A Unificationist Reconsideration of the Jewish Role in Earliest Christianity, 30-70 C.E.

Journal of Unification Studies Vol. 6, 2004-2005 - Pages 97-118

Did God intend to set up Christianity as a new religion apart from Judaism? Did God and Jesus continue to love the Jews, or were they cursed and punished as many influential early church writings suggests? Was the cross really an obstacle for the Jews as Paul believed? In this paper, I propose that after Jesus’ death and resurrection, God called the people of Israel to once again become the central people in God’s providence and prepare the world for the Second Advent.

I believe it is important to reassess God’s providence for the people of Israel.[1] Historical evidence does not support the popular contention, found both within Unificationism and in traditional Christian circles, that God cast off the Jews from their central position as God’s chosen people as soon as they crucified Jesus. The period from Pentecost to the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem was a forty-year period (30-70 c.e.). Jews like James, Paul and Peter led the first forty years of Earliest Christianity.[2] The Jerusalem ‘Mother Church’ apparently was the headquarters of the Jesus party in Judaism. I contend that Earliest Christianity was still Judaism.[3]

Exposition of the Divine Principle, as does much of historical Christianity, overlooks this earliest period before the gospels were written. The precedent began with the Lukan writer of Acts and has continued ever since. For various theological reasons, this ‘gentilization’ of Christianity ignored the central role of James the brother of the Lord as the first ‘pope’ or ‘caliph’ of Earliest Christianity. Exposition as well overlooks this crucial first forty years and disregards its unique value by integrating it into the four hundred years of Roman persecution. Instead of Peter, James or Paul, it mentions Roman emperors Constantine and Theodosius. The Divine Principle suggests the immediate dismissal of the Jews as God’s Chosen people after Jesus’ crucifixion and God’s turning favor towards the Germanic tribes who appear some five centuries later in Western Europe:

When the Jewish leadership persecuted Jesus and led him to the cross, Israel lost its qualification to be the founding nation of God’s Kingdom. Within a few generations, the people of Israel would be scattered over the face of the earth. They have suffered oppression and persecution ever since. This can be viewed as the tragic consequence of the mistake their ancestors committed when they condemned to death the Messiah, whom they should have honored.[4]

Exposition of the Divine Principle notes that “within a few generations” the people of Israel would be scattered and oppressed because of their ancestors’ mistake. But what about the first generation? I contend that Israel had not yet been forsaken. Granted, a bad collective spiritual fortune was created by the Jewish representatives who rejected the earthly (historical) Jesus and allowed the Romans to murder him. But one must wonder how bad the Jewish fortune really was if Jesus while dying on the cross asked God to forgive their sin. Moreover, Jesus called it ignorance rather than sin (Luke 23:34). The risen Jesus appeared for forty days in his resurrected form to the very people who had forsaken him. Jesus revived his dispirited followers; he did not punish them but rather gave them a second chance. Israel too, I believe, was given a second chance to believe in the resurrected Jesus as their returning king and Messiah. Far from being the evildoers and a people with a lost qualification, the Jews were Jesus’ instruments in constructing a new religious expression in Judaism, as a foundation for the Second Coming. Earliest Christianity can be considered a kind of Jewish Reformation.

Recent historical biblical research supports what the Bible unwittingly attests: James the brother of Jesus became the leading spokesperson for Jesus, surpassing Peter, who by conventional wisdom led the initial Jesus party.[5] James is the predominant authority, as noted in the first-hand accounts by Paul (Gal. 1:19; 2:9, 12). In Paul’s letters this authority is acknowledged but not necessarily accepted. The Book of Acts, written later, also acknowledges James’ authority but refuses to explain it. James first appears without explanation in Acts 12:17. He presides over the council of Jerusalem (Acts 15:13-21).

In a position similar to John the Baptist, James was to make straight the way of the Lord. The Book of Acts notes his success, especially among the Pharisees who held similar beliefs and concerns (Acts 6:7, 15:5, 21:20). In this way, the people of Israel could have initiated a receptive base for Second Coming. It seems plausible that the prophecies about Jesus’ imminent return within a generation (Mt. 10:23, 16:28, 24:34) could have been fulfilled if Israel fully supported this Jewish Reformation led by James and centered on Jesus.

James the Just modeled the virtuous life of a truly observant Jew. He practiced what scholars called the extension of the Law into the heart (circumcision of the heart) that the disciples of Jesus were encouraged to possess so as to surpass the righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees (Mt. 5:20):

For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.

The Gospel of Matthew continues this Jerusalem Church tradition that Jesus came to not only fulfill the Law but also to extend it to include inner sins of the heart (e.g. Mt. 5:21-22).[6]

Robert Eisenman, author of James the Brother of Jesus, depicts the early Christian ‘new covenant movement’ inside Judaism correctly as a force of contention between Paul and James.[7] But Eisenman goes further. He blurs the distinctions between Jamesian Christianity, the Zealot party and the Qumran sect that wrote the Dead Sea Scrolls. He contends they were all a singular messianic movement inside Israel that led to Israel’s violent demise. He describes this messianic movement’s ethos as ‘zealous’ for the Law, xenophobic, puritanical and nationalistic for the elite chosen few. It provoked the ire of the pro-Roman Herodian rulers, as well as the Jewish historian Josephus. In contrast to this, Eisenman posits Paul, who may have married into a pro-Roman Herodian family and had an Idumean (i.e. Arab) mother. Paul was the ‘mirror reversal’: he sought a cosmopolitan gospel that did not distinguish between Jews and ‘the nations.’ As Paul understood it, the ‘new covenant movement’ ought to be inclusive.

It seems to me that Eisenman has oversimplified earliest Christianity by dividing it into violent elitist separatists (Jamesian) and egalitarian inclusionists (Pauline). The issues that divided James and Paul had to do with authority and purification. Perhaps Jamesian Christianity had some sort of attractive appeal to those violent anti-Roman patriots zealous for Israel’s ascendancy over ‘the nations.’ However, although James promoted Israel over Rome, it is this writer’s opinion he did not promote Israel against Rome, or for that matter against any nation. Eisenman doesn’t consider this more moderate stance for the Jerusalem Christians. I posit James to be an inclusionist, seeking world salvation through Israel with Jesus as its returning king. Paul, having differences with policies emanating from Jerusalem, bypassed the whole concept of Israel as God’s medium and promoted Jesus alone as the sole instrument of world transformation.

