The Life and Passion of the Holy Apostle James (Iakovos), the Brother of the Lord

My beloved spiritual children in Christ Our Only True God and Our Only True Savior,


Saint James (Iakovos) was the son of Saint Joseph, the betrothed of the Most Pure Virgin (The Oikos in the Menaion). From his youth he loved the ascetic life: he never partook of butter or oil and ate nothing but bread; neither did he drink wine nor any other sort of strong drink but only water. He did not frequent baths-houses, and he disdained every comfort of the flesh. He wore a rough hair shirt upon his body and passed each night in prayer, sleeping very little. The skin on his knees became as tough as a camel's because of the numerous prostrations which he made and was called "camel-kneed." He preserved his virginity undefiled until the day of his death.

The following is written concerning the name given him, "The Brother of God." When Joseph the Betrothed divided his land among the children his first wife had borne him, he wished to give a parcel to the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of the Most Pure Virgin, his betrothed. At that time Jesus was yet a babe, and Joseph's son would not consent to this. Nevertheless, James agreed to give a portion of his inheritance to the Lord, and because of this he came to be called the Brother of God. This name was also given to him for the following reason. After the birth of Christ the Lord, the Most Pure Virgin Theotokos fled with the Savior to Egypt. James departed with them at that time also, accompanying the Most Pure Mother of God and Saint Joseph, his father.

When the Divine Infant Christ Jesus reached manhood, began to teach the people of the Kingdom of God, and was revealed as the True Messiah, then it was that Saint James believed in Him. As he hearkened unto Christ's Divine words, his heart was inflamed yet more with the love of God, and he began to live a still more severe life. Moreover, it is clear that the Lord especially loved the Apostle James, His beloved brother, for after His voluntary Passion and Resurrection, Christ the Lord appeared separately to him, apart from the other disciples. It is of this appearance that the Apostle Paul speaks when he says, "After that, He was seen of James; then of all the Apostles" (Stichera at Vespers from the Menaion).

Saint James was called "The Righteous One," for all bore witness to his righteous and God-pleasing life. He was numbered among the Seventy Apostles, was made a bishop, and was instructed in the performance of the sacred rites by our Lord Jesus Christ Himself (Stichera at Vespers from the Menaion). The newly-enlightened Church of Jerusalem was entrusted to him, and he became the first hierarch (bishop) and pastor. He also composed the first Divine Liturgy, which he wrote under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit (The Prologue and the Menaion). Later, out of condescension toward the weakness of men, Saint Basil the Great and Saint John Chrysostom shortened this service. As the pastor of Christ's flock in Jerusalem, Saint James (Iakovos) led many Jews and Greeks unto God by his teaching, directing them along the path of salvation. He wrote to the twelve tribes of Israel a General Epistle (Letter), which is filled with divinely inspired and exceedingly profitable teaching. This epistle is the adornment of the whole Church of Christ and instructs us both to have faith and to do good works. Because of his virtuous life, Saint James was held in great honor by all, the faithful and unbelievers alike. The high priests of the Jews themselves entered the Holy of Holies only once a year to perform their service, but they and the priests did not forbid Saint James to enter therein frequently to pray, for they saw that his life was pure and blameless. Moreover, they began to call him by another name, OBLI (or Ophli), which means "the defense of men" or "the confirmation of men" or "he who is righteous above all" (Metaphrastes). The Saint would enter the Holy of Holies not only during the daytime but by night as well, and falling to the floor, he would offer God prayer for the whole world. He was loved by the people for his sanctity, and many of the elders of the Jews came to believe through his teaching. All heard him gladly, and multitudes would gather about him. Some of the people wished to hear his words while others sought merely to touch the fringe of his garment.

Now at that time Ananias became High Priest, and he, the Pharisees, and the Scribes saw that all the people hearkened unto James's teaching and that many had turned to Christ. Smitten with jealousy, they became wroth with the Saint and considered how they might do him harm and slay him. They determined to ask the Saint to speak to the people and to lead them away from Christ. If he would not consent to do this, their intention was to put him to death.

As the feast of the Passover approached, people from every city and land began arriving in Jerusalem for the festival. Festus, who had delivered Paul out of the hands of the Jews, died a short time before, and a new procurator had not arrived from Rome to replace him. The Scribes and Pharisees gathered about Saint James in the temple and said, "O most venerable one! We entreat you to address the people on the day of the feast when a multitude of people will assemble here from throughout the world. Turn them away from Jesus, for they have been led astray and say that He is the Son of God. Instruct them in the truth, that they not remain in their error. We revere you and heed you, as do all the people. We are prepared to bear witness concerning you, that you speak nothing but the truth and are no respecter of persons. Exhort the people, then, not to be deceived by Jesus, Who was crucified. We ask you to go up to the summit of the temple, where all can see and hear you, and to speak from there, for as you see, many people have gathered together here, both Israelites and gentiles."

