The disciples said to Jesus, “We know you will leave us. Who is going to be our leader then?” Jesus said to them, “No matter where you go you are to go to James the Just, for whose sake heaven and earth came into being.” (Gospel of Thomas 12)
The succession of the church passed to James the brother of the Lord, together with the Apostles. He was called the “Just” by all men from the Lord’s time until ours, since many are called James, but he was holy from his mother’s womb. (Eusebius, Church History 2.23-24)
The church in Jerusalem that was established by our Lord was increasing in numbers being ruled uprightly and firmly by James who was made Overseer over it by our Lord” (Syriac Recognitions 1.43.3).
Wherefore observe the greatest caution, that you believe no teacher, unless he bring from Jerusalem the testimonial of James the Lord’s brother, or of whosoever may come after him” (The Latin version of the Recognitions4:35).
Jesus passes to James his successor rule of the Church; James is widely known, even by Josephus, an outsider, because of his reputation for righteousness both in his community and among the people; Peter, John, and the rest of the Twelve look to James as their leader. (James D. Tabor, Ph.D. is professor of Religious Studies at UNC, Charlotte)
James D. Tabor argues that the beloved disciple is Jesus’ brother James. One of several pieces of evidence Tabor offers is a literal interpretation of John 19:26, “Then when Jesus saw His mother and the disciple whom He loved standing by, He said to His mother, Woman, behold your son.”
There was a sect of Judaism based on what Jesus thought and taught before Paul with none of the core theological statements found in the Apostles Creed. That is precisely what the historical, textual criticism and archaeological evidence indicates. This was the theology of Jesus, his inner circle of The Twelve and his disciples.
After Jesus’ crucifixion, the original apostles and other disciples of Jesus, led by James, continued to live as Jews while remembering Jesus and honoring him as their martyred Teacher and Messiah. They neither worshiped Jesus, nor thought of him as being God, or as a risen Savior, who died for the sins of humankind because they knew this was not the case. They knew that Jesus was dead and buried. They practiced no ritual of baptism into Christ, nor did they celebrate a sacred meal that included the eating of bread that somehow became Jesus’ body and drinking wine that somehow had become the blood of Christ as a guarantee of eternal life. As Jews neither Jesus, nor any of his followers would have ever thought to do such a thing. It was forbidden to eat the flesh and drink the blood of someone. It would have been abhorrent to them all, including Jesus. Paul made up that story about 24 years after Jesus’ death, claiming that Jesus “revealed” it to him, possibly in some sort of a vision. Unfortunately, Paul’s theology was adopted by the church, which for various, self-serving reasons chose to suppress the truth about Jesus’ Jewishness and the role James the Just played in the earliest form of Christianity.
The message of Jesus and his followers, both before and after his crucifixion was wholly focused on their expectations that the Kingdom of God had drawn near and that soon, God would come into the world to bring about his righteous rule of peace and justice among all nations. Until that time came, both Jews and non-Jews were urged to repent of their sins, turn to God, and live righteously before God in anticipation of his kingdom.
Jesus and his family were descendants of David and they believed that the males of their family were a dynasty destined by God with a hereditary right and a mission to rule Israel as its kings. Jesus was to be first, James, his younger brother next, then Jose followed by Simon. However, when James was martyred, Simon succeeded him because Jose had probably died already.