The following paragraph is taken from the "Catholic Almanac"
James the Less: Son of Alphaeus, called "Less" because he was younger in age or shorter in stature than James the Greater; one of the Catholic Epistles bears his name; was stoned to death in 62 or thrown from the top of the temple in Jerusalem and clubbed to death in 66; in art, is depicted with a club or heavy staff; May 3 (Roman Rite), Oct 9 (Byzantine Rite).
James the Less feast day is celebrated with St Philip on May 3rd. This James is called James, Son of Alphaeus. According to Fr Foley, O.F.M. who I have quoted previously, we know nothing of this saint but his name, and of course the fact that Jesus chose him to be one of the twelve pillars of the New Israel, His Church. He is not the James of Acts, son of Clopas, "brother" of Jesus and later bishop of Jerusalem and the traditional author of the Epistle of James.
The following links provides insight on St James the Less: http://www.catholic-forum.com/saints/golden190.htm
The follow is taken from : "The Apostle,: by Otto Hophan, O.F.M.,
James the Less, firmly fixed in the ninth place in all four lists of the apostles, was made the leader of the third group of apostles, which was comprised of the brethren of Jesus-and His betrayer. St Mark called him "the Less" in order to distinguish him from the other apostle named James, the son of Zebedee and brother of John. He is also called "the Younger". It seems he was not so old as Jacobus major-James the Great, the Elder-and perhaps he was smaller in stature-the Latin word minor can mean either younger or smaller, or both. The symbolic meaning of the apostles's word will come to light in the course of this chapter.
The men of this last group before us not only new faces, but also new characters among the ranks of the Twelve. Many have become accustomed to calling all of the apostles simply "the poor fishermen of Galilee. " But actually the group around Christ was comprised of men not only of many very different temperaments and personalities, but also of various professions. They came from different social circles. Some were rich; some were poor. With the calling of this third group of apostles, tillers of the soil also were given a voice in changing the whole world. James, Jude Thaddeus, and Simon were farmers.
The Gospel itself does not explicitly justify such a conclusion. With the exception of the names of these three relatives of Jesus, nothing else was mentioned about them. Only about Jude Thaddeus did St. John record a few words. On the other hand, James and Jude left two Epistles behind them in the New Testament, both of which indirectly disclose much about their personalities and attitudes. These allusions surround the Epistles as the fragrance of the blooming fields, the fat of the earth, and the dew of heaven surrounded Esau. The background schemes, descriptions, comparisons, allusions: all point to laborers of the land as their authors. No rough fisherman, no clever tax-collector, not educated scholar, but only a farmer, who was devoted to nature, and its care and cultivation, could write such sentences at these:
...The rich man... will pass away like the flower of the grass. For the sun rises with a burning heat and parches the grain, and its flower falls and the beauty of its appearances perishes...If anyone does not offend in word, he is a perfect man, able also to lead round by a bridel the whole body. For if we [-we!-] put bits into horses' mouths that they may obey us, we control their whole body also... Be patient, therefore, brethren, for the coming of the Lord. Behold, the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient until it receives the early and the late rain.
The supposition which such language awakens is confirmed by an historical document of Hegesippus, which was stored away by the Church historian Eusebius in the middle of the second century. According to this historical record, Domitian, who ruled from 81 to 96, summoned Zoker and James, two grandsons of the apostle and brother of the Lord, Jude Thaddeus, and grandnephews of the apostles and brother of the Lord, James the Less, to come to Rome, because they were suspected of high treason. In the course of their official interrogration, the two named their allotted property, about nine and half across of arable land, and showed him their calloused hands. Domitian who had feared them as dangerous relatives of Jesus of Nazareth, set them free, unharmed, to return to their home.
If one bears in mind that, according to Jewish custom, possessions of a family are inherited only by blood relatives, then he will readily understand that the grandfather, Thaddeus, and his brothers, James and Simon, had already worked those nine and a half acres by the sweat of their brow.
The Lord called both fishermen and farmers to be His apostles. How significant it is that brothers had lived by much work, and even more by patience! Neither the one nor the other had complete control over his success, for both worked with nature, which God alone controls, This was a good preparation for the apostolate, for the fishing and cultivating of souls for their divine Creator. The farmer worked on the firm and solid land; the fisherman had to ply his trade on the uncertain surface of the sea. The former was less flexible, and also less adaptable, than the latter. The farmer was slow to act, thoughtful, considerate, and persevering. His occupation certainly helps to explain the conservative speech of James the Less.
James, the Brother of the Lord
In all four lists of the apostles, this younger James was named the "son of Alphesus: to distinguish him from the other James, the "son of Zebedee. Hegesippus also called this Alpheus Clopas, Cleophas. Perhaps this was a second name. Possibly it is merely a different form or pronunciation of the same name. This opinion that Alpheus was also called Cleophas finds some support even in the Gospels. Mark and John recorded several of the names of the pious women who stood by the cross on Calvary. Among them Mark names a "Mary the mother of James the Less." John, however, wrote, "Now there were standing by the cross of Jesus him mother and his mother's sister, Mary of Cleophas," meaning, Mary the wife of Cleophas.
It is quite possible that these two seemingly different Marys were one and the same person. Mark distinguished her from other Marys by naming her son; John, by naming her husband. Then, however, Alpheus must necessarily be taken to be the same person as Cleophas, for James the Less was definitely the son of Alpheus and Mary; and this Mary, as pointed out before, was the wife of Cleophas. Concerning this Alpheus Cleophas there was no reference made in Scripture. Many commentators conjecture he was the Cleophas to whom the risen Savior appeared on the road to Emmaus. Hegesippus was of the opinion that he was the brother of St. Joseph, the foster father of Jeus. This would already establish a certain affinity between James and Christ.
