James (brother of Jesus)

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James (in exegesis also called " Lord Brother James " or " James the Just ") ( יַעֲקֹב Jaʿakow ) (* probably after 4 BC ; † 62 or 69 AD, probably Jerusalem ) was a central figure of the early Jerusalem community as the "brother of the Lord" ( Jesus or brothers and sisters of Jesus ) . James is said to have been a Nazarite . These were an ascetic group in Judaism , z. B. cut neither the hair nor the beard and completely renounced alcoholic beverages.

"Gentleman brother"

James is referred to by Paul as “the brother of the Lord” ( Gal 1.19  ELB ). In Mk 6.3  ELB and Mt 13.55  ELB he is the first in the line of the four “brothers” of Jesus of Nazareth ; from this it can be concluded that he was the oldest brother of Jesus .

The decision as to whether “brothers” means biological brothers or close relatives was discussed for a long time in exegesis . The traditional Catholic (and Orthodox) exegesis referred to the double meaning of the Aramaic or Greek original word as well as to that in Mk 15.40.47  ELB ; Mk 16.1  ELB named Mary, who was definitely not the mother of Jesus, and her sons James and Joses named in Mk 15.40  ELB , who agree with the names of the two first "brothers" from Mk 6.3  ELB . Therefore she saw in the Lord Brothers either stepbrothers from a previous marriage of Joseph or cousins ​​of Jesus.

Most of the research is now ready to see James as a biological brother of Jesus. Therefore, the Lord Brother is probably neither with James, the son of Alphaeus , (also called James the Younger ) nor with James the Little , who is only mentioned by name in the Gospels.


Little is known of James' early life. In Mk 3:21, 31–35  ELB and Joh 7,1–10  ELB it is said of Jesus 'brothers that they did not believe in Jesus' mission and claim. It remains questionable whether this was actually the case or whether it is due to the programmatic intention of the gospel writers to include Jesus in the tradition of the prophets ( Elijah , Jeremiah ) who were rejected in their homeland .

With regard to 1 Cor 15.7  ESV , it is mostly assumed that James came to believe after a resurrection apparition. In Acts 1,14  ELB the brothers of Jesus appear in the circle of believers and Paul meets Peter and James on his first trip to Jerusalem in AD 35 ( Gal 1,19  ELB ). Although as one of four (besides Peter, Maria Magdalena and Paul) in the early Christian community he was awarded a special revelation of the risen Christ ( 1 Cor 15.7  ELB in the immediate vicinity of the pre-Pauline so-called Urkerygma ), he apparently played under in the Jerusalem community the leadership of Peter is not a particularly prominent leadership role.

It was not until the Zebedaide James was killed during the persecution by King Herod Agrippa I in AD 42 and Peter fled Jerusalem that James apparently took over the leadership of the community. This is suggested by the commission of Peter in Acts 12,17  ELB as well as the reports about the apostles' council around the year 48 AD. In the biblical reports to this meeting James is portrayed as an outstanding leader of the church. In Gal. 2.9  ELB, Paul calls him one of the three "pillars" of the Jerusalem community alongside Peter and John, and in Acts 15.13  ELB he enters the debate with authority. In all likelihood, after Peter's departure for Antioch around AD 49/50, he assumed sole leadership: When Paul came to Jerusalem around AD 58 to deliver the collections of the mission congregations, he was taken over by James and the Elders received ( Acts 21:18  WEB ).

Probably in the 62nd called n. Chr the Sadducean high priest Annas II. The Sanhedrin in order, according to Flavius Josephus accusing and some other of the infraction James and be ordered to stoning. The verdict was carried out, although the Pharisees protested in the council and finally got the removal of Annas from the Roman governor Albinus. Since the procurator of Judea changed from Porcius Festus to Lucceius Albinus in AD 62 and Albinus deposed the high priest after the Pharisaic intervention, it is probable that Hannas as high priest during this vacancy had the ius poenae for himself and the synhedrium capitis had illegally appropriated.

James' successor in the leadership of the early church in Jerusalem was after Eusebius (Euseb, HE III 11) Simeon , son of Cleopas (Cleophas / Klopas) also Simeon bar Cleophas and close relative (possibly a cousin) of Jesus.

Theological position

In the downstream and out of canonical literature is his loyalty to the Torah stresses, for example when it the Gospel of Thomas as "James the Just" means (EvThom 12. See also Eusebius, HE II 1.3).

In contrast to Paul and Barnabas and soon also to Peter, James evidently took a strictly Jewish-Christian stance on the issue of dealing with converted non-Jews. In Gal 2,12a  EU Paul speaks of the fact that "people of James" turned against the table and meal fellowship of circumcised Jewish Christians with the uncircumcised in Antioch. It remains questionable whether James was actually the initiator of this so-called “ Antiochene incident ”. Probably, however, is in fact "that the proponents of circumcision [newly converted] Christians from Greco-Roman tradition could at least feel encouraged by the theological stance of James in their demands." Even if the so-called " James clauses " Luke's presentation of Apostolic Council actually go back to James and were decided at the Apostolic Council or are only of a more recent date is not clear. Furthermore, the strong accentuation of James as an actual "opponent" of Paul remains unclear and therefore also open, a view that was mainly given by Ferdinand Christian Baur and his students from the younger Tübingen school , etc. a. (e.g. Robert Eisenman ) was represented, but is controversial in recent New Testament research.

