is referring to himself here) who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven. Whether it was in the body or out of the body I do not know---God knows.

    3 And I know that this man---whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, but God knows--

    4 He was caught up in paradise. He heard inexpressible things, things that man is not permitted to tell.

    It can't be denied that this experience of Paul seemed to smack of gnosticism. He was transferred to the third heaven possibly apart from his body to get a view of the third heaven. While there he hears things that he can't share with the rest of us. That is the elitism of the gnostic view. Whether or not Paul was actually a gnostic I can't say, but this experience of his he was able to procure knowledge (gnosis) that he couldn't share with the rest of us. Things aren't as cut and dried as we have been led to believe.

    Mr. Shakita

  • Quentin
    Things aren't as cut and dried as we have been led to believe.

    No they are not. The foundation of Christianity is an interesting study...thanks for the comment...

    Greendawn...we only have Paul's word for being taught at the feet of anyone...what happens in the NT stays in the NT...

    Gnostic or not, at the very least Paul was initiated into a Mystery School, perhaps...remember, three years in Arabia...

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