According to the existing traditional accounts, Jamesian Christianity exalted the ideal of the Herodian Temple—inclusivist yet relegating the Gentiles a peripheral role in God’s kingdom. As leader of the Jerusalem Church (which also directed policy outside of Palestine), James was not against Rome but seeking its proper subordinate position to Israel. Like many Jews in his time, he believed the biblical ‘Last Days’ had arrived, when Gentile sovereignty over the earth would come to a decisive end by divine intervention. For the Christian Jew, this meant Jesus’ return as the King of Glory. James wanted Israel to acknowledge Jesus as its king and indemnify its ignorance over Jesus. To do this, James promoted the Jewish character of Jesus’ teachings. Jesus was a devout Jew. This was not just a pragmatic stance to make Israel believe. It was the sincere belief that since Jesus was a devout Jew, therefore everyone—even the pagans—should either be Jews or become their servants. Unlike the hate-filled nationalists seeking divine vengeance against their pagan enemies, James held a larger scheme of liberation that included Gentiles, though in an inferior subordinate position.

In 2003, Unificationists and their Christian brethren began visiting Jewish leaders in Israel. Their rapprochement with Jews seems in many respects like a return to Jamesian Christianity. The goal was to have Israel and the Jews embrace Jesus as their king and repent about their past ignorance towards Jesus. Reverend Moon organized a ceremony that had Jews, Moslems and Christians all crown Jesus as king of Israel. In like manner to the Jamesian party, there was no Pauline salvation through the cross.


Major Beliefs of Jerusalem Christianity

Temple Worldview

The Mother Church centered its worship on the Jerusalem Temple (Acts 3:1). James went there every day according to legend to intercede on behalf of Israel in the capacity of Israel’s unofficial high priest.[8] Eisenman calls this the priestly position held by James the “Zaddik.” For Eisenman, Zaddik means a pillar, which upholds the world.[9] Paul calls James a “so-called pillar” (Gal. 2:9). The Temple’s layout was very telling in how Jews regarded Gentiles. Gentiles were allowed to make offerings only on the fourth and outermost court. This reflected how the Jerusalem Church valued Paul’s mission to Gentiles; it was a peripheral ‘outer court’ concern and not most central. In the fourth court realm, daily sacrifices at the request (and financial support) of Caesar were made to the God of Israel. This continued until after James’ death, when in 66 c.e. radical nationalist priests stopped the imperial offering of respect, thus plunging Israel into war and destruction. Moving inward, the third court was for male and female Jews. The next inner court was only for Jewish men. The innermost court was reserved for the Temple priests to make offerings.[10]

Some Jews did not appreciate these hierarchal divisions in Judaism. Understandably, Grecian Jews downgraded the Temple’s value and importance. These divisions also existed in the Jerusalem Church. Reflecting this, the Book of Acts notes the dispute in the Jerusalem Church between Grecian and Hebraic Jews regarding the significance of the Jerusalem Temple for the worship of God (Acts 6:1). The Hellenist Stephen believed God did not reside in man-made structures; His divine throne was in heaven (Acts 7:8-9). Stephen was tried before the Sanhedrin court and stoned to death, becoming the first Jew martyred for Christ. Other Hellenistic Jews who believed in Jesus but not the Temple complex, like Phillip, were expelled from Jerusalem (Acts 8:4-5). Those in the Jerusalem Church like James that supported worship through the Temple and accepted its worldview were allowed to remain by Sanhedrin decree (Acts 8:1).

Pauline Christianity perpetuated the initial Grecian Jew challenge to the Temple and its worldview, which valued Jews in the central position and Gentiles on the periphery. The Temple worldview was expressed in a popular Jewish division of the world into two human races: those of Abraham (blessed) and those from Adam (cursed).[11] Paul rejected this division and believed all were made anew through Jesus as the new obedient Adam (1 Cor. 15:45).

Paul also spoke about another kind of temple in competition with the Jerusalem Temple (1 Cor. 3:16):

Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him; for God’s temple is sacred, and you are that temple.[12]

Although most Christians today are more familiar with and identify with Paul’s stance, Unificationists resonate with the stance held by James, namely that God works through a central nation to save the world. They espouse the central position of Korea and Koreans in God’s providence. But this does not mean God loves the central people more than others. It merely acknowledges how God works his dispensation and how he expands the providence. In Earliest Christianity—the Jamesian one—God had not abandoned Israel but was still working through it as the central nation to save the world. The Temple mode of worship mirrored this, and James was its high priest and Zaddik.

Purpose of the Messiah

Israel has two understandings of Messiah: during the First Temple period he was the righteous king and a son of God, and the during Second Temple Judaism he was seen in a more mystical sense as the liberator ‘Son of Man.’ National religions were the norm prior to Alexander the Great’s conquest of the Middle East in 332 b.c.e. National religions could be ruthless. There was no concept of an individual’s right to choose his or her own religion, since it could bring unfortunate national consequences. To defeat personal choice (idolatry) and uphold the nation’s integrity, Jehovah promised a messianic king. The prophet Nathan declares to king David (2 Sam. 7:12-16):

I (the Lord) will raise up your offspring to succeed you, who will come from your own body… and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be his father, and he will be my son [emphasis mine]... Your house and your kingdom will endure forever before me; your throne will be established forever.

Nathan established the idea of Messiah as a king. He will be the son of the Most High God. This kind of Messiah has an earthly origin, though Heaven claims him. The prophet Isaiah reaffirmed the kingly messiah as expressed in the Davidic covenant that exuded favoritism towards the then-exiled southern kingdom of Judah (Is. 9:2-7). The Immanuel child would live in a dark age but promised a bright future. There would be a cleansing of the land, refining the good and destroying the evil.[13] Judaism could accept the title ‘son of God’ for their kings. It did not yet have the late first-century Johannine interpretation of divine pre-existence.

