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Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament

James, the Lord's Brother


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In Mark 6:3 (|| Matthew 13:55) James is mentioned first, presumably as the eldest, among the brethren of Jesus. In Mark 3:21; Mark 3:31 ff. (|| Matthew 12:46 f., Luke 8:19 f.) we hear of an attempt on the part of Jesus’ mother and His brethren to restrain Him as being ‘beside himself.’ In John 7:5 we are told that ‘his brethren did not believe on him’ In 1 Corinthians 15:7, however, St. Paul mentions an appearance of the risen Jesus to James.

According to the curious story which Jerome (de Vir. Illustr. ii.) quotes from the Gospel of the Hebrews, James (represented as present at the Last Supper) had vowed not to eat until he should see Jesus risen from the dead. Jesus accordingly appeared to him first and took bread and blessed and brake, saying, ‘My brother, eat thy bread, for the Son of Man is risen from them that sleep.’

In Galatians 1:19 we find James closely associated with the apostles at Jerusalem, and in Galatians 2:9 we hear how those who were ‘accounted pillars’-James and Cephas and John-wished God-speed to Paul and Barnabas in their mission to the Gentiles. There is perhaps a hint of irritation in St. Paul’s reference, a few verses earlier, to those ‘who were accounted somewhat’ (Galatians 2:6), as though the accord had not been reached without some difficulty, and in Galatians 2:12 we find that St. Peter’s vacillation in the matter of intercourse with the Gentiles is attributed to the fear of certain who came ‘from James,’ though it does not follow that they represented his attitude. In Acts, James always appears as a leader. St. Peter sends the news of his escape ‘to James and the brethren’ (Acts 12:17). At the Apostolic Conference he sums up the discussion, proposes a policy, and apparently drafts the decree (Acts 15:13-21). In Acts 21:18 f. he receives St. Paul at the close of his Third Missionary journey, and, it is implied, approves the fateful proposal designed to conciliate the legalist Christians.

He in understood to be meant by the modest self-designation ‘James the servant of the Lord’ (James 1:1), and the author of the Ep. of Jude is content to describe himself as the ‘brother of James.’ In view of the fact that he seems to have remained constantly at Jerusalem, it is at least uncertain whether he is included among the brethren of the Lord who ‘led about’ a wife (1 Corinthians 9:5).

That the ‘brethren of the Lord’ were the sons of Mary and Joseph is the natural, though not inevitable, inference from the language of Scripture (Matthew 1:25, Luke 2:7, Mark 6:3, etc.). Those who prefer to believe otherwise, hold either (1) that they were the sons of Joseph by a former marriage, or (2) the sons of Mary’s sister. These three views are sometimes called, respectively, from their early defenders, the Helvidian, Epiphanian, and Hieronymian. (For discussion see J. B. Mayor, The Ep. of St. James 3, pp. vi-xxxvi; J. B. Lightfoot, Galatians5, 1876, pp. 252-291; and article ‘Brethren of the Lord’ in Hasting's Dictionary of the Bible (5 vols) , Dict. of Christ and the Gospels , and Hastings’ Single-vol. Dictionary of the Bible .)

Turning to the extra-canonical references, we find in Josephus (Ant. XX. ix. 1) an account of the circumstances of the death of James. The high priest Ananus (a son of the Annas of the Gospels), a man of violent temper, seized the opportunity of the interval between the death of Festus (circa, about a.d. 62) and the arrival of his successor Albinus to bring to trial ‘James the brother of Jesus who was called Christ and some others’ as law-breakers, and delivered them to be stoned. This account is inherently probable. It is sometimes rejected as an interpolation, on the ground that Josephus makes no other mention of Jesus or of Christianity; but it may be noted that F. C. Burkitt has lately defended, the genuineness of the famous reference to Jesus in Josephus, Ant. XVIII. iii. 3 (Theol. Tijdschrift xliii. [1913] pp. 135-144). Harnack has signified agreement (Internationale Monatsschrift, vii. [1913] pp. 1037-1068). If this be accepted, the present passage presents little difficulty. Hegesippus (ap. Historia Ecclesiastica (Eusebius, etc.)ii. 23) gives a much more highly coloured account of James’s martyrdom, representing him as hurled from the pinnacle of the Temple because he refused to make a pronouncement against Jesus (which the Scribes and Pharisees had confidently expected of him!). Among other personal traits Hegesippus mentions that James was a Nazirite and strict ascetic, and that, so constant was he in prayer, his knees had become hard as a camel’s. There is a variant of the martyrdom story in Clem. Recog. l., lxix., lxx., where, after James has shown ‘by most abundant proofs that Jesus is the Christ,’ a tumult is raised by an enemy, and he is hurled from the Temple steps and left for dead, but recovers.

The tendency to exalt the position of James in later times is seen in the statement of Clem. Alex. (ap. Historia Ecclesiastica (Eusebius, etc.)ii. 1) that Peter and James and John chose him to be bishop of Jerusalem; while in the letter of Clement prefixed to the Clem. Hom. he is addressed as ‘lord,’ and ‘bishop of bishops.’

Literature.-To J. B. Mayor, The Epistle of St. James3, 1910, Introduction, ch. i.: ‘The Author,’ and the other literature mentioned above, add T. Zahn, ‘Brüder und Vettern Jesu,’ in Forschungen zur Geschichte des neutestamentlichen Kanons, vi., Leipzig, 1900, pp. 225-363; A. E. F. Sieffert, in Realencyklopädie für protestantische Theologie und Kirche 3, viii. 574 ff.; F. W. Farrar, Early Days of Christianity, 1882, vol. i. chs. xix., xx.

W. Montgomery.


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Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'James, the Lord's Brother'. Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/hdn/j/james-the-lords-brother.html. 1906-1918.

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