Eusebius of Caesarea was the Bill O’Reilly of his day, an excellent writer and as accessible today as when he penned the first history of the Christian Church in 340, one full of misdirections and outright fabications (for example, Moses used the words “Jesus Christ.”) Eusebuius was a favorite of Emperor Constantine, and was given an important seat at the first council of Nicaea, which sought to standardize Christianity, possibly so it could withstand the onslaught of a hybrid religion known as Manichaeism, which was sweeping the world, and integrated Christian concepts with Buddhism and the teachings of Zoroaster as well as Moses. The council of Nicaea sought to disparage the Christian Gnostics, who believed enlightenment came through knowledge, not through faith alone. Following is a brief excerpt of his history, focusing on the death of James the Just, who had been appointed by Jesus to lead the new movement after he was gone. Keep in mind the author is an apologist for the Roman empire, and playing a crucial role in moving Christianity from a religion for the poor preaching sobriety, non-violence and vegetarianism, to a fully sanctioned religion for the imperial state of Rome. As Christianity evolved, James was quietly disappeared to make room for Peter and Paul.
It is my purpose to write an account of the successions of the holy apostles, as well as the times which have elapsed from the days of our Savior to own own, and to relate the many important events which are said to have occurred in the history of the Church. It is beyond my power to produce a perfect and complete history, and since I am the first to enter upon the subject, I am attempting to traverse as it were, a lonely and untrodden path.
The life of the ancients was not of such a kind as to permit them to receive the all-wise and all-virtuous teaching of Christ. The first man despised the command of God, and exchanged his former divinely inspired luxury for this curse-laden earth.
With thought neither of city nor state, nor arts nor sciences, they were ignorant even of the name of law and of justice, of virtue and philosophy. As nomads, they passed their lives in the wilderness, like wild and fierce beasts, destroying, by an excess of voluntary wickedness, the natural reason of man, and the seeds of thought and culture implanted in the human soul. They gave themselves wholly over to all varitety of profanity, now seducing one another, now slaying one another, now eating human flesh, and now daring to wage war with the Gods, and undertake those battles of the giants celebrated by all; now planning to fortify earth against heaven, and in the madness of ungoverned pride to prepare an attack upon the very God of all.
On account of these things, the all-seeing God sent down upon them floods and conflagrations as upon a wild forest spread over the whole earth. He cut them down with continuous famines and plagues, with wars, and with thunderbolts from heaven, as if to check some terrible and obstinate disease of the souls with increasingly severe punishments.
He imparted to them through the prophet Moses, as to the multitudes still corrupted by their ancient practices, images and symbols of a certain mystic Sabbath, and of circumcision, and elements of other spiritual practices, but he did not grant them a complete knowledge of the mysteries.
Moses was first to make known the name of Christ as something especially august and glorious. The name Jesus had never been uttered among men before the time of Moses, he applied it first. Thus Moses bestowed the name of our Savior, Jesus Christ, as a mark of the highest honor, upon the two men who in his time surpassed all the rest of the people in virtue and glory; namely, upon the high priest and upon his own successor in the government.
And not only those who were honored with the high priesthood, and who for the sake of the symbol were anointed with especially prepared oil, were adorned with the name of Christ among the Hebrews, but also the kings whom the prophets anointed under the influence of the divine Spirit, and thus constituted, as it were, typical Christs.
And we have been told also that certain of the prophets themselves became, by the act of anointing, Christs themselves, so that all they have a direct connection to the true Christ, the divinely inspired and heavenly Word, who is the only high priest of all, and the only King of every creature, and the Father’s only supreme prophet of prophets.
It was in the forty-second year of the reign of Augustus and the twenty-eighth year after the subjugation of Egypt and the death of Antony and Cleopatra, which whom the dynasty of the Ptolemies in Egypt came to an end, that our Savior and Lord Jesus Christ was born in Bethlehem of Judea, according to the prophesies which had been uttered concerning him. His birth took place during the first census, while Cyrenius was governor of Syria. Falvious Josephus, the most celebrated of Hebrew historians, mentions this census.
The same writer shows that Herod was the first that locked up the sacred garment of the high priest under his own seal and refused to permit the high priests to keep it for themselves. The same course was followed by Archelaus after him, and after Archelaus by the Romans.
It was in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius, according to the evangelist, and in the fourth year of the governorship of Pontius Pilate, while Herod and Lysanias and Philip were ruling the rest of Judea, that our Savior and Lord, Jesus Christ of God, being about thirty years of age, came to John for baptism and began the promulgation of the Gospel. Since he began his work during the high priesthood of Annas and taught until Caiasphas held office, the entire time does not comprise quite four years.
Our Savior and Lord, not long after the beginning of his ministry, called the twelve apostles, and these alone of all his disciples he named apostles, as an especial honor. And again he appointed seventy others whom he sent out two by two into every place and city whither he himself was about to come.
Herod feared John the Baptist’s great influence might lead to some sedition, for they appeared ready to do whatever he might advise. He therefore considered it much better, before any new thing should be done under John’s influence, to anticipate it by slaying him, than to repent after revolution had come, after he was in the midst of difficulties. On account of Herod’s suspicions, John was sent in bonds to the citadel of Mach’ra, and there slain.
James, whom the ancients surnamed the Just on account of the excellence of his virtue, is recorded to have been the first to be made bishop of the church of Jerusalem. This James was called the brother of the Lord because he was known as a son of Joseph, and Joseph was supposed to be the father of Christ, because the Virgin, being betrothed to him, “was found with child by the Holy Ghost before they came together,” as the account of the holy Gospels shows.