Second Temple Judaism broadened the concept of Messiah as ‘Son of Man’ and liberator—the latter out of necessity since Gentile nations had subjugated Israel politically and culturally.[14] The Messiah was understood to possess a more immediate mission as a national liberator and just governing king. Cyrus the Persian was the first Messiah from this viewpoint (Is. 45:1), but was later reassessed as something much less. It was not enough just to free Israel: the messianic liberator must reverse the unjust world order that subjugated Israel and turn the world right-side up with Israel on top over ‘the nations.’[15] Second Temple Judaism expanded the concept of Messiah as one who not only ruled righteously over Israel but also over the world. Some Jews in the Second Temple era combined this with the First Temple idea of a Davidic monarchy and others did not. Those who rejected a messianic monarch believed that only God could be king over Israel.

The Jerusalem Church saw Jesus as both the returning liberator and the king who would soon reign physically in Jerusalem.[16] Paul saw Jesus as a messianic liberator but not a kingly one since God alone will reign as king (I Cor. 15:24). Paul downplays the Messiah’s physical qualities (the historical Jesus, ethnic and kinship blood preferences, a physical reign and physical resurrection). He believed physical resurrection was the transformation of the ever-changing inferior material substances into an incorruptible spiritual substance (1 Cor. 15:42, 44).[17] The later gospel accounts drop the older nationalistic kingly Messiah held by Jamesian Christianity as dangerous, Jewish and anti-Roman.

The Crucifixion

The crucifixion of Jesus was not the obstacle for Jews that Paul assumed (1 Cor. 1:23). Crucifixion, after all, was a Roman punishment for political sedition against Imperial Rome. Had Jesus been accused of a Jewish heresy, he would have been condemned and stoned by the Sanhedrin like Stephen, but this did not occur. This fact that crucifixion was a Roman death penalty was attractive to potential Jewish recruits into the party led by James. S.G.F. Brandon notes the following three reasons. First, there was much to be gained by emphasizing Jesus’ martyrdom at the hands of the hated Roman overlords. Jesus could be perceived as a Jewish patriot. Second, Jesus was victimized by Rome but not defeated by it. Despite the worst treatment Rome could possibly administer, Jesus’ resurrection was a sign that Jehovah’s power as greater than Rome’s and of His favoritism towards Jesus personally and to Israel in general over and against the Romans. Third, Jesus was perceived as the first fruit of the distinctly Jewish belief in the physical resurrection of the dead (as opposed to the Greek belief in the immortal soul). Jews could use the resurrection event to reaffirm distinctly Jewish hopes and beliefs. I would add one additional advantage to the crucifixion motif. For Jews, it signaled the beginning of the end times—the beginning of the biblical last days: Jesus was the first fruit of the hoped-for resurrection of not only righteous Jews but Israel as a whole. For these early Jewish followers of Jesus, Jesus’ death and resurrection signaled the beginning of the end times when the beastly ungodly six hundred year rule by Gentiles would come to an end and the prophesied Kingdom of God would finally appear. [18]

The Gospel of John continues this very Jewish Jamesian approach to the crucifixion. It is belief in Jesus rather than belief in Jesus’ atoning death that leads to life. Like Jerusalem / Jamesian Christianity, the Johannine account portrays the crucifixion as a sign story, a testimony of God’s favor towards Jesus as the Messiah.

The Jerusalem Church believed Jesus would return with the resurrection of past prophets and righteous martyrs, and they would live eternally on the earth in the everlasting Kingdom of God. This would occur shortly, once Israel had fully believed in the miraculous victory had by Jesus over the Roman attempt to crush him with physical death.

Was the crucifixion salvific? No. The Jerusalem Church did not believe Jesus’ death had the power to forgive sins.[19] Paul was unique in his understanding of the atoning dimension of the crucifixion. As Paul understood it, everyone died together with Christ on the cross in some mystical sense (2 Cor. 5:14).

Physical Resurrection

Many Jews believed in the physical resurrection of the righteous dead that would occur when Jehovah ushers in the Kingdom of God (i.e. the Kingdom of Israel) on the world. Many Jews had suffered unjustly under the six hundred years of Gentile oppression and even died as martyrs under unjust rulers (e.g. the Seleucid king Antiochus IV). Believing ultimate justice could not be served unless the righteous dead participated in the future promised Kingdom of God, Jews of the Pharisee party began to believe in the physical resurrection of the righteous dead at the time of the Messiah. It was believed their God of justice would awaken those righteous Jews who had “fallen asleep” (Dan. 12:1-2; Mt. 27:52) and give them their deserved reward.[20] The Jerusalem Mother Church and the Zealot party also believed in the physical resurrection of the dead.

This belief encouraged some to accept martyrdom and holy war against the Romans; Jehovah would vindicate their noble deaths and resurrect them. Because Jesus resurrected in what Unificationists call a secondary dispensation, the phenomenon of Jesus’ resurrection caused new affinities to occur in Jewish society that might otherwise not have. The belief in physical resurrection takes on a new relevance as the only way to explain Jesus post-crucifixion appearances.[21] In other words, the distinctly Jewish belief in physical resurrection might not have had any lasting significance to first century Jews if Jesus had lived a full earthly life as the Messiah of Israel.

The belief in physical resurrection became central in God’s providence after Jesus’ death because it was the only explanation Jews could fathom to explain to Jesus’ appearances. Apparently, it would have been difficult for Jesus’ disciples to speak about a spiritual resurrection. S.G.F. Brandon notes Jews were forbidden to communicate with ghostly apparitions who lived in the dark shadowy world of Sheol located below the earth (Lev. 19:31; 2 Kgs. 21:6; Is. 8:19).[22] Jesus’ appearance was not shadowy. It had flesh and bones (Luke 24:39). He ate physical food (Luke 24:42-43). At that time, such phenomenon could only be understood and interpreted as a physical resurrection.