James possibly saw the early church, stronger than Paul, as part of Judaism. Against Paul as an exponent of the circumcision-free and Torah-free Gentile mission, he wanted the cultic and ritual obligations from the Torah to be applied to the newly converted Gentiles as well.

James was traditionally ascribed the authorship of the canonical letter of James (Jak) and the apocryphal Protevangelium of James as well as the letter of James (EpJac) and two apocalypses (1ApcJac, 2ApcJac) from the Nag-Hammadi-Codex .

Modern exegesis considers the author of the Lord Brother in the canonical epistle of James to be largely improbable today. James, like his brother, spoke Aramaic and, like the vast majority of the population of the Roman Empire , was most likely illiterate , which means that he is hardly an option as an author of theological writings in ancient Greek . The letter is estimated to be a pseudepigraphic script from around AD 100, which is nonetheless close to the theological school of James. The Protevangelium was certainly not written by James, but probably in the middle of the 2nd century. The apocryphal epistle of James is also classified in the Valentine Gnosis like the two apocalypses.

The so-called James Ossuary

In 2001 a supposed James ossuary was discovered, but in 2003 a commission of inquiry came to the conclusion that it was a fake.

Nevertheless, the ossuary got back into the media in 2007 when the film producer and director James Cameron claimed in his highly controversial film " The Tomb of Jesus " that the ossuary came from the grave found in the southern Jerusalem suburb of Talpiot in 1980 , which he calls the Tomb of Jesus wants to have identified.


The Catholic Church celebrates the feast day of the Lord Brother, whom it identifies with James the Younger in its calendar of saints, on May 3rd. The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod celebrate its Memorial Day on October 23, clearly distinguishing it from James, son of Alphaeus . In the Eastern Church, the day of remembrance is celebrated either on October 23 or on the Sunday after Christmas. As a saint, he is depicted with a fuller's club as a sign of his martyrdom . A head relic of the gentleman brother is venerated in Ancona .

The relationship with Jesus of Nazareth brought the brother Jakobus a number of popular scientific representations and also the novel "Jakobus, God's stepson" by Nikolaus Glattauer .



  • Alexander Böhlig : On the martyrdom of James. In the S. (Ed.): Mysterion and Truth. Collected contributions to the history of religion in late antiquity. Leiden 1968, 112-118.
  • Martin Hengel : James the Lord Brother - the first “Pope”? In: Ders .: Paulus und Jakobus. Tübingen 2002, 549-582.
  • Wolfgang Kraus : Between Jerusalem and Antioch. The "Hellenists", Paul and the acceptance of the Gentiles into the end-time people of God. Stuttgart 1999, 134-139.
  • Karl MühlekJakobus, "Brother of the Lord". In: Biographisch-Bibliographisches Kirchenlexikon (BBKL). Volume 2, Bautz, Hamm 1990, ISBN 3-88309-032-8 , Sp. 1522-523.
  • John Painter: Just James: The Brother of Jesus in History and Tradition. University of South Carolina Press, Columbia 1998.
  • Wilhelm Pratscher : The Lord Brother James and the James tradition. Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingen 1987, ISBN 978-3-52-553817-3 .
  • Eugen Ruckstuhl: Article "Jakobus (male brother)". In: Theological Real Encyclopedia. Volume 16. Berlin 1987, 485-488.
  • Robert Eisenman : James the brother of Jesus. The key to the mystery of early Christianity and the Qumran scrolls. C. Bertelsmann, Munich 1998, ISBN 3-570-00071-0

Individual evidence

  1. Klaus Berger : Original Christians. Pattloch, Munich 2008, ISBN 978-3-629-02184-7 , pp. 24-28
  2. Bruce D. Chilton , Craig A. Evans (Eds.): The Missions of James, Peter, and Paul: Tensions in Early Christianity. Novum Testamentum, Supplements, Brill, Leiden 2004, ISBN 978-9-04-7414-74-2 p. 14 f.
  3. See Wilhelm Pratscher: The Lord Brother James and the James tradition. Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1987, ISBN 978-3-52-553817-3 , pp. 207 f.
  4. a b Wilhelm Pratscher: The Lord Brother James and the James tradition. Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingen 1987, ISBN 3-525-53817-0 , p. 187 f.
  5. Udo Schnelle : Theology of the New Testament. Göttingen 2007, 179.
  6. Guido Baltes: Paulus - Jew with a mission. Old belief in a changed culture. Francke, Marburg an der Lahn, ISBN 978-3-86827-617-6 , pp. 30-35
  7. Robert Eisenman : James the brother of Jesus. The key to the mystery of early Christianity and the Qumran scrolls. C. Bertelsmann, Munich 1998, ISBN 3-570-00071-0 , p. 44