Friday, August 31, 2018

Stump the Priest: Was James, the Brother of the Lord, Among the Twelve Apostles?

Question: "I read recently that James, the “brother of the Lord," was not one of the 12 Apostles.  Are there not two James’ among the twelve? Please elaborate and clarify the identity of these 3 (or 2?) individuals?"

Among the the twelve Apostles, there are two with the name of James. "James" is the English form of the name "Iakovos," in the Greek New Testament, which is the Greek form of the Hebrew name "Yakov", or "Jacob". This being the name of the Father of the Israelites, it was a very common name among Jews during the the time of Christ's earthly ministry.

In the lists of the twelve Apostles, we find "James, the son of Zebedee"; and "James, the son of Alphaeus." We also find references to a "James, the less," and of course "James, the Lord's Brother."

We know that St. James the brother of the Lord could not be identified with James, the son of Zebedee, because he (the son of Zebedee) was the first Apostle to be martyred, and St. James, the brother of the Lord was Martyred not long before the destruction of Jerusalem, according to Josephus. As we have discussed previously, there is a good case that the brothers of the Lord were the sons of Cleopas, St. Joseph's brother. And James the less is likely the son of Mary, the wife of Cleopas. Roman Catholic scholars have tended to identify James the son of Alphaeus with the brother of the Lord, and many have argued that "Alphaeus" and "Cleopas" are two variations in Greek of the Aramaic name "Kalphi" -- and so if this is true, St. James the Brother of the Lord would be numbered among the twelve Apostles, and would be the same as James the less.

Many object to this possibility based on the fact that the Gospels speak of the brothers of the Lord being in opposition to Christ's ministry. However, the fact that many of the Lord's kinsmen may have opposed Him prior to the Resurrection, does not prove that all of them did. The Tradition of the Church holds that St. James, the brother of the Lord, always supported Christ.

It is also true, however, that the most common tradition in the Orthodox Church would not identify the brother of the Lord with James, the son of Alphaeus, nor would it count him among the twelve Apostles, though he is counted among the 70 Apostles. But there is no doubt at all that St. James, the brother of the Lord, was a central figure in the early Church. He was the first of the Apostles that the Lord appeared to after His Resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:7); he presided over the Council of Jerusalem, in Acts 15; and he was spoken of as being among the chief apostles (Galatians 1:19; Galatians 2:9). So whether he was one of the twelve or not, he occupied a very unique place in the early Church, and was more prominent than most of those who certainly were numbered among the twelve.

For more on this, see:

Saturday, August 25, 2018

Stump the Priest: Brethren of the Lord, Sons of Cleopas?

Question: "In the Explanation of Matthew by Theophylact,  He describes Jesus’ “brothers”  as the sons of Cleopas whom Joseph took in after his brother Cleopas died. I never understood that, because I thought Cleopas was still alive after the Resurrection, whereas Joseph died well before Jesus began his ministry. Could you please clarify this apparent contradiction?"

In the Gospels, there are references to a "Cleopas" and a "Clopas":
"Then the one whose name was Cleopas answered and said to Him, “Are You the only stranger in Jerusalem, and have You not known the things which happened there in these days?” (Luke 24:18).
"Now there stood by the cross of Jesus His mother, and His mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene" (John 19:25),
It is usually assumed that Cleopas and Clopas are two forms of the same name. However, while these probably are variant spellings of the same name, whether or not they are the same person is another question. The "Clopas" mention in the Gospel of John is believed to be a brother of St. Joseph, which makes sense, because it is not likely that two sisters from the same parents would both have been named "Mary" and so Mary, the wife of Clopas was the sister-in-law of the Virgin Mary.

There is a tradition that identifies these two men, and so holds that St. Joseph's brother was still living at the time of the crucifixion and resurrection, and was one of the two men who walked with Christ on the road to Emmaus. But a different tradition says that Cleopas, the brother of St. Joseph, had died before St. Joseph, and that his wife and children were taken into the home of St. Joseph. These children are the ones the Gospels speak of as the brothers of the Lord. We find this view laid out by St. Jerome, in his treatise "The Perpetual Virginity of Blessed Mary," which is also supported by the 2nd century Palestinian Christian writer St. Hegesippus.  A different tradition, found in the writings of St. Epiphanius of Cyprus, teaches that the brothers of the Lord were the children of St. Joseph from a previous marriage, and so were step-brothers of the Lord. Blessed Theophylact seems to reconcile these two traditions:
"The Lord had brothers and sisters, the children of Joseph which he begat by the wife of his brother Cleopas, for when Cleopas died childless, Joseph took his wife in accordance with the law and had six children by her, four boys and two girls" (The Explanation of the Holy Gospel According to Matthew. Fr. Christopher Stade, Trans. (House Springs, MO: Chrysostom  Press, 1992), p. 120).
Blessed Theophylact is alluding to the law of Levirate Marriages, found in Deuteronomy 25:5-10. And so he takes a position very similar to that of St. Jerome, but instead of these children being the natural children of Cleopas, he suggests that they were children that St. Joseph fathered on behalf of his dead brother, according to this law. But in any case, what all the traditions of the Church on this matter have in common, in a completely unambiguous way, is that these children were not the children of the Virgin Mary.

For more on this, see: Stump the Priest: The Virgin Mary's "Sister," Mary the Wife of Cleopas

Wednesday, August 01, 2018

Stump the Priest: What does the inscription on my Cross say?

Question: "What does the inscription on the back of my Cross say?"

There are two common inscriptions on the backs of Russian baptismal Crosses:

1. Probably the most common is "Спаси и сохрани" (Spasi i sokhrani), which means "Save and protect."

2. The next most common inscription is "Да воскреснет Бог, и разыдутся врази Его, и да бежат от лица Его ненавидящей Его..." (Da voskresnet Bog, i razidutsya brazi ego, i da bezhat ot litsa Ego nenavidyashchei Ego...). This is sometimes called an "Old Believer Cross", and the text is the pre-nikonian Slavonic text of the prayer said just before we go to bed, which is based on Psalm 67[68]: "Let God arise and let His enemies be scattered, and let them that hate Him flee from before his face." The prayer in the prayer book goes on to say: "As smoke vanisheth, so let them vanish; as wax melteth before the fire, so let the demons perish at the presence of them that love God, and who sign themselves with the Sign of the Cross, and who say in gladness: Rejoice, O Cross of the Lord, for thou drivest away the demons by the power of our Lord Jesus Christ, Who was crucified on thee, Who descended into Hades and trampled on the power of the devil, and gave us His precious Cross for the driving away of all enemies. O most precious and life-giving Cross of the Lord, help me together with the most holy Lady Mother of God, and with all the holy heavenly powers, always, now and ever and unto the ages of ages. Amen" (Old Orthodox Prayer Book, trans. Priest Pimen Simon, Priest Theodore Jurewicz, Hieromonk German Ciuba (Erie, PA: Russian Orthodox Church of the Nativity of Christ (Old Rite), 1996), p. 45f).

For more on the meaning of this prayer, and the Psalm it is based on, you can listen to this sermon:

Let God Arise and Let His Enemies Be Scattered

See Also:

What does this inscription mean?