This belief in a physical resurrection created a natural affinity between the justice-minded Pharisees, the martyr-like Zealots and the Jerusalem Church, and affinities of this sort naturally lead to political ones. Under James’ leadership, a political alliance most likely developed between these three groups. During his lifetime, James’ inclusionist agenda tempered the more radical and violent extremists, but not so after his untimely murder in 62 c.e.[23] In the succeeding four years leading up to the unsuccessful Jewish revolt, leadership in the Jerusalem Church was rudderless amidst the turbulent political waters of unrest, hatred and fanaticism. In his Ecclesiastical History, Eusebius does not record any successor for James until 70 c.e. when the revolt was put down.[24] The new leadership no longer lived in Jerusalem, and it never regained the supreme position over the church outside of Palestine. Between 62 and 70 c.e. there is an eight-year gap in ecclesiastical authority when the Jerusalem Church was sorely needed as a guiding light in Jewish politics! With James removed, I believe the Jerusalem Mother Church was unable to find or agree upon a single central figure. It is reasonable to imagine the splinters within the Jerusalem Church, with some of its followers tending toward violent radical zealotry of the kind supposed by Eisenman.

The Sadducee party, on the other hand, did not believe in any form of life after death, and they were not interested in becoming martyrs in a holy war against Imperial Rome. This aristocratic priestly elite was viewed as Roman collaborators. They saw themselves as pragmatic realists, upholding the older Jewish tradition that denied any life after death. To their critics (including James), they supported the unacceptable status quo whereby the Gentiles, who held a peripheral role in God’s providence at best, unjustly held the dominant position of power.

Unificationists argue against physical resurrection: “Resurrection does not refer to physical life and death, it must refer to the life and death of man’s spirit.”[25] As far as I know, Unificationism does not explain the disappearance of Jesus’ body. What happened to the body if it did not physically resurrect? Yet we can surmise what would have happened if Jesus appeared only in his spiritual resurrec­ted form while his corpse still lay in the tomb: there would have been no Earliest Christianity. Such truth might have convinced Hellenist pagans to believe in Jesus, but not the devout people of Israel. It would have been most difficult to interpret that kind of phenomenon in Palestinian Judaism. One either resurrected physically or not at all. There was no other accepted Hebraic view.


James the Just, Brother of the Lord

The second half of this paper investigates the role of James, Jesus’ half brother. Though his important position is acknowledged in Paul’s writings and the Acts of the Apostles, his prominence is decidedly low-key. Oddly, the Lukan writer is almost silent about his role in the early church, even though he claims to write an accurate historical account. Paul and Luke are actually hostile witnesses to James’ ecclesiastical authority. My paper seeks to explain why this was so. I will also assess James’ role in the providence according to Unification-inspired reflections.

James the Disciple

Matthew’s gospel mentions Jesus having four brothers; one of them named James (Mt. 13:55). Only Paul’s letters describe ”James, the Lord’s brother” as having unique authority over the Jerusalem Church and the universal church (Gal. 1:19; 2:9; 2:12). The Book of Acts mentions James but never explains who he is and why he has authority (Acts 12:17; 15:13; 21:18). This may cause some confusion to the reader who may wrongly assume Acts is referring to James the apostle, son of Zebedee. This cannot be, because Acts mentions the death of the apostle James previously (Acts 12:2).

The only reports in the New Testament about the first leader over the Jerusalem Church are hostile witness accounts that grudgingly acknowledge his commanding presence. Why? James was zealous for the law, and so was Jerusalem Christianity. The Lukan writer was embarrassed by this and did not believe it came from the Holy Spirit. Consequently, he wanted to downplay the fact, though it could not be ignored. Christianity after 70 c.e. rejected the zeal for the law that had characterized the Jerusalem Mother Church. Luke wanted to testify to the saving work of the Holy Spirit in the life of the early church, and he did this with a superficial treatment of unity between Peter and Paul when, in fact, Peter ultimately sided with the Jerusalem Church against Paul after the clash in Antioch (Gal. 2:11-13; Acts 15:39).

By the second century, James’s continuing legacy, especially in Palestine, could not be erased yet was too disturbing to remember. The role of James had to be reclaimed, explains John Painter. Church tradition accepted the then-popular titles emanating from Palestine: “James the Just” and “James the Righteous.” These titles acknowledged his purity before God and his concern for social justice. Eusebius, the fourth-century Church historian, records several legends that mix fact and myth about James the Just from Josephus, Hegesippus and Clement of Alexandria.

What kind of believer was James the brother of the Lord during Jesus’ earthly ministry? There is no solid evidence from any existing historical documents. The synoptic gospels show ‘the Jews’ as old wine skins unable to receive the new wine covenant with Jesus.[26] Mark, writing from Rome to Gentiles after the Jewish revolt, notes Jesus’ hostility to his blood relatives, preferring a spiritual adopted family instead (Mk. 3:33-35). Only the Gospel of John shows a popular broad support for Jesus from the Jewish populace that the Temple high priests had to violently suppress. Only the Johannine gospel portrays Jesus’ family as believers but on a superficial level (John 7:2-5):

But when the Jewish Feast of tabernacles was near, Jesus’ brothers said to him, “You ought to leave here and go to Judea, so that your disciples may see the miracles you do. No one who wants to become a public figure acts in secret. Since you are doing these things, show yourself to the world.” For even his own brothers did not believe in him.

John’s gospel posits two kinds of believers: those who believe because of external signs and those whose inner conviction is born of the Holy Spirit.[27] The ‘external’ sign believers are not really believers at all, explains Painter, as they lack the sustaining power of the Holy Spirit, the Paraclete. Yet in the Johannine account, it is not just the Lord’s brothers who are superficial believers but all of Jesus’ named disciples,[28] including Peter, because the Holy Spirit had not yet come.

When did James believe in and follow Jesus? Paul notes the risen Lord appeared first to Peter, then the Twelve. Then over five hundred believed. Then the resurrected Christ appeared to “James, then to all the apostles,[29] and last of all he appeared to me also.” (1 Cor. 15:5-8) From Paul’s account, it is not clear if the resurrected Jesus appeared to James during the crucial forty-day period. This became an important issue in Earliest Christianity because any appearance by the risen Jesus after his forty-day ministry was popularly believed to be an inferior vision. Paul was criticized on this point. His critics in the Jerusalem Church thought his vision of Jesus lacked the full bodily presence and was only an apparition. [30]

James was among those at Pentecost (Acts 2:1), but this is after the resurrection appearances; Jesus had already ascended. The Book of Acts records the presence of Jesus’ brothers and mother with the Apostles staying in Jerusalem and waiting to receive the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:14) after Christ’s ascension. This seems to suggest the risen Lord appeared to his physical family during the crucial forty days after Easter. The Gospel of Thomas records the resurrected Jesus giving James a special prominence over the twelve (Thomas 12):

The disciples said to Jesus, “We know that you will depart from us. Who is to be our leader?”

