Monday, January 1, 2024

Saying 12


The disciples said to Jesus, ‘We know that you will leave us. Who will be leader over us?’

Jesus said to them, ‘Wherever you have come from, you should go to James the Just, for whose sake the sky and the earth came into being.’


James, the brother of Jesus, was widely respected as a devout follower of the Torah, and led the Jesus Movement until his death in 62 CE. The letters of Paul, written in the 50s CE, indicate the traveling ‘apostle to the gentiles’ came into sharp disagreement with James and the other, original disciples of Jesus. In his letter to the Galatian church, Paul sarcastically says that James was one of the ‘acknowledged leaders (what they actually were makes no difference to me)’. In the same letter, Paul lambasts Simon Peter, criticizing him for allegedly cowering under the authority of ‘certain men who came from James’. The reason, Paul says, is that Simon compromised the integrity of the gospel (Gal 2.14). He strongly implies that James, Simon, and the rest are guilty of promoting ‘another gospel’ (Gal 1.6–9). Other of Paul’s letters may allude to the same faction of traveling representatives from James. He speaks snidely of ‘super-apostles’ (2 Cor 11.5), before directly accusing them of being ‘pseudo-apostles’ comparable to the satan himself (2 Cor 11.13). His criticism is the same as the complaint he raised in Galatians; these rivals teach ‘another gospel’ (2 Cor 11.4). The nature of Paul’s disagreement with James, Simon, et al, concerned whether gentiles, upon converting to follow Jesus, needed to fully convert to Judaism and obey all the commands in the Torah. Paul said no, while his letters indicate James said the yes, which fits with James’s reputation elsewhere as so rigidly Torah-observant. The depth of the animosity between Paul and James, and whether it was even mutual, is unknown. However, it does demonstrate the likelihood of a growing threat to James’s authority over the wider Jesus Movement by the late 50s CE. Saying 12 appears to have been written in this context; a well-meaning follower of James attributed to his brother Jesus a statement which elevated James to a status of supreme respect.



10.25 When the tempest passes, the wicked are no more, but the just is the foundation of the world.


1.18–19 Then after three years I did go up to Jerusalem to visit Cephas and stayed with him fifteen days, but I did not see any other apostle except James, the Lord’s brother.


9.33–34 Then they came to Capernaum, and when he was in the house he asked them, ‘What were you arguing about on the way?’ But they were silent, for on the way they had argued with one another who was the greatest.


JA 20.9.1 He assembled the sanhedrin of judges, and brought before them the brother of Jesus (the one called the Anointed One), whose name was James, and some others. And when he had formed an accusation against them as breakers of the law, he delivered them to be stoned. But as for those who seemed the most equitable of the citizens, and such as were the most uneasy at the breach of the laws, they disliked what was done.

Gospel of the Hebrews

And when the Lord had given the linen cloth to the servant of the priest, he went to James and appeared to him. For James had sworn that he would not eat bread from that hour in which he had drunk the cup of the Lord until he should see him risen from among them that sleep. And shortly thereafter the Lord said, ‘Bring a table and bread!’ […] He took the bread, favored it and broke it, and gave it to James the Just and said to him, ‘My brother, eat your bread, for the son of man is risen from among them that sleep.’


38b.14 Rabbi Ḥiyya bar Abba said that Rabbi Yoḥanan said, ‘Even for one just person the world exists, as it is stated, “But the just is the foundation of the world.” ’

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