*** This is a rough transcript of today’s show ***
It is the 23rd of October 2021. Welcome to the Christian History Almanac brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org, I’m Dan van Voorhis.
We are going to start with a quiz. What do the following television characters have in common:
Chuck Cunningham from Happy Days, Judy Winslow from Family Matters, Tori from Saved By the Bell, Mandi from the West Wing, and Minkus from Boy Meets World.
A: they were all significant characters in a show and then they just kind of magically disappeared. They were written out of the narrative or their characters were reimagined with a new cast member.
Today we are going to talk about the New Testament and Early Church equivalent of those characters. Today is the feast day in many communions of James the Just. Or James the Brother of Jesus. Or it could be James son of Alphaeus who might also be called James the Lesser. James the Just is not James of Zebedee.
And so, just like with Salome on yesterday’s show I have to stress again: these are very common names. The New Testament authors sometimes go to great lengths to identify certain specific characters and sometimes they don’t. Sometimes, as it is with James, there is a theological issue that causes confusion. Let’s break it down.
James the Just (as Eusebius, the early church historian called him) was the brother of Jesus. This comes from parallel accounts in Matthew 13 and Mark 6. We also know that in Jesus’ ministry his brothers and sisters didn’t believe him (they may have later). Now, are these actually cousins? The plain reading doesn’t support that, but theological considerations might move some in that direction.
From the book of Acts, we know that James was at the head of the Council at Jerusalem. And if you think Nicea, Constantinople, etc… are important councils, this one sets the tone for the early church. And James (not Zebedee who had died) was the kingfish. In Galatians Paul (although not a huge fan of James) makes reference to him being somehow set apart- the chief of sorts.
It seems easy enough, that Jesus appeared to his brother James after the resurrection and he ended becoming an apostle and later the bishop of Jerusalem. He likely wrote the book of James, was the equivalent of Paul but to the Jewish Christians, and was martyred in either 62 or 69 AD.
Except for the development of the doctrine of the perpetual virginity of Mary would not allow for Jesus to have a brother from Mary. So it was suggested by Jerome that James the Lesser, son of Alphaeus was this James and thus Alpheas was Mary’s first husband who died. Or that he was Mary’s second husband after Joseph died. Either way, he would have been a child from a previous or future marriage and not from Mary. We have an upcoming mailbag show where I will dig into that a little more.
The early church leaders were Peter, Paul, and James the Just also called the Brother of Jesus. The New Testament tells us just enough about the possible beef between these three (and I find that comforting- that there was disagreement even amongst them). Josephus and Eusebius tell us a little more before Jerome throws us into the mess we’ve been in ever since. But let’s not let that make us forget James the Just, (likely) the Brother of Jesus, and (likely) the author of the Epistle of James. A pillar in the early church, even according to Paul when they had their spat.
James the Just is celebrated on this, the 23rd of October.
The last word for today comes from James chapter 1:
16 Don’t be misled, my dear brothers and sisters. 17 Every good gift, every perfect gift, comes from above. These gifts come down from the Father, the creator of the heavenly lights, in whose character there is no change at all. 18 He chose to give us birth by his true word, and here is the result: we are like the first crop from the harvest of everything he created.
This has been the Christian History Almanac for the 23rd of October 2021 brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org.
The show is produced by a man whose Purdue Boilermakers are in the AP Top 25 for the first time since 2007. He is Christoper Gillespie.
The show is written and read by a man who once thought he met Tori from Saved By The Bell at a small party in Scotland but it turned out to be her sister and she is one of the triplets. I am Dan van Voorhis
You can catch us here every day- and remember that the rumors of grace, forgiveness, and the redemption of all things are true…. Everything is going to be ok.