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Did Paul Attempt to Murder or Did He Murder James the Brother of Jesus?

Ebionites' Account versus Dorotheus' Account.

I don't think Paul murdered James, the author of the epistle of James and brother of Jesus. The alleged 'fact' Paul did so has been recently resurrected but I find it highly dubious or lacking foundation, or both. See, e.g., Daugherty's Video -- Luke: Paul Killed James (at 12:18, 13:40 he says Josephus in Antiquities, 93-94 AD, said Paul killed this James, but a complete excerpt from Josephus' Antiquities on the death of James does not reference Paul. See excerpt at end here below.)

Instead, I believe that the original account of Paul's attack on James is correctly recorded by the Ebionites in the Clementine Homolies. It was a physical attack by Paul on James prior to Paul's Damascus experience. And it did not end in James' death. I will quote that account below.

But presently there is stirring afoot by others than Mr. Daugherty to draw out old authorities -- apparently Bishop Dorotheus from the 300s -- that supposedly say Paul killed James, the brother of Jesus, in 62AD. This would mean Paul murdered James after Paul became a Christian missionary - a shocking implication, to say the least. I have not been able to find Dorotheus' work, even though republished in the 1800s by reputable sources. However, I found enough information to conclude Dorotheus mixed up James, the bishop of Jerusalem, with the apostle, James, son of Alphaeus who was killed in Acts 12:2 by Herod, while James, the brother of Jesus chaired the apostolic conference of Acts 15.

It appears Dorotheus also accidently mixed up the Clementine account of Paul's pre-Damascus attack on James that did not end up in death with the death of James, the son of Alphaeus, in Acts 12:1-2.

Paul and James in Acts.

Paul had several encounters with James, the brother of Jesus, the bishop of Jerusalem. First, in Acts 15, James as Bishop of Jerusalem in a conference with the 12 apostles met Paul to rule upon whether Gentiles must be circumcised to become a Christian. He ruled Gentiles need only be given four initial laws to follow, and they would learn more weekly at the synagogue Sabbath services. Later, in Acts 21:21, James confronts Saul-Paul on rumours that Paul had become apostate on the entire Mosaic law.

But there is an episode where Paul physically attacked James that is clearly recorded in early church history. But was this before Paul's experience on the road to Damascus? Or was it after?

Ebionite Account of a Temple Conflict

The early Ebionites - arguably the original Jamesian-church's name at Jerusalem -- preserved an account in the Clementine Recognitions dating to the 200s about Paul and James. Be advised that Rufinus in the 300s later did some edits under pressure from Jerome to add trinitarian corrections to this work (e.g., 'threefold blessedness' to the baptism formula). He also apparently removed all references to Paul, and called him "the enemy" or Simon Magus. However, scholars believe the Ebionites called him Simon Magus to conceal it was about Paul. In my opinion, it appears more likely that this was Catholic editing by Rufinus to deflect any negative views by the early church on post-Damascus Paul.  

Regardless, otherwise, it appears to be the original version. The Clementine Homolies tell how Paul attacked James and left him for dead, but makes no mention that James died from the injuries. This reads:

