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Jesus and Brother James Were Jews Not Christians

Early rendition of James, Jesus' brother

Early rendition of James, Jesus’ brother.

Josephus and other historians mention at least a dozen Jewish leaders from the first century CE who were hailed as messiahs but killed by the Romans or in sectarian fights with their countrymen. Each time, the movements they inspired faded into nothing after the demise of their leader. The movement the recently departed Jesus was part of (the Nazarenes) was different, because it definitely didn’t fade away until centuries later.

To take over the Nazarene leadership was a risky proposition. Both previous leaders, John the Baptist and Jesus, had been executed. They now needed a new charismatic commander. James, Jesus’ brother, was just the man.

Jesus had been a potential legitimate king and messiah because he was of the royal bloodline of David. James too was of this bloodline, and of the same flesh and blood as Jesus through at least one parent in common, their mother. It’s possible James was the “disciple Jesus loved,” (John 13:23 and 19:23–25 NJB) not named because Gentile editors wanted to minimize his importance.

Paul, writing in the 50’s CE, stated that he went to Jerusalem to
“meet Peter and James, the brother of the Lord” (Gal. 1:19, NJB.) This hinted at the important status of James. Later in Galatians, Paul wrote,

“So James, Peter, and John, these leaders, these pillars…” (Gal. 2:9, NJB.) That James was in charge is convincingly confirmed by the following quote from Paul:

“When Cephas came to Antioch, however, I opposed him to his face, since he was manifestly in the wrong. His custom had been to eat with the pagans, but after certain friends of James arrived he stopped doing this and kept away from them altogether for fear of the group that insisted on circumcision” (Gal. 2:11–12, NJB.) Peter (Cephas) was careful to be seen doing what James wanted.

The Book of Acts also portrays James as the leader of the disciples.

Eusebius of Caesarea (260-340 CE,) the most important early Christian historian of all, wrote that:

“James, whom men of old had surnamed ‘Just’ for his excellence of virtue, is recorded to have been the first elected to the throne of the Oversight of the church in Jerusalem” (Church History 2.1.2.)

Saint Jerome, a prolific commentator and translator of early Christian material, quoted from Hegesippus’ (a first century writer) account of James from the fifth book of his lost “Commentaries:”

“After the apostles, James the brother of the Lord surnamed the Just was made head of the Church at Jerusalem. Many indeed are called James. This one was holy from his mother’s womb. He drank neither wine nor strong drink, ate no flesh, never shaved or anointed himself with ointment or bathed. He alone had the privilege of entering the Holy of Holies, since indeed he did not use woolen vestments but linen and went alone into the temple and prayed in behalf of the people, insomuch that his knees were reputed to have acquired the hardness of camels’ knees.” (De Viris Illustribi.)

The “Holy of Holies” was a term referring to the inner sanctuary of the temple in Jerusalem. Since it was unlawful for anyone but the high priest of the temple to enter it, and then only once a year, this suggests James was considered a de facto high priest. The official high priest at the time had been chosen by Rome, and the Nazarenes considered him illegitimate.

James had obviously managed to achieve a high status among his own people. He was described in terms that emphasized his association with the temple and Judaism. His vegetarianism, unshaven state and wearing of linen were all Essenian traits.

Josephus also described James as a pious Jew who was well respected, and observed all the obligations of Judaism.

He was clearly a leading Jewish figure in Jerusalem until his death in 62 CE, yet he’s barely mentioned in the bible or in the annals of church history. The Gospel writers and church historians have deliberately diminished his importance for obvious reasons; he was too Jewish, and his beliefs were diametrically opposed to Paul’s proto-Christian theology. His existence as Jesus’ successor also discredits the untrue Catholic idea that the leadership of the movement was transferred to Peter.

Let’s consider the community led by James in the two decades after Jesus’ death. The traditional story about this group is in the book of Acts, in which they’re portrayed as Christians, but I think this was a deliberate misrepresentation. The loss of two leaders in close succession, John the Baptist and then Jesus, must have devastated them. Matthew and John have the disciples going back to Galilee, yet Acts and Luke have the risen Jesus telling them not to leave Jerusalem. What’s clear is that over the next few decades, they settled in Jerusalem.