The mother of James and the wife of Cleophas, Mary, was explicitly called "his [Christ's] mother's sister" by St John. Perhaps she actually was a sister of Mary, the mother of God-this presents the difficulty of explaining two sisters with the same name in one family. Possibly they were cousins. Or it could be that there was an affinity by marriage, the wife of Celophas being the sister-in-law of the Blessed Virgin Mary, In any cae, they were related.
The close relationship of this noble wife with the mother of Jesus is vividly expressed in their sharing in the life and sufferings of the Lord. In his account of the Crucifixion, St. Matthew praised the pious women who
were there, looking on from a distance, who had followed Jesus from Galilee, ministering to him. Among them were Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James and Joseph, and the mother of the sons of Zebedee.
Mary, the mother of James, stood beneath the cross with the brave and faithful few, embracing her sister. Mary comforted the mother of God, assuring her that she would not be abandoned and alone, even though her son was dying on the cross. She was with Mary Magdalene at the tomb, and together they were the last to leave the grave on the dark evening of Good Friday. She was with Mary Magdalene and Salome when they went to the tomb in the gray dawn of Easter morning to take their gifts of love, spices and ointments, to anoint the body of their crucified Messias. And therefore she was among the women to be blessed with the first "Lumen Christi," the first Easter alleluia. She also went with the others to bring the happy news to the apostles.
James had a good mother, a faithful follower of Christ who ministered to Him during His public life until the cross, even until the grave. Like most of the apostles of all ages, he was prepared by his mother for the apostolate of Christ. The holy woman deemed it a great grace and blessing and honor to be able to offer her son to God-and how sad and pathetic the mother who refuses this rare privilege!
The writings of the new Testament also mentioned brothers of James. When recording the accounts of Good Friday and Easter, St. Mark once spoke of "Mary the mother of James the Less and of Joseph," and another time, simply "the mother of Joseph," and a third time, only "the mother of James." The author of the Epistles of St. Jude the Apostle introduces himself as "the brother of James." The close relationship between Jude (Thaddeus) and James was noted in Luke's lists of the apostles.
James, Jude, Joseph, and Simon are first encountered as brothers in the Gospels, where they were called "brethren of Jesus." When Jesus had returned to Nazareth, to His native country, and was teaching in the synagogue, the people there, who knew Him well, were offended and astounded. And these people could say, "'Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary, the brother of James, Joseph, Jude, and Simon?'"
The question immediately arises, "In what sense is the term brethren of Jesus used in this passage, and in a few other similar passages of the Gospels?" Much has been written discussing only the one question as to whether the James called the brother of the Lord was the same man as the apostle, James the Less, the son of Alpheus.
Since the Gospels so repeatedly speak of many "brethren of Jesus," one can immediately presume that natural brothers are not meant, but more distant relatives of Jesus. In the Gospel, Mary's supreme intention is made evident: "'...I do not know man.'" Since very early times, the Church has defended and preserved the Gospels's testimony of the virginity of Mary like a precious pearl. The expression "brother of Jesus," therefore, in no way stands as proof of the opinion that this term signifies a blood relationship.
Even today in the Orient, as it was centuries ago, the word brother has more than one meaning. It not denotes brother, but it can also mean nephew, cousin, brother-in-law, and even a friend or comrade or companion. When the names of the parents are given, it can be concluded that the term means "brother" in the normal sense. But never are the "brethren of Jesus" meant to signify sons of Mary. The people of Nazareth emphasized that Jesus was the Son of Mary, and this they did in the same sentence in which His "brothers" were named.
Yet the plea of Christ on the cross to John remains at first puzzling: "'Behold thy mother.'" And He consoled His mother Mary: "'Woman, behold thy son'"-thy son, not a son. But here the only logical interpretation of this relationship is a close spiritual union. If Mary had had other sons, our Lord would not have entrusted John alone with the care of His lonely mother. All would have immediately expressed not only their right, but also their duty to see after her. Meanwhile, the evidence that the "brother of Jesus" not only can be understood as "cousin," but even must be taken in that sense, is certainly make clear by James the Less, "brother" of the Lord. For in all probability-implying practical certitude-James the apostle of the Lord.
In the introductory chapter of the Acts of the Apostles, St. Luke named only two men called James, not three: James, the son of Zebedee, and James, the son of Alpheus. In the twelfth chapter he recorded the death of the elder James. After that the sacred writer spoke simply of a James: he no longer found it necessary to distinguish him from any other James. These passages, however, show clearly that this James was well-known and much esteemed, that he was a leader of the Church at Jerusalem. Had St. Luke been speaking of a third James, distinguishing between James the Less and James, the brother of the Lord, he would have pointed this out as he had before James the Great was martyred.
The Epistle to the Galatians confirms this same interpretation. St. Paul was speaking of his first visit to Jerusalem after his conversion, to see Peter. He continued, "But I saw none of the other apostles, except [in Greek: ei me] James, the brother of the Lord." Here Paul testified that James, the brother of the Lord, was one of the apostles. This is the natural and logical interpretation; and any other is labored and artificial.
Finally, if this James had not been one of the apostles, his position in the early Church would not have been understandable. Those who refuse to accept that James, the brother of the Lord, was the apostle, James the Less, are forced to admit that this "James, even though he was not received by the other apostles into their group after the death of the son of Zebedee, nevertheless... maintained an apostolic position." Cullmann made the statement, certainly indefensible, that, when Peter departed from Jerusalem, he left his special rights behind him with James.
James the Less, the brother of the Lord, was James the apostle. This is the only conclusion possible if this "brother of Jesus" is unequivocally to be shown to be the son of Alphesus and Mary, the sister of Jesus' mother. He is not the son of the mother of God, nor a son of Joseph by an earlier marriage-as the legendary accounts of the so-called Proto-Gospel of the Apostle James claimed. Only with this interpretation is James shown to be a son of the "sister" of the mother of Jesus and a relative of the brother of Joseph, the foster father of Jesus.