"... the high priest of the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem had often sent priests to ask us that we might discourse with one another concerning Jesus: when it seemed a fit opportunity, and it pleased all of our church, we accepted the invitation and went up to the temple. It was crowded with people who had come to listen, many Jews and many of our own brethren. First the high priest told people that they should listen patiently and quietly.... Then, he began exalting with many praises the rite of animal sacrifice for the remission of sins and found fault with the baptism given by our Jesus to replace animal sacrifice....
"To him our James began to show, by abundant proof that Jesus is the Christ, and that in Him are fulfilled all the prophecies which related to His humble advent. For, James showed that two advents of Him are foretold: one in humiliation, which He has now accomplished; the other in glory, which is yet to be accomplished....
"And when James had plainly taught the people concerning these things, he added this also, that unless a man be baptized in water, in the name of the threefold blessedness, as the True Prophet taught, he can neither receive remission of sins nor enter the kingdom of heaven: and he declared that this is the prescription of the unbegotten God.... And when James had spoken some more things about baptism, through seven successive days he persuaded all the people and even the high priest that they should hasten straightaway to receive baptism....
"And when matters were at that point that they would all come and be baptized, [Paul] [changed by historical revision to "some one of our enemies"] and his men entered the temple: and [Paul] cried out: 'Oh men of Israel, why are you so easily influenced by these miserable men?' He began to excite the people and raise a tumult... and drive all into confusion with shouting, and to undo what had been done by James. [Paul] rebuked the priests for having listened to James, and, like a madman, began to excite the priests and people to murder James and the brethren, saying 'Do not hesitate; grab them and pull them to pieces.' [Paul] then, seizing a strong brand from the altar, set the example of smiting. Then others also, seeing him, joined in the beating. Much blood was shed. Although James and the brethren were more numerous and more powerful they rather suffered themselves to be killed by an inferior force, than to kill others. [Paul] [changed into "that enemy"] attacked James and threw him headlong from the top of the steps; and supposing him to be dead left him."

See "Recognitions of Clement," Book 1, Chapters LXIX and LXX, in Alexander Roberts et al. Ante-Nicene Fathers: Translations of the Writings of the Fathers Down to AD 325 (1886) Vol. 8 at 95-96. (Catholic editing is obvious, and even Roberts, a Protestant, alludes to these softened references as forgeries, and titles the heading as Tumult Raised by Saul even though Saul-Paul is never mentioned by name but is referred to as Simon Magus.]


This event on its face involved Paul prior to his Damascus' experience. For James was beset because he taught baptism is in place of any further animal sacrifice. Would a post-Damascus Paul be upset with that doctrine? Paul did not teach this as a Christian, but would he kill James over this dispute? Of course not. We would surely think Paul was not yet a Christian when he threw James down from the Temple pinnacle in the Ebionite account. 

However, Eusebius mentions an account by Clement - is this about the Clementine Homolies? -- and he says the account ends with death: "the above words of Clement who records that he was thrown from the pinnacle of the Temple, and was beaten to death with a club." (Eusebius, 2.23.3, at this CCEL link.)

However, Eusebius does not repeat the Clementine Recognition statement that this casting from the temple was at Paul's hands. These can be two similar accounts whereby "Clement" speaks of a similar casting of James the Just off the temple pinnacle, where Paul is not involved, distinct from the Clementine Homolies that speaks of a similar casting that does not end in the death of James. Here, it is hard to prove the original Clementines were what Eusebius was looking at.

Hence, for the moment, the evidence is lacking that the Clementine Recognitions originally read that James was killed after Paul made James fall from the pinnacle, and someone then beat James' head until he died. It does not fit the history of James the Just who talks with Paul in Acts 15 and 21.

The CCEL Library version of the Clementine Recogntions / Homilies are at this link. 

Dorotheus' Different Account?

But some historians' accounts -- and I believe erroneously -- put this event four years after the close of the book of Acts. This is first allegedly recorded by Dorotheus, Bishop of Tyrus (255 - 365 AD) -- one of the attendees at the Council of Nicaea in 325 AD. In this final encounter, Paul had an incident allegedly with James, the Bishop of Jerusalem, at the Temple. In this episode, Paul supposedly pushed James off the Temple's pinnacle which led to James' serious injury and death by a beating. So this sounds identical to the Clementine Homolies, except the Clementine account did not end in James' death. 

Bishop Dorotheus, the teacher of Eusebius (a later famous Church historian from the early 300s), allegedly wrote about this in his book The Lives, the Ends, the Martyrdomes of the Prophets, Apostles and seventye Disciples of our Savior (published centuries later in London by William Clowes & Sons, 1886). This nineteenth century republished-book of Dorotheus cannot be located through online means. We only know an earlier edition once existed and was cited to page 513 in a catalog summary by the Bodelian library in 1840. See link.

