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by Joseph Sutcliffe
THE GENERAL EPISTLE OF JAMES.
THE gospel says that St. John, the son of Zebedee and of Salome, had a brother of the name of James, who was called by our Saviour to be one of the twelve apostles. This James was beheaded by the command of Herod Agrippa in the forty fourth year of Christ. Acts 12:1-2.
St. James, the Lord’s brother, was a different person from the above; his mother’s name was Mary, and his brethren, Joses, Judas, and Simon, who are all mentioned in the gospel. St. Mark calls him James the less, to distinguish him from James the brother of John. He was also called James the just, and by St. Paul the brother of the Lord. James the son of Alpheus is also named as one of the twelve.
To elucidate the enquiry, whether James the son of Alpheus be the same person with James the Lord’s brother, we must make some farther research. Many of the ancients have thought that he was the son of Joseph by a former wife, before he was married to the virgin Mary. But Jerome rejects this notion, and maintains that he was the son of Alpheus and of Mary, sister of the virgin, and of course the cousin of our Lord; and first cousins, in the sacred text, are often called brethren. Jerome therefore elegantly styles him the thirteenth apostle. The reader may collate the words of the evangelists, and determine for himself. Matthew 27:55-56. Mark 6:3; Mark 16:1. Joh 19:25 .
When St. Paul went up to Jerusalem, he found Peter, James, and John, who were regarded as pillars in the church. Galatians 1:17. The Lord had specially appeared to James after his resurrection, as is mentioned by Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:7. He presided in Jerusalem for about thirty years, and no man in the church was more illustrious for piety.
His martyrdom, it would seem, was plotted by the sadducees, the scribes and pharisees, during the absence of the governor. They placed him on a pinnacle, or some elevation of the temple, and required him to declare his faith respecting Christ. The people being called together, and excited to tumult, the holy apostle nobly confessed the truth, that Jesus Christ was the Messiah. This was as a signal to the wicked; they threw him down from the elevation where he stood; but not being killed by the fall, the jews stoned him while he kneeled, praying for his enemies, till a man terminated his existence by a stroke on the head with a pole. But in about seven or eight years, the Lord avenged the blood of his saints. The learned reader may see the whole of St. James’s martyrdom in Josephus, Ant. Judges 20:8. Hegesippus 5. Clem. Alex. Hypot. 8.
The authenticity of this epistle has run the gauntlet of criticism, as to its design, its characters, and its doctrines; but it has fully maintained itself, as the genuine production of James, and a book divinely inspired. The ideas are clear, the theology pure, and the language bold and strong; all of which will appear in the comments. Its apparent incongruity with the writings of Paul on the subject of justification, occasioned many in former times to doubt its authenticity, but there is no real ground for such objections.
the Second Week of Advent