Posts tagged ‘Jews’

Jewishism

After the uproar surrounding Sheen’s rant on Lorre, where he referred to Lorre as Chaim Levine, Sheen goes on a talk show to let us know that he’s not an anti-Semite. In fact, Sheen says he himself is Jewish, and he’s proud of that fact. His current wife and two of his children are Jewish as well. Sheen’s mother’s maiden name was Janet Templeton. I don’t know if that’s a common Jewish name or not since it doesn’t end in either “stein” or “berg.” Should I have just “known” this?

My Grandmother’s maiden name was Rider; does that mean I’m Jewish? Wynonna Ryder is Jewish. It wouldn’t bother me if I were Jewish, but the point is that I don’t know. Sheen did. Sheen’s a celebrity. Sheen’s said nothing all this time.

What I do know is that I’m not buying this “Jewish and proud of it” stance of his. I have to wonder, how come it is that someone who’s been famous for the last 30 years can have kept the American public in the dark as to his Jewish heritage if he is indeed, as he asserts, proud of it? Emilio is no different.

Scour the internet for hours. Look. You can find tons and tons of interviews with Martin and Emilio and Charlie, and no mention until this recent scandal, of the fact that the Sheen children are, in fact, by Rabbinic law, considered Jewish. You can even go on a website called Guess Who’s the Jew, and be told that Emilio Estevez is definitely not Jewish. So, how “proud” are they really? Just because Charlie Sheen is Jewish, does that mean that he isn’t or can’t be guilty of anti-Semitism?

In related news, Rush Limbaugh was recently called out for basically asserting that most of the American public don’t actually consider Barack Obama to be a black man. Normally, this is something I’d get all bent out of shape over, but I get what he means. He’s talking about the fact that Obama has a white mother and seems, more often than not, to fit our cultural stereotypes of behaviors consistent with that of a white man, not a black man.

Even some of the black people I know who have been most proud to see the United States elect its first black President have secretly told me that a “real” black man would never have been accepted as President by the American people. The implication here is an old one. Obama, like O.J. Simpson, and Oprah Winfrey before him, is being accused of being an “oreo.” Black on the outside, white on the inside.

It’s a funny observation, and it’s the opposite of the old 50s melodramas I watched on TV as a kid that used to reduce me to tears. I remember being enchanted and enthralled with two movies made about race relations during that time period. The first was the remake of, “Imitation of Life,” made with Lana Turner and Sandra Dee. In the movie, Lana Turner’s character, Lora, a single mother, crawls her way up off the streets to become a wealthy and successful Broadway actress.

Lora throws her lot in with a black housekeeper named Annie, who is herself a single mother, and the housekeeper agrees to keep both their children and provide a good home for them while Lora pursues her dream and eventually brings home the bacon. Annie and her daughter Sarah Jane are, to the outside world, hired help, but to Lora and Suzie, within the confines of their home, they are treated as family.

The widowed black housekeeper’s daughter is so light skinned that she can “pass” for white. As she grows up, aware of the prejudice around her, the housekeeper’s daughter becomes increasingly frustrated with the options available to her as a colored woman and decides to present herself to the world as a white woman.

As a teenager, she gets her first boyfriend (played by a young Troy Donahue in one of his first on-screen roles) and deceives him about her heritage until he finds out the truth and brutally confronts her on the street. Thereafter, Sarah Jane runs far away so that she can construct a new past for herself and so that any future bosses or boyfriends won’t be confronted with the reality that her mother is a black housekeeper.

It is only after it’s too late that she decides to return to her family, crying and screaming alongside her mother’s coffin. Annie dies young, and Lora throws her a grand funeral complete with horse drawn carriage, but by the time Sarah Jane finds out her mother was ill, it’s too late for her to reconcile with Annie. Juanita Moore, the woman who played the black housekeeper, Annie, was Oscar nominated for her performance of a mother who was most cruelly rejected but eternally loving and understanding.