Even if it said what it supposedly said, I suspect Dorotheus confused James son of Alpheus with James, the brother of Jesus. And then he confused what happened to James, the brother of Jesus, in a pinnacle fall (that did not end in death) with how James, the son of Alphaeus died. 

What is the validity of the sources that point at this work by Dorotheus? The first source is completely unreliable.

First, this work of Dorotheus is apparently the basis for the following statement by the "Devil's Chaplain," the apostate ex-Reverand Robert Taylor who in 1829 dug up this 'fact':

James, the son of Alphaeus was bishop of Jerusalem by appointment of the other apostles. He was killed by St. Paul. Having been set by the Jews upon a pinnacle of the temple, Saul, who afterwards was called Paul, thrust him off. And while he breathed after his fall, one came with a fuller's club and brained him.

This quote is found in Robert Taylor, The Diegesis: Being a Discovery of the Origins, Evidence and Early History of Christianity (1829) at 265.  This is mentioned as part of a long list of other martyrs and how they died.  This anti-Christian ex-Reverand appears oblivious that this means Paul would have killed James, the Bishop of Jerusalem, after Paul had already become a Christian. For that James, supposedly the son of Alphaeus, died near 62 AD. Taylor is not openly trying to knock Paul's Christian life as murderous. But that would be the implication if you do the date comparison.

However, it is obvious that Dorotheus has confused Apostle James, the true son of Alpheus (who was never a bishop of Jerusalem) with James the Just, the brother of Jesus who was the bishop of Jerusalem. See also "James Brother of Jesus" Wikipedia.

Part of the reason for the confusion is that Jerome, a contemporary of Dorotheus, decided that to prove the perpetual virginity of Mary he would assert that James, the Bishop of Jerusalem, was the same as Apostle James, son of Alpheus. See this link and this link. (This way the "brothers" of Jesus mentioned in the gospels could all supposedly be sons of a different father than Joseph -- one Alphaeus -- who already had these sons when he supposedly married Mary after Joseph's death.)

But Jerome overlooked that this James, son of Alphaeus, was killed in Acts 12, and thus cannot be the same James who in Acts 15 and Acts 21 is still very much alive and serving the role of bishop of Jerusalem. Hence, this reference by Taylor to apparently Dorotheus proves nothing but confusion on Dorotheus' part. He probably combined the facts of the true fall of James, the Bishop of Jerusalem, at the hands of the pre-Damascus Paul with the death of James, son of Alphaeus in Acts 12. But that killing was at Herod's hand by the sword, Luke records in Acts 12:1-2, and not by a beating of the head.

Next, and what prompted this examination, two scholars in 2015 (more on them later) cited Arthur Dyott Thompson for the proposition that Paul killed James the Just, the brother of Jesus. Thompson expressly cites as his source Dorotheus' Lives of the Apostles. Thompson unequivocally writes in The Gospel History and Doctrinally Teaching Critically Examined (London: Longmans, Green and Co. 1873) at 193:

James, the Brother of Jesus [was killed], according to St. Epiphanius, at the age of ninety-six years. Dorotheus, Bishop of Tyrus, who wrote the Lives of the Apostles, says that he was killed by St. Paul. That the Jews set him on a pinnacle of the temple; and that Saul, who afterwards was called Paul, thrust him off, and while he yet breathed after his fall, someone came with a fuller's club and despatched him.