The Greek Church sees in these "brothers of Jesus" the sons of Cleophas, the sons of the brother of St. Joseph. The Roman Church, on the other hand, recognizes them as the sons of that Mary who was the sister of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Yet these two different interpretations concerning the nature of their relationship are not diametrically opposed: they can be harmonized. For in virtue of Mary's marriage with Cleophas, referred to by St John (19:25), these " brothers" were related to Jesus as well as to the Virgin Mary and St. Joseph.
In the course of the Gospels the brethren of Jesus often assumed relationship with the Lord, which relationship stood in direct contrast to that of the other apostles with Jesus Christ, their leader.
St. Mark, for example, wrote,
And his mother and his brethren came, and standing outside, they sent to him, calling to him. Now a crowd was sitting about him, and they said to him, "Behold, thy mother and thy brethern are outside, seeking thee." And he answered and said to them, "Who are my mother and my brethren?" And looking around on those who were sitting about him, he said, "Behold my mother and my brethren. For whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother."
And St. John observed in the middle of his Gospel, "For not even his brethren believed in him." Here Jesus again referred to relatives, but not blood brothers; and obviously these brethren were not the two or three He had chosen to be apostles. These distant relatives were also His "brothers." Meanwhile, the text does not rule out the idea that those of His brethren who were raised to the nobility of the apostolate found it especially difficult to believe in Jesus. Psychologically that is understandable, inevitably natural. For these kin of the Lord, those companions who traveled daily with Him in His youth, those comrades who played with Him and shared His hardships, those who possibly even enjoyed the same bed and table with Him, those familiar relatives, then, humanly speaking, lived too close to Jesus.
According to an old tradition, the mother of these sons, Mary, the wife of Cleophas, after the early death of her husband went to live with her sister, the mother of Jesus, in the house at Nazareth. Her sons never even notices their noble and serious cousins's unusual superiority. And now they were only too happy with Him, naively proud that such a great one should come from their own poor group. Yet, for a full comprehension and appreciation of the spiritual and divine mission of Jesus these relatives, precisely as relatives, had a longer and more difficult way to travel than the other aposles.
Christ's relatives were placed at the end of the four lists of apostles. Tactfully our Lord assigned His cousins to the last places, but it may also have been their painful hesitation to believe that classed them in the last group. Peter, the first among the ranks of the apostles, was also the first in faith. In the first Epistles to the Corinthians, St. Paul mentioned that Christ "was seen by James, then by all the apostles." The "Hebrew Gospel" recorded that, after the Last Supper, James made a vow not to eat any bread until he had again seen Jesus as the risen Saviour. Did James, by chance, need a special strengthening in his faith, as Thomas did, or even more than Thomas did? As Thomas was physically absent when Christ appeared to the apostles, did James, though present, fail to believe the first time?
It may be supposed that James did not thoroughly believe in Jesus his cousin, as "the Lord and God" until he had met Him face to face after the Resurrection. His personal contact with Jesus was merely an external one, not a true inner union. Many times this proved to be an obstacles to and a hindrance for Jesus' grace. Blood is less-minor! than grace. He who is united with Jesus in faith and love is really His brother, sister, even mother, like Mary, who was bound to Him in body and soul.
James, the Bishop of Jerusalem
James the Less is comparable to a late-rising star which begins to shine only after the other stars fade beyond the horizon. In the Gospels, in the first ten years of the history of the apostles, almost nothing was heard of James. But after the martyrdom of James the Elder in the year 42, and after the flight of Peter from Jerusalem "to another place," he suddenly came into the light of history. In the exciting night of his miraculous escape from prison, Peter went to the house of Mark and left the instruction, "'Tell this to James and to the brethren.'" This special emphasis on James already pointed to his prominent position in the Mother Church at Jerusalem. St. Paul also named him as a "pillar" of the Church.
Eusebius, the Church historian, expressly stated that James was the first bishop of Jerusalem, a fact which is clearly evident throughout the Acts of the Apostles. And as often as St. Paul spoke of his journeys to Jerusalem, he mentioned James, once as the only apostle present in Jerusalem, and certainly as the leader of the Church in that city. This truly holy city was certainly the most important post of the apostolic Church. Here the Lord Himself labored, suffered, rose from the dead, and ascended into heaven. It was the heart of Christianity in the first years of Christ's Church. Jerusalem was intended to have the honor which later was granted to Rome. It lost this privilege through its own fault. According to an old prophecy, "the law shall come forth from Sion: and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem." "'Jerusalem, Jerusalem! thou who killest the prophets, and stonest those who are sent to thee...! There will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.'" From the city that tried to murder God the kingdom of God was removed by the divine hand to another hand.
Realizing this, then, we must have a great respect for James, in that this apostles, and not Peter, not John, not Andrew, maintained the care and guidance of the Church in the condemned city. This was also the opinion of St. John Chrysostom and St. Jerome. His relationship to the Lord and, even moreso, his unusual respect and zeal for the Old Law made him appear to his apostolic companions as the most capable person for the difficult take of cultivating and nourishing the wonderful tree of Christianity on the stony ground of Judaism.
In an old Syrian writing. "The Teaching of the Apostles," the important role of James was expressed in these uncommonly solemn words,
Jerusalem and all the surrounding regions of Palestine, the provinces of the Samaritans and the Philistines, the districts of the Arabs and Phoenicians and the people of Caesarea, received the inspiration of the priesthood from the apostle James, the law-giver and leader of the Church of the apostles, which was established at Jesusalem, on Sion.