Jesus said to them, “Wherever you are, you are to go to James the righteous, for whose sake heaven and earth came into being.”[31]

Eusebius records an account of James by Clement of Alexandria’s work, Institutions. From its seventh book Eusebius excerpts the following:

The Lord imparted the gift of knowledge to James the Just, to John and Peter after his resurrection, these delivered it to the rest of the apostles, and they to the seventy, of whom Barnabas was one.

In this excerpt, James is one of the three main disciples—like the ‘pillars’ mentioned by Paul (Gal. 2:9). By naming him first, Clement is indicating his preeminence. Clement’s version differs from Paul’s account in that Christ’s appearance to James is simultaneous to Peter’s and before the rest of the Twelve.

The two travelers on the road to Emmaus suggest close ties between the resurrected Jesus and his physical family as early true believers. These travelers encountered the risen Jesus on Easter morning after he appeared to Mary Magdalene but before he appeared to the Twelve. These travelers must have been important. One was named Cleopas (Luke 24:13-18) and the other Simon (Luke 24:33-34). Jesus had an uncle named Cleophas and a physical brother named Simon. Simon ‘the Zealot’ was also an apostle and present at Pentecost. (Luke 6:15, Acts 1:13) Cleophas was Joseph’s brother. These two similar names—Cleopas and Cleophas—may be referring to the same person. Why the subtle name change? There are three plausible reasons for this. Firstly, the stories were passed between different languages, Greek and Aramaic. Secondly, when the oral tradition was written down, the way names sounded and were spelled by the writers may have varied. Finally, names may have been shortened, as in the case of Simon, the second traveler, because there was an advantage to conceal his real identity by later Gentile writers not wishing to promote Jesus’ preference of kinship and ethnicity over others. Other reasons also exist for name changes (nicknames and contractions), but they are not relevant here.

To complicate matters, Jesus’ mother had a sister also named Mary the wife of Clopas (John 19:25). This is very confusing and may require some unconventional reasoning. Firstly, these three names may be referring to the same person. Eisenman believes this Clopas (Cleopas / Cleophas) was actually Jesus’ physical father.[32] I do not go that far since I support Reverend Moon’s position by faith that Jesus’ father was another well-known New Testament figure—Zechariah. But Eisenman offers another possibility: Clopas may have been Jesus’ stepfather. As caregiver towards mother Mary and her family, this may explain the sisterly Mary. Origen, writing in the third century, believed Clopas was the father of James the Just.[33] This would make sense if Joseph was not alive during Jesus’ later life (note his absence in scriptures) and his brother Cloepas/Clopas had assumed his duties as a stepfather to Joseph’s family. Jesus’ resurrected appearance to his own believing physical family would surely have been one of his first priorities.

Mission of James

Moses had a brother, Aaron, who spoke Moses’ words to the Pharaoh. Together, these two brothers did God’s work and led the enslaved Hebrews to freedom. Jesus had a half brother—John the Baptist according to Reverend Moon. John the Baptist and Aaron held similar roles for their liberator-type brother. James, another half-brother of Jesus, held a position similar to John the Baptist. Eisenman notes an even stronger connection as successor—a Joshua figure to the Moses-type liberator.

According to Unificationism, John the Baptist did not fulfill his responsibility. James seems to have had a role was very similar to John the Baptist’s in a third providential attempt to get Israel to accept Jesus as its messianic king.[34] Both were called to make straight the way of the Lord. It seems rather clear that James was restoring the failure of John the Baptist, which Unification theology acknowledges as the main cause for Jesus’ failure to be recognized and accepted by Israel. Now James, the half-brother of the Lord, was reversing the ignorance that sent Jesus to the cross. In John’s position, he was alerting the people to believe in Jesus as their king and liberator. James had no intention of abolishing the older Noachic, Mosaic and Davidic Covenants. He wanted to stand upon their historical foundation and expand it through Jesus’ new covenant. It should be noted that the Jewish experience of covenantal blessings were not spiritual otherworldly rewards but very down-to-earth blessings of long life, good health, fertility, prosperous land and abundant wealth while on earth.

One significant difference between John the Baptist and James the brother of the Lord was the means of religious purification and repentance. John used water from the Jordan River while James used the Temple in Jerusalem. Why the difference? I believe John went into the desert like the Zealots and ascetic Essene party at Qumran; they were ‘resistance fighters’ against Rome. (Jerusalem was incorporated directly into the Roman Empire in 7 c.e. The Jewish province of Galilee was not and it was in non-Roman Galilee that Jesus grew up). Thus John was a spiritual renegade against Rome. He saw the Herodian Temple and its builder, the Idumean King Herod, as Roman collaboration, and he, like the Essenes, wanted nothing to do with it. John emphasized separation from the outside tainted culture and called for Israel’s purification. This is why he used water from the Jordan River rather than sacrifices at the Temple.

John the Baptist wanted Israel’s independence from Rome and Israel’s triumph over the Gentile world—and possibly even its destruction. Jesus on the other hand, had a message of love, integration and reconciliation: he wanted interdependence between Israel and Rome. I believe John could not agree with this position, and it became the task of James to indemnify this mistake.

