James the Just was the half-brother of Jesus and, I think, the “disciple whom Jesus loved.” Thus he was among the very first Christians, though they weren’t known as that; at least not in the beginning.
Do not mistake the Christianity of Jesus earliest followers with traditional Christianity, nor with the church as we know it. Christianity was an apocalyptic sect of Judaism. The Christians of Jesus’ time, including James the Just were Jewish just as, for instance, those of Karaite Judaism are today. So, one could say that the earliest followers of Jesus were Christian Jews.
“Christ” is a title for Jesus that means Messiah. Jesus though he was the Davidic Messiah. The Davidic Messiah was to be a person, not God, nor a divine being. He was to be a descendant of King David and a political leader. So, Christian Jews would have been those who thought that Jesus was, indeed, the Davidic Messiah.
Once he was crucified, his inner circle would have known that he was dead, moved from his temporary tomb to his final resting place, his corpse decaying and his soon to be bare bones awaiting placement in his ossuary. They would have known that he had been mistaken in the timing of the Apocalypse. Mourning the loss of their leader, Jesus, their leadership would have passed on to James the Just. They would have continued being Jewish and would have settled down to await whoever the Christ might be, whenever he might come, followed by the Apocalypse or accompanying it. They would have live in accord with the ethical teaching of Jesus, which were really the ethics from the Tanakh, the Jewish Bible, which also became the Protestant Old Testament down the road in time.
They would have heard that some people claimed to have visions of Jesus being risen bodily from the dead because of the absence of the body from the temporary tomb. They would, of course had known that the empty tomb was caused by the body having been moved to the permanent tomb on the property of one of Jesus’ wealthy followers. Jesus’ family would have visited that tomb once told of it and known the body was there.
Paul would have eventually told them of his vision of Jesus, but that was a spiritual vision. Some of the Apostles may also have had such a vision. Indeed, our founder has had a vision of Jesus that was very real to him. Nevertheless, such visions are not an indication of a bodily resurrection.
Paul himself never though Jesus was resurrected in his original body. He though he had a new, glorious spiritual body. Paul also never though that Jesus was God. He though he was the Angel of the LORD (God/YaHWeH). Paul also had other ideas that he used to make up his theology from which contemporary Christianity sprang. This, in our view, is a shame. Paul’s theology was not the theology of James the Just and the Jerusalem followers of Jesus led by James. However, they tolerated Paul and made concessions to him so that he could continue his work with Gentiles. Those of the Jerusalem followers of Jesus were more concerned about their work with their fellow Jews (at which Paul had failed) than they were with Paul.
Paul did not always tell the Apostles the full extent of his teaching to the Gentiles so the Apostles back in Jerusalem would have been in the dark about some things regarding Paul’s work. Had they known the full extent of Paul’s teaching to the Gentiles and the beliefs of the churches that resulted, they may not have made all the concessions they made to him.
Getting back to us and Jesus, we admire, respect and love him. We preach the ethics that he truly preached. We do not, however, preach the words that the church put in his mouth, nor the words inserted into the so-called New Testament to make it seem that Jesus was what they made him out to be. We do not pray to him, nor worship him. Jesus would not want that. No Jew would! And Jesus was definitely a Jew. For any Jew to be thought of or worshiped as God would have been blasphemy of the worst kind! For Jews then and now, there is only one God whose name is YaHWeH. Jesus is not God and never claimed to be God. Jesus never wanted to be worshiped. He was all about the one God, YaHWeH, not himself. Furthermore, as far as scripture goes, there was only the scrolls of the Tanakh. For Jesus, there was only that as scripture.
We believe in an afterlife. Each of us are creations of God who knows us all personally. We cannot believe that he simply allows each one of us to cease to exist. We think that we are more than just a body. Who we are, our selves, are apart from our bodies and even our brains. If we reflect on ourselves, we can know this. We can intuit it. Our ancestors, as far back as primitive man, believed this. Some think this is just the result of a psychological coping with the fear of death. We, however, think it is more than that. We think belief in an afterlife is inherent, even instinctual, in ourselves because of our creation by God.
There is only one God and he is great! We love God first and foremost; and we care for our neighbor.