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The New Testament is totally silent on the death of James, the brother of Jesus – known as James the Just. There is a story in Acts 12:1-4 about how King Herod had James, the brother of John, put to death with the sword – but this is a different James.
The New Testament does, however, document in great detail how James effected the seizing of Saul / Paul in the temple by “all the Jews” and the dragging of him outside to be executed – as the Torah commands a false prophet to be put to death. This story is found in Acts 21:17 to 36, and it gave Saul / Paul an obvious motive for revenge.
Josephus ben Mattathias (37 to 100 CE) was born in Jerusalem to a priestly and royal family. He was a Pharisee. He traveled to Rome in 62 CE to free some imprisoned priests which he successfully accomplished by having Nero’s wife, Poppaea, intercede on his behalf. He returned to Jerusalem in 65 CE -finding that his people had risen up in a revolt against Rome. He soon found himself caught up in the revolt and was taken prisoner by Vespasian’s Roman forces. Josephus joined the Roman side, was branded a traitor the rest of his life, and had to watch them destroy the second Temple and massacre his people. He is the Jewish historian of his time, if not of all time. On the death of James, the brother of Jesus, from his “Antiquities” Book 20, Chapter 9:
(CONCERNING ALBINUS UNDER WHOSE PROCURATORSHIP JAMES WAS SLAIN; ALSO WHAT EDIFICES WERE BUILT BY AGRIPPA.)
“And now Caesar, upon hearing the death of Festus, sent Albinus into Judea, as procurator. But the king deprived Joseph of the high priesthood, and bestowed the succession to that dignity on the son of Ananus, who was also himself called Ananus. Now the report goes that this eldest Ananus proved a most fortunate man; for he had five sons who had all performed the office of a high priest to God, and who had himself enjoyed that dignity a long time formerly, which had never happened to any other of our high priests. But this younger Ananus, who, as we have told you already, took the high priesthood, was a bold man in his temper, and very insolent; he was also of the sect of the Sadducees, who are very rigid in judging offenders, above all the rest of the Jews, as we have already observed; when, therefore, Ananus was of this disposition, he thought he had now a proper opportunity (to kill James and some of the others no doubt – if this is read in context). Festus was now dead, and Albinus was but upon the road; so he assembled the Sanhedrin (note this) of judges, and brought before them the brother of Jesus, who was called Christ, (by Saul’s / Paul’s Christians only) whose name was James, and some others;(others who did not stray from Jesus’ flock to become Christians) and when he had formed an accusation against them as breakers of the law, (Jesus came to set his people free spiritually, but also physically from the non-biblical laws that held his people captive to the corrupt, litigious Sadducees and Pharisees – the Sanhedrin) 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; they also sent to the king [Agrippa], desiring him to send to Ananus that he should act so no more, for that what he had already done was not to be justified; nay, some of them went also to meet Albinus, as he was upon his journey from Alexandria, and informed him that it was not lawful for Ananus to assemble a Sanhedrin without his consent. Whereupon Albinus complied with what they said, and wrote in anger to Ananus, and threatened that he would bring him to punishment for what he had done; on which king Agrippa took the high priesthood from him, when he had ruled but three months, and made Jesus, (a different Jesus, of course) the son of Damneus, high priest.” (Notice there is no mention of James testifying that Jesus is God, or is the Christ, or any of that in Josephus’ account. We do get some important facts that are tallied below.)
Hegesippus (100 to 180 CE) was the earliest of the Church’s chroniclers. He was a Palestinian Jewish Christian who summarized what he had learned Concerning the martyrdom of James, the brother of the Lord, from Book V.