The second movie that really made an impression on me was, “Band of Angels.” This movie starred Clark Gable, Yvonne de Carlo, Sydney Poitier, and Ephrem Zimbalist, Jr. In the movie, de Carlo portrays Amantha Starr, the spoiled daughter of a white plantation owner. Amantha’s mother died in childbirth, and it is always assumed that her mother was the mistress of the manor, but when her father dies while Amantha is attending a posh finishing school back East, Amantha finds out, instead, that her mother was a house slave, and that this makes her legally a slave. She is sold as just one more of her father’s possessions, in order to cover the debts of his estate.

Amantha is placed on an auction block in New Orleans, Louisiana and sold to the highest bidder. The highest bidder is a man named Hamish Bond, played by Gable. Gable buys Amantha and brings her to live in his plantation. Over time, it becomes clear that she’s there to become his mistress. He doesn’t force her to do anything she doesn’t want to do, and he feeds and clothes and cares for her well.

When Amantha discovers that Hamish used to be a slave trader, she is disgusted, and she runs away. However, what she doesn’t understand is that the majority of slaves Hamish Bond keeps on his plantation stay of their own free will, and he provides an exceedingly comfortable life for them in order to atone for his former sins. He purchased Amantha on the auction block in order to ensure that she wouldn’t be mistreated by a white man with less scruples than himself.

The movie is a pretty hokey romance, with Amantha running back to Hamish in the end after she discovers that her white pastor boyfriend (Zimbalist) doesn’t intend to marry her any longer now that he knows that her mother was a slave. Poitier’s character is a rebelling slave from Hamish’s plantation.

The thing that made the movie memorable for me was the dramatization that anyone could be a slave. Seeing Yvonne de Carlo get sold on an auction block had to have brought home the humanity of African Americans at a time when race relations were about to undergo radical changes. Brown v. Board of Education was decided in 1954. “Band of Angels” was released in 1957, and the “Imitation of Life” remake was released in 1959.

Prejudice is a funny thing. For instance, in America, anyway, there’s a perception of animosity between the Hispanic and African American communities, as well as between the African American and Jewish communities. One would think that this wouldn’t be the case. Who could understand better than the Hebrew people and African Americans the yoke of slavery? Wouldn’t this provide a common bond for them?

We white people tend to shake our heads in confusion and despair when we hear of this, but even we white people liberally sprinkle the term “poor white trash” on Caucasian people who display cultural traits generally attributed to other races. That’s when we don’t call them wiggers.

Minorities tend to sit in judgement of even their own kind with distinctions such as skin tone, with the lighter skin almost always being the universal “preference.” In the African American community this phenomenon is referred to as colorism. I just wonder when, if ever, we’re going to get to a time when none of this nonsense matters.

March 5, 2011 at 10:12 pm 2 comments

Anti-Semitism Rears Its Ugly Head…Again

Westborough Baptists Picketing a Jewish Commun...

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Four recent stories in the media are seemingly unconnected, but I beg to differ. I see a thread running through each.

Story #1: Charlie Sheen rants against the producer of Two and a Half Men, calling him Chaim Levine. Charles Levine is Chuck Lorre’s birth name, and, yes, he is Jewish. What it has to do with his disagreement with Sheen is precisely nothing. Sheen claims he’s not anti-Semitic, but I beg to differ.

If Sheen’s point is to call out Chuck Lorre on his hypocrisy with a name change to something less ethnic, then I think we need to see Charlie Sheen credited as Carlos Estevez from now on. Anybody wanna take a bet on whether or not that’s going to happen?

I think it’s strange that amongst the celebrities who have called to offer Sheen their support, Mel Gibson’s name is mentioned prominently. Do you think it’s because Mel understands the pain of being mislabeled as a Jew hater? No, I don’t, either.

Story #2: John Galliano is a fashion designer for the Dior house. He’s a British man who wears a strangely Hitleresque mustache. He was filmed making racist remarks against Jews in a French café.