There’s no doubt that for them, Jerusalem was a dangerous place. Jesus had been crucified there. The Sadducees and a garrison of Roman troops were an ever-present threat. I think they settled in Jerusalem because they were still dreaming about the kingdom of God, centered in the capital of the Jewish world. The author of Acts explains that this kingdom was still a general expectation when, in the first chapter, the resurrected Jesus appears:

“Now having met together, they asked him, ‘Lord, has the time come? Are you going to restore the kingdom of Israel?’ He replied, ‘It is not for you to know times or dates that the Father has decided by his own authority, but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you, and then you will be my witnesses not only in Jerusalem but throughout Judea and Samaria, and indeed to the ends of the earth’” (Acts 1:9–12, NJB.) The author was writing seventy- plus years after Jesus’ death. At this late time the second coming of Jesus hadn’t happened, so he was advising his readers they’d better not hold their breath waiting.

The Nazarenes called themselves “saints” or “followers of the way” or “the faithful” or “disciples” or “the poor” or the “children of light.” They saw themselves as preparing “the way” for the return of Yahweh as described in Isaiah:

“The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the LORD, make straight in the desert a highway for our God” (Isa. 40:3, KJV.) They saw themselves as God’s chosen people, and were true believers in the power and glory of Israel. They had a broad base of support among Jews throughout Judea and much of the Roman Empire. All other Essenes and zealots throughout Judea would have regarded them favorably, as would many Pharisees and common Jews. The Roman world considered any member of the Nazarenes “a pest” who “stirs up trouble among Jews the world over,” (see Acts 24:5) with good reason, as they were xenophobic and militant.

They were fundamentally opposed to Paul’s doctrine, (the basis of Christianity) didn’t accept him as an apostle, and quite rightly considered him an annoying heretic allied to the Gentile world. So Jesus’ family and friends were, therefore, strongly opposed to what became Christianity.

Some early church fathers claimed they wrote an early Hebrew version of Matthew’s Gospel, from which Jesus’ genealogy is derived, but one without the pro-Gentile changes. That would definitely have made an interesting read, but not surprisingly, no copy has survived. It would bear only a passing resemblance to what has become today’s Gospel of Matthew.

Some Nazarenes were sent out as missionaries to other cities. The author Douglas Lockhart believes that by the time James died in 62 CE, the Nazarenes had boosted their numbers to about eight thousand by recruiting Jews. Peter went to Antioch (as described in Galatians 2.) These missionaries may have even got as far as Rome.

Many historians, particularly those favorably biased towards the “traditional” story put forward in Acts, don’t accept that James and Jesus’ original disciples weren’t Christians. The writers of the Catholic Encyclopedia, for example, have made a deliberate choice not to discuss the Nazarenes, despite the fact they are mentioned in the bible and by some church fathers. I think the encyclopedia’s authors would have some difficult explaining to do if Catholics around the world started learning about James and the Nazarenes.

Jesus, his family and disciples were Jewish, not Christians, which means today’s Christianity is based on a lie.

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Posted by on May 11, 2014. Filed under COMMENTARY/OPINION,HERESY. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry
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8 Responses to Jesus and Brother James Were Jews Not Christians

  1. James Smith Reply

    May 11, 2014 at 3:08 pm

    Let’s remember that this was all hearsay. There is not one contemporary account of the mythical jesus. Josephus, for example, was not even born until 36 or 37 CE. It’s likely that he didn’t start writing for at least a couple of decades later. So it is improbable that he knew anyone that had actually known any jesus.

    The writings that are claimed to have been his have been called into questions as forgeries, too.

    All reliable evidence points to Jesus Christ being just a myth. There is no reliable evidence that Jesus even existed, and significant evidence that he didn’t. The evidence is in the Bible, the other religions of the time, and the lack of writings about Jesus by historians of the time.

    The story of Jesus can be shown to be just a myth cobbled together out of prophesy and stories from the Old Testament and previous gods and myths — created in the 40’s and 50’s by Paul of Tarsus (who exhibited symptoms of epilepsy and had delusions of Christ talking to him), the other apostles, the unknown authors of the gospels in the 70’s or later, and many other people. The reliable evidence for this is overwhelming.

    Paul and the other epistle writers don’t know any biographical details of Jesus’ life, or even the time of his earthly existence. They don’t refer to Bethlehem, Nazareth, Galilee, Calvary or Golgotha — or any pilgrimages to what should have been holy sites of Jesus’ life. They also don’t mention any miracles that Jesus was supposed to have worked, his virgin birth, his trial, the empty tomb, his moral teachings. To them Jesus was largely a sky-god, who existed in the spiritual past.

    If Jesus had actually existed, Paul would have written about his life, disciples, and teachings. Paul did not write about any of this. Paul wrote (in Romans 16:25-26, Galatians 1:16) that he knew Jesus through revelation, which is another term for fantasy. We can also tell that people were accusing Paul of lying, because he attempted to defend himself in Romans 3:5-8.