James was not a renegade. Following the Herodian Temple model, he believed there was a place for Gentiles in God’s kingdom, but on the periphery and not as the central favored people.[35] Gentiles were to be subjugated but not eliminated. It was with this understanding that James sanctioned Paul’s mission to the Gentiles: it was a lesser mission than Peter’s to the Jews of the Diaspora. In other words, the Jerusalem Council had sanctioned Paul’s work as a ‘fourth court’ endeavor. Paul, however, assumed otherwise. From the internal Pauline perspective there was no fourth, third, second or first court of favoritism. Everyone was equally important to God: everyone was a temple of God. In a sense, the conflict between the Hellenist Jews like Stephen and Phillip were resurrected through Paul—a man who legend has it was closely connected with the death of Stephen and seems, on some level, to be his replacement.[36]

According to legend, James behaved like John the Baptist in other ways as well:

This apostle was consecrated from his mother’s womb. He drank neither wine nor fermented liquors, and abstained from animal food. A razor never came upon his head, he never anointed with oil, and never used a bath.[37]

According to Hegesippus, James the brother of the Lord went into the Jerusalem Temple every day:

He alone was allowed to enter the sanctuary. He never wore woolen, but linen garments. He was in the habit of entering the temple alone and was often found upon his bended knees, and interceding for the forgiveness of the people; so that his knees became as hard as camel’s, in consequence of his habitual supplication and kneeling before God.[38]

Whether James actually was allowed into the innermost court reserved for high priests is questionable. Nonetheless, there is usually a core truth surrounding later legendary elements. James seems to have personally taken upon himself the intercessory role as the high priest to his brother Jesus, the king. These two roles of high priest and king respectively represent the spiritual role of archangel (James) and the temporal position of Adam (Jesus). These two roles seek to accomplish what later providential roles like Charlemagne and Pope Leo II were to accomplish: a foundation to receive the Messiah. If James acted in a priestly capacity, it was not in the inherited aristocratic Sadducee priestly role but the Pharisaic one. One could be a Pharisee priest regardless of background. Pharisees wanted to take possession of the Temple from the corrupt Sadducees. They did this in 66 c.e. It began the Jewish Revolt.

If Hegesippus’ report is true, what sins of the people was James asking Jehovah to forgive? One can only conjecture. I believe James was asking God to forgive the collective sin of the Jewish nation for not receiving and welcoming Jesus as its anointed king. As a consequence, Jesus had no base upon which to remain on earth; he was left unprotected and wrongly killed by the Romans. God, however, vindicated Jesus by raising him up and nullifying the Roman attempt against him. James expected further vindication of Jesus when Israel removed its ignorance and collectively awaited his return. I believe James felt personally responsible for this national awakening to Jesus’ true identity. If this is true, then it is another valid reason why Gospel Christianity concealed James’ historical position and beliefs. Gospel Christianity believes Jesus came to die on the cross; Jamesian Christianity did not. Gospel Christianity believes Jesus came to replace traditional Jewish purification rites with atonement through the cross.

If James was repenting everyday in the Temple on behalf of Israel’s ignorance toward their heaven-sent earthly king Jesus, then Jamesian Christianity was very close to the present Unificationist stance that Jesus did not come to die on the cross.

Death of James

There are three different stories about James’ death recorded by Eusebius. The shortest version comes from Clement of Alexandria: James “was thrown from a wing of the Temple and beaten to death with a club.”[39] A more detailed version comes from Hegesippus in the second century.[40] According to Hegesippus, many Jews in Israel believed in Jesus on account of James’ preaching. Nonetheless, the Scribes and Pharisees somehow believed they could use James to stop the preaching of Jesus as the Messiah before all of Israel believed. James was placed upon a wing of the Temple and asked to denounce Jesus. Instead of denouncing Jesus, he testified all the more and many at the Passover festival believed. The Jewish leaders then cast James from the Temple mount. They stoned him on the ground as well and beat him with clubs.[41]

The third version recorded by Eusebius comes from Josephus’ Antiquities. Historians believe it is the most credible. The Roman governor Festus was dead and the new governor Albinus was on his way. Momentarily freed from Roman restraint, the high priest Ananus the Younger abused his priestly authority to convene a meeting of the Sanhedrin against James and others. Josephus writes that Ananus “accused them of having transgressed the law and delivered them up to be stoned.” Josephus writes:

Those of the inhabitants of the city who were considered the most fair-minded and were strict in the observance of the law were offended at this… Albinus angrily wrote to Ananus threatening to take vengeance upon him. King Agrippa, because of Ananus’ action, deposed him from the high priesthood, which he had held for three months and replaced him.[42]


In Josephus’ account it is not clear why the fair-minded and strict observers of the Law rallied to James’ defense. Josephus does not mention the crime James committed against the Law. Were they supporters of Jesus? Details are lacking. With obvious Pharisaic support behind James (Acts 15), and possibly Zealot support as well, Ananus may have been battling the early stages of religious division in Israel over the control of the Temple. ‘Throwing James from the Temple mount’ suggests removing Pharisaic James from his position in the Temple as a mediator on behalf of Israel. The Sadducee priests could retain their position and their policies of submission to Rome.

Like Jesus, James too seems to have challenged the ruling aristocratic elite class of priests in the Temple, and this prompted his murder by jealous rivals who wanted to keep their position of authority. Brandon notes that Jesus’ cleansing of the Temple was not against the moneychangers as now supposed but against the ‘den of thieves’—that is, the elite Sadducee aristocrats pocketing large sums of money, protected by the Roman authority and not helping the poor.[43]


After James: Israel Adrift

I believe the Jerusalem Church, like Jewish society as a whole, was increasingly divided between two extreme social forces: the submissive conservative Sadducees and those seeking a new world order where true social justice for the righteous (Law-observant) oppressed would appear. In the absence of James, significant portions of the Jerusalem Mother Church, already aligned with the lower Pharisaic priestly class (Acts 6:7, 15:5, 21:20) and the oppressed rural peasants (Lukan Beatitudes), increasingly identified themselves with the radical Zealot party. This would explain Josephus’ failure to mention a Jesus party inside of Judaism.

Eisenman closely aligns the Jamesian party with the Zealotry from the beginning and believes Josephus’ description of the Zealot party referred to Jamesian Christianity. I do not think this is fully accurate. Jamesian Christianity sought separation but for ultimate union. James sought an empowered Israel centering on the resurrected Jesus and through this, the returning Lord would upright Israel’s position over the nations. Then true justice for all could be served. The Jamesian pursuit was not through hatred, exclusivity or violence. It was through attending Jesus and becoming more perfect: a deeper internalization of the law for a righteousness that could exceed the existing standard.