Soon after this exchange hit the web, Natalie Portman, who is proudly of Jewish heritage and represents Dior, makes a public statement against Galliano. Dior fires him promptly thereafter, as they should have.

Story #3: At about the same time, Julian Assange makes a statement that Wikileaks is being attacked by a “Jewish conspiracy.” This is interesting, if only because it shows Julian Assange has a screw loose and that he’s also an anti-Semite. I find it interesting that the rape charges he’s facing are from two women in Sweden, where anti-Semitism is very much alive and well and perhaps even “trendy.”

The author Stieg Larsson spent a considerable part of his journalistic energies towards exposing neo-Nazis in his home country. Perhaps Assange’s comments are designed to prejudice a Swedish jury into being sympathetic towards him on rape charges. He didn’t rape anyone. Can’t you see it’s all just a Jewish conspiracy?

Story #4: The Roman Catholic Pope Benedict releases a book that reiterates the official position of the Roman Catholic Church since sometime in the 1960s. For the last half century, the official stance of the Roman Catholic Church has been that the Jews did not kill Jesus. Read my lips. The Jews did not kill Jesus. Jesus was not killed by the Jews.

Did you notice how repetitive that is? Good. Then you got my point. Why is this making the news right now? It’s not a controversial position. Unlike the Pope’s recent remarks about sexual activity and condoms, it’s nothing new.

I know that there are a lot of people who aren’t even anti-Semitic who get really tired of being reminded of the Holocaust. They deny the Holocaust or they downplay it or they simply don’t want to be burdened with having to remember something so unpleasant, something that didn’t happen to them, something they didn’t live through.

But it’s important to remember the Holocaust so that we don’t repeat it. Persecution of a race or a religion is nothing new. Prejudice is nothing new. But the inhumanity of men towards men that was displayed in the Holocaust is without parallel in human history.

Just as easily as the Jews can be made the scapegoats for the entire human race, so can blue eyed people or fat people or short people or any other arbitrary minority that we can hate. Remember that when you harbor prejudice and hatred for someone, when you repeat stereotypes or make so-called harmless jokes about the Pollacks, you are demeaning a whole class of people. You are opening the door for another Holocaust.

These four stories being on the heels of one another in the news is not entirely coincidental. People who believe in love and equality need to stand up and be heard. Westboro Baptist Church has a court-approved right to stand up and shout hatred. Stand up and shout love. I’m convinced that if everyone who believes racism and bigotry has no place in our world would stand up and shout that we’d drown out the voices of all these idiot Sheens, Gallianos, Gibsons, and Assanges. Make sure your voice is heard.

http://onfaith.washingtonpost.com/onfaith/brad_hirschfield/2011/03/pope_benedict_xvi_julian_assan.html

March 3, 2011 at 12:30 am 1 comment

Abraham, Isaac & Ishmael: The Judeo-Christian-Islamic Tradition

Expulsion of Ishmael and His Mother, from Gust...

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Oh, yes. We in the West are used to seeing Judeo and Christian thrown into the same sentence but rarely is it mixed with the word Islamic. And yet we all worship the same God. There are a lot of theological differences, but he’s still the same old God he used to be. All three religions can thank Father Abraham, as can the Ba’hai faith. But perhaps that’s best left to another post.

I remember when I was a child, in Sunday School, singing, “Father Abraham had many sons, many sons had Father Abraham. I am one of them and so are you. So, let’s all thank the Lord.” There was a little dance that went along, involving putting limbs into the center of a circle that you formed with your friends. It was like Bible Hokey Pokey.

When I was a kid the way Muslims were explained to me was that the Muslims were the descendants of Abraham through his son Ishmael. I was told that the Muslims were a little angry about being labeled bastards, along with losing their birthright and being thrown out into the desert, and who wouldn’t be? And I was told that, along with the pesky problem of Israel being returned to the Jews and taken away from the Palestinians, this was what explained why Muslims didn’t like Jews. But, you know, God promised that land to the Jews, and the Palestinians didn’t even care enough to form their own country, so…For reals. I wouldn’t make this up.

