James the Brother of Jesus and the Dead Sea Scrolls I

BOOK: James the Brother of Jesus and the Dead Sea Scrolls I
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James the Brother of Jesus and the Dead Sea Scrolls I

The Historical James, Paul the Enemy, and Jesus' Brothers as Apostles

Robert Eisenman


Grave Distractions Publications

Nashville, Tennessee


© 2012 Robert Eisenman

Mass Market eBook Edition

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or utilized in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or any information storage and retrieval system, without prior permission in writing from the publisher or author.



Monobazus and Kenedaeos, the two grandsons of the ‘Ethiopian Queen’, Freedom Fighters and Converts, who gave their

Lives at the Pass at Beit Horon

Jesus son of Sapphias, the Leader of the ‘Galilean’ Boatmen

and ‘the Party of the Poor’, who ‘poured out’ their blood

until ‘the whole Sea of Galilee ran red’


Orde Wingate and Jonathan Netanyahu





1. James

2. The Second Temple and the Rise of the Maccabees

3. Romans, Herodians, and Jewish Sects

4. First-Century Sources Mentioning James

5. Early Church Sources and the Dead Sea Scrolls


6. The First Appearance of James in Acts

7. The Picture of James in Paul’s Letters

8. James’ Succession and the Election to Fill Judas Iscariot’s Office

9. The Election of James in Early Church Tradition


10. James’ Rechabitism and Naziritism

11. James’ Vegetarianism, Abstention from Blood, and Consuming No Wine

12. James’ Bathing and Clothing Habits

13. James as Opposition High Priest and Oblias


14. The Stoning of James and the Stoning of Stephen

15. The Death of James in its Historical Setting

16. The Attack by Paul on James and the Attack on Stephen

17. The Truth about the Death of James

18. Peter’s Visit to Cornelius and Simon’s Visit to Agrippa


19. The Apostleship of James, Cephas, and John

20. James the First to See Jesus

21. Last Supper Scenarios, the Emmaus Road, and the Cup of the Lord

22. Jesus’ Brothers as Apostles

23. Simeon bar Cleophas and Simon the Zealot


24. Judas the Brother of James and the Conversion of King Agbar

25. The Conversion of Queen Helen and the Ethiopian Queen’s Eunuch

26. Judas Thomas and Theuda the Brother of the Just One


List of Abbreviations



James the brother of Jesus, usually known as James the Just because of his surpassing Righteousness and Piety, is a character familiar to those with some knowledge of Christian origins. He is not so well known to the public at large, an inevitable if peculiar result of the processes described in this book.

James is not only the key to clearing up a whole series of obfuscations in the history of the early Church, he is also the missing link between the Judaism of his day, however this is defined, and Christianity. Insofar as the ‘Righteous Teacher’ in the Dead Sea Scrolls occupies a similar position, the parallels between the two and the respective communities they led narrow considerably, even to the point of convergence.

In the introduction to an earlier book on this subject, I wrote with specific reference to James as follows:

In providing an alternative historical and textual framework in which to fit the most important Dead Sea Scrolls, it is to be hoped that most of the pre-conceptions that have dominated Scrolls research for so long will simply fade away and new ideas will be brought into play and previously unused sources given their proper scope. When this is done, individual beings, the facts of whose lives tradition has distorted beyond recognition or who have been otherwise consigned to historical oblivion, will spring immediately to life and a whole series of associated historical fabrications and accusations evaporate.

It is to the task of rescuing James, consigned to the scrap heap of history, that this book is dedicated. James the Just has been systematically downplayed or written out of the tradition. When he suddenly emerges as the leader of the ‘
Jerusalem Church
’ or ‘
’ in Acts 12:17, there is no introduction as to who he is or how he has arrived at his position. Acts’ subsequent silence about his fate, which can be pieced together only from extra-biblical sources and seems to have been absorbed into the accounts both about the character we now call ‘
’ and even Jesus himself, obscures the situation still further.

Once the New Testament reached its final form, the process of James’ marginalization became more unconscious and inadvertent but, in all events, it was one of the most successful rewrite – or overwrite – enterprises ever accomplished. James ended up ignored, an ephemeral figure on the margins of Christianity, known only to aficionados. But in the Jerusalem of his day in the 40’s to 60’s CE, he was the most important figure of all – ‘
the Bishop
’ or ‘
of the Jerusalem Church.

Designated as ‘
the brother
’ of Jesus, James the Just is often confused or juxtaposed, and this probably purposefully, with another James, designated by Scripture as ‘
James the brother of John
’, the ‘
son of Zebedee
’, thus increasing his marginalization. This multiplication of like-named individuals in Scripture was often the result of the rewrite or overwrite processes just remarked.

There is a collateral aspect to this welter of like-named characters in the New Testament – even going so far as to include ‘Mary the sister of’ her own sister Mary (John 19:25). These instances are all connected with downplaying the family of Jesus and writing it out of Scripture. This was necessary because of the developing doctrine of the supernatural Christ and the stories about his miraculous birth.


