The Life of Saint James, the Brother of God

The most popular understanding held by the Orthodox in regards to Saint James was that he was the son of St. Joseph from a previous marriage. The Gospel of John (7:2-5) relates to us that Jesus' brothers did not believe in Him and we also may note from the New Testament that St. Paul mentions a post-resurrection appearance by the Lord to Saint James (1 Cor 15:3-8), at which time he was said to have converted (My memory is foggy here, but I believe I recall reading about a testimony in the Gospel According to the Hebrews that relates this conversion story.) There are, however, some accounts which relate a pre-resurrectional conversion as well. It is reported that he was a Nazorite, which means one especially devoted to God and being so he would have remained celibate, abstained from wine and meat, and would not have cut his hair. (This is a tradition followed by the Monastics and some priests in the Orthodox Church to this day.)

Later, St. James was appointed Bishop over the Church in Jerusalem probably only a year or so after Christ's resurrection. In Acts 15 we see St. James, as Bishop, presiding over the well known Council in Jerusalem and proclaiming the path the Church ought to take in regards to Gentile converts. He is also traditionally believed to be the author of the Epistle that bears his name which is (in)famously known to proclaim : " without works is dead." Martin Luther, the reformer, called St. James' writing "an epistle of straw" and on more than one occassion expressed his belief that St. James' theology and St. Paul's could not be reconciled. The Orthodox disagree and see a beautiful symmetry in what others perceive to be a dichotmy between Faith and Works. See my old post which touches on this topic here.

But this was not his only work...he is also known to be the author of a Liturgy which still bears his name and is the foundation upon which Sts. Basil and John Chrysostom would build their respective liturgies. You may read this liturgy here.

St. James was noted, even by his enemies (Jospehus the Jewish Historian mentions him), as a man of exceptional piety and holiness. No doubt for this reason, he was very successful in bringing many Jews into the Church and in so doing would lay the foundation for his own martyrdom. Led up to the roof of the Temple, St. James was told to renounce Christ and refusing to do so, was thrown to the ground below. Seeing that he was still alive, despite the fall, St. James was then stoned to death.

Troparion in tone 4
You embraced the Gospel as a Disciple of the Lord;
As a martyr you did not betray it, O Righteous One!
As God's brother you have boldness before Him;
As a faithful Bishop it is yours to intercede for us.
Beseech Christ God that our souls may be saved.

Kontakion in tone 4
The Word of God, only-begotten of the Father,
Who has come to dwell among us in these latter days,
Chose you to be the first shepherd and teacher of Jerusalem,
A faithful steward of spiritual mysteries!
Therefore we all honor you, Holy Apostle James!


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