The truth, of course, is that there’s a rumor but no proof that the Arabian people are descended from Ishmael. However, the Arabs kept no written genealogy, and the Qu’ran claims no such thing. The Qu’ran states that Ishmael was the son that Abraham was prepared to sacrifice, not Isaac. It also reveres Ishmael as a prophet. Not all Muslims are Arab, and not all Arabs are Muslim. The Palestinians (who are neither all Muslim nor all Arabic) were displaced from their homes when the Jews were given Israel, and there are more political reasons for why this came about than there are religious ones, no matter how you may feel about Zionism.

I don’t recall ever feeling like Muslims didn’t like Christians. My mother had a good girlfriend when she was attending nursing school who was a Muslim woman. She was from an African country. Around that same time I befriended a boy from Iran who lived with his uncle, an Iranian Muslim, and his aunt by marriage, an American white woman who converted to Islam for the sake of her husband. They were our neighbors in the apartments earmarked for married student housing.

My friend’s name was Mohammed. He wasn’t actually a Muslim, and since he was from Iran, he wasn’t an Arab, either. He wasn’t much of anything at all; I guess you could call him an agnostic. He just didn’t have much of an opinion on the matter one way or the other, except that he did used to tell me all the time, “Don’t marry an Iranian man.” I guess he had seen Not Without My Daughter one time too many.

Mohammed and I rode the school bus together, and the town where I went to high school and college was very conservative and predominantly Christian. You would think this would make them be welcoming and kind to others who were different from themselves, and some of the students were like this. Some of the finest Christian men and women I ever met in my life I met in high school. Others, however, were not so kind. Mo, as he liked to be called (which always made me think of The Three Stooges) used to get teased something fierce for the way he pronounced Iran.

We lived in Oklahoma, and this was in the mid to late 80s. According to Oklahomans in the mid to late 80s the correct pronunciation of Iran was Eye-ran, as in, I ran to catch the football. According to Mo, it was pronounced Ee-ron, with the emphasis firmly on the first syllable, but then he was only born there and lived the first 15 or so years of his life there, so what the hell would he know?

One day I got so tired of this collective ignorance that I stood up and shouted something to the effect that maybe, just maybe he might know how to pronounce Iran correctly since he was FROM THERE. I may have thrown in the word dips*^t, afterward. It was 23 or 24 years ago now. I honestly don’t remember.

Recently there has been a rash of stories in the news about how Muslims are striking out against Christians with violence. The biggest is the story of the recent attacks against the Coptic Christians in Egypt. If you’re unaware of what happened, you can Google it.  I see no need to repeat the story here. I wonder if as many people have read the story of the Muslims who participated in the Christmas mass with Egyptian Christians, in a sign of solidarity. I wonder if as many people read about the Muslims who were prepared to offer their bodies as human shields to prevent the Christians from coming to harm as they worshipped. I’m guessing that didn’t happen.

I got this link from Facebook, from a Facebook friend who’s actually a Wiccan. If you were looking for something happy and inspring, look no more.

http://english.ahram.org.eg/News/3216.aspx

January 7, 2011 at 3:46 am Leave a comment

Early Christianity: Josephus

Scanned from a copy of Josephus' 'The Jewish W...

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Now there was about this time Jesus, a wise man, if it be lawful to call him a man; for he was a doer of wonderful works, a teacher of such men as receive the truth with pleasure. He drew over to him both many of the Jews and many of the Gentiles. He was [the] Christ. And when Pilate, at the suggestion of the principal men amongst us, had condemned him to the cross, those that loved him at the first did not forsake him; for he appeared to them alive again the third day; as the divine prophets had foretold these and ten thousand other wonderful things concerning him. And the tribe of Christians, so named from him, are not extinct at this day.” – Josephus, from Antiquities of the Jews

Josephus was a Jewish historian. He was a law observant Jew who lived from approximately the years 37 to 100 C.E. He watched and chronicled, among many other things, the existence of Jesus and his ministry and the birth of the fledgling church.

