James the Just is one of the most important and enigmatic figures in the history of early Christianity. He is best remembered for being the brother of Jesus, as documented by several sources, including the Gospels, the epistle of James, and other noncanonical texts. He was also the first bishop of Jerusalem before he was put to death in AD 62 or 69.
Biblical scholars have long been fascinated by James as a historical figure, especially in trying to determine his relationship to Jesus. The Gospels seemingly contradicted themselves when it came to their description of James, and since he is labeled a brother of Jesus, he is a central figure in the debate over the origins of the virgin birth of Jesus and the Christian tradition that maintained Mary was a perpetual virgin. In attempting to answer this, St. Jerome went so far as to speculate that James was actually a cousin of Jesus, not a brother, and the lack of a Greek term for stepbrother or half brother only adds to the intrigue.
While his relationship to Jesus is the most important issue, other aspects of James' life have long been open sources of speculation, including his potentially tense relationship with Paul, the manner and timing of his death, and whether he was the author of the Epistle of James. With different sources seemingly saying different things, early Church fathers and historians attempted to piece together James' life, which served only to deepen the mystery.
Legends of the Bible: The Life and Legacy of James, the Brother of Jesus discusses the facts, myths, and legends surrounding the life of James, examining the Bible and historical records to piece together his life and legacy in an attempt to separate fact from fiction.
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