Yet, on account of, or rather despite, the dignity and majesty of the bishopric in Jerusalem, the heavey burden it involved cannot be overlooked. James had the most important, and perhaps the most difficult assignment with the apostolic church. In this city lived the murderers of the Lord, whose hatred still burned and glowed. With the horrible fanaticism of hypocritical religious they persecuted the apostles, too, who were considered as betrayers of their old religion, deserving only to hang from crosses. Only the calm and wise high priest in the Sanhedrin, Gamaliel, a Pharisee and teacher of the Law, saved the apostles from the fate of their Master. He reasoned and argued from similar occasion the past. For his own sake he defended the apostles, and asked for a merely passive resistance to them. Yet he was not heeded, and at that time his words merely occasioned a new and bloody persecution.
The noble deacon Stephen, the first martyr of the early Church, was a holy warning for the apostles, and for all Christians, to keep themselves always ready to die for Christ. His stoning was actually the signal for a "great persecution against the Church in Jerusalem," which was led by Saul, the persecutor who "was harassing the Church" and causing much terror and horror among the first Christians. The anger and prejudice that raged in Jerusalem against the community of Christ's faithful for ten years after the Resurrection was equalled only by the other persecution accomplished by King Herod Agrippa I. "Seeing that it pleased the Jews," Herod had James the Elder executed; and he intended to do the same to Peter.
As bishop of Jerusalem, James the Less had a sorrowful office to fulfill. He waited as Daniel waited in the pit, in the midst of lions which could attack at any hour. In a Coptic martyrology there is a statement that when the world was divided into districts to be evangelized, James chose the land of the pagans. That is only legend; yet, pondering about that city over which the Lord had lamented, he might well have looked into the distance where his companions had gone and were bringing in a richer harvest for Christ, while he remained in Jerusalem, the city of the East and of the West, sunrise and sunset, the city of light and darkness, birth and death.
Nevertheless, the mission of James the Less was a lofty one, the most praiseworthy of all. He could lead to Christ the chosen remnant of the Jews to whom God had given His promise of final conversion, the ultimate triumph of God's mercy. James' success can be seen from his straightforward words to Paul: " 'Thou seest, brother, how many thousands of believers there are among the Jews, all of them zealous upholders of the Law.'" One might inquire how James was able to reap this gratifying harvest for Christ from such a stony field flattened by hail. Apart from the grace which had left in the midst of the disbelief of Israel "'... seven thousand men, who have not bowed their knees of Baal,'" it was St. James the Less, with his piety and devotion and his repect for the sensitive feelings of the Jews, who won over this remnant of the people.
All the sources emphasized the holy life of St James. In the fifth book of his Commentaries, Hegesippus wrote,
From the time of Christ until our own day he was called "the Just One" by all. He was holy even in his mother's womb. Wine and intoxicating beverages he did not drink, yet he ate some things still living. He used no shears on his head, he did not rub himself with oil, nor did he frequently public baths. He alone was permitted to enter the sanctuary [of the temple]. From many kneelings his knee grew hard like those of a camel. Because of the superabundance of his justice, he was called "the Just One and the defending wall of the people."
Such asceticism, which surpassed that of the Parisees-James was a life long Nazarene, bound by a certain vow of self-denial-made a deep impression on the Jewish people. Even in the time of St Jerome (d.420), there was a tradition that crowds of Jews pressed around James to touch the seam of his garment. Such was the man called to be apostle as well as bishop of Jerusalem for the race that clung to its religious customs so obstinately that they rejected and condemned the Messias. This people, nevertheless, saw in James a living example that to say yes to Christ was not treason, but a fulfillment of the Old Law.
No one knelt longer in the temple than James, who could be found there day or night, like the Anna the prophetess. No one was more faithful to the Law than James. Even today, one can see this reflected in his Epistle, which many say-thought quite incorrectly-is more Old Testament than New Testament. This bishop of Jerusalem had a great respect for the Covenant of the Old Law, and his Epistle is full of allusions to the writings and history of the Chosen People. This apostle, true to the Law and quite conservative, was like a bridge from Divine Providence to Jerusalem, a last grace for that city. James, who had become a part of both Testaments, was like a second Moses, who was to lead the people from the Old Testament into the Promised Land of the New Testament. In this lay the singularity and importance of James, apostle and bishop of Jerusalem.
Certainly the Old and New Testments, the synagogue and the Church, came alarmingly close together in James. In such a situation would the Old Testament not override the New? Would the Church be able to free itself from its dependence on the Temple? The history of the first sects, the Ebionites and others, shows how dangerous the adherence of the Jewish Christians to their own religious customs could become. People do not "'pour new wine into old wine-skins, else the skins burst, the wine is spilt, and the skins are ruined. But they put new wine into fresh skins, and both are saved.'"
The Church belongs to the world, not only to the small corner of Palestine. And for the world, Divine Providence chose another apostle, Paul. St Paul was the father of the Gentile Christians; St James was the leader of the Jewish Christians. James the Less upheld Jerusalem; Paul, the convert, was assigned to Rome. Therefore, were these two opponents? Or were they brothers and collaborators with different instructions from the same Christ?
James, Opponent or Brother of Paul?
Holy Scripture certainly rules out the opinion that James was a "narrow-minded Jewish Christian." Nor was he "the odious man" for Paul. Indeed, James personally respected the Mosaic Law to the last letter, but he also esteemed very highly all Christian principles. He knew salvation came from Jesus, not Moses. Paul was his "brother." Actually this was heroic of James, for Saul, the young wolf, had once raided the flock at Jerusalem: "entering house after house, and dragging out men and women, he committed them to prison." It is not to be denied that between James and Paul there was some tension and discord, which did not arise because of personal faults, however, but because of differences in their missions.
Three times in the history of the apostles, James and Paul were mentioned together. The first time was at the Council of the Apostles. Here the most weighty question in the history of the Church was discussed and decided: whether the Gentile Christians were bound by the Law of Moses. Already Peter had made use of his full authority to bind-and to loose-and explained,
"Why then do you now try to test God by putting on the neck of the disciples a yoke which neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear? But we believe that we are saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they are."
