Page images
PDF
EPUB

On the other hand, Origen, Epiphanius, and other ancient writers, both Greeks and Latins, were of opinion, that James the Lord's brother was not the son of the Virgin's sister, but of Joseph our Lord's reputed father, by a former wife, who died before he espoused the Virgin. Of the same opinion were Vossius, Basnage, and Cave among the Proiestants, and Vale. sius among the Romanists. Epiphanius and Theophylact supposed, that Joseph's first wife was the widow of Alpheus, who being Joseph's brother, Joseph married her to raise up seed to him, and therefore James the issue of that marriage was fitly called the son of Alpheus, and brother of our Lord. But these suppositions might have been spared, if the ancients and moderns had recollected, that near relations were called brethren by the Hebrews; and that Alpheus and Cleophas are the same names differently written.

James the less, the son of Alpheus, being not only the Lord's near relation, but an apostle, whom, as is generally supposed, he honoured in a particular manner, by appearing to him alone after his resurrection, 1 Cor. xv. 7. these circumstances, toge. ther with his own personal merit, rendered him of such nole among the apostles, that they appointed him to reside in Jerusalem, and to superintend the church there. This appointment, Lardner says, was made soon after the martyrdom of Stephen; and in support of his opinion he observes, “ That Peter always “ speaks first as president among the apostles, until after the “ choice of the seven deacons. Every thing said of St. James " after that, implies his presiding in the church of Jerusalem." Canon. vol. iii. p. 28. For example : When the apostles and elders at Jerusalem came together to consider whether it was needful to circumcise the Gentiles, after there had been much disputing, Peter spake, Acts xv. 7. Then Barnabas and Paul, ver. 12. And when they had ended, James summed up the arguments, and proposed the terms on which the Gentiles were to be received into the church, ver. 19, 20, 21. to which the whole assembly agreed, and wrote letters to the Gentiles conformably to the opinion of James, ver. 22.-29. From this it is inferred, that James presided in the council of Jerusalem be. cause he was president of the church in that city. Chrysostom, in his homily on Acts xv. says, “ James was Bishop of Jerusa66 lem, and therefore spake last.”

In the time of this council Paul communicated the gospel which he preached among the Gentiles to three of the apostles, whom he calls pillars ; and tells us, that when they perceived the inspiration and miraculous powers which he possessed, they gave him the right hands of fellowship, mentioning James first, Gal. ii. 9. And knowing the grace that was bestowed on me, Jumes, Cephas, and John, who were pillars, gave to me and Barnabas the right hands of fellowship. This implies, that James, whom in the first chapter he had called the Lord's brother, was not only an apostle, but the presiding apostle in the church of Jerusalein. In the same chapter, Paul giving an account of what happened after the council, says, ver. 11. When Peter was come to Antiochs 12. Before that certain came from James, he did eat with the Gentiles : But when they were come, he withdrew, and separated himself, fearing them who were of the circumcision. This shews that James resided at Jerusalem, and presided in the church there, and was greatly respected by the Jewish believers. The same circumstance appears from Acts xxi. 17. Where, giving an account of Paul's journey to Jerusalem with the collections for the saints in Judea, Luke says, ver. 18. Paul went in with us to James, and all the elders were present. Farther, the respect in which James was held by the apostles, appears from two. facts recorded by Luke. The first is, When Paul came to Jerusalem three years after his conversion, Barnabas took him and brought him to Peter and James as the chief apostles. Compare Acts ix. 27. with Gal. i. 19. The second fact is, After Peter was miraculously delivered out of prison, about the time of the passover in the year 44. He came to the house of Marywhere many were gathered together praying, Acts xii. 12.-And when he had declared to them how the Lord had brought him out of prison, he said, Go shew these things to James, and to the brethren, ver. 17.—These particulars are mentioned by Lardner, and before him by Whitby and Cave, lo shew that James the Lord's brother, was really an apostle in the strict acceptation of the word; consequently, that Eusebius was mistaken, when he placed him among the seventy disciples. E. H. lib 1. c. 12.

In the history of the Acts, there are some circumstances which, as learned men bave remarked, lead us to conclude, that the apostles, by common agreement, allotted to each other the offices and duties which they were to perform. Thus, Acts viii. 14. When the apostles, who were at Jerusalem, heard that Samaria had received the word, they sent to them Peter und John.-

41

VOL. V.

Acts xi. 22. Then tidings of these things, (namely, that a number of the Hellenist Jews in Antioch had received the word,) came to the ears of the church which was in Jerusalem, and they sent forth Barnabas, that he should go as far as Antioch.-Gal. ii. 9. When James, Cephas, and John, perceived the grace that was given to me, they gave to me and Barnabas the right hands of fellowshis, that we should go to the Gentiles, and they to the cir. cumcision. Wherefore, if James the Lord's brother was really president of the church in Jerusalem, as was formerly mentioned, and as the ancients universally affirm, he was in all probability placed in that station by the appointment, or with the approbation, of the other apostles, as an ancient tradition, preserved by Eusebius and Jerome, informs us. But Epiphanius, Chrysostom, Oecumenius, and Photius think he was raised to that office by our Lord himself.—That one of the apostles should reside constantly in Jerusalem, to whom the faithful might apply for advice in any difficult case, was very proper; because circumstances might make it necessary for the greatest part of the apostles to leave Jerusalem., and go to other countries. Wherefore, as James the Lord's brother was a person of singular prudence, and great authority, as well as an apostle, he was well qualified for that important station, and may have been appointed to it by common consent. And as every apostle, by virtue of his superior character and illumination, had a right to di. rect the affairs of the church where he happened to reside, the apostle James, by constantly residing in Jerusalem, became the perpctual president and director of the church there; on which account the ancients called him the Bishop of Jerusalem.

