Today in Bulgarian Orthodox Church. We celebrate the feast of Saint Apostle Jacobs (brother by flesh) as being known from Holy Gospels. I have many protestant friends and I know they literally understand the said about Saint Apostle Jacobs (James as usually used in English) and fall in the trap to think St. Ap. Jacobs was born by the Holy Theotokos (Virgin Mary). This is a very wrong understanding, which I myself have pondered in the early days when I believed in Christ.
What it is meant by “brother in Flesh” is therefore an ambigious milestone for all Protestants, who reject our Orthodox Christian belief that the Mother of God (The Holy Theotokos) gave birth to the Incarnated Logos (The only begotten Son of God Lord Jesus Christ without loosing her virginity !)
This is a great miracle of God and the more one thinks over it the more he gets astounished on the greatness of the Lord and the righteousness of the Orthodox Christian faith!
The actual reason why the Gospel talks about the Lord having saint Jacob as a brother in flesh is due to fact he was Joseph’s Son (a good note to make here is Joseph was actually a man in his old age already even physically incapable to have kids – again something protestant christian and the protestant tens of thousands of denominations often did not know or if heard reject it fully).
Joseph was instructed by God to take Mariam as wife for the only reason to not allow the most Holy Theotokos (Virgin mary – which we consider higher in veneration and Spiritual Rank than Angels) from being accused by Jewish. It was very uncommon for ladies to bring forth kids without being married for that time, probably thousand of times more shameful than now. Jewish considered killing by stoning ladies which give birth to kids born by ladies without husband.
It was God’s salvationary plan for us Humans to bore Christ from a Virgin and this is why The Holy Theotokos conceived without being married by the Holy Spirit, the Old Testament prophecies states this will happen among with multiple other fully fulfilled prophecies by Christ – (Check old testament Messianic prophecies fulfilled by Christ (Prophecies for Christ) here ) or here .
With this said we firmly believe in Orthodox Church, The Good Lord give Joseph the order to marry her in order to “save” her from shameful unrighteous jewish accusations..
Joseph himself obeying to God’s instructions to live with Mariam (The Holy Theotokos) was a widowed a man with Sons born by a Holy woman. One of Joseph sons was Saint Apostle James who martyred for Christ in 63 A.D.
The Mother of God (Holy Thetokos) and Joseph were man and Husband officially during, all their earthly living, however they never lived together as man in life and never had sleep together (in a sense of man and wife) but lived in holiness and prayer during their whole living.
The Holy Family – Greek Orthodox icon
Therefore it is incorrect and sinful thinking to Think Virgin Mary gave birth to others except the Messiah (Christ) Lord Jesus.
Because saint James lived his life as official part of the Holy Family, later in Gospels he was called the brother in Flesh along with his other brothers / other sons of Joseph. Due to God’s desire st. Apostle Jacob was later also choosen in assembly of Holy Apostles, which gathered together and choose st. Jacob to be the first Patriarch of the Jerusalem Church.
An Orthodox Church patriarchy which exists even to this day kept by the Grace of the Holy Spirit.
In moment the Good Lord Jesus Christ revealed himself to me and blessed me with the gift of Faith about 8 years ago, I didn’t believed in him reading Orthodox Christian Literature, Holy Apostles writings, the Living of the Saints, or not even had a clear idea that there is difference between Christians). How I believed was, I read the Holy Bible and the Holy Gospels of pure interest. Actually I was in a severe desperation not finding a meaning in life and cause of that researched different major faiths around the world (I put here this details because I think maybe there are others around in same or similar situation and my testimony might strengthen their faith in Christ and his one Holy Apostolic Church – The Orthodox Church). In my quest for truth, I decided to read the Holy Bible with a mindset that Probably it contains some Good Wisdom not believing back in that time it is 100% true). My reasoning to read holy Bible was due to fact Holy Bible is today one of the oldest circulating easy accessible books.
Now having a bit of personal story, I can continue with why Saint Apostle James is called flesh brother to the Lord Jesus Christ; I hope my personal shortly writen story on how I ended up believing in truthfulness of Orthodox Church will be useful for Protestant Christians seeking true faith and will help them find the true faith Christ has given us in the realm of our One Holy Apostolic Church nowdays known as the Orthodox Church
In Holy Gospels it is said Saint Apostle James is brother in flesh to the the Lord Jesus Christ. Earlier when I started being in deep interested to Christian faith and found Orthodox Christian faith is the only true faith in Christ currently present, in small steps I started realizing the teachings of Orthodox Church and Orthodox Saints are the only 100% trustable sources of interpretation which correctly explain the Holy Bible, Gospels and thereon inside the Orthodox Church it is only place where true Christian can find true spirituality and more in depth information on the living of the Lord Jesus Christ; his death on the Cross for our Salvation, His Glorious Resurrection triumphing over deapth, living of the saints, the desert fathers livings and the innumerous number of events and miracles which happened before the incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ, after his Resurrection (from the Death) and all events related to Christianity and Church for passed 2000 years of Church existence.