Then all eyes fell on James. Both sides, some hoping for the Jews, others favoring the Gentiles, waited breathlessly. What was the opinion of this distinguished and most conservative of all the apostles? Which view would he adopt?
James arose, and spoke:
"Brethen, listen to me. Simon has told how God first visited the Gentiles to take from among them a people to bear his name. And with this the words of the prophets agree, as it it written,
'After these things I will return
And will rebuild the tabernacle of David
which has fallen down,
and the ruins thereof I will rebuild,
That the rest of mankind may seek after the Lord,
and all the nations upon these things."
'To the Lord was his own work known
from the beginning of the world.'
Therefore my judgment is not to disquiet those who from among the Gentiles are turning to the Lord; but to send them written instructions to abstain from anything that has been contaminated by idols and from immorality and from anything strangled and from blood. For Moses for generations past has had his preachers in every city in the synagogues, where he is read aloud every Sabbath."
The first recorded words of James we have are great words: the Gentiles were not to be burdened more than they already were. It was not easy for this bishop of the Jews to open the door for the Gentiles to the freedom of the children of God.
About five years later, St Paul, in his Epistle to the Galatians, wrote about this meeting of the apostles: "... James and Cephas and John, who were considered the pillars, gave to me and to Barnabas the right hand of fellowship, that we should go to the Gentiles, and they to the circumcised..." Here he names James in the first place, even before Peter. It was the voice of James St. Paul had feared the most. In this question, what James, the bishop of Jerusalem, said was doubly important, for James was a Jew, and bishop of the Jews, favoring the Gentiles. It can never be said how large or small the following of Christ would have been had not these two submitted and complied. But the love of Christ is capable of uniting even a James and a Paul.
If one reads the explanation of James more carefully, he will perceive that the apostle did not arrive at his decision without much doubt and hesitation. His heart was inclined to say no. But he was fair and faithful. A question that concerned God Himself, and the prophets, and the lives of others, Christians until the end of the world, he could not decide in favor of his personal feelings alone. Still, he certainly could not curtail his four conditions. These restrictions were meant only to remove any offense or scandals that the Jewish Christians might have felt from the actions of the Gentile Christians. In the interest of the Christian community, these four "indispensable" burdens were incorporated into the apostles' decree and sent to the Gentiles with the argument, "'Keep yourselves from these things, and you will get on well.'" Thus, a brotherly understanding with the Jewish Christians was taken into consideration.
The first two of these four provisos-taking no part in pagan sacrifices and observing complete abstinence from the immorality that was a part of the daily life of the pagans-were not at all difficult for the Gentile Christians to understand and observe. But neither understandable nor feasible were the other two demands, that they were not to eat meat unless it was pure according to Jewish law, and that blood was forbidden. It is noticeable that St Paul never pressed these points in his Epistles to the Gentiles.
One would like to find just a brief note of remembrance of Paul in James' speech. St. Paul sat at the gathering of the apostles, weary and tired from his many and long missionary journeys. Yet James made reference only to Peter, even though "Barnabas and Paul told of the great signs and wonders that God had done among the Gentiles through them.
The second time James and Paul were mentioned together was in the Epistle to the Galatians on the occasion of the conflict at Antioch (cf.pp.31-35). Provoked, Paul reproved Peter for his shameful conduct: "For before certain persons came from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles; but when they came, he began to withdraw and to separate himself, fearing the circumcised."
"... Certain persons came from James!..." It cannot justly be concluded from this passage that James, an honest, sincere, and prudent apostle, was responsible for the agitation of the Jews in the church at Antioch. This bishop of the church was not contriving to have Peter led back from the freedom and impartiality of the Gospels into the narrow confines of the Law. Yet again and again the indignant and reluctant words of Paul point to James as if he were the man to whom Judaism constantly appealed for a chief witness to the injustices inflicted upon the Gentiles. While James himself strictly adhered to the Law, his own example was quickly snatched up by those hostile to the apostles working with the Gentiles.
Actually James had never taken the freedom of Peter or Paul, and sat down at the same table with Gentile Christians to eat pork or even roasted fowl. He was painfully exact in adhering to the foods which Moses had listed in the eleventh chapter of Leviticus. He may even have admonished the Jewish Christians not to let themselves be disconcerted by the liberties enjoyed by the gentile Christians, to remain loyal to the manners and morals of their forefathers. James was a Jew for the Jew. but he was not like Paul, who, more broad-minded, was also a Gentile for the Gentiles. And in this sense-but only in this sense-James was brought into the conflict at Antioch by Paul.
The third time James and Paul stood next to each other was recorded in the twenty-first chapter of the Acts of the Apostles. Paul brought a large number of Gentiles of the Christian community at Jerusalem to James. Here the generous heart of Paul showed itself. Concerning this last visit of this apostle of all peoples to the Holy City, St. Luke could write with joy
On our arrival at Jerusalem the brethren gave us a hearty welcome. On the next day Paul went with us to James, and all the presbyters came in. After greeting them, he related in detail what God had done among the gentiles through his ministry. they praised God when they heard it, and they said to him....
But once again there was a hesitation, a limitation. Once again there was a demand, and again it stemmed from Christian charity and was made with the best of intentions. The entire Jewish world had heard what Paul was preaching. "'They have heard about thee that thou dost teach the Jews who live among the Gentiles to depart from Moses, telling them they should not circumcise their children nor observe the customs.'" That was an exaggerated generalization.
Paul had a great respect for the Jews, and for that very reason he permitted his disciples, Timothy, to be circumcised. Yet he made no secret of what principles he followed: the Law was no more important as a means toward salvation for the Jewish Christians than for the Gentile Christians. Such a dangerous opinion certainly set the Jew against him. The converted apostle even had to fear for his life, especially on the great feast of Pentecost, when Jews from all over the world had gathered in Jerusalem.
