Apostles Child-Like and Rabbinical

Two quick points on the two Holy Apostles, Ss. Philip and James.*

1. Maybe you remember how we spoke 2 ½ weeks ago about St. Thomas, about how child-like and straightforward he was in his conversations with Christ. St. Philip was equally as intimate with Jesus and also wore his heart on his sleeve.

When the Lord asked Philip about feeding 5,000 men and their families, the no-nonsense Apostle quickly calculated how much money it would cost. 200 denarii.

Then, at the Last Supper, Jesus told the Apostles that they now knew and could see the Father. Philip broke the solemn silence. “Show us!”

2. St. James, who was a kinsman of Christ, became the first Bishop of Jerusalem. Now, here’s a question: What was the difference between a rabbi in Jerusalem and the first Bishop of Jerusalem?

The people called Christ “rabbi.” Rabbis made other rabbis by gathering disciples to themselves and teaching them over a period of three years or so. All the rabbis in Jerusalem had become rabbis by studying under rabbis. St. James also was a rabbi who had studied under a rabbi.

See my point?

One thing Jerusalem rabbis did was to write letters to Jews in other parts of the Roman Empire. These letters encouraged diaspora Jews and helped them to stay faithful.

Now, obviously, the first Christian Bishop of Jerusalem would never write such a letter! Except that he did. It’s the twentieth book of the New Testament.

Rabbi-Bishop James’ letter to the Diaspora does not, however, urge the observance of the Law of Moses. It makes no mention of Temple sacrifices. Instead, St. James interprets and applies the Sermon on the Mount.

So…what do both these Holy Apostles teach us? What do all apostles teach us? This:

You want God? You want religion? Keep it simple. Look to Jesus Christ.

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*a.k.a. James “the Less,” to distinguish him from St. John’s brother James, who is called “the Greater.”

N.T. Diasporabrief #2

Depart from me Lord

St. Peter is often depicted as a simple-minded man who acted out of pure emotion.

But the fisherman’s first statement to Christ reveals something else.

After the Lord Jesus brought in a miraculous catch of fish, St. Peter fell to his knees and cried, “Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man!”

These are not the words of a shallow individual. Peter could have said, “Yippee! We are going to make a lot of money today. I like your style, teacher.”

asia minorInstead, he reacted to a miracle the way a pious, prayerful man would. He reacted like someone who knew his religion well, like someone who prayed regularly.

…It is not surprising, then, that St. Peter also wrote a Christian Diasporabrief, like St. James the Less.

Unlike St. James, St. Peter specified his audience somewhat, addressing the dispersed tribes in Asia Minor.

And, unlike St. James, St. Peter did not write from Jerusalem.

Instead, he wrote from “Babylon,” which is how the Apostle referred to Rome. Babylon, of course, was the site of the exile of the Jews in the sixth-century B.C. It was the perfect metaphor to use in a letter to exiles, written by an exile.

May all of us exiles find our way home to the heavenly Jerusalem when everything is said and done.

…Everyone is raving about this new priestly vocations video:

Forgive me for being a curmudgeon. This video doesn’t do much for me. The music is too melodramatic.

Thoughts on the video? Are the Redskins going to be any good this year?

Diasporabrief

I know we all like to find little insights into the New Testament. P&BD readers tend to be New Testament junkies

Among the Apostles of Christ, two were named James. After the Lord ascended into heaven, one of the Jameses became the head of the Church in Jerusalem.

Rabbi Gamaliel, died A.D. 62
Rabbi Gamaliel, died A.D. 62
This James is known as “James the Less.” He wrote a letter, which is one of the 27 books of the New Testament.

St. Paul addressed his letters to the Christians of a particular town, like the Romans or Corinthians.

St. James, on the other hand, addressed his letter to:

“the twelve tribes in the Diaspora.”

The term Diaspora refers to Jews living outside the Holy Land.

Apparently, there were many letters written by Jewish religious authorities in Jerusalem to the brethren of the Diaspora.

The “Diaspora letter”–or Diasporabrief, as the German scholars call it–is a particular type of ancient Jewish literature. A Diaspora letter always urged Jews living among Gentiles to hold fast to the Covenant.

Perhaps St. James had these letters in mind when he wrote his letter. Likewise, the first readers of St. James’ letter might also have been familiar with “Diaspora letters.”

jewish diasporaThis makes St. James’ letter interesting not only for what it says, but also for what it does NOT say. It does not have the usual “Diaspora letter” content.

St. James’ letter does not urge the audience to keep the Mosaic law and the traditions of the Pharisees and rabbis. It does not encourage travel to the Holy Land. It does not pray for victory over the Romans (who were in the process of crushing the Jewish community in Israel).

Instead, St. James presents the teachings of Christ. The letter reads like a paraphrase of the Sermon on the Mount–a paraphrase given by someone who heard the Sermon with his own ears and learned to live in accord with it.

In other words, the letter of James IS a Diasporabrief. St. James intentionally imitated the rabbis. He was a rabbi, after all–a scholar and leader of Jews.

But St. James’ Diasporabrief was addressed to Jews who realized that the true Jerusalem is in heaven, and Jesus Christ is the High Priest of the Temple.