According to our Church tradition Saint Apostle Jacob believed in his “brother in flesh” to be the Christ after listening to his words of life after the Lord Jesus’s first public preach.
After The Lord’s Resurrection, as st. Apostle Paul mentions the Lord show himself with his resurrected victorious body over death in front of 500 people and st. Apostle Jacob as well.
The Church tradition continues that saint Apostle Jacobs lived and spend all his life before his martyrdom in Jerusalem along with the rest of The Lord Jesus desciples, working for building, strengthening and extending the Church and faith in the Resurrected Savior.
Because of his great holiness he was well known in Jerusalem during his living by both the Church members and the rest of Jews. Publicly they address him as “Jacobs (James – The Just”.
Because of different translation in different languages there is some unambiguality between the old times (Old Testament) Patriach saint Jacobs and some of the new testamential saints also called Jacobs, hence in English st. Jacobs is often called James.
It was also st. Apostle Jacob who first has give the final decision concerning the big “argueing” division between people who claimed circumcision is necessery for salvation and the Church members who said that it is not. The Jewish people claimed it is necessery for everyone to be well educated in old testamential law and follow the circumcision and all jewish laws and tradition in order to obtain salvation. In Jerusalem on the assembly st. Barnaba and st. Paul along with st. Jacob and all the Church hierarchs decided led by the Holy Spirit in truth that gentiles will not be required to circumcise and follow all jewish traditions. They decided together that every Church member receives his salvation by the Grace through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
The Apostle assembly (council) occured in year 51 A.D. This assembly was an example on how huge Church discussions should be decided for future and set the building stone of the next Church Ecummenical Councils in which major decisions concerning our faith was taken.
The Jewish people who was in hatred for Jesus (rejecting him as Christ = Messiah (being the Messiah the Saviour of Israel) and the only one begotten Son of God) killed Holy Apostle Jacob by , first threw him from the summit of the Temple in Jerusalem and (being unable to kill him by throwing him down), then killed him with stones (stoned him). According to Eusibeus who retold what Hegesippus (earlier source history writer writen), the jewish broke the Holy Apostle skull with a fuller’s club trying to completely destroy his holy relics. But obviously as Psalm reads, they couldn’t – As “The memory of the righteous continues live on forver”. –
Psalm 112:6 Surely he will never be shaken; a righteous man will be remembered forever.
While I never before in depth read about Saint Apostle James – (often called THE JUST) for his holy living, whilst reading in in OrthodoxWiki about him, I found also the Church Hymns as translated in English. It is strikingly beautiful to hear and pray with them in this times of decaying less and less faith. Also I was amazed to read about such unachiavable in our generation righteousness in which St. Ap. James lived in; His glorious martyrdom is also one of the most striking ones I ever red ….
The Holy Apostle gave up the spirit after a short prayer, before the Jewish stoned him. He was aged 66 when he received his martyrdom for Christ.
St. James the Just – Troparion – (Tone 4)
As the Lord’s disciple you received the Gospel, O righteous James;
As a martyr you have unfailing courage;
As God’s brother, you have boldness;
As a hierarch, you have the power to intercede.
Pray to Christ God that our souls may be saved.
Church Wall Painting painted by st. Teophanus from Crit and Smeon (year 1546) Church Saint Nikolas (Monastery StavroNikita Holy Mount Athos)
Kontakion in veneration of Saint James the first Patriach of Jerusalem – (Tone 4)
When God the Word, the Only-begotten of the Father,
Came to live among us in these last days,
He declared you, venerable James, to be the first shepherd and teacher of Jerusalem
And a faithful steward of the spiritual Mysteries. Therefore, we all honor you, O Apostle.
It is interesting fact actually the most ancient Holy Liturgy, text ever written is writen by Saint Apostle James (The Brother of God) himself. This year Praise be to God, a Jacobine Holy Liturgy, will be served in Vidin with blessing of Vidin’s Metropolitan – I read this news in Dveri.BG , an information site discussing Bulgarian Church and related news. Saint Jacob’s Holy Liturgy is served only once per year on his Church feast day. If My memory is not mistaken saint Jacob’s Holy Liturgy is served also on Our Lord Jesus’s Resurrection Day every (Easter), right before the Holy Fire descends from Heaven and lights up the candle of Jerusalem Patriarch
Let by the Holy Prayers of st. Apostle Jacobs (a brother in flesh to the Lord), God have merce on me the sinner and all Christians.