The Murder of James

    The bible is clear that Jesus had plenty of siblings. These would be half-brothers and half-sisters, in that Jesus came from Mary while she was still a virgin, and the rest therefore, came from the loins of Joseph afterward. Matthew 13:55-56 records the views of the Jews toward Jesus, as they said “Is this not the carpenter’s son? Is not His mother called Mary? And His brothers James, Joses, Simon, and Judas? And His sisters, are they not all with us? Where then did this Man get all these things?” So then, of the four brothers that Jesus grew up with, there was one named James. While Mary always knew that Jesus was to be the Savior of man, James and the other brothers of our Lord had a difficult time accepting this, and understandingly so. Consider that Jesus was like any other kid growing up, and it was not until He was around thirty that He received the Holy Spirit from His Father in heaven, and thus began to do great wonders and miracles during His ministry. Notice that, early in His ministry, Jesus’ brothers did not believe that He was the Son of God (John 7:3-5). In time, after further observance of Jesus, His brothers changed their mind and accepted the truth that their brother was the Messiah. Maybe it was sometime during the ministry of Christ, or maybe it was when they witnessed His resurrection and ascension into heaven; whatever the case may be, it is clear that they numbered themselves with the believers: “These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with His brothers” (Acts 1:14).

    About thirty years later, Josephus picks up on the history of James. Josephus records that a man name Ananus became high priest of the Jews. He says that Ananus “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” (Antiquities 20.9.1). Josephus goes further in saying that on a day when Festus had recently died, that Caesar had sent out his replacement, named Albinus. Before this new Roman Procurator arrived, Ananus took opportunity to exercise authority and unlawfully assembled the Sanhedrin council. Josephus then records that Ananus “brought before them the brother of Jesus, who was called Christ, whose name was James, and some others, [or, some of his companions]; and when he had formed an accusation against them as breakers of the law, 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 sanhedrim without his consent.”

    It is clear that Josephus and the majority of the Jews were greatly against the actions of Ananus. Ananus only seemed to be taking an opportunity to get rid of certain people who had been in disagreement with him in the past. One of these, as Josephus mentions, is “the brother of Jesus, who was called Christ, whose name was James.” Critics and scholars both agree on the authenticity of this statement of Josephus. Considering the corroborative words of Josephus along with the biblical text, we can come to a probable conclusion. James, one of the four brothers of Jesus, who at first did not believe, became a believer, and thus a Christians, as is evident from the New Testament text. Thirty years later, James is on the bad side of the wrong person, Ananus, who had him and certain others stoned to death on the grounds that they were all “breakers of the law.” It is clear that Ananus only saw James and these others (who I believe to be Christians as well) as breakers of the law of Moses because of their teachings and practice in the law of Christ. I believe Josephus is mentioning an act of persecution by Ananus on a few of the Christians. All in all, the facts are that Josephus’ record is in harmony with the parallel facts in the gospel that there was a Jesus, called the Christ, who had a brother named James.

Historical Evidences of the Gospel: Murder of James
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Tanner Campbell

Tanner Campbell has been preaching since 2004. He began preaching in California, and spent 8 years preaching full-time in Arkansas before moving his family of four to the Black Hills of South Dakota to preach for the Southside church of Christ in 2014.