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James the Just: Urgent Words for Apocalyptic Times, No. 10

Edited by Robert V. Rakestraw (7-18-16)

Why did Jesus allow his younger brother, with whom he grew up in Nazareth for almost 30 years, to be beaten to death?

“But the Jews . . . turned themselves against James, the brother of the Lord, [the leader of the Jerusalem church, in A.D. 62] . . . . Conducting him into a public place, they demanded that he should renounce the faith of Christ before all the people; but . . . he declared himself fully before the whole multitude, and confessed that Jesus Christ was the Son of God, our Saviour and Lord. Unable to bear any longer the testimony of the man who, on account of his elevated virtue and piety was deemed the most just of men, they seized the opportunity of licentiousness afforded by the prevailing anarchy, and slew him. . . . But, as to the manner of James’s death ,. . . . Hegesippus . . ., who flourished nearest the days of the apostles,… gives the most accurate account of him, thus: …. ‘He was in the habit of entering the temple alone, and was often found upon his bended knees, and interceding for the forgiveness of the people; so that his knees became as hard as camels’, in consequence of his habitual supplication and kneeling before God.

[He came to be known as Old Camel Knees, and was called the Just.]

james the just went to temple
[Now at this time, since there were many] of the rulers that believed, there arose a tumult among the Jews, Scribes, and Pharisees, saying that there was danger, that the people would now expect Jesus as the Messiah. They came therefore together, and . . . . placed James upon a wing of the temple, [where he would be easily seen and his words would be easily heard by all the people. They urged him:] Persuade therefore the people not to be led astray by Jesus, for we and all the people have great confidence in thee. [But James refused, and instead exalted Jesus, whereby] many were confirmed, and gloried in this testimony of James. . . . . Going up, therefore, they cast down the just man [from the temple wing to the ground some distance below], saying to one another, ‘Let us stone James the Just.’ And they began to stone him, as he did not die immediately when cast down; but turning round, he knelt down saying, ‘I entreat thee, O Lord God and Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.’ Thus they were stoning him, when one of the priests . . . cried out saying, ‘Cease, what are you doing? Justus is praying for you.’ And one of them, a fuller, beat out the brains of Justus with the club that he used to beat out clothes. Thus he suffered martyrdom, and they buried him on the spot where his tombstone is still remaining, by the temple. He became a faithful witness, both to the Jews and Greeks, that Jesus is the Christ. Immediately after this, [the Roman emperor Vespasian, through his son and military commander Titus] invaded and took Judea.’

“Such is the more ample testimony of Hegesippus, in which he fully coincides with Clement. So admirable a man indeed was James, and so celebrated among all for his justice, that even the wiser part of the Jews were of opinion that this was the cause of the immediate siege of Jerusalem which happened to them for no other reason than the crime against him. Josephus also has not hesitated to superadd this testimony in his works: ‘These things [the siege and fall of Jerusalem, and the destruction of the Jewish temple in AD 70] happened to the Jews to avenge James the Just, who was the brother of him that is called Christ, and whom the Jews had slain, notwithstanding his pre-eminent justice.’” [In the epistle written by him, in James 5:1-12 for example, we see the passion for justice in the heart of Old Camel Knees. After his resurrection from the dead, Jesus appeared personally to this James, his brother, as recorded in I Cor. 15:7. Another James, one of the apostles, who suffered martyrdom in A.D. 44, is spoken of in Acts 12:1-2.]

From The Ecclesiastical History of Eusebius Pamphilus, Book 2, chapter 23 (“The Martyrdom of James, Who Was Called the Brother of the Lord”), translated by Christian Frederick Cruse (Baker, 1973 printing, pp. 75-78). This selection, along with other items and articles, may be found on Dr. Rakestraw’s website/blog: gracequestministries.org., where you may sign up to receive automatically regular postings such as the above, and where you may order his books GraceQuest and Heart Cries. You may write Dr. Rakestraw at bob@gracequestministries.org .

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