    If Jesus had actually existed, the gospels would have been written in first person format. Instead, they were written in third person fiction format like a Harry Potter story, with Matthew and Luke extensively plagiarizing from Mark.

    If Jesus had actually existed, at least one of the approximately 30 local historians of the first century would have written about him. No historian of the first century (including Josephus) wrote about him or his disciples.

    The Jesus story also shows extensive similarities to other myths of the time (especially Dionysus, Mithra, and Horus). Some early Christians attributed this to Satan who went back in time and created the religions that “copied” Christianity.

    Jesus is worshiped on Sunday because he is a sun god, like Mithra, Zeus/Jupiter, Horus, Attis, Dionysus, Adonis, Tammuz, Hercules, Perseus, Bacchus, Apollo, Helios, and Sol Invictus — whose birthdays are also on the old winter solstice of December 25, when the sun is “reborn.”

    There were more than a dozen other deities and saviors who were resurrected after violent deaths — Mithra, Osiris/Serapis, Inanna/Ishtar, Horus, Perseus, Bacchus, Attis, Hermes, Adonis, Hercules/Heracles, Tammuz, Asclepius, and Prometheus. Christianity just told the story the best, and managed to get control of the government under Constantine.

    For much more evidence, see the links.


    As stated by Dr. Bart Ehrman, Professor of religious studies at the University of North Caroline, Chapel Hill, NC said, “In the entire first Christian century, Jesus is not mentioned by a single Greek or Roman scholar, politician, philosopher, or poet. His name never appears in a single inscription, and it is never found in a single piece of private correspondence. Zero! Zip references!”

  2. Glenn Geist Reply

    May 11, 2014 at 5:21 pm

    James, of course is an English name. Yehusuah’s brother (older?) was Jacob, or more accurately Ya’akov. No suprise that Christians tend not to emphasize either James, his very Jewish name or his strong Jewish ties.

  3. Bill Formby Reply

    May 12, 2014 at 6:28 pm

    I really do not know why it is so important for non believer to disprove the beliefs of Christians, Jews, or any other faith. To me it is simply drawing another set of battle lines while there are already too many battle lines drawn by the believers themselves. Since humanoids have been on this earth there has been a need to explain the unexplainable. Primitive culture referred to Sun Gods, Rain Gods, Water Gods, etc. When something was not going right the Gods were angry. When things were going well, the Gods were happy. It is not important to me if people believe that some guy named Jesus walked on water and healed the sick. Or that Zeus good pour down lightening from the sky. We now understand why things happen but there are a lot of people that still need to believe that some omnipresence controls the world and if they do certain things they will die a happy death and live forever. I, as a person who believes in facts and what can be proven, tend to be more pragmatic than that thus have shaken off most all of my childhood religious teachings.
    However, I do believe there are forces that are greater than I and all of mankind, and if we keep screwing around with this planet we are all going to be dead. Only then will any of us really, and truly, know who is correct. At that point it will not make any difference because it will be too late to say OOPS!

  4. Norman Rampart Reply

    May 12, 2014 at 6:41 pm

    They could have been Moonies for the difference it makes. Religions of all kinds are based on lies – or at least the practicioners often use lies to justify themselves and their actions.

    Nowt wrong wi’ religion – just some of the idiots that practice.

    Crackin’ article Doc.

  5. Alan Milner Reply

    April 24, 2018 at 4:53 pm

    As a Jew, I have always been perplexed by the fact that whenever something really bad happens – when I stub my toe really badly – the first words out of my mouth are always, “Jesus Christ.” I have noticed many other Jews doing the same thing. No one ever cries out, “Holy Moses” or anything like that.

    This does not import that I have some secret Christian leanings that I am not aware of. It is indicative of the brainwashing that Western Christian societies impose on children growing up in them. However, I have often said that it is impossible to understand Christianity without understanding Judaism, and vice versa, because the Judaism practiced today is a far cry from the Judaism of the first century AD, heavily dosed with Christian imagery. (Chanukah is just one example.)

    As to the historicity of Jesus, while there are no contemporary accounts that name him or even describe him, it is clear that something of great importance took place in 33 AD. My own belief has always been that the Jesus myth was an amalgamation of the lives of a number of different Jews mixed together with the founder myths from other religious sects. Jesus is thus a mythic figure, not a historical one but, as a mythic figure, he is far more dangerous than a historical character.

    By the way, the account of Yacov rings true except in one particular. As a pius Jew, he would have attended the mikvah and bathed at least once a week on the afternoon of Shabot. No pius Jew would dream of entering a shul, much less the Temple in Jerusalem, without having bathed first.

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