December 03, 2017

More on the Apocalypse of James

Dana Mathewson

Sent the article on the Apocalypse of James to "Friend Ken" and got the following response. It'll take you awhile to read it. Note that he is not fully in agreement as to which Biblical James is the correct one here. And he may be right. The Post article is not wondrously scholarly

From Friend Ken:

Interesting indeed. It was year or two ago when I ran across an article on James and his 'mission' to Libya and then came back to Egypt to help the Coptic Christians there by ministering to them, correcting some of the askew things they had about Jesus. I had thought this James was a cousin of Jesus, of the James and John duo, not Jesus' brother, James. The United Methodist Women (UMW) had a national program which featured Egypt women, Coptic Christians to be exact, as the women to honor. Bobbi was involved in the program, and had some background info which I read, included the article on James' ministry, a sort of where did they go account. I learned in an architectural history class that the well regarded library in Alexandria, Egypt was burned to the ground, thereby losing a lot of original works, manuscripts, a lot of them Hebrew in origin, Old Testament manuscripts and included manuscripts written during and after Jesus. A tragic loss to mankind was how it was presented. As part of the teachers' training to teach the Bethel Bible Series we were given a list of resources/books to read that were 'outside' of canonized manuscripts, one of which I mentioned earlier, The Lost Books of Eden...

From a couple of the books, I understand James, Jesus' brother was considered a Jew's Jew as he did not agree with his brother's theology at all and became a devout Jew as a result. Upon Jesus' resurrection, James, brother of Jesus became 'converted' to follow his brother as his resurrection confirmed his authority and he became a leader in Jerusalem along with Peter and a couple of others. Based upon my undiscipliined study, I'm inclined to believe the James the article refers to is really James, the brother of John, sons of Thunder, cousins of Jesus. Correct me please with some reliable source if I'm wrong.

As for 'secret', I regard that word as being used to arouse curiosity into reading the article, not much more. The scrolls referred to have been around, known about, for some time in my opinion. As I may have stated a few times, the manuscripts assigned to various authors were not accepted because they were patently false, but because they contained too much detail that raised serious theological questions the 'selectors' were unprepared to deal with at the time. They selected manuscripts that were terse, less detailed, so as to not have to parse manuscripts, but refer to the entire manuscript, so as to reduce the theological questions that could be raised. Biblical study/research has come a long ways since back in the 4th century AD, then. Our bible is indeed a very remarkable document. Could it be added to? In my view without question, but it contains the essence necessary, so what is the purpose, the point of doing so?

I find it interesting to me at least, after reading most of Jonathan Cahn's book, The Book of Mysteries, meaning the bible of OT and NT of today. He refers to the Hebrew words that 'ancient' scholars had in documents to translate the sacred Hebrew writings into Greek, the language of diplomacy back in the early centuries. The Greeks had no singular words that express all the meanings of the Hebrew word that had to be translated to Greek. We today are at the mercy of the English scholars trying to translate the Greek (and Hebrew) words into the proper English words that convey to full meaning of the original Hebrew words. I hold that it simply cannot be done as most of our words don't have multiple meanings. Some bible scholars hold that the Coptic writings are more authentic than later writings. At any rate, the ancient Hebrew writings translated into Greek and rewritten over the centuries are far more accurate with the oldest/original manuscripts than any other varieties of ancient writings, such as Homer's Iliad.

Some biblical scholars hold that the Greek scribes who helped translate the Hebrew writings ignored the jots and iotas that denoted the gender and contextual meaning of of the word as 'static' or simply scratchings in the clay tablets and thus ignored for all intents and purposes, plus the Greek language had several words that could be used to denote one or two of the several meanings of the Hebrew words. So we today 'miss' a lot of the depth of meaning reading the English translation of even the Greek words, for our words don't convey the depth of meaning. Much of Cahn's meditation book deals with the English word, taken from the Greek or Latin word, taken from the Hebrew word and shows how the meaning is diluted to a surprising degree from the depth of meaning the Hebrew word has. The Jews had similar problems writing the accounts in Greek as the words didn't convey the full meaning, but one has to make decisions with what has before one when it comes to language from one 'culture' to another. The translator doesn't have the necessary cultural background in both so something suffers in the translation, careful as the authors want to be. There is/are conversational and diplomatic meanings and use of words. Diplomatic phrases had to have universal meaning whereas conversational phrases, idiosycrysies could easily distort the diplomatic 'definition' or 'literal' definition of the word or phrase. Thought patterns were also very different from Greek (western) compared with Hebrew (eastern) thought. Then of course, dialects come into play. I think the word 'secret' had a different meaning than the English definition has for it. Hidden in plain sight might be the more accurate definition. Not hidden out of sight.

