Paul slams the door on James

Last week we talked about the rift between Paul and the ‘pillars’ back in Jerusalem — James and Peter. This week we are going to talk a little more about James, especially how James is framed up in the book of Acts.  

Both Luke and Acts were written by the same author, somewhere near the end of the first century. 

  • Why is that important? Because taken together, these two books appear to be historical narratives  of Jesus and the early Christian movement after Jesus’ death. But if you look at these a little more closely, you can see the author had an agenda. And that agenda was to promote Paul as the true leader of the post-Jesus movement and downplay the importance of any other associates of Jesus, including Jesus’ own family. 
  • Say what? Acts acknowledges that James was the head of things early on. But you have to look for it. If you’re skimming along you’d barely recognize it, because there’s just one line saying that James was the head of the church in Jerusalem when Paul came to visit (probably around 55 CE). That’s it. James had been in charge of the early Christian movement (not called Christian at the time) for 25 years, and he barely gets a verse in chapter 9 of Acts. After that all references to James stop. And once Paul is introduced in chapter 9, the rest of the 24 chapters is all about Paul. Even Peter is somewhat marginalized, largely dropping out after chapter 12.
  • Want more proof that James was supposed to be the head? We have mentioned the Gospel of Thomas in prior posts. It was one of those lost works that were found in a dig at Nag Hammadi back in the 1940s. Here is an interesting excerpt from this book:  The disciples said to Jesus, “We know you will leave us. Who is going to be our leader then?” Jesus said to them, “No matter where you go you are to go to James the Just, for whose sake heaven and earth came into being.”

We have to stop here. But we’ve got a few more interesting things from Luke/Acts to talk about next week. Thanks for reading.

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