After James’s death, Jerusalem Christianity probably splintered into peaceful and violent factions. However, any traces of this dissension perished, initially with the destruction of Jerusalem and later in cover-ups and concealments by the embarrassed Gentile community of believers who wrote the Gospels.

After the destruction of Jerusalem, the Gentilization of Christianity became providential. Israel had been destroyed and the Kingdom was given to new ‘tenants.’ Josephus himself believes he personally experienced this dispensational transformation. He believed the Roman Emperor Trajan—a Gentile—was the new messianic leader for Israel. This spiritual awakening of sorts motivated him to switch sides in the Jewish Revolt.

Escape to Pella?

Eusebius writes that an angel warned the Jerusalem Christians to escape to the town of Pella in the land of Decapolis beyond the Jordan River.[44] According to this legend, the Jewish believers in Christ escaped the judgment that God sent upon the disbelieving Jewish state for rejecting Christianity. Scholars have recently challenged this legend.[45] If the Mother Church had indeed escaped, then why once ensconced in Pella did it cease being the headquarters of the Christian religious movement? We question whether Jerusalem Christianity really escaped. Eusebius couldn’t have imagined otherwise, since God always saves his elect from undeserving judgment.

It is hard to imagine Jerusalem Christianity forsaking Israel when the Jewish state was its prime concern. The goal had been to prepare Israel for the Second Coming. I think it is most incredible to imagine the Jerusalem Church forsaking Israel in its most desperate hour requiring God’s interven­tion. In Israel’s very moment of life-and-death struggle, the Jews knew their own military prowess was not enough. Perhaps they saw themselves in the position of David fighting Goliath or the Maccabean family fighting against Antiochus Epiphanes once more. Perhaps they believed God would once again intervene and protect their righteous cause. Perhaps they concurred with the Zealot belief that a martyr’s death assured one’s future physical resurrection in the Kingdom of God. It seems reasonable to conclude that a large portion of the Jerusalem Mother Church died inside the burning Jerusalem Temple alongside their Jewish brethren while awaiting the Messiah’s supernatural appearance from Daniel’s heavenly clouds above.

The Book of Acts never mentions the fall of Israel. This is an incredible cover-up that can hardly be comprehended. It is surprising that something of such magnitude was not mentioned. If the escape to Pella by angelic revelation were true, why didn’t the author of Acts gladly mention it? He didn’t because it never happened. There are many embarrassing episodes in Earliest Christianity that the Lukan author and other gospel writers deliberately refused to write about.

The Jewish Revolt and destruction of Israel was not God’s vindictive wrath. Unificationists disagree with Eusebius, Augustine, and Luther who formulated this traditional position. It was ignorance and division, not God, which destroyed the nation of Israel. When people harbor only division, with no later union stage, they walk outside of the principle—outside of God’s protection—and become vulnerable to hostile, destructive forces. When Jerusalem fell, it was not God’s triumph but God and Jesus’ lament:

As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it and said, “If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace –but now it is hidden from your eyes. The days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment against you and encircle you and hem you in on every side. They will dash you to the ground, you and the children within your walls. They will not leave one stone on another, because you did not recognize the time of God’s coming to you.” (Luke 19:41-44)



What then will the owner of the vineyard do to them? He will come and kill those tenants and give the vineyard to others. (Mk. 12:9)

The Gospels were written after Israel was destroyed. Their Gentile writers assumed the Jews were cursed and no longer central in God’s providence. This seemed evident in 70 c.e. but not when Jesus was crucified sometime around 30 c.e. Christians and Unificationists use the parable of the Vineyard (Mk. 12:1-12; Mt. 21:33-46; Lk. 20:9-19) to demonstrate with Jesus’ words God’s disfavor towards the Jews who killed Christ.[46] Killing Christ was wrong. But not receiving the resurrected Jesus who preached again in Israel was also wrong. And it was this second wrong that caused the Jews to lose their central position in God’s providence.

James the Just, the brother of Jesus, wanted Israel to amend its ignorance. He prayed for Israel to receive the resurrected Jesus. He sought to prepare Israel to receive Jesus as its king and liberator. This Jewish party most likely did not believe that Jesus came to die on the cross as the means to salvation. It believed God had not yet forsaken Israel or the Jews. The Second Coming was imminent if the people of Israel quickly recognized the resurrected Jew named Jesus as their Messiah and king. The day they longed for—the appearance of True Israel reigning supreme over the nations—could have come to pass. The Jerusalem Church upheld the Temple worldview that espoused the centrality of Jews and the inclusion of Gentiles on the periphery of the providence.

We will never know whether, if James had not been murdered, Jerusalem Christianity could have succeeded as a moderate force inside Israel in restraining the nationalistic urge to separate from the world it hated. Today the Unification Movement returns to Israel with a message in many ways similar to Jamesian Christianity. Israel has another opportunity once again to believe in Jesus as its Messiah and king.



[1] ‘People of Israel’ is a term that the Jews used for themselves in the period under study. The term, ‘the Jews’ is Greek and Roman, used by Gentiles and the gospel writers. Whenever the term ‘the Jews’ appears in the gospel accounts, it is a revisionist Gentile writer, not a Jew. See Pierre-Antoine Bernheim, James, Brother of Jesus, trans. John Bowden (London: SCM Press, 1997), p. 49.

[2] Earliest Christianity is a term I use in this paper to define the forty-year period after Pentecost until the destruction of Israel. It has two forms: Jamesian or Jerusalem Christianity and Pauline.

[3] This can shed some insight into some of Josephus’ writings about ‘Jews’ causing mischief both inside Israel and in the city of Rome in this period prior to Israel’s destruction.

[4] Exposition of the Divine Principle (New York: HSA-UWC, 1996), p. 117.

[5] I use the word ‘party’ in the scholarly sense that recognizes various Judaic expressions inside first century Judaism. The religion was hardly uniform. The word party should not be confused with denomination, which are churches. Jewish parties recognized Israel as the medium through which God would set up his world order. Denominations have replaced Israel with ‘the church.’