Out of concern for Paul's life, James quickly suggest a proposal. The apostle of the Gentiles did not have to flee. James was ready to protect Paul.
"What then? The multitude is sure to assemble, for they will hear that thou has come. So de what we tell thee. We have four men who are under a vow; take them and sanctify thyself along with them, and pay for them that they may shave their heads; and all will know that what they have heard of thee is false, but that thou thyself also observes the Law."
This proposal was really a demand. Paul, and the four men who were burdened with him, had to bring an ewe, a male lamb, and a ram to offer as a suitable, unbloody sacrifice. Then only was the Nizarite vow fulfilled, which found its official confirmation in the shaving of the head. Yet, Paul may have been strongly opposed to the whole affair. He was not against the vow itself, for earlier he himself had freely made such a vow.
In the actual circumstances, however, such actions implied the admission that no injustice as being committed. His actions became a victory for his foes and an unholy confusion for the converted Gentiles. James may have spoken to Paul with kind words about the possibility of encountering such misgivings and scruples. At the Council of Jerusalem James had painfully given his approval to a solution that benefited the Gentile Christians. And now should Paul not being a sacrifice for the Jewish Christians? again love was triumphant for Christ. Again faith was victorious for His one Church.
Then Paul took the men, and the next day after being purified along with them he entered the temple and announced the completion of the days of purification, when the sacrifice would be offered for each of them.
The good advice of James the Less, which only confirmed the peril surrounding Paul, proceed to be unfortunate for the apostle from Tarsus. Even though he had fulfilled his vow, Paul was seized in the temple, and was almost killed right then and there. But he escaped. Did he have James to thank for this? Yes, James had made possible Paul's journey to Rome, for the latter's imprisonment, which last two years, ended with his journey to Rome. God had prepared Paul's path to Rome through James: Jerusalem, the cradle of Christianity, sent the good tidings to the corners of the earth.
Paul, in turn, occasioned the destiny that was to be James'. Eusebius recorded that the Jews, when they saw themselves defrauded by Paul's appearance as a Roman citizen before the emperor, took revenge on James. After Paul's clever escape, they murdered James in his place. So St. Paul became a martyr through St. James, and St. James became a martyr through St. Paul.
The Epistle of James
The Epistle of St. James the Apostle is the first of the seven Catholic epistles. They are called Catholic-universal-in order to distinguish them from the fourteen Pauline Epistles. They are not like Paul's Epistles, because they were not addressed to isolated communities or individuals (except for the second and third Epistles of St. John). For the most part they were written as encyclicals, or circular Letters, and were intended for wider distribution. The sequence of these seven Epistles in the Bible today-two of Peter, three of John, and one each from James and Jude Thaddeus-is for the most part patterned on the enumeration of these apostles as St. Paul listed them in the above-mentioned passage of the Epistle to the Galatians: James, Cephas, and John, to whom Jude must be added. This sequence also corresponds to the probable dates of composition-again with the exception of Jude's Epistle.
The Epistle of James, the first of the seven Catholic Epistles, is also the first writing of the New Testament as a whole. It can be dated even before the Council of the Apostles at Jerusalem, as early as the year 48, for no mention is found of a solution to the weighty question, whether the Mosaic Law applied to gentile converts or not. And this problem, which was soon to stir the Christian communities, was not settle until the year 50, at the Council of Jerusalem. That the Epistle must be very old follows from the fact that St. Peter made us of it while writing his own first Epistle. To illustrate this, one can compare James 1:3 with 1 Peter 1:7 or James 4:10 with 1 Peter 5:6.
The author introduced himself as " James, the servant of God and of our Lord Jesus Christ." He did not refer to himself as an apostle, nor did he call himself brother of the Lord. But this humble concealment of the great honor of bearing such a complimentary title only serves to indicate that the Epistle is authentic. Any other unknown or unimportant James would have appended such a token of distinction to help conceal his false identity and support his claim to fame. James the Less, on the contrary, "the real James"-this well-known phrase was originally coined for James the Great during the controversy concerning the genuineness of his relics-had no need to display his prerogatives. His name immediately won him full authority.
James did claim authority. compared with the Pauline Epistles, James' is relatively small; it has only one hundred and eight verses. Yet there are fifty-four commands to be found in this one Epistle: one demand for every two verses. These demands were seriously and forcibly put forward. they were not meant as mere advice presented on a gold en platter by hands gloved in silk. They were demands meant for the anti-social, the unjustly rich:
Come now, you rich, weep and howl over your miseries which will come upon you. Your riches have rotted, and your garments have become moth-eaten. Your gold and silver are rusted; and their rust will be a witness against you, and will devour your flesh as fire does. You have laid up treasure in the last days. Behold, the wages of the laborers who reaped your fields, which have been kept back by you unjustly, cry out; and their cry has entered into the ears of the Lord of Hosts. You have feasted upon earth, and you have nourished your hearts on dissipation in the day of slaughter. You have condemned and put to death the just, and he did not resist you.
James himself stood before the people as a living example of that justice and ascetic moderation which he preached. With these powerful words-they also reveal the farmer in him-James could call out to the people of his age. And he still calls out to the people of another age-to us!
The Epistle of James was addressed to "the twelve tribes that are in the Dispersion." Among them were the Jewish Christians exiled from Palestine, dispersed beyond the confines of the Holy Land. It was written above all for those in Phoenicia and Syria. because he cared for his flock, the bishop of Jerusalem did not confine himself to those souls before his eyes. His concern was extended to those Christians of the "twelve tribes" who were living in foreign lands and were in danger. At that time these Jewish Christians did not know the great perils that were to confront them some fifteen years later. After this time St. Paul wrote to them in his Epistle to the Hebrews, exhorting them to persevere in Christ, comforting them in their trials.
