I am asking this question due to Eusebius’ description of James (actually “Jacob”) in his book on early church history. Eusebius (260-340 C.E.), who was born in Palestine and was the bishop of Caesarea, is commonly known as “The Father of Church History,” since he was the first to trace the rise of the early Christian church in its first three centuries.
In his book, he quotes an earlier historian, Hegesippus, whose writings have been largely lost to history. But in his history, Hegesippus, provides us with this description of “James the just.”
James, the brother of the Lord, who, as there were many of this name, was surnamed the Just by all, from the days of our Lord until now, received the government of the church with the apostles. This apostle was concentrated 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. 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. And indeed, on account of his exceeding great piety, he was called the Just, and Oblias (or Zaddick and Ozleam) which signifies justice and protection of the people; as the prophets declare concerning him. (Book 2, chapter 23, lines 4-7)
Now according to this description, James was a Nazarite from birth, just like the Samson, Samuel the prophet, and John the Baptist. In addition, he was a vegetarian, since he didn’t eat meat. Now when he writes that he “never used a bath,” I’m wondering if he meant that he never used any of the “public baths,” which were associated with Greek and Roman idols?
Now if James was called “the Just” because of all this, could it be that Joseph was the same way? In the Gospel of Matthew, Joseph is also called “Just” (Matthew 1:19). And, of course, the ultimate in “Just” men is the Lord Jesus Himself. So is it possible that all the men in Jesus’ family were not only “Nazarites,” but also “Tzaddiks” who were “just”?
A Tzaddik is a technical term that “carries the meaning of doing what is correct and just” (“What is a Tzaddik?” Chabad.org) He goes to great pains to make sure that everything is done exactly the way that God commanded, even if it jeopardizes his own life. For example, in the Scriptures, we learn that Jesus’ family went down from Nazareth to Jerusalem for Passover every single year. Not only was this journey expensive, it was extremely dangerous since there were thieves waiting to rob unsuspecting travelers (remember, Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan?) Most people made it down at least once in a lifetime, or perhaps, a few times more. But for jesus’ family, it was an annual journey!
Another interesting thing about Jesus’ family was that Mary was the political activist in the family; whereas, Joseph was more religiously wired. When the angel Gabriel came to Mary, he talked to her about political things: Her Son, Jesus, would be given “the throne of His father David,” and He would “reign over the house of Jacob forever; and of His Kingdom there shall be no end” (Luke 1:32-33), but when the same angel, Gabriel, goes to Joseph, he doesn’t say any of these things to him. Instead, he gives him a spiritual reason why he is to name the baby “Jesus:” “and you shall call His name JESUS: for He shall save His people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21).
Can you imagine the scene? The family gathering of an Orthodox Jewish family, and perhaps by the standards of the day, an ultra-Orthodox Jewish family of Tzaddik, Nazarite men, the daughters we’re really aren’t told anything about them, but then there’s this political activist mother in the midst of them all. For her, who probably expected so much from Jesus, “a liberated homeland for her people,” based on what the angel had told her, the crucifixion of Jesus would’ve indeed been “a sword piercing her heart” (Luke 2:35).
And if this was the character and nature of Joseph and his household, then I can’t think of a single Jesus film that’s been made that comes even close to representing this view of Jesus and His family. what about you? Can you think of a film that comes close?
Of course, all of this is speculation based on what information is provided in the Bible and in the writings of Eusebius. But what are your thoughts on this? Do you also see this as a possibility, or do you disagree? I’m curious to hear your ideas on this. Because the better we understand Jesus and His family, His home life, I think we have a deeper insight into the person of Jesus, and the character and nature of His original movement.