About James

The following is an extract about James from the ancient Christian historian Eusebius, who writes about James in the twenty-third chapter of the second book of his Ecclesiastical History:

"But when Paul had appealed to Caesar, and Festus had sent him to Rome, the Jews being disappointed in their design against him, turned their rage against James, the Lord's brother, to whom the apostles had consigned the episcopal chair of Jerusalem, and in this manner they proceeded against him: having laid bold of him, they required him, in the presence of all the people, to renounce his faith in Christ; but he, with freedom and boldness beyond expectation, before all the multitude declared our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ to be the Son of God.

They, not enduring the testimony of a man who was in high esteem for his piety, laid hold of the opportunity when the country was without a governor to put him to death; for Festus having died about that time in Judea, the province had in it no procurator. The manner of the death of James was shown before in the words of Clement, who said that he was thrown off the battlement of the temple, and then beat to death with a club.

But no one has so accurately related this transaction as Hegesippus, a man in the first succession of the apostles, in the fifth book of his Commentaries, whose words are to this purpose:

James, the brother of our Lord, undertook, together with the apostles, the government of the Church. He has been called the Just by all, from the time of our Saviour to ours; for many have been named James; but he was holy from his mother's womb.

He drank neither wine nor strong drink, nor did he eat any animal food; there never came a razor upon his head; he neither anointed himself with oil, nor did he use a bath. To him alone was it lawful to enter the holy place. He wore no woolen, but only linen garments.

He entered into the temple alone, where he prayed upon his knees; insomuch that his knees were become like the knees of a camel by means of his being continually upon them, worshipping God, and praying for the forgiveness of the people. Upon account of his virtue he was called the just, and Oblias, that is, the defense of the people, and righteousness.

Some, therefore, of the seven sects which were among the Jews, of whom I spoke in the former part of these Commentaries, asked him, "Which is the gate of Jesus?" or, "What is the gate of salvation?" and he said, "Jesus is the Saviour, or the way of salvation." Some of them therefore believed that Jesus is the Christ. And many of the chief men also believing, there was a disturbance among the Jews and among the scribes and Pharisees, who said there was danger lest all the people should think Jesus to be the Christ.

Coming therefore to James they said, "We beseech thee to restrain the error of this people; we entreat thee to persuade all who come hither at the time of Passover to think rightly concerning Jesus, for all the people and all of us put confidence in thee. Stand therefore on the battlement of the temple, that being placed on high thou mayest be conspicuous, and thy words may be easily heard by all the people; for because of the Passover all the tribes are come hither, and many Gentiles."

Therefore the scribes and Pharisees before named placed James upon the battlement of the temple, and cried out to him, and said, "O Justus, whom we ought all to believe, since the people are in an error, following Jesus, who was crucified, tell us what is the gate of Jesus." And he answered with a loud voice, "Why do you ask me concerning the Son of man? He even sitteth in the heaven, at the right hand of the great Power, and will come in the clouds of heaven."

And many were fully satisfied and well pleased with the testimony of James, saying, Hosanna to the Son of David!

But the same scribes and Pharisees said one to another, We have done wrong in procuring such a testimony to Jesus. Let us go up and throw him down, that the people may be terrified from giving credit to him. And they went up presently, and cast him down, and said, Let us stone James the just: and they began to stone him because he was not killed by the fall.

But he turning himself, kneeled, saying, I entreat thee, O Lord God the Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do. As they were stoning him, one said, "Give over. What do ye? The just man prays for you." And one of them, a fuller, took a pole, which was used to beat clothes with, and struck him on the head. Thus, his martyrdom was completed.

And they buried him in that place; and his monument still remains near the temple. This James was a true witness, both to Jews and Gentiles, that Jesus is the Christ. Soon after Judea was invaded by Vespasian, and the people were carried captive.'

Now here Eusebius quotes another historian - Hegesippus - who also writes about James

So writes Hegesippus at large, agreeably to Clement. For certain, James was an excellent man, and much esteemed by many for his virtue; insomuch that the most thoughtful men among the Jews were of opinion that his death was the cause of the siege of Jerusalem, which followed soon after his martyrdom; and that it was owing to nothing else but the wickedness committed against him. And Josephus says the same in these words:

'These things befell the Jews in vindication of James the Just, who was brother of Jesus, called the Christ. For the Jews killed him, who was a most righteous man.'

"The time of the death of James may be determined without much difficulty; he was alive when Paul came to Jerusalem at the Pentecost, in 58 A.D., and it is likely that he was dead when Paul wrote the Epistle to the Hebrews at the beginning of 63 A.D. Theodoret, upon Heb 13:7, supposes the apostle there to refer to the martyrdoms of Stephen, James the brother of John, and James the just. According to Hegesippus, the death of James happened about the time of Passover, which might be that of 62 A.D.; and if Festus was then dead, and Albinus not arrived, the province was without a governor. Such a season left the Jews at liberty to gratify their licentious and turbulent disposition, and they were very likely to embrace it."

from Adam Clarke's Commentary about James