Man Without Qualities

Thursday, October 24, 2002

UPDATE: Could They Have Saved Themselves The Trip?

An astute reader points out that The Man Without Qualities exhibits religious confusion with this post.

The New Testament mentions at least two persons named "James", probably at least three, and perhaps as many as eight. In particular, there were two Apostles named "James:"

The first Apostle James was the son of Zebedeethe, and that Apostle is called the Greater (or Major).

The second Apostle James was the son of Alphaeus, and that Apostle is called the Lesser (or Minor). James the Lesser appears on lists of the Twelve Apostles (usually in the ninth place), but is never mentioned otherwise.

Tradition has it that James the Greater made a missionary journey to Spain, and that after his death his body was taken to Spain and buried there at Compostela. It is the grave of James the Greater that the pilgrims in the Middle Ages visted.

The ossuary may have held the remains of yet a third "James": James the Just. By some traditions, James the Just may have been the same person as James the Lesser, but definitely was not James the Greater. So all those Compostela pilgrims were not trying to visit the grave of the same person whose bones may have been in the ossuary. What a relief!

James the Just is called "the brother of the Lord." He appears in Acts 12:17 and thereafter (A 15:13; 21:18; 1C 15:17; Ga 1:19; 2:9,12) as the leader of the Jerusalem congregation. He is counted by later Church historians as the first bishop of Jerusalem. According to the Jewish historian Josephus, James the Just was put to death by order of the high priest during an interval between Roman governors, over the protests of the Pharisees. James the Just is sometimes called "James of Jerusalem" or "James Protepiscopus" (first bishop) or even "James the Brother of God, Vesperal Divine".

James the Just was, according to some, a son of the same Joseph who was husband of the Virgin Mary. By that tradition the mother of James the Just was not the Virgin but a wife that Joseph had before he was betrothed to the Virgin Mary. This is how the tradition justifies calling James the Just "the brother of the Lord" (Matt. 13:55). This tradition leads to the conclusion that James the Just was not James the Lesser, since James the Lesser was the son of Alphaeus.

But another Christian tradition says that James the Just was a nephew of Joseph, and the son of Joseph's brother Cleopas, who was also called Alphaeus, and his wife, who was the first cousin of the Virgin Mary. But even according to this genealogy, James the Just is still called the Lord’s brother because of their kinship. This tradition seem to lead to the conclusion that James the Lesser was the same person as James the Just (and therefore possibly the person referenced on the ossuary). But this tradition also leads to the conclusion that the ossuary - which identifies its contents as the reamins of "James, the brother of Jesus" - was written according to a then new church tradition but contrary to biological genealogy, which to me, at least, would be a pretty strange thing to do.

FURTHER UPDATE: The Wall Street Journal has more.

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