Thompson is likely reading Taylor who was referring incorrectly to James, son of Alphaeus, as the bishop of Jerusalem. Every scholar knows that the bishop James can also be described as "the brother of Jesus," but this is not James, son of Alphaeus unless you live in Jerome's alternate reality that concocts facts to prove the perpetual virginity of Mary. Hence, Thompson includes that extra description as a proper paraphrase of Dorotheus' statement. Then Thompson does not realize that Jerome conflated James, the brother of Jesus, with James, son of Alphaeus, in order to support the perpetual virginity of Mary. The reasoning and claims of Jerome are wrong-headed, but you can read them here. This is why Dorotheus is saying James, son of Alphaeus, died in the manner in which great injury was inflicted upon James the Just and brother of Jesus, when in fact that injury did not result in death in James the Just's case, nor takes place when James, son of Alphaeus, died.


Thus, we can see from Taylor's prior statement that the confusion arises out of the adoption by Dorotheus of the Jerome-inspired conflation of James, son of Alphaeus (see Taylor quote earlier) with James, the bishop of Jerusalem whom now Thompson identifies as the "brother of Jesus." Jerome is the root cause of this mistake, and thus this mix-up of who Paul threw down from the pinnacle before Damascus (James the Just), and the death of James, the son of Alphaeus in Acts 12:1-2 at Herod's hand after Paul's Damascus experience. See James, son of Alphaeus. As to the latter, Luke records the murder was by Herod putting James, the brother of John, to death by the sword.

Eusebius' Later Account.

Later, the history of this event was restated by Eusebius, the pupil of Dorotheus. First Thompson explains and quotes from Eusebius about the death of James, the bishop of Jerusalem:

Eusebius says that the Scribes and Pharisees put him on a wing of temple, but that upon his testifying in favor of Jesus and not against him, they began to stone him, and that one of them, a fuller, beat out his brains with a club with which he used to beat clothes. (Thompson, supra, at 193.)


A throwing-down from the pinnacle is described in the long version quote from Eusebius you will find here: "They went up [to the pinnacle] and threw down the just man." (Eusebius, History of the Church 2.23.4, 10-18 at this Link. The full quote of Eusebius is after END below.) This may be based upon Dorotheus' account. Paul's role is not mentioned by Eusebius. 

The Ascent of James 

"The Ascents of James tells of an enemy who invaded the temple and threw James down a flight of stairs, leaving him for dead. He was rescued by friends, apparently alive. (1.70.8)" Everett Ferguson,  Encyclopedia of Early Christianity (2d Edition)(Routledge, 2013) at 604. This does no say he died, and hence, is completely consistent with the Ebionite version.

The authors of the Ascents of James are pro-Jewish, pro-Law, and teach Jesus is the "prophet like Moses" (as prophesied in Deut. 18:18-29 and asserted by Peter in Acts 3 in a sermon). See John Painter, Just James (Fortress Press, 1997) at 196


What Account Should We Trust?


What raised my concern, and desire to research this issue, was because geneological experts and scholars Robert & Emma Nelson in Joseph of Arimathea and Jesus (2015) at page 27, quote Taylor and Thompson, and then comment:

While one could understand why Eusebius would have protected Paul by trying to keep the information about Paul's participation in the death of James in 62 AD from ever getting out, it is hard to understand why Dorotheus would have stated this fact if it were not true.


But does Dorotheus actually say what was implied he said? No, as shown above, even from the quotes of Taylor and Thompson -- one can see the confusion is caused by Jerome's conflation of James, the son of Alphaeus, with James the Just, and then Dorotheus mixing how James the Just was made to suffer injury to be how James son of Alphaeus died -- which Dorotheus got wrong, as he actually was killed by the sword at Herod's hand. 

Diverse Accounts.

The Ebionites record that before Paul's Damascus' experience that Paul had an altercation with James. This account says that the Bishop of Jerusalem was knocked off the Temple steps.  Paul left James at the bottom for dead - but does not say he was dead. We can only say he died if we amend the account with Eusebius' statement that Clement's version ends in the death of James. This erroneous reading of Clement is the explanation too of what led Dorotheus to misread the same account, and think James the Just died after the fall from the pinnacle.