Why is he considered so important to Christianity? He wasn’t even a Christian. Well, he’s vitally important to Christianity because he provides us with an impartial view of the times. The writers of the Bible can be accused of bias for Christianity. The gospels, for instance, could be said to be pro-Christian propaganda.

What proof do we have in the year 2010, for instance, that Jesus even existed? Some atheists question not only Jesus’ divinity but whether or not such a historical figure even lived. Josephus puts that rumor to death.

Josephus was raised in Jerusalem to a family with priestly and royal connections. He was a soldier and a diplomat. He was a Hellenistic Jew (which meant that he believed that Judaism was not in conflict with Graeco-Roman thought) but also a Hebrew patriot. His works were written in Greek, and he is considered to be a Roman apologist. He was a Pharisee by birth but perhaps not by inclination. He served for the Jews in the first Jewish-Roman revolt, although there is some question as to his loyalty since he was the only surviving member of a suicide pact.

His most important works were The Jewish War and Antiquities of the Jews. His works chronicle not only the early Christian church and Jesus but also the first Jewish-Roman revolt and the fall of Jerusalem and the destruction of the temple in 70 C.E. Because of Josephus we have an account of Masada, the Maccabees, the Hasmonean dynasty, and the rise to power of Herod the Great. His works directly reference John the Baptist, Pontius Pilate, and James the Just.

The oldest surviving manuscripts of Josephus’s works date to the tenth and eleventh centuries. Justin the Martyr failed to include Josephus’ reference to Jesus in his Christian apologies, and Justin was a known admirer of Josephus’ writings. This leads some to doubt the authenticity of Josephus’ account of Jesus. They believe that the information may have been added later by someone with a pro-Christian agenda.

Many other passages, beyond the one quoted at the beginning of this article, however, corroborate New Testament characters and stories and the existence of the political climate and social mores that are present in the Gospels and letters of the New Testament. These passages are unchallenged by scholars. It seems likely that there may have been some tampering with the text in calling Jesus the Christ, since Josephus was not a Christian, but there seems little doubt that he would have included information about Jesus.

This account of Josephus’ life and work is grossly oversimplified. To read more about Josephus for yourself, check out these links:

http://www.josephus.org/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Josephus

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Josephus_on_Jesus

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jesus_and_history

http://www.biblestudytools.com/history/flavius-josephus/

December 4, 2010 at 6:51 pm 3 comments

Early Christianity: The Apostle Paul

Saint Paul Writing His Epistles, 16th century ...

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What could I write about the apostle Paul that hasn’t already been written? Damn near nothing. He is without question the single most powerful influence on the Christian religion as we know it today (if you don’t count Jesus, that is). His conversion story is dramatic. His zeal was catching. His passion for converting the gentiles made Christianity its own religion rather than a subset of Judaism, and this allowed Christianity to eventually flourish throughout the Roman world and beyond.

Saul of Tarsus was born a Hellenized Jew and a Roman citizen. Saul means “asked for” in Hebrew, and he may likely have been named after King Saul, King David’s predecessor and father-in-law. He was probably sometimes called Paul prior to his conversion since Paul was the more Greek friendly version of his Hebrew name. It was almost certainly a calculated choice to use the Hellenized version of the name in his later ministry.

Saul’s dad was a Pharisee, and Saul grew up to also become a Pharisee. He first learned a trade before he was allowed to go to rabbinical school. Saul learned to make tents. Apparently the people of antiquity also felt that their children should have something to fall back on. At the tender age of twelve he would have been sent to learn scripture.

He would have been sent to a fine school, as Tarsus, located in present day Turkey, had a reputation for being something of an intellectual capital of the Jewish world. Think of Tarsus as being like present day Boston, Massachusetts. Close your eyes and throw a dart at a map of the greater Boston/Cambridge metropolitan area and pick a school, any school. Yours landed on MIT? Damn! What a shame for you!