The first faithful, however, already faced the beginnings of this crises. Their first fervor had dimmed to a faint and feeble flame. Inconsistent conduct of life, external oppressions and afflictions, had weakened these Jewish converts living so far from Jerusalem. With his Epistle James wanted to lead his fellow believers back to their original zeal.
Esteem it all joy, my brethren, when you fall into various trials, knowing that the trying of your faith begets patience. And let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and entire, lacking nothing.
The Epistle of James does not have the personal touch which marks the Pauline Epistles. Therefore some have looked upon it as a collection of James' pious sayings, which clash with each other and do not follow a logical train of thought. Martin Luther had a strong antagonism to this Epistle because it contradicted his personal teaching on Justification by faith alone and diametrically opposed his own theological whims-this he named it a "straw Epistle." He rejected it also because of its form: "The Epistle confusedly throws one thing into another."
Yet James' words are extremely practical. The Epistle lacks the form of a composition written upon a master's desk, but it did assume a natural style in that is author was a farmer. This peculiar form, in turn, testifies to a deep understanding of the problems concerning Christian life. with a deep insight and understanding of the positions of the rich and poor,the apostolic author described them:
My brethren, do not join faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ to partiality toward persons. For it a man in fine apparel, having a glad ring, enters your assembly, and a poor man in mean attire enters also, and you pay attention to him who is clothed in fine apparel and say, "Sit thou here in this good place"; but you say to the poor man, "Stand thou there," or "Sit by my footstool"; are you not making distinctions among yourselves, and do you not become judges with evil thoughts?
Because of its special emphasis on the social environment and the problems of its age, the Epistle of St James has become the biblical forerunner of the encyclical Rerum Novarum and Quadragesimo Anno and Mater et Magistra.
The passage concerning the importance and power of the tongue has remained a classic for all ages:
If anyone does not offend in word, he is a perfect man, able also to lead round by a bridle the whole body...Behold, even the ships, great as they are, and driven by boisterous winds, are steered by a small rudder wherever the touch of the steersman pleases. So, the tongue also is a little member, but it boasts mightily. Behold, how small a fire-how great a forest it kindles! And the tongue is a fir, the very world of iniquity. The tongue is placed among our members, defiling the whole body, and setting on fire the course of our life, being itself set on fire by hell. For every kind of beast and bird, and of serpents and the rest, is tamed and has been tame by mankind; but the tongue no man can tame-a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless God the Father ; and with it we curse men, who have been made after the likeness of God. Out of the same mouth proceed blessing and cursing. These things, my brethren, ought not to be so.
The only biblical testimony we have of the sacrament of Extreme Unction, a very important passage, is found in the Epistle of James:
Is any one among you sick? Let him bring in the presbyters of the Church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the sick man, and the Lord will raise him up, and if he be in sins, they shall be forgiven him.
the main concern of the Epistle, which can be so demanding, is a living practice of Christian deeds as opposed to an empty faith alone. That harmful separation of religious theory and religious practice, the dangerous gap between faith and good works, cannot be more forcibly condemned:
But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves....Religion pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to give aid to orphans and widows in their tribulations, and to keep oneself unspotted from this world...What will it profit, my brethren, if a man says he has faith, but does not have works? Can the faith save him...? So faith too, unless it has works, is dead in itself.
In this matter, once again, it seems that James and Paul were in conflict. These words of the bishop of Jerusalem have been interpreted by some as a direct contradiction of the profound thoughts on faith, sin and justification with which the author of the fourteen Epistles, especially in the Epistle to the Romans, retorted. Though a prejudiced or poorly educated critic might not be convinced, it is nevertheless clear that St Paul did not contradict St. James, but completed and supplemented his theology. He was not discarding good works, as opposed to faith, for salvation, but rather was stressing one over the other to bring a lopsided scale back into balance.
For we reckon that a man is justified by faith independently of the works of the Law...Now to him who works, the reward is not credited as a favor but as something due. But to him who does not work, but believes in him who justifies the impious, his faith is credited to him as justice.
The antagonism between these two apostles in their Epistles is only an apparent one. Both used the same words: faith, works, justification. But they used them in a different sense, or for a different specific reason. Paul praised a living faith, and James rebuked a dead faith. Paul placed no value in the works of the Law of Moses, and James explained the great significance in the works of the Law of Christ. Paul was indebted to grace for the first call to justification, and James urged a cooperation with grace so that justification would be strengthened. What the learned and scholarly Paul taught with sublime theological precision was in no way contradicted by the practical reminders of the simple and straightforward James. And what James wrote, Paul approved. James taught that faith alone, without good works, was not enough for salvation. Paul taught that good works alone, without faith, were not enough for salvation. The two agreed that both faith and works,or works and faith, were necessary for a Christian life, for justification in the eyes of God.
There was, then, neither, contradiction nor conflict between these two teachers of Christian doctrine. Their teaching is the same, though each emphasized a different aspect of the one doctrine. They approached it in a different manner because of the different spiritual needs of two separated groups united in Christ. Paul stressed the importance of grace; James, deeds. It is only logical and sensible that, because of the varying demands of the different erroneous practices which had crept into the various communities, there should be a different approach or stress in these Epistles. James wanted to spur on the followers of Christ who were shying away from Christian deeds. Paul wanted to hold back the followers of Christ who were overemphasizing Christian deeds.
Besides all this, there was also a wide gap between the personalities of these two apostle of Christ; and this shows itself in their writings. In a dazzling flash before the gates of Damascus, Saul, the persecutor of Christ, was converted. He knew better than all of the other apostles the weakness of man and the power of God. Grace, not the Law, had brought him to Christ. This religious experience continued to vibrate throughout all his writings. James, on the contrary, had not experienced this abrupt transition. He was led slowly to Christ, for "the Law has been our tutor in Christ." Therefore he had no motive to stress grace over the Law, as the converted persecutor had.
The personality of James the Less, therefore, is truly reflected in his Epistle, the only writing we have of this apostle.