But Clement is the sixth book of his Hypotyposes writes thus: “For they say that Peter and James and John after the ascension of our Savior, as if also preferred by our Lord, strove not after honor, but chose James the Just bishop of Jerusalem.”
But the same writer, in the seventh book of the same work, relates also the following: “The Lord after his resurrection imparted knowledge to James the Just and to John and Peter, and they imparted it to the rest of the apostles, and the rest of the apostles to the seventy, of whom Barnabas was one. But there were two Jameses: one called the Just, who was thrown from a pinnacle of the temple and beaten to death with a club by a fuller, and another who was beheaded.” Paul also makes mention of the same James the Just, where he writes, “Other of the apostles saw I none, save James the Lord’s brother.”
During this time Paul was still persecuting the church, and entering the houses of believers was dragging men and women away and committing them to prison.
Herod the King stretched forth his hands to vex certain of the Church. And he killed James the brother of John with the sword. Clement, in the seventh book of his Hypotyposes, relates a story which is worthy of mention; telling, as he received it from those who had lived before him. He says the one who informed against James, when while witnessing his speech in self-defense, was moved, and confessed he was himself also a Christian.
They were both therefore, he says, led away together; and on the way he begged James to forgive him. And he, after considering a little, said, “Peace be with thee,” and kissed him. And thus they were both beheaded at the same time.
And then, as the divine Scripture says, Herod, upon the death of James, seeing that the deed pleased the Jews, attacked Peter also and committed him to prison, and would have slain him if he had not, by the divine appearance of an angel who came to him by night, been wonderfully released from his bonds, and thus liberated for the service of the Gospel. Such was the providence of God in respect to Peter.
Peter fled and made a great journey across the sea from the East to the West, thinking that only thus could he live according to his mind. And coming to the city of Rome, by the mighty cooperation of that power which was lying in wait there, he was in short time so successful in his undertaking that those who dwelt there honored him as a god by the erection of a statue.
But after Paul, in consequence of his appeal to C’sar, had been sent to Rome by Festus, the Jews, being frustrated in their hopes of entrapping him by the snares which they had laid for him, turned against James, the brother of the Lord, to whom the episcopal seat at Jerusalem had been entrusted by the apostles. The following daring measures were taken by them against him. Leading him into their midst they demanded of him that he should renounce faith in Christ in the presence of the people. But, contrary to the opinion of all, with a clear voice, and with greater boldness than they had anticipated, he spoke out before the whole multitude and confessed that our Savior and Lord Jesus is the Son of God. But they were unable to bear longer the testimony of the man who, on account of the excellence of ascetic virtue and of piety which he exhibited in his life, was esteemed by all as the most just of men, and consequently they slew him.
Opportunity for this deed was caused by the fact the Festus had died just at this time in Judea, and that province was thus without a governor and head. The manner of James’ death has been already indicated by the above-quoted words of Clement, who records that he was thrown from the pinnacle of the temple, and was beaten to death with a club. But Hegesippus, who lived immediately after the apostles, gives the most accurate account in the fifth book of his Memoirs. He writes as follows: “James, the brother of the Lord, succeeded to the government of the Church in conjunction with the apostles. He has been called the Just by all from the time of our Savior to the present day; for there were many that bore the name of James. He was holy from his mother’s womb; and he drank no wine nor strong drink, nor did he eat flesh. No razor came upon his head; he did not anoint himself with oil, and he did not use the bath. He alone was permitted to enter into the holy place; for he wore not woolen but linen garments. And he was in the habit of entering alone into the temple, and was frequently found upon his knees begging forgiveness for the people, so that his knees became hard like those of a camel, in consequence of his constantly bending them in worship of God, and asking forgiveness for the people.”
There was a commotion among the Jews and Scribes and Pharisees, who said there was a danger that the whole people would be looking for Jesus as the Christ. Do thou therefore persuade the multitude not to be led astray concerning Jesus. “Stand therefore upon the pinnacle of the temple, that from that high position thou mayest be clearly seen, and that thy words may be readily heard by all the people.” And James said with a loud voice, “Why do ye ask me concerning Jesus, the Son of Man? He himself sitteth in heaven at the right hand of the great Power, and is about to come upon the clouds in heaven.” These same Scribes and Pharisees said, “We have done badly in supplying such testimony to Jesus. But let us go throw him down, in order that they may be afraid to believe him.” So they went up and threw down the just man, and said to each other, “Let us stone James the Just, for he was not killed by the fall.” But he turned and knelt down and said, “I entreat thee, Lord God our Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
And while they were thus stoning him one of the priests of the sons of Rechab, the son of the Rechabites, who are mentioned by Jeremiah the prophet, cried out, saying “Cease, what do ye? The just one prayeth for you.”
And one of them, who was a fuller, took a club with which he beat out clothes and struck the just man on the head. And thus he suffered martyrdom. These things are related at length by Hegesippus, who is in agreement with Clement. James was so admirable a man and so celebrated among all for his justice, that the more sensible even of the Jews were of the opinion that this was the cause of the siege of Jerusalem, which happened immediately after his martyrdom for no other reason than their daring acts against him. Josephus, at least, has not hesitated to testify this in his writings, where he says, “These things happened to the Jews to avenge James the Just, who was a brother of Jesus, that is called Christ. For the Jews slew him, although he was a most just man.”