At rabbinical school Saul would have studied intensely to become the modern day equivalent of a professor, a pastor, and an attorney. Becoming a rabbi was no small feat. It’s not exactly a shabby accomplishment now, either.

Saul of Tarsus was a contemporary of Jesus, and when Jesus’ ministry was in full swing he would no doubt have been aware of it. Jesus was only one of many such men who claimed to be the Messiah that would deliver the Jewish people from Roman occupation. The Jews dreamed of political independence and a Jewish state free from the oppression of the Romans. The Pharisees and Saducees that Jesus spoke of with such disdain for their beliefs – Saul would have been one of them, even a leader among them.

After Jesus was crucified Saul became a chief persecutor of early Christians. He was present at the martyrdom of the first Christian martyr, St. Stephen. His conversion experience would have been just as shocking to him as it was to the people who heard it. In fact, many Christians did not initially trust Paul’s motives when he insisted that he had been saved and wished to preach for Christ. They were suspicious and fearful of him. I would be, too, if I were a Christian then. Paul, before his conversion, was a big Bob Dylan fan – everybody must get stoned.

Because of his impeccable Jewish education and his familiarity with Greek culture and his Roman citizenship, Paul was uniquely poised to bring Christianity to the masses, especially to the pagan masses. Thus began Paul’s ministry. He became convinced that Jesus had died to save the world from its sins and that by grace alone are we saved. This was a far cry from his previous beliefs as a Pharisee, which emphasized strict adherence to the law.

“For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, ‘The just shall live by faith’,” (Romans 1:16,17)

The most lasting contribution that Paul made to the Christian religion was the authorship of thirteen epistles. These epistles are letters that Paul wrote to early Christian churches. He probably wrote them with the help of a scribe who may likely have paraphrased him, such was the custom of the time. The letters that Paul sent were not meant to be scripture but rather to be a means of delivering comfort and encouragement to scattered congregations. When Paul wrote on matters of theology, he was frequently answering the questions of confused parishioners or settling disputes over differences of opinion amongst a congregation. He was ultimately, in many of his letters, determining just which Jewish laws would stay a part of Christianity and which would go.

Paul wrote the following books of the New Testament:

Romans

1 Corinthians

2 Corinthians

Galatians

Ephesians

Philippians

Colossians

1 Thessalonians

2 Thessalonians

1 Timothy

2 Timothy

Titus

Philemon

Along with the scribe controversy, many modern theologians like to point out that Paul has a massive amount of influence for an apostle who never had any first hand knowledge of Jesus. We are, as Mohammed called us, People of the Book. We do not have Jesus among us in the flesh so we must rely on what the Book tells us about the words of Jesus, his character, his life, his ministry. What would Jesus do? Many of us would turn to the words of Paul to try to decipher this.

And why not? If no one but people who met Jesus wrote about Jesus our Bible would be the size of a tract. We’d also be missing out on some really great theological contemplations by C.S. Lewis, Oswald Chambers, J.I. Packer, Rick Warren, St. Augustine, Martin Luther, Josh McDowell, Henri Nouwen, Anne Lamott, G.K. Chesterton, and the list could go on and on. All these people are also unqualified to give their opinion on Jesus.

Paul’s legacy is well deserved. That he was a faithful disciple of Jesus cannot be questioned. Paul was imprisoned four times for a total of five and a half to six years. How many of us would be willing to do that for Jesus today? He was killed for his beliefs. We’re spoiled because in the Western world we don’t have to contemplate the possibility of prison or death for our faith. Why? Because ultimately what Paul started made freedom of religion a possibility for Christians. He didn’t get to see it in his lifetime, which is a pity. But perhaps it’s also a good thing that he didn’t get to see the complacency with which many Christians worship today.

November 6, 2010 at 3:59 pm 5 comments

Early Christianity: James the Just

 

Icon of James the Just, whose judgment was ado...

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“Faith without works is dead.” – James the Just

James 2:14-26

James the Just is one of the three pillars of the early church, the other two being Simon Peter [https://gooseberrybush.wordpress.com/2010/10/16/] and the Apostle Paul. James has little to do with this website [http://www.jamesthejust.com/], just for your information, but I think ancient swords are wicked cool. Check it out.