For example, the word 'perfect' in English means without flaw, without sin then in a sense. In Hebrew it meant amongst other things; 'complete', 'mature', 'designed as God meant it to be', 'fully ripened as fruit'. You get the drift of what I'm trying to illustrate. It did not mean 'man without sin', for ancient Hebrews knew man was imperfect, tended to sin. The story of Adam and Eve, and Cain and Abel confirm that. The sacrifices were used to make God forgive man's sins, were to be 'perfect', without 'blemish', designed as God had intended the animal to be designed, not defective. The 'perfection' applied to man as a sacrifice takes a slightly different meaning when applied to Jesus as a human sacrifice, a perfect man without blemish and we say today, without sin in that he perfectly obeyed the Lord, albeit questioning the Lord about his role in prayer. Jesus death and resurrection halted the 'need' for animal/life sacrifices as he fully paid the cost/price of our sin(s). Once for all. Life is sustained, carried by/in the blood, thus a sacred body fluid and Jesus shed his human blood as the 'perfect' sacrifice. Cahn goes into all this from a Rabbinic background. Fascinating to read. It is why murder is a serious sin. Abortion is considered murder of life, shedding blood without regard for the gift of life from our Lord albeit not a 'perfect' life as it could become in time. Fruit needs time to ripen, to mature, be 'perfect'.

Still Jesus was fully man, and fully divine, a foot so to speak in both 'realms'. Jesus accepted his role, his part of the plan God has/had for mankind to be able to enter heaven in eternal life upon judgement time. Jesus says, "be ye perfect, even as I am perfect" to his followers. Meaning, be all you were designed to be, be mature, fully 'ripened', not necessarily without sin or flaw, for Jesus knew man was a creature of God, only made in His image, not to be able to attain divinity as a creature, or 'child' as we say today. Our bodies aren't without flaws or blemishes. It is what is in our inner being that the Lord is concerned with as our bodies die and return to this earth from whence our bodies came. Its our souls, our breath of life that lives eternally and how that is 'ripened' is key to eternal life, brought to maturity. We tend to plateau at some place in its development or some places in its development while other parts continue on to 'maturity, ripeness' so to speak. We are all endowed, each with a unique combination of gifts or degrees of gifts and thus we are to use them to the fullest, not let them wither and die or not fully develop.


"Friend Ken" had some good insights and he's absolutely right about the problems of translating to English. Our language is quite different from Greek, and especially different from Hebrew or Aramaic, so we shouldn't be surprised that we are getting a somewhat confused text.

Case in point; the Greek word Adelphos was used to describe Jesus' brothers, a word that also can mean step brother or cousin or even uncle. It is the same word used in the translation of the Old Testament for Abraham and Lot - an uncle and nephew, not brothers. James, along wihth his brother Joses, were sons of Mary of Cleophas, not Mary, Jesus' mother, and were cousins of Jeuss, as were the "sons of thunder".

It's very confusing, I know. A big part of the problem is the translation from Aramaic (which I am given to understand lacks terminology for half siblings or cousins) to Greek to English.

Jack, does Hebrew have that sort of confusion?

I hope this doesn't start a big argument, as this is as old an argument as they come. Suffice it to say we really don't know the answer, but it probably doesn't really matter all that much in the grand scheme of things. The key point here is that the James of this book may or may not have written this, and he may or may not have had some sound things to say. The Gnostic portions could have been added after James wrote it, or the whole thing could be a Gnostic fib to begin with. We don't know,although the age of the document in question does give some weight to it.

What we do know is that the liberals in the media will try to use it to undermine standard Christianity. You can make book on that.


I believe -- and Fay can straighten us out on this -- that James was Joseph's son by his earlier marriage. So he's Jesus' half-brother.


A couple of things, as unraveling your friend's comments would take a long time. I appreciate his observations--he clearly has given a lot of thought to the subject--but believe him to betray more than a hint of Gnosticism with his emphasis on the soul vs. the body--a dualism typical of Gnosticism. Orthodoxy insists on redemption of body and soul; that is, those who believe in Christ will at the resurrection receive a body like his resurrected body.

As for the prophecy of James, I think all of us have seen these "discoveries" come and go. As it is, the canon of scripture has more than enough for us to know the core beliefs of Judaism and Christianity, which I see as seamlessly interconnected. Theologians have for centuries wrestled with the canon, have come to sure conclusions and I do not see any other sources, past and present prophecies included, that can add more to the story of salvation, prophesied by the Hebrew seers and which we Christians begin to celebrate this advent Sunday. The incarnation alone is enough to keep us humbly contemplative for the entire year.


Tim, the question to ask is whether ancient Hebrew, Biblical Hebrew, had this kind of confusion. Since I am not a Biblical scholar, I am not qualified to answer that one. I know, in general, that Hebrew is a very concise language that simplifies everything and requires one to understand the contesxt of the statement. Hebrew is a lot less descriptive of nuances than English. An English language book, when translated into Hebrew, is often half as thick as the original. For example, if you want to say the equivalent of the English "Do you have a light (for a cigarette)" in Hebrew you would say it in two words "Yesh aish?" which translates simply as "Is fire?" Even that cuts short the the English equivalent meaning, "Is (there) fire?" with the third word understood without writing or speaking it.

Posted by: Timothy Birdnow at 09:26 AM | No Comments | Add Comment
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