Unless that Dorotheus' account is found, and not merely summarized, the Clemetine Homolies is the most reliable account of the pinnacle-fall of James, the brother of Jesus. Paul's attack involves James on a pinnacle at the temple which led to James' fall pre-Damascus, without James dying. James the Just was later killed in sometime after 62 AD in the manner Josephus records, not how Eusebius records.



NOTE: James, son of Alpheus, was the brother of Jesus, according to Jerome. See "James the Just," Wikipedia. This was untrue, and born of the Catholic doctrine of the perpetual virginity of Mary.

Eusebius Acount of the Death of James the Just, Jesus' Brother

James, the brother of the Lord, succeeded to the government of the Church in conjunction with the apostles. He has been called the Just (Zaddik) by all from the time of our Savior to the present day... As there were many even of the rulers believed, there was a commotion among the Jews and Scribes and Pharisees, who said that there was danger that the whole people would be looking for Yeshua as the Messiah. Coming therefore in a body to James they said, “We entreat thee, restrain the people; for they are gone astray in regard to Yeshua, as if he were the Messiah. We entreat thee to persuade all that have come to the feast of the Passover concerning Yeshua; for we all have confidence in thee. For we bear thee witness, as do all the people, that thou art just, and dost not respect per sons. Do thou therefore persuade the multitude not to be led astray concerning Yeshua. For the whole people, and all of us also, have confidence in thee. Stand therefore upon the pinnacle of the temple, that from that high position thou mayest be clearly seen, and that thy words may be readily heard by all the people. For all the tribes, with the Gentiles also, are come together on account of the Passover.”

The aforesaid Scribes and Pharisees therefore placed James upon the pinnacle of the temple, and cried out to him and said: “Thou just one, in whom we ought all to have: confidence, forasmuch as the people are led, astray after Jesus, the crucified one, declare to us, what is the gate of Jesus.” And he answered with a loud voice, “Why do ye ask me concerning Jesus, the Son of Man? He himself sitteth in heaven at the right hand of the great Power, and is about to come upon the clouds of heaven.” And when many were fully convinced and gloried in the testimony of James, and said, “Hosanna to the Son of David,” these same Scribes and Pharisees said again to one another, “We have done badly in supplying such testimony to Jesus. But let us go up and throw him down, in order that they may be afraid to believe him.” And they cried out, saying, “Oh! oh! the just man is also in error.” And they fulfilled the Scripture written in Isaiah, “Let us take away the just man, because he is troublesome to us: therefore they shall eat the fruit of their doings.”

So they went up and threw down the just man, and said to each other, “Let us stone James the Just.” And they began to stone him, for he was not killed by the fall; but he turned and knelt down and said, “I entreat thee, Lord God our Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” And while they were thus stoning him one of the priests of the sons of Rechab, the son of the Rechabites, who are mentioned by Jeremiah the prophet, cried out, saying, “Cease, what do ye? The just one prayeth for you.” And one of them, who was a fuller, took the club with which he beat out clothes and struck the just man on the head. And thus he suffered martyrdom. And they buried him on the spot, by the temple, and his monument still remains by the temple. (History of the Church 2.23.4,10-18)(from FFOZ at this link.)

The complete quotation of chapter 23 of Eusebius is at this CCEL link.

Josephus on the Death of James

Josephus wrote about James but this never mentions Paul. It alludes to James' death after the death of Festus, whom Paul appeared in front of late in the book of Acts. This section is regarded as authentic: 

Modern scholarship has largely acknowledged the authenticity of the reference in Book 20, Chapter 9, 1 of the Antiquities to "the brother of Jesus, who was called Christ, whose name was James"[12] and considers it as having the highest level of authenticity among the references of Josephus to Christianity. ("Josephus on Jesus," Wikipedia.)