James was, depending on which church tradition you choose to believe, either the brother, stepbrother, or cousin of Jesus. Just what relation he was has to do with church doctrine and different interpretations of certain Greek and Aramaic words and phrases. I won’t get  into that here since that’s for way smarter people than me to debate. The Roman Catholic and Orthodox churches’ official theology says that Mary remained a virgin until her death, which in part explains the stepbrother and cousin theories. I could get started on the sexual politics inherent in that belief, but I’ll reign myself in just this once.

Not much is known of James the Just, so there’s not much to tell, and the most interesting thing about his existence was the controversy surrounding whether or not he was actually Jesus’ brother and the son of Mary. James was called James the Just because he was especially righteous, or pious. He ministered to the Jews, and he is generally recognized as being the church’s first bishop. The seat of the church at that time was in Jerusalem, and he would have been the superior of both Peter and Paul, although to read the Bible that was written maybe thirty or forty years later one would hardly guess he’d played a role.

James is not one of the two disciples of Jesus named James. He is, however, regarded by church tradition to be the author of the book of James. This means that although he was never explicitly defined as such in the book itself, early church fathers assigned the book’s authorship to James the Just. Many modern scholars believe it to be written after the death of James the Just. Evangelicals generally regard it to be the work of James the Just. The book of James, though, is generally regarded to be “…a Christian revision of a Jewish work,” [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Epistle_of_James] and since James the Just was described as a pious Jew this seems to lead credence to his authorship.

We know that James was a married man and that he was a Jew who continued to observe all facets of Jewish law, including diet. There’s an instance in Galatians [http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Galatians+2&version=NIV] when James comes to visit Peter where he is ministering to the Gentiles. Peter had been eating “unclean” food with the Gentiles, but when James made his visit he quickly got up from the table and insisted that Christians should be kosher, in a show of hypocrisy that Paul later called him out on.

From the fact that there’s not much talk of the outcome of that showdown, we can probably safely assume that James sided with Peter on that one. James probably believed that they weren’t starting their own religion so much as they were reforming Judaism and that being a good Jew was intrinsic to being a good Christian.

As far as I’m concerned, James the Just is the greatest argument that we have for Christianity. Think about it. James was Jesus’ brother. This means that whether he was an older brother or a younger brother, he undoubtedly observed his brother in his daily life. They probably had the same sibling rivalries as any other two brothers. He saw Jesus fall and skin his knee, heard him fart, and watched him pick his nose and maybe soil his diapers. Yet this same man picked up the torch for his brother and carried on his beliefs and his ministry after Jesus ascended to heaven. He died for his brother’s faith. I don’t know about you, dear reader, but although I love my brother I wouldn’t perpetuate a massive deceit of this scale for him.

The most amazing thing we have in the Christian faith is the hope in the resurrection. People rising from the dead is nothing new. There are stories stretching back into antiquity of people coming back from the dead, Lazarus among them. Today people return from their deathbeds with a shock from the paddles. But Jesus was the first man to resurrect himself. And he remains the only man to have done so.

It’s a pretty heady proposition; it’s a bold and audacious claim, not only that your brother is the Son of God and the Messiah but that you know that he came back to life from the dead. Now, if you were James, and any of that weren’t true, wouldn’t you, at some point, while the masses were throwing stones at you, scream through the arms protecting your face, that this was all a farce.

“Wait! Stop! I admit it. He was my brother, and this is all nothing but a hoax. Son of God, poppycock! He shit just like everyone else. Please! Listen to me! I renounce him. Let me live.”

But no. What James the Just did instead was to die by stoning, for his beliefs that his brother Jesus was the Son of God, the Messiah, and that he had come to save us from all our sins and was resurrected. And while they stoned him, he said, “I beseech Thee, Lord God our Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.”

October 23, 2010 at 3:56 pm 3 comments


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