“James, the Lord’s brother, succeeds to the government of the Church, in conjunction with the apostles. He has been universally called the Just, (this further verifies James, the brother of Jesus, is “James the Just”) from the days of the Lord down to the present time. For many bore the name of James; but this one was holy from his mother’s womb. He drank no wine or other intoxicating liquor, nor did he eat flesh; no razor came upon his head; he did not anoint himself with oil, nor make use of the bath (this is not to imply James was filthy, just that he was too holy to make use of the Roman public bath houses). He alone was permitted to enter the holy place: for he did not wear any woolen garment, but fine linen only. He alone, / say, was wont to go into the temple: and he used to be found kneeling on his knees, begging forgiveness for the people, so that the skin of his knees became horny like that of a camel’s, by reason of his constantly bending the knee in adoration to God, (notice he was not doing this in adoration to Jesus – who had already been raised to God and was now being worshipped by Saul’s Christians as God) and begging forgiveness for the people. Therefore, in consequence of his pre-eminent justice, he was called the Just, and Oblias, which signifies in Greek Defense of the People, and Justice, in accordance with what the prophets declare concerning him. Now some persons belonging to the seven sects existing among the people, which have been before described by me in the Notes, asked him: “What is the door of Jesus? ” And he replied that he was the savior. (Was he the savior because he died as a sin offering for the people, or because he brought his people (Israel) the Knowledge of Salvation? If the former, why did James feel the need to go into the temple daily and beg God for forgiveness for the people if their sins were forgiven by Jesus’ atoning sacrifice – as Saul’s / Paul’s gospel proclaimed? This makes it 100% clear that James was not a follower of Saul’s / Paul’s Christianity, yet he knew Jesus was the savior.) In Consequence of this answer, some believed that Jesus is the Christ. (Saul’s / Paul’s Christians took James’ statement that Jesus was the savior as being validation of Saul’s / Paul’s claim that Jesus was the Christ; note that only “some believed”, not “most” or “all”. No where did James say Jesus was the Christ.) But the sects before mentioned did not believe, either in a resurrection (so they weren’t Pharisees) or in the coming of one to requite every man according to his works; but those who did believe, believed because of James. So, when many even of the ruling class believed, there was a commotion among the Jews, and scribes, and Pharisees, (note that “the Jews”, as a group, are different from the scribes or Pharisees – we know “the Jews” here refers to the Elect and Jesus’ flock that did not stray off with the wolf in sheep’s clothing) who said: “A little more, and we shall have all the people looking for Jesus as the Christ. (So “the Jews”, the scribes (the Sadducees) and the Pharisees were concerned about the growing Christian doctrine that Jesus was the Christ – Saul’s / Paul’s doctrine / gospel.)
They (the scribes and Pharisees – as clarified later) came, therefore, in a body to James, and said: “We entreat thee, restrain the people: for they are gone astray in their opinions about Jesus, as if he were the Christ. (Here, they are obviously referring to Saul’s/ Paul’s Christians who were taught that Jesus was the Christ.) We entreat thee to persuade all who have come hither for the day of the Passover, concerning Jesus. For we all listen to thy persuasion; since we, as well as all the people, bear thee testimony that thou art just, and showest partiality to none. Do thou, therefore, persuade the people not to entertain erroneous opinions concerning Jesus: for all the people, and we also, listen to thy persuasion. Take thy stand, then, upon the summit of the temple, that from that elevated spot thou mayest be clearly seen, and thy words may be plainly audible to all the people. For, in order to attend the Passover, all the tribes (of Israel) have congregated hither, and some of the Gentiles also.”
The aforesaid scribes and Pharisees (see) accordingly set James on the summit of the temple, and cried aloud to him, and said: “0 just one, whom we are all bound to obey, for as much as the people are in error, and follow Jesus the crucified, do thou tell us what is the door of Jesus, the crucified.” And he answered with a loud voice: “Why ask ye me concerning Jesus the Son of man? (Notice here that James calls Jesus “son of man” whereas the strongest biblical evidence that Jesus claimed to be God was that he referred to himself as “son of man” and then later as “son of God”.) He Himself sitteth in heaven, at the right hand of the Great Power, and shall come on the clouds of heaven.” (If Jesus had used the Knowledge of Salvation to break free from this hellish Earthly kingdom (and its endless cycle of reincarnations) to become a god (and ascend to the next higher level of God’s creation – Heaven), this would seem to be backed up by what James is saying here, though obviously not acknowledged by the scribes and Pharisees (the Sanhedrin) who hated Jesus, had him executed, and are about to kill James on Saul’s / Paul’s behalf.)