The leader of the ‘Jerusalem Assembly’, James met his death at the hands of a hostile Establishment before the events that culminated in the Uprising against Rome and the destruction of the Temple (66–70 CE). To have been ‘Bishop’ of the Jerusalem
(Church, Assembly, or Community) was to have been the head of the whole of Christianity, whatever this might have been in this period. Not only was the centre at Jerusalem the principal one before the destruction of the Temple and the reputed flight of the Jamesian community to a city beyond the Jordan called Pella, but there were hardly any others of any importance.

Because of James’ preeminent stature, the sources for him turn out to be quite extensive. In fact, extra-biblical sources contain more reliable information about James than about Jesus. There are also strong parallels between the Community led by James and the one reflected in the Dead Sea Scrolls. This is particularly true when one considers the relationship of James to the person known in the Scrolls as ‘the Teacher of Righteousness’ or ‘Righteous Teacher’. This book will present an alternative way of viewing the Scrolls; so many doctrines, allusions, and turns of phrase in these texts are common to both traditions that the parallels become impossible to ignore.

The research I am presenting here was originally completed under a National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship at the Albright Institute in Jerusalem in 1985–6, where the Scrolls were first photographed in 1947. It was during the tenure of this award that the insights became clear to me that led to the struggle for open access to the Scrolls, and the final collapse of the scholarly élite controlling their publication and, even more importantly, their interpretation.

But the subject of the person and teaching of James in the Jerusalem of his day is not only more important simply than his relationship to the Scrolls, it is quite independent of it. Even without insisting on any identification of James with the Righteous Teacher of the Scrolls, the Movement led by James – and it does seem to have been a ‘Movement’ – will be shown to have been something quite different from the Christianity with which we are now familiar. James’ relationship to the Scrolls is only collateral not intrinsic to this.

One of the central theses of this book will be the identification of James as the centre of the ‘opposition alliance’ in Jerusalem, involved in and precipitating the Uprising against Rome in 66–70 CE. The Dead Sea Scrolls, while important, only further substantiate conclusions such as this, providing additional insight into it.

In the course of this book, it will become clear that it was James who was the true successor to his more famous brother Jesus and the leader of what we now call ‘Christianity’, not the more Hellenized Peter, the ‘Rock’ of the Roman Church. Peter may not be as historical as we think he is, and the role we attribute to him may possibly be an amalgam of that of several individuals, one a martyred cousin of both Jesus and James and their reputed successor in Palestine, Simeon bar Cleophas.

Roman Power and its Effects

It is a truism that the victors write the history. The period before us is no exception. Paul would have been very comfortable with this proposition, as he makes clear in 1 Corinthians, where he announces his
modus operandi
of making himself ‘all things to all men’ and his philosophy of ‘winning’ and ‘not beating the air’ (9:24–27). So would his younger contemporary, the Jewish historian Josephus (
37–96 CE), who in the introductions to his several works also shows himself to be well aware of the implications of this proposition without being able to avoid its inevitable consequences.

There is in this period one central immovable fact, that of Roman power. This was as elemental as a state of nature, and all movements and individual behaviour must be seen in relation to it. But the unsuspecting reader is often quite unaware of it, when inspecting documents that emanate from this time or trying to come to grips with what was actually a highly charged and extremely revolutionary situation in Palestine. This is the problem we have to face in this period, not only where individuals are concerned, but also in the documents that have come down to us. For example, in the Gospels, probably products of the end of this period, one would have difficulty recognizing that this highly charged situation existed in the Galilee in which Jesus wanders peacefully about, curing the sick, chasing out demons, raising the dead, and performing other ‘mighty works and wonders’.

But in the parallel vocabulary of a key Dead Sea Scroll text treating the final apocalyptic war against all Evil on the earth, led by the Messiah and the Heavenly Host, these same Messianic ‘mighty works and wonders’ are the battles God fights on behalf of His people and the marvelous victories He wins. In this document, known as the
War Scroll
, we are in the throes of an apocalyptic picture of Holy War, with which the partisans of Oliver Cromwell’s militant Puritanism in seventeenth-century England would have felt comfortable.

On the other hand, where the Gospels are concerned, we are in a peaceful, Hellenized countryside, where Galilean fishermen cast their nets or mend their boats. Would it were true. The scenes in the New Testament depicting Roman officials and military officers sometimes as near-saints, or the members of the Herodian family – their appointed custodians and tax collectors in Palestine – as bumbling but well-meaning dupes also have to be understood in the light of this submissiveness to Roman power. The same can be said for the scenes featuring the vindictiveness of the Jewish mob. These are obviously included to please not a Jewish audience but a Roman or a Hellenistic one. This is also true of the presentation of the Jewish Messiah – call him ‘Jesus’ – as a politically disinterested, otherworldly (in Roman terms,
, harmless), even sometimes pro-Roman itinerant, at odds with his own people and family, preaching a variety of Plato’s representation of the
of Socrates or the
Pax Romana
. Josephus, whose own works suffer from many of these same distortions, was himself a defector to the Roman cause. Much like Paul, he owed his survival, as well as that of his works, to this fact. Both, it seems, either had or were to achieve Roman citizenship, Josephus in the highest manner possible – adoption into the Roman imperial family. His works were encouraged by persons previously high up in the Roman Emperor Nero’s chancellery (54–68 CE) and equally favoured later under Domitian (81–96 CE), with whom Paul also seems to have been in close touch.

BOOK: James the Brother of Jesus and the Dead Sea Scrolls I
7.94Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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