Jesus’ Lost Brother

I’m sitting on the back deck with my wife having a dark roast and worshipping my goddess. I got to thinking about one of Jesus’ brothers, James. He was sometimes called “James the Just” by the early church fathers. I call him the “Lost brother of Jesus.” Lost, because he is hardly ever mentioned in the New Testament. But, according to many early Christians he was the leader of the apostles after Jesus’ death and resurrection.

Jesus grew up with four “half” brothers – James, Joses, Simon and Judas – and sisters (Matthew 13:55-56). There’s nothing about the lives of the young brothers as they grew up so we know nothing of the relationship of James to Jesus or the rest of the brothers. James was present with the other brothers in the upper room where God sent the Holy Spirit to the group after Jesus’ resurrection.

During Jesus’ ministry the initial followers, the twelve apostles, didn’t think of themselves as a new religious group. They were Jews living in a Jewish culture. James the Just was not one of the twelve but strictly adhered to the teachings of Jesus. Paul explicitly recognizes James, the brother of Jesus, who stands first along with Peter and John, as the “pillars” of the movement (Galatians 2:9, 12). The author of Acts, however, appears to marginalize James and only mentions James twice (Acts 15:13, 21:18) throughout the entire book.

The epistle of James was labelled a “disputed” work and was barely included in the canon of the New Testament. It was excluded in an early manuscript known as the Codex Muratorian. Even Martin Luther called it “an epistle of straw.” The reason the epistle of James presents problems to Christians is that James repeatedly upholds the need to keep God’s laws and referring to the Ten Commandments as “the royal law” (James 2:8). His epistle shares far more similarities to the words of Jesus than either Paul or Peter. James does not change Jesus’ teachings. James says that without works, your faith is dead. Works enhances our faith.

The Roman Catholics look to Peter as true leader of the Christian chruch. Most Protestants approve of Paul’s “believing without works” theology. I don’t see too many Christians relating to James the Just, though. I can see why. Jesus’ teachings require us to do something – feeding the poor, tending to the sick, giving alms, giving up wealth and possessions – and isn’t such a popular religion at all. It’s too hard – our culture cannot handle that!

Time for another cup y’all.

One thought on “Jesus’ Lost Brother

  1. Aren’t Jesus’ teachings, and thus James,’ the antithesis of capitalism? I would think it would be difficult to worship money and live by the teachings of Jesus and James. It would be easier to be a Paulist, which most christians seem to be, today.

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