And, when many were fully convinced by these words, and offered praise for the testimony of James (who never said Jesus was the Christ, or God – or even the son of God – nevertheless, Saul’s Christians took James’ validating Jesus as the savior as validation of Saul’s / Paul’s false gospel that Jesus the man was Jesus Christ (God), whose death somehow atoned for the sins of humanity), and said, “Hosanna to the son of David,” then again the Pharisees and scribes said to one another, “We have not done well in procuring this testimony to Jesus. But let us go up and throw him down, that they (the crowd) may be afraid, and not believe him (James).” And they cried aloud, and said: “Oh! oh! the just man himself is in error.” (Always remember, the scribes and Pharisees had led Israel astray; Jesus came to put them back on the right path (the Way) and had to fight with the scribes and Pharisees to pull the people away from their influence. The Sadducees and Pharisees hated Jesus, his followers, and James.) Thus they fulfilled the Scripture written in Isaiah: “Let us away with the just man, because he is troublesome to us: therefore shall they eat the fruit of their doings.” So they went up and threw down the just man, and said to one another: “Let us stone James the Just.” And they began to stone him: for he was not killed by the fall; but he turned, and kneeled down, and said: “I beseech Thee, Lord God our Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.” (Notice here that James is not praying to Jesus.)
While they were thus stoning him to death, one of the priests, the sons of Rechab, the son of Rechabim, to whom testimony is borne by Jeremiah the prophet, began to cry aloud, saying: “Cease, what do ye? The just man is praying for us.” But one among them, one of the fullers (one that cleans clothes by beating them in water with a club), took the staff (fuller’s club) with which he was accustomed to wring out the garments he dyed, and hurled it at the head of the just man.
And so he suffered martyrdom; and they buried him on the spot, and the pillar erected to his memory still remains, close by the temple. This man was a true witness to both Jews and Greeks that Jesus is the Christ. (The last sentence is Hegesippus’ conclusion, but he is a Christian interpreting what he had read through Christian “glasses”. No where did Hegesippus document that James thought, or said, that Jesus was God, or even the Christ – to the contrary. Why? Because James the Just was not a Christian; The important facts gleaned from this historical document are listed below.)
Jerome was an early Christian father (342 to 420 CE) and must have been hugely influence by the Church as it was after the Council of Nicea (325 CE). In his “Lives of Illustrious Men” he just cites from the earlier writings of Josephus, Hegesippus and Clement of Alexander.
Motive: The New Testament states clearly that Saul’s / Paul’s job from day one was to persecute Jesus’ followers (to death when necessary) on behalf of the Sadducees and Pharisees. When James, the leader after Jesus, set Saul / Paul up to be seized in the Temple, dragged outside and put to death (for being a false prophet), he became Saul’s / Paul’s number one target; unfortunately, Saul was incarcerated (under Roman house arrest and guard for his own protection) and needed help taking his revenge.
Means: Help came from those that Saul / Paul always (and even still) worked for – the Pharisees. Well after fathering his Christianity and calling them “Christians”, Saul / Paul revealed that he is not a Christian, but is still a proud Pharisee. In Acts 23:6 Saul / Paul addresses the Sanhedrin as “my brothers” and proclaims not that he was a Pharisee, but is now a Christian – no; instead, he proclaims “I am a Pharisee, descended from Pharisees.” He declares this right after boasting to the Sadducees and Pharisees that he has “fulfilled his duty to God” – no doubt referring to his having done the bidding of the Pharisees – attacking, infiltrating, and leading Jesus flock astray (his Christians) – his assignment (duty) from the very beginning.
Opportunity: The opportunity that presented itself is documented above by Josephus and was the opportunity that the Sadducees and Pharisees (Saul’s / Paul’s brothers still, as he himself declared) took advantage of as Josephus states they did.