In his language we find his attitude before and after he was called by Christ to be an apostle. In his thoughts we see his spirituality. In the First Epistle to the Corinthians, St. Paul recorded that which shows him to be in full agreement with the teaching of James: "But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace in me has not been fruitless-in fact I have labored more than any of them, yet not I, but the grace of God with me."
James, Great in the Kingdom of Heaven
The Epistle to the Hebrews, which St Paul wrote to the Jewish Christians about the year 63, one year after the death of St James the Less, shows the difficult position James was in during his last years as bishop of Jerusalem. The great danger of falling back into Judaism was besetting the Jewish converts. The Jews' fanatical hatred again Christ was again awakened with renewed vigor. The first rumblings of the Jewish War could be seen and heard in the distance, the beginning of the endless flow of Christ's blood on them and on their children.
With a heavy heart James saw the destiny of his race being fulfilled. Their time was up. Forever Judaism was to stand in the sullen shadows of Good Friday, red with the blood of the Messias. "Away with Him!" they can cry again and again, but Christ is nailed fast. The tree of the cross has never stopped growing; its dark shadow is reaching the ends of the earth; and His blood flows over the highest mountains, into the deepest valleys, and across the widest plains where Judaism can never escape. "Away with Him!" they can cry. But Christ is nailed fast.
How James had grieved and troubled himself over this people-more than any other apostle-that they might find the way to Christ! He was patient with them and gave them every possible consideration. let he wound their religious feelings. Earlier he had gone to great lengths to placate the Jews when the apostles were gathered in Jerusalem for a council. Nevertheless, he could expect from them only the lot which the Lord had prophesied to His disciples: "'They will expel you from the synagogues. Yes, the hour is coming for everyone who kills you to think that he is offering worship to God.'"
Even James, and James alone of all the apostles, was murdered by the Jews. In him, the apostle and brother of the Lord, Christ Himself was once again rejected. The day of James' death was the final seal of Good Friday.
We possess two very old statements about the death of the apostle James, one from Josephus Flavkus, the Jewish historian, the other form Hegesippus, the Church writer. The first recorded the fact that, after the death of Festus, the governor of the province, there was no official representative in the land. Then the fanatical high priest, Ananus II, took advantage of this vacancy to destroy James, the brother of Jesus. He summoned him and a few others before the high priests, accused them of violating the Law, and sentenced them to be stoned. This was in the year 61 or 62, about thirty years after the Ascension. Epiphanius maintained that James was then ninety-six years old.
Hegesippus embellished Josephus' historical account with a few particulars, borrowed partly from legends, partly form the Gospels and Acts of the Apostles. According to his account, the Pharisees demanded from James that he mount the pinnacle of the temple-one cannot help but compare this with the account of the devil's temptation of Jesus-during the Easter season and make it clear to the people that Jesus was really not the Messias. Seemingly James consented. But when he reached the top of the temple, he preached before all the people that Jesus was the Messias, the Judge of the world. The Jewish leader, humiliated and enraged, immediately had James thrown down from the roof of the temple, and had his half-dead body stoned. James, as Stephen, prayed for his executioners.
This partly legendary account of Hegesippus continues: when a priest, shocked by the heroism of the apostle, tried to ward off this mad brutality-"Let off!" a fuller grabbed his felting stick and crushed the apostle's head. Therefore, artists have portrayed a club on the pictures of St James as a symbol of his suffering and martyrdom. His body was buried next to the temple, where, at the time of Hegesippus, "its pillars" were erected.
According to a statement of Gregory of Tours, the grave of James the Less was on the Mount of Olives, where Zachary, the father of John the Baptist, and the old Simeon were supposedly buried side by side. When Justinian II, who ruled from 565 to 578, had the relics of this brother of the Lord removed to the newly constructed Church of St James in Constantinople, the remains of Simeon and Zachary should also have been moved there. St Jerome, however, who was thoroughly familiar with such places, knew nothing in his time of any grave of James on the Mount of Olives. A later tradition maintained it was in the Valley of Jehoshaphat, southeast of the temple. The hollow (hewn from a rock there), which encloses other graves, is pointed out today as the "grave of James."
Since the sixth century, the Roman Church has celebrated the feast of the ascetical James the Less on the same day as the feast of the sober Philip, on May 1. The common feast of these two apostles, who walked together neither in Holy Scripture nor in apocryphal literature, is explained by the fact that in the sixth century a basilica was built in Rome in their honor. From this church-degli apostoli-we have grown accustomed to hearing their names together. This church was consecrated on May 1; after that, this date became the commemoration day of these two apostles, Philip and James the Less, in the Roman Rite.
Meditating on the life of this holy apostle, James the Less, one cannot help but think of his venerable relics, which lie near the temple, broken as a holy vessel of a last grace, a martyr of both the Old and New Testaments. Then years later the temple itself was broken and crushed as a punishment for the persistent refusal of grace. The Gospel, however, took its unhampered course, without provisos and stipulations, for all people in the entire world.
Divine Providence benevolently spared James the pain of living through and witnessing the destruction of Jerusalem, the final down fall the old era. Nevertheless, as a holy entreaty, James, the apostle of a faltering Judaism, stands before our own ages, before our own souls, to turn our own imminent destruction into an ascension to Christ, to admonish us to do good works and to accept the grace of God that we may be justified.
For if God has not spared the natural branches [Israel], perhaps he may not spare thee either. See, then, the goodness and the severity of God: his severity towards those who have fallen, but the goodness of God toward thee if thou abides in his goodness; otherwise thou also wilt be cut off.
The lesson of James, the apostle of a dying race, was less great-minor!-than that of his brother and partner, Paul, the apostle of many living races ascending to Christ. But it was no less difficult, and James fulfilled his divine mission nonetheless faithfully. Even he, the Less, is great in the kingdom of God!