Jesus' Brothers and Sisters

The Challenge: Ruffin comments that Hegesippus has James the Righteous dying at the age of 80. In addition, he comments that Eusebius marks the date as 62 AD. If we do the math, that places James' birth at 18 BC, well before the birth of Christ. Meaning that James the Righteous could only be a brother of Jesus through their father (Joseph), making James the older brother. (And only an older brother would dare reprimand a younger brother, not vice versa).

The Response: When drawing support from an outside source, it is customary to provide a citation. This makes it easier for interested readers to go to the source to validate the argument and to read it in context. In your case, I can see why you might have preferred not to do so. I suspect you drew your information from the book The Twelve: The Lives of the Apostles after Calvary, by C. Bernard Ruffin. This book was published in 1998 by Our Sunday Visitor, who had this to say about the book:

What did the twelve apostles do after Calvary? Where did they go? C. Bernard Ruffin has woven Scripture, tradition, and historical documents to re-create and outline the lives of each of Christ's closest followers.

Did you notice the magic word of Catholic doctrine: tradition? When translated into plain English, this means that whatever was missing in the account was provided by imagination.

So, what my Catholic antagonist—I'll call her Mary--provides in support of her argument that James the Just, as he is known to many non-Catholics, was the older brother of Jesus through Joseph is drawn from the work of a Catholic writer, published by a Catholic printing house. Further, as I shall show, we discover that Ruffin based his position on the work of a Catholic 'saint,' Eusebius, who used the writing of Hegesippus, another Catholic 'saint' and then blended what he uncovered with Scripture and tradition. One might justly question whether Ruffin was objective in either his research or his conclusions.

In that Eusebius and, by extension, Ruffin drew upon the earlier work of Hegesippus, I think it necessary to examine who he was and what his qualifications may have been. The Catholic Encyclopedia tells us:

A writer of the second century, known to us almost exclusively from Eusebius, who tells us that he wrote in five books in the simplest style the true tradition of the Apostolic preaching. His work was entitled hypomnemata (Memoirs), and was written against the new heresies of the Gnostics and of Marcion. He appealed principally to tradition as embodied in the teaching which had been handed down in the Churches through the succession of bishops. St. Jerome was wrong in supposing him to have composed a history. He was clearly an orthodox Catholic and not a "Judaeo-Christian", though Eusebius says he showed that he was a convert from Judaism, for he quoted from the Hebrew, he was acquainted with the Gospel according to the Hebrews and with a Syriac Gospel, and he also cited unwritten traditions of the Jews. (John Chapman , St. Hegesippus, :The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume VII,© 1910 by Robert Appleton Company; Online Edition © 1999 by Kevin Knight, Nihil Obstat, June 1, 1910. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York)

Notice that Hegesippus “appealed principally to tradition” that had been passed down through the bishops, though we are not told precisely which bishops and where they lived and worked.

Mary continued:

Why should we believe Hegesippus and Eusebius? They chronicle the history of the Early Church, and it is through their works that we know anything at all about the time immediately following Luke's "Acts of the Apostles".

But how much of what we learn about the “time immediately following Luke's 'Acts of the Apostles'” from the writing of Hegesippus and Eusebius is reliable? Actually, there are other surviving writings from those times that scholars are able to examine and compare with the works of these two. The results of scholarly study likely are more reliable than the works of either of these two 'saints' taken at face value. Certainly, as regards the death of James the Just, who Hegesippus called “the brother of the Lord,” Hegesippus' work, the source of Eusebius' report, is of questionable validity, even in the eyes of some Catholic scholars, as testified to in these words:

Eusebius quotes from Hegesippus a long and apparently legendary account of the death of St. James, "the brother of the Lord", also the story of the election of his successor Symeon, and the summoning of the descendants of St. Jude to Rome by Domitian...We learn from a note in the Bodleian MS. Barocc. 142 (De Boor in "Texte und Unters.", V, ii, 169) that the names of the two grandsons of St. Jude were given by Hegesippus as Zoker and James. Dr. Lawlor has shown (Hermathena, XI, 26, 1900, p. 10) that all these passages cited by Eusebius were connected in the original, and were in the fifth book of Hegesippus. He has also made it probable (Journal of Theol. Studies, April, 1907, VIII, 436) that Eusebius got from Hegesippus the statement that St. John was exiled to Patmos by Domitian. Hegesippus mentioned the letter of Clement to the Corinthians, apparently in connection with the persecution of Domitian…The date of Hegesippus is fixed by the statement that the death and apothesis of Antinous were in his own time (130), that he came to Rome under Anicetus (154-7 to 165-8) and wrote in the time of Eleutherus (174-6 to 189-91). (Chapman, Op. cit.)

For the purposes of this post, we are only interested in the reference to James, but I included the rest for the possible use of other Christian apologists.

Anyway, it would appear that Mary based her argument on the work of a Catholic writer who drew upon tradition and the writings of Catholic Eusebius, who drew from Catholic (?) Hegesippus, who drew his 'facts' about James from “a long and apparently legendary account.”

Sorry, Mary you have not convinced me.

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