When they had said this, the Scribes and Pharisees led James up to the pinnacle of the temple and shouted, "O Most Righteous One, we all have trust in you! This people has gone astray and follows after Jesus, Who was crucified. Tell us what you truly think concerning Him."

The Saint cried out with a great voice, "Why do you question me concerning the Son of Man, Who willingly suffered, was crucified, buried, and arose from the grave on the third day? He is now seated in the heavens on the right hand of the Most High and will come again upon the clouds of heaven to judge the living and the dead."

The people rejoiced greatly when they heard Saint James bear witness to Christ Jesus thus, and they shouted with a single voice, "Glory to God; hosanna to the Son of David!'

The Pharisees and Scribes then muttered, "We have not done well to permit James to speak of Jesus: he has only stirred up the people more."

Filled with anger, they cast James down from the summit of the temple, that all the people might fear them and be stricken with terror and that the crowd might not believe James' words (Metaphrastes). The Righteous One has been deceived," they cried out vehemently.

When Saint James struck the ground, his bones were shattered, but he remained alive. He lifted himself up on his knees, raised his hands, and prayed, "Lord, lay not this sin to their charge, for they know not what they do" (Acts, ch. 7; St. Luke, ch. 23).

The Pharisees and the Scribes began to cast stones at the Saint, further wounding him. One of the sons of Rechab then cried, "Cease! The Righteous One prays for you, and you stone him?"

Immediately one of the Pharisees took a fuller's club and fell upon the Saint, striking his head with all his might and shattering it (St. Dorotheos, Bishop of Tyre). His brains were spilt upon the ground, and thus the Apostle surrendered his soul in martyrdom unto the Lord. His sacred body was buried near the temple, and the faithful wept greatly over him. Saint James (Iakovos) was the Bishop of Jerusalem for thirty years, and he was sixty-six years old when he suffered for Christ the Lord. To Him be honor and glory, together with the Father and the Holy Spirit, unto the ages of ages, Amen. (Source: The Great Collection of The Lives of the Saints).


Author: The author identifies himself as "James, a bondservant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ" (1:1). Early Church tradition ascribes this letter to James, the "brother," of kinsman of our Lord, known as James the Just.

Date: James the Just was martyred about A.D. 62. Although 1 and 2 Thessalonians likely pre-date it, some consider James' letter the earliest New Testament book, after the martyrdom of Stephen and the dispersion of Christians from Jerusalem (Acts 8:1).

Major Theme: The Harmony of Faith and Works. The letter has many direct parallels with the Sermon on the Mount. James does not teach that we are saved by works, but he does teach that a dead faith, one without works, does not save. This is an early polemic against invisible religion, or mental faith, wherein salvation by faith does not require visible works; and against antinomianism, the teaching that moral behavior is irrelevant to salvation. James is clear: the human will is not bypassed in salvation; grace does not nullify personal responsibility.


"...So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath; for the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God. Therefore lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness, and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls. But be doers of the word and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone, is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was. But he looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does. If anyone among you thinks he is religious, and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this one's religion is useless. Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit the orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world" (St. James 1:19-27).

"...What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him? If a brother or a sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, 'Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,' but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. But someone will say, 'You have faith, and I have works.' Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe--and tremble! But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead…for as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also" (St. James 2:14-26).

"...Look also at ships: although they are so large and are driven by fierce winds, they are turned by a very small rudder wherever the pilot desires. Even so the tongue is a little member and boasts great things. See how great a forest a little fire kindles! And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity. The tongue is so set among our members that it defiles the whole body, and sets on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire by hell. For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile, and creature of the sea, is tamed and has been tamed by mankind. But no man can tame the tongue. It is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our God and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the similitude of God. Out of the same mouth proceed blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be so. Does a spring send forth fresh water and bitter from the same opening? Can a fig tree, my brethren, bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Thus no spring yields both salt water and fresh" (St. James 3:4-12).

"...Do not speak evil of one another, brethren. He who speaks evil of a brother and judges his brother, speaks evil of the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge. There is one Lawgiver, Who is able to save and to destroy, Who are you to judge another?" (4:11-12).

"...Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing psalms. Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much" (St. James 5:13-16).



The Grace of Our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God and Father, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.


"Glory Be To GOD For All Things!"


With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God

+Father George