Tuesday, October 23, 2018

The Martyrdom of the Apostle James the Just (George Synkellos)


George Synkellos (died after 810) was a Byzantine chronicler and ecclesiastic. He had lived many years in Palestine (probably in the Old Lavra of Saint Chariton or Souka, near Tekoa) as a monk, before coming to Constantinople, where he was appointed synkellos to Tarasius, Patriarch of Constantinople. He later retired to a monastery to write what was intended to be his great work, a chronicle of world history, Ekloge Chronographias (Ἐκλογὴ Χρονογραφίας), or Extract of Chronography. There he quotes the second-century historian Hegesippus, also quoted by Eusebius, concerning the martyrdom of the Apostle James, who was also the first Bishop of Jerusalem. The writings of Hegesippus are for the most part lost to us.

For which reason the Jews, having erred in their counsel against [Paul] to destroy him, turn to the destruction of James the brother of God, concerning which Hegesippus the worthy disciple of the apostles says these things in his fifth memoir:

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 times of Christ to the present day, for there were many that bore the name of James. He was holy from the womb of his mother.

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 he 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 his worship of God and asking forgiveness for the people.

Because of his exceeding great justice he was called the just, and oblias, which signifies a bulwark of the people, and justice, in accordance with what the prophets declare concerning him.

Now some of the seven sects, which existed among the people and which have been mentioned by me in the memoirs, asked him: "What is the gate of Jesus?" And he replied that it was the savior.

On account of these words some believed that Jesus is the Christ. But the sects mentioned above did not believe either in a resurrection or in the coming of one to give to every man according to his works. But as many as believed did so on account of James.

Therefore, when many even of the rulers believed, there was a commotion among the Jews and Pharisees and scribes, who said that there was danger that the whole people would be looking for Jesus as the Christ. Coming therefore in a body to James they said: "We entreat you, restrain the people, for they have gone astray in regard to Jesus, as if he were the Christ. We entreat you to persuade all that have come to the feast of the Passover concerning Jesus; for we all have confidence in you. For we bear you witness, as do all the people, that you are just and you do not respect persons.

Persuade, therefore, the multitude not to be led astray concerning Jesus. For the whole people, and all of us also, have confidence in you. Stand therefore upon the pinnacle of the temple, that you might be in a high position, and that your words may be readily heard by all the people. For all the tribes, with the gentiles also, have come together on account of the Passover."

The aforesaid scribes and Pharisees therefore placed James upon the pinnacle of the temple and cried out to him and said: Just one, in whom we ought all to have confidence, forasmuch as the people are led astray after Jesus, the crucified one, declare to us what the gate of Jesus is.

And he answered with a loud voice: "Why do you ask me concerning Jesus, the son of man? He himself sits in heaven at the right hand of the great power, and is about to come upon the clouds of heaven!"

And, when many were fully convinced and gloried in the testimony of James, and said: "Hosanna to the son of David," these same scribes and Pharisees said again to one another: "We have done badly in supplying such testimony to Jesus. But let us go up and throw him down, in order that they may be afraid to believe him."

And they cried out, saying: "Oh, oh, the just man is also in error!" And they fulfilled the scripture written in Isaiah: Let us take away the just man because he is troublesome to us; therefore they shall eat the fruit of their works.

So they went up and threw down the just man, they began to stone him, for he was not killed by the fall; but he turned and knelt down and said: "I entreat you, 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, cried out, saying: "Cease! What are you doing? The just one is praying for you!"

And one of them, one of the fullers, took the club with which he beat out clothes and struck the just man on the head. And thus he suffered martyrdom. And they buried him on the spot, by the temple, and his monument still remains by the temple. He became a true witness, both to Jews and Greeks, that Jesus is the Christ. And immediately Vespasian besieged them.

These things Hegesippus, an historian worthy of our faith, one of those [who is a follower] of the orthodox word among us, with whom also Josephus agrees, writing what is not in disagreement [with him], that this became the cause of the conquest of the Jews in the time of Vespasian.



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