[6] This has caused some scholars to speculate that this gospel was written somewhere outside of Paul’s influence, possibly in Alexandria, Egypt. See S.G.F. Brandon, The Trial of Jesus of Nazareth (New York: Stein and Day, 1968), pp. 60-61.

[7] Robert Eisenman, James the Brother of Jesus (New York: Penguin Putnam, 1997).

[8] The Ecclesiastical History of Eusebius Pamphilus, trans. Christian Frederick Cruse (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1991), p. 76.

[9] Eisenman, James the Brother of Jesus, p. 136.

[10] Bernheim, James, Brother of Jesus, pp. 66-67.

[11] N.T. Wright, The New Testament and the People of God, vol. 1 (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1992), 262-263.

[12] All Bible quotes are from the NIV.

[13] Bernard W. Anderson, Understanding the Old Testament, abridged fourth edition (New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, 1998), p. 300.

[14] Israel was politically independent for nearly a hundred years under the Maccabean/Hasmonean rulers but Hellenism was persuasive and vied for dominance over Hebraism.

[15] The subjugation of Israel can be just punishment, but once Israel repents and makes itself righteous once more, the subjugation becomes unjust.

[16] Jerusalem Christianity believed in the physical resurrection of the dead—a relatively new concept in Second Temple Judaism that was likely introduced into Palestinian society in response to Persian-Zoroastrian challenges regarding universal justice and Western Greek notions of the soul’s immortality after physical death. Jewish belief in physical resurrection was a wholly alien irrational concept to the Hellenes (note the Athenian remarks to Paul in Acts 17:32). The Gentilization of Christianity continued this belief in Jewish resurrection but with a twist: it sought a physical resurrection from the earth into the clouds with Jesus.

[17] Both east-Persian and west-Hellenist possessed ideological biases against the physical-material world in their worldviews from Socrates and Plato in the West and Zoroaster in the East. Between these two cultural ‘pinchers’ was Israel, insisting on the innate goodness of the physical creation.

[18] Brandon, The Trial of Jesus of Nazareth, p. 92.

[19] Johannine Christianity has a similar belief. In the Johannine version, the death and resurrection account is one more miraculous sign story testifying to Jesus as Son of God.

[20] Milestones of History: vol. 1 Ancient Empires, 2nd ed., edited by S.G.F. Brandon (New York: Newsweek Books, 1973), pp. 80, 112-13. John Bright, A History of Israel, 3rd ed. (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1981), p. 451.

[21] In some respects, Judaism was not prepared for Jesus’ return in spirit. There was no basis for this in Judaic thought. If one returned at all, it could only be physically.

[22] S.G.F. Brandon, Religion in Ancient History (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1968), p. 80.

[23] John Painter, “Who was James?” in The Brother of Jesus, James the Just and His Mission, edited by Bruce Chilton and Jacob Neusner (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2001), p. 59.

[24] Ecclesiastical History, 99

[25] Outline of The Principle, Level 4 (New York: HSA-UWC, 1980), p. 77.

[26] Note the wine analogy I have drawn from Mt. 9:17. The Jerusalem conference, where the Pauline and Jamesian parties clashed, forbade the drinking of blood. (Acts15:29) Paul ignored this by proclaiming the drinking of the Lord’s blood. (1 Cor. 10:15-16) Note the Jewish restriction against consuming blood in the Noahic and Mosaic covenants. (Gen 9:4; Lev. 17:10)

[27] Painter, “Who was James?” p. 28.

[28] There is one unnamed beloved disciple that doesn’t seem to fit into this superficial non-believer category. Who this man or woman was is unknown. Some scholars wonder if it is a symbolic ideal believer. Others believe it was a real person who was the core founder of the Johannine community located somewhere outside of Ephesus in Asia Minor.

[29] In Paul’s account, the word ‘apostle’ applies beyond the twelve.

[30] Elaine Pagels, The Gnostic Gospels (New York: Vintage Books, 1979), pp. 9-10.

[31] James M. Robinson, general editor, The Nag Hammadi Library, revised ed., trans. by members of the Coptic Gnostic Library Project of the Institute for Antiquity and Christianity (New York: HarperCollins, 1990), p. 127.

[32] Eisenmann, James the Brother of Jesus, p. 143.

[33] Ibid.

[34] In the two previous attempts, Jesus relied on John the Baptist in the first course and miracles in the second. This ‘third course’ differs from the first two in that Jesus was now a resurrected spirit. To have Israel accept Jesus in spirit and body, something or someone had to step in to represent the bodily dimension of Jesus. For Jerusalem / Jamesian Christianity, this providential need was had through obedience to Jesus’ half brother James (and possibly the whole extended family including mother Mary and the other brothers). For Paul, the bodily presence of Jesus was not through Jesus’ kin family but the feast ceremony where Jesus transferred his bodily presence into the blood-wine and body-bread of the Christ sacrament. In this second scenario, though Jesus gave up his body on the cross, in another respect, the holy essence of it was not defiled but transferred to something that remained on the earth.

[35] The word ‘favored’ may be misleading. I use the word to show preference but this preference by God is in connection to position, role and responsibility. God favors ‘Abel’ for certain tasks. Abel is closer to God in terms of a role or position. In the same way, God and Father Moon work closely (i.e. favorably) with certain leaders who have certain abilities or positions. But this does not mean God or Father Moon loves them more. God’s heart and Father Moon’s heart is also extended favorably to the people who have no position. It is possible that such people are even loved more.

[36] Other outstanding issues also existed between Paul and James (blood purification, role of Jesus as progressing former Jewish covenants or replacing them). These issues cannot be fully developed in this limited article.

[37] Ecclesiastical History, p. 76.

[38] Ibid.

[39] Ibid.

[40] Eusebius put great credence in Hegesippus’ account because he wrongly believed Hegesippus lived in the apostolic age.

[41] Ibid.

[42] Painter, “Who Was James?” p. 49.

[43] Brandon, Trial of Jesus, pp. 83-84.

[44] Ecclesiastical History, p. 86.

[45] Brandon, Trial of Jesus, pp. 32, 59.

[46] Exposition of the Divine Principle, pp. 396-97.