Lardner's character of James deserves a place here. “ Though “ we do not allow ourselves to enlarge on every thing said of « him in the history of the council of Jerusalem, and his recep« tion of Paul when he came up to Jerusalem and was imprison“ed: yet I suppose, that every one may have discerned marks " of an excellent character, and of his admirably uniting zeal and “ discretion, a love of truth and condescension to weak brethren. “ His epistle confirms that character. I think likewise, that the “ preservation of his life in such a station as his, to the time “ when he is mentioned last by Luke, may induce us to believe, “ that he was careful to be inoffensive in his behaviour to the “ unbelieving part of the Jewish nation, and that he was had in “ reverence by many of them.” Can. vol. iii. p. 20.

James the Lord's brother was surnamed the less, John xix. 25. either because he was younger than James the son of Zebedee, or because he was a person of small stature, which is the literal meaning of 78 pesseps, the little. James was likewise surnamed the Just, not indeed in the New Testament, but by the ancients, who gave him that appellation on account of his singular virtue. Some indeed have supposed James the Just to be a different person from James the son of Alpheus, and have ascribed this epistle to him ; but I think without foundation. For, as there are only two persons of the name of James mentioned in scripture as apostles, and as the most ancient Christian writers have given James the Lord's brother the surname of the Just, there is no reason to believe that there was any third

person of the name of James, who was surnamed the Just, and who was the writer of this epistle. See Euseb. E. H. lib. ii. c. i. Lard. Com. vol. iii. p. 26.

SECTION II.

Of the Authenticity and Authority of the Epistle of James. Beza in his preface to this epistle tells us, that in the Syriac version, (I suppose he means the second Syriac), the general title prefixed to the Catholic epistles is, The three episiles of the three apostles before whose eyes the Lord transfigured himself. Wherefore, according to that translator, the author of this epistle was James the son of Zebedee ; in which opinion he hath been followed by the Arabic translator, and by some modern commentators. But on that supposition, the epistle of James must have been written the first of all the epistles; namely, before the year 43 or 44. for in one of these years James the son of Zebedee was put to death by Herod, Acts xii. 2. The errors, however, and vices reproved in this epistle, shew it to be of a much later date, being the very errors and vices which gave occasion to the epistles of Peter, and John, and Jude, which all agree were written towards the conclusion of the lives of these apostles. Besides, there are passages in the epistle itself, which imply, that at the time it was written the destruction of Jerusalem was at hand. For these reasons, Jerome's opinion, formerly mentioned, page 4. ought to be adopted, who tells us, that this epistle was written by James, who was called

[ocr errors]

the Lord's brother, because he was the son of Mary the sister of our Lord's mother.

That this epistle was anciently esteemed a part of the sacred Canon, we learn from Eusebius, whose words I will recite. E. H. lib. 3. c. 25 : “ Here it will be proper to enumerate, in a

summary way, the books of the New Testament, which have « been already mentioned. And, in the first place, are to be “ ranked the four sacred gospels; then the book of the Acts of “the Apostles ; after that are to be reckoned the Epistles of « Paul; in the next place, that called the First Epistle of John, " and the first of Peter ; after these is to be placed, if it be " thought fit, the Revelation of John, the opinions of the ancients “ concerning which we shall in due season explain. Now these « are among the acknowledged books. Among the contradicted, “ but yet well known to many,' or approved by many,“ are that “ called the Epistle of James, and that of Jude, and the second of “ Peter, and the second and third of John whether they were “ actually composed by the Evangelist, or by another of the same " name.” From this p.:ssage it appears, that in the beginning of the fourth century, the seven episties called Catholic were well known, and received by many, though some of them were not received by all. Farther, the same author i E. H. lib. 2. c. 23.) writes as follows: “ Thus far concerning James, the writer of “ the first epistle called Catholic. But it ought to be observed, " that, vo. Sevetai, it is thought spurious" By which Eusebius does not mean that it was in his time thought a forged writing, but that it had not been universally received by the church, as is evident from the reason which he subjoins : “ For as much as " there are not many of the ancient writers who have quoted it,

as neither that called Jude's, another of the epistles named " Catholic. However, we know, that these also are commonly " used,” that is, publicly read, “ in most churches with the rest." From this passage it appears, that notwithstanding the epistle of James was doubted of by some, and not often quoted by the ancients, it was in Eusebius's days generally received, and publicly read in the churches of Christ.

That the epistle of James was early esteemed an inspired writing, is evident from the following fact: That, while the se. cond epistle of Peter, the second and third of John, the epistle of Jude, and the Revelation, are omitied in the first Syriac trar.slation of the New Testament, which was made in the beginning

« PreviousContinue »