This is an excerpt at Wikipedia of this reference to James, the brother of Jesus:

Josephus' reference to James the brother of Jesus

And now Caesar, upon hearing the death of Festus, sent Albinus into Judea, as procurator. But the king deprived Joseph of the high priesthood, and bestowed the succession to that dignity on the son of Ananus, who was also himself called Ananus. Now the report goes that this eldest Ananus proved a most fortunate man; for he had five sons who had all performed the office of a high priest to God, and who had himself enjoyed that dignity a long time formerly, which had never happened to any other of our high priests. But this younger Ananus, who, as we have told you already, took the high priesthood, was a bold man in his temper, and very insolent; he was also of the sect of the Sadducees, who are very rigid in judging offenders, above all the rest of the Jews, as we have already observed; when, therefore, Ananus was of this disposition, he thought he had now a proper opportunity. Festus was now dead, and Albinus was but upon the road; so he assembled the sanhedrin of judges, and brought before them the brother of Jesus, who was called Christ, whose name was James, and some others; and when he had formed an accusation against them as breakers of the law, he delivered them to be stoned: but as for those who seemed the most equitable of the citizens, and such as were the most uneasy at the breach of the laws, they disliked what was done; they also sent to the king, desiring him to send to Ananus that he should act so no more, for that what he had already done was not to be justified; nay, some of them went also to meet Albinus, as he was upon his journey from Alexandria, and informed him that it was not lawful for Ananus to assemble a sanhedrin without his consent. Whereupon Albinus complied with what they said, and wrote in anger to Ananus, and threatened that he would bring him to punishment for what he had done; on which king Agrippa took the high priesthood from him, when he had ruled but three months, and made Jesus, the son of Damneus, high priest.

Flavius Josephus: Antiquities of the Jews Book 20, Chapter 9, 1[23] For Greek text see [3]

Eusebius in 325 AD in the History of the Church virtually quotes this entire section from Josephus. Eusebius' quote too has no mention of Paul. See this CCEL Link. Euseibus 20-24.

However, Mr. Daugherty asserts that Josephus' Antiquities says Paul killed James, but this is not present in this excerpt I have found from Josephus or Eusebius nearly identical quote.

Also, Mr. Daughtery asserts without any proof that Paul-Saul's standing by during the stoning of Stephen in Acts 7 is really an account of Paul stoning James. See Paul Killed James at 12:10 mark. Mr. Daughterty argues at 14:41 of his video:

"Can't you understand rhetoric and language at all? Luke told you how this all happened to James, not Stephen, and Luke says he lays it all at the feet of Paul. Wake up people! Get your thinking caps on. Paul killed James at the Temple. In case you are wondering any more, Acts chapter eight "Saul consented to his death." And then in verse 3, "Saul went about making havoc of the church, entering into every house, and having men and women committed to prison." After the crucifixion. After the death of James at his own hands...It's all right there in Acts 6, 7 and the beginning of Acts chapter eight. Read it if you have ears to hear. Eyes to see, it will jump out at you. If you don't, you won't. Don't waste my time sending me email that says I am stupid...because it's not worth your time or mine."


I quoted at length his argument to show how it is purely imagination overlaid on the text that says nothing about James. It is about someone else -- a hero of the faith named Stephen -- who died, and whom Paul pre-Damascus consented to his murder. Paul is indeed a murderer by association before the Damascus-road experience, and Luke reveals that. But it is not a murder of James the Just but of Stephen. The claim of Mr. Daugherty is a serious charge that Stephen really represents James the Just, for it would represent a murder more than 20 years after Paul's Damascus experience, as we know James the Just died near 62 AD. There is nothing to it other than raw assertions that you should see something that is not present is in fact present, without any plausible explanation why.

May I please urge those who are testing Paul as God commands us to do that we not fall prey to speculation and sensational claims. There is so much verifiable information which God placed in the Bible that is a warning about Paul that we do not need flights of fancy to amplify it. The unvarnished statements in Matthew, John and Revelation -- aided by facts in Acts -- all by themselves communicates God's warning to us.